A blog about "nothing"!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Recipes of 2012

This year I really branched out in my cooking.  I don't know what prompted it, I really think it was a couple of things--primarily joining Pinterest, but also just getting tired of eating the same stuff all the time, and watching too much of the Food Network!  I can honestly say that there was only one that was really a heavy duty bomb, it's not often my husband will tell me to toss something in the trash, but that's where it ended up.  I don't even have it bookmarked anymore, so I can't share it, but it was a crock pot mac and cheese recipe that was just plain disgusting.

So here are the top 5 recipes I discovered in 2012--I hope perhaps you can find something you like in them!  We have tried them all and they are all keepers--and all of these ones are gluten free to boot!

5)  Oven Baked Parmesan Fries--these are delicious and I especially like them with a dollop of sour cream.  It also had me buy a new spice--Old Bay Seasoning--which I had never tried before, but I'm hooked!  I even made this with frozen french fries with good results. 
http://playwithsugar.blogspot.com/2009/07/oven-baked-parmesan-seasoned-fries.html

4)  Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce--I love anything I can toss in the crock pot and walk away from and this recipe is truly a winner.  I did do a little bit of experimenting with it--cut the meat and the sugar by 1/2 and added 1/4 of extra virgin olive oil--and it is still really very good.  It also freezes exceptionally well.
http://realmomkitchen.com/907/slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce/

3)  Peanut Butter Pie With No Bake Cookie Crust--this all started because of a dinner out.  One of our favorite places from where we used to live has this on their dessert menu and we drove there not so much for dinner, but because I was craving this!  Afterwards I decided that there had to be a recipe for this somewhere online and I was right, and this particular recipe is spot on to what they served.  What I really like about it is it makes a lot and can be frozen for an extended period of time.
http://www.food.com/recipe/Peanut-Butter-Pie-With-No-Bake-Cookie-Crust-292298

2) Gluten Free Peach Crisp--My recipe for apple crisp came up missing, not sure what happened, so I started poking around Pinterest looking for something similar.  I came across this and not only was it similar to what I had, but is actually WAY better.  I've made it with apples, fresh peaches, frozen peaches and combination of peaches and blackberries as well as making it in a sugar free version using Splenda for the hubby--and they all turned out good.  I did leave the nuts out as I am allergic.  I have three bags of frozen peaches sitting in my freezer right now waiting........
http://www.thekitchn.com/craving-summer-recipe-gluten-f-142937

And the number one recipe for 2012 is......................................

Crack potatoes!!!!!  So named because they are so addictive, and I can't believe how stinkin' easy they are to make!  I made a batch of these for our Christmas Eve get together and everyone raved about them.  They reheat very well too and not a single hash brown went to waste ;)  Hubby also voted this as his favorite recipe find of the year! 
http://www.justaddasliceoflove.blogspot.com/2011/12/crack-potatoes.html

Happy New Year and Bon Appetite! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mad As Hell

Yeah, I am, and the target of my anger is our government, all of it.  What a bunch of slack ass losers they are.  If I had done my job as poorly as they have, I would have lost it, but somehow these people manage to keep getting elected.  I can't figure it out.

The so-called "Fiscal Cliff" situation is something that never should have been allowed to happen in the first place.  The Bush administration and our congressmen and women never should have approved something with an 8 year expiration date in the first place.  And now it is a mad scramble to get it straightened out.  WHY??????  Why wasn't this addressed gradually over that 8 year time frame?  It's not like our economy just all of a sudden plummeted over the past year.  Then the whole Obama administration approving the reduction in the Social Security tax--seriously?????  With the majority of baby-boomers retiring over the next few years, and we have less money going in to this fund, it makes absolutely no sense at all.  And now all of a sudden, we are facing the possibility of a HUGE jump in our taxes meaning less money in our pockets.  Everyone should be angry.

Now we have a crisis in the dairy industry, with the possibility of milk prices doubling in some places.  That doesn't just affect the price of milk either, that will affect cheese, butter, and all sorts of things containing milk that the majority of American's haven't even thought of.  As someone with many food allergies, I rely a lot on milk to make up for the proteins I don't get from other items.  I think of families with small children who go through multiple gallons a week--how in the world are they going to be able to afford this?  Our economy is already in the shitter, lets just push it a little further!  The side effects to the dairy farmer could be disastrous--I live in an area where dairy farming used to be a huge industry, but over the past few years, more and more families have thrown in the towel and quit.  This lack of planning could be the final nail in the coffin to many who have just barely been getting by.  And I am really starting to seriously think that this is what our government wants. 

Have you ever thought about how much our food industry has changed over the past 20 or so years?  I am perhaps more aware of it because of what hubby does for a living, but the simple fact is it scares the heck out of me.  Everyone wonders why we have more incidences of cancer, autism, mental illness--did you ever think there is a direct link to what we are eating?  I sure do, and I think it is exactly what our government wants.  Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty, we are being manipulated by a group of people whose only incentive is money, pure and simple.  "Money is the root of all evil"--how true those words are, and this is truly just the start of things to come.  They are in the process of turning us in to a society who can't think straight, and has to rely on the government for everything, and are taking our personal controls away.  The middle class is gradually disappearing, we are turning in to a country of "haves" and "have nots".    Eventually the "haves" will be a very small group.  Visions of medieval England and Europe come to mind.  And what a better place to start than with food.  Not only can they control how much you have access to this way, but also what is in it.  We worried so much about terrorists manipulating our food supplies, when perhaps we should have been more concerned with what was going on right here at home.

