Things to Do

I really ought to remember to take before and after pictures of the projects I do around the house. I have a nice little digital camera that my parents sent me and I always forget to take before pictures.

In the last week I’ve rearranged and put in new shelving for the mudroom, planted and weeded and potted and mulched the front yard in between experimenting with home made coffee scrub and epsom bath salts. Of course there were chores but I don’t count that as part of my daily or weekly accomplishments unless it’s a large undertaking. (Cleaning the banisters and railings and then polishing them was an accomplishment. Doing the dishes not so much. The basement will be a several day long thing, but that’s sort of low on my list of Things to Do.

This list is several pages long, pretty much one page per room of the house. See, My Love lived alone for a while and let’s just say that he wasn’t a super tidy housekeeper. The kitchen and bathroom were well cleaned, but everything else was sort of ill-kept. I’ve spent days scrubbing walls and baseboards and cabinets and doors with wood cleaning soap. I love that stuff, it’s 98% natural, biodegradable and leaves no residue. I use it on everything that needs a large cleanup since it’s also cheap and gentle enough not to tear up the paint on the walls. My Love asked me why I didn’t use the cleaners he already had (but rarely used) and I said ‘Cause this is better and it smells nice.’ and went back to scrubbing walls. Regular commercial cleaners bother me with the smells and the sinus burning fumes, so I purchase a few cleaners that are friendly to creatures and the environment, and stick with diluted vinegar in a spray bottle to clean up most things.

Anyway, I found a very strange assortment of things hiding in the mudroom. Like a poker table topper, a milk crate of softballs and a metal bat that were under a plastic bowl of epic proportions (For real, I can’t imaging what you’d put in this bowl, it’s huge.), two coolers, golf clubs, rope, rock salt, enough paper bags to last a week in a grocery store check out line and around twenty reusable shopping bags. Oh, and a few dustpans full of dirt and debris that astonished me. It’s a mudroom, I realize that, but I like all rooms to be clean-ish and neat. Now I just need some wall anchors to put up the coat rack and I’ll be all set.

I think the next room to attack will be the bathroom. The door and frame need a fresh coat of paint, and some art on the walls would be nice. I’ve been thinking of making the wall art, since the stuff I find that I like is stupid expensive, so why not make it in a different medium? Some watercolors and some paper in a few frames will make it all I want it to be.

The other rooms and the upstairs hallway are going to be a lot more intense. Banisters and railings need to be sanded and scrubbed and then painted or stained, walls repainted as well as doors…moving furniture and removing certain things to make room for shelves…so much to do! All of it is doable by one person for the most part, so I plan on going one room at a time for the easy rooms, and then tackling bits and parts of the other larger projects that fit together. Why not repaint all the doors in one go instead of just the inside of the bathroom door? It’s going to be fun checking things off of my list, and when it’s done I’ll have to find some new projects to work on around the house. There’s the garden bed I want to make out back when we redo the grading and patio, and the bed around the tree outside, new flagstone walkway to the cars, the attic to explore and clean out and up, new ceiling fans I’d like installed, running a water line to the front of the house so that I don’t have to pug watering cans back and forth to water my plants…you know, easy stuff.

MAKE ALL OF THE THINGS!

I realize that my posts here are random as well as randomly timed. Usually it’s because whatever project or experiment I’m working on is taking up my time or ended horribly and I need to lick my wounds and try something else. It’s that ‘something else’ that always gets me, though.

You see, I have too many hobbies and there are still way too many crafts out there that I haven’t tried but want to try. For instance, my main crafting hobby is crochet. I have two different projects in the works at this moment, but what do I do? I take up knitting. Why take up knitting when I have so much time invested in learning crochet? The answer is simple: Because I want to. I want to be able to make useful items as well as beautiful ones. Plus, from what I hear it’s much easier to make cables and things with knitting than it is with crochet.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Craft stores are dangerous places for me to go to. I go to the yarn section and the yarn tool section of course, but then I wander to the silk flowers and the feathers and eyes and beads sections and through the puzzles. A few of my other hobbies are making flower hair ornaments, making little dolls or plushies that need the black button eyes or the feathers I use along with beads and buttons in the hats I make or the fact that I will work for days on end to complete a 1,000 piece puzzle. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for hobbies for me. I love gardens and gardening and yardwork, and learning to make and use my own cleaning products and home improvement projects like replacing the counter top and faucet and plumbing in the bathroom. THEN I have a whole pile of games to play on multiple consoles and a long list of other games I want to play after I’m finished with the ones I have now.

