"I want, I want, I want ... but that's crazy"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

40

Friday, my annual trip to the BMV was painless enough. I walked right up to the counter with no waiting to renew my registrations for my car and Pooh's. I had to renew my driver's license too. I always have this crazy eyed sort of look in my driver's license photos, but at least this one's not too terribly bad. I took the time to do hair and makeup for once. I figure if it's THE photo of me for the next four years, maybe I should attempt to make it look a little less crap. The image here is as lousy as you would expect a cellphone photo of a driver's license photo to be, but I assure you, it's not bad for capturing the last day of my 30s. 

I even took the eye test and passed without my glasses, so according to my driver's license, I don't have to wear them for another four years, Of course, I always wear my glasses when I'm driving - pretty much only when I'm driving. I just bought a new pair from Zenni Optical just for the occasion. They're pretty cool. Right after I received them, though, I got an email telling me that Zenni was having a 2-for-1 sale. Well, I couldn't pass that up, could I? I ordered two more pairs just last night for less than $20 total, including shipping. Is it any wonder I recommend Zenni to EVERYONE I know who wears glasses? Today's the last day for that, so if you want the deal, jump on it!

When I arrived at work Friday, this is what I found. The whole notion of decorating desks for birthdays is a relatively new concept, and I think I like it. It's a whole lot better than what we did before - which was ignore our coworkers as much as possible. The cute little pillow there is a gift from my news editor. It says, "New shoes cure the blues." Yeah, I'm kinda known for my shoe thing. You'll also notice two Doctor Who t-shirts (and underneath, what you can't see is a Doctor Who calendar as well), courtesy of my bf, who's our staff photographer. Very cool selection on his part.

Saturday was my actual birthday. I spent half of that sleeping. Pooh did stop by for a visit - mainly to pick up the new registration for his car, but it's always nice to see him. He's planning his outfit for the Daddy Daughter Dance he'll be escorting his sister, Gin, to. (She'd much rather go with him than her father.) Pooh said he'd take her as long as he could wear a bow tie. He's also considering suspenders and a tweed jacket. If he can find a fez, he'll be in heaven. (Yes, that's a reference to the 11th Doctor. I've got the kids hooked on it too.) Gin's all for it. The dance is a fundraiser for her cheer squad.

Speaking of Doctor Who, I've got Munch convinced to wear a gas mask for her Halloween costume this year. Instead of saying, "Trick or treat" when she rings the doorbells, she'll be saying, "Are you my mummy?" LOL! Awesome!

Anyway, after Pooh left, I took the girls out to dinner at Applebee's for my birthday. I had a gift card for $25 that I'd gotten for my points at MyPoints.com, so dinner was only 95 cents plus the tip. Not bad. I do so love getting free stuff, and MyPoints is one of my favorites, because it's so easy and has the best rewards.

I stayed up too late rewatching episodes of Shameless (U.K.), so I only got about 4 hours of sleep before I got up to watch the Liverpool v. Man United match this morning. We won after a decidedly sticky first half and Gerrard scoring first for Liverpool. Nailbiter, squeaky bum and all that. Still, the thrill of the final victory wasn't enough to keep me from stealing another hour of sleep before I had to go in to work today.

I'm off for the next two days though. I took the days off because my ex-fiance and his wife are visiting from Australia. I'm soooo sleeping in tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A real weekend ... and a yummy snack - Chocolate Banana Smoothie

After a ridiculously long week - I was designated replacement for a reporter on vacation, in addition to my own work - I was glad to have a real weekend for a change.


I got up Saturday morning to watch my beloved Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0. It wasn't the blow out it sounds like though. The match was scoreless for the first half, and then when the second half came around, it was Paul Scholes - our veteran, our legend, playing his 700th match with United - who finally broke the drought. After that Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) sank one, then we had two new players making their home debuts, Alex BΓΌttner and Nick Powell, each score. It was a good start to the day.

When the match was finished, the girls and I took a little trip to Troy for the Taste of Troy event. We got to try lots of yummy goodies from the local restaurants, and that always gives me good ideas for my own kitchen.

Munch spent the night at her dad's last night, but Gin didn't want to. We picked her back up today and did our weekly shopping.

