Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday smells like...steak and eggs

I woke up this morning to the sizzle of a frying pan.  Unsure of what J might be doing, but happy as long as the smoke detector wasn't going off, I snuggled back down under the covers.  A few minutes later, J appeared with breakfast in bed:  an egg over medium (cooked by splashing a bit of bacon grease over the top of the egg so you never actually have to flip it/risk breaking the yolk) and filet mignon.  We didn't catch a picture of the eggs, but J did manage to take a picture of the 'spare' steak--

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday--January 26

Wow, this week (and this month!) has flown by!

This week, I'm really thankful for J. He's been an awesome partner this week, and I'm so blessed to be able to share my life with him.

I'm thankful, too, for the opportunity to bake and decorate cakes for our friends. B's little boy Superman turns six soon and will be celebrating with a robot-themed party (you can see the tractor cake I made for him last year here). I've sketched out the cutest little robot, and I can't wait to bring it to life in his birthday cake!

Finally, I'm thankful for a peaceful week at work. I'm not entirely sure why or how, but I've actually managed to accomplish a lot in less time than usual this week, which is such a blessing! (It might have something to do with Fr. Johnnie being out of town, but you didn't hear me say that!)

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crossing the Threshold

What's this?  Could it be?  Why yes, my favorite social worker, it is

I finally installed the threshold between our hardwood in the hallway and the marble tile floor J months ago.  While I didn't really notice it not being there, I have to confess that I love having it in place.  I've pointed it out to J more times in the past two days than either of us would care to count.  I puposefully change my gait so my foot can step on it as I enter or exit the bathroom.  It's a little out of hand, but I'm wallowing in the blissfulness of it while it lasts.

Oh, worth pointing out that Zep does not like the new threshold.  Turns out it is just the perfect little ramp for tennis balls to roll into the bathroom and most frequently under the vanity.  Zep hates to step onto the tile floor, so the new threshold is not a happy development for him, at all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to...polish silver

I  mentioned on Saturday that the MP was being cleaned.  The cleaning lady and her crew were phenomenal, and that evening I realized that my silver coffee and tea service looked awful in comparison (read more about where the service came from and why it's so special to me here).  I was on the phone with my mom and mentioned it to her, and she (quite logically) suggested I polish it. 

Now, I know you're probably thinking polishing silver isn't really a talent, and probably not worth a How-To post, either.  I thought so, too.  But the more I thought about it, the more I recalled blogposts I've read where people talk about finding old silver trays, bowls, pitchers, etc. at estate sales or in antique shops.  Even if you don't have silver as family heirlooms, you quite possibly have something old and tarnished that you've picked up in one of these places, or even at a yardsale (like my Revere Bowl).  Polishing can bring new life into your old silver objects, and makes it so much more enjoyable!

So I asked mom her advice on the best way to polish silver, and she gave me the following instructions.  (Far easier than I'd expected, and completely effective!)  First, gather the following:
  • Silver polish (I have Hagerty's)
  • A clean, soft cloth (I used a regular cotton washcloth)
  • A sink full of warm (not hot), soapy water
  • A clean, soft towel  (I used an all-purpose cotton kitchen towel from Williams-Sonoma because it dried better than a non-cotton towel)
  • Another towel to place dried silver on
Start with the cloth and bottle of silver polish.  Pour out a small amount onto your cloth and rub it all over your piece of silver.  I'd almost describe it as buffing, and the polish will turn a grey color (and depending on how tarnished your silver is, your cloth may turn black).  Once you've covered the piece in polish, take it over to the sink.  Wash the silver in the warm water and immediately dry it using that dishtowel.  Be careful to handle the clean silver carefully, as your fingerprints will show!  Place your piece on the second towel to finish drying.

Want to see what a difference you can make?

On the left is the freshly polished sugar bowl; on the right is the still-tarnished creamer.  Huge difference, right?  Altogether, it took me under an hour to polish all five pieces of the coffe and tea service, as well as my Revere Bowl.  Insanely quick and easy, but totally worth it!

I'm linking up with Beth's Tutorials & Tips party, because I figure there have got to be more young women like me who aren't quite sure how to polish up the tarnished silver they've found!  Head over for more great ideas--there are some great DIY Valentine's items popping up over there!!