I’ve spent years baking and figuring out what you can and can’t put in chocolate chip cookies and scones. (Apple pie or blueberry scones seem to be a favorite of friends, but a plain buttery scone with butter and some jam is spot on most times, too.) Now that I’m branching out into cooking along side my baking, I’m at a bit of a loss. Do I purchase the new spring-form pan or invest in another set of quality frying pans? (Our Calphalon set is wearing out by the day.) What about accessories for the grill and the smoker/bbq when the weather gets warmer? Oh, but there are those cake pans and new mixing bowl that I need. (My large, glass mixing bowl is lost somewhere up in the Poconos.)

Finding the time and energy to do all of these things is near impossible, but I STILL WANT TO DO ALL OF THE THINGS. Perhaps it’s a new sort of mental disorder, like Crafting ADHD. Focusing on just one hobby or maybe two hobbies would be beneficial, and not just because of the ease it would give my purse strings from not spending on materials for all these hobbies. I’m sure that My Love would be willing to fork out some money for cooking supplies since he cooks much better and more often than I do, and if I asked he’d buy me yarn or a hot glue gun, but he’s already promised me a new Dyson vacuum so I don’t really want to. (We have three cats and by golly they shed like the dickens! I spend so much time cleaning only to have it go right back to being fuzzy and furry the next day.) The Eureka is fine with just one kitty, but with three kitties and three adults in the house, things get messy quickly.

I don’t think I’ll count sewing and the sewing machine as a hobby, since I want the machine for making curtains or repairing clothing or for draft dodgers for the doors. (Living in a house that’s over a hundred years old makes you very aware of drafts.) I suppose I could stitch by hand, but I can’t stitch straight by hand and that would make for strange looking window hangings.

In any case, at least I have an open mind for trying new things. Like making a cable stitch in my scarf with crochet techniques. Or attempting a cheesecake. Or…

Tasty Trip!

This past weekend was delicious.

Saturday was spent roaming around the city of Philadelphia, eating and eating and did I mention eating? We hit up two hole in the wall food places, neither of which I’d even be able to find on my own. The first was Charlie’s, and I had the best fast burger I’ve ever tasted. It almost melted in my mouth. It was a simple burger, on a bun you’d find in a grocery store and normal condiments, but somehow it was made to taste amazing enough that if there hadn’t been a line twelve people long, I’d have gone back for about five more burgers. The second was John’s Roast Pork. The place was a tiny shop with a line out the door and winding along the street. They serve hot meat sandwiches, the best one being the roast pork on a bun. No cheese or toppings needed for that one, and the cheese steak was very tasty. I have to say that as tasty as everything up til then was, they must have been salty beyond belief because I chugged down three soda glasses in ten minutes once we reached the Barcade.

There was no feed eaten at the Barcade, but there were a ton of arcade games and a bar, thus the name ‘Barcade’. It was a nice place to relax and enjoy yourself with good drinks and fun games. My Love tried two new beers there, both were tasty and well worth staying around for. (I only take sips of his adult beverages, most of the time I dislike the taste of alcohol but now and then he gets a new beverage that I really like the taste of.)

For dinner, we went to a Mexican restaurant that was packed full of people and had an amazing menu. Duck tacos, pork shank over rice, short-rib empanadas and the best tortilla chips and salsa verde I’ve ever had. We vastly over-estimated the amount of food we could eat for dinner after all the food previously eaten. Have no fear, though, since the pork shank got turned into empanadas for dinner last night.

Easter dinner consisted of roast lamb, risotto, potatoes and veggies. We went home with leftovers of that, too. The lamb was very flavorful, and went perfectly with fried eggs in the morning. Oh, and dessert! Crumb-topped apple pie, with ice cream. I have such a soft spot for fruit pies. Peach, apple, pear, berry…it doesn’t matter really, so long as it’s in a pie. I never can tell what I love more, the filling or the crust. I prefer a butter crust, but the flaky and light texture of ¬†shortening crust is tasty too. I always save the edge of the pie crust for last, no matter the ingredients in it.

Since I had to work Easter Sunday, dinner was a little late, but still amazing. I’m so happy to know that My Love’s parents both would rather wait for all of us to eat together than to eat without me. Happy and grateful. Being able to have such a great relationship with his parents is wonderful. I currently live very far away from my family, so it’s just great to be accepted and welcomed as I am.