Sorry to get all political, but I just get madder by the minute, and I really hope this post makes someone, ANYONE take a moment to pause and think about what is happening in this country, and how we are being manipulated by our government and don't even realize it.  For a final thought--we have spent the last several weeks mourning 26 people who lost their lives in a senseless shooting in Connecticut.  How different that might have been had it been in our nations capital, and the dead would have been 26 members of congress--something tells me instead of mourning, there might have been a lot of cheering going on. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Memories of Christmas 2012

Christmas has passed, 365 days till another!  I am exhausted, 2 days of playing hostess and not enough sleep has caught up with me.  Fortunately I have no big plans for the next two days and we are under blizzard/winter storm warnings with 8 - 12 inches of snow expected--eeeek!  I made sure I ran to the store to get the few things I needed this morning so I can just hunker down and look out the window--although I did just come in from shoveling and salting a bit.  I am so not ready for this.  I think it is time to catch up on sleep.

Laney had a great Christmas, she is definitely one spoiled dog.  Here she is with a big blob of pumpkin fluff on her nose, she is my official taste tester around here.  I was laughing so hard at her I had a hard time getting a good picture, she had it all over her whiskers, chin and nose.
 
After all that taste testing, it was time to relax a little before everyone got here.  Poor Laney, she is not used to having a lot of people around and doesn't really care for it much, and the kids just want to hug and kiss her.  She got through the night okay though, but I knew she was stressing when she didn't even want the carrot stick someone offered her.
 
 
She must have been a very good dog this year, Santa Paws was very generous--she even got her very own Lands End tote with her name on!  It will come in very handy for when she goes to the kennel or travels with us.  Lots of treats and chewies too!
 


One of the things I had on my menu for Christmas day was baked potatoes.  I quickly grabbed a 5 pound bag of baking potatoes on my last trip to Aldi, not paying attention.  When I got home, I discovered that my bag of potatoes had all of 5 potatoes in it!  They were absolutely huge, and I debated on whether I should still bake them or turn them in to something else, but after 2 1/2 hours in the oven, they were delicious!  That is my hand in the picture to give you a reference point--and I have very long fingers, from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger is 7 - 7 1/2 inches!

 
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  Now time to look forward to the New Year.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Almost there........

Wow, tomorrow is Christmas eve.........that sure got here in a hurry.  I've been busy the past week getting as much ready as I can.  Today I broke down and really cleaned my refrigerator, not just tossing stuff but actually giving it a good scrubbing with warm soapy water.  It really needed it, and now I have space for all the food (and leftovers) of the coming days. 

It sure smells good in here right now, I have a pork roast cooking to make pulled BBQ pork for Christmas day dinner, and tonight I am going to be making the starts to a few things that I can finish tomorrow.  I am hosting both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, so I am trying to be as prepared as possible.  I'm just hoping I don't have too many leftovers!

So, happy holidays, Merry Christmas and all that jazz!  Oh, and Happy Festivus!  Hubby and I are going out for Chinese for our official Festivus celebration :)

Laney says Merry Christmas too! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Week To Go!

I can't believe it is only a week to Christmas!  How is everyone's shopping, baking and other holiday stuff coming along?  I am done shopping, just waiting on an order to arrive so I can wrap that, I have all of my food shopping done, so now I am concentrating on holiday goodies.  I am making three of my usual favorites--Buckeyes, Peppermint Bark and Microwave Fudge, but I also decided to try something new that I've always wanted to try--Cinnamon Sugar Peanuts.  This is the recipe I used:
http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/cinnamon-roasted-almonds/
The recipe calls for almonds, but I used dry roasted unsalted peanuts and they turned out just fine.  I also used Ener-G egg substitute instead of a regular egg since I can't eat eggs, and it didn't affect the recipe at all.  These are so yummy, made my house smell wonderful and so easy to make--I can't believe I waited so long to try this!  Now it is just a matter of making sure we don't eat them all between now and Christmas.

The Peppermint Bark recipe is one I found years ago in a Martha Stewart Living magazine, and it is delicious.  Another super simple recipe that tastes great!
http://www.marthastewart.com/339680/peppermint-bark?czone=holiday/workshop-christmas/quick-and-easy-ideas&center=307034&gallery=856459&slide=854199

Buckeyes are also simple and everyone seems to love them.
Mix one stick butter, 1 cup of peanut butter and 2 1/4 powdered sugar. I found mixing them in a Kitchen Aid mixer is the easiest way to do it as this is a rather stiff dough.  Roll into balls, put in freezer for an hour, dip in melted chocolate of your choice. 

And last but not least, microwave fudge!  So simple and completely addictive--takes all of about 5 minutes.   Mix one can of sweetened condensed milk and one bag (12 oz) of semi sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Stir mixture and add one cup of mini marshmallows, stir until marshmallows are completely melted.  Pour mixture into an 8 x 8 pan that has been buttered or sprayed with Pam.  Refrigerate--enjoy!

I hope these satisfy everyone's sweet tooth! :)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Corner Cupboard

You know, that one in the corner of the kitchen cabinets that goes to infinity--the one that if a small child crawled in there too far, they might actually end up in Narnia?  I personally think these should be made illegal.  I had one in the kitchen in our other house and hated it, and I actually think this one is worse. 

