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Friday, July 30, 2010

Necklaces, Before and After

I have been searching for many months for just the right thing to organize and display all of my necklaces. I had been storing them in a large box on the top shelf of my closet in the boxes they came in. That technically works, but it's not a very good practical storage system. If I wanted to wear a necklace, I had to drag the box off the top shelf and dig through it until I found the box that held the necklace I wanted. That doesn't work very well when I only allow myself 15 minutes to get ready for work. If I'm going to accessorize, I need said accessories to be readily accessible. Another issue is returning necklaces to where they belong. I have to drag the big box out again.

I thought it would be really nice to have some kind of decorative hooks hanging somewhere near my mirror where I could just let my necklaces hang out until I needed one. In the morning, I could just grab one that goes with my outfit and then conveniently throw it back on its hook in the evening. Unfortunately, I never found such an item. I've been looking, but all of the hooks I've found have been for things like belts or coats. Nothing delicate and pretty for jewelry. I got lucky on Tuesday, though! I found a handy little shelf with hooks hanging from it at Marshall's for $29.99.

In this corner of my bedroom, there used to be a big ol' pile of nothing. That suited me just fine, but Blondie insists that he needs something to put his alarm clock on. Apparently the floor isn't an acceptable location for his timepiece. In a valiant attempt to make room for Blondie in my home, I moved this bookcase from the spare room to the bedroom. Now Blondie will have a place for his clock and I will have my college textbooks at arm's reach.


Above the bookcase was really the only place in the room where my bargain shelf would fit, so that is where it went. I think it works out pretty well for hanging my necklaces.


Look at how the scrollwork at the top of the shelf kind of matches the headboard.


Here's a closeup shot of my jewelry:


Notice the red and black beads on the far left? That's three different necklaces, all made by my creative cousin Ronna. I purchased one myself, Ronna gave me one, and my Granny gave me one for Christmas last year. Apparently my relatives are well aware of my affinity for red and black beads! The next hook holds my fake black/gray/silver pearls, which I love! I have a real pearl pendant and earrings that match these beads exactly and I wear the real earrings and fake necklace together all the time. On the middle hook you can see the wooden acorn necklace I won from Deer Lola on Gussy's blog. My longer necklaces are hanging on the next hook. The colored beads came from Hemingway & Co., one of my favorite local boutiques. I went to visit Julie at work one day and she was wearing this darling necklace. I asked her where she got it and she told me. We went down to the store right away and asked Jenny if she had any left and I got the last one! I purchased the turquoise beads at an arts and crafts fair a couple years ago and the silver turquoise necklace was a gift from Blondie's mother, who bought it from her good friend who makes jewelry.

You can see my bracelets hanging on the hooks below the the top shelf and my earrings hanging from the middle shelf. The ones on the far right are also from Hemingway & Co. They were on sale for $1, so I couldn't pass them up. I thought I would get my money's worth if I wore them even once, and they have turned out to be a favorite.

I haven't had the nerve to display any of my fine jewelry here. I still have those pieces safely tucked away in their boxes from the store. It seems like a bad idea to hang valuable pieces where they could get tangled and scratched, so I'll still have to put some thought into it on the days when I want to wear my pearls or other expensive pieces.

Now, someone tell me what to put on the little shelves!

See other room transformations here:



 
And more organizing projects here:
 
Organize and Decorate Everything

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Icees, Corn Dogs, and M&Ms

I do not make a very good girly-girl. For me, shopping is not a stress-reliever. I do not feel great joy when I find the perfect pair of pants. The perfect pair of pants = relief that I finally get to go to the food court to get a cookie and and an Icee. However there are three particular types of stores that are excessively torturous. Specifically, they make me very sleepy.

I find home improvement stores to be horribly tedious. When my parents were building their house I was forced (that's right: forced, Mom had to drag me to the car and tie me down) to spend FAR too much time in Lowe's and Home Depot. Who knew there were so many different types of light fixtures or cabinet pulls? There are so many little decisions to make at home improvements that I quickly become bored. And first I want to run around like a crazy person. It would be SO much fun to roller skate through an empty Lowe's. Then we look at the five-millionth set of mini-blinds and I want to crash like a kid after a sugar high and take a nap in garden furniture section.