In the next few months, there are trips down South to have Adam meet my family, and one out West to meet the rest of his family. Travel is never easy for me, but it gets easier the more I do it, plus taking a trip with My Love and his parents will be fun. I promised my parents that I’d take pictures, both of my trips and of where I live up North, so I have to remember to pack my camera. Oh, and socks, since my toes always get cold on flights. Maybe some new flip-flops and sandals…

Not Tim Curry

My house smells like curry. I’m not apposed to this situation, since there is a beef curry simmering on my stove-top. It’s supposedly Japanese-style curry, which I’ve never made nor tasted before, so I’m unsure of its authenticity but boy-howdy does it smell tasty. Right now, the rice is in the rice cooker and as soon as it’s done, it’s dinner time!

The recipe called for a home made curry paste, which was much simpler to make than I thought it would be and much tastier than I imagined. For a very long time, I’ve disliked ginger. It was used on me as a kid to prevent what was thought to be motion sickness but was actually anxiety attacks. (I panic when I travel. Always have, but it’s under control now and I’m able to fly Home or to where ever with minimal fuss. Most of the time.) I’ve never had fresh ginger before, since my dislike for the dried or pill form of ginger has kept me away from it. It’s also why I’ve steered away from a lot of Asian dishes.

Then, I tried ginger tea. With honey and lemon, of course, but it wasn’t as bad as I though it would be. Now, I’ve put fresh ginger into this curry, and I’m amazed. It doesn’t have that bite or whatever it is that makes me shudder at the slightest scent of it. The intense flavor of ginger is much more relaxed than I thought possible when cooked. I’ll also say that I enjoy curry powder more than the masala spices I’ve tried. Perhaps it’s due to the lack of true Indian spices or the different combination of the ingredients that makes me enjoy the taste of this curry dish. (I’ve been testing the flavor all the way through the process, and can’t wait for the final act with the rice as a full meal.

While at the store getting ingredients that I didn’t understand how to combine, I also got a roasting chicken and a giant package of chicken thighs. The roaster will be roasted with lemon and herbs, and the thighs will be marinated in yogurt and herbs for a greek style dish. (For real, I think I purchased over ten pounds of meat today.) On the other hand, I finally found some cornmeal at the grocery store, so not only will there be cornbread in the future, but polenta. Polenta that’s topped with veggies and cheese and baked like a casserole is tasty and delicious, not to mention healthy-ish. I go a little heavy-handed with cheese of any sort, but mozzarella is a favorite. The fresh stuff sliced up with tomato and basil…oh yummy! (Caprese salad, isn’t it?) Oh, but cheese is another several pages long post!

I had told myself that I wasn’t going to purchase any ice cream, but I wanted to stop by my favorite part of the frozen food aisle just say ‘Hi!’ to Ben and Jerry, and Talenti. Now, what appears before my eyes? S’mores ice cream. Marshmallow and vanilla ice cream, with chocolate chunks and swirls of graham crackers. How could I not buy it? I had a little tub of yogurt in my cart, which was supposed to be my treat for being good and not straying from my shopping list. (Hey, those little Muller yogurts with the fruit mousse on top are amazing. I love those things more than any other brand of yogurt.) I didn’t get any chips, not even hummus for snacking. I turn snack foods into meals most of the time and then eat my real meal afterward. So, I got some ice cream.

I rationalize the eating of ice cream with aiding in the soothing of my sunburn. My Love, his mother and I spent seven hours outside yesterday tearing down a mountain of sticks and branches, bundling them all together into perfect sized bundles for the yard-waste people to take in May. The Hedge, which was well over twelve feet tall, had been cut down to a respectable seven feet and made a giant pile of branches to be cleaned up. Yesterday was sunny, breezy and warm so we teamed up and got it done. There were breaks for icy drinks of course, but did I take time to put on sunblock? No.

Now I’m red as a lobster and painful, but I have curry and s’mores ice cream. It’s not so bad.

Strange Kindness

I suppose that I don’t come off as a person that yarn crafts, since people are always surprised that I have the skills to crochet. They are even more surprised when I make something as a gift for someone. Usually it’s for a person having a baby or for someone that I feel particularly close to.

