Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'tis the season for various shopping trips

Many nights during dinner Matt and I talk about work, but tonight we had a little musical challenge, called "scroll through Pandora and see who can name more singers/songs."

Matt guessed Eric Church for every single country song.

When an Eric Church song FINALLY came on, he guessed, completely seriously, Curt Clifton.

If you're wondering why you haven't yet heard of the musical stylings of Curt Clifton, that would be because, to the best of my knowledge, no such singer exists.

Matt left for a hunting trip last Thursday, so I was solo for a few days.  I couldn't wait for Friday night to arrive, because I had big plans,  First I went to Sam's Club, and walked up and down every single aisle, taking it all in.  And then I came home and ate cheese and crackers for dinner and slept with all the lights on.  It was glorious.

On Saturday my mom and I did a little Christmas shopping.  I crossed one last gift off my list, and also bought myself a white fur Christmas tree for our mantel.  Matt got home on Saturday night, with the unfortunate news that the only deer they saw the whole weekend was in the driveway on their way to dinner.  The disappointment didn't last for long though, because finally, Penn State won the Big 10 championship game.  I may have teared up with joy.

Sunday marked one year of owning our house.  Sometimes it feels like we haven't made much progress, because HELLO, WALLPAPER EVERYWHERE, but we've done the office, the master bedroom, and the family room from top to bottom, bought a new couch, built a chicken coop and gotten three chickens, taken down two big old trees, planted 20 new trees, had a successful vegetable garden, converted the fireplace from gas to wood, built a new wall in the family room, replaced the back door, and replaced all of the water pipes in the laundry room.

I guess looking back, we've been busy.

On Sunday we decided that if we stayed home for the afternoon, we would spend money on a house project, so we celebrated our house-iversary by leaving the house and heading downtown to Philadelphia's Christmas Village.

We wandered around the Christmas market, bought a souvenir, and stopped by the ice skating rink.  It may sound lovely and straight out of a Hallmark movie to ice skate in a Christmas Village right next to historic city hall, but we watched the rink for a few minutes and I am here to tell you that not one person on that rink was having fun.  Especially not the dad in this photo literally carrying his child around the rink.  There were so many tears.

Needless to say, Matt and I stayed on solid ground.

After the Christmas market, we wandered through Reading Terminal Market.

I could've eaten every single thing in there.  It was a lot more exciting than how I started the weekend, wandering through Sam's Club.

They also had a musician singing carols.

Maybe it was Curt Clifton.

Friday, December 2, 2016

fa la la la la

Last Friday, we had a man come to take a look at our fireplace. It was originally a wood-burning fireplace, but the previous owners converted it to gas.  We've been talking about converting it back to wood-burning, because there's nothing like hearing the wood crackle, and also we chopped down a big tree last year and need something to do with the wood.

We expected the whole thing to cost a few hundred dollars, but the fireplace man told us all we had to do was cap the gas line and we'd be good to go and it would cost zero dollars.

Well Matt took that bit of info and ran with it.  An hour and a trip to Home Depot later and he was in the garage with a pair of giant pliers wrapped around the gas line.  Anything involving gas lines makes me nervous, so I told Matt I'd be on the opposite end of the house until the situation was resolved.

"Okay," he said, "I know what I'm doing.  But on the off chance you hear me yell, run for the hills."

After half an hour I couldn't stand it anymore and went back to the garage to check on Matt.  

"Everything is fine," he said, "I bet you think I do this for a living."

Ah, yes.  That's just the thought I was having.

A little while later, Matt had successfully plugged the gas line, removed the pipes, and it was time to stoke a fire.

Unfortunately it was also time to go Black Friday shopping with Emily, but Matt had a fire lit when I got home.

We also put up our outdoor Christmas lights on Friday.

Since we moved in a few weeks before Christmas last year, we didn't put up outdoor lights.  But we talked about our plans for outdoor illumination all year and Matt was ready to execute that plan.

When I pictured decorating the house for Christmas, I pictured carols playing and mugs of hot cocoa and both of us wearing Santa hats while snowflakes fell down around us.  What happened was both of us complaining about the quality of cheap lights made in China and a rickety old ladder with a brick shoved under one side to make it somewhat level while Matt gave a safety lecture about three points of contact when climbing a ladder.

I think it's just what Andy Williams had in mind when he sang about the most wonderful time of the year.