I've always used this cupboard for stuff that I don't use often.  With the holidays coming, I need my disposable plates/cups/silverware handy.  I know that doesn't sound very classy, but with a group of young children coming who are in that age group of heavy duty rambunctiousness, I'm not about to put my good china at risk.  Chinette it is!  Guess where all of this stuff is????  Yeah, you guessed right, and I figure since I'm in there already, I might as well clean it out. 

I've already found two bags of Ziploc bags I didn't know I had as well as a bunch of Tupperware I'd completely forgotten about!  I think I need to start a spring yard sale box right now, all those Lands' End boxes sitting in my craft room were kept for a reason.  The one Tupperware bowl was not fun to get out, it was clear back in the Narnia door region, and even with my long arms I couldn't get it.  Thank heavens for long handled kitchen tongs and a yard stick.  I'm just glad no one was watching.

When I was a kid, our neighbors had a really cool corner cupboard.  It was a rotating cupboard, even the door spun around, she used it for boxed items, mainly cereal (they sure had a lot of cereal at that house!) and stuff like Bisquick, rice, etc.  I always thought it was the neatest thing, and loved when I would go over there early in the morning and Mark and I would raid it for cereal.  As an adult though, I couldn't help but think what a nightmare it must have been if something fell off the rotating thing in the back.  Hmmmm..........maybe that's what the people in Narnia eat?

Back to work......and this really qualifies as work.  At least to me it does.  But I will be glad when it is done, and I think I'm going to have a fairly full box of stuff for my yard sale.  Anyone need some Tupperware?  Or a salad spinner? (I have two)  How about a mandoline that I didn't like?  Come on, you know you need it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ho ho ho!

How is everyone's holiday decorating coming along?  I finished mine up the end of last week, but I didn't do as much as I have done in past years.  I am weeding out stuff as I go, it was time for some rotation of decorations.  I've also made a couple of things the past two years that I really like, and they weren't all that complicated.  Those all made the "cut" this year.

The first thing was this wreath, my only regret was that I made the parts by hand, my fingers were killing me by the time it was over with from all that folding back and forth. 

I had a lot of decent sized scraps from making the wreath, so I made this bell pull.  I used my Sizzix Top Note die to cut them out which made it super easy, and cut the letters out using my Slice cutting system.  Before cutting each of the squares out, I backed the paper with poster board, giving them just the perfect weight and stiffness.  I thought it turned out very nice.
 
Last year I decided to make some of the paper wreaths for gifts--luckily a friend of mine bought me a template for cutting out all the parts, complete with scoring for all the folds which saved my fingers!  I did them in two different color schemes, not sure which one I liked better when I was done, but I ended up keeping one of the blue ones for myself.
 

 
My other favorite decorations are the Lands' End needlepoint stockings that I bought last year.  I had been drooling over those for quite a few years, and they ran a terrific sale on them just before Christmas so I couldn't resist.
 
 
We have a small tree, and this year I decided to do some careful selecting of what I put on it.  If it related to a trip we had been on, a significant event, or was a gift from a friend, I used it on our tree.  This is an ornament I received as a gift last year from a fellow "Words With Friends" addict--I just love it, and it was so appropriate since we have now been playing steadily for just over 2 years straight!
 
Merry Christmas!
 
 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Cards

Do you regularly weed out people from your list? Or do you keep mailing regardless? Over the last few years I've added and eliminated. There are people who I would never eliminate, regardless of whether or not they sent me a card. But how do YOU decide to take someone off your list? I'm curious to hear other peoples "systems".

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Easily Amused

At least that’s what my husband tells me I am.  I guess because I get excited about simple things in life that some people would just take for granted.  One of the things that excites me is finding a great bargain, I guess I’m a true shopper.  A good example was last week when I went to Red White and Blue—I found the cutest jacket/capri outfit, the jacket was what drew me in.  It was a whole size larger than what I normally wear, but I tried the jacket on and it fit, so I figured what the heck—it was a half off tag, so both pieces only cost me $5.  If the pants didn’t fit, oh well, I would donate them to somewhere or take them to the consignment store.  Imagine how thrilled I was when I got them home and tried them on and they fit like they were made for me.  Upon closer inspection I realized that this was a brand new outfit, there was a tag still inside the pants—whoohoo!  Quacker Factory brand to boot. 

Yesterday was one of those kinds of days.  I was really craving a McDonald’s mocha and I needed to go to the ATM.  While I was out I decided to swing by the nearby Goodwill store.  I hadn’t been there for a couple of weeks and thought it might be worth a try.  Last fall when Heather and I were out shopping we went to one in Pittsburgh and I found these amber colored drinking glasses that I really liked.  99 cents for three, and we needed some glasses about this size.  Once I got them home I liked them even more, after they were run through the dishwasher they sparkled, and they were the perfect size for a beverage at dinner.  I wanted some more of them—so I looked on Ebay only to discover that they are vintage from the 50’s/60’s era, and they sold for $20 for a set!  No, I won’t pay that much, so I had resigned myself to the fact that we would have just three.  So imagine my surprise as I’m walking through the glassware section yesterday and what do I see—another three!!!!!!!!!!  49 cents apiece and those babies were mine, I couldn’t grab them off the shelf fast enough.  If someone had been watching me, I’m sure they would have thought I was nuts.  So now I am the proud owner of 6 pretty amber colored glasses—aren’t they pretty?
 

