Friday, December 31

full dark, no stars

More like five stars. What an excellent read this was. It came in the mail right after I started reading Dexter and that booked dragged on a little longer than I would have liked. But, this one more than made up for it. I finished it in a couple of days--I just couldn't put it down. Each of the four novellas in the book were excellent, though my favorite was the last one, "A Good Marriage". Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, December 28

grown ups

We watched this movie the other night. It was not good. It was hardly the worst movie I've ever seen, but it was the worst Adam Sandler movie I've ever seen. For all of the star power in this movie, you would think it would have been at least half decent.

The premise was interesting enough--a group of old friends reunite with their families in tow. But they just couldn't pull off anything funny--very few laughs. Not recommended.

Sunday, December 26

darkly dreaming dexter

This is the first book in the Dexter series, upon which the Showtime television series is based. The show very closely followed the beginning of the first book, but then veered off course at the end. Just for the record, the show is better than the book, so save yourself some time and just watch it on television.

christmas: day 2

Christmas Day started off early. Jake woke us up at 6:30 even though I specifically told him not to get us up before 7:30. I should have penalized him one gift. Instead, we let him suffer until 7am. I had to get the ham on at 7:30, so I needed to get up anyway. We opened gifts and I got a lot of great stuff, the best being an art project Jake made for me (a hand-lettered design). My favorite gift from Brian was a pair of noise-canceling headphones. They worked well for my early evening nap.

The rest of the morning was spent cooking. For dinner, we had cappelletti soup, ham, turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, lima beans, broccoli, cranberry sauce (brought by my mom) and bread. It seemed like a lot of food for seven people, and it was. But at least I won't have to cook for the next couple of meals.

My side of the family attended our celebration. Specifically, my mom and dad, brother, grandmother, and the three of us, of course.

After dinner, we opened presents. We got a lot of nice stuff. I got a ton more books to read. I need to get on that. My brother got Jake got an iPad. He hasn't put it down since he opened it. After presents, we had cookies. Today, I'm back on my diet.

Buster was really good. That's two days in a row for him!

It was a really nice day and best of all, I don't go back to work until Wednesday!

Friday, December 24

christmas: day 1

Whether I was ready or not, Christmas started today. I spent the week (and most of today) getting ready. And, I made it--just in time.

Brian's parents and his grandmother celebrated Christmas Eve with us. We met at our church for the 4:30pm children's service. Our church started this service a couple of years ago and it's really nice. Plus, there's only a "children's sermon" so it's not as long as the main service at our church (at 7:30pm).

After church we all headed to our house for dinner. I made stuffed shells and a caesers salad. I prepared everything this morning. When we came home from church, I got the shells out of the fridge to put into the oven and knocked the salad dressing onto the floor. Of course, it was in a glass bowl and made a complete mess. So, I got to make that again, but no big deal. We had bread, too, but it was bought and not homemade. So, it was a pretty easy meal. But, given the hour we had to go to church, there wasn't time to make something more involved.

Whenever we have company, it is always a challenge to manage the three dogs. Buster was surprisingly not too bad this evening. I think he has turned a corner. It must be the magic of "3", which he turned earlier this month. Lizzy and Alice were their usual selves (Lizzy being overly energetic and Alice being unobtrusive). So that worked out pretty well.

After opening presents and eating some cookies, the night came to an end. Brian and Jake still had to wrap presents, so they did that while I finished cleaning up. Now, everyone's relaxing until it's time to hit the sack.

Saturday, December 18

vinegar and cider

As if I don't have enough going on with the holidays approaching, both the cider and the vinegar I made in the fall were ready to go this weekend.

Last night, Brian and I bottled the cider. I don't know if it's any good or not at this point because it was warm and flat when I tried it (it will take a few weeks to carbonate). Plus, I've never had hard cider before so I don't know what it's supposed to taste like. Brian assured me that it tasted like it was supposed to.

Tonight, I bottled some vinegar I started a while ago. It tasted pretty good. I only got one bottle, but I started another batch this evening. If I keep this up, in a few months, I should have more vinegar than any one person can use.

Top this day off with laundry day and a trip to Costco in Pittsburgh, and not much else got done.

Sunday, December 12

brothers

This was a movie about the horrors of war, but more from the standpoint of the effects of war on families than on actual combat (though there was some of that, too). So, it was a refreshing take on war movies.

It starred Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman. All were excellent in their roles.

I really liked this movie despite it being a depressing affair to watch, but the ending gives you just enough hope to make it worthwhile.

Thursday, December 9

christmas prep

I'm kind of behind on my Christmas preparations this year, but I'm hoping to gain some ground this weekend.

On the plus side, most of the cards have been sent out and I have most of the dog treats made. I also finished shopping this evening. On the minus side, I haven't made any cookies, wrapped any gifts or decorated the house yet.

And, we are having both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners at our place, so I have some additional preparations to do for that, too.

But, I guess everything will get done sooner or later. Either way, Christmas is on the 25th.

Sunday, December 5

the day after tomorrow

We watched this movie last night. A while back, Brian watched part of it on television and liked it so I figured we might as well rent it. Jake even joined in. At first he didn't want to watch because it wasn't a comedy, but given his obsession with the weather, he couldn't help but get pulled in.

The move was ok. If you don't mind suspending a little disbelief and don't try to think too much about what is going on, it is entertaining enough. And it went well with a margarita and some popcorn.

Sunday, November 28

thanksgiving

It was a nice, long weekend. We went to my in-law's for Thanksgiving dinner. My sister-in-law and her husband and kids were in this year. We don't get to see them very often because they live in New York, so it made for a nice day. Jake ended up staying there Thursday and Friday night so he could spend some time with his cousins. He had a blast.

Brian and I worked on the house over the weekend. Brian installed one of our new doors in the bathroom. It looks great, but it is now obvious that I'm going to have to strip and refinish the door jambs. Just what I was looking for--more work to do. I started finishing another door, too--this one is for the foyer closet. This project is going to take a while. In other project news, Brian spent some time today finishing the design for the library we're putting in upstairs. That is going to be one cool room when it is finished, but it's going to be a while until it is done.

I intended on making my Christmas cards over the weekend, but that kind of got away from me. I came up with some ideas, though, and I did manage to start working on the first set of them today. I figure that I should be able to finish them up by next weekend--just in time to mail them.

I also did some shopping online, but still have more to do. So much for meeting my Thanksgiving deadline. I don't have too much left to buy, though. But, it is one more thing I need to wrap up soon. I also need to start baking/cooking for Christmas. We're doing both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here this year, so that's going to take some planning, but I'm pretty excited to be hosting both dinners at our house. This will be a first!

young frankenstein

A friend of Brian gave us a bunch of DVDs, so we watched the first of them last night. Growing up, we seemed to watch all of the Mel Brooks movies (my Dad was a big fan), so I had seen this before, but it had been a while. It was pretty funny. I'm sure I got more of the jokes this time around. Jake liked it too. Surprisingly, Brian hadn't seen this one before. He liked it, too. So, I guess this one gets three thumbs up.

My favorite scene:



It's funny every time.

Thursday, November 25

post office rant

I've been ordering Christmas gifts through the internet. One such gift required a signature upon delivery so I opted to have it delivered to the office, since chances were good I wouldn't be at home when it would be delivered.

I looked at the package tracking yesterday morning to find that it was out for delivery. The mailman was running late, but did arrive before I left work. But, no package was delivered. I thought it was strange, but the tracking hadn't been updated so I didn't know what was going on.

This morning, I checked the tracking again to find that a delivery attempt was made. Interesting, seeing that we were at the office, but no one stopped in to deliver a package. Not only that, but now we have to go pick the package up at the post office. How annoying. We could reschedule the delivery, but I don't see how that would work seeing that we were there the first time delivery was "attempted".

This is hardly the first issue we've had with our office mailman, but it is the most annoying one. I think he might be the laziest mailman on earth. The only time we get good service is when he is off work and there's a substitute working.

Monday, November 22

the nose knows

Alice's nose is looking about 100 times better. Since she's been on the steroids most of the scabs have gone away. Her nose still has a lot of healing to do (it's all smooth and pinkish--not exactly dog-like), but at least things are looking up!

Tuesday, November 16

alice

Alice's nose has not improved (in fact, it has gotten worse), so we made another trip to the vet's office today. Doing biopsy is still on the table, though after finding out how much that will cost, we're going to try the steroids first. Since her nose is so bad, she's on both oral and topical steroids. I have to call the vet in two weeks with an update, so hopefully things will be looking up by then.

Since we were there, I had the vet check out a couple more lumps she's developed since her last appointment. One turned out to be just a lipoma--nothing to worry about there. The other two are hopefully warts, though there's a possibility they could be melanoma, so we have to keep an eye on them as well.

Poor Alice. The fun never ends.

Saturday, November 13

no country for old men

This book took me a while to read. Not that it wasn't good, but I watched the movie first, so there wasn't a sense of urgency to read the book since I already knew the plot. I definitely prefer to read a book before watching the movie, but I did not discover this author until after watching the movie. I have to say, the movie really followed the book--I could totally picture the movie in my head while reading. Movie or book, you can't go wrong with this story.

