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.

Friday, November 11, 2016

in which i do not mention either presidential candidate

Well, I think we can all agree it's been quite a week.

Politics aside, there are few things I love more than a major news event with wall to wall television coverage.  Case in point, I live for snowstorms when the local news channels have nonstop weather reports.  Needless to say, Election Day 2016 was really something I'd been looking forward to.  When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I had an email that Matt had reloaded my Dunkin' Donuts gift card with $20.00 worth of Election Day coffee.

He is the best. 
I got an iced coffee on my way home from work, and for dinner, I knew I wanted to cook something simple so as to maximize television viewing time.  I decided to use some eggplant we'd frozen from our garden this summer to make an eggplant parmesan.  I couldn't remember if it cooked at 350 degrees or 375, so I split the difference and cooked it at 363 degrees, and it was delicious.
After dinner, Matt and I watched election coverage for a few hours. At 9:00 we were waiting for the Florida and Ohio returns, and I was on the edge of my seat drinking a cup of coffee and stress-eating caramel sauce with a spoon, and Matt went up to the kitchen and came back downstairs with a perfectly reasonable bowl of oatmeal.  

That about sums us up.

Matt went to bed a little while later, but woke up again around midnight, and then we both stayed up until 3 a.m., aka 4.5 hours later then we normally stay up on school nights.  

I was feeling awake and alive on Wednesday, but Thursday was rough. I had to drive about 4 hours for a work meeting, and as I got into the car and prepared to drive home, I got an alert from Pandora radio, suggesting Bruce Hornsby radio.
And do you know what I needed at about 4:00 on Thursday afternoon?  Some Bruce Hornsby.

Today I decided to make spicy Chinese noodles for dinner.  I made this recipe few weeks ago and it was A HIT.  Since it's getting dark so early here, I lit a candle and turned on the music while I cooked, and when Matt walked in the door he was holding a bouquet of roses.
Well, life does not get much better.

We ate our delicious dinner, and I mentioned to Matt that when he had texted me earlier in the day to tell he he ordered some Christmas lights for the house, I checked out the "recently viewed" section of our Amazon account to see what lights he'd ordered.

I didn't see any Christmas lights, but do you know what I did see?

An automatic chicken cooper door opener (not happening) and lawn aerator shoe spikes.

"Oh yeah," he said, "I looked at those lawn spikes.  But, why pay money for them when I can just make them myself? All I have to do is punch nails through two pieces of wood, strap them to my shoes, and walk around the yard."

The day Matt walks around the yard with wood and nails strapped to his shoes is the day I shell out the cash to rent a proper lawn aerator,

I'd even aerate the lawn myself.

As long as I got a cup of coffee on my way home.

And I still have $18.00 left on that gift card, so I should be good to go aerate.

Monday, November 7, 2016

i saved a few kit kats for election night

Well, I feel like it's about midnight.  In reality, it's 7:52 but it's been dark for hours.  I had dinner on the table at 5:03 even though we don't usually eat until after 6, and then I texted Matt to see where the heck he was because dinner was going to get cold.  He was still on the train because he still abides by his clock and I'm planning my day around sunlight.

Last week was a little bit of a weird one.

Monday was our first Halloween in our house.  In preparation, I bought several bags of candy early in the month, and not surprisingly, all but one were gone by the time Halloween rolled around.  I restocked with (what I thought was) the good stuff -- Reese's, Kit Kat, Snickers, Milky Way, and Twix.

And then our first costumed customer said, "OH MAN! NO HERSHEY'S?!"

I also made a rookie mistake and held the entire candy bowl out to a group of 12 year old boys who were, apparently, quite hungry.

I learned my lesson after that, and for the next group I just dropped a few pieces of candy in each kid's bag, said Happy Halloween, and closed the door.

And then one of their mothers CAME BACK and said, "Miss?  Miss I'm sorry, but it seems there has been a mistake.  My son doesn't really like Kit Kats.  Could he have something else?"

The next morning the local public transportation workers went on strike. Matt takes the train to and from work each day, and while the railroad workers weren't on strike, the bus and trolley drivers blocked the rail yards so very few trains were running out of the city for the evening rush hour.

I talked to Matt around 4:00 and he said it might be a tough commute home.  Then I looked at my phone a half hour later and saw a text that said, "I got on a bike.  Can you pick me up at 1500 N. Broad Street?"

There were no cabs, no Ubers, traffic was complete gridlock, so instead of getting a hotel which some people (me) might have done, Matt rented a bicycle and rode out of the city.

Things were running smoothly until Friday.  Matt had the day off, and he was working on the family room while I was working in my office.  Mid-afternoon I heard a big bang, and then Matt appeared at the top of the stairs and said, "Slight unexpected fiasco.  I just broke a window."

So that's how we spent Friday night ordering (new!) (safe!) (unbreakable!) glass for the window, and then installing it.

Saturday was the most gorgeous morning, so I went for a long walk and willed winter to stay away.   We went to my sister-in-law's for dinner and were home in time to watch the second half of the Penn State-Iowa game.

