Friday, October 30, 2009

Rotting Lawn Refuse vs. Me. I win. Barely.

You might recall my post about cleaning up our garden that I wrote a few weeks ago. Well, the lawn refuse I collected filled three gigantic paper bags (the kind you buy especially for yard waste). We hauled them into the garage, propped them up against a wall, and waited for the next trash pick up. Unfortunately, last Friday, when the bags of waste should have been moved curbside, it rained. I wasn't about to bring the paper bags to the curb and let them soak up water all morning. We left them in the garage.

And boy, did we pay for it.

Interesting things happen to yard waste after it has been in your garage for several weeks:
  • It produces a stench so powerful that when the door from the garage to the house is opened, the smell wafts through the entire house and lingers for several minutes.
  • It melts into chocolate colored goopy liquid.
  • It creates a fuzzy white mold. On the rotting vines and on the outside of the bag.
  • It oozes. Slowly. Out of the bag and all over the floor.
Now, I should note that only one bag was really responsible for all of the ickiness. I swear that the material in the bag had lost about 75% of its total volume over the last two weeks. It just collapsed into a rotting pile of slimy brown stuff.

Unfortunately for me, while I was very aware of the smell I didn't realize just how bad the problem was until this morning when I brought the garbage out to the curb. This was, of course, after G left for work so I was left to fend for myself.

Freshly showered and dressed for the day, I assessed the situation and realized very quickly that the leaking bag wasn't going make it to the curb in one piece. I also realized that I really didn't want to touch the slimy, moldy mess. I had no choice, though, it absolutely had to be thrown out today. I somehow managed to pick up the oozing blob while using two plastic garbage bags as giant mitts to try to contain everything that was trying to escape from it.

Wrestling with rotting waste is not a great way to start your Friday.

You know what's really bad, though? I managed to stuff another giant bag into our trash bin, but I couldn't fit the third one in. I left it in the garage. I just can't justify paying our waste company extra money to remove it. I think this is a good example of a time when my mom would tell me that I'm too cheap.

Have a happy Friday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Things I Like: Bananagrams!

G and I have played several games of Bananagrams this week. It's awesome.
It's been interesting because we both have very interesting strategies. Can you guess who is who?

1. One player works very slowly. Very slowly. S/he could be nearly finished with the game, but realize that s/he has all of the letters necessary to spell a ridiculously long word, undo the entire game in order to make that one word (thereby needing to use the other 40 or so pieces to make all new words), and then lose the game because s/he played so slowly and needed to have the longest, weirdest word. At the end of the game, this person's game pieces are relatively compactly organized (taking up a small portion of the table and perfectly in line with each other).

2. This player could care less about the quality or length of words used. S/he spells to win. By the end of the game, this person's game pieces are sprawled out across the table.

Sorry mom and Aunt S., but this game might be more fun than Scrabble. ;)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chili Fries

Last summer, during our Big Bog camping trip, my mom made campfire packets filled with french fries, canned chili (sans beef for me), and highly processed liquid cheese. They were amazing for several reasons:

1. My husband ate them, despite the fact the fries had been sitting in a cooler for well over 40 hours and were no longer frozen. If you know him, I'm sure you'll understand why this is a big deal.

2. I ate them, despite the fact they were covered in canned meatless chili, which just sounds revolting.

The fact of the matter is that they tasted awesome. The husband has occasionally requested them over the past few months, but I just couldn't bring myself to buy canned meat. (You can love canned meat all you want, I just can't do it. Sorry.) At the grocery store on Sunday, it occurred to me that I could improvise and make homemade TVP chili, pile it on some baked french fries and cover it with shredded cheese. I knew it was risky for several reasons, but mostly because G claims to be repulsed by TVP.

Tonight I made it. I lied to my husband (we can't lie to each other, so this was really tough, but I knew I would reveal the truth after he finished, so that helped me make it through dinner - well, almost through dinner, I ended up telling him before he finished because I felt badly) and told him I used canned Hormel chili for his and TVP for mine. He ate his in record time. The entire time he made comments about how good it tasted. "This is so good." " This is awesome." When I couldn't hold it in any longer, I told him it was TVP chili and his eyes grew really big. He then claimed that it "tasted a little goofy," but was still edible.

I should have taped him talking about how good it was while he was eating it. I will never get him to admit that he liked TVP.