Saturday, November 6

back to school

We did the Family Movie Night thing last night and watched this movie. I have to say, fashion in the 80s was really weird. It's funny to watch these old movies and see how things used to be. Of course, Brian and I had already seen this movie, but it was new to Jake. He enjoyed it. We seem to be having better luck watching these old movies than new ones. There just aren't that many good comedies out there these days that are age-appropriate. Admittedly, a lot of the cartoon ones are really good, but the live action comedies in the PG or PG13 range leave little to be desired.

Tuesday, November 2

paranormal activity

We watched this movie over the weekend, while drinking margaritas, of course. Overall, I thought this was a pretty good movie. I'm still undecided as to whether I liked the ending or not. I was hesitant to watch this because of the comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, which I did not like. However, the mockumentary effect was cleverly done, so it wasn't an issue for me. I'm even thinking about watching the sequel, but probably not until next year since horror movie month is now over.

Sunday, October 31

new car smell

Brian got a 2010 Hyundai Elantra yesterday and I have to say, this was about the most unexciting car purchase that we've made so far. Given the amount of time he spends on the road and the aging truck he had to ride around in, we decided to buy a new car this year. We had three qualifications for the car. It had to be inexpensive, get good gas mileage, and be big enough for the three of us to get around in comfortably. After much research, I came up with the Elantra. So we waited until they had some good incentives (rebates and APR) going on and bought the car. I think it will work out well. Jake was the most excited about it because it will eventually become his car when he is old enough to drive, so he's going around telling everyone about his new car. As for us, we're not excited to have another car payment, but it is significantly less than my Highlander payment was, so at least that's a plus.

Oh, and we did keep Brian's truck since we always seem to be hauling stuff. But, we're hoping that if we only use it when necessary, we won't have to fix it as often as we did in the past.

Thursday, October 28

tomato teepee review

As mentioned earlier in the season, I bought a couple of tomato teepees. I never did make a final assessment of them, so here goes. I started the plants in the teepees in early May. By the end of the month, the plants were huge--way bigger than the non-teepee plants. However, by half way through the season, all of the plants in the garden were about the same size. There was also no difference as to when the tomatoes began to ripen--all were on about the same schedule.

I must add that I removed the tomato teepees after Memorial Day, so leaving them on for the season may have made a difference. I'll probably try that next year. Even though I didn't see a difference in yield or harvest time, they were almost worth having just so I could get some plants out of the house as space is tight around here.

That said, I'll definitely use them again next year. I'm just not sure if I'll be buying enough for all of the tomato plants at this point.

Tuesday, October 26

saw

Continuing with our Halloween-themed movie month, we watched Saw over the weekend. I thought it was pretty good. The movie was riveting but it kind of reminded me of a Se7en rip-off with the weird murders and such. But, not as good, of course. Though I don't really consider Se7en to be a horror movie (it's more of a thriller in my mind). Saw was definitely a horror movie. That said, I don't think we will continue with the Saw series. I hear they just get more disturbing as time goes on and I don't think I need to see any of that.

Sunday, October 24

wrapping up

The nice weather is almost coming to an end, but I have hopes for a few more nice days so I can do more outside work before the snow arrives.

Today, I planted garlic. Brian turned over the garden for me last weekend, so the soil was all nice and loose for today's planting. I planted close to 200 cloves, so I should have plenty of garlic next year.

I have a lone Brussels sprouts plant in the middle of the garden--it has to go. I was hoping to get to it today, but we were busy doing stuff around the house all day.

Prior to this weekend, I've been on cleanup duty outside. Due to the early hour it now gets dark, I only get to work outside on the weekends, so it's been slow-going.

Saturday, October 23

fall tv

This year is a failure compared to last year. Last year got me, The Middle, Modern Family (my current favorite show) and Cougar Town. This year, nothing.

On Tuesdays, I watch Parenthood. I thought it was much better last season (for example, it actually had a plot), but I still keep watching for some reason (damn you, Peter Krause).

Wednesday has taken over Thursday for the best night of television. If only ABC could find another good show to go along with the rest of their Wednesday night lineup, it would be perfect. This year's new show is Better With You and if it makes the cut, I will be surprised. I've been watching it if only because it's on between The Middle and Modern Family. I'll probably continue to watch it, but it's really not that good.

NBC has scrambled the Thursday night schedule and I'm not a fan of the new order. They now have 30 Rock on at 8:30. That's just not an 8:30 kind of show. It's still as funny as always, though. I'm still watching and like The Office. I wonder how they are going to pull that show off once Steve Carell leaves? I don't know how they're going to do it. I've also been watching the new show, Outsourced. While it has an occasional laugh, it's another show that I can't see lasting--how long is that subject matter going to be interesting? I mean, just how many jokes can you make about Indian food? Really.

We added some new shows to our Blockbuster Queue. So far we've watched seasons 1 and 2 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I'm not a huge fan of the show yet, but occasionally I find it hilarious, so I'm going to give the 3rd season a shot. I've also heard great things about Breaking Bad, but haven't rented it yet. I'll be watching that soon for sure.

I added True Blood to my HBO/Showtime shows-to-watch list. I was completely mesmerized by the first season of True Blood. The second season was good, but not as good as the first. And, I've been keeping up with Californication, Weeds, and Dexter (though I haven't rented the latest season yet). With all of these shows to watch, it's a wonder I can get anything done.

Sunday, October 17

airplane ii: the sequel

We went out for supper last night with our friends Bob and Carol. As a bonus, their son Jeff was in so he joined us. We went to Clark Powell's Restaurant in Ebensburg. It was pretty nice. I wasn't sure if we were going to make it because I came down with a cold Friday night, but I didn't feel too bad yesterday, so we went. It was nice catching up. We really need to do this more often (it's been a year since we all went out).

After we got home, we did a Family Movie Night and watched Airplane 2. It was much the same as the first one. Suffice it to say, it wasn't as funny as I remembered, but Jake seemed to like it.

Due to my cold, I fell asleep about half way through the movie. I just could not stay awake (it wasn't like it was late or anything--10 or 10:30). After the movie was over, I got off the couch and went to bed and didn't get up till 8:30 this morning, so I got a good 10 hours of sleep. I needed that!

Anyway, I feel slightly better today. The sore throat is gone, but I keep sneezing. As far as colds go, I guess it could be worse. I'm just glad I wasn't sick for the concert last week.

Tuesday, October 12

a-s-s-h-o-l-e

What's that spell?

After dinner, our doorbell rang. It was the neighbor catty-corner to our house in the back. He stopped to inform us that he doesn't want Jacob walking through his yard anymore. You see, Jake's best neighborhood friends live in the house directly behind ours, but our yards are divided by a row of hedges, so the kids cut through the neighbor's yard rather than walking the whole way around the block in order to get to each other's houses. And when I say they "cut through his yard", they are walking on the very outer corner of the property.

Unfortunately, our neighbors in the back have been talking about cutting down the hedges, which are on their property, so I'm afraid this is just going to add more fuel to the fire. I am not in favor of cutting down the hedges. While I like these particular neighbors, I don't have a need to see what they are doing in their back yard every time I'm outside.

I'm still on board with moving in case you were wondering. We wouldn't have these problems on "the farm".

Monday, October 11

a great weekend

The great weather aside, this was a great weekend. Not only did we get a lot done, but we also had a lot of fun. Throughout the weekend, I was able to go outside and do some gardening stuff. Most of Saturday was spent at the office working on the bathroom (we're almost done--just the trim is left). Saturday night we had a Movie and a Margarita Night. On Sunday, Brian and I went for a motorcycle ride and then we topped off the weekend with the Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie show at the War Memorial. It doesn't get any better than that.

orphan

This movie was ok, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. For one thing, they kept playing "scary" music and then nothing would happen. For another, the setup for the actual scary stuff was at least over half of the running time. Being the Halloween season, I was up for a slightly more thrilling thriller. I did like the ending, but it took a while to get there.

Thursday, October 7

another house

A couple of weeks ago, we went to look at another house. Well, we didn't have an appointment with a realtor, so I guess you could call it "trespassing". We just walked around the property and peeked in the windows. This place had a lot of acres, but they weren't as usable as the first place we looked at. Of course, this place cost half as much so I guess you can't say too much about that. The house was in pretty bad shape, though. It needs a lot of work. And, the house isn't much bigger than our current one, so that's another minus (I would like something at least slightly larger).

One thing I've noticed is that there are quite a lot of really nice houses for sale at great prices (thanks to the crappy real estate market). However, none meet all of our requirements and I'm beginning to wonder if any ever will.

Monday, October 4

alice update

I took Alice to see the vet this morning for her nose issue. The doctor wasn't sure what was wrong--it could be a number of things. My options were to treat her for the most likely issue (discoid lupus) or to have a biopsy done (for which she would need to be anesthetized). I opted for the treatment because it was the same diagnosis I came up with (yay, internet) and it was the simpler of the two options. So, she's on vitamin B and antibiotics. It will take a few months to determine if the pills are working. If they are, she will need to continue with them for the rest of her life. If they are not, she will need to undergo the biopsy.

It's official--all of our dogs are now on pills. Lizzy's currently on vitamins, glucosamine, and steroids (the steroids will be ending shortly, but the other two will remain) and Buster's on his crazy pills (and I don't think he's going to stop taking those any time soon). I think I'm going to have to get a second job to pay for all of this.

