Wednesday, December 5

oh, deer

The day before Thanksgiving, Jake hit a deer with his car. It had some minor damage, but the estimate still came in at almost $2k. This was covered under our comprehensive coverage, so it's only costing us $100. So, yay! for that. The car was dropped off at the garage on Monday and we just got a call that it's ready to be picked up. Jake has a break in classes this afternoon, so we're going to get it then. He has a lot of aftermarket parts on the car, so he's going to need to take a close look and make sure everything's good. Assuming so, this has been a pretty painless process.

Monday, December 3

closed

Earlier this year, I mentioned that I was going to close my Etsy shop, Everyone Drinks. I kept that promise and closed it on December 1. I probably should have kept it open a little longer (for Christmas sales opportunities), but I'm kind of glad to be done with it.

Not sure what I'm going to do with the leftover inventory. The consumables (soaps, candles) will be easy enough to put into use, but it's not like I need two wine cork bulletin boards (I'm not even sure I need one). Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Too bad I wasn't able to turn it into something bigger.

Friday, November 23

thanksgiving and such

We did Thanksgiving with Brian's family this year. As is the custom, Brian's sister's family was in for the event. Since Thanksgiving is pretty much the only time we get to see them, it was especially nice to catch up on things.

And, since Brian's parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this month, we all got together again today and took them out for lunch.

isle of dogs

Jake and I watched this movie on Thanksgiving Eve. It was a cute stop-motion animated tale. Plus, it had dogs.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, November 22

i, alex cross

Of all of the James Patterson novels, the Alex Cross series is definitely the best. I feel like the earlier novels are better than the current ones, but I still enjoy them nonetheless.

I'm still on track for reading one book a month this year. Not a very lofty ambition (I used to read multiple novels a week in my younger, and less busy years), but at least I've been able to keep up with it.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, November 18

cooking sundays

What started off a year ago as cooking something special on Sundays, has morphed into an entire day of cooking on most Sundays (time permitting, of course).

I have been working my way through my personal cookbook and have been making things I haven't made in a long time. In some cases, I rewrite the recipes for how I actually do them. In other cases, I end up removing the recipe from my book. I started off this morning with an Easy Fudge Layer Cake. While delicious, the frosting was very difficult to spread. There are definitely "easier" recipes out there, so I won't be making this again. But, Jake and I will enjoy eating it while it lasts.

After that, I made some Tex Mex Breakfast Wraps from a food blogger I discovered recently. The wraps served double duty--they were lunch and the remaining wraps were frozen for future breakfasts. I went through the blogger's site last weekend and there are a lot of delicious-looking recipes that will be making. And, I mean a lot.

And for supper, I have some chicken stock simmering on the stove. The original recipe I had was from Cook's Illustrated and they are stingy with displaying recipes, but the recipe in the link is very similar. And what to put in the stock? Nothing but my great grandmother's cheese squares. It's basically just a cheese and egg mixture in homemade pasta dough. Speaking of which, I better get started on them or we're never going to eat!


Sunday, November 11

house of cards

This series started off strong, but the final season definitely left something to be desired. While Kevin Spacey's departure was understandable, the show just didn't work without him. I feel like if they would have just taken some extra time, they could have come up with a better final season. It was not good. So, my rating is more for the first five seasons. The final one was more like a two, but I'm not going to factor that in.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, November 4

the dogs

A couple of weeks ago, Buster had a bunch of bumps removed from various parts of his body. He fared well with the surgery, but then appeared to have a small seizure two days after (which probably wasn't related to the surgery, but still). Something like this happened to him about a year ago, but I wasn't really sure what it was at the time and since it didn't happen again, I didn't mention anything to the vet. But, when it happened the 2nd time, I mentioned the episode and they confirmed my suspicions. We just need to keep an eye on it for now since the frequency is not great.

I took Buster to get his stitches out on the 1st. Esme was not happy about being left alone at the house so she shredded (and ingested part of) an empty plastic milk container that was sitting out. She threw up a bunch of plastic the next day and stuff is still coming out her other end properly, so she's probably fine at this point. She actually broke through the kitchen gate while we were gone. That girl does not like to be left alone. She's fine if we leave her with Buster, but the few times we've had to take Buster out and leave her behind, she was not happy.

Edit (11/5/2018): She threw up some more plastic this morning, so we're not out of the woods yet.

Tuesday, October 30

memory man

In this well-written story by David Baldacci, a man with perfect memory has to solve a crime (one that has ties to his family being murdered previously). There were a lot of things in this book that required a suspension of disbelief, but it was engaging. I'd try another one of this author's books, but maybe not from this same series.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, October 28

blockers

This was a so-so comedy with a C-list cast (apparently John Cena is an actor now?). Even so, I gave it a decent rating due to a couple of LOL moments.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, October 21

hereditary

I heard some really good stuff about this movie. Unfortunately, most of it was false. It had a couple of cool things going on, but was mostly boring and not all that scary. Plus the male teenage actor got on my nerves. So much for that!

My rating: 2.5/5

Friday, October 19

decorator

I took another class at Penn Highlands, this one a cake decorating class. I found it to be pretty informative and definitely worthwhile. We learned how to ice a cake, do different types of piping, and make roses. Plus, we got to eat the results!