The second is more of a section IN a store than a type of store. I hate the flower section of stores. This applies to both real and fake flowers. Fake flowers all start to look the same to me after about five minutes and I just want to pick something pretty and fluffy and go to Sonic for a corn dog. Mom and Lisa are good gardeners. So they know the difference between an azalea and a hydrangea. They can mix and match and coordinate and make things look pretty. I just stand there, sweating in the flower tent and wonder how much longer it can take to find the "right" flowers. Then the mixture of heat and boredom makes me sleepy and I want to go take a nap in the bushes.

The last type of store is a furniture store. There are too many options at furniture stores. It pains me to wander around a furniture store for hours, where everything looks the same, before finally deciding there is nothing that matches well enough. Then we start the whole process over at the next store and come to the same conclusion. Eventually, after about fourteen hours and eleven stores, we end up with the coffee table we found at the first store. My arms start to feel like they weigh about fifty pounds apiece and my feet hardly lift off the ground! After four hours of this, it makes me sleepy and I want to go take a nap in the mattress section.

I think I have become a much better shopper than I was in junior high. I'm sure my poor mother dreaded taking me anywhere because she knew I would drag myself along, making her feel pressured to hurry. But now I know I get to stop for M&Ms and a Dr. Pepper because I'm the one driving! As you can see from this post, the highlight of shopping trips for me is snacking on the way home!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Peach Jam

Last week Blondie and I made our first ever attempt at making jam. His grandmother has an excellent peach tree, but the Japanese beetles have started eating the peaches. When the family was at her house for lunch on Sunday, she asked us to take all of the peaches we wanted because the beetles would soon eat all of the good fruit.

Blondie and I brought home a big box of peaches last Sunday and we blanched and peeled most of them that afternoon. We froze those to use later for peach pies, but some were too green to use at that time. Later in the week, the ones we saved were ready to use, so we used them to make jam.

Since neither of us had ever done this before, we had to call his grandma a few times for advice, but we finally figured it out. We peeled the peaches and chopped them up in the food processor, then cooked them for a little bit with some Sure-Jell and a little bit of sugar. After they had boiled for a bit, we added more sugar and let it cook for another minute. When it was done, we ladled it into jars that I had boiled and covered them with lids. I scraped the pan a bit after we filled the jars, and it tasted very good! We let the jars set out overnight and by morning the jam had set. I put them in the freezer in the morning and we'll have lots of good jam for the rest of the year!

Over the weekend, we made more jam. This time we actually boiled the filled jars so we didn't have to freeze the jam. This method works pretty much the same way, but there's an extra step at the end. First, I boiled all of the jars and lids (I could have just washed them on the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher, though) and got all of my ingredients ready. I used the Sure Jell pectin that requires less sugar (the pink box) so I measured out the sugar and reserved 1/4 cup to be mixed with the pectin.


Then I chopped the peaches in the food processor. We had already peeled and pitted the peaches and stored them in the refrigerator, so this was an easy step. This recipe required 4 1/2 cups of peaches.


After chopping the peaches, I combined them with the pectin/sugar mixture and brought it to a rolling boil. While I was waiting for my peaches to boil, I removed my jars from the jar jacuzzi and set them out to dry. I left the lids in the water, though. Once the peaches were boiling, I added the rest of the sugar, brought it to a boil again, and let it boil for one minute.


Then, I removed the cooked jam from the stove and ladled it into my fresh, sparkling jars. I use a funnel for this and it really cuts down on the mess. I barely had to wipe the rims at all.



I removed my lids from the hot water immediately before putting them on the jars, then put the jars back in the pot of boiling water, making sure they were covered by at least one inch of water, for 15 minutes.



Then, I removed them with tongs and let them sit out for 24 hours to firm up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fuzzy Lump

Friday was my last day of Vacation Bible School. While VBS is a good experience for the kids, pulling into the driveway was a wonderful feeling, knowing I didn't have to show kids how to do crafts again for another year.

It was a wonderful feeling until I felt something bump underneath my car. I immediately started to freak out. I ran into the house, and peeked around the corner to see something black and fuzzy laying motionless in the driveway. It was either a poor kitty-baby or one of Lucy's dead things she likes to drag into the yard. She currently has part of a cow leg that could easily be mistaken as a kitty-baby. In the grassy background I could see several sets of kitty-baby eyes staring coldly at me, angry because I had killed their sibling. Now they were surely plotting to get me back.

