Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Cat Blogging

She loves looking out into the backyard in this new house :)

Weekend Roundup

Wow this was a busy week.  It started out in Orlando for a conference, which was fine as far as it goes.  But it also meant another 4 days on the road where I couldn't take care of house chores or projects, or work on paperwork for the non-profit choruses (it's a busy time: there's the normal set of bills, a concert this weekend, a concert next weekend, a new treasurer to find, and next year's budget to craft; ugh).  Plus, Mom's coming down to visit in a week, so it's crunch time for home projects.

Speaking of home projects: this weekend's project was the upstairs toilet.  The fill valve has been broken for about 3 months now, but it was so easy to just reach down and flip the valve on-and-off to fill the tank back up, (plus there were 5 other out-of-town trips worked in there), and I just never got around to it.  But having one's mother come for a visit has a way of kicking one's posterior into action.

So ... toilet!  In retrospect, this was actually a very simple repair job.  It took me longer to drive to Home Depot and buy the part than to actually fix the damn thing.  Which I guess is a lesson in just diving in and knocking things out.  But, I fixed a toilet!  On my own!  Accomplishment!!

Incidentally, the instructions to fix a toilet are rather ... um, suggestive.  Such as "grasp the shank" and "align the nipple".  It was not an internal dialogue I was accustomed to having in the bathroom.

 




Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's Still Hot as Blazes

The AC repair appointment is scheduled, but until then, I'm living in a dystopia.  Seriously guys, my house feels like a cross between a tropical disaster zone and a deep-space outpost that's barely holding together with jury-rigged equipment.

Because my house is ancient and still uses an honest-to-god fuse box, the normal outlets in the living room can't handle too many appliances plugged in at once.  Which means there are extension cords running from the kitchen up and down the stairwell, connected to big box fans to blow as much cold air as possible up the stairs.

That helps a little, but the front bedrooms still bake in the heat all day long.  It would really help if I could get some kind of exhaust fan in there to blow out the hot air and pull in the cold air from downstairs, but the original windows don't have any screens, which means it would be completely open to the outside and all kinds of bugs would get in.

Solution?  Build yourself a screen!  Or rather, two screen sections, one that's just a normal screen and another that holds the small window fan I bought yesterday.  I'm not particularly proud of any of these creations this weekend, but desperate times call for desperate measures.






Yard Projects - part 1

There's a LOT I want to do with this yard: re-mulch all the beds, properly edge and expand most of the beds, trim and tie up the roses on the garage, rip out the monster-vine, identify and plan for the rest of the flora, think about outdoor entertaining, and much much more.

It's going to happen one step at a time, though.  So, here's the first small project from a long list: there are two trees in my front yard, neither of them have proper mulch beds.  The grass just grows right up to the trunk, which looks dumb and makes mowing super difficult.  So Saturday afternoon, I tackled the smaller of the two trees: trimmed a few low-hanging branches, dug out & edged a mulch bed, filled it with mulch, and fixed it.  Ta-dah!


Also, bonus picture: these are the garage roses.  I didn't trim them at all this spring, and then I was away for a week that brought them a ton of rain and sun.  The result were these 10 ft monsters that you see before you.  By necessity alone, this will probably need to be the next project.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

AC fritzle fratzle

Because I don't already have enough things to take care of this weekend, the universe threw me another curve ball.  My AC is on the fritz.

The first clue came Thursday.  I was away from Richmond most of last week, and I knew it was going to be warm, so I set the AC to 75.  When I got back from the airport on Thursday morning, the downstairs was comfortable, but the upstairs was not.  Troubleshooting that difference was how I discovered I actually have a dual-zone AC.  (Yes, I have lived here for almost 4 months.  No, I did not know it was dual-zone until just this week.  Yes, you may go ahead and judge.)  "Ok, no worries", I thought.  I'll just turn on the upstairs AC and everything will be fine.  The rest of Thursday was a bit of a haze (it was not a pleasant or restful red-eye flight back), so I didn't think about it much more.

