Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas tasties...

This post has one purpose... To remind me next year of what I/we made for various holiday events this year.

For Treats for Troops:
Peppermint "puppy chow" (rice Chex with melted white chocolate and crushed candy canes)
Bacon "crack" (saltines with a brown sugar and butter syrup baked on them with crumbled bacon on top)
Christmas "crack" (popcorn covered with melted white chocolate with red and green m&ms and pretzel pieces and red and green sprinkles)
Sugar cookies - lots and lots and lots of sugar cookies
Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies
Betty Crocker double chocolate cookies (never ever ever use these again! Tasted like they had wax in them. The store actually gave me a full refund for all six packages when I returned 2 of the 6 packages I bought for TfT. )
Chocolate fudge with crushed candy canes on top 
Pretzels dipped in chocolate with green and red peanut butter m&ms stuck on them and drizzled with white chocolate (a HUGE hit though time-consuming to make)

For Christmas Eve dinner:
Ham with the glaze
Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, pepper and crumbled bacon

For Christmas dinner:
Roast beef (two cuts of eye round beef totaling 12lbs - one slightly smaller than the other to account for rarer and more well done cuts) with horseradish mustard, fresh thyme, salt and extra black pepper rubbed on it
Yorkshire pudding from Jamie Oliver's recipe (make the batter a day ahead and use a blender/mixer... And a decent sized bowl! If your sister talks you into using the 30 year old blender... Make sure the bottom is fastened on tightly... No repeats of batter running everywhere!)
Beef gravy for the Yorkshire pudding with fresh thyme, shallots, garlic, butter, flour, and beef stock (make early!)
Horseradish cream sauce for the beef with fresh chives, Colman's mustard, and heavy whipping cream (My sister CTH made  this)
Sautéed green beans with fresh garlic (my niece GCT made these)
Scalloped potatoes (CTH made these too)
Fresh greens with homemade dressing (GCT made these too)

The food this year for all of the meals we had was fantastic! Hopefully I can match or top it next year. :-)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Honoring those I respect...

The last three months have involved celebrating people I respect. Thankfully, all of the celebrations have had the honorees in attendance... Not done as a memorial. I hope that some day I have all the people I've impacted come celebrate my life with me there to enjoy it. Skip the funeral service... Let's party while I'm here to see it. 


In October I traveled to Downeast Maine where I went to college to celebrate the 40 year career of my favorite outdoor recreation professor. As I wrote the card and considered a gift, I enjoyed thinking about our relationship which has lasted 25+ years despite him having had hundreds of students pass through his classroom since then. 

I boiled it down to the fact that despite the fact that it was an appropriate  student/professor relationship, he treated us like people, guided us with respect and humor, taught us about much more than the curriculum, and he always welcomed  us back with open arms like family many times over the years. Even when I hadn't seen him for several years, his face alway lit up and he gave me a big hug the minute he saw me every time and he wanted a full catch up. That's a wonderful legacy, in my book. His card reflected that relationship and his gift was a HUGE bag of Snickers bars which gave him several good laughs when I presented it to him. Back in the day on our search and rescue team, when we were doing drills we would often stage in the woods and sit for an hour or two to wait for our mission. He would have us dump out our packs so he could "check" our snacks we had brought. Inevitably, we kept the energy bars and gorp but he always claimed (good naturedly, of course) all of the Snickers bars. Seemed like the perfect gift. (He also had a fire ring and lean-to built in his yard by the students as his retirement gift.)

The second person we honored was my former "boss" at the corps where I worked in Vermont. His departure from the Corps was sudden and uncomfortable but after starting, building and leading the organization for 30 years, he deserved a heck of a party to honor that dedication and commitment. I participated on the planning committee and was proud to feel like we pulled together a fitting send off. In addition to the naming of the campus after him plus several other meaningful gifts, I decided to make him some of his signature caramel rolls that he used to deliver at random times to the crews or staff or during training. 

We planned ahead and got the recipe but a crazy schedule before hitting the road to Maine made me overlook the fact that the recipe called for thawing frozen dough and overnight rising of the dough. Oops! But A and I pulled it off and using the big kitchen at the corps, we made ~200 caramel rolls. I added a little sign to the dessert table to explain the significance and he and his family loved it! It was a lot of fun thinking about the meaningful moments in my relationship with him. From the "Leap of Faith" he took when he hired me despite my lack of grant experience (a decision we were both grateful he'd made!) to my decision to leave the corps and move to MA with my new husband to my many visits back where no matter how long it had been, he welcomed me in, asked for my advice, encouraged my input from the "insider's outside perspective". Over the 12+ years we've known each other, we've locked horns, agreed, disagreed, pushed each other for excellence, pushed back when visions were misaligned, and developed a healthy, professional, respectful relationship and friendship. It was an honor to help plan his party and an even bigger joy to reconnect with so many incredible people that I worked with during my tenure there. It was an incubator for some truly amazing people!

The last group of folks we honored was the American veterans currently hospitalized at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA. With A's Masonic lodge members and their families, we created ~100 packages (35 stuffed stockings, 60 bags of homemade treats and multiple trays of goodies for the staff) to be delivered to the hospital by a small group from the lodge including A and me, the Master of the lodge, and one of the soldiers who received our packages last year while deployed in Afghanistan. 