Matt cooked dinner this weekend and biscuits were on the menu.  I walked in when he was cooking and I noticed that the biscuits were on a baking sheet kind of shoved next to the coffee machine, but I didn't think much of it.  But when dinner was all ready and I plopped a biscuit on my plate, I saw that Matt had put hearts on each biscuit.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

we literally shopped till we dropped

Emily and I decided to do some shopping this Black Friday, because there's nothing like an adventure.  We decided to go later in the afternoon to hopefully miss some of the crowds, and I told her I'd be over to pick her up at 3:40.

"That's an odd time," she said.

Sometimes 3:30 feels too early and 4:00 feels too late, and Friday was one of those times.

Before we left, my mom said, "Okay girls, have fun.  And be careful, people get crazy on Black Friday.  If you see someone with road rage in the parking lot, just let them have the good spot.  It's not worth it."

"Are you worried we're going to shoot someone?" Emily asked, as if we were packing heat and some pent-up aggression on our retail quest.

"No, it's not so much the shooting I'm worried about," mom said, "It's the getting shot."

So on that happy note, we set out.  Obviously, our first stop was the motherland, Dunkin' Donuts.

From there, we hit Target, A.C. Moore, Primark, and the thrift shop.  We swung into Dollar Tree for some wrapping supplies, and as we walked in Emily broke the news to me that Dunkin' Donuts is going to start selling bottled beverages.  I got so excited that I waved my arms around wildly and accidentally pulled my hoop earring out, and then we had to look for it on the pavement in front of the Dollar Tree.

Luckily that was the most dangerous parking lot experience we had all night.

When we came out of the Dollar Tree and put the bags and wrapping paper in the trunk, we realized that the trunk was half full, but we had not yet purchased one gift.


But what we did purchase were plenty of gifts for ourselves, including a book called "A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow, an American Hitchhiking Odyssey."

That particular purchase was Emily's and it cost her a quarter.  I'm sure it'll be worth every penny.

All 25 of them.

The lack of gifts may have had something to do with the fact that every time I saw something I liked, I'd say to Em, "This is so cute/useful/clever/fun," and she would nod along in complete agreement and validation.  And then I'd ask, "Can you think of anyone who'd like it?"  And she would say, "Nope."

She's quite a companion.

We decided to refuel at Chick-fil-a, and then we stopped at Gander Mountain to pick up a gift for my father in law.  I texted Matt to ask what size shirt to get, and he responded with the answer and a casual request to ask if I could pick up some ammo that was on sale.  It was just like the way some people might say "oh while you're at the store, could you grab some milk?"  What ensued was me searching, quite unsuccessfully, on my own, finally asking an employee, and the employee leading me to a glass case of guns and unlocking it.

"I think he just wanted bullets," I told her.  Evidently I didn't use the correct vocabulary in my initial questioning, but once I finally got what Matt needed, I'll tell you what vocabulary I did know.


From there we went to Kohl's, where we basically hit the mother-lode.  They were having great sales and had great stuff, and we filled a cart to overflowing.  We were there for quite a while, and the later it got the more delirious we I got.  By our third trip through housewares, I started beeping like I was putting a tractor trailer in reverse every time I backed the cart up.

I thought it was hilarious.  I can't say the same for Emily.

Our final stop of the evening was Walmart, and by the time we got back home, our feet were tired, the trunk was full, and our wallets were empty.

But our lists were almost completely crossed off, our Christmas spirit had arrived, and I think we've started a new tradition.

a monday that's dedicated to shopping is the only kind of monday i like

Last year we moved into our house at the beginning of December, and we had big plans of getting a real tree for our first Christmas here.  But as we quickly learned, the first few weeks of home ownership are a little hectic, so our yuletide dreams got pushed to the back burner and we stuck with our fake tree for one more year.

This year we plan to get a real tree for downstairs in the family room, but we will hold off until closer to Christmas so it stays fresh.

In the meantime, we set up our fake tree in the living room this weekend.  Last night I made festive homemade cranberry juice, caught up on This Is Us, and wrapped presents. 

I am in pretty good shape thanks to some Black Friday shopping with Em.  That adventure is a story for another post, but I got almost everything on my list.  I was waiting for today, Cyber Monday, to get those last few presents.

If you're shopping online today, check out Uncommon Goods.  I don't want to give any surprises away, since 99% of my gift recipients read my blog, but this fruit infusion water bottle caught my eye.  So did these fun mismatched socks,   When Emily and I went shopping on Friday, she wore two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT socks.  Different colors, different patterns.  These socks or something from this page would be be perfect for you, or any lady on your list!  I still need a gift or two for Matt, but there are a bunch of things here that I think he, or any man, would like!  My eye is on the kabob grilling baskets, which would really be a gift for me too!