Sunday, October 3

from dusk till dawn

After spending the afternoon at a pig roast, we came home to a Movie and Margarita Night. We kicked off our Halloween-themed month of movies with the action-horror flick From Dusk Till Dawn. This movie was written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez. If you need more information than that, it's probably not something you want to watch. The movie had a pretty good cast--George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Salma Hayek, etc. And, I have to say, it was the first movie I've seen Harvey Keitel in, where he didn't play a badass. That, in itself, was interesting. Anyway, we liked it--it was a good, non-thinking kind of movie.

Thursday, September 30

lizzy update

I had to take Lizzy to the vet today to get her annual shots, so it gave him a chance to look her over and judge her progress from the last time we were there. He was happy with how she was progressing, so that is good news. Of course, the way she runs around the house, she could easily tweak her back again, so we're going to have to try to keep the craziness to a minimum around here.

In other doggy news, Alice's nose looks weird (for lack of a better description), so she's going to see the vet on Monday. It never ends.

Tuesday, September 28

the fifth grade

This year marked Jake's first year in middle school. It was an adjustment for us all. The main adjustment is that he has to catch the bus about 45 minutes earlier than previous years (not to mention the fact that he's not getting home any earlier). So, we're all getting up an hour earlier. On the plus side, I get to start work on time, but I think I'd rather just get the extra sleep. The first week of school was a little overwhelming for him--new school; different schedule; lockers; being the youngest in the school, rather than the oldest, etc., but he seems to have adjusted. However, most surprising is the fact that he gets up on time each morning and we don't have to drag him out of bed. That is a nice change of pace from previous years.

Sunday, September 26

ch-ch-changes

As mentioned in my last post, I spent some time dividing perennials. Brian helped with some of the larger ones. My goal was to make the pond area symmetrical plant-wise. Mission accomplished. I originally tried doing a random planting thing there, but I'm not a random type of girl, so I just didn't like it. I think next year, I will be pleased with the results.

I'm also planning on moving my herb garden to the myrtle patch which is right outside of the kitchen door. For the past few years, each time I have to trek to the herb garden while cooking, I think "I should have put the herb garden where the myrtle patch is". So that's what I'm going to do. I will put a raised bed in the herb garden space and plant more veggies. It'll be a win-win. As for the myrtle, I'm going to put it around the plants in the pond area. I think it will look nice over there. I'm not sure if I'll have time to do this, this fall as we have a lot going on in October, but if I catch a break, I will do so. If not, I'll do it in early spring next year. These changes have another plus--they will greatly expand my herb garden (t will almost be doubling in size). I'm not sure that I need twice as many herbs, but that's what I will have.

check

Jake and Brian went to a Penn State game yesterday, so I had plans to get a lot done. And, I did. Besides doing ten loads of laundry, I also replaced the shower curtain rod, put a coat of finish on some grates Brian made for the living room, dusted our bedroom, did some yardwork, and even exercised. Also, I took a nap in the middle of it all.

Today was pretty busy as well. This morning, I put another coat of finish on the grates and then in the afternoon, Brian and I stained the shed and playhouse. I figured we were safe to do that because the hourly forecast wasn't calling for rain until 3am Monday. But, of course, it's raining right now. I hope it doesn't mess it up--it was supposed to have 5 hours drying time. Damn weathermen. After supper, I even managed to scrub the bathroom floor. But, now it's time for some relaxation before it's time for bed.

Saturday, September 25

jazz along the river

Jake's guitar teacher was playing at Jazz Along the River last night, so we headed down there after work to check out his band. This monthly summertime event is held at St. Mary's Church in Cambria City. Last night's happened to be the last one of the season. We often go to St. Mary's for Ethnic Fest because they have great food. Given that, we had supper there last night. It's a pretty popular event in the region and they had a nice turnout. This was the first time we attended and I'm sure we will go again next year.

Thursday, September 23

capital crimes

Thank goodness I am finally done reading this book. I started it back in June when Brian and I went on our motorcycle trip. What a snoozer. This book was a team effort by husband and wife Jonathan & Faye Kellerman. I read a Faye Kellerman book earlier in the year and it wasn't bad, but this book sucked. The book was comprised of two novellas. I read the entire first one while we were away. The story started off ok, but the ending was completely bad. The second story, I just couldn't get into. But, luckily, I finished it last night so now I can start reading something good.

Wednesday, September 22

cleanup

The past few weeks, I have been doing cleanup--taking out dead plants, weeding, dividing perennials, etc. Fun stuff. Fall cleanup in the township is next week, so I'm trying to wrap things up by then.

The weather has been pretty nice so far this month. We've had a few days in the 80s this week. Unfortunately, it's getting dark at 7:30pm so that doesn't give me much time outside in the evenings, but I'll take what I can get before the snow flies.

Sunday, September 19

potential

Ever since we bought our house 14 years ago, we've always intended on living out our days here. That said, I've always enjoyed looking at the properties in the paper and fantasizing about my dream house (that is, a house with more room and with a lot more land). I got away from that habit whenever we canceled our subscription to the newspaper. However, I started thinking about real estate again recently and did a search online for available properties. I found what I thought was the perfect place for us and it totally got me thinking about moving. I showed it to Brian and he was on board as well. The only problem was that our house isn't quite paid off yet and it would need to be in order to make the upgrade in properties.

We drove past the property a few times to check it out and things looked pretty good. After obsessing about this for the past two months, we decided to make an appointment to check the place out, which we did yesterday. I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. The actual property is great--lots of room, but the house needs more work than I expected or want to do. So, while I'm not entirely ruling this place out, it's probably not going to work out. That said, I'm going to keep my eyes open and see if anything else pops up. Realistically speaking we won't be ready to buy until next year anyway.

I am really glad that we went to see it, though. If someone else would have bought it I would have thought that I missed out on my dream house, but now that I know that isn't the case, I'll be able to sleep at night.

Sunday, September 12

for the win

We met up with Brian's parents and our niece for the Steelers game this afternoon (which is why we were planning on spending the night in Pittsburgh last night). We had lunch at Max and Erma's and then went to the game. It was a pretty nice day for football, weather-wise.

Due to the Lizzy situation, Brian and I only stayed until halftime. It wasn't that great of a game, so I didn't feel too bad about leaving early. Jake was able to stay on for the rest of the game, though.

Speaking of Lizzy, she's about the same as yesterday--maybe a little better, definitely not worse. I have to call the vet on Monday or Tuesday with an update, so we'll see what he says. I'm hoping to have something positive to report by then.

Saturday, September 11

change in plans

We were supposed to go to Pittsburgh this morning, do some stuff, and spend the night (a mini-vacation, if you will). However, when we woke up this morning, Lizzy was having problems getting around (she was 100% fine last night). It was pretty obvious that the problem was with her back. So, we canceled our plans, called the vet, and went to our appointment.

They took x-rays and found out that she has two herniated disks. Left untreated, it could lead to paralysis, which would not be a good thing. The vet gave her a steroid shot and sent her home with some steroid pills. We should see some improvement with her by tomorrow and if there's no improvement by Monday, we'll likely be making another trip to the vet. Let's hope that is not the case.

Monday, September 6

that's why they call it labor day

Holy crap--what a busy weekend! It's my own fault, but it couldn't be helped. I really would have liked to have participated in some of the events the weekend had to offer, but that was just not in the cards for us this year.

I think I mentioned a while ago that we have leaky bathroom pipes at the office. I was able to apply a temporary fix, but all of the drain pipes for the main bathroom need to be replaced. We're going to have someone do that for us, but before we can schedule that, we have to remodel the basement bathroom so that there's a bathroom we can all use while the work is being done. Labor Day weekend seemed like the best time to do that because we haven't had time up to this point, the rest of the month is going to be busy, and it's a three day weekend.

Friday kind of set the tone for the weekend. Right after work, we went to Lowe's to buy supplies for the project. After dropping off said supplies at the office, it was practically bedtime until we got home.

Saturday was even more crazy. The intention was to start working on the bathroom in the morning, but we had to get a proposal out for work. The proposal was done, but I had to pick it up at the Staples print shop and then mail it. Brian got things together at the office while I went to Staples. I got to the post office (in the Bel Air Plaza) 10 minutes before they were supposed to be closed and they were closed. Nice. So, I ran up to the UPS Store and was able to mail it from there. Of course, it was lunchtime by this point. So, we got a late start. I didn't stay for very long because Brian was doing plumbing and there wasn't anything I could do, so I went home and finished my laundry and did a few other things.

We went to church Saturday evening and then came home and had supper. Family Movie Night was scheduled for the evening, but there were a lot of other things that needed to be accomplished--putting away the laundry and bottling wine were the two most pressing issues. Since Jake wanted to watch the movie, he helped with both. After that, I got all of the bottles cleaned and sanitized for the wine and we bottled it (2 batches--strawberry and pacific quartet). Jake was the official bottle corker. We finished just in time to watch the movie. We started much later than usual, but that just made it more fun.