 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December is Here


December is officially here and now the mad scramble starts to finish Christmas shopping—eeek!  I actually have a pretty good grip on mine, just a few things to pick up, and I’m done.  Wrapping it however, well, let’s just say I know what I’m going to be doing the rest of the week.  I do at least have my Christmas cards made, I just need to take the time to sit down and address them. 
 There are always those people who you have a hard time with, we all have them.  I finally figured out what to get my few “difficult” people thank heavens.  However, just in case you are still trying to think of something, I decided to make a “12 Days of Christmas Favorite Things”—yes, I’m totally stealing my title from Oprah and Ellen—but hey, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me! 

The items on this list are all items that I would not only be happy to receive but would feel confident in giving—and many of them I already have at some point. 
 

1.        VERA BRADLEY—okay, this is a very girly gift, which is why I put it at the beginning of the list.  For those of you not familiar, it is a nice line of quilted purses, totes, backpacks—you name it.  What is really a plus is that they have a wide variety of items, so you should be able to find something for that special gal on your list regardless of your price range.  I have several of their bags and I love them because they are lightweight, full of pockets and (for the slob like me) completely machine washable. 
 
2.       BURTS BEES LIP SHIMMERS—excellent little stocking stuffer, these cost all of $5 apiece and can be picked up at drug stores and grocery stores just about anywhere.  I hate lipstick, I could never get past the taste of it, and these are wonderful because they come in a variety of tints and have a light peppermint flavor to them.  They did make a clear one too for the guys, not 100% sure if it is still available though.

3.       CHOCOLATE—not just a Hershey bar, but a box of good quality chocolate from an actual chocolate store, or a box of Russell Stover chocolates.  I know very few people who don’t like chocolates, so this is a good gift for the person who has everything.  And if you really feel like splurging, there is always Godiva ;)
 
4.       LANDS END TOTES—these come in a variety of sizes and colors and if you want to personalize it even more, you can have it monogrammed with a single initial, all three initials or an entire word or name.  Several companies make these, but in my opinion, the Lands End version is the best buy for the money and the highest quality. 

5.       LOTIONS/BODY WASH/FANCY SOAPS—I like this gift because it is something everyone can use and it doesn’t sit around and collect dust!  And while it may sound girly, it doesn’t have to be, there are many companies out there making very nice stuff for men as well.  I remember a few years ago one of my male colleagues complaining about his hands cracking and becoming sore, so another co-worker and I bought him a bottle of Eucerin lotion to go with the other part of his gift—I actually think he liked the Eucerin better. 
 
6.       MAGAZINES—whether it be a subscription to a magazine, or even just a single issue tucked in with some other odds and ends, who doesn’t like a good magazine? 

7.       FOOD—I love consumable gifts, I hate acquiring things that are just dust collectors, and food is something everyone needs and likes.  Either a gift box you make up yourself, or purchase pre-made from Hickory Farms, Swiss Colony, Pittman and Davis or any of the other companies all make a thoughtful gift.  My best friend made me up a box of some of my British favorites for my birthday this year and I was thrilled.  She put it all in a re-usable decorative storage box—my kind of present!
 
8.       CALENDARS—these days there are calendars with every theme you can imagine, and most everyone can use a calendar.  Better yet, go to a photo printing website and custom make one with family photos, vacation photos—let your imagination run wild. 
 
9.       PHOTO BOOKS—another one of those items that you can customize with whatever pictures you want to.  There are plenty of places to buy them from—Shutterfly, Snapfish, MyPublisher, and even RiteAid are just to name a few.  A great way to commemorate something special as well!

10.   HANDMADE ITEMS—with Pinterest you can find a plethora of great ideas of things to make and give.  Not crafty?  Swing by Etsy.com and let someone else make it for you.  The number of things available there is just amazing, and there are some truly talented people out there.
 
11.   UNCLE JOHN’S BATHROOM READER—these are terrific books for the person who loves trivia!  We always have several of these floating around the house, and they regularly come out with a new one, so even if you buy one for someone now, you can buy them another one in a couple of years.  They even did ones for certain states a couple of years ago.  (And yes, we are nerds!)

12.   GIFT CARDS FOR DINING OUT—I’m not a huge fan of gift cards unless you know of something the recipient can use in particular.  For example, a friend of mine knows that I do a lot of sewing and crafting, so she got me one for Joann’s which was terrific.  I really hate giving ones to Walmart or a grocery store—I always have this fear that they will use it to buy mundane stuff like toilet paper, or worse yet, dog food.  But one to a restaurant is a different story—to me you are encouraging them to do something fun and for some people even something extravagant.  They also come in handy for one of those days where you thought you were going to cook dinner, but when it actually came time to—well, we all know how that goes. 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Making Christmas......"

I've been debating all week on whether or not to start decorating.  In the past I've always decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving, but with the way the dates fell this year and the fact that I'm not working and not up against the clock has me thinking otherwise.  Maybe later today I will go down and dig around and see what I can do easily.   Ha ha!

One of the reporters from our local TV station's morning show has been doing a segment called "Pinterest Pass or Fail".  She takes a couple of the things that she has pinned and tries them out, then reports on whether they worked or not.  This week wasn't a good one, two of the three things she made failed, but the one that passed was really too cute--so cute that I had to try it myself.

It really was a simple idea, and truthfully as easy to do as it sounded.  Take a clear vase (I suppose you could use a colored one in red or green), put a rubber band around it (in my case I couldn't find a rubber band the right size, so I just used elastic) and tuck candy canes the whole way around under the elastic.  Once finished, tie a ribbon around it to disguise the elastic--voila!  The original idea looks like this:

 
I just happened to have a clear tall hurricane that I used, and instead of putting flowers in it, I put in a flameless candle with a timer.
 