My good friend helped me pre-bake about 300 cutout sugar cookies, huge trays of popcorn and white chocolate treats, peppermint "puppy chow", bacon crack (saltines with brown sugar and butter syrup with crumbled bacon on top), chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip/Reese's cups cookies, homemade fudge... etc. We had ~25 volunteers come help decorate the cookies and put together the contents of the stockings etc. Then the next day, the four mentioned above delivered them to some VERY happy veterans, family members, and staff of the VA hospital. I don't know these folks personally but I don't need to know them personally to show them kindness and thanks for their service. I wish it could be more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Frigging water issues...

The theme of repairs to/issues with this house continues to be water. A has spent a lot of time sealing the basement, replacing basement casement windows, cleaning and fixing gutters, digging out basement window wells etc in an effort to keep our basement dry. After the last push, he was 99% sure he'd tackled the last of the problems. We had a big rain a few days after he repaired the gutters and the basement was dry. Yippee! Two days after the rain, the basement was wet. Then dry. Then wet after no rain. 

This morning I thought "I wonder when it was that we last pumped the septic. The company told me we were on a two year automatic pumping schedule so we might be fine... But I should call."

Tonight I took a shower about a half hour before A went to the basement to prepare for the rain coming tomorrow. The words I heard were not good ones. Somehow there was a ton of water on the floor and all over the wall. It hasn't rained in days... But I had just showered. The water was clean so we didn't think it could be our septic backing up but a test of running the tub upstairs for two minutes proved that the water is backing up and shooting out the washing machine drain. Mystery solved. Problem not solved. 

A spent the next hour (until midnight) vacuuming water into the shop vac while I left a message for the septic company to please put us on their list for the morning. If our septic is full, I'll be very surprised as just two people live in a three bedroom home. We are conscientious about our water usage and we NEVER flush anything but human waste and toilet paper down the toilet. Filling out tank just doesn't seem possible to me as it's supposed to leach the liquid out. 

Anyway... Once again, we have a water situation. I work from home and can't use the bathroom etc. I'm glad I showered before we discovered it... We've already turned off the outdoor shower! It might be a looooong day tomorrow! It might be a good day to work at the library! 

Where oh where...

I love Vermont. I also love Maine. How will we ever decide where to retire? We've been looking at property in Maine via the Internet and are quite convinced that's where we are headed in 9.5 years. But a gorgeous weekend back in our stomping grounds with friends in Vermont brings that back up the list. It's a good problem to have. Good friends in two beautiful places that we would love to be near. But the good thing is that we aren't torn between California and Maine. At least Vermont and Maine are only a few hours drive from each other. Luckily we have time to be sure. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You Learn Something New Every Day...

A short list of things you can't do when you have labyrinthitis:
Work on a computer for more than ~5 minutes without the world tilting wildly
Sleep normally (yay meds!)
Walk in a straight line
Enjoy a glass of wine on your anniversary

Labyrinthitis, for those not in the know like me until today, is an inner ear infection which doesn't have to be accompanied by pain, fever, congestion or any other typical "itis" symptom. You can go to bed feeling totally fine and then have vivid dreams of wildly spinning only to wake up and the spinning won't stop. Labyrinthitis can just show up one day as a whomping case of vertigo that lasts for as long as it wants. So far for me, 7 days and working on the 8th. 

An even shorter list of what cures it:
Maaaaaaybe antibiotics if it's a bacterial infection but if it's viral, nope. In my case, it doesn't seem to bacterial. 

An even shorter list of what might help:
Anti-vertigo meds. So far, they haven't helped me but hey, they could!
Decongestant (hence the reason my sleep is so terrible)

My five minutes of productivity are now over... Back to waiting for this to pass. But hey... I'm catching up on a lot of crappy television as I hold down the couch!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Travel. Work. Work travel. Home!

I have lived out of a suitcase for the past six months. I enjoy the trips I take but it takes a toll on me. Just when I get in the groove of eating well, exercising, sleeping well, working "normal" hours etc, I hit the road again and despite my best intentions and my second best efforts, inevitably I have to start pretty much from scratch when I get home. 

When I travel for work, there are always lunches that are ordered in (I try to choose the salad but often there is none left by the time my team gets to the buffet) and dinners out. There are early meetings which means standing in front of the hotel fridge drinking a protein shake hoping it will hold me over rather than swinging through Dunkin Donuts etc on the way to the office. There are late meetings which means sneaking out at some point to grab a handful of almonds or a protein bar so I can focus before we head out to a late dinner. Dinners sometimes last until 9 or 10pm because I actually enjoy my co-workers and after we are done with work talk, we visit for a while as a means of winding down. This means my window of opportunity for exercise is slim. Really slim. 