Sunday was more of the same. We got up, went to the office, and worked on the bathroom. By this point, we were a little behind according to the mythical schedule in my head, but the toilet was half-installed and Brian didn't have any issues with the plumbing the previous day, so we'll call it a winner. Brian's parents had invited us over for a cookout that evening, so at least we got to enjoy a little bit of the weekend. Plus, we came home with a bounty of leftovers that covered our lunch (and my breakfast) for today.

Today, we did the same as yesterday and went to the office in the morning. We hit a few snags so we're not where I'd like to be at this point, but we got through them and I think we're in good shape to completely finish the project by the end of the month. The good news is that we now have a second working toilet in the office, so the other plumbing project can occur at any time. The bad news is that we have one more snag to figure out, but I don't think it will be too difficult to overcome. At this point, the floor is mostly in, one of the walls is paneled, and a new light and switch have been installed. What's left is to finish installing the floor, install the remaining paneling, install the sink and vanity, fir out the ceiling, install ceiling tiles, and install the trim. It sounds like a lot (now that I've listed it), but the sink and vanity will be a piece of cake (the only reason they are not in at this point is that they'd be in the road). The same goes for the trim and the remaining floor--easy. The paneling won't be too bad, but we do have an issue with one of the walls, which is our remaining snag. The ceiling tiles will likely be time-consuming, but not difficult. So, there's a lot of work left, but at least we got off to a good start this weekend, Labor Day.

hot shots! part deux

Jake wanted me to add the Hot Shots! movies to our queue. I did just that. He wanted to watch Hot Shots! for this month's Family Movie Night. So, of course, I accidentally moved the 2nd one to the top of our queue rather than the 1st one. Luckily, since it was a Hot Shots! movie, we didn't exactly have trouble watching the 2nd one first. The movie was ok. I'm pretty sure I saw it before, but it was good for some laughs.

full freezer

Despite it being a busy weekend, I still managed to do some gardening-related stuff. Today was the only evening I got to spend outside, though. Unfortunately, it was spent weeding (I did a lot of weeding this year). While I hate weeding, I have to say, the yard looks pretty good when it is weeded.

Since last weekend, I have frozen a few bags of basil. I'm close to having enough for the winter, but I might freeze another bunch or two if I have time. I also made some oven-dried tomatoes over the weekend. (and that got me thinking about making a batch Alton Brown's tomato sauce. maybe next week...) And, today, I packaged and froze the sauerkraut that I started a month ago--over 8 quart-sized bags. This is definitely the most vegetable-related matter I've had in the freezer. It should be a good winter, eating-wise.

Thursday, September 2

up in the air

I'm a little behind on my reviews as we watched this last weekend. I thought this was a pretty good movie except for the ending. But, a good ending is important for a movie, don't you think? George Clooney was his usual awesome self, but I found the ending to be disappointing enough to overshadow my opinion of the film. At the same time, it's probably worth watching if you view it as more of a popcorn flick rather than something that's going to stay with you for a while.

Sunday, August 29

nearing the end

Since I last wrote, I made another batch of marinara. This one was more of a veggie marinara as it included peppers and mushrooms. The tomatoes are coming to an end, though. I took out a couple plants this week as they were no longer producing (and mostly dead). I'll be getting a few more tomatoes, but it'll be coming to and end soon. I still need to make some oven-dried tomatoes and I have a bunch of San Marzanos ready for the picking for that task. I don't know if I'll make any more sauce. I'm not sure that I'll have enough for that (maybe a small batch).

I harvested all of the red potatoes last week. This is the most I've ever gotten. I still think I should be getting more, but I really don't know how much I should be getting. It seems like not enough potatoes for the area they take up (but they sure are delicious). Anyway, I've found the most success by making small furrows in the ground and putting the seed potatoes in them. Then I cover with straw. As the plants grow, I add more straw. At some point in the summer, I throw a load of compost on the straw (and add more straw if necessary). It seems to work for me.

I still need to freeze some basil. That is on the schedule for today. I hate doing that task, but I sure don't mind having "fresh" basil in the middle of the winter.

beautiful

I can't believe what nice weather we are having--hot during the day (but with low humidity), cool at night. And it's supposed to continue at least another week. Hopefully we will be able to get out on the bikes soon. I haven't ridden in weeks and this is the perfect weather for it.

Yesterday, I went to Connellsville for Brian's cousin's baby shower. It was a nice day for a ride (though it would have been even better on the bike). Practically the entire trip is through wooded areas and farmland--my kind of places!

Other than that, I've been working in the yard (mostly weeding and taking out parts of the garden). Now that it's getting dark earlier, I've even been getting some housework done. Yay.

Thursday, August 26

vegan dog

I picked up my CSA veggies after work today. As I was putting away the vegetables, I accidentally dropped a grape tomato on the floor. Buster scarfed it up. I put the tomatoes on the counter and continued to put away the rest of the vegetables. No sooner did I get finished and Buster was counter-surfing for more tomatoes. He got a few.

I put a cantaloupe on the counter because the fridge was out of room. I was grilling lamb chops for supper and was coming up the steps after checking on them when I heard a thump. I didn't think much of it because I often hear thumps to no ill effect. However, I got upstairs to see Buster chowing down on the cantaloupe. It was beyond salvation--he had a good chunk eaten from it and there were puncture marks all over it.

He really was on a roll this evening. He also ate some corn husks and some melon rind (which he stole as I was chopping up another cantaloupe I had in the fridge). And, he made a valiant effort to steal our corncobs as we were clearing the dinner plates.

I think next year I'll just get Buster his own membership to the CSA.

Monday, August 23

the lazy weekend

I guess in theory, I did a lot this weekend--laundry, a trip to Costco, dinner at my parents, etc., but I was definitely feeling lazy. After our Costco trip, I couldn't bring myself to do anything else around the house. I think the trip set me up for failure--after we took the Costco exit, traffic came to a halt. Apparently there was construction further down the road and it took us an hour to get to Costco from the exit (it usually takes 5-10 minutes). I hate traffic.

On Sunday, we went to my parent's house for the annual birthday dinner for my mom, dad, and grandmother. I started watching my calories a week ago, but I don't count them one day a week, and yesterday was it for me (I wasn't about to miss out on any of the great food and wine). For whatever reason, I didn't feel like doing anything last night either. So, I didn't. It's so rare that I sit around and do nothing that I figured it wouldn't hurt for me to do that one weekend out of the year.

Today, though, reality hit. Since it was raining, I couldn't do anything outside--not that I don't have plenty to do inside. I had to tackle the most pressing tasks first. First, I picked a bunch of peppers (I had quite the harvest). Next, I froze the avocados I bought at Costco. Then, I made a batch of marinara with the 10 pounds of tomatoes I had sitting in the kitchen since last week (I was supposed to do this over the weekend). All in all, a productive evening. Let's hope the rest of the week follows suit.

true romance

This was a pretty good flick. It was written by Quentin Tarantino and is perhaps my favorite movie by him. There was a lot going on--action, romance, thriller, crime. So few movies have this much going on. My favorite character was played by Gary Oldman--he's quite the versatile actor (I didn't even realize it was him until I looked it up), though, Brad Pitt's character was a riot. Come to think of it, there were quite a few other stars in this movie (Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, and the list goes on). If you're a fan of Tarantino, you'll probably enjoy this movie.

Friday, August 20

bittersweet

This time of the year is always bittersweet for me. Summer, without a doubt, is my favorite season. Being the gardener that I am, I guess this comes as no surprise. The weather is still nice for now, but it's getting darker earlier as the days go on. Soon, it will be too dark to work outside in the evenings and then my focus will shift to the inside. There's no lack of work to do in the house, but I'd much rather be outside working in the dirt.

Last year, I vowed to not tackle any projects in the house when I could be outside instead. I made a concerted effort to get a lot of stuff done in the house in the winter. That enabled me to not feel guilty about working outside once the weather turned nice. I don't know why I didn't think of this system earlier--it only makes sense.

It's funny because in the spring each year I wonder just how I'm going to get all of my housework done once I start working outside. I keep my self pretty busy during the cold months so it's always a challenge to make the switch. I always seem to manage (but I'm always behind on housework in the warm months. hmm.).

Another thing that changes with the seasons is the way I cook. While there's still plenty of grilling time left in the year, I'm already thinking about soups and stews. But, given the choice, I would definitely take the fresh vegetables and grilling of the summer over the soups and stews of the fall and winter.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I can't believe that another summer is almost over. Time is moving too quickly these days.

hypertufa

I saw this article on hypertufa pots in the Martha Stewart magazine and just had to make them. They were pretty easy to do. I did mess up the first set by not using "mold release spray" aka WD-40. It was tough getting the inner container out of the main one (I used soda cans rather than a paper carton, as shown in the directions), but I managed. I wanted to do three colors, like in the article, so I made the pots over the course of a couple of weeks. The other day, I finally got around to drilling drainage holes in the bottoms of the pots and filing the tops even. After that, I planted some hens and chicks to complete the look. All of the pots are spread out on the ledge of our side porch, where they look great!

Wednesday, August 18

putting up

I managed to "put up" a bunch of stuff over the weekend. First up was some marinara. I did 10 pounds of tomatoes worth. This resulted in approximately three quarts for the freezer. I'm hoping to do at least one more batch, though two more would be ideal.

