Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 To Do List



I am not making New Year's resolutions, but I do have some ideas of things I would like to accomplish in 2011.  In no particular order, here goes:
  • Tweak our diet ~~ We need to be even more aware of our protein intake.  Talked this morning about stocking up on chicken and lean beef and making a point of cooking them on Sundays (in different ways), so we have lunches for work.  Also getting back to making tuna and consuming non-animal sources of protein, like quinoa, which have a longer shelf-life than, say, chicken and beef.
  • Switching up my workout ~~ I have been suffering from a shoulder injury and it just really isn't healing, so I need to remove myself from my beloved boxing, but I want to remain active.  I will use our pilates DVD at home and do some (light) strength training both at home and the gym, while interval running and biking at the gym.  I am going to jump in on the 5-minute ab work at the end of the classes, too.
  • Monthly massages ~~ We are fortunate to live near a couple massage schools where we can get 50-minute massages for very reasonable prices.  This is beneficial physically (after our strenuous fitness programs) and mentally.  A WIN-WIN, in my book!
  • Vacation plans ~~ We own a timeshare in Mexico and have numerous locations where we can visit.  We went in 2006 and haven't yet stayed at one of "our" resorts.  I am thinking Mazatlan.  We also have a bonus week thru our timeshare exchange program that must be used by July 2012, so I would like to get working on that vacation ... maybe Savannah, GA, to enjoy the ghost-hunting, the gorgeous old homes and the live oaks covered in Spanish moss (♥) - plus we would like to hop on over to Tybee Island.
  • New recipes ~~ I love trying out new recipes and would just like to make a point of doing this throughout the year, rather than mostly fall & winter.  (Beef Wellington may make an appearance for Chris's birthday ... which also happens to be Valentine's Day!!!)
  • Finding my creative side ~~ I would like to make some jewelry (think steam-punk inspired necklaces and, maybe, bracelets).  I want to do some repurposing of items for home decor.  To that end, we are going to be "junking" at Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sales, flea markets with the best of them!!!  I check in with several blogs that have given me the inspiration to get out there and try my hand at some new projects!
  • Build up our savings account ~~ We have been very diligent about saving and I want to continue (each time I hit a savings goal, I just move on to the next).  I have decided not to decrease my hours at work, so we will save at the same rate we have been all year.  Our savings will mostly just sit there, but some of it is going to be used toward our vacations (I am thinking of that extra work day as the money that is earmarked for travel).  You only live once and you need to make it a fun go-round!!!
  • Operation: Sell This House ~~ Harvest Moon House will be back on the market (by owner) in the spring.  Flyers will be posted; ads will be placed on Craigslist and, most likely, our local papers; an open house might be in order.  There are a few small things to do around the house (steam-clean the carpets and do some minor paint touchups, while bringing life back to the frontyard grass), but they are minimal in the grand scheme of things.
  • Volunteer ~~ I recently read about a church in our city that operates a soup kitchen on Saturdays and I am going to see about volunteering, maybe once a month.
  • Submit our tees & slogans ~~ We have a book with ideas for tshirts and greeting cards.  Threadless will buy your slogans and may even print your tees ... both of which can make us $$$.  And we would FINALLY have our tshirt ideas a reality!!!  (The real kicker to this business is that the guy who started it graduated from the same high school as us!!!)
So, I think this is a pretty extensive list and should be do-able!  It will be fun to look back at the end of the year to see how many I can cross off! 

Hoping all of you have set a few goals that will bring you joy in 2011 ... maybe waxed nostalgic to see where you have been to align yourself with where you want to be. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas

Hard to believe that Christmas Eve is this Friday!  WOW!  Where did 2010 go?  Seriously, I think this is the fastest year ever!!!

Even tho we don't participate in all the gift-giving madness that has surpassed the true spirit of Christmas, Chris & I do have some traditions that help get us in the holiday spirit.  I have been sending out some Christmas cards, just not nearly as many as in years past.  We have an advent calendar where we alternate days (Chris is evens and I am odds) and even try to guess which design will be behind the "window."  We like to watch Christmas programs and are doing a pretty good job of it, thus far.  Our DVDs of White Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town have been watched, as well as catching Fred Claus and Prancer on cable.  I also watch many of the made-for-tv Christmas shows that I stumble across while channel surfing.  They are usually quite cheesy, I know, but they are filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas. 

It's a Wonderful Life and Scrooge are still on tap and I hope to squeeze them in before we leave early Christmas Eve morning.  Might even be able to watch Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer if we try hard enough!  (Something new this year: Taking a quick roundtrip visit to family for a Christmas Eve party, spending the nite and heading right back for our traditional family dinner with my aunt and, most likely, a quick visit to Chris's parents' to round out a very long day.)

I have some baking to do for our family Christmas gatherings.  Was planning to try my hand at Angela's Chocolate-covered Cookie Dough Balls for our roadtrip and Ooey Gooey Cashew Bars for my aunt's (Chris is making a pumpkin pie ~from scratch, except for the crust~ with a crumbly pecan topping, too.)  But I might make some Pumpkin Cranberry Scones (using a version of Tina's recipe) for the Christmas Eve party instead and make the Cookie Dough Balls for home.



(source)


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones


(source)

Angela's recipe, Tina's recipe and the pumpkin pie recipe (which is a combo of 2 different recipes) are new ones and, boy, do we love experimenting with recipes!!!  I am off work on Thursday, so I will get my recipes done before Chris gets home from work, and he can work on his after we get home from the gym.  We will drop off our "contributions" to my aunt's Christmas day dinner when we pick up my two cousins Christmas Eve morning who are making the trip with us because it is (over the river and thru the woods ) to their dad's house we go!!!   


Wishing everyone a magical holiday season! 

Celebrate this year with Joy and remember years past with Nostalgia!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recipes

Here are a couple easy recipes I want to share.  One has been around with me for some time now and the other is a recent acquisition that I have taken to tweaking.