As I write this, I'm on night two of a four night stretch away from home (unless I can keep my Thursday meetings from going too late and then I can go home a night early!) and I'm looking down the double barrel of a suuuuper long day Wednesday - starts with an early meeting, meetings allllllll day with one tiny 30 minute break and then meetings up until the Open House which is followed by a late business dinner. Thursday is an alllllll day planning retreat for the leadership team which will be great but busy followed by a meeting with my boss. Whew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

The irony is that my boss handed me an article today called "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time" and talked about how we need to get back to a place of doing what we love and putting to bed the growing pains that are causing all of this extra work. I like it. In theory. I hope u get there. Soon. 

I do love what I was hired to do but with our catapulting growth, I have been sucked into the world of process and troubleshooting and problem solving and reaction. I was hired to develop and manage leaders and I can't wait until I can focus there again. 

And now, to bed before midnight. Hopefully my brain cooperates and shits out the lights soon. Maybe I'll get up early and walk to work. It's only about two miles. And this time I won't do it in heels. :-) I don't even pack them after the last incident that left me unable to put on shoes after a co-worker convinced me the meeting was "just down the block" but it was 2.4 miles away. :-)

Hotel joys of the night: Small dog barking in a nearby room. Man outside my window beeping car horn and yelling "José José! Let's go! JOSÉ! LET'S GO!"
(Apparently José is in a room and his ride is ready for him...) Air temperature of the room volleying between arctic and tropical. Smell of tonight's dinner wafting in from the bathroom trash. Yay! 

Did I mention that I miss being at home? I also miss being able to show up to a meeting wearing pajama pants because nobody can see them in my video chat. :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh. I have a blog.

Life has gotten SO busy that I haven't even had time to write. 

Since last entry:
Promotion at work - I'm now the "Manager of Team Development". Big title. Lots of responsibility. Great challenges. Love my job. 

Two week trip to Alaska with A and his parents. Flight seeing around Mt McKinley was amazing. Spectacular weather and views everywhere. Stayed on the Kilcher Homestead (watch the show Alaska the Last Frontier to know what that means). Whitewater rafting in Class 5 river. More talk of Alaska being on our list for a retirement stay. I love it there!!!!!!

Camping with friends. Visits to TN, ME, NH... And more? 

Busy. So busy!

Will try to remember to write more...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Heaven is in the Florida Keys...

We've had quite a winter this year! When I left home, we still had well over a foot of snow in most of our yard and about three feet of snow bank still out by the end of our driveway. 

I'm hot now. The windows are open. The slider is open. The ceiling fan is on. I'm sweating. It was 89* today and it's probably 80* now. But I'm not complaining!

This is the view from the balcony in my bedroom. I'm spoiled. 

I'm on Sugarloaf Key with my sister and brother in-law and my other sister arriving tomorrow. I wish A was here but he didn't have much vacation time left and... he quite dislikes the heat. But I miss him and wish he was here. 

Today we poked around Key West, had a wonderful Cuban lunch, toured the USS Ingham, cruised past the southernmost point in the continental US, and spent a few hours reading on the deck. Not a bad day!

My only complaint is that with travel, heat and eating out, I feel like a stuffed sausage in terms of swelling. I'm planning to get out early tomorrow to get in a walk to try to keep things moving but until then, I'm putting these sausage fingers to bed!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Organization nerd...

I didn't take pictures because it was abominable before we started and because we were exhausted and freezing cold by the time we were done. But believe me, it's a MASSIVE improvement!

When we moved into our house, we brought soooooo muuuuuuuch stuuuuuff! It was overwhelming as we had three households plus bins and bins and bins of things that had traveled to many of our temporary homes and they seemed to multiply. When living in transit, if you can't put your hands on something and you need it, you acquire another...

So, upon arriving in this house, we divided the basement into three sections of bins. One was for things we use often or regularly like our camping gear, Christmas decor, sports equipment etc. (We don't have a garage so it all heads down the stairs...) One was for things that needed to be sorted and most likely sold, donated or given away. And one was for long term storage - things we don't want to part with but don't need access to very often. 

Despite a major purge a few years ago, the bins have continued to multiply and random junk has found its way into the nooks and crannies. 

After getting water in the basement last week from the melting snow (yay for walking downstairs to put in laundry in socks and simultaneously hearing and feeling the telltale sploosh of water in the area rug in front of the washer. UGH!) we decided it was time to get the bins in the long term storage area stored appropriately. It only took us seven years!

A quick(ish) trip to Home Depot brought home $200 worth of lumber to get the job done. We spent the rest of the day moving bins, building custom shelves, and freezing our tails off! With the temperature at 30* outside, it didn't feel much warmer downstairs at ~45*. I had to stuff insulation and sweep cobwebs to keep moving and stay warm between surges of action!

I'm so thrilled to have a handy husband but even happier that he knows that I can help. I'm quite handy with the chop saw and the screw gun and I'm no slouch hauling lumber. In short, we make a great team!

We had planned to weed through several of the long term bins but we ran out of time. But we now have such a wonderful, spacious, easy to access shelving system that we were able to temporarily sort them by those we need to go through and those we know we want to keep as is. Another rainy day will give us the chance to finish that job!

And now that we've got the design worked out, we plan to build another custom system for the items we use regularly. 