While the marinara was cooking, Jake and I made some zucchini bread. One loaf was eaten and the other one was frozen. I'm not a huge zucchini bread fan (I don't really like vegetables in my dessert and let's face it, zucchini bread is more dessert than bread), but this tasted pretty good.

On Sunday, I picked nine cups of basil and turned it into pesto. I tried a new pesto recipe, and luckily, it turned out well. The recipe yielded about three cups, shown in the picture. I also froze these and this is my first attempt at freezing pesto. It will be nice to have some pesto from my garden in the dead of winter.

I finally got around to cleaning my garlic and storing it (in the fridge) yesterday. I was going to take a picture, but my camera battery was dead. I got a decent harvest this year, but not as much as previous years because I didn't order enough garlic to plant last year. I remedied this situation and should have more than enough to plant in the fall. I'd really like to make some garlic braids one day. Maybe next year I will have enough garlic to do so.

Sunday, August 15

30 day shred: i quit

Well, we made it to day 28 on Friday. But, when I checked my weight and waist measurements yesterday, I found that it was the same as when I started, so I give up. I'm sure we're in better shape than when we started, but I was hoping to see some measurable results. This has motivated us to get back to a regular exercise routine, if nothing else.

This whole losing weight thing got me to thinking about calories. I did a couple of calorie calculators (all giving slightly different results) and started counting calories. I was shocked to find that I'm eating too many calories in a day, so now I get to adjust that, too. Getting old is just awesome.

Saturday, August 14

big

We've had to resort to watching movies from our youth for Family Movie Night--mostly because my parents take Jake to see almost all of the new movies that come out. But, this is ok. It's kind of fun to watch movies we haven't seen in 20 years. Last night, we watched Big. It was about as I remembered it and Jake liked it. Good film. And Tom Hanks was totally believable as a 30 year old kid. It makes me remember why I used to like him so much.

Thursday, August 12

too many vegetables

I picked up this week's CSA bounty only to discover that I had 12 ears of corn in the fridge. Knowing that there's no way we'll eat 12 ears of corn by next Thursday (when we'll probably get another 6 ears), I decided to blanch and freeze the corn. This was my first attempt at doing so, but I think it will be good. I froze 4 small bags of corn (off the kernel).

Here's a picture of a giant tomato (39 ounces) that I harvested today. I guess I'm going to be doing something tomato-related this weekend. Actually, I don't have much going on this weekend (for a change), so I'm planning to make and freeze a bunch of stuff. Not so much straight up frozen vegetables, but maybe some sauce, pesto, zucchini bread and the like. I'll be sure to post my progress.

apple is ok

I got an iPod Touch for Christmas last year. It started giving me trouble a few months in and things kept getting worse. At first, resetting it would fix the problem, but then I had to restore it a few times, and that wasn't good. Then the USB stopped being recognized and that was the end of my journey.

I was poking around on the Apple site to find out what to do. I didn't feel like making a trip to the Apple store in Pittsburgh, so I opted to mail it in. The process could not have gone more smoothly. First off, I didn't even have to pack it up--I just had to take my service receipt to the UPS store in Richland, which I did on Monday, and they packed it up and sent it overnight to Apple. Apple did their diagnostics, determined that there was indeed a problem with the iPod, and mailed me a new one yesterday. I received it today. I reloaded it with all of my music (and Canabalt) and now it's ready to go. I'm going to be using it a lot in the coming months because it only has a 3 month warranty so I want to make sure everything is working.

I suppose the only way this could have gone better is if I wouldn't have had problems with it in the first place, but it's nice to know that if you do have problems, a quick resolution is in store.

Monday, August 9

flood city music festival

It seems they have improved the local music festival for the better. I wasn't convinced last year when they started taking "donations", but they have proven themselves this year with a stellar lineup. There were a few bands I would have liked to have seen, but we weren't able to make it for them. However, we did get to see Robert Cray last night (we caught two other bands before the Cray set, but I don't remember their names). I wouldn't classify myself as a Robert Cray fan, but I do like good guitar and blues, so I figured it would be worth it to see him. And, it was. The guy is legendary. I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in store for next year.

Saturday, August 7

the chihuahua incident

Jake and Brian went to Mayhem Fest today, so I was left to my own devices. I spent the afternoon making salsa and sauerkraut. Don't worry--I also took a nap.

The sauerkraut took a little longer than expected (probably because my helper was at a concert), so I fed the dogs before making my own supper (normally they eat after we eat). After eating, Lizzy went out and came back in and then it was Alice's turn. I was preparing a sandwich for my supper (not just any sandwich, but an antipasti sandwich), when I saw a chihuahua running through the yard and straight to the dog area. I ran outside to see Alice, with all of her hackles up, sniffing the chihuahua. She probably feared that we got another puppy (that didn't work out so well last time). I quickly brought her in and then went back outside to try to capture the dog. Animals on the loose always make me nervous since we live so close to Goucher Street. But, the dog wasn't having any of that and he ran down the street (well not the actual street, but through the yards) and out of sight.

Next I let Buster out and continued to make my sandwich. Soon after, I heard him barking. The dog was back. And the barking certainly wasn't deterring him from approaching Buster. I mentioned to our visitor that this might not be a good idea, but he continued to proceed. I wrestled Buster back into the house and then headed outside again. The dog raced down the street again. This time, however, I heard some people talking at the end of the street. I heard them say something about the dog up the street barking at this other dog. I was hoping they were the owners because I didn't see the chihuahua after that.

And, while we didn't see the dog again, it had a profound effect on Buster. He kept going outside only to sniff around the yard and not do his business. This only went on for a few hours. It's so much fun living with an insane dog. Let me count the ways...

for the freezer

I'm trying to put more things in the freezer this year than in past years. Today, I made up a batch of cooked salsa. Actually, I did a double batch but still only got 3 jam jars' worth. It's not like we eat that much salsa, but I was expecting a little more--that stuff really cooks down!

Today was also sauerkraut day. Volume-wise, this is the most I've ever made, so it will surely last until next season. Two of the heads of cabbage, I picked today. I'm not sure if that's what made the difference, but I noticed that this year's sauerkraut was a lot juicier than the two batches I made last year. Since it looks like I'm committed to sauerkraut-making, I should probably look into one of those cabbage grater thingys. In the past I always cut it by hand, but it's hard to get it thin enough doing it that way. I tried using the food processor today, but the slicing blade made the pieces too big and the shredding blade made them too small. Plus it was a pain cutting small enough pieces that the food processor intake could handle, anyway.

A future goal of mine is to can stuff (like salsa and sauerkraut, for example). However, we don't really have a place to store a bunch of jars in our house so I'll stick to freezing for now (I have a large freezer dedicated to such things). But, it would be nice...

Thursday, August 5

weird science

Last year, I added making sauerkraut to my repertoire. Tonight, I was scanning an article on what to do with with Mason jars (as Brian's mom gave me a ton of them in the spring) and "making vinegar" was one of the options. So, guess what I'm going to do? Right--make vinegar. Last year, I made two batches of wine that turned out sweeter than I like so I'm going to see how those wines taste as vinegar. Waste not, want not. I need to order some vinegar starter and then I'll be ready to go!

Speaking of sauerkraut, I have one head of cabbage from the CSA and three from my garden, so I guess I'm making sauerkraut this weekend. Because, really, what could you possibly do with four heads of cabbage besides make sauerkraut? This year, I'm going to try shredding it in my food processor. I don't know if that will be any quicker than doing it by hand (given the large amount that needs to be shredded), but it should turn out thinner anyway.

We have been eating our veggies this summer, for sure. I've been freezing some stuff for future use (I did a couple of bags of green beans yesterday), but it won't be anywhere near as much as I would like to have put back. I really need to start canning. It would be so great to get through most of the winter without having to buy crappy produce from the grocery store. Maybe in a couple of years...

Sunday, August 1

frostburg

Jake was away again this weekend so we took a bike trip to Frostburg, Maryland to visit Brian's grandmother. The ride was nice--it was the best of both worlds--highways and country roads. Brian's grandmother treated us to lunch at the local diner. After lunch, we went back to her house and sat on the patio and talked. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Wednesday, July 28

more pickles

Since I have a bunch of cucumbers, I made a double batch of freezer pickles on Sunday. I particularly like freezer pickles because they keep for a long time (in the freezer--duh!). Contrary to what you might think, I'm not the hugest pickle fan, but I have to do something with all of these cucumbers. And, it is nice to open a container of pickles in January when the gardening season is far off.

special delivery

Background story: a package (business-related) that I ordered was delivered to the office today. It was in my name.

FedEx Guy: Do you know Angela Law?

Me: I'm Angela.

FedEx Guy: Do you live on Lindberg Avenue?

Me: Yes I do.

FedEx Guy: I deliver a lot of puppy stuff to that address.

Me: Yes you do.

(Alice enters the room)

FedEx Guy: And there's a puppy--no surprise there!

Tuesday, July 27

holy cabbage, batman!

Here's a picture of the gargantuan cabbage I harvested from my garden today. Unfortunately, the other two cabbages in the garden are nowhere near this size, but, I'm sure I will have more than enough for a batch of sauerkraut.

In other gardening news, I picked my first ripe tomatoes of the year on Sunday (cherry tomatoes). Today, I noticed a few of the Big Mamas are getting ready to ripen. Maybe next week...