Here's the recipe (using the ingredients I used):

1 Bag of Alexia crinkle cut fries (I think crinkle cut holds toppings better)
1 package of McCormick chili seasoning (reduced sodium)*
1 bag (14 ouces) Morningstar TVP crumbles
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 can mixed chili beans (or just kidney beans), rinsed and drained
A couple of handfuls of shredded cheese

Heat the oven to 350. Bake fries for 15 minutes, turn bake 10 additional minutes. Meanwhile, coat a frying pan with olive oil and heat the TVP crumbles. Add seasoning (*I used 3/4 of the pouch), tomatoes w/ juice and beans. Cook for 10 minutes. Take fries out. I divided the fries into two parts and put each pile on a piece of tinfoil to make transferring them to plates easier. Cover with chili and generously top with cheese. Put back into the oven for 4 - 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Trust me, they are good - and pretty healthy (all things considered).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hyland Park

We spent Saturday afternoon at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve with some of our friends. Their son, Leif, is like a nephew to me. He is so much fun to be around! He let me take a few pictures of him - isn't he cute?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Front Entry

Here's the console table we added to our front entry over the weekend. It has a dark "tobacco" stain that looks great with the striped wallpaper (gold/cream). It looks rather lonely in this picture, doesn't it?

...and here's the table with our cheery front door. We were foolish and didn't measure the distance from the door's edge to the corner of the wall before we bought the table (or even assembled it, for that matter). Fortunately for us, we had about 18 inches to spare between the table and the hallway entrance.

Mags, you'll be happy to see that the wreath hanger is in its permanent home.

Here's the mirror I mentioned that I want to put above the console table. The stain is listed as espresso and I think it looks quite different from the table, but several of the online reviewers said they bought them together and they look great. I guess we'll just have to wait and see...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend in Review

A quick weekend in review:

1. Saturday morning, I prepared the garden for winter. During the process I discovered an entire crop of onions I didn't know existed. I also learned that you should probably remove squash plants from the soil just after the first freeze. Removing large, rotting, slimy, dirt-covered plants isn't exactly a good time. I also used some really old shears to thin/trim our raspberry bushes. Cutting back the feral vines of the raspberry bushes must have worked, because yesterday the neighbors that live behind us actually came over to introduce themselves.

2. Saturday night we attended the evening service at the Lutheran church just up the road from us. We ended up really liking the pastor, and plan to go back next Saturday.

3. After church, we met three of our favorite people for dinner at Fat Lorenzo's in Minneapolis. After pizza and gelato we went to their house where we played an awesome game called Carcassonne and I kept their almost two year old son up running around, dancing and laughing until 10:15 PM. I'm sure his parents can't wait to pay us back some day.

4. Sunday we went to REI. G bought a new fleece and I tried on some hats that I loved, but didn't buy (G's favorite, my favorite). I think I liked the second hat best because the S/M fit me much better than the L, which was a first.

5. On our way home we stopped at Target and bought a console table for our front entryway. It fits perfectly. Now I need to buy the matching mirror and some picture frames for either side of the mirror, and the entry way will be finished. At least we'll have one room done!

6. Sunday afternoon I made my MIL's receipe for wild rice and chicken soup. Something went wrong, though, because the husband and I agreed it just wasn't right. We'll try it again sometime.

7. Sunday night we practiced, ironed shirts, and got ready for the new week.

We had a very good weekend! Busy Monday ahead, more later!

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Homeowner Lessons 1

We learned a lesson about lawn maintenance last night.

Long grass + large yard = mower spews smoke and shuts down = perturbed husband.

Fortunately, he figured out what the problem was. Long, moisture filled blades of grass were collecting between the blades. Not fun. He fixed the problem (several times). Lesson learned. We'll never let our grass grow that long again.

While G mowed, I picked up debris in our yard. I thought were would be sticks, but all I found were rotten apples. Many, many rotten apples. I started the cleanup process by kicking them into the garden, but then one apple exploded on my shoe.

Here's a cell phone image of just a few of the apples that I transferred to the garden. That giant feral plant is our raspberry bush. It's totally out of control. My dad is coming to help us tame our garden and prepare it for the winter. That should make our neighbors happy.

I'm working at a new school today. Exciting!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Paint is on the Wall!

I managed to prime and paint yesterday. Here's one of my Rothko-esque (but not really) looking sample spots [I apologize for the lighting. There's not much I can do about it.]:

In order from top to bottom: Pearl Harbor, Barley, Malton. We've pretty much eliminated the barley. It's even more yellow than it looks in this picture. Pearl Harbor is much richer than Malton. We're going to paint bigger pieces of the walls with those colors and see what we think.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Choosing paint colors has to be one of the most difficult tasks known to mankind. With the help of G's mom and a friend of ours, we've narrowed down our possible selections to a few colors:

Pearl Harbor
[Can anyone explain this name to me? I'm just not getting it.]

Oklahoma Wheat

Mom K recommended Pearl Harbor, and a friend of ours also suggested a very similar color.
While we think it's our best option, we want to compare it to at least one other paint swatch. We want a color that brings some warmth into the room, but isn't so dark that it makes the space feel smaller. Beigeish colors with a touch of gold might be our best bet.

Both of the paints are available in Benjamin Moore's Natura line (actually, it looks like you can get almost any of their colors added to a Natura base), which is perfect for us. We had been looking at another line of low-VOC paints, but the color palette was very limited and both G and I weren't thrilled with our options. Later today I'll make a trip back to ACE to pick up sample cans of both the colors we think might work.