Cornbread Casserole
2 boxes cornbread mix
2 eggs
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
2 heaping spoonfuls of sour cream
1 8oz bag of shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  In large bowl, mix all ingredients, except for the cheddar.  Once combined, add 3/4 of the bag of cheese and mix again.  Pour into baking pan and cover with remaining shredded cheddar.  Bake for 30 minutes and check for doneness.  This will be a moist version of cornbread, so you shouldn't have a completely clean toothpick when inserted into center of casserole. 

**This casserole works well at Thanksgiving and Christmas and is great to bring to potlucks.  It doesn't have to be served warm and it travels well.  Also, you can use it for a side at breakfast....even cut it up and sear a bit in a skillet after cooking up some bacon &/or sausage.**

Roasted Sweet Potato & Chickpeas
1 large sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 medium bell pepper (red or orange, preferably), diced
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
2 T cinnamon
1 T coconut oil
1 T sea salt

1 jar Indian masala sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients, except for masala sauce, in a large bowl and mix well.  Spread on parchment and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and set on stovetop to slightly cool.  In a small to medium pot, warm up masala sauce.  Add EVERYTHING to a large bowl and mix well.  Serve with naan or any other bread.

**This recipe is a tweaked version from Angela and can be found here.  I find many recipes from blogs and Angela's got some fantastic ones!  I am making one of her cookie recipes for Christmas Eve ... a brand new one that I have yet to work on.**

Friday, December 10, 2010

Money & Environment Saving Tips

Thought I would share some of my money-saving tips that I have learned over the years from family, friends, magazines, blogs ... bonus: some of them are also good for the environment.

-Cut your kitchen sponges in half before using them.  It's like a 2 for 1 deal; cutting your cost per sponge in half!!!  (And you will be more slowly adding to the garbage in a landfill)
-Add tennis balls to your dryer to help move the laundry around and dry faster.  Money saver b/c you are using less electricity by shortening your drying time.
-Use clips to squeeze out as much toothpaste as possible.
-Cut open moisturizer, hand/body lotion, sunscreen bottles, toothpaste to get every last bit of goodness out of them.
-Use microfiber cloths for most of your dusting.  You won't be spending as much money on furniture polish; plus, you won't be inhaling or putting into the environment so many chemicals.
-Carry reusable bags in your car for your grocery shopping.  (I hear Target subtracts 5¢ from your purchase total for each reusable bag you use.)
-Reuse gift bags (and the tissue paper when you can). 
-Use cotton squares, rather than cotton balls, and cut them in half.  Another 2 for 1!
-Use white vinegar as fabric softener.  Add it to your washing machine's fabric softener container.  (I haven't yet tried this, but I read it works and your clothes should not have a vinegar smell.)  Money saver, better for the environment ... and it would clean the fabric softener gunk from your machine!!
-To keep your knee high boots upright in your closet, insert wine bottles.  (I LOVE THIS ONE!!  Great excuse to drink more vino!!!)
-Shop & donate to Goodwill, Salvation Army, resale & consignment!  We have found some great stuff over the years!!
- Use a reusable water bottle.
-Reuse the bag(s) you carry your bagged lunch to work in.


If you have others, please drop me a comment.  I love saving money and Mother Earth!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Christmas Gift




Crown mug from http://www.gypsyville.com/



I found the perfect way to spend my Junk Gypsy Junk Bucks!  I could not be happier with my selection!  How fun it will be to drink my coffee, tea, water ~ anything ~ in my new mug!!!   

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

as the wonderful gals of Junk Gypsies would say!!!  I love the JG ladies and their sense of style & substance!  I have been a fan for years, treating myself to necklaces, bangles and a tee!! 

I am a Fan on Facebook and they have been having the most fun & hilarious contests.  The "funniest Christmas gift you ever received" had me almost crying while reading the comments cuz I was laughing so hard!!!  There have been "what is your favorite southern pie" and "tell us about your jalopy". 

This morning's was "what is your favorite Christmas movie?  and what is your fave quote from that movie?"  I have many favorite Christmas movies (White Christmas, Scrooge, Elf, Nightmare Before Christmas, Rudolph and all the Rankin-Bass shows ... just to name a few!!).  Off the top of my head, I answered the contest with Elf and the line "SANTA!!  I know him.  I know him."  Winners are picked at random and throughout the week I have seen "Jennifer" several times ... only to NOT see my last name to follow.  When I came back to FB a bit later, I discovered MY name as the WINNER!!! 


$10 Junk Bucks


What a huge surprise!  What a holiday miracle!  I immediately called my honey to let him know and he was almost as happy for me as I am!  (I love that man!!!)

Now the hard part ~~ deciding what I want to use my $10 toward!!!  They have many items with crowns and I just know that I will be choosing one of those items cuz this girl is a crown fanatic!!

Hoping you have a Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner kind of day!!! 

Please check out the Gypsies ~~ I guarantee you will love their wares and their words!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In vino veritas

Cheers to December 1st!  Winter has arrived in my neck of the woods ~~ woke up to snow flurries and very, very chilly temps with wind chill.  BRRRRR!!!  Hoping to watch "White Christmas" tonite while snuggling with my honey on the loveseat in front of our electric fireplace in our cozy basement den!!

But first things first...

A quick shoutout to an Indiana winery we visited at the end of October when we headed to Indy for a little early anniversary B&B stay and some Halloween fun.  Our most gracious B&B hosts suggested a winery visit.  We are oenophiles, so this recommendation was spot on.

Buck Creek Winery gallery photo

Buck Creek Winery is located in southeast Indianapolis.  The tasting room is, well, tastefully done!  Very roomy, the wines and other wine-related items along the walls available for purchase and several tables for enjoying the fruits of their labors, so to speak!  And I can't forget the gorgeous wood bar for tastings.

Buck Creek Winery gallery photo




Buck Creek Winery gallery photo


Buck Creek has wines to suit every palette!!!  An entire page full of sweet wines kept our attention.  We each got 5 or 6 wines to taste, so we tried to select different ones and then each took a small sip.  So many wines were to our liking.