I'm in dire need of tomatoes--I have a fridge full of cukes and am dying to make tomato, cucumber, onion salad.

Sunday, July 25

the road

We had a long overdue Movie and Margarita Night last night. In the DVD player was The Road. You might recall that I read the book last year and enjoyed it very much. I felt that the movie was very true to the book so I don't have much to add besides the fact that I enjoyed the movie, as depressing as it was. Oh, and I still think Viggo Mortensen is awesome.

mount assisi sunken gardens

Jake was away this weekend, so I thought it might be a good time to schedule a longer motorcycle ride. The Mount Assisi Sunken Gardens were on the list for an upcoming Do Johnstown! article so I thought this would make a fun bike trip. Honestly, if we wouldn't have already had this scheduled, I would not have suggested this yesterday, due to the temperature (above 90 is too hot for motorcycle riding, in my opinion). But, since we already had it on the books and were looking forward to it, hot weather wasn't a good enough reason to cancel.

We took longer routes there and back. On the way there, we took 271/22 and when we came home, we took 22/160. So, it was a pretty nice ride. Plus, there's a lot more shade on the routes we took than if we would have taken 219.

Once we got there, we walked around the gardens for a bit and Brian snapped some photos. The gardens were very nice. I recommend going when the weather is a little cooler, though. They had some pretty cool concrete benches and whatnot, but you couldn't even sit on them because they were too hot.

All in all, I give this a thumbs up. It's definitely a place I'd like to visit again.

Saturday, July 24

too many vegetables

Between the CSA and my garden, I have an overabundance of vegetables in the fridge. Besides trying to squeeze in a bunch of veggies at dinnertime, I've been processing things for later use as well. So far this year, I've frozen a few containers of garlic scape pesto, made pickles, froze peas, and froze swiss chard. The latter two I did last night. I took a chance and didn't blanch the peas, so we'll see how that goes. I found one person on the internet saying they didn't have to be blanched, so I went with that suggestion.

I still have much to do, though. I need to make some freezer pickles and freeze even more vegetables. It seems like a lot of work now, but I won't be complaining in the winter when I don't have to go to the store to buy produce.

the blvd

Someone gave us a gift certificate for the Boulevard Grill so we went there for supper Thursday night. We got our old standbys--I had the crab cake sandwich and Brian had a Philly cheese steak. I guess we should have ordered something more expensive because we didn't use up the certificate, so we'll be going there again next weekend, but just for drinks.

Wednesday, July 21

12 hour shipping

Due to our new exercise program, I needed to buy a pair of tennis shoes. I had an old pair, but I wear them while gardening, so I didn't want to wear them in the house. I ordered the shoes late Monday night from Zappos with the expectation that I'd receive them in a couple of days. Imagine my surprise when I came home from work on Tuesday and the shoes had been delivered! I couldn't have gotten them sooner if I had run to the store myself. Now, that is service!

Monday, July 19

surf n turf

We had our somewhat annual surf n turf party on Saturday. I say somewhat because we couldn't agree on a date last year, so we had to skip it, but we did have it for a couple consecutive years before that. The menu was similar to prior years: king crab legs, prosciutto wrapped scallops, beef tenderloin, stuffed mushrooms, garlic bread, and confetti chopped salad. For dessert was biscotti and key lime parfaits. This year, it was just the three of us and our parents, but the guest list can also vary from year to year. I didn't make the desserts, but I did cook the rest of the food on the grill, as usual. It's a challenge scheduling all of the cooking times, but I pretty much have that down pat at this point. This year, I chose a non-cooked veggie side dish to make things slightly easier on myself. Anyway, I think the party was a hit and I'm sure we'll be doing it again next year.

Saturday, July 17

shredding: day 3

Don't worry--I'm not going to blog about every day of the 30 Day Shred, just the ones worth mentioning in my opinion. Yesterday, I had to take a day off. I was just too sore to exercise. I definitely overdid it on the first day. I probably should have just taken the second day off, but that seemed like giving in too easily. But, exercising on top of sore muscles didn't improve the situation and I needed a day off.

But, I was feeling good enough this morning, so we did day 3. I have to say that it's getting easier already (not that it's easy, just easier--I still can't quite make it through all of the exercises without stopping, but I'm working on it). We measured our waists and weights this morning so that we'll be able to gauge our progress.

Today's session did make me tired, though. I've been ready for a nap ever since we finished.

Thursday, July 15

shredding: day 2

Last night, I was so tired that I dreamed that I was tired. And, I kept waking up, so needless to say, I was pretty beat today. Top that off with my muscles being sore from my feet to my shoulders and I had one long day. Being sore and tired as I was, I wanted to get exercising over with as early as possible, so we did it before supper again today. I had a rough time getting through the DVD, but did manage to make it, though now my muscles are even more sore (though as a bonus, I was relatively alert this evening until just a little while ago). I only hope that I can walk tomorrow, as I wasn't doing such a hot job of it today. I guess the good news is that it's working.

Wednesday, July 14

30 day shred

I've always been fortunate to be on the thin side. Sure, I try to watch what I eat, but I've never been much of an exerciser. Brian and I have always lifted weights (more in the cooler months rather than in the summer), but I've never been one for cardio.

I gained a few pounds after having Jake, but didn't really worry about it since all of my clothes still fit. Last year, I apparently hadn't put on one of my business suits in a while, and when I did, it did not fit at all. Reality set in. We started lifting weights again, but I wasn't seeing any results. We talked about the P90X workout, but that's a little further than I want to go with my exercise routine. There's a less intense version called P90, but that, too, seemed like too much of a commitment. Then, I heard about the 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels (from the Biggest Loser show, which I have never watched, but apparently everyone else has). It seemed like it would fit both my schedule and my needs so I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived in the mail today.

Brian was anxious to start, so he came home early and we did day 1 before supper. What a workout! It was pretty tough, but I feel like I might actually get some results from this. Of course, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do on day 2 seeing that I can no longer lift my arms above my head.

Assuming we see some results from this 30 day program, we're going to try to maintain said results by coming up with our own exercise regimen (mixing weights with cardio and a little yoga).

As much as I hate to admit it, I guess once you hit 40 exercise has to become part of the equation.

Sunday, July 11

harvest

Lots of activity in the vegetable garden. We finished the last of the snap peas last week. They were good as always and I planted just the right amount so that we didn't OD on them.

The garlic came out last week, too. It seemed a bit early to me, but it had to be done. Some stuff could have come out earlier for that matter.

I picked the first cucumbers of the year, and consequently made the first pickles of the season. I'm always looking for the perfect pickle recipe so I tried a new one this year. These were refrigerator pickles. I always do a batch or two of freezer pickles, too. I would like to find a good garlic pickle recipe. The ones I made today had garlic in them, but there was a lot of sugar so they are going to be more sweet than garlicky, I would think.

The gourds are growing like crazy. I think I have three vines and that was probably two too many.

The tomatoes and peppers look great, too. There are lots of green tomatoes (and I planted a ton of varieties this year) and there are a bunch of tiny peppers. We even had one of them in our brunch today (a cubanelle).

This is turning out to be a great year for gardening!

Saturday, July 10

airplane!

We hadn't had a Family Movie Night in a while, so we were due (I spent all of last month renting Season 2 of True Blood). Our family movie list is getting short, so I've been resorting to movies from my youth. Airplane! went over well, so in coming months, we're going to check out similar movies such as Hot Shots and The Naked Gun, and quite possibly the sequels to these movies as well.

Monday, July 5

the fourth weekend

We had a pretty good weekend again (this makes three in a row). We kicked it off by having Judy over Friday night for drinks and snacks. I learned an important thing that night--I like beer. But, not just any beer, raspberry lambic. It was so good. She brought over four different flavored lambics (the raspberry was my favorite). I had never had a lambic beer before. The next time I go to Southside Saloon I'll have to order one, rather than my usual vodka on the rocks.

On Saturday, we went to a 4th of July picnic at my cousin's in Portage. It was a good time. There were quite a few people there. They had a bouncy for the kids and that really went over well--it was a good way to keep them busy all afternoon.

Sunday was family day. We went on a nice motorcycle ride to Ligonier and back and then stopped at Papa John's for a pizza. We were hoping to go to Pizza Man's Pizza for supper, but they were closed, so we had to settle for take out. Later that night, Jake and Brian put on a fireworks show. It's surprising how long it takes to go through $30 worth of fireworks (small stuff, of course).

While today was spent catching up around the house, it was nice to have a day off in which to do just that.

new path

The guys put in a new garden path for me this evening. It's a little rough at this point, but we went with the quick method of turning over the sod and laying the rocks on top of it. So, it still needs filled in and whatnot, but I'm going to wait for some rain before messing with it further. Some rocks will surely need reset after everything settles. I did this same method with my checkerboard herb garden and it turned out just fine, so I'm sure this will too.

I have one other path planned, to complete the path around my vegetable garden (one of the 3 sides is currently done, the fourth side is the driveway). Today's path didn't look like it put a dent in the rock pile, so I'm thinking we might end up with some extra rocks till all is said and done. So, I've started making contingency plans in case that happens. But, at least we won't need any additional rocks.