Ideally, at the end of this process, the third "need to sort" pile will be history and free up a whole section of the basement. And... give us access to the troublesome window that we are pretty sure is the culprit for the occasional water issue. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


First day of Spring is... 

Muddy dogs. 

Fleece pajamas. 

Twittering birds. 

Water in the basement. 

Bundled up walk. 

Patchwork dog poop patterns in the melting snow. 

Light out until 7pm. 

Burning woodstove. 

Growing list of Spring projects. 

Warm vacation just around the corner!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish and hungry...

A and I are back on track with our eating plan which is pretty much a low carb way of eating. And with every holiday that comes around, the challenge is to find food to celebrate the holiday but stay on track without feeling like we are missing out on something. It turns out that St. Patrick's Day is pretty easy on the eating plan if you think ahead. 

This year I decided to make homemade hash and roasted cabbage medallions topped with an over easy egg. (I wasn't patient enough to wait for the poached egg that I had originally planned but the over easy egg did just fine!)

The homemade hash sounds complex but I have to say, it was easy AND I like it waaaaaay better than the corned beef hash from a can (which reminds me of canned dog food...BLECH!)!

First I put the corned beef into the crock pot, and because I waited until too late in the day I poured boiling water over it to give it a boosted start, and set the crock pot on high for a few hours. 

Then I diced up some cauliflower and onion, mixed in olive oil, sea salt and pepper and roasted it until it was just turning brown. (This smells so delicious, good luck not eating it before it makes it into the hash! Truth be told, I ate some with my lunch and had to make more to supplement what was left for the recipe. Those are the hazards of working from home!) 

When the corned beef was cooked through (still pretty tough though), I trimmed all of the fat off and then cubed the beef into small chunks. 

In a heated cast iron skillet, I tossed the corned beef and the cauliflower mixture into the heated skillet with a little vegetable oil and heated it through letting it brown a bit. 

Meanwhile, at 400 degrees I roasted the medallions of green cabbage which were brushed with olive oil with a little sea salt and black pepper. I goofed on the timing and wish I had had time to roast it longer so it could brown up a bit but actually, the softness of the cabbage was quite tasty!

The combination of all of the flavors and textures was amazing and we both pushed back from the table soooo full and satisfied!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mid-winter Getaway...

We started with a handful of my sorority sisters/dearest friends getting together in March for a weekend four years ago. We rented a suite at a hotel and it was a lot of fun! 

This year was the second year we rented a house... Actually we rented one house last year and this year we rented the same house plus a second one next door. 

I think that through the weekend we had about 20 women come through the houses. With busy lives, some could only stay for one night. This year one of the gals came as far south as Atlanta, GA and one from as far north as St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. 

We had a blast. 

What do we do? We do what we do best. We make delicious food, enjoy a few adult beverages, shop, walk, laugh, reminisce, laugh more, solve the world's problems, laugh even more, and best of all, support each other in everything from weight loss journeys to lost pregnancies to divorce and everything in between. 

For the second (and probably last) year, we did a polar plunge in the ocean at Short Sands beach in York, Maine. This year we donned costumes and braved the 22 degree weather and... I have no idea how cold the water was... to plunge.  Last year was fun because although it was cold, I didn't have the immediate sensation of frozen feet. So... Next year we will do some other challenge of sorts, I think. But it was so fun for us to do it together and I have to say, the costumes were fabulous!

The weekend only lasts 2.5 days but it is such a joy to connect with such amazing women and to know that they are there as an incredible network of dear friends! It also takes me about a week to get back in the groove of life! :-)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

You won't hear me grumble...

Why do people complain about the weather? Does that help? Is the weather going to change just because you don't like it? Nope. Deal with it. 

It snowed another 12" today. The forecast was for 2"-5". Oops. I've heard that forecasters have apologized for their major under-sight of this storm. 

Guess what? It's gorgeous!

And I finally got out on my snowshoes. 

Glacier couldn't figure out why I stopped every time she tried to hitch a ride on the back. She did figure out that when trying to stay above back-deep in the snow, standing or sitting on my snowshoes was her best bet. 

It was even gorgeous after dark when I made my way to my friend's house. 

I'll be sad when this is all dirty and melting but for now, I'm enjoying it!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Birthday success!

My dad made it to 80. I joke that who knew that butter, beef and booze was the secret to a long life. It sounds irreverent but it's true. 

So to celebrate, we had a party for him this past weekend. The open house style party was perfect as people came and went throughout the day beginning at 10am through about 8pm. It was exhausting but fun! We were pleased that despite the heavy snow storm, so many people braved the weather and made the trek up the mountain. 

I was so busy that I didn't take any pictures but my cousins did so I hope there are some good ones out there. 

Here is one picture that I stole from my niece's Instagram. 

Happy 80th, Dad!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


The other day I was at home and Glacier, who never barks, was barking at the gate. I looked out and didn't see anything and she moved on so I figured it was another dog passing or something. Later that day, as I went down the hall to the bathroom, something caught my eye. 

Someone had built a ~9 foot snowman on top of one of the huge piles of snow the loader had dumped in our yard. It had a hat, scarf, branches for arms, a carrot nose, Cheetos for eyebrows and m&m eyes. So cute!