Home Stories A2Z

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Smells like... Cleaning Products

If you came here today looking for a food post, I'm afraid you're in for a little disappointment.  J is in Bowling Green visiting a friend and I'm hanging out in my craft room while the new cleaning lady and her crew "deep clean" the rest of the MP.  Y'all.  I didn't think I was terribly concerned about the whole "green" vs. "traditional" cleaning products debate, but after two hours of the stuff pemeating the house (and I've been told to expect her to be here for eight), I'm thinking I may get on the "green" wagon.  My head is already starting to bug me, and all I can think is that it will take days for our house to smell clean (as opposed to "clean") again.  Don't get me wrong--I'm thrilled about the deep cleaning; I'm just not thrilled with the chemicals Zep and I are inhaling.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday--January 19

I love three day weekends.  Not for me so much, as when J has one.  Something about him having the opportunity to relax makes me a little more relaxed, too.  As strange as it sounds, relaxing helps me focus.  I'm accomplished more things on my to do list this week, and I really think it has something to do with J having a few days off.  I need to figure out how to arrange more of those!

This week, I'm especially thankful for technology.  Even though it doesn't always work the way we'd like (scroll down to see the Wordless Wednesday post I thought I posted yesterday!), the internet is a pretty amazing tool.  This week alone, we've used the internet to find a new cleaning lady, enroll in a class to help us (or me, at least) embrace our 2012 word (open), and even kind of validate my decision to call my regular mechanic again (after the whole transmission issue, J has doubts.  But apparently, there isn't much to choose from in this town).  I'm not thankful for car troubles, by the way.  I really don't have the time or energy for that!

Finally, I'm so thankful for our friends B/D & K/D.  On Monday morning, K received a job offer and that evening we all found ourselves sitting around a table at a local restaurant celebrating.  Not just K (who totally deserves this awesome new work environment), but everyone.  It was just the coolest experience--sharing food and chips, passing around B&D's children, just generally loving each other in community.  Definitely a blessing to be counted.

How is your week going?  What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Come and see...

J and I taught Children's Chapel on Sunday.  Well, let me make that more clear...I tried to teach and J provided crowd control.  We must have been pretty successful, since a mom told me today that her second grader told her all about the lesson, and he actually got it pretty close to right.  Anyhow, the Gospel reading for Sunday was John 1:43-51.  In Children's Chapel we sort of paraphrase the Gospel reading in terms the kids can understand, then try to relate it to something the kids understand.  This lesson turned into something along the lines of "Jesus was friends with Phillip and he asked him to come help spread the message, and Phillip asked his friend Nathanael to come help, too.  Nathanael didn't know Jesus, but Phillip convinced him to come anyway, and then they all became friends."  Then, to be sure everyone got the message, we pulled out the crayons and paper and drew the story.  J was pretty proud of his (cloud by the second grader mentioned above).
That's Jesus on the left (the purple robe is J's attempt at symbolism in crayon) and Phillip in the center pulling in Nathanael's boat.  In another turn at symbolism, Nathanael is only partly showing as a symbol for his hesitation to get involved with this Jesus character.  J's picture, and mine, are up on my bulletin board at work.  We're that proud.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How to...Send a Party in a Box

My cousin had a baby last month. I was kind of busy wrapping gifts for everyone under the sun, and I sort of forgot about it (not about the baby exactly, just about the social norm of buying a gift before the kid is walking and talking). Finally, last Monday I managed to both remember the need to buy a gift and to find myself the time to pick one up. My friend K and I were running errands on the right side of town, so I swung into Babies-R-Us to find something. K is amazing at baby gifts (Seriously. I’ve seen her in action and considered slipping my inferior gifts back in my bag so as not to be totally upstaged by her awesomeness. She’s that good). We printed out the remaining items on the registry, and K led the way to useful baby products.

After filling my basket with a pile of pint-sized necessities, we headed over to giftwrap. It was right about then that I came up with my awesome packaging plan. One of the blogs I read is Dusty’s All Things G&D, and back in November she wrote a post called Birthday Party in a Box. Genius. Meet: Baby Shower in a Box.