In other decorating news, I rearranged the living room yesterday. I like the new look. Not sure if it's because it's different or better, but I think it's actually better. I still have some artwork to move around, but that will be easy enough to remedy as soon as I have 5 spare minutes.

Sunday, October 14

no sale

Well, my motorcycle didn't sell, so I put it away for another winter. I didn't even ride this summer. Not once. I didn't miss it, either. I will likely put the bike up again next spring, but I reserve the right to change my mind. But, without my riding buddy (Lizzy), it seems unlikely.

Sunday, October 7

lucky

This was an interesting enough character study about a 90 year old man who is living out his last days in the desert. While I did not find it particularly funny, it fell under the dramedy category.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, October 5

pet first aid

Brian and I took a series of pet first aid classes at Penn Highlands, the last of which was last night. We found it pretty informative, but due to having 6 dogs over the past 22 years, we have already lived through quite a number of pet emergencies. Still, I thought the class was worthwhile and would definitely consider taking more classes there in the future.

Sunday, September 23

won't you be my neighbor?

The three of us are obsessed with Mr. Rogers for some reason, so we watched this documentary last night. It was pretty interesting and we all enjoyed it. Unlike Brian and me, Jake did not grow up watching Mr. Rogers. But he has somehow been exposed to him recently and now wants me to knit him all of the cardigans.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, September 18

one perfect lie

This was a nice departure from Lisa Scottoline's usual lawyer fare. While it did have some cheap tricks in it, overall it was an entertaining read. I can't really say what it's about because the actual plot is a spoiler. The author lures you in and makes you think the story's going to go one way, and then it goes in a completely different direction (that would be one of the cheap tricks).

My rating: 3.5/5

Friday, September 14

volunteer

For a few reasons, I decided to start volunteering at the Humane Society of Cambria County. I sent them my volunteer application in July and heard back from them at the end of last month. Since then I've gone to volunteer training and a dog handling class. I actually got to volunteer for the first time on Wednesday and it went well enough--I did laundry while I was there and played with a bunch of cats and kittens. Next time, I'm going to see if I can work with some dogs, as that is one of my major motivations for volunteering. I'm committing myself to 2 hours a week. Overall, I think I'm going to like it.

Sunday, September 9

good time

This movie starred Robert Pattinson, who robbed a bank with his mentally challenged brother. After his brother got caught, he spent the rest of the time trying to get him out of jail (using both legal and non-legal methods). It was an interesting enough story, though I found the soundtrack distracting (on the other hand, Brian liked it).

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, September 6

strawberries

I'm taking a cue from our CSA farmer and am planting strawberries in the fall. Actually, I planted them yesterday, but you get the idea. Strawberries have to be replanted every so often and my strawberry bed was definitely spent this summer. So, I thought I'd give this method a try. I found the plants on Jung Seed (they are hard to find at this time of the year). The farmer replants every year--not sure I will do that, but we'll see how things go. I planted the same variety I had before, so this will be a good performance test. Expect another update next June.

Wednesday, September 5

another one

Esme turned one yesterday! Brian took her out for ice cream--what a lucky dog. It's hard to believe she's been around for 8 months already. She has fit in quite well with our family with the exception of her hatred for cats (at the house) and clients (at the office).

Sunday, August 26

one

Brian and I went to Canonsburg yesterday for Miss Avery's first birthday! It's hard to believe a year has already passed since she was born. She had quite a turnout for the event. With so many milestones on both sides, we got to see a lot of each other this year.

Saturday, August 25

balcony railing

Our balcony railing has needed replaced since we bought our house 22 years ago. Since the existing railing would have to be removed in order to do so, there never seemed to be a good time to do it. But, now that we're getting down to the wire with selling the house (hopefully in a year or two), we needed to get that project done. Conveniently, Jake went to the beach with one of his friends the other week, so we started on the project then. It actually took a lot longer than we thought it would (it always does), but at least the handrail was in place by the time he returned home. On Thursday evening, we finished installing the balusters, so now the project is complete! And, it looks amazing.

Friday, August 24

yarn crafter

We (at Innovative Tomato) released our second app recently, Yarn Crafter! Our office is full of knitters and crocheters, so everyone was pretty excited about it. We have so many features planned for the app--it's going to be a really useful tool for yarn crafting hobbyists! If nothing else, I'm going to use it, but we're hoping that everyone else finds it as useful as we do.

Sunday, August 19

hostiles

This was a pretty good western. It told the story of an Army Captain who had to escort an Indian chief and his family back to their homeland, while going through enemy territory. It starred the always excellent Christian Bale and featured some stunning cinematography.

My rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, August 16

r.i.p. lizzy

Lizzy turned 16 in January so we knew that there wasn't much time left no matter how you looked at it. She developed numerous health problems over the course of the summer and we had to make the difficult decision to put her to sleep, which happened yesterday. It is always a tough decision to make--it always seems too soon or too late.