This week's menu, tentatively, includes the following:

* Mini meatloaves and roasted potatoes

* Steak and baked potato (the girls love steak and it struck me that I almost never serve it. After seeing the prices at the grocery today, I was quickly reminded why. But this will be a little indulgence.)

* Buffalo chicken wraps (we had some buffalo chicken ravioli at Taste of Troy, and it gave me the idea)

* Beef and cheese quesadillas

We picked up a rotisserie chicken from the deli to eat tonight, accompanied by a nice salad.

And I threw together this little treat - kid-friendly and healthy snack that's great for after-school peckishness without spoiling dinner!

Chocolate Banana Smoothie

1/2 very ripe banana (the riper it is, the sweeter it is)
1-2 T. chocolate syrup (like Hershey's syrup)
2 T. vanilla yogurt
1/2 - 3/4 c. skim or lowfat milk (depending on how thick you/they like it)

Pulse in blender then run on high for about a minute or until smooth. Makes 1 generous serving.

Sooo simple, yet soooo good!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unspoken comments

In the tradition of the unsent letter, I have the "unspoken comment." This would be that thing you shout at your computer when reading a comment thread on a story online. 

Tonight's unspoken comments:

1. It's not being arrogant if you're right. 

2. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Stupidity is the refusal of knowledge.

There, now I feel better.

Oh, and today's household tip:

After using the fabric steamer, give it a couple of minutes to cool before you attempt to wipe the lint off the faceplate with your T-shirt. (typed with one hand while the other is pressed into an ice pack)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Uncertainty settled

I got a new landlord friend on Saturday. He says he wants us to be friends, and he hates the term landlord. This finally ends the uncertainty I've been living under for the past nine months.

You see, I've lived in my townhouse rental for 10 years now. The building was owned - long with several others - by a local, quite elderly man and managed by his sons. One son was friendly enough, but the other I must admit I found intimidating. He NEVER smiled. The father I saw the week I moved into my home and never again after that.

The father died last Christmas, and I had no idea what they family might choose to do with the rental properties. For months, I heard nothing, then finally, one of the sons called to say that his mother would be selling. Where would that leave me?

Well, it's finally sorted now. My rent has gone up by $50 a month, but I expected that. However, many repairs that needed to be done for a long time were completed by Sunday. 

My garbage disposal died a couple of months ago. We've learned to live without it, but the sludge buildup caused the drain to be slow, so each cycle of the dishwasher had the steaming hot water backing up into the sink. We kept the plunger in a permanent position in the kitchen. On the advice of his real estate agent (dammit), the new landlord removed the disposal (he did ask if it would be ok and was willing to replace it, but I went along anyway - we can live without it), and he replumbed under the sink. The drainage is clear now. Works for me.

My upstairs toilet has been out of commission for about nine years now. He replaced that so we finally don't have to trek downstairs in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

The combination shelf/clothes rack in my daughter's closet collapsed a couple of months ago. He replaced that immediately.

He's also going to replace the patio door, because a few years ago the wood core rotted out, and it's been taped closed ever since. He's looking for a replacement handle for our outside water spigot as well. One of the sons removed that "for the winter to prevent it freezing" several years ago and never put it back. We've had a sprinkler in the garage for hot summer days that the girls have never been able to use.

The new guy's very nice (I'd gotten that impression when he did the initial walkthrough, but now it's completely confirmed). He said, "You've been here a long time and we want to keep you happy." That's awfully nice, isn't it?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Let's get a little crazier!

It was easy for me to forget that my schedule had actually been in a bit of a lull over the past three weeks - what with me being busy about every single second, and all. But in reality, Gin was on a break from cheerleading practice because of maintenance at the gym, and I haven't been going to workouts because of excessive work and illness.

Break time's over.

Last night marked Gin's return to cheer practice (so, I leave work half an hour early to race home to get her then run her back to practice). I sat through that for an hour, because I'm still not quite up to full health. There was a parents' meeting afterward. We went over the competition schedule, which will have me driving her all over the state over the next several months. We also got into fundraisers and upcoming parties - all of which mean more dates in my calendar and fewer hours in my days. 

Somehow, after the parent meeting I still managed to come home and make the honey garlic chicken I'd planned. It turned out GREAT! Many yums received from the girls!