Monday, June 28

thunder

We kicked off Thunder in the Valley by going to see Mini Kiss on Thursday night. They pretty much sucked, but I guess it's the novelty of the thing that's supposed to get you--Brian loved it. There were so many people packed into Central Park--I could not believe how many people were there.

Friday, we took the afternoon off of work. While we usually go downtown to walk around, this year we took a different approach and just rode our bikes around the area (including downtown). It's kind of neat seeing all of the bikers riding around.

We had to go to a 40th birthday party for one of our friends on Saturday afternoon so we took the bikes for that. We dropped Jake off at my grandmother's in Windber and then went to the party in Westmont. I was hoping to check out the activities in Windber, but we just didn't have time this year.

After the party the three of us went downtown to walk around. I don't know why, but I really enjoy walking around down there at night.

It seemed like they had a pretty good crowd this year. I'm not sure how they guesstimate how many people attended, but it seemed at least as big as last year, if not bigger.

That's two fun weekends in a row and a holiday weekend coming up for a third!

Thursday, June 24

pond=fixed

The pond has been running for a few days with no loss of water, so I'm proclaiming it fixed! In addition to fixing numerous leaks in the stream, I also had to rebuild the spillway for the waterfall. Somehow, the spillway rock got tilted backwards so the water was ending up in the ground. The pond liner under the waterfall should have collected the water and taken it back to the pond, but it, too, was tilted back. I guess we must have had some major ground movement back there.

The funny thing is that Jake pointed out the fact that the water was going backwards there. I should have listened to him earlier in the process, but the other problems needed fixed, too, so I guess it doesn't really matter.

Of course, since fixing the pond took so long, the weeds have once again taken over the yard. So much for being caught up.

Wednesday, June 23

the weekend and beyond

Jake went to the beach last week, which coincided with tattoo appointments Brian made for the two of us. The appointments were in Virginia, so we turned the trip into a motorcycle getaway. We left town on Thursday and headed for Berkeley Springs, WV. The ride was nice--my new bike is so much fun to ride. Friday, Brian had his appointment, so we headed for Winchester, VA in the morning. We had to stop for gas on the way and hooked up with another 5 bikers for much of the rest of the trip. We made quite the spectacle going down the highway--people were waving and such.

My appointment was on Saturday. We had some time to kill beforehand, so we went to the local Harley Davidson dealership to pick up something for Jake. After that, we rode on Route 50 for a bit before heading back to town. The ride home was uneventful, but we had to take a few breaks because my bike is not built for long-distance riding and my butt was sore!

On Sunday, we went to my parents' for a Father's Day cookout and to pick up Jake. The weather was beautiful and we had a nice dinner on the deck. Jake is attending Kids' College at Saint Francis University this week so he's staying at my parent's for a few days again. I can hardly wait to get him back tomorrow.

Thunder also starts tomorrow, so it looks like it's going to be another motorcycle weekend!

Saturday, June 19

horseradish

While this plant might look like a gigantic weed, it's actually horseradish. The Cambria County plant sale was offering horseradish this year and I thought it might be fun to try.

It's not like we eat a ton of horseradish, but we do go through a few jars a year. I've read some interesting things about the processing of the horseradish roots, so that should be a fun adventure this fall.

Horseradish is very invasive, so that is why it is in a pot and not in the vegetable or herb garden. Basically, I don't do anything to it but water it once in a while (and I haven't had to do much of that with all the rain we have been getting. Too bad all of my plants don't grow like this.

herbs

Here's a partial shot of my herb garden. The monstrosity that is taking it over is lemon balm. I've got to cut that plant back or something. Each block in the herb garden is one square foot, so obviously this was a bad plant for me to pick. Of course, I had no idea it was going to get this big. I don't even use it for anything. I guess it's time to find a use.

This whole area is in need of a weeding, as is much of the rest of the yard.

Friday, June 18

jake's birthday part 2

Jake wanted to have a pool party for his birthday this year, but since  
his birthday is in May, we had to put it off for a month. The party  
was held last Saturday at my in-laws.

He invited 5 of his best friends, but unfortunately only 2 showed up  
(as for the others, thanks for the RSVP--you know who you are). Even  
so, the kids had a great time and we're planning an even bigger and  
better party for next year.

Wednesday, June 16

blueberry

This cluster of blueberries looks pretty good. I'm going to try to eat the almost ripe one before the birds do. While the blueberry bushes look better this year than ever, they are still pretty small, so I'm not too worried if the birds get the berries again this year since there aren't enough of them to do anything with.

And, from the looks of things, I need to weed the blueberry area.

the garden

I'm pretty pleased with the way the garden is progressing this year. I finally finished mulching it this past week. I had a few plants die on me and they have been replaced. I had my first major "harvest" this week, too--garlic scapes. I made a garlic scape frittata for brunch last Sunday. It was quite good. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of them, but I need to figure something out.

I think the peas will be next. I noticed a bunch of small pods out there today and there are plenty of flowers. I have a feeling we're going to be eating a lot of peas soon.

Sunday, June 13

blockade billy/morality

I received this mini-book in the mail a few weeks ago, thanks to the Stephen King Library. I've been a member of the SKL for so long I can't even remember when I joined. It's always nice to be surprised with a new Stephen King book, even if it's just a short story or two.

The first story in this book, "Blockade Billy" was told in a narrative style, which was kind of interesting, but there was a lot of baseball stuff thrown in and I don't give a squat about baseball. The story was about a baseball player with a hidden past.

The second story, "Morality" reminded me of the movie "Indecent Proposal". It posed the same kind of moral questions. I liked this story much better than the first.

Tuesday, June 8

seriously

We had a roof project scheduled for last weekend (putting a new roof on the office back porch). As if that wasn't enough, I was in the office basement last week and I heard something dripping. After a little investigation, I found that the leak was coming from the bathroom toilet--there's a crack in the cast iron pipe.

Since this is a bigger plumbing project than we'd like to take on, Brian called our usual plumber. But, he wasn't interested in the job because he does mostly heating and cooling nowadays. He wouldn't refer us to another plumber either, so Brian checked with our Moxham neighbor who does handyman work. He's probably going to take on the job, but is busy for the next few weeks.

I did a little research on cast iron pipes and found that a temporary repair can be made with fiberglass tape. So, while we were at Lowe's buying roofing supplies last week, I found some of said tape. Yesterday, while Brian continued to work on the roof, I decided to tackle the pipe. The pipe is near the ceiling and I noticed that the ceiling was all spongy. After ripping a few chunks of the ceiling out, I found that the toilet was also leaking at the flange. Great.

When we installed the toilet, we used one of those wax rings. We had an issue with one of them at our house, too, and ended up buying a waxless gasket. I bought the same thing for this toilet and we installed it this evening. The deluge of water seems to have stopped (at least from the flange area). The pipe might be leaking a little bit, but I won't know for sure until things dry out tomorrow, but I can live with that as it will all be replaced soon enough.

As for the roof, it's still in progress. Over half of it is shingled at this point. Unfortunately, we're going to get almost 2 inches of rain tomorrow. Fortunately, it's just a porch roof, so I think it will be ok. The roof is tarpapered, so that should keep things dry. If not, I won't stand on the porch tomorrow.

Saturday, June 5

40

Today was my birthday. I'm not one for pomp and circumstance, so the day was low-key. In fact, Brian spent the day tearing off the back porch roof at the office. After remodeling the office, I decided that I'm too old for this bullshit, but I do plan on helping him a bit tomorrow. Instead, I did my usual laundry today, but I gave myself the day off from all of my other chores.

Jake was nice and made me a delicious brunch of soft-boiled eggs, rye toast, and a glass of orange juice. He also made his dad a PB&J wrap, which we delivered in the afternoon. Jake made me a #1 Mom trophy and a paperclip necklace, as well. I also received some awesome gardening tools from the guys (even though they already bought me a new table and chairs for the back yard).

We did celebrate this evening, however. We went to Amici's in Ebensburg and had a nice dinner. This evening, I've pretty much been vegetating on the couch. I guess it won't kill me to sit around and do nothing for one day this year.

tomatoes

As promised, some pictures of the tomatoes. The ones on the right used the tomato teepees and the ones on the left did not. As you can see the ones that used the teepees are almost twice as tall. I do have some flowers on both sets of plants, so we'll see how they fare in the long run. To be continued...

Friday, June 4

more pics

This is a picture of the "other side" of the house. There's no yard here, as the driveway, which we share with the neighbor, takes up this side of the property. The greenery shown here is a myrtle patch (complete with a photobomb). In retrospect, I kind of wish I would have put my herb garden here as the side door leads to my kitchen and I often find myself having to go to the herb garden while cooking dinner. I found out this year that if I let the weeds go long enough in the myrtle patch, they are actually easier to deal with. Go figure.

Here is a picture of my vegetable garden. This reminds me that I forgot to take pictures of my tomato plants (the ones with the "wall-o-waters" versus the ones without). By the way, the WOW tomatoes are doing spectacularly. It also reminds me that I haven't filled in the dirt between the rocks in my garden path. It was washed out by the storm a few weeks ago.