Dusty uses flat rate boxes from the post office, but since I had a box upstairs that I thought would work, I tweaked the lining a bit.  Her suggestion to open the box flat and line the entire interior with one piece of wrapping paper is definitely superior.  I used one rectangular piece for most of the box and patched in the odd shapes.  On the other hand, I used spray adhesive (instead of a gluestick) which worked really well. Next time I’ll cut the paper her way and glue it my way. That should create perfection, I think…

After lining the inside of the box, I added a bit of tissue paper and the gifts:

To top it off, I added another piece of tissue and scattered some confetti I made. To make your own, just grab a hole-punch. My 1/8” hole-punch has a little plastic piece that catches the holes (dots?), which makes it much easier to corral your confetti!  Finally, I made a banner (out of the same cardstock I used for the confetti and a length of ribbon) that says Congratulations. Using SuperGlue, I attached each end of the banner to the flaps of the box. This way, when she opens it the banner will pop up and wave nicely. Cute, right?  You can't really tell in the picture, but the flaps hold the banner out over the package by an inch or two.

In all, this only took an hour or two to complete.  My method for papering the inside of the box definitely added time that I wouldn't need to include using Dusty's method. Regardless, it was time well spent.  For someone who is as committed to the presentation of the gift as I am, the Party in a Box idea definitely takes your gift to the next level, and isn't that what you want when you can't be there to present the gift yourself?

Let me know if you have questions!  Also, I haven't linked a tutorial to Home Stories A2Z lately (still Beth's blog, slightly tweaked name), but I thought this post might be worth a link!  Head on over for more great tutorials and tips!!

Home Stories A2Z

MP Goals for 2012

I managed to post our fitness goals for 2012 a couple weeks ago, but I realized that I've not posted our other goals, or our family phrase for the new year. 

In terms of goals around the MP, well, they look a lot like last year:  put new gutters on the house and replace our deck.  Other smaller projects, like finishing the library and my craft room redo, are also on the list, but the gutters and deck are definitely the most expensive (and most important) items for us to think about.

Our family phrase last year was a reminder to listen for God-whispers.  Considerng that I've ended up working at our church, I'm pretty sure we listened.  This year, we've chosen a single word to guide us.  The word? 

This came to us for a couple of reasons.  First, I mentioned in a Thankful Thursday post a couple weeks ago how much I appreciate J for being open and honest.  We've had several conversations lately that seem elevated by his (our) commitment to being open and honest with each other.  While not necessarily easy, approaching tough conversations that way seems to lead to a respectful and loving discourse.  I hope that we'll continue to be open with each other throughout 2012.

In addition, we're not sure what 2012 has in store for us.  We hope, though, to be open to the possibilities.  Open to the God-whispers and the God-beatings-about-the-head.  Open to new adventures and to things that don't go our way.  What will you be open to in 2012?

I'm planning to link up to The Lettered Cottage's blog party today.  If you happen to get here before I do, come back later and check out the folks who've shared their Word for 2012!

The Lettered Cottage

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fitness Friday--January 13

So it turns out Weight Watchers gives out stickers!  I received my 5 pound sticker at Monday's meeting.  This week hasn't been nearly as good as last week, so I'm just hoping to not gain weight.  I don't think they'd take their sticker back...  I'll let you know next week!

Like I mentioned yesterday, we're heading down to Cumberland Falls this weekend.  My fitness goal for the weekend?  Hike from the cabin down to the falls and back.  The guys do it every year and J assures me that it's tough.  Wish me luck!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thankful Thursday--January 12

This week I'm so thankful that J is almost back to healthy, particularly since I've been hit with a nasty sinus infection.  So my thankfulness for modern medicine continues as I down regular doses of sudafed and steroids and nasal sprays.  Wish me luck!  (Oh, and wish J luck too, because a sick JE is kind of whiny...)

I'm thankful, too, for January weekends with dear friends.  Last weekend I was in DAR-world at a B&B in Bardstown; this weekend we're off to Cumberland Falls State Park with our game group.  Such a wonderful chance to unplug and unwind!

Finally, I'm thankful for Zeppelin's kennel, which he loves!  If you're in Lexington, I highly recommend Keshlynn Kennel!  It's out on Delong Road and an overnight stay includes walks in the country.  Like I said, Zeppelin loves it there.  As soon as we turn onto Delong, he hops up and looks around excitedly.  It's nice to know that while J and I enjoy a weekend with those we love, Zeppelin will too.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Raindrops on Roses

Actually, there aren't any raindrops on these roses (or even snowflakes for that matter...where is winter this year?), but they are my favorite thing in the kitchen today!  Thanks to J for this month's anniversary gift--a dozen white and pink roses to brighten our post-Christmas doldrums! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fourth Friday Fitness Check

Hi there! 