I like to think she had a great life with us. She's been here since almost the beginning--she would have celebrated her 16th adoption anniversary in just a few weeks (September 7). Besides being a constant companion, she was also Jake's first dog, which he picked out when he was only two! Not to mention she's been around 1/3 of my life (and I'm not exactly young).

After Alice passed a few years ago, Lizzy became the office dog and went to work with us every day for a few years. We also took her on vacation with us in 2017 and she enjoyed it immensely. She was also my sidecar-riding partner. She enjoyed everything--even going to the vets. And she loved everyone. Brian took one last photo of her yesterday, while outside at the vet's office and she was even smiling in that.

It's going to be strange around the house for a long time.

Monday, August 13

the mechanic

Jake and a lot of his friends are really into cars, so he has been working on them for a few years now. He's made a ton of modifications to his own and does all of the maintenance on it. He does occasional work on our vehicles, but we still take them to the garage for most things. I was recently lamenting the fact that we have to get new brakes/rotors on our car before it gets inspected again and he cheerfully offered to take on the task. He said the quality would be better and it cost about half as much (because there were no labor charges). While Brian has a lot of skills, working on cars is not one of them, so it's nice to have a mechanic in the house!

Sunday, August 12

the americans

For those not in the know, this show was about a pair of "married" Russian spies living and working in America in the 1980s. I wouldn't have guessed I would like the show so much, but I was hooked from episode 1.

I finished watching this series last night and I have to say, it was on par with "Breaking Bad". Every episode was excellent. Much like "Breaking Bad", they had their story to tell and told it. While I'm sure they could have dragged things out for a bunch more seasons, they chose not to (take note, "The Walking Dead"). The whole show was like watching a chess match, but with way more bloodshed.

The finale was pretty good, too. It wrapped up most of the storylines, but left some stuff to ponder.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday, August 11

another thing

I decided to not make any wine this year. I'm not quitting the hobby--it's just that we don't drink or entertain like we used to so what's the point in having 200 bottles of wine in the house? For that matter, even when we do entertain, it seems like everyone else is drinking less, too (I guess because none of us are getting any younger). Once my stock gets low, I'll make some more for sure, but until then...

Friday, August 10

sphere

This is only the second book I've read from Michael Crichton and I liked it much better than the first. It was sci-fi so I was surprised I liked it at all. Though, I have been getting into some sci-fi stuff lately, so maybe it'll be my new thing.

The book's plot was kind of complicated--the story took place in a pod at the bottom of the ocean. Not sure how much of it was scientifically accurate, but it was interesting enough.

My rating: 3/5

Monday, August 6

fcmf 2018

We had free tickets for the festival (for doing some free design work for them) so we caught a couple acts over the course of Friday and Saturday. There weren't a whole lot of bands that interested us, but the ones we saw were pretty good. There were a couple of other bands I would have checked out, it didn't work out with our schedules.

Wednesday, August 1

progress edition: the house

We paid a contractor to soffit and fascia our side porch. Boy, did it need it! It looks amazing now. Just one bigger project remains for the outside--painting the siding, which we're also going to have to pay someone to do, due to its high location. This might have to wait until next year, but we're getting closer to done! We still have a couple of bigger projects left in the house (which we are handling), but we're getting started on one of those this weekend, so there is progress on that front, too.

Monday, July 30

progress edition: the office

We are in the process of finishing the basement at the office, in order to expand our office space. The first step was to have the basement windows replaced, which we paid a contractor to do. After this was done, we needed to paint around the windows. We decided to go with a darker color than the last time, so this necessitated all of the trim needing to be painted, which we completed this weekend. Of course, now the upstairs windows look like crap and I want them to be replaced. But, this won't happen until the basement is finished, so I guess I'll have to be patient.

Now that the windows are done, Brian was able to do some framing. The rooms are all partially framed because the basement was kind of finished before, but there's still a lot to do. He was able to finish the conference room framing on Saturday. Getting that room done is somewhat of a high priority because then we can use it for meetings, recording, etc.

I'm sure this project is going to take a while, but at least things are moving along now. I'd really like for the whole space to be usable (if not finished) by the end of the year, but who knows if we'll have the time and money to do that.

Sunday, July 29

a quiet place

This was a really great movie with a very unique plot--aliens have invaded earth and they hunt by sound. The movie followed one family during this ordeal. It was quite compelling. Plus is was written, directed, and starred in by John Krasinski (aka Jim from "The Office").

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, July 24

had it

Yet again, my tomato plants have succumbed to Septoria Leaf Spot. I guess there's no avoiding it at this point. I'll be lucky to get any tomatoes this year. I guess I should have put the potted tomatoes out front. I shall learn from my mistake.

After doing some research on the issue, I found out that there's a septoria-resistant tomato available called "Iron Lady". I'm definitely going to try that one next year. And, put the pots out front again. I only wish my garden was large enough that I could effectively rotate my crops. Maybe someday...

Monday, July 23

why him?

This movie was a comedy about a father who tries to keep his daughter's boyfriend from asking her to marry him. It had some decent star power--Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, James Franco--but didn't do well with the critics or at the box office. It came across my radar and I thought I'd give it a shot anyway (I usually don't agree with the critics as to what's funny, as they always seem to dislike lowbrow humor). While it did not have any hysterical moments, I thought it was pretty amusing throughout.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, July 22

simplifying

In 2018, I am trying to cut things out of my life that take too much time or cause stress and concentrate more on things I enjoy doing.