This is a picture of my herb garden (the one I wish was off of the kitchen entrance). This area is in flux at the moment. We mulched it for the first time this year (without removing the grass from the area). The grass (and weeds) quickly started sprouting through the mulch, so I laid down some cherry sawdust (from Brian's shop). This has helped quite a bit, but I only had enough sawdust for half the area, so that's why it looks like it does. It's hard to see, but in the lower left corner, my orchard can be found--1 each of cherry, peach, and apple trees. Running along the left side (against the hedges) are the raspberry bushes. and along the back side (the fence) are the blueberry bushes).

still leaking

The pond is driving me insane. I thought I found the leak. When we set up the stream, we used two overlapping pieces of pond liner (a big no-no). I knew this wasn't a good idea, but it worked for a couple of years, so I figured it was ok. While trying to find the leak, I did find a potential leak in this area, so I shorted the stream by a foot or so and removed the extra liner. I thought this did the trick, but it did not. So, I'm still looking. I've had to turn off the pump for the most part, because the pond is too low on water and I don't want any more leaking out. I ordered an airstone and mini-pump that I'm going to start running as soon as it gets here. I'm not going to mess around with this any more until the water level comes back up.

Monday, May 31

memorial day weekend

The weekend went by like a whirlwind. I don't think we did anything out of the ordinary on Friday night, but the rest of the weekend was quite busy.

On Saturday, we went to Costco, as mentioned in a previous post. That took up much of the morning and afternoon. After getting situated at home, Brian and I went for a quick bike ride. After supper, we ran to Lowe's for some garden stuff for the home and office (I got some cool metal tiki torches for the back patio--they really light up the back yard).

On Sunday, we went to my parent's for the annual birthday dinner for my brother and me. We had a great dinner there (plus I got presents!) and then came home and didn't do anything in particular the rest of the night--I was feeling kind of lazy.

This morning, Brian and I caught a late morning bike ride (we wanted to get one in before the afternoon thunderstorms that were coming). After lunch, we headed to the office and Brian calculated the materials needed for the porch roof he's planning on replacing next weekend. Then we went to Lowe's to buy said materials. It was business as usual the rest of the evening. Tomorrow, it's back to work. I don't even feel like I got an extra day off this weekend!

Saturday, May 29

strawberry wine

We made one of our three to four yearly trips to Costco today. So, now we're stocked up at both home and the office. I love Costco--I only wish there was one closer.

I've been wanting to make strawberry wine, so I figured this would be a good time to buy the strawberries since I needed so many (16 pounds). Unfortunately, I can't make the wine until Tuesday because I don't have the other supplies that I need and I won't be able to get them until then. I wanted to buy the supplies last weekend, but I could not find my wine-making book that contains the strawberry wine recipe. However, Amazon came to the rescue--I found the book on there today, and thanks to their "Look Inside" option, I was able to find the recipe I was looking for. That was convenient, though I'd still like to locate my lost book.

I haven't made strawberry wine for a couple of years so I'm really looking forward to making this batch of wine.

Wednesday, May 26

not my day

So I woke up to a thumping headache (issue #1) this morning and things only got worse.

Brian took his truck to the garage to get inspected today. We honestly weren't expecting any issues as we have spent a lot of money (like close to a grand) on the truck over the past few months. However, we ended up with a $600+ bill (issue #2). It's to the point now where we're thinking about buying a new car. If we're going to be spending this kind of money all of the time, might as well have something nice to show for it--we're thinking of an inexpensive sedan-type vehicle that gets good gas mileage (so Brian can use it on his sales calls). Of course, if we do get a new car, we're going to keep the truck because we always seem to be hauling stuff (mulch, building supplies, woodworking supplies, etc.). We're hoping that if we limit the truck's use, it won't have as many problems (and if it would need fixed, we could potentially hold off on it since we'd have another vehicle). But, we'll see what happens with all of that.

I was getting the dogs' paperwork in order for an upcoming visit to the kennel when I noticed that they forgot to give Alice her rabies shot when we were there in March (issue #3). So, I made an appointment for right after work today. In my haste to get out of the house on time, I threw a chicken on the grill and forgot to turn off the middle burner (for indirect grilling). Luckily, I was also making potatoes, which I put on 30 minutes later, but the chicken was pretty much burnt to a crisp already (issue #4). By the time I got home from our appointment, we'll call the bird "well done". Luckily there was enough edible meat for our supper. Oh, and I cut my baked potato in half to find out that it was rotten (issue #5). Thankfully, Brian shared half of his potato with me.

I've had a pond issue (issue #6) that has been plaguing me for a week or so (a slow leak that I can't find). I intended on working on the pond after supper, but we received a call from the eye doctor that Jake's new glasses were in (his old ones were broken by some kid last weekend at a school function), so I had to run there instead (I did work on the pond after I returned. I still don't know if it's fixed.). They also had a pair of my motorcycle glasses, which I wanted to get tinted (the glasses have photo gray lenses in them, but don't darken behind my motorcycle helmet face shield). And, since the day is going the way it is, they could not tint my glasses due to the fact that they had polycarbonate lenses (I've been wearing glass lenses for years, so I did not know this fact). Issue #7.

the leak

Every year, I fix leaks in the pond until things get stabilized. This year, I thought I had things fixed, but am now experiencing another leak that I can't figure out. The leaks have always occurred in the stream that flows into the pond. I guess the dirt must wash away and lower the liner and then a leak occurs. However, I cannot find any indication of this. Even so, this evening, I built up some of the lower edges of the stream in the hopes that they were somehow the problem. I guess I'll know by morning (if not tonight) if I was successful. If not, I don't know what I'm going to do.

Monday, May 24

it's complicated

I thought this was a pretty funny movie. Not totally "laugh out loud" hilarious, but definitely funny enough. I might be showing my age here, but I imagine you need to be a little mature before you'd like this movie. For example, I can't see 20-somethings liking this, but what do I know?

Sunday, May 23

the patio's open!

I spent all afternoon (like 4-5 hours) getting the patio ready for summer. First, I edged it, and then I power washed it. It took forever to power wash, but it looks great. I also gave the furniture a once-over and got the cushions and table umbrella out of the shed.

I received a new bistro set for Mother's Day/my birthday. Initially, I was going to put it in yard near the pond. But I convinced Brian to throw away our old picnic table and the patio was looking a little bare, so I ended up putting the new table and chairs on the right end of the patio, also near the pond. We even broke it in this evening, by having supper on it.

For once, I feel like I'm ahead of the game as far as getting stuff done outside. I've been spending every spare moment outside, so I guess that is paying off.

Saturday, May 22

golf

We had a golf outing planned with Judy today--mini golf and ice cream at the Meadows--but the weather did not cooperate (which seems to be a recurring theme for the year so far) so we ended up at Glow Golf at the Galleria instead. It was pretty cool. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I played miniature golf indoors. Plus, I won, so that made the afternoon even better. I owed that to Judy after she kicked my ass at air hockey a few years ago. After golf, we caught some pre-dinner ice cream at Little Sprinkles in Geistown.

While we were out, we stopped at Ollie's and bought two air conditioning units for the office, so now we have one for each room in the building. I can't wait to get our electric bill this summer.

I made supper on the grill, in the pouring rain. We had Delmonico steaks, corn on the cob, and grilled mushrooms. Yum!

Now, I'm gearing up for Movie and a Margarita Night.

So, despite the weather, this has been a great day.

Thursday, May 20

planting time

The weather is supposed to be seasonably warm for the long term forecast, so I started planting the warm weather crops in the garden. I managed to plant tomatoes and cukes in the veggie garden and basil in the herb garden. And, I planted three varieties of coleus in the shed window boxes. I still have more stuff to plant in the veggie garden, but ran out of time. But, there's always tomorrow.

I don't know what's going on with my tomato plants. They looked great when I transplanted them about a month ago, but have gone downhill since. I've had this problem in previous years as well. I guess it's time to do some research on the subject.

Wednesday, May 19

the side (and back) yards

This is a picture of the side yard, as taken from the "dog area". There are four evergreen trees planted on the side property line. Two of them were planted a while ago and are decent size. The other two were planted recently, and have some catching up to do. The mulch from the dog area extends into the side yard and even further into the back yard. No major plans exist for this area of the yard, besides continued maintenance of the mulch, and keeping the dogs from killing the one evergreen tree that they have access to (just speaking from experience here). At the rear of the shed are a bunch of black-eyed Susans. I'll have to take a picture of them when they're in bloom.

The next photo was taken from the side porch. It shows the pond area and the shed, both of which are in need of some work. The flowerboxes for the shed will be planted this week. I'm not thrilled with the plants around the pond--I've decided to go for a bigger plant look there, but that's going to take some time to accomplish. One of the first plans is to divide the hostas by the shed, as they get very large, and plant them along the stream. And, of course, move the smaller plants to a different location. The table and chairs by the pond was my Mother's Day/birthday gift from Brian and Jake this year. At some point soon, we're going to level the earth and put down some flagstone for the table/chairs to sit on.

This final photo is the butterfly garden, which sits between our patio and the back house foundation. It starts to look pretty good around the end of June. The middle plant is a butterfly bush. Also in the mix are the following: black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, butterfly weed, blue asters, Elijah blue grass, and a few other things. This area also contains solar path lighting, which comes in handy at night. I love the butterfly garden because I don't do anything to it and it looks great every year. Plus, there are the butterflies...