Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meet Terri

J and I are currently participating in an unplanned extended test drive of a vehicle we never plan to consider buying.  Meet Terri:

Why?  Well, last Monday, Sandy slipped on some wet pavement and bent up her undercarriage.  Ten days later, she's still in the shop, though I've been given some small amount of hope that she might be fixed today.  J and I enjoy the occasional one-car family experience, so we figured we would juggle Irene for a few days (at first, it really was just going to be a few days).

Then, on Saturday, something went wrong with Irene.  We're still not sure what, as the suspected problem sensor has now been replaced and she's still not quite right.  While being a one-car family sounded like a fun adventure, being a zero-car family was not something J and I were interested in.  So, off I went to Enterprise (that is a whole different story that requires much thankfulness for our friends B & D) in search of something small and cheap.  I came home with a five day rental on a GMC Terrain:  something neither small (though the girl at Enterprise assured me it was a "Small SUV" and unfortunately the smallest thing on their lot) nor cheap (though again, the girl assured me that we got the same rate as a full-size car so really it was a bargain...).

For those of you who don't know me well, I'm not a fan of big vehicles.  The last time I owned a four-door vehicle (as my primary source of transportation), I was 16.  I don't have the best spacial awareness (J can't tell you how many times he's apologized to people I've not seen and walked into), and that extends to my vehicles.  So, smaller is generally better.  Imagine then, me as a the primary driver of an SUV (even a small one).  It could be scary.  Luckily, the Terrain comes equipped with extra side mirrors that show my blindspot and a back-up camera to help me see how close I am to whatever is behind me.  Last night, J offered to drive her home after we'd picked up Irene from the shop (this was before we knew Irene wasn't better).  He didn't realize that I'd become so attached to our little rental I'd already been brainstorming names.    Really, we've both become attached, and we now understand the appeal of an SUV (particularly a small one like this, which gets excellent gas milage!!).  We're still not in the market to replace either Sandy or Irene (shame on you for thinking that!!), but we're certainly more open to a vehicle like this when it is time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Happenings

Most years I'm pretty hardcoare about waiting until December first before I start decorating for Christmas.  I just feel pretty strongly that Halloween is to be celebrated (and decorated for) in October, Thanksgiving in November and Christmas in December.  That said, the first of December falls this week and J and I had a pretty relaxed four-day weekend (okay, so I worked Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at Williams-Sonoma and put in a couple hours at St. R on Saturday morning, not to mention teaching Children's Chapel Sunday morning, so maybe my long-weekend wasn't all that relaxing...).  By 7:00 Sunday night, I was ready to think about Christmas. 

Last year I spent a very long hour underneath our tree in a dim living room looking for the sockets to connect all of the lights on our tree.  When I took the tree down, I managed to keep as much connected as possible, but there were still three or four connections to be made.  Not interested in repeating that miserable evening under the tree, I decided to pre-light my pre-lit tree.  This time, I put everything together one layer at a time in the very bright laundry room.  I also tagged loose light ends with long ribbon so I could find them later.  Once I thought I had everything connected, I plugged the tree in.  Blessedly, all the lights came on!!

Next up (perhaps this should've been the first step, but I wanted to get the tree all ready to go while J was still available to carry it upstairs), I headed upstairs to work on the living room.  And then I couldn't remember how I arranged it last year and headed back down to my laptop to review pictures from previous years.  Apparently I took no pictures of my tree last year (how on earth??).  Regardless, I've changed the furniture a little bit anyway, and need a new configuration. 

I spent the rest of the evening thinking about how to rearrange my living room, and plan to make those changes today.  By this evening, our living room should be ready for Christmas, and probably our front porch, too.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday smells like...Turkey and all the fixings

Y'all knew what to expect for this week's "Saturday smells like...", didn't you?  Well, in case it's a surprise, I've got a post chock-full of pictures to take you through our Thanksgiving dinner.  The smell, and taste, of everything was amazing.  I hope your Thanksgiving Dinner was half as good!

We started with the Turkey.  I shared the brining picture in Wednesday's post.  That was followed up by coating the skin in a combination of Olive Oil Mayonnaise and herbed duck fat.  The duck fat was also squeezed under the skin of the breasts so that it would drip through the meat while cooking.  Here is the pre-cooking picture:

And the post-cooking picture:

In addition to turkey, we had roasted parsnip puree (in process here):

and the potatoes romanoff I mentioned Monday.  Six potatoes, an entire block of Vermont white cheddar and a large container of sour cream.  Yum.