I woke up Friday morning and it was noticeably warm upstairs.  The AC was running, but the air coming out of the vent wasn't cold; so I turned both ACs down a few notches to 70 and then got ready for work.

Then I got home late Friday night, and the downstairs was FREEZING.  The thermostat said 67, so I bumped that zone up a bit.  Then I walked upstairs ... straight into an oven.  Seriously, the heat difference across just a few feet was ridiculous.  The upstairs thermostat was clocking in at 84, which is a 17 degree heat difference between my 1st and 2nd floor.   It's also quite an achievement when the outside is only 75, which means my upstairs must trap heat like nobody's business.  UGH.

So, that is going to be this weekend's main set of tasks.  First, check to see if there's anything obviously wrong with the duct work or insulation that I can fix myself.  Second, go by a few fans and position them to blow the cooler air upstairs, because this weekend is going to be absolutely miserable.  Third, call an AC repair guy and pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that this will be measured in hundreds, not thousands.

Yay home ownership.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Strange People Use My Bathroom

Well, not MY bathroom, but Mom's bathroom in at the gallery.  I'm up visiting Lancaster for a wedding and spending the day in town with mom before the event tonight.  Close to lunchtime a twenty-something girl walked in and asked Mom if she could use the gallery's bathroom.  She explained that she was from out-of-town and auditioning for some role at the Fulton, and that it was just an absolute madhouse over at the theatre.  (aside: I completely believe her, parking in town today is a nightmare).

Mom says "of course", I keep working on my laptop, a minute goes by ... and then a very deep and soulful "weeeeee-ahhhh-OO-UH-OO-UH-OOO" from the bathroom breaks the silence.  That was it.  No other sounds.  Just a single lovely wail that would probably attract herds of fertile manatees if we let them in the gallery.  Mom and I just looked at each other, shrugged, and then 5 minutes later the girl walks back out the door wearing a completely different outfit.

Lancaster.

UPDATE: Between then and now, my buddy C called me and asked if I had a hideaway key so he could use my place to shower.  So that's a second random bathroom-related thing to happen today.  Will we get a third?!?

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Saturday, April 01, 2017

House Update - SO CLOSE!

In a few days it'll be the 3-month anniversary of me moving into the new house, so now is as good a time as any to share some updates.  The house is definitely coming along, and some major pieces are finally starting to fall into place.  Since last update:
- The chimney & fireplace are repaired and are now functional (just in time for summer, yay)
- The apartment is finally on the rental market, 2 months later than I wanted but with a radiator cover finished that has been bugging me for years
- I bought a lawn mower and mowed the lawn for the first time ever
- Every piece of my master bedroom are finally here and now I'm just waiting on sheets before moving in

The frustrating part is that I can't really say any room is completely done yet, more like every room is 80% of the way there.  And the remaining 20% of each room is going to take a lot more time & effort (and money, gulp) to complete, probably a weekend or two for each.  But at least now it's pretty much all functional and I can have guests over without feeling embarrassed.

Anyway, a little bit more on the master bedroom.  There are actually two rooms upstairs that could be the master that I've been going back-and-forth between.  Room A is a little bigger, but doesn't connect to the bathroom.  Room B is smaller, but connects to the bathroom (the bathroom connects to both room B and the hallway, and it is the only bathroom upstairs, otherwise this would be a no-brainer).  I originally set up my old bedroom furniture (which is going to become the guest room furniture) in Room A, and slept there for a month.  Then, after the family visited, I moved that bedroom set into Room B, and slept there for a month while I waited for my new bedroom to appear.  For a while I was seriously considering making Room B my master to take advantage of the bathroom connection ... but ultimately I chose Room A.  1) Room A is painted in a neutral tone, while Room B has teal accents.  I don't want my master bedroom to have teal accents.  2) It's bigger and, crucially, wider.  I want to have my stationary bike in my bedroom so that I can ride it while watching tv, and trying to put the bike & bed side-by-side in the narrower room is a little too tight.  3) It already has a cable hookup, which certainly isn't a deal-breaker but makes it more convenient.  4) It may not connect directly to the bathroom, but I've already slept here for more than a month and the walk down the hall isn't bad.  Plus I live alone, so it's not like I need to worry that much about scurrying back and forth.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Cat Blogging 2017-02-12