When A got home, he stopped to take a picture of it and the 7 year old girl who lives across the street ran out to proudly tell him that she and her dad had built it and ask if we liked it. She was proud as a peacock that we loved it!

They happened to build it on top of the bashed in stonewall so it was fun to have some lemonade out of those lemons!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How to lose my business...

Step one: Don't show up to do a job until seven weeks after you've been contracted. 

Step two: Charge nearly double to remove the leaves from our property than you did the last three years with no reasonable explanation for the sudden price hike. I mean... Our property didn't get any bigger since last year. We didn't grow more trees since last year. We aren't taking in leaves from neighbors. What gives?!?!

Step three: Send a snotty email to a four year customer with excellent payment history about how "patient" you've been in waiting for my payment (less than three weeks since the service was performed). Before hitting send on that one, you might have checked with your administrative assistant who had called me a few days before to ask about it and when I told her the exact date and check number as well as the exact location that I mailed it from in another state, she said "No problem. I'll call you next week if we still haven't received it." You could take some customer service tips from that gal! Maybe you should let her send the emails from here on out. 

Step four: When my husband arrives at your office the day after a blizzard that has paralyzed the entire region just to bring you a new check because you've been so "patient" and you suddenly say "Oh, I got the other one in the mail today" you might want to apologize for the snotty email and thank him for taking the time and making the effort to bring a new check. 

And that is how you piss off two pretty patient people and lose their business. 

Day... I've lost track... 11+...

The town finally sent a truck to plow nine days after the storm but they didn't accomplish much - a slight widening of the road in some places. But the plow didn't touch the 6" of hard packed ice that cakes the road and has made some deep and dangerous ruts. A few days later (I've lost track exactly how many days since the storm but it's at least 11), they sent back a front end loader and another plow truck. Between the two of them, they bashed in our stone wall that is BEHIND our mailbox and knocked over my friend's 8' basketball hoop. 

When my friend's husband ran out to talk to the guy about it, the guy wouldn't stop and just shrugged and drove away. When M called the company (private contractor), the contractor told him "The town told us to plow over it if it's in the road." Last I checked... we don't keep our stonewall in the road and one would think that an 8' metal basketball hoop which is also not IN the road could be avoided!

I'd say it's a good thing my other neighbor cleared the fire hydrant because these clowns probably would have bashed through that too! Now THAT would have been the icing on the luge!

So now we have a two lane road (two lane plus in some parts!) and the mail truck has begun to tentatively visit us but it's only a matter of time until someone loses a wheel in the ruts or slides off the road due to absolutely NO salt or sand being used at any time!

Last night I logged on to the town's website to read their take on how the storm was managed. I have a feeling that the DPW director weathered the storm and the last few weeks from a cave in his basement as his take on how it was handled borders on delusional. The odd thing is that smaller towns with less plowing resources have been cleaned up for at least a week now. Why is our town struggling so much?

Again, we are lucky on this street as we don't have any frail elders, sick infants, special needs folks, or others who require services or transportation. Luckily we are a hardy bunch who (except for one couple right in the middle of the street who only seem to care about themselves) look out for each other. 

There is more snow on the way. The New Englander kid in me loves it. The dogs who can't get much exercise on the icy roads or chest deep frozen junk aren't too thrilled. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Day 6...

Still a one lane goat path down the middle of our road. No plows in sight. 10"-17" of snow predicted for tomorrow. This is going to get interesting! I'm glad to be born and bred New Englander!

I wish we lived on a hill because our road would be an amazing luge run!

Note how far back the mailboxes are from the snow line. We predict June to be the next time we receive mail. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Good neighbors...

In Blizzard Juno, we got at least two feet of snow. It blew so hard for so long that it's hard to tell where the snow in the 3, 4, 5 foot drifts would have ended up without the wind. We were completely blocked in the house except for one door from the kitchen that Mother Nature kept clear with a raging wind tunnel. 

By the time the wind settled down and the snow stopped falling, it was Wednesday morning - almost 36 hours of storming!

A had had to work all day Tuesday and it took him almost three hours to get home on a drive that usually takes him about 35 minutes. A few miles from our house, a woman in a sedan, a car with NO business being on the road, high-centered in a drift near the airport and because crews had only managed to keep one lane sort of open, the 15-20 vehicles behind her were stuck with no option of turning around. After an hour or so, the town's front end loader came and cleared the way and A picked his way home only to get high-centered at the end of our driveway in his truck. It was DEEP! We shoveled him in so he could get off the road. 

The view of him trying to get in the driveway.  

Wednesday morning arrived bright and clear so he headed out with a shovel to get started. About 20 minutes into shoveling, our neighbor told him he had an extra snowblower that just needed a shear pin and we were welcome to use it if we could find a pin. A quick (considering the roads) trip to the store and we were in business!