We also had W-S focaccia stuffing, made with italian sausage, onions, and turkey stock.  So savory!  I don't seem to have taken a picture of it put together, but here is one of the onions sweating (on the left burner) and the turkey stock warming (on the right burner):

And stir-fried roasted-chili garlic broccoli. 

Here is everything on the table we set up as a buffet (obviously there was way more food than room on the table!):

From left to right:  The parsnips puree, W-S Apple-Organge Cranberry Relish, the broccoli, gravy, potatoes romanoff, focaccia stuffing, the awesome apple-cranberry sweet potatoes our friends B & D brought, and the turkey.

And here's where we ate:

After we ate, we had the best dessert.  While I've typically gone the more traditional pecan or pumpkin pie route, this year we decided to try something diferent--pumpkin ice cream.  J made a fabulous cinnamon chantilly cream to top the ice cream, and we accessorized the ice cream with gingersnap cookies and a drizzle of Applecreek Orchards' Bourbon Caramel sauce. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday--November 24

Back in February when I started Thankful Thursdays, I commented how it would be like 51 mini-Thanksgivings (and one big one) for me this year.  (Yes, since I started these in February, my math was a bit off...I'm clearly older and wiser as we near the end of 2011.)  That big Thanksgiving seemed so far off, and it still surprises me how quickly it arrived. So here go, one big Thanksgiving Day edition of Thankful Thursday:

This year, I'm thankful for my blog and my resolution to blog daily.  While some parts of this year have flown by, my resolution to blog daily has slowed the year down, as well.  I have almost a year's worth of daily snapshots--moments and thoughts and shared frustrations--that will help me (us) remember this very different year in our lives.  I don't (and can't) know how this year might have been remembered if it weren't for the (mostly) daily posts.

I'm thankful, too, for the resources that J and I continue to have available to us.  Our jobs, our home, our cars (our car insurance, of which we've both been beneficiaries this fall) make our day to day existence both possible and comfortable. 

Finally, I'm thankful for our family.  For our siblings, who, even from a distance, manage to give us the most interesting stories to share with each other and our friends.  For our parents, who manage to love us even when we make it difficult.  For our friends, who have become family to us.  For Zeppelin, who shows us daily what it means to love unconditionally.  And for J, who certainly follow's Zep's example when it comes to his affections for me.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Step Two to an awesome turkey

Step One to an awesome turkey happened on Monday night at the MP--J spatchcocked the tukey.  If you don't know what that means, Google it and read Martha Stewart's explanation.  Apparently, it will make this year's turkey even better than last year.

Step Two to an awesome turkey is what you see here:

Our turkey spent twenty-four hours in the fridge with a dry-brine, then was transferred last night to the wet brine.  This brine is a combination of Williams-Sonoma's Apple & Spices Turkey Brine blend, a gallon of homemade turkey stock, a gallon of homemade chicken stock, and a half-gallon of water.  Our bird will hang out in this briney heaven until Thursday morning when we commence with Step Three to an awesome turkey (the herbed duck fat part of the process!).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

...tied up with string

If you read last week's post about wrapping gifts, then chances are you came back this week to learn how to tie on your ribbon.

To recap, you collected these items before sitting down to wrap your gift:
  • A box, if your gift is not already in one. Boxes are infinitely easier to wrap than oddly shaped items (though personally, I love the challenge!).
  • Wrapping paper. You want a nice, medium weight wrapping paper. The super-thick (read: expensive) stuff is sometimes tough to get sharp edges and smooth folds with. The thin (read: cheap) stuff will rip when you try to pull the paper tight.
  • Tape. I keep both double-sided and traditional scotch tape on hand.
  • Scissors. I keep two pair on hand--one to cut paper and one to cut ribbon. Trying to cut fabric ribbon with scissors used mostly to cut paper will frustrate you and destroy the ribbon.
  • Ribbon. I love a two-inch grosgrain, because it makes beautiful simple bows. If you're going to make a fancy bow, use a wired ribbon. By all means, feel free to use curling ribbon if you like a pile of curly ribbon on the top of your package (and use the paper-cutting scissors for that one).  I'm using a one inch grosgrain ribbon in the picture below because it is easier to see what is going on.
...and you followed the instructions until you had a neatly wrapped package.  Now, you're ready to add ribbon to finish off the look.  I decided to do this tutorial mostly in pictures.  If you're at all a visual person, this will help.  If you're a word person, I'll try to explain what is happening in the pictures.

First, unroll a few feet of ribbon but don't worry about cutting it off the spool.  Make a loop with the end of the ribbon, about as long as you'd expect half of your bow to take.

Then, with your loop held in your left hand, stretch the ribbon horizontally toward the right side of your package, then down and under the package before coming back up the left side to complete one circuit around the box.