Because Virginia weather is dumb and stupid and hates me, it is sunny and 77 81 degrees here today in Richmond instead of the overcast mid-30's that it SHOULD be in mid-February.  I can already tell that the front of the house, which has old inefficient windows and gets 12 full hours of sunlight, is going to be an uncomfortably warm problem this summer.  Ugh, one more thing to go on the list.

But the warm weather also meant I could open up the sun room off the side of the house, which right now is unused except to store all my used moving boxes and a couch that doesn't fit in the living room.  After looking out into the back yard for a bit, Lucy cat decided she likes the combination of fresh air and a comfy, familiar-smelling couch, and therefore this is the perfect place for her mid-day nap.  Rock on cat.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tofu Tower Triumph!

A few days ago I shared my tofu tower learning experience and said I had one more try left - well it turns out third time is the charm!

Extra-pressed-extra-firm tofu, sliced into 8 towers instead of 6, extra-TLC on tower formation, and a well-oiled non-stick pan all worked together to produce some very pretty and quite tasty tofu towers.  I'm rather pleased with myself.




On the other hand, I'm probably not going to make these again unless it's a really special occasion that really calls for them.  They're not the easiest or most convenient thing to make, they take a long time for not that much output, and you end up with leftover ingredients that are annoying to find uses for.  But the bigger reason is that pan-frying them on all six sides well enough to cook the chicken all the way through is a MESS.   The oil spits everywhere.  See that liquid sheen dripping down the front of the range?  That's OIL, and it's gonna be a P-I-T-A to clean up.  I suppose I could fix that by using a taller casserole or something, but then that just gets more annoying to work with.  No reason to put that much effort into something unless you need to, and there are many other tasty things to make in the kitchen.


Random aside - somehow I've ended up with a ton of food in my fridge.  Besides these towers (which with broccoli will be 2 meals), I have 4 meals of pot roast, another 4 meals of random ramen-like soup (more on that later), enough leftover veggies for 2 stir-fry's, 4 avocados and chips that were supposed to be guacamole before plans changed, a pound of kielbasa that was an impulse buy, probably 3 meals worth of bacon and eggs and toast (I treated myself to a nice big breakfast in my new house last weekend), to say nothing of all the frozen meals I stocked up on for the move.  And I already know 2 nights next week where I'll be dining out for dinner.  This will be an interesting week to see if I can get through them all without wasting food.

Some house pics later today!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tofu ... Somethings!

Woohoo, another year, another chance to do more than 1 or 2 blog posts!  I'm sure this time will be completely different than last time, and the time before that, and before that, and before that, and THIS time I'll stick with it.  Surely.

Anyway, if I do stick with it, I'm sure most of the posts will be about the new house... but TONIGHT is about kitchen creations.  A few months ago I saved a facebook post for tofu ... stacks?  Burgers?  Sliders?  You basically sandwich some ground chicken and vegetables between two slices of tofu, dredge in corn starch, and pan fry each side.  I've settled on "tofu towers", but if anyone has a better idea, I'm all ears.  But whatever you want to call them, they'll always have the honor of being the first true cooked meal of the new house (easy mac and pizza delivery don't count).

Anyway, I had good friends J&D over for dinner (first dinner guests!), and D had asked for one of the recipes I saved on facebook ... I ended up choosing the tofu towers.

It was an adventure.