Awesomeness!

Sorry I don't have a real recipe for it, since I kind of threw it together, but here's the basic process:

Honey Garlic Ginger Chicken
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into about 1-inch cubes
Vegetable oil
Toasted sesame oil
Seasoned salt (Lawry's is best)
Honey
Soy sauce (Kikkoman recommended, always. Their low-sodium is VERY good too.)
Ground ginger
Garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper
Small can of water chestnuts, drained 
Cornstarch
(I'll note that I wanted to add roasted cashews, but the girls don't like those. I think it'd be AWESOME!)
Instant rice

Saute the chicken in a large skillet or wok in a small amount of vegetable oil until nearly cooked through. You don't want it QUITE done, because it's still got some cooking left to do. Sprinkle lightly with a little seasoned salt while cooking.

In a separate pan, cook rice according to directions ( I made a total of three cups: 1 1/2 c. each of rice and water).

When chicken is about finished, drain most of the liquid. Sprinkle in a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Add water chestnuts and stir to warm. Generously sprinkle with garlic powder (probably about a teaspoon or so). Add a good portion of ground ginger (also probably a teaspoon or so). Generously drizzle with honey (I'd guess it was maybe a third of a cup...ish). Generously drizzle with soy sauce (but don't overdo it and make it too salty - I'd guess I used less than a quarter of a cup. Aim low and add if you need more.). Add a couple twists from the pepper mill. Stir together.

Taste test the liquid and tweak to your liking. When it comes to a jolly boil, mix about a teaspoon of cornstarch with about a quarter cup of water in a cup and stir until there are no lumps. Pour into skillet and stir quickly and thoroughly to mix it with the liquid. Let it return to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the sauce thickens and clarifies - just a couple of minutes.

In the mean time, add a little garlic, ginger, soy sauce and honey to the rice to LIGHTLY flavor it. Not too much. 

Serve the chicken mixture over the rice and top with some crispy chow mein noodles.





Tonight's dinner was tacos. You don't need a recipe for that, right? :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

A cheaper option

Sometimes I come across a product that's so good or such a great value that I have to share it with my friends. This is NOT a paid post and I am not being compensated in any way for this - it's just a great deal.

We've been dealing with a flea infestation in my house pretty much since we adopted our kitten, Colleen, as I mentioned in an earlier post. We had the same problem when we first adopted our older cat, Cookie. They had fleas but were too young for the commercial flea treatments available (pretty much all of them say not to use them on kittens younger than 12 weeks), so the fleas were able to get a foothold in the house.

With Cookie, I used Capstar and Program to resolve the problem, and they worked great - better than great. After getting rid of his initial flea problem as a kitten, we never had another for the eight years after - until little Colleen joined the family. (I'd stopped treatment on Cookie for financial reasons.)

For a quick overview, Capstar, whose active ingredient is nitenpyram, kills the fleas your dog or cat has NOW. It starts to work within 15 to 30 minutes, and the fleas just fall off. It's not a long-term solution. It only lasts for 24 hours, but repeat doses can be given. What it's for is to get rid of the fleas on them NOW. For the long-term flea control, after eliminating the initial infestation, that's where the Program comes in. Program is a once-a-month treatment whose active ingredient is lufenuron. It works to ensure that fleas that get on your dog or cat can't breed. One flea isn't a problem - it's the 60 eggs every female can lay every day that's creates the problem. The two medications can safely be used together.

Well, the only - and I mean ONLY - problem with Capstar and Program is that they are quite pricey. When I was searching for treatment for Colleen, the cheapest I found were $20 (plus shipping) for six tablets of Capstar and $35 (plus shipping) for six tablets of Program. And that was a deal in itself, nearly all sources had the Program at closer to $50. 

In searching for the best deal, I came across something even better - something I hadn't even considered before for pet medications - generic alternatives. I use generics all the time for people medication, so why it hadn't crossed my mind for my pets, I have no idea.

What I found is from a company called Little City Dogs. I suppose it's not technically a generic but rather the same medication - the same dosage of the active ingredients - for considerably less cost. I was able to purchase 12 capsules of the Capstar alternative and 12 capsules of the Program alternative for a TOTAL COST of $37.50, INCLUDING shipping. That's six doses for each cat - a six-month supply. You can't even get that awful, ineffective flea control at Walmart for less than that. 