At this point, cross the ribbon over the loop-end and fold it down toward you.

Wrap the ribbon down the front of the package, underneath toward the back and back up to the top.

When you bring the ribbon to the top of the package from the back, pull it to the center of the package (where your knot will be), measure off eight or so inches (about as much as looped off at the start) and cut your ribbon off the spool.  Take the now-free end and slide it under the horizontal ribbon on the right side of the knot. 

Tie the two loose ends using an overhand knot and pull tight to be sure the ribbon wrapped around your package is snug.

Before we move onto tying the bow, ou might wonder why I suggest wrapping the ribbon this way.  It is, in all likelihood, different from how you've always done it.  Here's why:

When you wrap the ribbon around the box to the bottom, then twist it and bring it back up to the top to tie your bow, you're left with a knot on the bottom.  The knot will cause your gift to rock when you set it on a flat surface.  When you tie your ribbon this way, it smoothly overlaps on the base of the box.
To make your bow, make a loop with each end of ribbon (it should look like bunny ears), holding a look in each hand.

Tie the two loops using an overhand knot to create your bow.  When you do this, you may pull your loops too far which makes them a little floppy.  It's possible that you might like them that way, but I don't.  To tighten your bow and neaten your loops, pinch the inside of the loop and tug on the tail coming out of that loop.  This should simultaneously tighten the bow and shorten the loop.  Do this to both sides for an even bow.

Finally, finish the ends of your tails.  You can certainly cut across the ribbon on a diagonal, but I generally dovetail the ribbon.  To do this, fold the tail in half length-wise like this:

Then, cut across the folded ribbon at a 45-degree angle.  When you open the ribbon back up, it makes a nice dovetail.  If you fold the ribbon at all at an angle, instead of lining up the edges, your dovetail will be asymmetrical.  If you cut along a curve, your dovetail will be curved.

So there you have it:  a neatly wrapped gift with a professional looking bow on top (okay, this is an unwrapped gift box with a professional looking bow on top, but if you started with last week's tutorial, then you've got both the neatly wrapped package and the bow!).  Happy giftwrapping this holiday season!!

Like last week, I'm linking up with Beth's linky party.  Head over there for more great tutorials!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The MP 2011 Thanksgiving Menu

So J and I did a great job of planning fun outings for Thanksgiving when we first married, but then I went and got seasonal work wrapping gifts at a retail store. Guess what that means for our Thanksgiving weekend?  Yep, it's kind of cut in half by Black Friday which ruins any chance of getting away.  How do we fix that?  Immerse ourselves in the culinary marathon that is Thanksgiving, do a little work on Friday morning, and enjoy a lazy long weekend.  It's different, and it's probably not our first choice, but we count ourselves blessed to have work and an opportunity to break from work, if only for a day.

Yesterday, before I left to train the new gift wrappers at W-S, J and I discussed our Thanksgiving Day menu.  We started with last year's menu, which was pretty amazing, and tweaked to suit our tastes this year.  I thought I'd share it with you guys so you can at least conjure up the delicious tastes we'll be enjoying on Thursday.

First up is the turkey.  Not just any turkey, we'll have turkey brined for 36 hours, then rubbed and stuffed with herbed duck fat.  You've not tasted a more moist, succulent turkey than this one.

We're going without mashed potatoes this year (see below), but there will be gravy made from the duck-fat turkey drippings and some cake flour.  I don't even like gravy, but I certainly had seconds of it last year.

Instead of mashed potatoes, J will make mashed parsnips or celery root (he's not decided yet) and I'm making potatoes romanoff, a baked dish made by first baking potatoes, then chilling them, grating them, mixing them with mass amounts of white cheddar and sour cream, then baking again.  Amazingly good.

There will be also W-S focaccia stuffing and cranberry relish, as well as steamed broccoli for a dash of healthy eating.

For dessert, last year we roasted pumpkins and made our own gingersnap crust for pumpkin pies.  This year, J decided he didn't want pie, so I'll be making pumpkin ice cream instead.  We're going to pick up some gingersnap cookies and whip up some chantilly cream to serve with the ice cream.

I think that's it, though I feel like I should add one very long nap after dinner to the plans!  Between the cooking and the eating, J and I will certainly need one on the schedule!

What are you planning to make for Thanksgiving?  Or are you going out to eat instead?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thoroughly un-Fit

So this is probably the least 'fit' fitness friday ever.  After our fabulous efforts at walking last week, we haven't walked at all this week.  Most of the week it rained, and that's just not something I'm willing to go walk in.  Unfortunately, after the rain came cold.  Since I wasn't exercising, I did feel the need to make a positive change somewhere else--most days this week, I went to work with a big bottle of homemade sprite--a liter of water, a few squirts of lime juice, a long squirt of lemon juice, a teaspoon of Truvia and a CO2 catridge full of bubbles.  I probably still drank more diet coke than is good for me, but I didn't drink as much as last week, and that's got to be a good thing!