We spent the next five hours clearing our driveway, a path in the yard for the dogs, a path to our wood shed, finishing off cleaning up a friend's driveway down the street, and then clearing the driveway of an older couple two doors down. I had walked by their house a few times and saw that they were attempting to shovel the whole thing by hand and by the time we knocked on the door, they had given up for the day. At first they refused the offer (we've only met these neighbors once in the 7 years we've lived here so they didn't recognize me) but when I insisted on at least getting some of the driveway open for them, he relented. In the end, we did the whole driveway and they were SO grateful. We know he's got a bad back from years as a stone mason and she weighs about 84lbs (but is pretty feisty!) so we were happy to help!

As we were doing that, the neighbor we borrowed the machine from cleared some of the road and all around the fire hydrant. We had already had a visit from the fire department during the peak of the storm due to a carbon monoxide issue at another neighbor's house. 

Many people are complaining that their roads haven't been plowed but this was a HUGE storm to handle so we did what we could to take care of ourselves and our neighbors. 

This was a low spot they could get around in. 

The best part, as far as the dogs were concerned that with no vehicles coming or going, the road was theirs to romps on! One of my neighbors can't seem to sit still at home so he went out a couple of times during the storm which at least put down some tracks for the dogs to run in. Otherwise the snow was over their shoulders and hard to play or do business in!

Not outdoor shower season!

 Approaching the front door. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Makeover day...

I didn't INTEND for it to be "makeover day" for me. I had hoped at best to get my insanely out of control hair somewhat tamed. The rest just happened. 

I'm on a clandestine weekend with one of my besties and once the hair was done, I mentioned wanting to learn how to apply a little makeup. I just want the ability and knowledge to put on a little something for special events... Certainly nothing garish and certainly NOT every day!

So my dear friend helped me play with some of her makeup before we headed off to Ulta to buy some of my own. 

Poor Cory. Cory is the male manager who got stuck with me and my dry, sensitive, chemical-free, organic-only skin plus my cheapskate budget. He patiently helped me with a couple of options and then when I gasped at the price of a tiny tube of foundation (which I didn't really want because it makes me feel smothered), he politely (and I suspect, fictitiously) excused himself to help an employee with a question. But he didn't scoot away before strongly suggesting that I get my eyebrows waxed. Game point, Cory. 

I wasn't opposed to getting them waxed. I now (after today's searing, painful reminder) do remember at least one other home-waxing-gone-wrong of my eyebrows but I was willing to give a professional a shot at it. 

One question scrolled through my mind during the whole experience (which is done at a booth in the middle of the sales floor - presumably so I can screech with each yank!)... "HOW ON EARTH does ANYONE allow a person with hot wax and the rip strips ANYwhere south of their chin?!?!?!?!?!?!"

Anyway... With my new items and my new, sleeker and slightly uneven eyebrows, we came back to the hotel where I tried to employ my new skills. B says it looked great. A says he liked it but NOT for every day, just special occasions. (I love that man!) The jury is still out for me as it's SUCH a foreign concept and look for me in the mirror. 

I did snap this picture that I liked but it's because I finally see clearly why people have thought that my niece Anna is my daughter. It's a grand compliment when they say that because she is so beautiful!

So... It was a fun day. I learned some new things. And B and I had fun running around in the snow with our silly little errands and no rush to be anywhere and just generally enjoying each other's company. 

The other upside is that the salon where I got my hair cut is also a beautiful Moroccan spa and will be a perfect place to go with the girls during our March getaway!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Holy Mary Mother of Pearl!

Today I got my eyebrows waxed. 

Good. God. That. Hurts. 

She says I have to do it every three weeks. 

Um. No. 

I did get a haircut that I love though. So that's good. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hallelujah for pickle juice!

After my recent post about pickle juice, I found this article which lists all of the reasons one SHOULD drink pickle juice! 

I might now keep a second jar of juice onion-free for drinking! I love validating what I once thought were just weirdo habits!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gatsby photos...

Me and one of my dearest friends who I have the privilege of working with - makes holiday parties much more fun when you know at least one other couple is fun! Turns out there are a LOT of fun people that we work with. 

Me and some adorable, shadow-faced guy celebrating the holiday party AND 11 years together!

The full outfits. Not bad! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Slightly improved attitude toward my theme party...

I arrived in NH and had some time to kill so I found Party City and purchased two blingy 20's era head bands (one for my friend), some looooong strands of "pearls", and a white feather boa. What the heck! Might as well go for it! I did also find a "one size fits most" flapper dress but I pulled that thing out of the package and held it up to me. Apparently the "most" people that dress might fit must be 5'zip" and 82lbs or less with sand in their pockets. At 5'9" (weight never published but it's more than 82lbs, I assure you!), I was not and never will be in the "most" category. I'm pretty sure I could've worn that "dress" as a blouse with some jeans! I sure as heck couldn't/wouldn't leave my house in it without SOMEthing covering the lower half of my body as the fringe hung to about my underpant line... And not the lower one!

I was considering "going big!" and had called the costume rental shop to inquire about rentals (which supposedly come in "varied sizes") and it turns out that those things cost anywhere from $50 to $135 to rent! Yikes! No way THAT was happening!