 
I think it turned out great, and I will probably encourage my guests over Christmas and New Years to help themselves--it took almost 4 boxes of candy canes which turns out to about 36.  I suppose I could freeze them to save for NEXT Christmas and make peppermint bark.    One bit of advice I have is to put a plate underneath it, it is rather difficult to move in it's current state, I'm going to dig around and see what I have that will work under it.
 
Earlier this week I decided to make a run to Pittsburgh to Red White and Blue, I haven't been there since I found the wonderful argyle sweater.  I found a couple of really great items for both me and the hubby, I should be good until the spring thaw.  Afterwards I decided to go to the LLBean store at the Ross Park Mall--it's only been open for four years!  I just rarely go to that part of town anymore, but wanted to check out a couple of things.  I picked up some fun stuff:
 
 
I had been wanting some really good maple syrup and when I saw the bear, I couldn't resist.  He may be the extent of my holiday decorating in the kitchen! 
 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let's talk about SOCKS

I hate buying socks.  I have large feet, size 10, and unfortunately live in a world where things are more geared towards people with a size 8.  I get tired of buying socks that are a wrestling match to get on, or wear out because they are stretched too far.  Luckily for the last 13 years I haven't had to have a lot of them because I wore mostly knee high type hose to work, socks were mostly a weekend thing, or when my feet were really cold.

My favorite socks developed a hole in them the last time I wore them, so I decided it was time to look for some new ones.  I happened to think of it while at TJMaxx, and figured they would have a good selection.  One thing I like in a pair of socks is a lot of stretch, I broke my ankle a few years ago and in the process of doing so I managed to tear the ligament as well, and the size of my foot can vary from day to day.  I don't like thick socks either, they tend to rub raw spots on my feet.  I probably looked at 10 or so different brands when I came across these:

 
 
They are made by Ralph Lauren and at $6.99 per two pair, not a bad price.  And they are wonderful!  Perfect amount of stretch, not sized itty bitty to begin with, and the fabric content is just right to keep your feet warm without making them sweat.  I liked them so much I went and bought another two pair in grey, one argyle and one plain.  I put these on my Christmas list as well, one can never have too many socks.  Perhaps you know someone on your Christmas list that would like them too!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving--where has the year gone?  I'm working on all my pre-turkey day cooking.  Last night after a discussion with my husband, I decided to make my stuffing today instead.  Truthfully, it is the most time consuming part of preparing thanksgiving dinner, even more so than the turkey.  We both agreed that stuffing is one of those things that is better the second day, so it just makes sense.  This afternoon I will be making desserts so tomorrow all I have to do is the turkey and all the last minute stuff.

Anyone heading out for Black Friday shopping?  Not me!  I spent too many years working in retail and it ruined the whole shopping experience for me.  I will be asleep in my nice warm bed instead of worrying about getting trampled.  I guess I'm just too practical.    As cheap as I am, I just am not in to it. 

To all of my friends, family and blog readers--HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Busy busy!

Thought I would share a couple of little things I was working on last week.  I feel good that I got some projects that have been sitting around off my "to do" list.

A couple of years ago I went to the LL Bean outlet that used to be at the Potomac Mills Mall in Virginia--I don't think it is there anymore.  It was a true outlet store, selling discontinued items and with a whole section of what I refer to as "oops!" kind of items.  They were mostly items that something had gone wrong in the monogramming process, but if you didn't mind something with someone else's initials on, you could save a ton of money.  And you might just luck out and find someone with your initials!

I bought this wonderful large tote when we were there.  I purposely dug around to find one with the least gawdy monogram.  I had very carefully picked out the monogram with a seam ripper, but there was still some damage to the area where it had been.  It has been sitting around for a while waiting for me to do something with it, and last week I decided to go to Joann's and see what I could come up with.  I found this beautiful iron on embroidered butterfly--perfect!  I think it looks really nice, unfortunately as I was getting it ready to iron, it moved a little, so it isn't perfectly centered, but oh well, it still looks tons better than it did before.

 
My next project was this tote that I got for all of $5 at DisneyWorld a few years ago.  It is really a nice tote, but I feel like a walking advertisement when I use it.....hmmmmm..........after thinking about it, I decided I would iron on some fabric and ribbon to cover up the logo.  I think it turned out really cute.
 
Last was a Healthy Back Bag that I got on the same trip to the LL Bean outlet that the other tote came from.  This one was a little bit more of a challenge, I couldn't use anything that was iron on since it was more of a nylon material and I was afraid it might melt.  All of a sudden the idea popped into my head--ribbon!  There is no shortage of ribbon at my house either, so I went to my crafting stash and found the perfect thing.  A few minutes at the sewing machine and voila!
 
Before picture of monogram--I had picked out most of it, but that last bit just wouldn't cooperate at all.
 
And afterwards:
 
 


I think it turned out really cute, and I used some of my massive ribbon stash :)
 
 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Spoiled Rotten!

Is this the face of a spoiled rotten dog???? YES!!!

This is what my living room looks like currently. 
 
In the hallway we have the skunk, a bunny and a hedgehog!  Oh, and a chewie!
 
She really has too many toys, and when we aren't paying enough attention to her (or at least when she thinks we aren't!) she drags them all out.  One time I think she had every toy out of her bin and in the living room.  She's not spoiled, not at all!
 