I hurried into the house, screaming incomprehensibly for C. to go see if I had run over a kitty-baby. After he finally understood what I was saying, he contained his laughter (he can be heartless--although I'm sure I was quite a mess) enough to go outside and look.

It as too dark to see from the porch light, so he came in to get a flashlight. Just as he was getting back outside he saw Lucy drag the fuzzy lump away--which left it as a mystery. I forced Craig to go feed the kitty-babies, in fear that they might claw my eyes out for smushing one of their own.

Yesterday, C. came to me with good news. He counted nine kitty-babies. The fuzzy lump must have been one of Lucy's dead things. I have never run over a pet, and I hope I don't for a very long time. It was traumatizing. I have told C. he has permission to lie to me if he ever finds a cat that I have run over--I really hope he keeps his end of the bargain. Now I'm just going to have to find a way to get Lucy to keep her dead things out of the driveway.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Verenika Casserole

Has anyone out there, besides my local readers, ever heard of verenika? Me neither, until I started hanging out with the locals around these parts. (I make it sound like I'm from a far off land, but in reality I grew up about 10 miles away.) Anyway, according to them it's a German dish, but I contend that it's strictly Mennonite food since I'm just as German as they are, but had never eaten it until they introduced it. Verenika is a tasty dumpling filled with a meat and cottage cheese mixture and boiled or fried. It can be a lot of work to make, so as a compromise, I make verenika casserole. It's not quite as special, but it's still tasty!

I usually use sausage in mine, but you can really use any kind of meat you want. This time I used ham because that's what Blondie likes. For this recipe, you need a small package of noodles, a cup of sour cream, a cup of cottage cheese, a carton of whipping cream, and a pound of meat. If you use sausage or bacon, cook it first. I used pre-cooked ham, so all I had to do was cut it up into cubes. I have no idea how much I actually used. I just cut up enough chunks that it looked right. It might have been a pound. Or not. Whatever.

First, you boil the noodles. I usually use egg noodles, but Blondie likes the way his grandma makes it with larger noodles. I found some fancy Amish (isn't that an oxymoron...fancy Amish) noodles at the grocery store. They were really expensive, so I figured they must be very special. In reality, they're pretty much just fettuccine noodles. I'll know next time!

After your noodles are al dente, drain them and mix up the noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, whipping cream, and meat in a big mixing bowl. You can add salt and pepper if you like. I didn't because I figured the ham was already pretty salty. Stir until the noodles and meat are well coated. It will look like this:


After everything is mixed up really well, pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish. I use a rubber scraper to get every last bit of the creamy goodness out of the mixing bowl.


Then, bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes. It will look like this when it's done:


Let it sit for a little while before serving so the sauce will have some time to thicken. I served this with a crisp, green salad. Blondie actually thought it tasted good, which is rare, but it did need some salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Evil Flowers


This is my pretty flower. One day its vine spontaneously showed up on the side of my house. I loved it and was very proud of my new flower. And the best part is that I did absolutely NO work to make this flower grow!

My mom has the prettiest flower garden you have ever seen. She works really hard on it and actually keeps the weeds from overtaking it (such as what you would find in my flower beds). So I bragged to her about my super pretty flower that I didn't take care of, but thrives anyway. I described it to her to see what it was.

Mom is super nice, which is good because I had just finished bragging about my fancy, no-work-required flower. She said it is a Trumpet Vine, and if I let it keep climbing up my house, it could get behind the siding and push it away from the house. She sweetly suggested that I get a trellis for it so my house won't start rotting away.

But that's one of those garden tasks that requires work. So I think I'll just take it down. I suppose that's what you get when you don't work for what you have. Pretty things that are evil in disguise. I'm pretty sure there is a lesson in this. I'm just glad I learned it through flowers instead of in real life.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Coupons & Discounts

Yesterday I purchased some tulle on fabric.com to use to decorate for my wedding. My cart contained 72 yards of tulle, at 99 cents per yard, for a total of $71.28. I already qualified for free shipping because my order was over $35. However, I am always on the lookout for a better deal. Thus, I searched google for "fabric.com coupon code" and found one on RetailMeNot.com.

I always do this when placing an order online. When I bought bridesmaid dresses for Julie and Sarah from The Limited's online store, I saved $30 by using a coupon code from RetailMeNot. This time I saved $15 on an order of $75 or more. Since my order was only $71.28, I added a few more yards of tulle to my cart (it won't hurt to have a little extra!) to make my order $75.24. It made sense to me to spend an extra $4 to save $15. I ended up spending $60.24, which comes out to 80 cents per yard!