As a first step, we sold our rental property in May. That place was just one more building to upkeep. When you look at the bottom line, it was not worth the effort. Plus, having one less building has renewed our interest in finishing the basement at the office, so now that project is underway and making some good progress.

Secondly, I put my bike up for sale. You might wonder how a motorcycle is complicating my life. As it turns out, I just don't enjoy riding as much as I thought I would. I mean, it was fun at first, but lately it has seemed like another thing that "has" to be done. The bike's bought and paid for, but there are ongoing costs (insurance, upkeep) that make me feel like I need to put it to use, when I'd really rather be doing other things. Who knows if it will sell or not, but I haven't even been out on it this year. Worst case, I can probably just trade it in when we get a new car in a year or two (or if Brian takes me up on my offer of a new bike for him). Jake was all interested in motorcycles last year and I thought he was going to be riding it, but he quickly lost interest when motorcycle season started up again.

Thirdly, I'm closing Everyone Drinks. While I still enjoy making crafts, I haven't been able to get my sales up to a level that makes it worthwhile, so I've decided to hang it up later this year. I've been waffling on this for a while now, but Etsy made some changes this year that are making it all but impossible for a small company like mine to sell anything, so that was like the last nail in the coffin.

The thing I'm looking forward to the most is cutting my paperwork load in half when we merge our two companies down the road. But, that is still a ways away.

Saturday, July 21

foo fighters again

Brian, Jake, Jake's girlfriend (Megan), and I went to see the Foo Fighters at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday. What a great show! They are such a fun band to see live. Much like the first time we saw them, they played for almost 2.5 hours--way longer than most bands. That was our first show at the arena. I thought the acoustics were really good--I'd definitely go there again. We made it in and out of Pittsburgh without a hitch (plus we found a $5 parking lot just blocks from the show). After 20+ years of going to Pittsburgh for shows, I think we finally have things figured out.

Friday, July 13

improvising

While we were getting packed for vacation on the 4th, a storm rolled through and knocked out the power for the better part of the day (12:30pm-10pm). Brian had to hook up the generator so we didn't lose any food in the fridge and freezer. Good thing the power outage didn't occur while we were away! The power being out kind of put a damper on packing--we kept putting it off because we thought it would come back on at any minute (and things would be easier to see in the light).

Another problem was that I prepared some sourdough pizza crust before the power went out. Without a stove, I didn't have a way to cook it. A quick Google search told me that my baking steel would work on the grill, so we tried it out and had pretty good results. I feel like it would have been even better with regular pizza dough, but it certainly did the trick. I think that's something I will be trying again in the future.


Thursday, July 12

the outsider

I read this book from Stephen King while we were on vacation. It was quite good. It had a really interesting concept--I don't want to give anything away so I'm not going to try to explain it. The only negative was that I felt that most of the characters were one-dimensional (I really had problems visualizing them). But, the story more than made up for that.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday, July 11

austin, pa

For vacation this year, we visited Potter County. Specifically, we stayed in the town of Austin, which is near Cherry Springs State Park. The park is known for its dark skies--due to its remote location--and is ideal for star gazing. While we didn't go to the park, we had our own star gazing field at the cabin. And, the sky was spectacular. Thank goodness for clear weather!

Brian, Jake, Jake's friend (Tanner), Esme, and I all went on the trip. The boys mostly hung out in their hammocks and slept. Connectivity was sparse, so it was a mostly electronics-free affair. It's always good to disconnect. We went from Thursday to Tuesday to lessen the amount of days out of the office, which is always a concern when we can't check in via telephone/internet.

I did a lot of knitting and reading. And, I mean a lot. There wasn't much to do up that way, but we did visit the Austin Dam Memorial Park and Sinnemahoning State Park one day. Given that we're from Johnstown, home of the floods, the dam was interesting to see. Unfortunately, we visited the wildlife watching area in the afternoon so there wasn't anything to see (dawn and dusk are the best times for wildlife viewing), but it still made for a nice walk. Another day, we drove up to Coudersport and visited the Potter County Artisan Center. There, Brian and I picked up some pottery--coffee mugs for each of us and a tea light holder for the living room.

We did the usual campfires and such, but that was really about it. Entertaining Esme took up a lot of time as well, but she was so good--you could just let her out and not have to worry about her running off the property. She got plenty of exercise, but still was not tired by the time we got home. Her store of energy is boundless.

Monday, July 2

the 4th

It isn't the 4th yet, but we went to a 4th of July part at Lish and Brent's on Saturday. That's the first one we've gotten to in a while, so it was nice to catch up with some people we haven't seen for a bit.

In other July news, despite all of the rain, my garden is looking pretty good. Some, but not all, of the tomato plants are turning brown like they always do (I think it's a fungus). I'm pondering whether to pull them out or just let them go. Not a lot to harvest at this point, but in a week or two, some stuff should be ready. Thank goodness we have the CSA to hold us over in the meantime.