I bought mine through Amazon, and in reading the reviews, I had no doubt they'd be as good as the originals.  I've since received them, and I can confirm - they work. 

So, if you've found you love Capstar and Program, but you don't love the price, now you have a cheaper option that's just as effective. Glad I could help. :)

(By the way, you still need to treat your HOUSE in the case of an infestation. If you can flea bomb safely, it's highly effective. I can't, because we have aquariums, so I went with the more environmentally and pet-friendly approach of diatomaceous earth.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nail-biting and other pleasant things

Geez, it's only 3:30 in the afternoon, and I've already had a full day - or so it seems.

I woke up to my alarm this morning and frowned for a moment before I realized, "It's match day!" Then I smiled and turned off the alarm, started up the computer and headed downstairs to make a cup of coffee.

I got pretty lucky on my video streams today, as I was able to find a quality stream to allow me to watch the Southampton v. Manchester United match in its entirety, with only a couple of minor blips. 

It was a nailbiter, for sure! Southampton scores first, which makes me cringe. Then our new boy, Robin Van Persie ties it up for us. Then they score AGAIN. That's not supposed to happen! We're UNITED, after all, and they're just Southampton. I mean, COME ON! So I spent a good deal of time in squeaky bum mode, even though there was plenty of time to go in the match. 

My son Pooh showed up about this time, so I chatted with him as he stood at my door, but, sorry, United is on. I'm watching the match. :)

Van Persie tied us up again. Then finally came through to put us over the top. We shouldn't be finishing a match against Southampton with a scoreline like 2-3, but in the end, a win is a win is a win, I guess, so I won't complain too much. And a hat trick for Van Persie looks mighty nice, too. 

Well, as soon as the match ended, I devoted my attention to the boy, who had apparently only come for a visit so he could retrieve his old TV for his apartment. Sorry, boy. Seems he'd put it into the garage, for some unknown reason, so when we did our clean sweep of the apartment about six weeks ago, it got hauled to the dump. 

We got to chat for a while anyway. He told me he's met a nice girl and showed me her picture. She's tiny little thing who stands about a foot shorter than he is. I had to chuckle. He said he showed the picture to my mother earlier and she immediately noted that the girl appeared "a little dark." He said, "Yes, Nana. She's Filipino." My mother has come to accept interracial dating (she had no issue with my dating a Jamaican), but she does feel the need to point it out, for some reason. With me, when I showed her Peter's picture, she said, "He looks like he's black." I replied, "Yes, he's Jamaican." She said, "Oh." Then there was no more concern at all. She was actually very supportive of the relationship and very sympathetic when it ended. My mom's funny that way. Her upbringing has not been entirely purged from her, but she's consciously chosen to broaden her mind considerably.

Pooh told me that this girl's very nice and a step up from the loon he was interested in before. That loon actually introduced the two, then became irate as she said the two of them were trying to replace her. That loon had a boyfriend anyway, so I didn't exactly appreciate the way she was stringing my son along. It seems last night she texted him 23 times, threatening to kill herself in a number of different and graphic ways, while her boyfriend slept on the couch. When my son finally responded to her and said he was sending the police over, she told him she wasn't going to do anything to herself and if he told anyone, she would "destroy" him. How very arch-nemesis of her. Loon.

I was working on this week's menu and I wasn't sure if Mom might want to have dinner with us tomorrow (since it's Labor Day and we're both off work, for a change), so I gave her a call. We'll be having dinner there. And Tuesday evening I have to work to cover a meeting, because our regular reporter is off. That means I only cook Wednesday and Thursday this week. Wednesday will be honey garlic chicken and rice, and for Thursday, Munch has requested tacos. Mom kept me on the phone for an hour (there's no such thing as a short phone call with her), so I gave Pooh a one-armed hug as he headed out to go get ready for his date with his new girl. 

All this, and I haven't yet left the house. On my way out now, so I must get ready. I'm taking Munch to her dad's for the night (Gin doesn't want to go), then Gin and I will be doing the grocery shopping. Still plenty of time in the day. Who knows what might come up?