It's easy to search for a coupon code when you're at the checkout, and sometimes you can save a few bucks! It works for me!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Silence is Golden

Julie had to go to Oklahoma City on Saturday to get some supplies for Vacation Bible School and she invited Mom and me to go along. This was a quick trip. We left at 9:30 and returned at 2:30. And it takes an hour and a half to get there...which means we were actually only there for two hours! We went to six stores and a restaurant in that time. We're quick shoppers! And quiet travelers. And general weirdos, but you already knew that.

On the way home, we rode in silence for a full thirty minutes. No one was giving anyone else the silent treatment, we just didn't have anything to say. Julie was driving, Mom was reading a book, and I was sitting there watching the clock. Julie broke the silence when Mom put down her book and Julie asked her if she liked it. After that, we rode silently for another ten or fifteen minutes and Julie broke the silence again when her phone rang.

Does anyone else do this? I'm pretty sure it's not normal.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Christmas in July

C. and his friend (whose whose name also inconveniently starts with C, so we'll call him C2) have always wanted a boat. We go out for lunch on Sunday after church, and on hot Summer days they stare longingly at people headed towards the lake with their shiny boats. As they haul hay and spend long hours on the tractor, they remember that hard work equals their very own shiny boat. This summer C2 finally got a boat. The boys are very excited.

One of our favorite events of the Summer is going to the local lake for their annual redneck festival called Christmas in July. It was originally created for the troops in Desert Storm who missed Christmas at home. They have lots of vendors, a lighted boat and RV contest (this is the redneck part), and fireworks over the lake. The boys have always wished to watch the fireworks from the lake instead of the shore, and this year they finally got their wish.

This idea did not sound exciting to me at all. There are always lots of boats on the lake, and only three loading docks for all of them after the fireworks end. This means long lines of impatient people who have quite possibly been partaking of beverages. But I decided to be a good sport, and I really wanted to play on the tube, so I decided it was worth a long night at the lake.


Playing on the tube was a lot of fun. This might be my favorite photo of C. of all time. It is fun to watch people fly off the tube. I'm an expert tuber. However my attempt to ski wasn't so successful--my X-Large life jacket wasn't cooperating. I'll try again when I have a more appropriately fitting life jacket that makes me feel like I'm actually securely fastened in.



I have to admit, watching the fireworks from the lake instead of from the shore was really neat. However attempting to take a photo of fireworks while sitting on a boat creates wavy photos. This is what they look like. And our wait time at the dock wasn't horrible. We were the second ones there--however if we had been there any later we would have been stuck in the awful line that we saw from the road. It was a lot of fun. I might even go back next year if C2 promises to get in the dock line early again!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Friday Is Date Night

On Thursday evening Blondie reminded me that Friday is date night. He asked me if I had anything in particular I would like to do. I didn't. We decided to wait until Friday to decide what we wanted to do. By Friday evening, we still didn't have plans.

It was approaching suppertime on Friday and we were getting a little snackish. That's the word Blondie uses to describe slight hunger. Some people would say peckish, but snackish makes more sense, right? Anyway, we decided to make quesadillas for supper. We made a mixture of shredded chicken, cheese, sour cream, and salsa that we smeared on some large flour tortillas with some mashed ranch beans (we didn't have any refried beans). Blondie fried the quesadillas on his griddle and I must say they were the tastiest quesadillas I have ever eaten.

Earlier in the week Blondie had retrieved Julie's old bicycle from my barn and fixed it up so I could ride it. He lives just a few blocks from me, so he often rides his bike over to my house. It's a handy mode of transportation for short distances, so he thought it might be nice for me to have a bike to ride too. Friday was the perfect day for a bike ride, so we went for a ride after supper.

After our bike ride, we came back to my house and watched The Brothers Bloom. It is a comedy about a team of brothers who make their living as con men. One brother wants to leave the life of crime, but the other convinces him to engage in one last con. The plot is predictable, but the movie was enjoyable.