There is no real fiscal fitness news to report this week, either, other than to say that we've completely fallen off the limited eating out wagon.  I suppose it is a positive to report that we're not eating out as much as we were a couple months ago, but I also think that kind of thinking leads to the slide back down the slope into more spending.  I had been doing a good job at using cash for eating out, but it's so easy to just hand over the debit card and then not keep track of how much you've spent.

How do you keep from backsliding, either in your diet or your spending habits?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday--November 17

This week, I'm so thankful for my boss.  If you read Sunday's post, you know it was a tough day for me, but after taking Monday for me to think through and process, I sat down with my boss on Tuesday afternoon to talk it through.  Luckily, he's totally got the 'pastoral care' part of his job down, and said everything I needed to hear.  I'm thankful for that, and for the sense of peace that comes with knowing where you stand.

I'm thankful, too, for the opportunity to go back to Williams-Sonoma this holiday season.  I know it sounds crazy, but I still just think it's amazing that someone will pay me to wrap packages.  I'm the kind of person who is generally thinking about five diferent things at a time, so having time set aside to strictly work with my hands and not think about what I'm doing is pretty blessed time (and they pay me for it--crazy!!).

Finally, we've been praying on Sunday's for seasonable weather.  Traditionally, the prayer is for good weather, but several weeks ago, Fr. J asked that I change it to seasonable.  While we've had a few days of steady, cool rain in Central Kentucky, I find it to be seasonable, and I have to be thankful for that.  It is so much easier to accept what we generally think of as poor weather when reminded that this rain is seasonable, and it is good for our earth.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A few of my favorite people

Typically our Acolytes sit in the front of church with the priest and other servers.  Last Sunday, however, we were training two new Acolytes, and there just wasn't room for the extra bodies.  Fr. J sent all of the youth servers to the chapel off to the side of our sanctuary.  I secretly think the kids liked being out of the spotlight, and they certainly mugged for my camera when I popped over for a picture after taking communion!  Aren't these guys awesome??

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brown paper packages...

This week's Tuesday Talent is so flaky it really might have qualified for a Finicky Friday post, but I just had to share it, and if you read through to the end, you'll pick up a How To's-day tutorial, too!

Yesterday, I had my first full shift back at the giftwrap desk at Williams-Sonoma. In five hours, I wrapped more than two dozen packages (most of them pre-wraps in anticipation of sales later this week and next). I had a bit of a slow start (it actually takes a few packages to get back into the groove), but I averaged under ten minutes to wrap a gift from start to finish and was thrilled when, at the end of my shift, I noticed one package was wrapped in five minutes (no, we're no timed; I was just keeping an eye on the clock at that point in the day).

So anyhow, here are my professional tips on how to wrap a present.  Note, this is part one--wrapping the gift.  Part two--adding a ribbon bow--will be posted next week to avoid an insanely long post today!

Before you start wrapping, collect the following:

  • A box, if your gift is not already in one. Boxes are infinitely easier to wrap than oddly shaped items (though personally, I love the challenge!).
  • Wrapping paper. You want a nice, medium weight wrapping paper. The super-thick (read: expensive) stuff is sometimes tough to get sharp edges and smooth folds with. The thin (read: cheap) stuff will rip when you try to pull the paper tight.
  • Tape. I keep both double-sided and traditional scotch tape on hand.
  • Scissors. I keep two pair on hand--one to cut paper and one to cut ribbon. Trying to cut fabric ribbon with scissors used mostly to cut paper will frustrate you and destroy the ribbon.
  • Ribbon. I love a two-inch grosgrain, because it makes beautiful simple bows. If you're going to make a fancy bow, use a wired ribbon. By all means, feel free to use curling ribbon if you like a pile of curly ribbon on the top of your package (and use the paper-cutting scissors for that one).
Now, on to the wrapping part of this tutorial:

Unroll enough paper to wrap all the way around your box, plus a couple inches. You might measure the circumfrence of your box and roll out that much paper, then cut it off to be sure you've got the right amount. Also, measure the width plus the height of the box (shown as the red line in the graphic below), and add a couple of inches to get the width of your paper. Cut (using the paper-cutting scissors!) so that your paper is the right size.
Set your package in the center of the paper, top side of the package facing down and top of the package facing away from you. (The paper that comes with a grid on the back makes this easy, but you don't need a grid. Just eyeball it!)