Monday, June 25

graduation party

As suspected, the graduation party prep had us so busy that we didn't make it downtown for Thunder. Neither one of us was fired up for it this year, for whatever reason. I'm sure we will get back on track next year. In related news, someone stopped to look at my bike on Saturday. They seemed really interested and were supposed to come back again yesterday evening, but did not. I guess that's how that goes.

Anyway, Jake's party was a success--we had a great turnout and everyone seemed to have a good time. We rented a room at the Community Arts Center due to the number of people invited (there was no way we could accommodate that many people at our house). Everything went smoothly and I was pretty happy to have correctly guesstimated the amount of food needed as I had never fed that large of a crowd before. But, I guess this is the end of celebrating Jake for a while. He had the trifecta this year--Eagle Scout, 18th birthday, and graduation.

Thursday, June 21

no thunder?

This might be the first year we don't do Thunder. Between work, the weather, and Jake's graduation party, it's going to be tough to squeeze in any activities. Also, I've decided to put my bike up for sale. No bites yet, but I haven't put it on craigslist yet, either--currently it just has a for sale sign on it. I'll wait till sometime after Thunder before advertising it to a wider audience.

I've been thinking about selling it for a while, but when we got Esme, I was hopeful she'd enjoy riding in the sidecar. While she could potentially learn to like it, her first instinct is to jump out whenever the bike starts moving. It was so easy with Lizzy--I just put her in and off we went. Perhaps if it doesn't sell, I will revisit the idea with Esme.

Monday, June 11

you've been warned

This was a novel by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. I still don't understand this co-author thing as it relates to Patterson, but I can say that this particular novel was not one of the better ones. Part of my problem with it was that it had a supernatural tinge to it, which is a first for me with Patterson, so it was a bit confusing because I wasn't expecting that element. Secondly, it just wasn't that good. I will not be seeking out any more books by Roughan, that is for sure. You've been warned, indeed.

My rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, June 10

the graduate

Another chapter came to a close on Friday when Jacob graduated from high school. He will be attending UPJ in the fall and living at home, so we still get him for a little longer.

After the graduation ceremony, we had a little get together at the house with his grandparents and cousin, but the big celebration takes place later this month. This has definitely been a year to celebrate Jake!

Wednesday, June 6

48

So, my birthday was yesterday. As is customary, I had the day off. I didn't do anything particularly interesting--mostly errands--but I did manage a nap and some knitting. The best surprise was running into Jake at Giant Eagle, where he was buying me flowers for my birthday--such a sweetie! The three of us also went out to dinner at Franklin Street Bar & Grill. Previously, we celebrated my birthday (and my brother's) with my family over Memorial Day weekend. So, I guess that's it till next year.

Saturday, June 2

boo-boo

Esme got a little cut on one of her foot pads and had been limping for a few days, so Brian took her to see the vet yesterday afternoon. The cut was slightly infected so she was put on a course of antibiotics and was also given some pain medication. She's doing better already. Hopefully we'll be able to exercise her again soon because she's starting to get pretty wound up.

Sunday, May 27

angel time

This book was written by Anne Rice. It was about a contract killer that turned into a helper to guardian angels. Uh huh. I think she should stick to vampire stories.

My rating: 2/5

Wednesday, May 23

sold!

We sold our rental house as of Monday. Finally. I had a love/hate relationship with that place. It was nice to have the income (though once you figure in taxes, upkeep, insurance, etc., it didn't amount to that much), but I always hated dealing with potential renters. And, it seemed that things were getting worse in that regard--we'd get a lot of applications from Philly and NY from people who did not have jobs. Hmm. Anyway, it's nice to have one less thing to worry about and to also be one step closer to building our own house. Now, if only we could find a plot of land that we both agree on...

Sunday, May 20

only the brave

This movie was based on the true story of a group of wildfire firefighters. It had one bummer of an ending, so if you're not into that sort of thing, you'll want to skip this one. On the plus side, it had firefighters.

My rating: 3.5/5

Monday, May 14

eighteen

It's hard to believe, but Jake turned 18 yesterday. He has turned out to be a fine young man.

Like usual, we went to Rey Azteca (on Friday) to celebrate and then we had the family over on Sunday for a Mother's Day/birthday party. It was a good time, but I swear we can never catch a break with the weather. Too early in the season, I guess. We even got the patio all ready to go as it was originally supposed to be nice.

Also, I was treated to breakfast and a newspaper as soon as I got up on Sunday. That was a nice suprprise!

Brian and I spent all day Saturday cooking. We didn't have a firm headcount, so we ended up with a little more leftovers than anticipated. But, that's fine with me as I won't have to cook supper for a day or two.


Tuesday, May 8

jingle bells

We learned this trick a few dogs ago, where you hang a bell on the doorknob and ring it when you let the dog out. Eventually they learn to ring the bell whenever they have to go out. It is a great house training tool.

Not so with Esme. We've had the bell on the door from day one and she still won't tell us that she has to go out. That said, she is doing ok with the house training, but it's only because we let her out at regular intervals--it's never because she asks to go out.