Here is what we finally decided to purchase:


Alley Cat

One of Buck Creek Winery very favorite wines, Alley Cat has flavors and aromas of cranberries and strawberries, with a slightly spicy finish. Serve Chilled.

Christmas Cherry (got 2 of this one)

Our Christmas Cherry is 100% cherry wine, made from premium tart, sweet cherries. Ask for the wine with the red nose.

Cranberry Apple (and got 2 of this one)

A blend of sweet Indiana heirloom apples, and cranberry give this wine a delightful tart flavor with just the right amount of sweetness.

Razzle Dazzle

A sweet apple wine blended with a sweet red raspberry wine . Serve Chilled.

We will be heading back to Indy at the end of the month and will make a second visit to Buck Creek Winery.  Looking forward to more sampling and getting some new wines.  Well, those, and maybe a few bottles to replace the ones we have already enjoyed!!


Tonite's dinner (spaghetti squash with spinach & fontina chicken sausages & pesto, roasted brussel sprouts and whole wheat rolls) will be paired with the Razzle Dazzle that I opened on Sunday ... and might be joined with the last Cranberry Apple (with our dessert of Pumpkin Glo Bites.)

Alley Cat and one Cranberry Apple are gone ... and they were spectacular!



Monday, November 29, 2010

Chicago in November

On Saturday we headed into Chicago by train for our annual visit to The City during the holidays.  It is always cold and there have been years with rain, with snow and even rain & snow.  In past years, this trip has even included seeing a play as an anniversary gift to each other (The Lion King & Chicago, come to mind).  Broadway in Chicago has amazing shows!!!

Caught the 10:22 train, which is really the best way to travel as you avoid the traffic and the hassle of finding parking at a reasonable rate. 

Our first stop was the windows at Macy's, where this year's theme is "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus".  I love the humongous horns jutting out the side of the building that faces State Street!!

We headed over to the Christkindl market at Daley Plaza.  The aromas of food and drink were intoxicating (like the warmed gluhwein served in a boot!!!).  The woolen hats & sweaters were calling our names cuz it was CHILLY ... and we were bundled up with hats, scarves, gloves, coats and leggings under our pants!!  The best part: we got to hear bell ringers ~~ they are my favorite!  I adore hearing Christmas music this way!!!

Our next usual stop was Cornery Bakery for some coffee.  We love this joint and wish they would build one over here in Northwest Indiana!!!  Great food, scrumptious baked goods and very good coffee!  Who could ask for more?!  Oh, and free wifi!!!  They would have to kick us out, if ever they built one here, that is...

Off to Michigan Avenue, where we eventually ended up at Watertower Place.  We headed inside for warmth and checked out just a couple stores.

At this point we were pretty hungry, so we headed a bit south to another Cornery Bakery location for some lunch.  I love the D.C. Chicken Salad on Steakhouse Rye!!!  Chris got his usual Tomato Mozzarella on Ciabatta Ficelle.  

After filling up our bellies, we decided to head off on an adventure.  We like to check out different areas of the city and, for the most part, we do it on foot.  One year we walked quickly through 'Old Town' and I have been wanting to go back and see the cute shops.  So we head west and Chris asks a "local" how to get to Old Town.  Fortunately for us, we aren't THAT far ... a bit more west and north we must go.  Great little community of fun & funky shops and awesome homes & apartments.  We went into an outdoor Christmas tree "shop" and walked around the fresh firs & pines ~ a first for us b/c we are artificial tree folks.  Lots to look at which is exactly what we look for on these walking adventures.

Back at the Theatre District, we got in line for THE MOST DELICIOUS POPCORN ON THE PLANET!  Garrett's is a must when you visit Chicago!  Get the Chicago Mix: cheese & caramel crisp ~~ it's the bomb!!!  Our total wait time was 45 minutes ... and believe me when I tell you with all sincerity, it is worth the wait!!  Every second of it!  We treated ourselves to the jumbo size!  If you wait in line that long, you better order big!!! 


They aren't lying!!!  Your fingertips will be stained yellow from the cheese!  It is clearly impossible to eat while wearing winter gloves!!  We couldn't wait to get on the 6:22 train for home, so we could open the bag and get eating!!! 

After stopping at the Starbucks in the train station for 2 cups of joe, that is exactly what we did.  Even the conductor commented when he came around to collect tickets!  Garrett's is well known!

All in all a most delightful day.  While cold, it was sunny & clear during the day and we were there after sunset to see all of the Christmas lights strung everywhere!!!

Our Contribution to the Thanksgiving Feast



Here is what we took to my aunt's for Thanksgiving dinner:  a homemade cranberry sauce, a homemade cranberry-apple-raisin crisp and 2 bottles of wine "($3 buck Chuck" as it is affectionately called around these parts!!).

The cranberry sauce was a new recipe this year and I am definitely going back to a former recipe for the future.  This one was a bit too tart.  I even tweaked it with walnuts for the crunch appeal!!!  The better recipe (from Eating Well) calls for walnuts and dried cherries and has a much better flavor and consistency. 


The cranberry-apple-raisin crisp is scrumptious!!!  It comes from Food & Wine magazine.  So glad I gave it a shot and it turned out so tasty!  Perfect combination of tart and sweet!  (Sort of like me!!!  HA!)

The wines were a Shiraz and White Zin.  The White Zin was a gift for my aunt and the Shiraz was to share.  We grabbed these during our Trader Joe's shopping trip.  Haven't had either one previously, so it will be fun to see how they compare to others.  We have blindly bought a couple bottles of other wines from Trader Joe's and weren't disappointed.  We actually didn't crack open either one at dinner... my aunt had a White Merlot ready for us!  We'll have to enjoy them for Christmas. 

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break!! For those of you who are die-hard shoppers, I hope you got most of your deals on Black Friday (and are able to finish up today, Cyber Monday)! 

Back to the ol' grind today, but I am looking forward to getting back to my regular routine, ya know?? 


Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Update

Choosing not to set our alarm for the wee & still-very-dark hours of the morning, we didn't get up crazy early to hit Menard's.  We are pretty happy that we didn't because when we did roll up there around 7:30, the parking lot was overflowing and customers were parked along the road all willy-nilly! If that is how things were an hour & a half after opening, I can only imagine the madness prior to!  No thank you!!!  We drove right on past and went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel instead. 

After filling up on coffee, pancakes & french toast, we headed back to Menard's to try our luck and, maybe, pick up a few other things.  No luck on the TV...guess it brought many out to Menard's for the deal!!!  We checked out the laminate countertops and grabbed some more mounting tape for the window plastic that we put up every year (it really does help keep our home warmer and I know it must save on our electric bill).  I am going to surprise my mom and send her a couple window plastic kits (she lives in Florida) b/c I know she wants to put some up in my sister/niece's room and I doubt she will have much luck finding any kits her way.  The second best part of that is we can get a rebate (in the form of a merchandise credit) for both kits and then we will use that toward the countertop purchase.  Suh-weet deal!!!

I took some pics of the food & wines we took to my aunt's for Thanksgiving, but have yet to upload them to my computer ... so a Thanksgiving recap will be on tap.  Probably be mixed with photos and details from our trip into Chicago tomorrow. 

Grateful for the time we have spent with family, eating great food and drinking good wine!  And for the time we have spent just the two of us, relaxing & watching movies. 

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend ~~ in whatever "madness" is to your liking!!!

C&J @ the United Center

Finally got some pics from the Blackhawks game we attended.  Without further ado:

Inside the official merchandise store




Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy THANKSgiving!!!

I will be taking a leave of absence from the internet for the holiday and, most likely, the weekend.  Tomorrow is our 18th wedding anniversary ... but also Thanksgiving.  Sooooo, we celebrated early when we went to Indy and stayed at a wonderful little B&B at the end of October.  We are also "giving" each other the remote car starters, new TV and new media console. 

As for turkey day, we will hit the gym early, make a few cranberry recipes and head to my aunt's where we will be fed the most scrumptious feast (she is an amazing cook ~~ it's too bad that we can't eat and eat and eat, but our bodies are accustomed to several small meals throughout the day). 

Friday might find us up and at 'em early to get that LED TV I mentioned in yesterday's post.  And I feel quite certain we will end up at our favorite Barnes & Noble for a caffeine boost and to soak up some of the last moments in the cafe before the store closes on December 31st. 

Saturday, we plan to head into Chicago and enjoy the city in all it's holiday splendor (the lighting of the Christmas tree is tonite and the Christkindlemarket is underway).  It's fun to take the train, walk around among all the masses of people, look at the window displays at Macy's, drink some Starbucks, stop in a few stores to browse and just enjoy the outdoors in the BIG city. 

At some point this weekend, we are going to move the old entertainment center from upstairs to downstairs and get it all set up and use a temporary table for the new TV, until ours comes in from Pier 1.  We will have half of the "work" done and can enjoy the amazing clarity & color of the flat screen in the meantime.

I wish everyone an abundant Thanksgiving holiday!!      

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Never Say Never

When asked I always say, "No, I won't be out on Black Friday."  I am not a Black Friday shopper.  I just don't get into the craziness of the materialism of Christmas.  {I do like to head out the day after Christmas, but not necessarily to buy anything.  In years past, I was always buying my next year's Christmas cards the day after...I just don't mail many cards any longer.}  Well, folks, never say never!!!  We might be out there early Friday morning at our local Menard's to buy an LED TV for our bedroom; just a little 22".  After the mail-in merchandise rebate, the TV is only $99. 

We would then have $100 to spend at Menard's and we (well, I) have been wanting to replace the kitchen counter.  We only have one 6' section, so it shouldn't be all that pricey and we feel confident that we can do this project ourselves.  And while we are ripping that out, why not replace the sink, too, right?!  I don't need anything fancy, so I should be able to find one relatively cheap.  This will put the kitchen right in shape for Operation: Sell This House.  Our current counter is a light blue color that matched the previous owners' color scheme, but it sticks out in ours.  Replacing the flooring really made the counter stand out (and not in a good way, obviously).  

We are going to visit Menard's tomorrow to see what cost we would be looking at for the counter and sink, to see if this makes financial sense.  If so, we will be loading up on the caffeine and joining the masses who live for Black Friday...Wish us luck!     

Monday, November 22, 2010

Is it Spring???

What a balmy November day we will be having!!!  It comes with a bit of rain, but that is perfectly okay because Chris did a ton of planting and transplanting yesterday and all that landscaping could use a good drink of water today & tomorrow!! 

Yep, I said planting!!!  The construction company came on Friday to lay some black dirt and smooth everything out (they did a GREAT job!!).  And to top it all off: we came home to 6 replacement plants!!!  WooHoo!  They are very nice ones, too!  Definitely nicer than the ones that were ripped out at the beginning of this entire process, I have to admit. 

So, Chris was out for hours yesterday planning and planting!  He brought so many starts from other plants in our backyard and moved one of our burning bushes to the front!!!  He even stumbled upon some bricks that he was thrilled to find and be able to use to help complete the transformation.  The front is going to look very different this spring than last.  Exciting!!!

I think the final step is grass seed.  I am going to drop off our payment this week and ask about the grass seed (will they wait until spring to spread it??).

Friday, November 19, 2010

"100 mini tubes of toothpaste in the pantry....

100 mini tubes of toothpaste, take one down, use it all up, 99 mini tubes of toothpaste in the pantry."

OK, so we don't have quite THAT many mini tubes of toothpaste!!  In the spirit of using up and getting rid of many things around the house (& garage), we are going to use all of  our travel-size toothpastes before buying another full-size.  We get, at least, 4 minis a year from our dentist (1 for each of us at each of our 2 cleanings).  I keep some at work, as does Chris, and we have some in our travel bags; however, we have an over-abundance in the hall pantry.  (I think I have even donated some to a local domestic violence shelter, too, but here we are with quite the supply of minis again.) 