Pull the edge of the paper closest to you up and onto the back of the package. Secure with tape (I use the regular tape for this step. Then, reach across to the opposite edge and pull that paper up to meet the taped edge. It should overlap by a couple inches. Before you secure it, fold the edge over so it makes a neat edge (no one wants to see the rough cut edge). Secure the neatly folded edge to the package (I use the double-sided tape for this step. Just like no one wants to see a rough cut edge, I don't think they want to see tape).  When you pull the flap over to secure the edge, pull tightly so that the corners are crisp.  Otherwise, you'll have too much extra paper in the next step and your corners will be sloppy.

You should now have a rectangular tube of wrapping paper with a package secured in the middle. There are two ways to address closing up the ends. If your package is flat (like a shirt box or a jewerly box), I prefer method one. If your package is blockier (like almost anything else), I prefer method two.  (Note, in my explanation below, I refer to 'top' and 'bottom' flaps.  I've not moved my package, so the front of my package is on the table, and the 'bottom' flap will be folded up from the front of the package toward the back; the back of the package is facing up and the 'bottom' flap will be folded down toward the front of the package.  Clear as mud?)  
  • Method One: Fold in the front and back sides of each end and secure with tape (regular tape).  This will leave you with a triangle (or maybe a trapezoid) on the top and on the bottom.  Line the edges of the triangle with double-sided tape and fold down to the end of the package.  Then, fold the bottom flap up (without tape).  Notice how far up the package the tip of the triangle goes.  Decide how you want the end to look (flap to the end, flap folded over at the middle of the package).  Unfold it, add double-sided tape, refold and secure.  Repeat for the second end of package.

  • Method Two:  Fold the top side down and secure with regular tape.  Crease the front and back sides, which now look like right triangles.  Line the long edges of both triangles with double-sided tape.  Fold the back side (closest to you) flat against the package and secure.  Fold the front side flat against the package and secure that, as well.  Finally, decide how you want the end to look (flap to the end, flap folded over at the middle of the package). Unfold it, add double-sided tape, refold and secure.  Repeat for the second end.
As I mentioned in the first step, pull the paper tight so that your corners are crisp.  At this point, I pinch my thumb and forefinger together and run it along all of the edges to be sure my edges are well-defined.  It just looks nicer this way, doesn't it?

You should now have a beautifully wrapped package.  Next week, I'll cover accessorizing with ribbon and tying a bow.  I'm doing a gift wrapping training at our store for seasonal employees later this week, so maybe I can sneak pictures of  'good' and 'not so good' examples to share, too!

Finally, I'm planning to link up to Beth's linky party, so if you get here before I've linked to her blog, check back later in the day to see the other cool tutorials!

Home Stories A2Z

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Talents, revisited

Back in January, I wrote a Sunday post based on the Parable of the Talents.  In that case, the parable served as the basis for my Sunday School lesson that day.  I was in a pretty different place last January.  I'd just finished the holiday gift wrapping season at Williams-Sonoma and was still feeling my way through life 'post- Girl Scouts'.  I had started to think about applying for permanent jobs, but still didn't know how much I wanted to work or even which talents I wanted to share with others.

As it happens, ten and a half months later, I find myself working for the church that got me thinking about how to use my talents in the first place.  Today, the same parable was the gospel lesson.  Today was also the day of our parish meeting and the chili-brownie cook-off that I mentioned yesterday (J's turkey chili did not win--that honor went to the vegetarian chili--but I think he may have been in the running for second place).  Needless to say, there was a lot going on. In the midst of the busy day, someone commented to me that (I'm paraphrasing here) I have a lot going on in my personal life and am not doing enough for our children at St. R.

Now, maybe I would have heard this comment differently on a different day, but today's lesson about sharing our talents led me to hear it this way:  I heard someone tell me that my job should be more important than my personal interests.  I don't know if I agree with this.  Yes, I think my job, and doing my job, is important.  In fact, I think that I have this job as a result of the soul searching I did earlier this year and my desire to find something that both paid some bills and met my desire to make a difference in the life of a child.  It's tough, because this job is supposed to only be 20 hours a week (and anyone who's worked a salaried job knows you end up working more than the hours you're paid for), and there's a lot of work to be accomplished in those hours.  I feel like I have brought about some positive changes and introduced some new activities for our youth that weren't present before.

I have two big questions I'm working through now, and I would appreciate your comments to help me work through this.  First, Is it right (of anyone, including myself), to expect me to bury some of my talents because they don't directly relate to my job, even if I'm cultivating those 'other' talents outside of my work schedule?  Second, If you're being paid for a set amount of time, and you're already exceeding that amount of time, should you be expected (again, by anyone, including myself) to give more/do more to meet someone else's expectations?