First, the recipe was in Japanese, and while someone had helpfully published an English version in comments, it wasn't exactly a stellar translation.  I mean, you could gleam most of it from the video, but it helps to know about how much ground meat you'll need, or exactly what that brown liquid is that you're pouring into the pan (I assumed soy sauce).  So I improvised.  Second, those towers do NOT stay together well, at least mine didn't.  The ground chicken mixture has chopped up vegetables, and I think I did too rough of a chop, which meant the meat couldn't really grip the tofu well and they just sort of fell apart.  I put skewers in them, but I think that only made it worse.  Some stayed together, though, so pics of those.  Third, when the towers are done, you deglaze the pan with a mixture of soy sauce and sake to make a dipping sauce.  I used WAY too much soy sauce and the sauce ended up pretty salty.  Overall, though, they were tasty, and the ones that stayed together did look pretty good.  D agreed that they were good too, although she's way too nice to tell me even if otherwise.  She's awesome like that.



I ended up using only 1/3 of the lb of ground chicken, so I resolved to try it again and next time pay more attention to forming the towers before cooking them.  Tonight I kept that promise, and switched a few things up.  First, I switched from firm to extra firm tofu, which may help the tofu hold together better.  Second, I pulsed the vegetables in the food processor to get a much finer mince, which should give the tofu something much easier to mold onto.  Finally, extra time and attention to forming the towers, pressing them together, smoothing over any bulges, and giving a good pat of corn starch on all sides.  All of that helped, I think.  Unfortunately, I didn't think about the pan, and THAT made things worse.  While last time I used a nonstick pan, this time I used just a plain old iron pan.  And even though those towers were sitting in 1/4 inch of oil, they stuck fast to the pan.  The little buggers would just NOT come up.  In the end, a metal spatula had to be employed several times, and it ripped a lot of the nice crispy crust off.  Harumph.  But this time I only deglazed with sake, and then mixed that with the leftover soy-heavy sauce from earlier.  And THAT tastes much better.



I still have the last 1/3 of chicken left (already mixed in with minced veggies, so there are only so many things to do with it) and I'm thinking third time may be the charm!  This next time, I think I'm going to slice the tofu a bit thinner to make 8 towers instead of 6, and will know to use something less sticky than tonight.  What's happening in YOUR kitchen tonight?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Driving up to Lancaster

Ugh, I hate hate HATE the drive from Richmond to Lancaster.

The red is for hell.
It's for the normal reasons - I don't like driving to begin with, and the traffic in the I-95 corridor around DC & Baltimore is my own personal version of hell.  Plus, today it was freakin 95 degrees out with the sun just bouncing off all the concrete.  With the windows open and air flowing through the car it was tolerable, but with all of the stop-and-go traffic it wasn't long before I was an uncomfortable pile of mushy flop-sweat.  And the worst part is that in 2 days I get to do it.  All.  Over.  AGAIN.

Also, there was an idiot on the DC beltway who was driving around, like an idiot, on just a spare rim.  I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up being the cause of some major delays.  I took this picture, which actually isn't so bad, as I was just getting past Baltimore (you can see the blue dot at the very top edge of the Baltimore 695 Beltway).





But now that it's all over, none of that matters, because tomorrow I get to spend the day with this lovely girl that I haven't seen in over 6 months, and I'm super jazzed about it :)

Friday, September 04, 2015

Travel Day - YUCK!

Ok, there will definitely be a post all about my niece with plenty of pictures, but first: a word about today's travel.  It.  Was.  GODAWFUL.

First - I'm just generally tired of traveling.  It screws with my fitness routine, I don't like sleeping in not-my-bed, and I miss Lucy & hate leaving her alone so much.  She doesn't spray or anything, and she likes my neighbors M&C who are super generous to drop in and watch her, but even so it's clear she misses me (VERY affectionate when I get back) and I hate doing it.  I've been traveling a lot lately it just grates on me.

Second - I was rushed this morning (the result of just getting back from Nashville last night, see #1), and caught the train out of Richmond with 1 minute to spare.  I parked the car and could see the train preparing to leave as I was running to the station.  That kind of thing stresses me out and it takes me a while to cool back down again.

