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:

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


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)

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