I kind of feel like the answer to both questions is 'no'.  I think that it is through cultivating all of my talents that I become a mostly-well-adjusted person. Furthermore, I think my job performance is directly related to how I'm feeling about my place in the world, and when I'm well-balanced and well-adjusted in the rest of my life, I'm in a better place at work, too.  I don't think the things I do outside of work (including things I do at church that aren't necessarily work-related) take away from who I am or what I accomplish at work.  If anything, I think they add to who I am and what I do.  Second, I'm working to find balance in my life--something else that results in a generally happier and more well-adjusted JE.  Finding balance means, to me, stopping work when I've crossed off the most immediate and pressing items off my daily to-do list.  It's unfortunate that I work in a place where the most immediate and pressing items that land on my desk aren't generally child-related.  The child (and youth) related work gets done on those rare and blessed days when the list gets crossed off before I hit the four hour mark (my minimum time to be in the office on a daily basis) or more frequently, outside the 20 hours a week I'm paid to be in the office.  It happens before or after or much after, when I really should have left hours before. 

Am I right?  Or am I missing something in my thought process?  Is there another question (or an answer to an unasked question) that I'm missing altogether? 

If I am right, how does one say this?  I feel like anyone who would suggest I'm not doing my job isn't going to respond well to an argument that counters this line of thinking.  I feel like the comment is a passive-aggressive attempt to send me on some sort of guilt trip, and I'm not inclined to accomodate that.  I am inclined to address it.  I just don't know how to do that...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday smells like...turkey and chicken

This Sunday marks the return of the Chili-Brownie Cook-off to St. R.  Now, I don't know how long the break has been (at least three years), but the folks at our church who remember the Chili-Brownie Cook-off seem pretty excited that the tradition has been revived.  J, of course, is never one to miss an opportunity to cook, so he's been working on his entry all day. 

For starters, he decided to make a turkey chili, so he went to Kroger this morning to get everything he needed.  (Did I mention how well my grocery shopping went this week?  Yeah, that clearly wasn't enough...)  By the time I got back from my DAR meeting, he had a stock pot full of turkey and vegetables cooking down, as well as lentils and other vegetables in the crockpot.  When I looked in the fridge, I found a whole chicken rubbed with herbs.  Later, when the turkey stock had finished cooking down, he used some of it to brine the chicken.  I imagine this is going to be one tasty bird when he roasts it tomorrow (yes, he brought it into the bedroom to show me his handiwork...I thought it only fair that I share with you!)!

I'll let you know tomorrow how the turkey chili does in the cook-off!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fitness-Check Friday

Most weeks I gloss over the physical part of my fitness check-in and head straight for the fiscal part.  This week, I'm thrilled to have news to share on both fronts!  (Yeah...some days this blog is lamer than is probably one of those days.)

On the physical fitness front, J and I walked eleven and a half miles this week.  The odds of us hitting 150 miles for the year (not to mention running a half marathon) are pretty slim, but I think we might get close.  (Here's how:  we're spotting ourselves fifty, because even though we didn't record it, we did go through phases of walking/running in 2011 and we probably got in around fifty total).  In addition to just feeling generally good about exercising, we're also feeling better in general.  Gotta love positive unintended consequences of good choices.

With regard to our fiscal fitness, we've been making progress there, too!  While we did better the first half of October than the second, we still finished the month with a much more balanced food budget.  As a result of working on the food budget, as well as being generally more aware of our spending, we were able to cut our credit card bill in half (it wasn't huge to start with, but it was higher than we were comfortable with and half is a good number).  I did our weekly shopping yesterday at Aldi and continue to be amazed by how far our dollar stretches there.  (Granted, it stretches much further when I'm the one shopping...)  I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday--November 10

I try to be thankful throughout the week, and more often than not, I forget what I was thankful for long before I get around to writing my Thursday blogpost.  This week, though, I've managed to remember most of what I've been thankful for (yay!).

First, I'm thankful that J and I live in a community that places value on building sidewalks and walking trails.  Yes, Lexington may have recently been named the most sedentary city in America, but the local government has put so much effort into developing a system of walking trails in recent years.  On Saturday, J and I stepped out of our back gate for a quick walk on our local trail.  About 3/4 of a mile into the walk (typically 2.5 miles around the trail and back to our gate), J mentioned that he was kind of hungry.  I suggested we call in an order to a local barbeque place.  He (or I...we're not sure) suggested we walk there to pick it up. We cut across the grounds of the Christian school next to our park and walked on a nice, wide sidewalk to another walking trail about a mile from ours.  At the edge of that trail, J crossed the street to the restaurant while I waited and walked a little more with Zep.  Then, we found our way home a different way, but always on nice sidewalks.  Total walk:  4 miles, maybe a quarter of a mile of it 'off-road'.  For a city that hasn't always been friendly to walkers, we were pretty impressed.  Tuesday, we followed our trek up by walking to our local polling place to vote before work.  Total walk that day: 2.5 miles, all on a walking trail.