Date night was a very nice spontaneous evening. If we had made plans, they wouldn't have been nearly as fun!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kickin' Cats


Yesterday I told you how my stupid cat wanted to go for a walk with me. I don't think it was because she was particularly interested in getting her girlish figure back after having five babies. As you can see in this photo, it is because she has a need to constantly be under my feet. No matter where I go, she tries to walk between my feet. I typically kick her (gently, I promise) away, after which she promptly returns. I even preemptively kick her off the deck from the top of the stairs every time I go down them so she won't trip me. I will sacrifice the cat before I am willing to go flying head-first off the deck. I'm not sure why she still likes to walk underneath me, but she's obviously not the brightest cat.


Now the kitty-babies have been learning her bad habits. I feed the kitty babies on a little sidewalk that is between their pen and the silver barn. You can see the distance from my deck to the sidewalk requires a bit of walking. The big, stupid cat meets me on the deck, where I promptly kick her off, and the rest of the bunch meets me about halfway, where I try to be slightly more gentle with them. It is incredibly difficult to carry two cups full of cat food while trying to hop around ten cats. Someday I'm going to fall and go berserk on all of them. It's going to be ugly.
C's solution is to drag the stupid cat off somewhere and leave her so the kitty-babies don't learn her bad habits. He even asked me if she followed me home yesterday, in hopes she had gotten lost on the way. This seems extreme. Hopefully they are smart enough to learn their lesson when I get irritated enough to start kicking them, too.
On a side note...here are some photos of the kitty-babies eating their buffet of cat food. I think it's funny how the black one in the middle lays on the food to conserve it. The stripey one near the top just swipes at the others to defend its territory.
This is Lucy tempting fate by trying to steal their food. I brag about how she's so smart, but even smart dogs have no patience when it comes to cats. She doesn't even like cat food, but she would rather eat it than let them have it. Someday they will catch on and claw her in the face. It's only a matter of time, and it's possible I won't be there to protect her.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gnarly Kitty

Yesterday I was in the mood to be healthy, so Lucy and I decided to go on a little jog. Lucy is a very good partner. She stays with me, only stopping to roll in dead or stinky things or use the bathroom in the weeds. Back in the day when I still made her wear a leash, she would even save my life by yanking me into the ditch when I was listening to my mp3 player instead of paying attention for approaching vehicles. Now I jog in silence for fear of being run over by an oilfield truck. Lucy is a smart dog.


Our cat is stupid. I think this is why she decided to go jogging with us yesterday. I figured she would get bored halfway down the driveway and go back home, but she didn't. She isn't very fast, so she was behind the entire time she was with us. Every now and then, we would hear a meow as a reminder she was still there, and a polite request for us to slow down. As she fell further behind she had to yell her requests at us. Eventually, as she wore down, her polite requests turned into gnarly, pleading moans for us to stop so she could catch up. Eventually I stopped hearing her pleas, so I would look over my shoulder to see if she was still coming. She was a trooper for quite a while, trotting along behind us. The last time I saw her was 1/2 a mile down the road.


We were quite the funny-looking crew. Lucy leading the way, me behind, and a cat bringing up the rear. I'm pretty sure that was the last of the cat's walks. I don't think she enjoyed it. But then again, she's pretty dumb and she might try it again next time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fireworks

I had a fun Independence Day! This is one of the holidays I get most excited about. Our parents have a big get-together at their house. My dad and I always go to a fireworks stand a few days before and blow our little budget on Artillery Shells. Every year we say, "We should keep it simple this year. We don't have to do as much as we did last year." Then we get to the fireworks stand, forget our resolution, and buy a giant box of things that will make a big bang. It's good times.



It is a favorite of our pastor's family because their two sons enjoy having a place where they can pop firecrackers outside of city limits. They have found a slab of concrete that is between two barns and a storage building that echoes quite nicely for popping Black Cats.



The ground poppers, or "Throw-Works" as I like to call them, are another of my family's favorites. This year we got the Extra Strength poppers and Lisa nearly blew my leg off with it. The photo above is Craig trying to create more carnage. You can even see smoke in the bottom, left corner of the photo. I think next year we will go back to regular strength, I'm not manly enough for the big ones!


After hot dogs, throw-works, and parachute firecrackers, it finally gets dark enough to bring out the big stuff! That is my favorite part. We finally get to light our Artillery Shells and Roman candles. It is always a challenge for the boys to see how many they can light at once. They like to line up the tubes and twist together fuses in order to create a huge explosion. I prefer to do one or two at a time to make my fireworks last. They are more about making a big bang.