Now I'm gearing up for election day tomorrow.  This weekend I bought apples and a big tub of caramel dip, but depending on how the night goes, I might just eat the caramel with  a spoon.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

i returned home more relaxed than ever

On our third day in Baltimore we headed back to the Inner Harbor to tour some more boats.   On the way, we stopped in the Barnes and Noble because I wanted to see if it was really more than one story.

It was.  And it was amazing in there.

The first boat was a lighthouse boat.  This is Matt's navigating face.  And mine.  

One of us would sail safely, one of us would crash the vessel into land.

Next, we explored a submarine.  It was not a yellow submarine, but it was the most fascinating thing to see.  It blew my mind to see all of the gauges and gears and instruments.  Technology has come a long way, but how impressive to see how detailed and intricate things were then.
Torpedoes from this very submarine sank the last enemy ships during WWII.  I never thought about the size of a torpedo, but there were several on the boat, and they are not small.

You know what was small?  The beds.  And the kitchen. 

And the doorways.  Matt would've had a rough time if he lived on a submarine.

After we were back on land, we walked (and walked, and walked, and walked) to the Baltimore Museum of Industry.  There were a few school trips, and evidently nothing makes a big group of 8 year old kids more excited than a printing press demonstration and automatic soap dispensers in a public restroom.

On our walk back to the harbor, my Fitbit died.  I could have cried.  We almost got a cab because what is the point of walking if your steps don't count?  In the end we decided to hoof it back to the harbor, where we went against Matt's vacation rule of "don't eat at any chain restaurants" and stopped for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory.

We were seated directly beside a class trip.  They were funny, but they were loud.  We left just as they were initiating a root beer chugging contest, and headed over to the Baltimore World Trade Center.  You can ride the elevator to the top floor, and since it was such a beautiful day, we were anxious to see the view.

It did not disappoint.
(That photo at the top right is the submarine we toured.)

We sat up there for a long time.  We watched a cruise ship sail away, and saw a tug boat pull a barge.  Matt works in a skyscraper every day, but I only work on the second floor, so to me it was strangely relaxing and mesmerizing to watch the world go by beneath us.   

Finally we walked back to Fell's Point.  After we relaxed for a little bit, we went out to a tapas place for dinner.  We tried all sorts of dishes and fancy cocktails and had the best time.


The next morning we took one more stroll around Fell's Point and got some gourmet donuts, because why not end a trip with bacon on top of a chocolate frosted donut?

It was a wonderful vacation.  I think I'll schedule one per month.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

a post about a duck and a chicken. and also the last time i will talk about poultry for a while

This weekend started off on a good note because I got to spend Friday with Annabelle. Have you ever seen a cuter duck?

On Saturday I thought I'd get my chores done in the morning and then relax all afternoon, but as it turns out, in order to renovate a room you actually have to work on it.  So we spent all day working on the family room because I am determined to have it finished by the time I decorate for Christmas on December 1st.

Our project for Sunday afternoon was to re-paint the back door.  However, once we got the door off the hinges, we decided to just replace it entirely.  The majority of the door was single pane glass, the kind that is dangerous and doesn't meet modern safety codes, and the thought of little hands someday going through the glass made us nervous.

My brother actually ran through a single pane sliding glass door when he was about 10.  He was in the family room, but his shoes were on the back patio, and the door was so clean he didn't even realize it was closed and ran right through it.  He ended up with a lot of stitches and a few scars and now I know firsthand the importance of safety glass.

The decision to replace the door meant Matt had to call his dad for assistance.  His dad is very helpful, but sometimes he makes me nervous because he says things like, "Go ahead and saw off that beam, I'm pretty sure it's not load bearing.  But you do have good homeowner's insurance, right?"  And "We don't stop working for blood.  Just don't get it on the rug."

My mom had stopped over earlier in the afternoon to drop off Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I asked to borrow it because I feel like it's time to expand my culinary expertise beyond chicken cutlets and shake 'n bake pork chops.

For my own sanity I decided to leave the construction zone for a little bit, and I went to the grocery store.  Purdue roasters were on sale for $9.99, plus I had a coupon, so I decided to buy one and make a nice roasted chicken for dinner.

It was pretty easy, because you roast the chicken in the bag it comes in.  Literally the only direction is "place chicken breast up in shallow baking pan.  Cook for 130 minutes."

When dinner was ready, Matt started carving and remarked on what a strange bird this was.  He kept saying, "Are you sure you got a whole chicken?  I don't even know where the breast meat is."

Despite the confusion with the carving, the chicken was delicious.  I also made biscuits and a caesar salad, and was feeling like maybe I didn't need Julia Child's help after all.

After we finished I asked Matt to carve the rest of the chicken so we could pack it up for leftovers.

It was then that he turned the chicken over, and found the breast meat.

I'd put the bird in the oven upside down.

I literally did not know which way was up.

Julia has her work cut out for her.