Secondly, I'm thankful for my brother, my dad, my grandfathers, and everyone in our country who've given up their own lives to give the rest of us the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness.  Happy Veterans Day tomorrow!

Finally, I had the longest day yesterday.  In fact, I divided it into sections in my mind and gave J updates as each section was accomplished.  I started the day at a 7:00 a.m. meeting and didn't finish until I'd finished a 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. decorating shift for the Holly Day Market.  In between, I got to share Stella & Dot with some folks, I got to spend a couple hours at work, I got to speak to a DAR chapter about our DAR Schools, and I got to be crafty and creative.  At some point, I think around 10:30 or so, I was tired and ready to call in the rest of the day and just take a nap.  But then I realized--I get to do all of these things today.  Every single bit of my crazy busy day is something I've chosen to do.  And I have crafted such a life for myself (and J has supported me in crafting such a life) that I didn't have to worry about taking a day off or asking anyone permission to make it all happy.  It's in moments like that one that I realize how very blessed I am, and I remember to be thankful for those many blessings.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's your favorite color, baby?

UK fans will recognize this post's title as the start to a UK cheer and promptly respond "Blue and White!"  Though I have to say, last Wednesday, there was a heavy dose of crimson-loving in Rupp Arena, even among those of us decked out in UK blue.  Here's a shot of J and me at the UK-Transy game:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Craft Room Update

So last week I told you about the changes I'm making to my craft room to accomodate my new daybed, and yesterday I mentioned a little more.  Now, I'm ready to show you a close-up of where my daybed has been placed.  There is definitely still work to be done on the room, but I'm pleased with the progress so far!

First, I definitely decided to put the daybed under the window at the end of the room, instead of along the wall just inside the door.  I also decided to slide the bookshelf down into the spot I'd initially picked out for the daybed.  I'm not sure what should go into the place where it was, but I'm sure something will find its way there.  Here is the view from my desk (please ignore the mess on the desk--I'm not ready to deal with that, yet):

It's almost funny to me that I'd never considered this layout, since I love how symmetrical and orderly it is now.  You can't tell, but there is a space between the desk and the bed so you can walk through.  One of the things I love about my desk is how you could walk around it (this is more useful when I'm using it as a craft table...not so much when I use it as a catchall), so I'm glad that the daybed actually makes use of that space, too.

I plan, someday, to recover the daybed, but since it is an upholstered mattress rather than just a covered cushion, I think it will be some time before I am crazy enough to take on that project (or smart enough to hire it out).  In the meantime, the soft gold fabric works for me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Plan B

So last weekend my mom and I worked on my craft room.  We straightened and organized and mostly cleared out the spot I had in mind for my new daybed.  In fact, all that was really left to clear out was a full trash bag (that I filled when I cleaned out my old car 2008) and a box in the corner (and a few things stacked on top of the box).  Not much at all, and I figured I could get through it all pretty quickly.

In general, I was right.  I have a general system when it comes to organizing, which is to say take my first pile (or bag, or box) and make several piles out of it.  A pile to keep (which may be seperated into several different piles), a pile to donate and a pile to throw away (I learned this system from an old TLC show).  Now, this is only a partly successsful system for me, because I generally don't do anything with the "keep" pile; I just push it together into its own new pile and go about my business feeling good about having a smaller pile (because I can guarantee that 2008 JE kept a bunch of stuff in her car that was ready for the trash can or Goodwill).  So clearing out the trashbag and other small bags/boxes went pretty well. I had a great donate pile, a full bag of trash, and a medium sized pile of things to save (most of which wouldn't pass J's "save" test, but pass mine in the name of baby steps).

Feeling pretty good about myself, I moved on to the box.  Now, the box was labeled "Kitchen/Pictures" so I suspected that it might have been packed when I moved out of my apartment in 2007, but that more likely it had been emptied and re-packed a few years ago when my mom and I tackled the craft room during one of her visits.  I was wrong.  It was packed up four years ago, deposited by the movers in this corner, and left.  I found four binders full of grad school notes, several framed items, my old toaster oven and the crock pot that I was sure must have been donated to Goodwill on accident back in '07. 