Third - Track work = train delays.  It frustrates me to no end that we don't have a decent rail infrastructure in this country.  That an Amtrak train full of people has to pull over and subject its passengers to 30 minutes of stale, stagnant heat, just to give a much slower freight train the right-of-way because Amtrak has been stripped to the bone and can't afford transit fees, BLARGH.

Fourth - As a result of #3, we were 30 minutes late getting into Baltimore, which meant that I had to HUFF it to get to the light rail station.  (Which frustratingly isn't really connected to Baltimore's Penn Station, see #3 also.)  Huffing it in the Baltimore summer sun, with a duffle bag on one shoulder and laptop bag on another, in freakin flip flops (ugh, did NOT think that one through this AM), translated into being drenched in sweat when I got to the station, which happened to be right as the light rail train was pulling in.  Those things do not wait, so I hurried to the ticket kiosk and tried to buy a ticket.  First time - card reader error.  Reset, try second time.  Card reader error.  Reset, try third time, with different card.  Card reader error.  Meanwhile, the seconds are ticking away and the train's about to pull out.  I desperately pull a $5 bill out of my wallet and shove that in the kiosk to pay for the $1.70 ticket.  It prints my ticket - FINALLY - and then starts plunking out quarters one at a time for my $3.30 in change.  EFF IT, my internal monologue shouts, and I, $3.30 poorer than I should be, jump across the tracks to get on the train.  Hit the button to open the doors again as they were closing, climb on, and then the train starts moving.  So like, 30 seconds to spare, if that.

Fifth - After all the drama and stress of #4, they didn't even have a warden on the train to check the tickets.  So it was a complete waste of time and money and mental stress.

Sixth - To make the train on time (see #1) I parked the car and deliberately ran right past the self-serve kiosk where you're supposed to put in your license plate and pay for X days of parking.  Given how close I was to missing the train, that was a wise decision.  But leaving it there, unpaid for several days, over Labor Day weekend, well ... I'd kinda like the car to actually be there when I get back.  So I got online and tried to find the company who manages their parking, which I figured would be easy since they're modern enough to send you text notifications and what not.  Incorrect.  The station page on amtrak.com just lists it as a self-serve kiosk.  Ditto for their Wikipedia entry, and a cursory google search just brings back results from 2 years ago when they expanded the lot.  FINALLY, after 15 minutes of google-fu, I found, of all things, a Yelp review (?!?) that lists the company as parkmobile.  To pay online, you have to give it a specific "zone number", which of course isn't easy to find either, but when I finally got the transaction to go through, it shows up in my Wallet app as AMTRAK PK, so I'm gonna go ahead and declare that a success.

Seventh - It's just hot.  And humid.  And Mom's AC is broken.  So I'm miserable at night.

BUT - got to meet and hold a sweet baby girl that I have the honor to call niece and god daughter.  Makes it all worth it :) 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sesame Salad Time!

Summer time is salad time!  Not necessarily the kind with a bunch of greens topped with stuff and dressing, although those are fine.  Nope, I like the kind with a bunch of vegetables & stuff chopped up with dressing.  Which now that I write it, sounds just like the other kind of salad, but oh well, whatever.  You know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I saw a recipe for carrot salad with sesame & cilantro on food network, and thought "Hey, that sounds good!"  So I  decided to try it this afternoon and started reading down the list of ingredients to see what I had and what I needed: "carrots, cilantro, rice vinegar, sesame oil, salt & red pepper, 1/2 a cup of toasted sesame seeds ..."  Wait, what?  A full half-cup of sesame seeds?  FIRSTLY, I don't know about you, but unless you get your seeds at Costco, you are not going to have a half-cup of sesame seeds sitting around.  And SECONDLY, have you ever tried to toast a half-cup of sesame seeds?  I have a 13 inch skillet, and it wasn't big enough to do it properly in one layer.  Harumph.

So anyway, I toasted the seeds, slivered the carrots, chopped the parsley, mixed up the dressing, and then tossed it all together.  Which resulted in perhaps the most sesame-intense explosion of sesame-shock-waves this side of sesame-Armageddon.  Which is to say, a lot.  Great jeebus it was a lot.