Interestingly, at the office, she rings the bell all of the time. But, it's not because she has to go out, it's because she wants to (either because Brian is outside talking to someone or because it's nice out). Dogs.

Monday, May 7

garden time

I'm fairly caught up in the garden--I have stuff planted inside and out. But, I'm not at all caught up on yard work. Jake's birthday is next weekend and the weather looks like it might be nice, so I guess it's time to at least get the patio in order so we can have things outside.

Monday, April 30

rough justice

Another book from Lisa Scottoline. It was fine, just like the rest of hers, but nothing to write home about. It was a legal thriller, like all of her other books that I've read (which I think is the only type of book she writes).

But, I could sure go for a Stephen King or Joe Hill novel. Unfortunately, I'm all caught up on those authors. Perhaps it is time to re-read some of their works?

My rating: 3/5 

Sunday, April 29

three billboards outside ebbing, missouri

This was a really good movie. Surely you have heard of it so I won't bore you with the details. It starred Frances McDormand (who is great in every role I've ever seen her in and who also won Best Actress for this film). There was one thing that bothered me about it, though--everyone's grammar was atrocious. I mean, it's not like I don't know people who have bad grammar, but this was a little over the top. It made the writing seem a little out of touch to me. Other than that, it was quite compelling.

My rating: 4/5

Monday, April 23

get out

Interestingly, comedian Jordan Peele wrote and directed this horror movie. It had some elements of comedy for sure, but it was mostly a social commentary about racism. It was done quite well. I don't want to spoil the movie by talking about the plot, but what was going on was totally crazy. Both Brian and I enjoyed the movie, and I'm still thinking about it a few days after watching, so I guess it had its intended effect.

My rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, April 19

drier dryer

My dryer hasn't been working properly since I got a new washing machine. At first, I blamed it on the new washer (perhaps it didn't get as much water out of the laundry as the old one?). But after reading a couple of articles, I decided to check the dryer vent hose. Apparently this is something I should have done about five years ago as it was about 90% clogged with lint. Brian helped me get everything cleaned up and now the dryer is working as good as new!

Note to self: check this again in 2023.

Sunday, April 15

everyday ordinary no one

Brian wrote a book! It's a collection of personal essays called "Everyday Ordinary No One". Stories will be released to the site every week between now and Thanksgiving. You can read them or listen to a audio version for free. The book is also available for purchase in print and digital formats. What a huge accomplishment!

Friday, April 13

finally

Despite being off yesterday, I took today off to enjoy the nice weather. Yesterday was full of painting the bathroom, shopping at Conzatti's, a trip to the vet, and making cookies, so I was not able to get outside, as much as I would have liked to.

Let's start with Lizzy...she has had diarrhea for over a week and putting her on a bland diet did not fix the problem, so we made a trip to the vet. She is on some sort of antibiotic for 10 days and the vet all but guarantees it will fix the problem, if only temporarily. But if it doesn't, more tests will be needed in order to see what's up.

As for the cookies, Jake and I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies last night. He was playing at his school's "Coffeehouse" this evening and was required to take in some baked goods.

But, today was so nice that Brian and I both played hooky. We started by taking a hike with Esme in the morning. Esme loves the woods! So does Brian. I'm kind of so-so on it, but I don't mind going for a hike on a nice trail. Plus, it's fun to watch Esme in the woods--she's so good.

After lunch, I started cleaning up the garden a bit so I could plant onions. I'm glad to say that all of the onions are now in the ground. The onion plants I ordered shipped at the end of March and they've just been sitting ever since because the weather has been so bad. Luckily, they were still in good shape.

Tuesday, April 10

gwendy's button box

This novella, written by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, was a good palate cleanser after reading that last book of short stories.

It had a weird plot that I'm not even going to try to explain, but I will tell you that it was a quick and compelling read.

My rating: 3.5/5

Monday, April 9

lewis black

Brian, Jake, and I went to see Lewis Black at The Palace Theater last night. It was a lot of fun. It was Jake's first stand-up experience and I think he liked it. For that matter, it was only the 3rd one for me and Brian, so Jake's ahead of the game. I don't know who opened for Lewis, but he was pretty funny--definitely the best of the openers we've seen.

Saturday, April 7

poe's children

This was a compilation of short stories put together by Peter Straub. There were really only a few that I liked (and two of those were written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, and I had already read them before).

Thanks to this book, I'm now behind on my reading for the year. Guess I better pick a short one for my next read.

My rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, April 4

strike 2

My washing machine errored again today. That fix didn't last very long--eight days to be exact. Brian's going to call them again in the morning, but I think it's time to start researching lemon laws.

Monday, April 2

easter weekend

Brian's sister and crew were in for the Easter weekend. We got to catch up with them on Saturday night while celebrating Brian's mom's birthday.

We had Easter at our place this year, with my family. My mom usually hosts Easter, but my grandmother can no longer get up and down stairs, so I offered to host it since we don't have any steps to speak of. My mom brought half of the food, which made my job pretty easy.

We had our annual Easter egg hunt for Jake Sunday morning. I guess you're never too old for that. Despite holding it in the same area (the living room and dining room) for the past 17 or so years, we still had him stumped on a few.