Yesterday she got a bath, she wasn't thrilled about it, but she put up with it.  We laugh when we give her a bath, she looks like she's a fat dog when dry, but when she's wet you find out how much hair it really is and she looks like a scrawny dog.  And she ends up with these wet dreadlocks all over her, Lee says she looks like an afghan hound when she is wet.  Here she is partially dried, but still kind of mangled.
 
"I'm not spoiled, I always smell that way!"
 
 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Frustration!

Yesterday was one of those days that just seemed doomed.  Fortunately it didn't start until after lunch, or I may have just gone back to bed.  I went to the grocery store to get milk--I only had $2 and some change on me and intended to use my ATM card to pay for it along with getting some extra cash--NOT!  When I approached the front door, I noticed a sign that said "CASH ONLY".  Apparently there was a large outage of the electronic payment systems in this area, not only was theirs not working but also the store next door and the girl told me that she had someone come in who had just been in Ohio earlier and had the same problem.  So I drove to the bank and got some money and went back to get my milk.  All this running around for a gallon of milk.

After I got home I wanted to watch a little TV and then I was going to get back to working on my Christmas card project.  The karma gods had different ideas.  The mail came early, and that probably wasn't a good thing.  I've never been so annoyed by an entire mail delivery in my whole life.  My Lands End order came--three of the four items didn't fit, one was too big, the other too small.  My missing credit card statement was there finally with black marker scratching out all kinds of bar codes which tells me it was yet another USPS error--don't get me started.  The check I have been looking for all week STILL wasn't there--time to make a phone call.  And then the explanation of benefits from our health insurance put me over the edge.  I'm sure my face was bright red by the time I was done with all of this.

The check that I haven't received is an insurance reimbursement which I submitted a week and a half ago.  I decided to call--apparently the fax didn't go through, even though the hubby had received confirmation it had.  Grrr.......  Easy enough to fix, I will resubmit.  The explanation of benefits though, I was furious about.  I had a doctors appointment earlier this month and they submitted it to the wrong insurance!  I called our insurance company and they can't help me, I have to call the doctors office and of course being Friday, they closed early.  I made a few comments about people not being able to do their jobs, blah blah blah.  The girl on the line agreed with me LOL!  If I hadn't gone over with the office that our insurance had changed and they hadn't made a copy of my card, I probably wouldn't be so annoyed, but good grief!  I know what I will be doing Monday morning, Grrrrr.........................

So it's Saturday and I'm just hanging out while Lee and Laney have a good sleep in session.  Laney is getting a bath today, I know she won't be happy about it, but she is way overdue.  I love it afterwards, she is so soft and fluffy and smells good too.  Today is the perfect day to do it too, not too cold so she won't get chilled if she needs to go outside, but not too warm so the furnace will run off and on and she should dry quickly.  With shelties you have to be careful to make sure they dry thoroughly, their hair can become matted when it is wet and mold--ewww!  Tonight we are going to a thanksgiving dinner at a local church and the rest of the day is up in the air.  At least today shouldn't be as frustrating as yesterday was!  Have a great weekend all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

For The Love Of Chocolate

I love chocolate, not going to deny it.  I always have.  My mom used to tease me that if I got a cut, I would bleed chocolate.  To me there is nothing better than something chocolate with a glass of milk.  Mmmmmm!  I enjoy all kinds of chocolate—Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Cello’s chocolate covered cherries, and mint/chocolate combinations are probably my favorites.  And most anything in the chocolate/caramel combination-yum!

One of the best Christmas gifts (and most memorable) that I ever received was a chocolate themed one.  My mom had taken a wicker waste basket (which I still have and use!) and filled it with all kinds of different chocolate bars—Caramello, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, giant Hershey Bars, you name it—and in the very bottom of the basket under all of that chocolate was one of my favorite movies—“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.  To give you some idea of how many years ago that was, the movie was on VHS ;)  I still have it. 
 
Over the years I’ve had the chance to sample many different kinds of chocolate from different countries as well.  I remember a store I used to frequent had these strange Israeli chocolates, they were filled with a fruit type cream/paste.  They were different, but good, and I made a regular habit of every time I went there of grabbing one or two.  The chocolate was an odd texture, more waxy than what we have here.  I have wondered since if perhaps they put more paraffin in it since it is so much hotter in the middle east?  I haven’t seen one of those since that store went out of business, and I don’t have a clue what the brand name was, so I can’t even go looking for them. 
My absolute favorite chocolate comes from England and Ireland.  England is home to the original Cadbury chocolate, and let me just say that what we have here in the states isn’t even close to tasting like English Cadbury.  The closest I’ve found here is when I’ve travelled to Canada, either they are importing it or at least using the same recipes.  Personal favorites are Wispa bars and Curly Wurly’s—the Wispa bar is basically all chocolate with air whipped in to it, Curly Wurly’s are reminiscent of a candy bar that they used to sell here in the US called a Marathon Bar.  I used to love those and often wondered why they quit making them.  Imagine how tickled I was one night while watching British sitcoms on PBS and noticing in the opening sequence of “Thin Blue Line” one of the characters eating one.  I did some research to figure out what the name was for them, and I was in business on our next trip across the pond!