Happy Dental Hygiene to All!!!  And to all a daily floss! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Out with the old

A couple fellow bloggers have given themselves a challenge to get rid of unnecessary things around their homes (some have done a 50 item challenge, another 100).  So ... in the spirit of beginning a new year fresh and getting the house "showing ready," I am getting in on the purging.

However, I am not setting a goal.  I don't like to be a pack rat, so we get rid of stuff throughout the year (mostly donating to Goodwill).  We already have clothing items to be donated to Goodwill and the rest of the "stuff" I will put in our garage and mark it "Yard Sale". 

We will have our house on the market come Spring and one of the first things we will do when putting out the For Sale By Owner sign is have a rummage sale.  I plan to go room by room to see what we no longer need, want, use, etc.  I already know there will be china cups & saucers and a couple cute ceramic tea pots, a coffee-themed wall hanging ... and many other things after Chris gets done going thru all of his accumulated treasures (that is the nice way of putting it!!).


Thank the Goddess ...




for bringing this furbaby

 into our lives at exactly the right time!

We ♥ you, Luna Pixiedust!!!

(A little secret: I think Caesar had a little something to do with it, too!)

Successful 1st Costco Trip

And now these are back in my life!!!


I adore Craisins in my daily oatmeal!  I use raisins, otherwise, but I think the price on these babies at Costco is damn good and I will treat myself!!!  With the $20 Costco Cash we received, our tortilla-crusted tilapia and bag of Craisins were FREE!  (Leaving about 32¢ to spare)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whirlwind Wednesday


We did it!  We finally, finally did it!  Bought a new TV this morning before work!  WooHoo!!!  Walmart seemed to have a great deal that started this morning.  So we each headed to different Walmarts to see which one had the Sanyo 42" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV for $548 ... I was the lucky winner!  So, the electronics guy loaded the big box in my shopping cart and a stockman walked with me out to my car and placed it in the back seat.  I then had to get it out of the car once at home ... it isn't heavy, but incredibly awkward!  The box is super long, but the "handles" aren't conveniently located.  I lifted and pushed and pulled and it is home!!!  Tonite, we go looking for a new entertainment center for this jewel. 

Pier One is our first stop as we saw a few that caught our attention in their most recent catalog. 

(This is the only one from Pier One that I could find an image online; however, it isn't the number one contender.)



Also like one at Meijer (similar to the picture below) that is a combo entertainment center/electric fireplace:


~~ can you say COZY!!?? 


We also will be heading here tonite:


source
Yep, we have officially become one of the masses to enjoy club membership shopping.  Hoping for some fine food sampling and gonna snag us some of the tortilla-crusted tilapia that we love!!  Checking out entertainment centers (and a quick peruse on prices of TVs, just in case) is on the list, as well.  I almost forgot that we will be picking up a $20 cash card for joining ~~ SWEET!

UPDATE: Our local Pier 1 didn't have the media console we like best.  However, there is one out in Illinois right where we plan to visit a Trader Joe's this weekend!  Fate!!!  We will check it out and, if we like it, come back to our local Pier 1 to place an order (we save on sales tax when we buy back home).  Chris is chomping at the bit to watch the new TV ...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tribute to Caesar

One of Caesar's favorite spots

Caesar & Isis cuddling in one bed

One of my all-time favorite photos of Caez & Ice

Curled up like a scarf & hat

Close-up of the cuddlebugs

Captain Caesar ... quick nap before taking on the high seas

Damn, those gale force winds! 

Upon his safe return, Caesar is relaxed, his hat askew, sitting with his dad! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Baby Boy

On Saturday, we laid to rest our beloved, Caesar.  He was 18 years (& 4 months) old.  He will forever be in our hearts.  He will be greatly missed.  He is irreplaceable.  He is my baby boy, my cuddlebug, my Caesar-Bo Beezer-Cheeser Cheeser-Dennis Rodman-Mojica!  My heart aches.  Chris and I are deep in grief, but I am trying hard to remember that Caesar had a long life full of love & joy (we gave him as much as he gave us!!).  He is now free to frollick among the stars.  It broke our hearts to lose you, but we wanted to do right by you.  WE ♥ YOU, BUDDY!!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Progress

The guys showed up this morning to do our sidewalk restoration!  Yay!  That was a nice surprise!  Seeing that we haven't heard from the construction company, we just never really know when anyone will show up to do the restoration work.  There is one square with a crack (the one I called the owner about the day after the sewer line was installed) ~ Chris said he believed they saw it.  I went out to wish them a good morning and say we were glad to see them and I casually asked if there was anything they could do to the one square that wasn't removed but would be the one & only old sidewalk piece.  One of the guys said they would take care of it "just for me."  Hey, he might say that to everyone (or just the pretty ladies!!), I don't care ... as long as it looks like all the rest of the squares and not the lonely dingy one that didn't get replaced or resurfaced!

We are still enjoying gorgeous & unseasonable weather today!  Perfect for new sidewalks, I say!!!  Can't wait to see how they look!!!  When we had the sidewalk replaced a few years ago, Chris went out with one of his metal film reels and left impressions.  I know that one of those, if not two, were taken with this repair project.  Wonder if he will get out there and leave them again...  I think we should leave our initials this time.  (CM ♥ JM)

Next phase: they need to bring a bit more dirt, even things out a bit and drop the grass seed.  Stay tuned for that update!

UPDATE: The sidewalk looks great!  The guys fixed up that one square for us, too!!!  But we didn't make it out there to leave our initials in the wet concrete.  Ahhhh, well...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicago Blackhawks



A fun, almost-last-minute plan:  Only about 9 months after Chris's (40th) birthday, but we finally got to do what he wanted: see a Chicago Blackhawks game!  Attended last nite's 7PM game with tix we bought from one of Chris's co-workers (she and her husband have season tickets).  It was easy-peasy getting there and finding parking (hit a $17 lot ~~sweet!). 