We also had a post-Easter snowstorm and received a couple inches of snow overnight. I'm about done with this weather!

Wednesday, March 28

irony

Yesterday, my washer was fixed, so I had some catching up to do. The last load I washed must have made the washer wobble a bit and the nearly full container of liquid detergent that was sitting on top of the washer fell to the floor and the cap broke open. There was probably 1/4" of detergent coating the floor. I wasn't sure what to do, so I grabbed a mop and got to work. That worked fairly well, but in retrospect, I probably should have squeegeed up the worst of it first. It's funny how difficult it is to clean up soap.

Monday, March 26

court of honor

Jake's Eagle Scout Court of Honor was yesterday. The event was really nice and we had a good turnout. Finally, all those years of hard work have paid off! He didn't seem too thrilled at the time, but he's glad that he did it now.

My mom and I made a bunch of cookies for it. I also made a cake and she decorated it. Not surprisingly, we have enough cookies left over to hold another event.

Up next: graduation.

Friday, March 23

washer woes

As previously documented, my new (as of January) washing machine was throwing error codes in February. I had a repairman look at it but the diagnostics ran fine, so he didn't do anything to fix the problem. Last week, after working for about a month, it started throwing the same codes again. So, we had a repairman come again today. This was a different guy and he's ordering three parts to fix the problem. Of course, they won't be in until sometime next week, so I'm without a washer for the foreseeable future. So, I guess I'll be washing at our rental property again, which is not the most convenient thing in the world, but it's better than going to the laundromat. Also, my mom is slated to do a load for me (thanks, Mom!).

Speaking of our rental property, someone looked at it yesterday and we're supposed to be getting an offer! Maybe I should buy an extra washing machine with the proceeds.

Tuesday, March 20

spring?

Today is the first day of spring. I also saw the first robin of the year this morning. Despite this seemingly good news, we got a few inches of snow dumped on us today, with more to come tonight and tomorrow. Will gardening season ever begin?

Thursday, March 15

cookies, cookies, cookies

I've spent the last two weekends gearing up for Jacob's upcoming Eagle Scout ceremony. I've made dozens of cookies (chocolate chip, no bake, and peanut butter) at home. Jake even helped me out with some of them. Then, last Saturday, I went to my Mom's and we knocked out five dozen or so sugar cookies. I also helped ice them and my Mom finished decorating them herself.

Despite all of that, I made some Twix Thumbprint Cookies last night. This was my second time for these and I made some adjustments. First, I cut the caramels and inserted them into the individual cookies before baking. Second, I drizzled the chocolate with a fork rather than using a bag. Doing it this way evidently leaves you with an excess of melted chocolate, so I made pecan and almond bark with the leftovers. It was a win-win situation.

Wednesday, March 14

ahh, taxes

We finally signed our tax forms yesterday, despite having had an appointment to get our taxes done over a month ago. There was a holdup with one of the businesses due to some tax credits it received. The bad news is that we owe some money this year. After years of getting large refunds, we adjusted our withholding, but we ended up making a little more than expected (I guess this is the good news?), so now we owe. Go figure.

And, speaking of business, we tried putting our rental house on the market again after our renters moved out last year. Our listing was to expire at the end of last month, but there were a couple of latecomers who expressed interest in buying the property so we extended the listing for another month. Of course, we've since heard back from none of them, because that's how that goes. I guess the good news there is that we'll be renting it out again soon and recognizing some income again. It seems there is always good news. Haha.

Monday, March 5

bd party

So, we actually got out for a bit Friday night. One of Brian's high school friends had a birthday party and we went to it. We were not able to stay super long due to the puppy (the party was in Vandergrift, which is a bit of a hoof). But it was a pleasant enough evening.


Monday, February 26

the killing of a sacred deer

This movie was almost good, but left too many questions at the end--and not in the usual way. The story wrapped up, but they did not explain a lot of things. It was quite compelling to watch, so for this I will give it a generous rating. But I do not recommend it.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday, February 21

the silent wife

This was your basic dysfunctional Italian family kind of story. It was a quick read--I read much of it while we were away over the weekend. Not the kind of book I usually read, but I enjoyed it.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, February 20

it (movie)

Netflix finally shipped me this movie. I couldn't wait to see it and it did not disappoint. I felt it was pretty true to the book and I like how they just did the kids' part of the story in this first chapter. I can hardly wait for chapter 2!

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, February 18

weekend getaway

Brian and I decided a winter trip was in order, so we returned to The Storybook Cabin for a 3rd time. It's a cozy little place, especially in the winter.

Jake stayed home, but we took Buster and Esme. Buster fared better this trip than the last, but still is a challenge in the vehicle--even with carsickness meds. We were totally unplugged for the weekend, which was great (no cell service or internet up there!) and did a lot of reading and knitting. We got out a couple of times with the dogs, but just around the cabin. It was too cold on Saturday for any major outings. We did manage a trip to a yarn store where I bought a couple of skeins of yarn a few years ago. I'm almost ready to start working on a sweater with it and it didn't appear that I was going to have enough yarn, so I bought another skein.