I'm almost through my third week of Weight Watchers and continue to see the weight come off, slowly but steadily.  At my 'official' weigh-in on Monday, I was down 7.8 pounds total.  My first WW goal is 5% of my body weight, and I'm not there yet.  I think I'm still a couple (three?) weeks away from that, and I'm trying really hard to be okay with that.  J reminds me that I'm not on a crash diet; I'm trying to become more aware of portion size and a healthier lifestyle.  I'm trying to be open to that idea.  I'm definitely coming to terms with the "eat less" part of the equation better than the "move more" part.  I did buy a pedometer last week, and I enjoy checking it to see how I'm doing throughout the day.  If anything, I've learned that I'm horribly sedentary, especially during the work week.  While I'm working every day to walk a few more steps, I've got a long way to go.

How are your fitness efforts going?

Saturday smells like... lettuce wrapped echiladas

It was late last night before I took the time to let myself be hungry.  Too late, really.  Well, too late to have gone without a snack.With this whole point counting thing, I'm hesitant to just randomly snack on any stray cookie.  Even though I've not come close to using up the "extra" points they give you, I'm still all about being careful.  Until I'm starving.  Then I'm still careful, but I'm also a little grumpy and snappy.  There was a recipe for enchiladas in my weight watchers cookbook that interested me, but we didn't have tortillas.  And in my hungry state, I wasn't about to let J embark on tortilla making.  Instead, we decided to use romaine heart leaves instead.  So the recipe (our recipe; not exactly the one in the book after J got involved):

1 pound ground beef, browned
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pkt taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
2 8oz. cans of tomato sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
green onion for garnish
lettuce leaves

Brown the ground beef, drain, add the taco seasoning and 2/3 cup water and simmer.  Add in the onions and garlic.  Simmer a little more.  Add tomato sauce, bring to boil, then simmer for five minutes.  While simmering, add in some random herbs and spices you think might add something.  Seriously, I'm not sure what J was adding, but he promised it wouldn't add points.  After five minutes, remove from heat and stir in cheese.  Dish into lettuce leaves.  Garnish with green onion.

One serving is about one cup.  In the picture above, there are two servings (I was seriously hungry and thought I needed that much.  I didn't.  I barely finished it.).

Oh, and then discover that your lettuce leaves weren't quite right and attack the dish with a fork and knife.  J didn't even try; he just tore his lettuce and served it like a naked taco salad (below).  But I'm certain that the lettuce wrap idea is still possible.

Friday, January 6, 2012

First Fitness Friday of 2012

J and I have a few physical fitness goals for 2012, among them to lose weight and exercise.  (Specifically, J would like to lose another 40 pounds this year, and I'd like to lose 25.  In addition, we'd both like to run 150 miles.  Yes, that's the same as last year, but we figure we might as well try again.)  One week in, we're doing okay.  I told you Wednesday that I started Weight Watchers this week, and I'm down a few pounds already.  J has re-committed to Atkins, and he's down a couple pounds this week, too.  As for exercise, well...  Y'all.  It's cold outside.  And J has bronchitis (see yesterday's post).  Exercise just isn't happening yet.  We're starting though, and that's got to be worth something.

With respect to fiscal fitness, J and I are thrilled to be starting off 2012 with a credit card balance of $0.  It wasn't easy last Fall to cut back on our food spending or our Christmas spending (not to mention my crazy idea to work 50 hours a week between two part time jobs for six weeks), but starting fresh this year makes it all worth it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thankful Thursday--January 5

It feels so strange to type January in a Thankful Thursday post title (in fact, I started to type December before I caught myself).  It feels a little strange, too, to be back at work this week.  I think I could have taken another week off and been okay with that. Of course, I've voluntarily been at work late two days in a row, so it must not be that bad, right?

So this week, in addition to being thankful for my job, I'm thankful for the amazing volunteers at St. R. This week I've had two ladies in helping with the office, we've had a gentleman in working on electrical, I've been printing the newsletter (edited by another volunteer and folded/mailed by yet another), and half a dozen folks have offered to taken on answering phones for a couple hours every month to allow me to shut my door, turn off the phone and get a little work done.  It's a good thing.