So after my successful procurement at Party City (a rather oooooverwhelming experience if you ask me. I mean... If you want to see where a significant portion of the world's toxic plastic crap is sold, swing on down to ANY party store!), I had 20 minutes to kill before a student call so I popped into the Dressbarn across the road. Lo and behold... I found a party dress with a poofy/flippy skirt with sparkly Art Deco shapes on it. I figure with my other items, it's as convincing as I'm gonna get! The best part is that it was marked down by 60% and I can see myself wearing it to an evening event another time. Perfecto!

So my mood is improving about the party which is a reallllly good thing since A is using both of his days off to come up for it! Aiding in the mood improvement is that I also got some intel from one of my team members who works in the office and has been polling people about if they are going to dress up or not - so far it's about evenly split between "probably not" and "yes but not a big deal". Only one guy from the tech team (who, I might suggestively add for your consideration, sent out the poll to begin with!) is going "full Gatsby" and, according to my office spy, is "kind of giddy about it". I think I just discovered why my Wild Wild West dreams got squashed. Friggin' tech guys have so much power! Grrrr! (Just kidding!)

IF we get a decent picture of our costumes, I'll try to include it in my next post. Fair warning... It's freezing here and this pseudo-flapper WILL be wearing leggings and a sweater!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Theme parties. Ugh!

I don't have the deepest, girliest, most creative closet nor the flashiest sense of style so when the poll went out at work asking which of the following themes for our post-holiday party we would like, I'll bet you can guess which one I voted for...

A) The Great Gatsby
B) Wild, Wild West
C) Old Hollywood

Yeah. You probably guessed it. I voted for B - Wild, Wild West. I can walk into my closet right now and pull out everything I need this side of a pearl-buttoned shirt! I've got the boots.  The hat. The denim jacket. The kerchief. I can chick it up or dude it down or go outlaw with it. Heck, I've even got holsters and sidearms!

What I do NOT have is ANYthing remotely "Gatsby". Nothing. Not a stitch of my clothing can even come close to passing for that era. So... I'm left with three options...

1) Be totally lame and just wear my office attire since the party starts at 4pm on Thursday. 
2) Be pseudo-lame and swing into Party City and buy a cheesy flapper headpiece that, according to their website, they sell for $6. 
3) Go for it and swing into the costume store across the bridge as I head up to NH tomorrow because their website says they rent "flapper wear". 

Unfortunately I haven't made a decision as to which option I'll choose... 

In an odd turn of events, A has the PERFECT thing to wear. His tuxedo. Yes, my husband OWNS a tuxedo. He wears it for his Masonic Lodge events (required attire) and it was easier and less expensive to just buy it. So. There's that. He will look dapper. Uuuuuuuuugh!

So, as usual, it's the night before I have to leave and live out of a hotel for the next six days and I don't have a costume. I also haven't wrapped my head around how to pack in general for all of the varied aspects of this particular trip as I'm tagging on a weekend with my girlfriend for the last two days of it. Who KNOWS what I'll need for that!

Office attire (stresses me out every time because I have exponentially more pairs of 'work pajamas' than I do office-appropriate clothes).
Workout gear (I WILL use the hotel gym or go for a walk!)
Gatsby costume (did I say "ugh!" about this yet?!?!)
Casual clothes
Don't even get me started on the shoes AND the temperature swing that it appears I'll be dealing with throughout the week. UGH!!!

That's it... I've just realized that I'm going to need to rent a uhaul for this trip. 


Maybe I'll pretend I missed the memo and go as an outlaw anyway! Brilliant!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Three full boxes...

Since the turn of the new year, I have filled THREE big boxes with items that were just cluttering up our house. Things that I've kept for a variety of reasons but none that passed the 'Is it important to me? Do I want to move it again?' test. 

Today I cleared off the top of the refrigerator (and wiped it down - ick!), the top of the bookshelf, and the items that have taken up residence on the end of the kitchen island for lack of a better place to put them (like the KitchenAid mixer). 

I was pleased that despite coming home exhausted from another overnight double, A spotted the changes immediately and liked it! He didn't even see what I took out of the guest room closet but that's another story. 

I've now got a shelving system set up in the basement that holds only items to be donated or sold. When it gets full, out it all goes! 

I feel lighter already! Ahhhhhh.......

Onion recycling...

Several weeks ago, I had a yellow onion I didn't want to waste and we finished a jar of Claussen pickles. I hate pouring pickle juice out. When I was a kid, my sister and I used to argue over who got the last pickle and who got to drink the pickle juice at the end of the jar. I've matured and now realize that drinking the pickle juice, particularly from the EXTRA HUGE jars of pickles we get from the warehouse  club, is probably a tad too much sodium for one serving... so, despite a sip or two now and then, I just weep a little as I pour it down the drain. 

But not the last jar we finished! The coordination of the onion ripening plus the polishing off of the last pickles gave me a brilliant idea! So, when A wasn't looking, I sliced up the onion and tossed it in the pickle juice jar and pushed it waaaaay back in the refrigerator. I point out that he wasn't looking when I did this because a few days later, he reached waaaaay back in the fridge and grabbed the pickle jar. He then hollered to me in my office (just off the kitchen), "Uh, Love? Did you put ONIONS in the pickle jar?!?!" To which I responded with my long-winded explanation of waste etc. He's a good sport so he just pushed it waaaaaay waaaaay back in the fridge and opened a new jar of pickles. (I should mention that my dear husband quite despises onions in any form.)