If you need one more reason to shop at Uncommon Goods, they donate $1 from every purchase to the non-profit of your choice.  

And you can shop in your pajamas from your couch.
It's really a win-win.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

thankful for friends and family and food and matt's stellar customer service skills

Dinner last night involved sauteing chicken, is a skill that is not in my culinary wheelhouse.  I get nervous that I'm going to under-cook it, and then I end up overcooking it. Therefore, Matt cooked and since he was the chef, he had the privilege of choosing the music.  We have an Amazon Alexa in the kitchen and it is probably my favorite home appliance.

I'd give up my washing machine if it meant I could keep my Alexa.

When I cook, I usually select either country music, Bruce Hornsby on Pandora, or conservative talk radio.  Matt picked some sort of rock and roll.  At one point he was singing along and said to me, "Do you hear this?  Lead vocals and background vocals.  I do it all."

Anyway, it's now Thursday and I'm so happy this short work week is over.  Things have been stressful at work and let's just say I've been wearing my nighttime mouth guard during the day due to subconscious clenching that my dentist attributes to stress.

Basically I turned 28 and now I sleep with a mouth guard.  Matt is  lucky guy.

The week kicked off on a high note though because we had Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and Annabelle.  My brother and sister-in-law hosted and they did a fantastic job.  
(Clearly we do not shy away from patterned apparel.)

We have one more Thanksgiving dinner this week, Annabelle is coming on Friday, Emily and I are going Black Friday evening shopping, and my nephew's second birthday party is Saturday night.

We are also going to get started on some holiday baking, since we have a plethora of eggs.

Speaking of eggs, during dinner last night, there was a knock at the door.

It was UPS with Matt's replacement date stamp.

That's right.  Matt ordered a date stamp from Amazon over the weekend so that he could stamp the dates on our eggs.  However, what was delivered was a stamp with text, not numbers.  So if you want an egg stamped with "faxed" or "confidential," come on over.
(I think this is supposed to say 'original.'  It's a little tricky to stamp a four syllable word on an egg.)

I suggested that we assign each office word a day of the week.  For example, "approved" could mean Tuesday.  "Filed" would mean Thursday.

Matt suggested that we simply return the stamp which I guess made more sense but didn't sound nearly as adventurous.

So, tonight the return stamp was delivered and when we opened the box, it was the same, incorrect one.

Matt said "OH MAN!! HOW COME I KEEP GETTING THE ONE WITH WORDS?"  and I cracked up (get it?) because talk about a first world problem.  Matt got on the phone with Adrienne from Amazon and explained his predicament. She put him on hold for a second and I (jokingly) suggested that he fake cry when she got back on the phone.

And then she got back on the phone and he started to FAKE CRY.

I didn't mean for him to actually do it.

But now we have three free months of Amazon prime and a free deluxe date stamp coming our way.

And I'm letting Matt handle all customer service issues from here on out.

Friday, November 18, 2016

we are family

Well, this Friday did not turn out exactly how I planned.

First up on the agenda was attending an Adoption Day event at work.  I don't talk about my job much, because I believe in the separation of work and blog, but I work in the child welfare field, and so many days the stories are so sad I could (and sometimes do) cry, but this morning my eyes teared up for a good reason, because 14 children were adopted from foster care into eight forever families.  

It doesn't get much better than that.

From there, the day took a bit of a left turn.  


My sister was planning to come home from Penn State this weekend for Thanksgiving, but unfortunately she came down with a bad case of strep throat.  Instead of riding the lousy bus several hours home, my mom was going to drive to Penn State to pick her up.  She asked me if I'd like to join her for the seven hour round trip extravaganza, and never one to turn down a good time, I obliged.

I picked up a large iced coffee on my way home from work, and we hit the road.

On the drive up I had to participate on a conference call for work, so I just powered up the laptop and worked from the passenger seat like a true road warrior.  Before the call, my mom said, "Are you going to be embarrassed to work in front of your mom?"

I just found out that I have to give two presentations next week in front of the executive director of my company and a representative from a national organization, so my mom was a welcome audience.

The call lasted over an hour and I wasn't the best road trip companion during that time, but my mom was listening and after the call she said, "You were using all kinds of acronyms and words like "quantitative" and I though "Wow, she's pretty good at this!"

Of course.  That's why I make the medium bucks.

We got to Emily around 4:30, and the poor thing climbed into the backseat with her pillow and her blanket and her slippers and her sore throat.  We noticed on our way in that the traffic leaving town had been bad, so we called my dad to ask if he had an alternate route.