So ... definitely a recipe that can be modified the next time around, because it would be kinda nice to taste a carrot in there too.  But it makes for a nice orange & green compliment to salmon!  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Weighty Update

Ok, it certainly won't win any "biggest change in 1 year" awards, but all the same, I'm pretty freakin proud of what this picture shows:

There's always a New Years resolution to lose weight, and this last year ... I did!  Not through gimmicks or pills or anything else like that, just small but steady changes in diet and LOTS of time on the treadmill.  Seeing it on the chart is one thing, but I'm not going to forget anytime soon the feeling I had when I tried on a shirt in August that used to be very uncomfortably tight on me, and it was loose.  Most awesome feeling in the world :)

That said, there's still plenty more to get done.  As you can see, I started to plateau in October, and actually gained a little back by late December.  Ugh.  And the thing is, I could kinda tell at the time.  Bad habits started to creep back in, the holidays certainly didn't help any, and I stopped forcing myself to the gym every day.  Bad news: it feels and shows.  Good news: I can recognize and fix it.

So this year, for the first time ever, the resolution is to CONTINUE the weight loss, along with some specific goals:
- By March 1st, 2015 - be consistently under 180
- By Memorial Day, 2015 - be consistently at 170
- Take it from there :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Using up Food in the Pantry

not sparse
One of my New Year's Resolutions (more on those later) is to start using the ingredients in my pantry vs just going out and buying whatever I feel like.  My pantry is, um, not sparse, and is full of almost-ready meals (e.g. dry soup mixes) or sauces/spices/mixes that I used for one meal and then forgot about (e.g. the entire box of Bisquick minus the 3 Tbsp I needed for a recipe) .  That's gotta change.  The goal here is several-fold:

  1. Waste less food (obviously some stuff has been there too long ... like the completely rotten onions I found 2 months ago when I cleaned it out to find out what the smell was)
  2. Spend less money (by using stuff I already have vs buying more, duh)
  3. Become more creative as a cook and expand my palette (by forcing myself to use specific ingredients that I don't normally use and designing my meals around those ingredients)
So how's it going?  Well ... the first endeavor isn't using anything from the pantry and is actually something I've made plenty of times before.  So not entirely keeping with the spirit of the resolution.  BUT a) it isn't New Years yet and b) it DOES use leftover ingredients from the holidays that will go bad if I don't use them, so all-in-all I'm declaring that kinda-sort keeping with the spirit of the resolution.  Win!

Anyway, the leftover ingredients were some good extra cheeses (boursin, gruyere, and fontina) from my birthday dinner mac-n-cheese.  There's not really much you can do with all of that except make more mac-n-cheese, so that's what I did.  I also bought a chuck roast and four packages of mushrooms to put into the crock pot, which is cooking away as I type and smells ever-so-delicious.  I'll add some steamed broccoli for some green, and that should give me 8 good meals!

There's beef in there somewhere, I swear

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vaca - Day 1 - Kitty Beasts & Old Friends

We're all still in "get ready" mode for tomorrow, so today was pretty uneventful, but still a couple of things to share:

Mom's house is practically crawling with critters right now.  She has her own cat Gideon, an adorable little spud-muffin who still has enough kitten left in him to always be on the move.  Unfortunately, this makes the little bugger rather difficult to photograph, but the photos you do get end up describing him pretty well:



Then there's Brandon's cat, Sullivan "Kitty Beast".  He's a handsome boy, very sociable, dumb as bricks, and also not overly fond of me.  He used to be, but then one day he figured out that I'm Lucy's human, and now I am definitely not on his happy-human-list.  (Lucy is the one cat in our family menagerie who won't submit to him and will bat him across him the nose when he tries to force the issue ... that's my girl :) )  So he doesn't like me, but is also too dumb to remember that when he decides to be affectionate.  So we get spectacles like last night, when he decided he wanted to sleep in my bed, spent 10 minutes arranging himself, gave himself a quick bath, yawned, then looked at me and hissed, jumped off the bed, and ran out of the room.  Then this morning while I was sitting in the kitchen having breakfast, he started rubbing against my legs, then hissed at me, then back to rubbing my legs, then hissed again, then ... well, you get the idea.  Anyway, here he is in his natural state, which is basically "I will tolerate your presence for exactly 8 seconds longer"

There is a third critter in the house - Katie's cat Cosmo, who stays curled up under the bed all day, except when she comes out to walk past Kitty Beast and Gideon with her nose in the air to remind them that she's far too good to join in their fun and games.  No pictures of her.