Fast forward to today. I am back on my healthy eating plan (we will just gloss right over the last two months of a myriad of poor choices...) which means that I eat three meals and one snack a day plus unlimited veggie snacks. Having already had a "dirt smoothie" earlier in the day, I wasn't really into making another one. (Afterall, how much kale, cabbage, spinach, and fresh ginger can one be expected to consume in one day?) Not wanting to undo the last few days of healthy eating by pulling out the almond butter and a spoon but trying to satisfy the major after dinner snacking urge, I buried myself shoulders-deep in the refrigerator hoping the answer would be hiding in there. "Ah Ha. Onions!" I pulled them out and dished some into a bowl. They are amazing! The onions retained their crunch but lost their oniony bite and absorbed the garlicky goodness of the pickle juice. Crunchy, tasty, delicious!

I must point out that there are many other pickles out there but in my book, none rival Claussen pickles with their big chunks of garlic, peppercorns and other magical tasty spices in their divine pickle juice! Other pickles just won't do at our house anymore!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dirt smoothie. Yum.

I got a NutriBullet for Christmas. I've had a MagicBullet for a few years... well... about ten years. However, it spent a few years among the missing. I was convinced that I had given it away and didn't bother to look for it. Then during a kitchen purge about two years ago, I found it buried waaaaaay in the deep recesses of the black hole in the lower corner cabinet. (Don't get me started on the total lack of efficiency with that cabinet!) Since then, I've used it pretty regularly and it's been great but it's too small. Once I get a scoop of protein powder and enough water in it, it barely has room to add in fruits and veggies so I asked Santa for the much larger NutriBullet... and remarkably, I got it! (He's so good and knows me so well! He also seems to have found the coupon and flier cutout that I left as a hint.)

Anyway... I've been playing with some recipes that I found. Because low carb works well for my body, I'm toying with some low carb smoothie recipes. 

Yesterday, during a day of pure slugdom where neither A nor I got out of our jammies alllllllll day, I made a low carb smoothie. It included kale, unsweetened almond milk, raw almond butter, cacao powder, and strawberries. I took a sip of it in the kitchen and immediately knew A wasn't going to like it. (Truth be told, if I smelled it while taking a sip, I wouldn't have drank it either!) When I returned to the living room, I passed it to A to put on the end table. On the way by, he snitched a sip and immediately got a horrified look and grabbed for the low carb toast on my plate to rid himself of the taste in his mouth. On a good day, I'm pretty sure he would have spit out the toast too but compared to the smoothie, he savored it like a delectable dessert. 

He had to work outside at a detail at work all day today and had to leave home at 5am so I offered to make him a smoothie for the morning. Oddly, he said no. Why? Because it tastes like dirt. Huh. Oh well. More for me. Lucky me. (Why can't honey be low carb?!?!)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Giving myself permission...

I was having a conversation with my mom the other day while sitting in my pajamas at noon with no intention to put on real clothes any time soon and I said "Gardening doesn't appeal to me because it's never finished. I prefer projects that have a point at which you know you are finished." I had been feeling something along these lines for a long time but had never found the words to go with it. And I didn't have the permission to back it up. Now I do. 

I realized, after saying  that out loud to my mom, that I've been beating myself up for my crappy looking gardens for a few years. I've wanted to be a gardener and at one point fancied myself a gardener but after returning to the same damned weeds year after year, I realize that this constant argument with the same weeds doesn't actually bring me pleasure. It brings me stress. It makes me feel like I'm letting down my neighbors by not having a tidier yard. It makes me feel like I'm letting down myself for not following through and for being lazy about the weeds. But then I look around... Give me an outdoor shower project or a new fence project or a patio-building project and I can throw myself into it and enjoy it (overall - maybe not in the moment of hauling patio bricks but overall...). Being able to put away the tools and know that it's DONE brings me the type of satisfaction that lasts for me. I don't feel defeated because three days later, I don't need to go back and fix the shower again. I feel the same way about cleaning my house. I'll organize all day long but cleaning just irritates me!

So I now realize that it's OKAY for me to have this preference! How freeing it is to recognize this and honor it! 

So far so good 2015!

New Year!

It's a new year. Here's what I've realized. New Year's "resolutions" aren't exactly my specialty. To-do lists of things I'm going to do or change etc tend to get derailed by that little thing called "life". So... here's my 2015 plan...

I want to feel good. Inside and out. That means that I will exercise when I can and forgive myself when I can't. I'll eat in a way that makes me feel good and when I don't, I'll give myself a break and get back to it as soon as I can. I want to feel productive and I will try to recognize that productivity comes in many forms. And I will make space in my life to just do nothing. Nothing is something when the rest of my life is so full and busy. 

The only "to-do" that I want to add to my list is to pare down what's in our home. There is too much stuff and if we plan to live in a smaller house some day, the stuff needs to go some time and now is as good as any to help it find another home. It might take all year but I really want to have far less stuff in our house by this time next year.