Now, the toaster went straight to the Goodwill pile.  I'm not so certain about the crock pot (Side note:  this was a pretty nice crock pot and as a result, I didn't register for one when we got married.  When I couldn't find it, I decided to suck it up and deal with using J's old crock pot, until we finally bought one for ourselves a couple years ago.  Now, because I adhere to the 'you can never have too many crock pots' mentality, I hung on to J's 'just in case'.  I finally convinced myself to let go of it last week.  So I'm pretty sure this is the universe's way of telling me that I was right, and that only by letting go of the old crock pot could I be brought back together with my first crock pot.  So I can't just take this one off to Goodwill.  Can I?). 

The framed items are another story:  several pictures of me with my sisters, a couple of cross-stitch ADPi pieces my mom made, an old mirror--all things that should probably find a home on the walls in my craft room.  Oh, and a framed picture of me with an old boyfriend.  Not quite sure what to do with that.  WHAT?, you're thinking.  Why would you hang on to that?  Well, here's the thing.  This is a picture from 2003 (I think), and he's wearing a tee-shirt that says "Plan B".  Now, I'm a girl who looks for purpose and signs and reasons to make things work (see previous paragraph on why I shouldn't throw out a crock pot I lived without for four years).  I know I looked at that picture a thousand times, and I know that it was looked at by an awful lot of people since it sat on my desk at work for at least a year.  I don't recall ever noticing or explaining his tee-shirt.  (For the record, he belonged to a game group called Plan B, and they had tee-shirts made up.  But no one knew that.) To the outsider (or me, when I glanced at it today), it kind of looks like he was proclaiming to be my Plan B.  Like those "I'm with stupid" tee-shirts that suggest everyone is in on the joke, we were walking around with a giant neon sign declaring that we weren't anything lasting.  How on earth did I miss that sign?  I'm not sure, but I suspect it is that I wasn't looking for it.  Just like I wasn't yet looking for my Plan A, the guy snoozing on my couch downstairs pretending to watch football. I'm kind of tempted to keep the picture out as a reminder to me.   Or maybe to tuck it in another box to pull out in another four or five years.

Oh, and I've decided not to put the daybed where I thought, so the bookshelf is now in the spot I just cleaned.  And I've moved on to Plan B in the craft room.  With luck, you'll see a picture of that tomorrow.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday--November 3

This week, I'm especially thankful for the DAR lady who made it possible for me to buy my dream daybed, for my mom who helped me rearrange my craft room so it will fit, and the good friend who is taking me to pick it up tomorrow (thank goodness for husbands with pickup trucks!)

I'm thankful, too, for the partner at J's office who gave us his tickets to the UK-Transy game last night.  I think we've gotten tickets to an exhibition gave from him every year for the last four or five years, and last night's was particularly special since J is both a Transylvania grad and a UK grad.  Transy actually came out in front and hung in the game for most of the first half, and it was really fun to cheer for both sides!

Finally, I'm thankful for my jobs, all three of them.  Each has had a pretty cool shining moment this week, and as a result, I've been reminded to appreciate each in its own way.  Kind of a cool thing.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One last look... Halloween at the MP.  After my last trick-or-treater Monday night, I slipped out front with the camera to capture the porch our 40 or so munchkins came to.  I seriously love Julius, my halloween flag, my scary tree (on my fabulous storm door), my pumpkin and even my scraggly mums.  I love the look they pull together.  It feels decidedly the way I feel when I picture "grown-up JE" in my head.  I hope you all had a Happy Halloween and are ready to embrace the season of Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Checkerboard shelves

So this is probably stretching it, and I'll be irritated tomorrow when I don't have a picture for Wordless Wednesday, but I just wanted to share this picture of the shelves in the craft room.

I started buying these photo boxes several years ago (if you clicked through yesterday's post to the picture of my craft room back in 2008, you saw the beginnings of this collection).  When my mom and I moved the bookcase upstairs (it used to be in the library in our basement, but was removed when we got our barrister shelves), I discovered that three boxes would stack on each shelf.  Mom took over the placement strategy, and we ended up with this awesome checkerboard.  You might notice that a few are still unopened.  I bought ten a month or so ago, and haven't needed to use them.  Then, after putting everything on the shelf the other night, mom noticed that I was 5 white boxes short of a perfect pattern.  I picked those up yesterday, thanks to a sale at Michael's. 

Most of the boxes are labeled, and it is (so far, at least) a pretty well-organized crafting system.  I commented to my mom how strange it is that someone who can be so cluttered can also be so very OCD about having her craft supplies so very organized.  I totally love it.