After our trip to ACE we went to Home Depot. I have spent way too much time at Home Depot lately. We bought the ladder that our home inspector recommended (we have some leaves to remove from our gutters...), a low-VOC primer, several rolls of blue painter's tape, and a paint kit (trays, a small brush, and a couple of rollers). We're hoping to get some primer on the walls today (just a few spots on different walls) and then tomorrow we'll test out the colors. I'm excited to see how they look!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Home Project: Decorating our Living Room

Two days in a row! What's different? I'm not subbing and researching for the first time in six weeks. Hallelujah! I made more progress on my research in four hours yesterday morning than I did during those six weeks. Crazy.

This is the "new" chair (new to us, old to my aunt) I mentioned in the previous post. And to our families: yes, those are the boxes we moved into the house several weeks ago. They were all relocated to the basement during the Vikings/Packers game last night (would you believe I watched the first half of the game?). Our basement is now a true disaster zone.

I really, really love this chair. It's incredibly comfortable. It looks great. I'm sitting in it right now, in fact, and I have no plans to move to a different location anytime soon.

While not the focal point (its size limits where it can be positioned, especially when we get a couch), it is our inspiration piece for the color palette we'll use for our living room. The lighting isn't the best in this picture, but the fabric is striped. It alternates between a gold and a light green, but from a distance of even just a few feet looks mostly gold. Aunt S. had it positioned next to a chocolate brown leather couch and they looked fabulous together. I think we'll try to stick with a similarly colored upholstery or leather for our couch. Accent pieces will probably be a light blue. Maybe.

Here's my question for you:

Knowing that we're working with a palette that is primarily defined by chocolate brown, a soft gold (and green when you're up close), and blue, what color would you paint the walls of the living room? Would you go lighter or darker? Is there a particular color you think would work well in this space?

Weekend Recap

We're back from the Windy City, where we had an excellent time hanging out with my aunt. We arrived around 7ish on Friday night and feasted on deep dish pizza from Gino's East. Saturday morning we were up early. We spent the day in the city at the Museum of Science and Industry. My aunt and I mostly followed G around so he could see all of the exhibits he thought looked interesting. His favorite?

[727 exhibit with model railroad exhibit beneath]

The 727 (you can actually walk around in it) and all of the plane-related exhibits surrounding it. He was also a big fan of the LEGO Architecture exhibit (much cooler than the link) and the space exhibit. It was a very exciting day for G. Late that afternoon we headed back to Aunt S's, stopping en route at Portillo's for supper. Highly recommended for the simple fact that it's a Chicago legend. Food's not bad either.

Sunday morning we were up early again. Our mission for the trip was to drop off a load of furniture at my aunt's and pick up a chair she gave to us as our housewarming gift. We hauled all of her new furniture in to her house and the chair out to the truck, and then hit the road. We spent a good part of the afternoon in Madison, visiting Sister M, who recently relocated there for work. She showed us her condo and took us to the very impressive campus where she works. We also made a stop at one of our favorite old restaurants - The Nitty Gritty - for lunch. I love being back in that city!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dancing Machine!

Two of the days I subbed this week I was forced to participate in a traditional dance course. The student I was assisting required "special coaching" (according to the instructor) and for some reason she thought I would be able to handle that job.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I am a horrible dancer and I am incredibly self-conscious when I am doing any sort of movement other than walking. It usually takes more than two glasses of wine for me to even touch parquet dance floor. Even then, I do little more than gyrate my hips, march in place, and pump my fists in the air.

We spent 50 minutes learning something very similar to this, but with more intricate hand movements. Almost everyone in the class knew the dance. My student and I danced in the back row, which I remember from my ballerina days as the safest zone for the uncoordinated and confused. Or so I thought. The teacher of this course was all over the place. My poor student had her undivided attention for most of the class, and since I was her "other teacher," I had to work just as hard as she did. I think the teacher was impressed - in a not so good kind of way - at my inability to follow her movements. I stuck out like a sore thumb. In addition to being about two heads taller than anyone else in the room, I had zero skills. I was the uncoordinated buffoon in the back row. I'm pretty sure I was the worst dancer in the room. That's no joke.

The experience was made even more awesome by the impressive audience we attracted, which was comprised of: five bus drivers who gawked at us from outside the cafeteria windows, a handful of parents of preschoolers, and an entire forth grade class. I spent the first four weeks of school working with the fourth graders and I know them fairly well. Well enough that a few of them felt more than comfortable calling out encouraging phrases that either started or ended with my name, and for the most daring of the bunch to loudly announce: "Ms. K! I didn't know you got moves like that!"

It was a really, really embarrassing experience. Probably had to be there to really appreciate the story.

We're off to Chicago for the weekend. Hopefully I'll have something more interesting to report upon our return. The last few weeks have hectic. I'll try to find time to do more blogging next week. I don't know how I used to do it every day!