He told us, "Sure, get on 26 south, and stay on that for a few miles, and then turn left onto 355, towards Belleville.  Then get on 405 towards Reedsville, pass the bank, and you'll merge on 322 east."

We wrote his directions down on a post-it, but decided to put Belleville into the GPS just to be on the safe side.  After  few minutes, Siri said, "In 2.5 miles, turn left onto Main Street, highway 355."

"Holy cow!" I said, "We turn on Main Street but that's also 355!  Do you believe it?!"

"Well, yes," my mom said, "Dad was looking at a map."

Here I assumed my dad had just come up with these directions from his memory and advanced knowledge of state roads.  It just goes to show that no matter her age, a girl believes her dad can do anything.  Including navigating the back roads of central Pennsylvania at a moment's notice from 200 miles away.

After we got on a highway we recognized, my mom said, "Now girls, if you're hungry and want to stop for a snack, just say so."

And that's when poor, sickly Emily, said "You know what I could really go for?  A cheeseburger!"

I thought my mom might drive off the road. Or at the very least, turn around and put her on the bus.

Halfway home we stopped for Chick Fil A (Emily settled for nuggets) and switched drivers.  

Since I was behind the wheel, highly caffeinated, and factoring in my commute, was going on my eighth hour in the car, I suggested we play the game "See How Many Songs In A Row Laura Knows."

The suggestion was met with great applause and joy.

Not really.

But I've long believed I know more song lyrics than your average bear and I love any opportunity to showcase that particular skill.

My mom agreed to the game and I pretty much blew them away with my musical knowledge.  I can switch from ACDC to Fallout Boy to Michael Jackson to Jason Aldean in mere fractions of a second without missing a lyric.

At one point we were laughing so hard that we had to temporarily pause the game for safety.

"I told you I was good at this!" I said, "Isn't it impressive?"

"I don't know the word,"  my mom said.  "More like, freaky."

I'll take it.

I got home around 8:30, and Emily texted me when they got home ten minutes later that she'd forgotten to pack any shoes except the slippers she wore home.

I smell a sisterly shoe shopping trip.

From start to finish, today was a day about family.  

And I'm sure thankful for mine.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

it's tough to be emily, but at least she can spell her name

On Saturday, Matt cleaned the gutters, blew the leaves, put exterior molding up around our new window, fertilized the lawn, replaced the screen doors with storm doors, changed the oil in my car, his truck, and then did a full engine (transmission? radiator? I really have no idea) flush on his truck, all before lunchtime.

Meanwhile, I drank three cups of coffee and leisurely cut coupons and read grocery ads.  In all fairness, I had a lot of chores too, but I got them done on Friday.  I earn my keep around here.

After lunch my mother in law called to say she was going over to the thrift store and wanted to know if I wanted to join her.  I said yes because they were having a 50% off bric-a-brac sale and I'm no fool.

I love to see what people get at thrift stores, so I thought I'd share what I found for a whopping $5.62.

My mother-in-law went over to the picture frame department while I stayed in home decor, and when she came back over she saw the birdhouse decoration in my cart and burst out laughing.

"That was mine!" she said. "I donated it a few weeks ago!"

So now I'm buying my mother-in-law's hand-me-downs from the thrift store.  Life is glamorous.

When I got home and laid out my treasures, Matt just said, "Wow.  Another glittery reindeer?"

He said that because I bought two glittery reindeer from the dollar store on Friday.  A girl can never have too many glittery reindeer.

Actually, she probably can.  And three might be that number.  

On Sunday afternoon my mom and I got an early start on Christmas shopping.  We went to Home Goods, where we saw that peace sign Jesus has returned for yet another holiday season, and I got another glittery reindeer.

Just kidding.

I have my limits.

Last night I decided that after nearly three years of wedded bliss, it was high time to create an email with my married name.  So I did just that, and then I emailed Matt, who was sitting next to me on the couch, from my brand new email account.  The subject line said "Surprise!"  He opened his phone and said, "You spelled our last name wrong."

I didn't believe him so I logged back into Gmail, and lo and behold, I spelled our last name wrong.  I only included two out of the three As.  Whoops.

Tonight I made ranch chicken for dinner and while we were waiting for it to cook, Matt decided to respond to all of Emily's tweets.  She is a prolific tweeter so this was quite a task, but he was cracking up as he typed his replies.

They are pretty funny.

I bet she can't wait to come for Thanksgiving break next week.


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