We went ALL the way up to our seats to check things out and then ventured to find me coffee and to check out everything else that was going on (like the official store).  They had some very cute tees, but I am just not into spending that kind of money for team sport-related attire.

While it would have been more fun had the Hawks scored more than one point (I love hearing the horn sound that is played after each point) and if they had won, we enjoyed ourselves!  It was a great first experience and I think we would definitely buy tix from this person again (only $20 each).

We did take a picture of ourselves in front of a background while in the store, so I hope to add to this post soon.

Well-deserved TREATS for me & my sweets!

We would have (gladly) spent a large sum of money to enjoy our trip to India (and would jump at the chance if/when it presents itself again).  However, with the trip being cancelled, we are going to buy ourselves a few treats:

I have been wanting a remote car starter for years & years! I never got myself one, tho, b/c we wouldn't have been able to get it on my husband's car, too, as his was a manual transmission. (and I just couldn't be greedy and get one just for me)  Now that we both have automatics, we are "splurging" and treating ourselves ... FINALLY!  Our winters are long and cold and snowy, so it will be a total luxury to start our cars from inside our warm house in the mornings b/c we don't have a garage to park in (and from our warm offices and from inside the gym).  I will take my honey's car in the day before Thanksgiving (also the day before our 18th wedding anniversary) for the install.  We will be all set when winter makes it's inevitable appearance!

Chris has been saving all of the money he has made with his photography sidegig for a new TV .  You know, one of those nice 1080p, at least 40", LCD ones!  And a new entertainment center to display it!  WooHoo!!  Chris is WAY more excited about the TV than the remote starter (keeps telling me he isn't getting the starter b/c he is getting the TV and I keep telling him that we are getting it ALLLLLLLL!). 

In honor of our hard work and dedication to saving and to celebrate our anniversary and Christmas, we are getting each other a remote car starter and a fancy new TV!!!  Not too shabby!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Winter wonderland????? November 6th??????

Groggy me coming up the stairs Saturday morning is met by my husband who asks if I want to see something weird.  I tentatively say yes.  He opens the door and outside is a "winter wonderland."  Yep ~ we got an inch or two of snow Friday nite/Saturday morning.  BLECH!!!  Too early for snow!!!!!  (I only like it for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, mind you.)

Progress on the homefront is s...l...o...w: no return call about our missing landscaping, no grass seed has arrived and no sidewalk replaced.  Good news, tho, that the sidewalk hasn't yet been worked on b/c on Friday afternoon, while the street was being "cut" for resurfacing, the water main in front of our house was hit!  Our neighbor called me at 2 to let me know and again at 3:30 to say it was still sort of gushing and no crew had arrived.  I called the city sanitation department after his first call and was told they were aware and that the contractor had called the water company.  I called the mayor's office at 3:30 and was told they had only heard about it 15 minutes earlier and had contacted the water company.  At 4, when I quickly returned home to check on things, a water company employee had turned off the water.  I checked in with the neighbor and headed off to the gym.  At 5:15 the rest of the neighbors' water was turned off and work began around 5:45.  We came home to our easement torn up AGAIN and a big hole in the street in front of the house (the same place where the construction company had been when replacing the city's portion of the sewer line).  We got water back around 8, but were under a 24-hour boil order.  (What came out of the tub, faucets & toilet was disgusting ~~ it took many flushes and much running of all faucets to get clear.)

Because we would have to boil any water to be consumed, we decided to head to our local favorite restaurant for breakfast and COFFEE, COFFEE, COFFEE before running some errands.  (Would you believe a work crew was actually showing up as we were leaving???)  While enjoying our meals, we discussed how Chris wants to reconfigure the front yard & landscaping come spring.  After a few hours out, we returned home to a new curb at the end of our walkway.  Yay!  A ray of sunshine after all that water! 

Sunday was a beautiful, clear, sunny day ~~ practically all the snow had melted by the morning!!!  WooHoo! 

I was able to wash our laundry at home ... while cleaning the house and then getting on Facebook for a bit!  Hooray for multitasking!!  Hooray for the new sewer line!!!  I ran out for a well-overdue haircut while Chris listened to the Chicago Bears game and did some yard work.  By the time I had returned, around an hour later, Chris had staked part of the yard where he doesn't want any grass seed dropped (whenever the crew comes back for that part of the job). 

I think we will return home tonite (after work & the gym) to find our street resurfaced!!!  Another great selling point!!!  (New street, new curbs, new sidewalks <again>, new sewer line, new grass/lawn and totally different look to the landscaping ~~ all should be beneficial to the quick selling of Harvest Moon House.)

Finding the positives throughout the process!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Serenity Now!




Quick update on the yard situation:
Returned home on Wednesday to find things in better shape than Tuesday.  HOWEVER, our landscaping that was ripped out (and setting off to the sides of thea yard on Tuesday nite) was missing!!!!!  I called the construction company only to be told that I would be called back ... it is 24 hours later and I am still awaiting that call.  Hmph!  At the very least, we were expecting to replant our 2 rhodendrons and 2 euonymus bushes.  Here is a list of the missing items: 10 rose-of-sharons, 6 hostas, 2 rhodendrons, 2 euonymus, 2 astilbe, numerous daisies, 1 black-eyed susan and 1 "bunny tail."  Also in the mix: ground cover and gladiolas, but we pretty well knew those would not be salvagable.  Oh, and there is a large crack in one of the sidewalk squares that wasn't removed (yep, told the guy about that yesterday, too).  Chris took time after work to move alot of the dirt b/c we want it to slope away from the house and b/c it was just a lumpy mess. 

Sooooooo ... we are still waiting for the sidewalk to be redone, as well as the curb, and waiting to see when they are going to seed the yard.  AND wanting our landscaping returned to us!!!! 

Mind you, I had spoken about our landscaping on several occasions, to include Tuesday morning before the work began.  So, there is no way that anything was unclear about our intention to save our plants. 

And a quick $300 to fix the hubby's rear brakes! 