Case in point, I made a baby blanket for one of my team mates who is about to have a baby. It’s cream-cicle orange, and suitable for a boy or girl since the edging is simple as well as the pattern. I mentioned this to my boss who got an expression of complete surprise for a moment before saying ‘That sure is a nice thing to do.’ and returning to work.

Maybe it’s strange to have acts of kindness anymore, and it makes me sad. I make things to brighten the day of someone, be it of yarn or food. Now people wonder what I’m up to, or who I’m sucking up to by bringing in scones or making a baby blanket for someone or a hat for a birthday. Why do I need a reason to create something for other’s to enjoy? Spreading joy and happiness is a small thing for anyone to do, but it makes a huge difference in the day of a person that might be having a crappy day. Sure, a cookie or a scone isn’t something that will last as long as a hat or scarf, but either one will make a person smile and enjoy a few moments of happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I make a lot of things for myself. That lovely yarn that costs over twenty-dollars a skein is absolutely something that will go in my stash and not to anyone else, mainly since it’s too expensive to be practical gifts for anyone with my budget. I’d love to be able to gift a merino wool baby blanket to someone, but it’s just not really feasible. There will be a time when I can do so, probably when I give up working in the veterinarian profession and get a ‘real, grown-up’ job that pays more. Happiness from puppy kisses or kitty head butts does make up for lower paychecks, sort of, but it would be nice to buy my favorite yarns without planning for it.

Frugal living is fun if you let it be that way. I’ve found recipes for making my own detergents and cleaners and shampoos that are easy to make and cheap when you buy supplies in bulk and use it for nearly everything else. Vinegar for instance, has many uses beyond dying eggs and rinsing your hair. Diluted with water in a spray bottle, it destroys the chemical trails sugar ants follow in your kitchen and helps keep them away. Diluting peppermint oil in a spray bottle makes ants not even want to come back. The oil can be used in the shampoo or soaps or lip balm you make. Home made cleaners might take a little more elbow grease to use, but not filling my home and lungs with chemicals makes me feel better. I’m using up the chemical cleaners I have left, and will bring the other ones into play once they are done.

If I had my way, I’d play with yarn and keep house and make things without worry about cost of my projects. Alas, I can’t do that just yet, but I still do what I can with what I have.

Barbecue Sauce FTW!

Barbecue is a tricky thing to make to my liking. I enjoy a mixture of the thick, sticky tomato based sauce with the thinner, vinegar based sauce. Purists say that either the vinegar or the tomato bases are the best depending on the area you’re from. Where I once lived in North Carolina, the vinegar sauce was king. The natives there gave me the strangest looks when I asked for something other than the vinegar sauce. There’s also the dry rub, and the method of cooking as well as the type of meat used.

I tend to make my own sauce for barbecue. It’s a nice mixture of the vinegar and tomato sauces. It takes on a nice consistency in the slow cooker, or when cooked down in a pot on the stove-top into a thick, gooey, sticky slightly sweet yet with a tang of vinegar and a bite from the chipotle pepper that I add. I also have a thing for adding in something sweet beyond brown sugar, like fruit. In my latest sauce adventure, which just happened to be done yesterday, I added in blackberry and raspberry preserves. They’re both sweet, but have a tang all their own. It thinned out perfectly for the pork roast to soak up after shredding it, and the sauce that wasn’t added to the slow cooker was thick and sweet and provided a startlingly pretty contrast with the pork since it had a deep purple-red color to it. The only thing missing was some good slaw, which I have no idea how to make, sadly.

Pork is the most versatile meat for barbecue, I think. It goes so well with whatever sauce you have on hand. Chicken, to me anyway, needs the thick sauce to permeate and flavor the meat, especially the breast meat. I’m an odd bird (pun intended) when it comes to chicken anyway, so it’s my least favorite meat for barbecue. Large slabs of meat on a plate, even with copious amounts of sauce and sides, isn’t very appealing to me most of the time. (Lamb is always welcome, be it in the form or chops, rack of lamb, kebabs or gyro. I’ve REALLY got to be in the mood for a steak.) Beef ribs I like best with either a dry rub or a vinegar sauce, and smoked is a definite plus for them. I’ll grill the heck out of some ribs or a London Broil, or I’ll put it in a foil wrapper with the sauce I’ve chosen or made and slow cook it for a few hours on the grill or in the oven, but the slow cooker is awesome, since it’s no thought required beyond putting ingredients in it and getting on with the day. I sear the meat before putting it in the pot, but it’s not really necessary if you ask me. A nice bed of onions and you’re done with cooking for the day, or the next few days depending upon the size of the roast that was purchased.