Last but not least, and certainly not of the critter variety, Mom & I met one of my old high school friends & her family for dinner at the BBQ place that her dad just opened up a few weeks ago.  Valerie & I were best friends back in high school and I got to know her family really well, but we slowly lost touch as college and life took us in different directions.  We kept track of each other through Facebook, basically.  Anyway, earlier this year, her dad Scott decided to try something new and open up a Dickey's BBQ franchise.  Like any business there's a learning curve (as of tonight they'd been open slightly more than 3 weeks), and Scott & Valerie certainly weren't short of stories about everything that they've learned, but all-in-all it's going really well for him.  The shop is in one of the busiest tourist areas of Lancaster, so it gets TONS of business, and they're right next to a Chic-fil-a, which means they do a KILLER Sunday business :)  Super happy for him.

Vaca - Day 0 - to Lancaster

Vacation has officially begun!  Yesterday I drove up from Virginia to my mom's house in Lancaster and tomorrow we're going to kick of the "real" vacation part of the trip by leaving early AM and driving our way up to Maine. I'm gonna see if I can keep up a daily blogging schedule, and hopefully put up pictures each day.

This year is going to be ... different.  Some parts are definitely familiar - we are retracing the first leg of our old annual Maine vacation and will spend the weekend in Kennebunkport.  But after that we veer off into new territory pretty quickly.  For starters, we're only retracing the first leg of the trip; we aren't spending a week at the cabin with old family friends, and will be coming home on Tuesday after a short stop-over in Boston.  Then there's the fact that I'm not 16 anymore, and I'm honestly not sure what Kennebunkport will offer for a more mature me.   Katie is bringing Brandon, Will is bringing Kyle (and as I write this I realize that could be some very cunning planning on their parts ... they will have each other to keep themselves occupied for a weekend, I will have my phone ... hmmm).  But the most obvious difference will be who's not along - this will be the first family vacation since Dad passed away last year, a fact that all of us are acutely aware of.  There are going to be some tough moments, and while I can usually keep my emotions in check, this trip is going to offer some challenges.  Anyway ...

In true-nerd fashion, we're going to go ahead and call yesterday "Day 0", since it was more of a vacation-instantiation* than a vacation-instance.  It actually started at work, where I had a half-day of meetings and reviews and side-by-sides and generic be-the-person-in-charge stuff.  Let's just say I pretty much phoned it in ... not only was I single-digit hours away from starting vacation, but I had a few drinks the night before and wasn't exactly, um, in the clearest of minds.

Anyway, after work I drove home, finished packing (which I'd planned to do the night before but, for obvious reasons, didn't finish) and then started the drive up to Lancaster.  I left Richmond about 2:30, which I knew was perilously close to hitting rush hour on the DC beltway, but I was betting that 2.5 hours would be enough to get up, around, and through.  I did not win that bet.  About 10 miles south of the beltway on I-95 there were a couple of accidents that slowed traffic almost to a standstill, and it took an hour to get through them, so by the time I got onto the Beltway itself it was 5:15.  Whoops.

And actually, it wasn't that bad.  Crowded to be sure, but traffic kept moving at some speed the entire time, and it only took 45 minutes to make the 30-mile loop and continue north.  Undeniably better than the backup from the accident, and orders-of-magnitude better than some of the jams I've been in during the holiday travel season.  Having the windows wide open with the Grease soundtrack playing didn't hurt either ;)  So, mark that one off the life-accomplishment list!