Thankfully, we have jobs and savings!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Understatement of the Decade

Our yard was utterly destroyed yesterday during the installation of the new sewer line!!!  My hubby called to warn me on my way home!  He described it as looking like a bomb had exploded ... and he isn't too off base!  WOW!!!!  We will really, really, really be back at the drawing board to whip it into shape come spring.  Have to decide if we are mulching again, if we are just laying grass seed, where to transplant ground cover from the back landscaping, see what survives being ripped out of the ground yesterday, which plants to divide from our backyard (definitely hostas, black-eyed susans, and rose-of-sharons) ~~~ it is going to be even more work than we had anticipated.  We cannot even see our sidewalk to know how much of it was ripped out and will be replaced.  Whew!  Chris took some pics this morning and I will upload soon.  You can compare the before photo from yesterday's blog post.  And when all is said and done in the spring, I will add what it looks like in the early stages of restoration.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And so it begins

The construction company arrived around 7:30 this morning to begin the big sewer line replacement project!  When we get home this evening, the new line will have been run and, I hope, the big trench filled with dirt.  Day 2 (and maybe 3) will be the restoration phase, to include replacing our sidewalk squares that are destroyed in the process and, I hope, spreading grass seed.  Asked the guys this morning if they would be putting our landscaping back in ASAP in the hope that it will all survive come spring.  Just want it in the front of their minds that we are concerned about our rhododendron and other bushes for which we have no spares in the back garden.  (The rose-of-sharons are plentiful, but the others have no replacements.)  There should be a bit of rain coming on Thursday and that should help re-establish the roots for our landscaping (she says with fingers crossed!!).

I look forward to being able to do my washing at home without fear of a backup in our basement.  And being able to be at home multi-tasking while doing said laundry!!! 

I look forward to using this as a BIG selling point for our home, along with a new roof & gutters, new sidewalks, tuckpointed chimney, newer kitchen/bath/entryway flooring, fresh paint and an amazing yard that is a garden oasis!!! (As a matter of fact, one of the construction guys asked me this morning what our selling price is!!  I asked him to pass the word along should he know of anyone interested in buying!)

And so begins my new, positive, less-stressed outlook on the entire situation.  


Our home (pre-sewer line replacement)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This just in!!



Some good news re: the sewer line replacement...the quote came in at half of what I thought it would be!!  So our half is now even half of that half!  HA!!  Might get underway this Thursday or next Monday.  I will be so happy when all is said and done (even with the disaster that the front yard may be).  I can do our wash at home again, even tho I have become quite the laundrymat pro.  I just want this homeowner issue to be behind us, so we can move forward with Operation Sell This House!!!

A little more joy to the end of my day:  I got a small check in the mail for a class-action lawsuit I participated in against WalMart (from prior employment).  This money will be added to some my honey has been stashing from his freelance gig to buy us a new TV!  A flat screen!!  Then we won't be stuck trying to get channels in with our crazy antenna!  Yeah!!!  It will be like we are grown-ups!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Without further ado

The moment you have all been waiting for ... the unveiling of costumes for 2010:

Dead Gangster

AND


Speed Racer


And because it is a bit hard to tell ... this is an INJURED Speed Racer!!!  Another one-of-a-kind, made all by his creative self!!! 

Here is one of the haunted couple!!



This is Halloween

Halloween and Fall are our favorite time of year!  And this past weekend was the annual Halloween costume party we look forward to attending.  My costume had a quick switchout from a skirt (made me self-conscious, so I knew it would bother me all night) to a pair of my very own black pants ... I don't have any pics uploaded, yet, so I will have to keep you in suspense.  Here are past year's costumes to keep you at bay.

My hubby is uber-creative and has THE most amazing costumes!  He is award-winning!!  He goes all out and makes the majority of his costumes, down to the most perfect details.

Edward Scissorhands (2005)

Son of Svengoolie (2009)

And some he buys but embellishes (usually with handmade accessories):

Elvira (2007)


Ghetto Leia (2008)

He is always a Halloween treat to behold!!!

Here we are in 2004

Midnite Priestess & Edward Scissorhands (the 1st attempt)


2005
Dead School Girl w/ Edward
2006


Malpractice & Negligence


I was a dead French maid in 2007

A sexified Evil Queen in 2008

And a completely homemade dead Prom Queen in 2009 (this is my favorite!!)



Have you caught on to my overall theme: most everything I wear is DEAD!  Dead school girl, Dead French maid, Dead prom queen, Dead gangster!  Yep!  For me, it really isn't Halloween if it is cute ... it has to have a twist! 

We were hoping to attend a second costume party this year, but we don't seem to have any friends that can make it to one this Saturday nite. So ... the costume trunk has been packed up for another year.  And we both get started on ideas for next year. 




Friday, October 22, 2010

Breathe In - Breathe Out


If ever there was a time for me to put yoga breathing into practice...

I received some very disappointing news yesterday.  My husband and I have been preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime 2-week trip to India, including a sidetrip to the Taj Mahal (my most favorite structure in the whole wide world!!), that starts at the end of February 2011.  We got word yesterday that due to a shortage of people, the trip must be cancelled.  DEVASTATING news, to say the least.  We have been reading, we have been clothes shopping, we have been watching programs, we have been talking and dreaming and ... well, consumed by India.  Just the night before receiving the email, we watched a PBS program on the story of India.  Whenever I thought of the trip, I was almost in tears from excitement and amazement.  I mean, I never thought I would ever get to "my" building, the Taj, and then this amazing opportunity presented itself.  (My husband works at a university and this trip was going to be 100% planned ... we would have been able to just "be" in this most amazing and different country!!  Soak it all in, absorb it thru our pores, live it for 2 entire weeks from the Taj on to the south of India.)

And remember yesterday I said I have been under stress ... yeah, like I need this news heaped on top of my already weakened state.  BLAH! 