Ireland carries most of the same chocolate that England/Wales does, but they also have a home grown Irish chocolate company that is divine.  Butler’s chocolates are really top notch, and while they tend to be pricey, well worth every penny.  I always make sure I have some money left and room in my carry on to grab some at the airport to take advantage of the duty free price!   For some reason they are rather difficult to find here in the US, the few that I have managed to get were in Irish specialty shops and at hugely inflated prices.
Several days ago my friend Gwen posted on her blog about her hubby bringing her some wonderful chocolate almond toffee on his recent trip to Colorado.  I teasingly posted that it was a shame that he didn’t have cause to go to Ireland because he could bring her some Butler’s chocolate.  After I posted it I was wishing I hadn’t, I found myself really wanting one of these candy bars, and no trips to Ireland planned anytime soon.  Waaaaaaa!   On Sunday I was bored and decided to make a run to TJMaxx, I hadn’t been there for quite sometime.  They have the coolest food section of any store, you never know what you might find, and as I was looking I noticed a familiar wrapper peering out from under a stack:
 

SQUEEL!”  Unfortunately they only had three of them, but they all came home with me.  I just ate the last one today, I did a very good job of making them last.  They did have some of another flavor, but they were all ones with hazelnuts in them so I had to leave them behind—they are probably good, but not worth a trip to the hospital over.  Hopefully that will hold me over for a while……..I think I need to go check out the new Irish shop Heather told me about last week that is about 30 minutes from here…………or buy a plane ticket to Ireland! (yeah right)

Photos of Wispa and Curly Wurly courtesty of www.englishteastore.com

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"

And I'm not talking Christmas!  We are thick into fall now, only about 6 weeks of it left.  Unfortunately we missed the prettiest part of it in Western Pennsylvania since we were in New Mexico.  And then the hurricane came through and pretty much stripped the leaves that were hangers on off the trees.  So now everyone is busy cleaning up their yards of leaves and getting that last mowing in for the season.  We had several heavy frosts this past week, so we should be done watching grass grow for a while now.  We were also blessed the past few days to get another dose of "Indian Summer" with temperatures in the 60's and 70's, I noticed a couple of people taking advantage of the beautiful weather to get their Christmas lights hung.  We took Laney for her last trip to Jerry's Curb Service for lunch yesterday, she was happy. 

I planted my marigold seeds late, and I wasn't sure I was going to get anything.  All of a sudden they took off, and the one advantage is I've had them late into the season.  One day when I came home I noticed a bunch of insects enjoying them, so I ran in and grabbed the camera. 




 
It had been a while since I'd had any cooperative "models" from the insect world, I'd forgotten how much fun (and what a challenge!) they are to photograph--when they cooperate ;)
 
Another thing I love about this time of year is it is when Lands End starts running their phenomenal sales.  Last year I did really well, this year I didn't need quite so much since I'm not working, but I did order 4 shirts that would normally have been $145 for $37--yay!  My best bargain last year were the Christmas stockings I bought, I had been admiring those for years and 9 days before Christmas they were reduced enough for me to bite--$5.99 each with free monogramming.  And they made it here for Christmas, I was totally impressed!  I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that they keep running sales right up to Christmas like they did last year, I really want a new pair of corduroy pants, but I'm feeling cheap. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

Completely Addicted!

I am usually hesitant to jump on the bandwagon with every new social website on the internet--I still don't have a Twitter or Facebook account.  Just not my thing, and really wasn't a good idea with the job I had anyhow.  However, I have to admit to being totally addicted to Pinterest.  A friend of mine casually mentioned it one day and a group of ladies on a bulletin board I'm a regular on kept talking about it.  Of course I had to check it out and see what the fuss was about..............

Here I am, several months later, and completely hooked!  I have to admit that I'm guilty of getting Heather hooked as well.  I think she is actually worse than me.  But truthfully, I have found a lot of very useful things on Pinterest as well.  I've pinned some awesome craft ideas, sewing projects, a bunch of Renaissance fest costumes, and lots of recipes.  I've probably done more with the recipe pins than any other category, and I've only had one true clunker, a crockpot mac-n-cheese recipe that turned out more like wallpaper paste.  My favorites have been a gluten free peach crisp (YUM!) and the worlds best pulled pork recipe that is super simple.  My crock pot hasn't had a work out like this in years.  I even bought a fancy baking dish off QVC with nothing more intended than using it to bake the peach crisp or apple crisp recipe in--eek! 

Yesterday I made a pulled pork taco recipe that I was afraid was going to turn in to another flop, as it was cooking I wasn't wild about the smell, really spicy.  However, once I shredded it, something happened and it was delicious!!  I have a lot of holiday type recipes pinned so I am sure I will be trying those out in the coming weeks.

Another thing I found was a beautiful photograph that led me to an awesome blog that I am totally enjoying--The Daily Prep--a blog written by a woman who epitomizes the preppy lifestyle.  Her accounts are fun to read, and the photography really makes the blog, in particular the black and white photos from her father's collection.  Check it out, there is a link to it on the bottom of the page.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Back to Normal....whatever that is!

Now that I'm done posting about our trip, I'm able to get back to my usual ramblings about what is going on around here.  We've been trying to get back in to a routine since we came home, easier said than done.  I'm still getting used to being home all the time, and throw in a week of rain/hurricane, a time change and all sorts of other things going on--routine, yeah right!  October was literally a blur, so I'm hoping November will be a bit more normal. 