That was really about it. Luckily I have off tomorrow to recover (though Brian plans to go in to the office). I intended on doing all of our laundry today and having a relaxing day tomorrow, but my washer is throwing error codes, so I'm going to have to call in a repairman. Good thing I'm off. I only got the washer about two months ago, so my annoyance level is in on high alert. I guess the good news is that it's under warranty.

Monday, February 12

the end of the world running club

I can't pass up a post apocalyptic story. I believe I heard of this one through Stephen King's Twitter account. For what should be obvious reasons, I always look into his entertainment recommendations. In this story, a large number of meteors struck the earth, which created the post apocalyptic scenario. The main character was separated from his family and ran across Britain in order to find them.

The author, Adrian Walker, was quite a good writer. Some of the prose was impressive. That said while I did enjoy the story, I liked the first half, which was more of an apocalyptic story, than the 2nd half, which involved a lot of running. Also, the ending was ambiguous and I could have done with a little more closure.

My rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, February 11

the best of friends

I got to see all of my favorites this weekend.

Yesterday, Brian and I went out to dinner with Carol and Bob. We were supposed to check out the new restaurant TAP 814, but they had a 90 minute wait, so we headed over to another new restaurant, Tulune's Steak and Alehouse, which only had a 30 minute wait. Overall, the impression was disappointing. The menu was kind of boring as was the decor. I ended up getting chicken, which turned out to be really good, but everyone else was a bit disappointed with their entrees. I'd give it another chance (preferably after they tweak the menu). The service was great, though, especially considering it's a new place and was packed. But, the best part of the evening was getting to hang out with Carol and Bob.

Today, Brian and I went to Canonsburg for Miss Avery's baptism. After the service, Judy had brunch for everyone at her new house. It was great catching up and getting to see Avery (who was so much bigger than the last time!). It's nice that we've been able to get together a few times since Judy moved. We'll definitely need to keep up the momentum.

Monday, February 5

since i last wrote

We've celebrated Brian's birthday twice--once at my parents' and once at his. The events occurred the past two Sundays. Other than that, not a whole lot going on--mostly puppy sitting. Though we do have a pretty hectic (for us) social schedule this month. Stay tuned for all of the exciting details.

Sunday, January 28

sleeping beauties

This book was written by Stephen King and his son, Owen. How two authors can write a book is beyond my comprehension, but that is not the point of this post.

I really enjoyed the book. It has a kind of complicated premise (rife with feministic overtones) and a ton of characters (they were nice enough to provide a character guide at the beginning of the book).

I don't think I've read any of Owen's stuff, but I'm sure his style came through in this book as it wasn't completely like reading a Stephen King novel. Nevertheless, good stuff.

My rating: 4/5

Monday, January 22

pupdate 2

Esme continues to do well. She went on her first hike on Saturday and loved it! She also (mostly) stays in the yard, so we were able to get her outside a few times so she could burn off some of her puppy energy (because walking is not cutting it). She's still having accidents here and there (but not too many)--she even had a accident-free day, which I was pretty happy about. But, seeing that we've only had her for 18 days now, it's hard to complain about her progress. Her only negative is that she is a total bane to productivity. But, it's January so it's not like there's that much going on.

Monday, January 15

the babadook

Eh, this movie was ok. It had some good moments, but I found the plot to be kind of thin. It was basically one of those "monsters under the bed" stories where the monster was real.

My rating: 2.5/5

Friday, January 12

pupdate

Things are going really well with Esme. Buster seems to like her now (except when she's trying to play and jumping on his head). Sylvia is still not having any of this (it probably doesn't help that Esme chases her every time she sees her). Lizzy is too old to care at this point.

The puppy is doing really well with both house and obedience training. She's having a couple of accidents here and there, but it's only been a week! She's already learned sit, down, and stay. Brian is proclaiming her to be the best dog ever. He might be right, but I'm holding off on my judgment until she stops using my floors as a toilet.

Sunday, January 7

sweet 16

It's hard to believe, but Lizzy turned 16 today! She's been with us since Jake was two (he picked her out, in fact). She has a few health issues, but overall she's doing well for her age. Happy Birthday, Lizzy!

Friday, January 5

esmeralda

We got a puppy! On New Year's Day, Jake started a discussion about getting a puppy and Brian was strangely responsive. So, I went over to petfinder.com and we all fell in love with a puppy named Esmeralda, who was at the Pet Adoption League in Yukon, PA.

Brian and I went there yesterday and ended up bringing her home. She's such a sweetie and so well behaved for a puppy.

As for the rest of the pack...Buster was terrified of her at first, but he warmed up a bit after a while. I think those two will get along just fine in a few days. Sylvia was strangely pissed about the whole scenario (I say strangely because she loves everyone and everything), but I'm sure she'll get things figured out eventually, too. And, Lizzy has no time for this kind of nonsense.

Tuesday, January 2

eagle

Jake attained his Eagle Scout rank on Saturday. Brian and I got to sit in on the board of review, which was interesting. They asked some tricky questions, but he handled himself very well--we were quite proud of him. It'll be a couple of weeks until he gets his official paperwork. At that point we'll schedule his Court of Honor.