When I got home, I find that the work on the sewer pipe in the street in front of our house carried on to the easement.  A rose-of-sharon had been dug up and set aside, part of the curb was destroyed and a HUGE gaping hole dug.  (We are assured that black dirt and grass seed will be provided and our tree should be put right back in its place ... at no cost to us.)  However, the backup problem we have been experiencing exists in the pipe that runs from our house to the easement, of course.  Know what that means???  Our yard and sidewalk have to be dug up (7 feet deep b/c we have a basement).  Fortunately, our city has a 50/50 cost share program, so that will help us out ALOT, but it will still be to the tune of several thousand dollars (I am estimating $4000-$5000).  And 2 of the front sidewalk squares that will be destroyed are newer (another 50/50 cost share program ... the 50% we already paid and the 50% we will pay again means we will have ended up paying 100% for those 2 stinkin' squares!). 

On the bright side, the part of our sidewalk to the house that we didn't replace a few years ago (thanx, honey!!) will be removed and redone for 50%!  Not to mention, we will have all new sewer lines, with an outside clean-out and a backflow prevention valve ~~ GREAT selling points as we have our home up for sale by owner.  

I just don't look forward to seeing the devastation it brings to our front yard that we have already landscaped.  All things should be put back in the ground and since it is fall, we should have the best chance of plants and bushes surviving.  But, just UGH!  Right?!  Anyone with me on this???  I thought so ~ Thanx!!

Well, I wasn't in the working out mood (& neither was the husband), so we decided to head out to a somewhat-local outlet mall.  It is outdoors, so we could enjoy the cool, crisp fall weather and just do some shopping, taste testing, walking ... try to get out of our heads.  Retail therapy is better on the body than food therapy, right?!  Just maybe a bit more expensive, depending.  Not to mention, food runs right thru ya!!!  We stopped at a Starbucks on the drive, sampled food and coffee at our 2 favorite shoppes, I treated myself to perfume (it was on sale AND I had a coupon) and I snagged a cool shirt and jewelry organizer.

I am trying my best to see that the cancellation of the trip is for a reason (that is what my husband chooses to believe and others on Facebook have offered); that the whole sewer line replacement experience, while costly, could be more if it weren't for the 50/50 and is absolutely necessary to the successful sale of our house; and that our yard and sidewalks will be better than ever!!!

I am trying.  It is just taking a whole lot of concentrated effort to find my joy and plenty of stress-relieving breathing.  It is what it is at this point ... so I need to buck up and push onward! 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweat Equity



Ahhhhhh!  There is nothing like the relief one gets after working up a good sweat at the gym!  I have been under a bit of stress as of late and was really looking forward to a workout last nite.  My husband and I belong to LA Boxing where we take both boxing and kickboxing classes.  They are exhilirating, to say the least!  We are led by amazing instructors with boxing and MMA experience.  The hour long classes are taught on 150-lb heavy bags, and include an intense warmup and killer ab-work to finish.  You get out of it exactly what you put into it ... and, let me tell you, the hubby and I practically kill ourselves during classes!  I have never enjoyed being a such a sweaty mess, until LA Boxing.  WE LOVE IT!!!

When we started, just over a year ago, we were attending classes 5 to 6 days a week.  We have since tapered to 3, maybe 4, so that we can have a better life balance: work, gym, all the rest!  We were feeling like we couldn't get to the things we needed to do and many of the things we would like to do when under such a heavy workout regimen.  We do our best to get all of our fitness in during the week and leave our weekends free to do whatever, like housecleaning and laundry (blah!).  The workouts are so intense that we are pretty well spent after, so a 10AM class on Saturdays really does a number on us for the remainder of the day.  (That's not to say that when the weather turns to winter, we might just hit the gym for something to do and then come home to hunker down, cuddle and watch my collection of Gilmore Girls DVDs ~~ one of our guilty pleasures, to be sure.) 

I do wish that our gym was open in the wee hours of the morning, so I could head there before work somedays and get in a good run/walk or maybe some strength training.  There are certainly days where I could use "the burn" to release some stress before heading to the office ... and then finish off my day with a boxing or kickboxing class, for good measure! 

So, because of my stress I have been a bit "off," or maybe b/c I have been "off" I have been stressed ... whichever is the case, I am going back to basics (yes, I just sang that in my head hearing Christina Aguilera's voice ~~ great song, if you haven't heard it!!).  I drank alot of H2O yesterday, worked hard at boxing and prepared overnight oats before heading off to bed.  This morning, I enjoyed my oats (full of pumpkin, honey, walnuts, raisins and spices) and I will start on the first of many glasses of water just as soon as this is posted. 

Wishing everyone a magnificent day where you can enjoy the gorgeous fall colors and savor the basics!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Color Purple

While reading Facebook statuses yesterday, I came across a post by my cousin regarding the wearing of purple today in memory of 6 individuals who have recently taken their own lives after harassment and bullying b/c of their sexual preference.  These stories have been so tragic.  For me, I don't care what someone else chooses to do with their life, so long as it doesn't directly impact mine in a negative way.  Well, let me clarify that a tiny bit ... I don't want anyone hurting themselves, especially my loved ones, but I cannot choose a life for someone else.  I cannot say what would make someone else happy and I don't want someone thinking they know what would make my best life.  We are all here to be and do what we need & want to and it is not for anyone else to judge, right?  I prefer the motto: "Do as ye will, so long as it harms none." 

So, I am wearing a purple tank top, with a purple zip-up sweatshirt, a purple necklace and sparkly purple eyeshadow!!  In honor and memory and support of each of us as individuals to choose for ourselves what is our best, most joyful life!  I hope to foster that attitude and support from all those around me.  As Ellen Degeneres so eloquently put it, "Be kind."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Genesis

I have been mulling around the idea of starting my own blog after diligently reading amazing blogs for many months now.  We all have our own talents and I am hoping to create my own niche right here in the blogsphere (while getting my creative juices flowing).  I devour the food blogs, explore the travel blogs and kickup my heels to the fitness blogs!!  I will share my days, my recipes, my trips, my kids-with-fur, my hopes & dreams ... whatever the wind blows in my direction.  It is my hope that readers enjoy my take on some of my favorite things while here at joy & nostalgia!! 

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