Today was a slow cooker day, since after breakfast (which consisted of bacon, eggs, chocolate chip pancakes and pancake en-robed bacon.) we played some Splunky and then went out into the beautiful, almost sixty-degree weather and played some tennis. My Love played tennis, I attempted to hit the ball while moving around the court and failed at that quite a bit. At least three balls went over the twelve foot fence that surrounds the courts, but I got a few good hits in. I find the backhand easier, but today I was trying to do the forehand and follow through with the stroke instead of treating the racket like one I’d use in badminton. My Love is patient and informative as a teacher, and I think he was right when he said I’ll only get as good at the game as I want to be. It’s the same as my ukulele. I can get most of the chords now, while before I rarely made any of them sound right. I still think my ukulele playing sounds like the singing of a tone-deaf, pre-historic bird. I don’t care much, since it’s fun, and tennis just like that for me. I may not play well enough right now for an actual game to take place, but someday I’ll be up to it.

The Cranky Migraine

I’ve had quite a few people tell me what to do to ‘get rid of those headaches’ I have. While I appreciate that they want to help me feel better, it gets rather tiresome after a while when it’s the same thing over and over again.

You see, I suffer from migraines. Rather bad ones at that. I know very well what my triggers are, and try to avoid them as much as possible. For instance, canned tomato products or vegetables give me a migraine. So, I avoid ingesting them if at all possible. I can’t avoid the changes in air pressure though, so every time it changes, BAM!, a migraine hits. The same thing with hormonal changes.

I know very well that staying hydrated helps to avoid migraines. I know that avoiding food triggers helps avoid migraines. Offering me OTC pain medicine is not helpful, nor is saying ‘you can get through it if you just don’t think about it’. A person telling me they understand how it feels when they’ve never had a migraine isn’t going to make me feel better. Yes, I’ve tried the preventive medications out there. They didn’t work for me, plus none of them were made for migraines. They’re medications for mental disorders or blood pressure for instance. Oh, and a neurologist isn’t a migraine specialist, and yes I’ve already seen a neurologist.

Here’s the deal with migraines. You can’t just not think about them. For those of us with chronic migraines, it rules our lives. The pain and other symptoms of a migraine are horrible. The nausea or vomiting that happens, the muscle tension that occurs from the stress that comes with migraines sucks big time. The visual things like auras or blurring vision are disconcerting and scary when you don’t know what they are. Not being able to do anything but take a pill that may or may not work every time and sit or stay in bed with the curtains and blinds drawn so that no light enters and silence encompasses the room isn’t fun for us. People with migraines do everything in their power to avoid them. We’ve tried everything you’ve looked up on Google plus a lot more, so please save your breath on advice that we’ve already tried.

I hate cancelling plans with friends because I have a migraine. I hate calling out of work because every time I try to stand up while I have a migraine makes the pain worse and makes me ready to vomit. I hate having to ask what was used in cooked meals that have been made by a friend or family member. I hate the horrible mood it puts me in when I have a migraine but have to go to work or the grocery store anyway. That sour expression on my face isn’t because I’m a naturally cranky or mean person. It’s there because some little kid is screaming and carrying on in the store while I’m in ¬†line with a bottle of ginger ale or a sports drink and some crackers, and every time that kid screams, it’s like a red hot rail road spike is being stabbed into my eye socket and through the back of my head. It’s there because fluorescent lighting makes my migraine worse and I’m nauseated to all heck. All you want to do when you have a migraine is sleep, and most of the time you can’t sleep due to the symptoms of a migraine

The best thing you can do for someone with migraines is to be kind. Don’t take it as an insult if plans get cancelled at the last minute. Don’t take it personally if a person’s temper is short, being in constant pain is mentally and physically exhausting. If you want to help, ask if there is anything you can get for them, like an ice pack or a few minutes in a dark room if they’re at work or a soda or to get their rescue medication if it isn’t handy. If the person just wants to be left alone in a dark bedroom, let them. They aren’t avoiding you, and nine times out of ten would rather be on the couch with you or outside doing yard work with you or playing catch with the kids with you than be in a room, alone.

To anyone that has never had a migraine, I hope you never experience one. I wouldn’t wish migraines on my worst enemy. Then again, my worst enemy is all the cat hair I have to sweep up and vacuum, so my experience in enemies is a little limited.