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful.  After the DC beltway I switched over to the soundtrack from Rent and sung along to that, stopped off at Katie & Brandon's house for about an hour and shared a beer with them, then grabbed a sandwich and finished the drive to Lancaster.  Had another beer with Mom and talked for a bit, then to bed.  All-in-all, Day 0 turned out pretty well!

* If you know CS, you'll get that.  If you don't know CS, you probably don't care enough to want to know;)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I will always get dates and times wrong

This morning was something of a bittersweet victory for me.  I've been pushing myself lately to make some real changes to my lifestyle, and one of them is going to Body Pump class at American Family Fitness.  I went to 3 classes in 10 days during mid-July, but had to take a break when life got in the way.  I've been feeling not-great about not going, so yesterday I resolved I WAS going to go to class on Saturday morning.

So, in a Herculean feat of willpower, this morning I dragged myself out of bed early (well, early for a weekend), put on my workout clothes, and then drove out to Short Pump thinking "this is NOT going to be fun, but by 10:30 it'll be DONE and then I can be proud of myself for the rest of the day :)".  So I get to the gym in time to start class at 9:30am sharp ... only to discover that I had the freakin times wrong and Body Pump starts at 9:15am.  And Body Pump isn't the kind of class you can just sneak into 15-20 minutes late: there's a good bit of setup, the warm-up sections are actually kind of key, and people naturally spread themselves out in a way that takes up the whole floor and makes it difficult to fit yourself in after its started.

So after forcing myself out of bed and into the car and to the gym ... I missed the damn thing.  GRAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  For a moment I seriously considered just leaving and going grocery shopping instead (which was on my list for this morning anyway), but then my "make some REAL lifestyle changes" motto kicked in, and so I stayed for about 45 minutes, did mostly cardio plus a few basic weight exercises.  It wasn't Body Pump, but at least I left feeling like I accomplished something.

Speaking of making real lifestyle changes and accomplishing something, I'm really very proud of what I've done so far this year.  Numbers don't lie:


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Garden Blogging!

Window Garden Blogging, that is.  Much as I'd like to plant a real garden in the ground, living in a multi-unit apartment building where the downstairs neighbors have a dog who likes to pee on plants makes that a little untenable.  So, container gardening in my windows it is!

This year there are 3 main containers:

Box #1 is the flower container in the dining room.  This one is purely for decoration.  Last year I started with an eclectic mix of indoor plants that looked spectacular, but was kind of high maintenance and didn't survive the month that I was away in Pennsylvania helping to take care of my dad during his final months.  I replanted with begonias, which worked well enough, but I didn't really like the red flowers on the red covering, so this year I knew I wanted more contrast and lower maintenance.  I settled on something called "Supertunia Priscilla", which is some kind of Petunia hybrid with a royal violet flower (you can see the first one blooming in the pic) and some Creeping Jenny with very vibrant light green leaves.  Both are great container plants and so far I really like the way the colors match against the container and the red radiator covering.
 

Box #2 is the basil box in the kitchen nook, which as you might expect, is for eating, not looking.  In the past I've tried a couple different herbs in the same container, but could never keep anything (especially parsley or cilantro) alive except for the basil.  Basil is fresh herb that I use most during the summer anyway, so I took the hint and switched to a dedicated box.  There's a natural foods grocery store just a block from my place that sells really great local tomatoes during the summer, and tomatoes with mozzarella, basil and a balsamic reduction became a pretty regular meal last summer.  These basil plants were just seedlings a few days ago, but with the full afternoon sun and lots of water they're already perking up quite nicely.

Box #3 is the mint box on the back porch, which is also for eating ... or rather for drinking if you want to be precise.  I am absolutely OBSESSED with sweet minty drinks during the summer.  There's just something about them that suits the hot humid Virginia summers (I guess those old southern gentlemen with their mint juleps were onto something) and this will be the 3rd summer I've had a dedicated box for mint.  Super yummy.