Last week I was working on some sewing projects for Christmas presents.  I can't say exactly what they are because I never know who might be reading my blog, but I'm happy to report that they are finished :)  Next on my agenda is making my Christmas cards, I think I've decided on a design, now I just need to sit down and actually work on them.  I made a resolution about two years ago not to buy ANY Christmas cards until my papercrafting supplies were significantly reduced--still working on it.  I do have to say that a serious organization spurt last year has really helped me use up a number of the items taking up space, going to try and keep that thought process moving forward!

Had a most awesome shopping day yesterday--yay!  I met my friend Heather for breakfast and my friend Chrisy for lunch and decided to run a bunch of errands in between.  One of the things I really wanted to get was a new pair of clogs.  I killed my Clarks clogs a week ago and was really bummed.  Not that it was a horrible crime, I had owned them for at least 8 years, but it was just the idea of having to actually go and get another pair, they aren't cheap.  But I LOVE Clarks shoes, particularly their clogs, so I just accepted the fact that I was going to have to fork out some money if I wanted another pair.  When I left my job, a group of my co-workers gave me a Visa gift card for a gift--I had used some of it, but still had a balance of $51.16.  I tossed it in my purse just before I left, and boy was I glad.  I found a great pair of clogs at the Clarks outlet for $49.99--whoohoo!!!  It was like it was meant to be.  I then went to get some kitchen items and spent all of $23, they were running a sale, and got some new "unmentionables" for $11.  Met Chrisy for lunch and she handed me an envelope with $29, the item I had ordered from her daughters 31 party wasn't available so I got a refund.  So my little shopping excursion cost me all of $5 out of pocket LOL.  Why couldn't every shopping day be that way?

Decided I haven't posted a recent picture of Laney for a while--here is a shot of her I took towards the end of September.  She is still getting used to me being home every day, but I think she is enjoying not being cooped up all the time.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day Five--Canyon Road in Santa Fe and more of the Turquoise Trail

Our last day was completely open, we had deliberately not overplanned what we were going to do just in case the weather didn't cooperate.  We lucked out, so we decided it would be a good day to go to Santa Fe and check out the art galleries on Canyon Road.  As we headed north out of Albuquerque, this was our view:


The biggest groups of balloons are on the weekends, but there is still a good bit of activity through the week if the weather is right.  This particular morning (and the next) created a bit of a problem as the winds had shifted and instead of blowing them north it blew them south right over the city.  I laughed as I was listening to the news--"this is one of those mornings where you could be enjoying your morning coffee and look out and see a balloon landing in the cul-de-sac!"

Santa Fe is home to the biggest per-capita group of artists, and also home to some phenomenal art galleries.  Canyon Road is a fantastic place to go check out art if that's your thing.  I found it of particular interest that many of these galleries don't even represent local artists, but artists from all over the world.  We had a nice chat with two of the ladies at one gallery and they advised us not to try and see all of them, that it can be overwhelming--they were right.  Fortunately (I guess!) my knee was really bugging me after wandering around for a while, so we decided to end our tour there, but I have to say that I am really glad that we did, what we did see really "stuck" with me. 

These are a few of my favorite pieces:




 
I limited my photos in the galleries as it is kind of frowned upon, and was horrified to learn that one of the reasons is unauthorized reproductions are being made!  I was told that it is especially bad with paintings and drawings, the digital age has made it very easy for artwork to be photographed and reproduced in mass quanitites.  I was very sad to hear this, both the artist and the owner of so-called art are being ripped off. 
 
We decided to head back towards Albuquerque via the Turquoise Trail and see if there was anything we had missed the day before.  We stopped and got some pictures of this cool rock formation:

 


 
We also saw a lot of small churches throughout our travels and we stopped at this one to check it out.  When I say small, I mean small!!!

 
After this we headed back to Albuquerque, primarily to check out a small museum I had found out about.  The Turquoise Museum is a very interesting place, and not at all what you would expect--it is in a strip mall which seems kind of odd, but it does not disappoint.  We learned all about different colors of turquoise, where all the different places around the world are that it comes from and how to tell real turquoise from fake.  It's hard to tell!!!!   I was also VERY surprised to learn that the majority of the turquoise currently sold in the southwest is not native turquoise, it comes from Mexico and China.  The mines in the southwest aren't totally tapped out, but because the amount available in them is so small now, it isn't financially feasible to keep most of them open.  If you want a piece of turquoise jewelry totally made in the southwest, you will have to find someone who deals in estate jewelry and has older pieces.
 
Day 6--not a good day as we were SUPPOSED to be flying home.  We did agree that for as many miles as we have logged in an airplane, we have been really lucky not to have ever had a flight cancelled up to this point.  American did put us up in a hotel not far from the airport and gave us some food vouchers--only problem was that the food vouchers were only good at the airport and Albuquerque Sunport is a SMALL airport--lucky for us the New Mexican restaurant we fell in love with had a restaurant there :)  Just talking about it is making me hungry for a really good taco......dinner isn't cooked yet......hmmmmm...............   We also did some shopping there and found some neat little things to take home, so it wasn't a complete and total loss.  We were definitely happy campers though when our plane took off right on schedule the following day and we were able to get home.  The only real drawback was that we had to fly through Chicago O'Hare instead of Dallas and I HATE O'HARE!!!!  Oh well.
 
Another little tidbit of info--I did send an "official" e-mail to Budget about our cigarette smelling car, and was very pleased to get a response.  They credited our account for $73.24 for our trouble.  How in the world they came up with that dollar amount is beyond me, but I'm not going to argue!  I just hope they cleaned the car thoroughly so someone else doesn't have to smell it.