I'm thankful too for J, who's been so supportive of me this week and who values open and honest discussion.

Finally, I'm thankful for modern medicine and the assurance that even when we're broken, our broken-ness isn't necessarily irreparable.  Update:  J has bronchitis--yay!  Why "yay"?  Because I was afraid it was pneumonia, and the drugs prescribed will heal him, rather than letting the infection worsen into pneumonia anyway!

So what are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

If Fergie can do it...

While I've certainly been for a few rides on the weight roller coaster, I never thought the roller coaster would deliver me here:

Yep, I signed up for Weight Watchers.  I spent some time the other day thinking about the times when weight loss has been easiest and most successful for me.  Without fail, those times involved positive peer pressure.  Whether my college room/dormates or my Girl Scout co-workers, having a group to be accountable to seems to be the thing that makes it stick for me.  So now, when my roommate is a guy and my co-workers are mostly guys, there just aren't any woman to ask how the scale looked or if I've been stealing cookies instead of exercising. 

Two days in, it's surprisingly easy.  I thought counting points would be tedious, but it turns out the 'green' geek in me is okay with it.  I'll keep you posted.

Oh, BTW, the title is referencing the former Princess, not the pop singer.  Just in case that wasn't clear...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to...remember this year forever

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a project on Design*Sponge that really struck me as a great idea.  It's a perpetual calendar/journal, and I ended up making one for myself as well as one each for my friends K & B as Christmas gifts. 

I pretty much followed the directions in the Design*Sponge post, so if you'd like to make your own, I encourage you to click over there.  The big differences for me were the monthly dividers (I cut up a sturdy calendar with beautiful pictures) and the container used.  Any rectangular container without a lid will work; I used metal boxes I found at Dollar Tree and took the lids off. 

The biggest concern from my recipients has been how to record your day in just a few words.  They're right; it isn't easy.  But, this is why it's worth it--  The cards I used have 13 lines on them.  If I use half the card to describe my day, then the calendar/journal becomes worthless in two years when the cards are full.  If I keep each day to one line, then I've got a useful calendar/journal for 13 years.  Certainly, if you're a journaler (is that even a word?), you'll want to keep your regular journal at hand.  This is more helpful for reflecting and remembering year after year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Freestyle Sausage

Happy New Year!!

We finished up the sausage so late on Saturday that I figured I'd swing the pictures into their own blog post.  So I left off yesterday with a picture of the food grinder grinding out some fresh ground beef.  Today's picks up loking much the same, except with cubed, seasoned pork.  Here's a shot of the chorizo in progress:

and the chorizo all bagged up and ready for weigh-in on our new scale:

J plans to use the chorizo in dishes so this turned out to be the much easier of the two types of sausage we made.  I plan to use the breakfast sausage as a side for our breakfasts, and I prefer it as links, so of course we had to try out the sausage stuffing attachment and the sausage casings I got J for Christmas.

Now, let me insert here that there are any number of totally inappropriate jokes or comments that could be made in this post.  That said, my folks read this blog, so I'm going to leave out the one or two that J and I came up with.  Feel free to make up your own and laugh on the inside.  So, moving on.

The breakfast sausage starts much like the chorizo, but after the pork was ground into sausage, we ran it back through the food grinder with the sausage stuffing attachment attached.  Before you can turn the machine on, though, you have to measure out a length of casement, tie a knot in one end, and slide the casing entirely onto the attachment.  Then you turn the machine on and procede to fill the casing, like this:

Actually, I found it easier to twist off links as the casing filled, so our second and third casings didn't coil up neatly like in the picture above.  I didn't realize until we started that this was going to be a two person, four hand kind of job, so there aren't nearly as many pictures as I'd hoped to take.  I did manage to take one of the second and third casings on the scale.  We ended up with about a pound and a half of breakfast links between all three casings.

Aren't they cute??  We cooked the extra that didn't fit into the third casing and were very pleased with it, too.

Between the sausage making and the Big Bang Theory marathon on TBS, J and I had a pretty boring but thoroughly enjoyable New Year's Eve.  While it wasn't the weekend we had planned, it was a nice way to close out 2011.