10 Mar
2014

Downton Attire — Finally!

I have a mild obsession with Downton Abbey. The characters, the scenery, the costumes — I don’t know which I like best. Imagine my excitement when our local history museum decided to host a Downton Abbey premiere party. John scored tickets for us. I made costumes, we ordered gloves. The excitement was building. And then, a big snowstorm moved in. The premiere party was cancelled.

Weeks later, the museum decided to host a final night party to replace the premiere party. Again, John scored tickets for us. Sadly, the party time was at the exact time of Oliver’s Blue and Gold Banquet — an event that was a quite a bit higher in priority to us. The costumes sat unused.

But, finally, my chance! Our grade school has a trivia night and auction each year. A group of our friends reserve a table and we always go in costume based on the the year’s auction theme. This year’s theme was TV! And, you guessed it, our table theme was Downton Abbey. Introducing the Duke and Duchess of Glendale:

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We decorated our table with flowers, silver and a tea service. I brought scones and tea sandwiches. We had fancy hair and gloves on. It was a true party. And, I believe, even more fun than the museum party as we were surrounded by friends — equally as eager to play dress up as us. And, we won second place for costumes and table decoration to boot! A great ending to a long run (11 years!) of grade school parenting.

9 Mar
2014

Shredded Brussel Sprout Salad

This salad comes together quickly. Even kids who don’t like cooked brussel sprouts may find this one delicious!

BrusselSprout

Ingredients:

1 – 1.5 lbs brussel sprouts, shredded (I use a food processor)
1 peeled and chopped apple
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (walnuts would be awesome but I was out of them)
1/3 cup cheese
3 thinly sliced green onions

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and drizzle on dressing.

Dressing:

1/3 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together in a jar and shake until emulsified.

This keeps well in the fridge. I like it better the second day when everything is just a bit wilted, but maybe I’m just weird like that.

8 Mar
2014

Mexican Hot Chocolate

This has been the endless winter. Since cold weather isn’t my thing, I’ve had to come up with all kinds of coping methods for this season. My latest is this:

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Mexican Hot Chocolate! We are lucky to have an International foods market in the next town — Global Foods. Browsing inside the store is an escape for me. I love to slowly move down each aisle, looking for unique and interesting items. In the “Mexico” aisle, I found the hot chocolate tablets. They get dissolved in hot milk, frothed with a whisk, and then enjoyed. And, man, have we enjoyed it! If I can be warm on the outside, this helps me be warm inside.

7 Mar
2014

Freaky Finds

If you’re looking for a vase or planter, a thrift store is always a good first stop. You are certain to find a one-of-a-kind vessel. Like this one:

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The half-baby diaper pot. I stared at this a while, trying to imagine what kind of plant or flower arrangement was intended for this. Cacti? Spider Mums? Any ideas?

6 Mar
2014

Homemade Garlic Hummus

This is so easy to make and tastes fresh. Much cheaper to make at home than spending $3 on a small tub of it.

hummus

Ingredients:

15 oz of chick peas
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp tahini
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients into a blender and puree. This recipe can be doubled, tripled, even quadrupled and the prepared hummus can be frozen.

5 Mar
2014

Thrift Store Score!

Every time I see a vintage pyrex piece while thrifting, I do a little happy dance! Look at this lemony yellow serving dish.

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Complete with glass lid and in great shape. Only $3. Needless to say, I brought it home where it’s now sitting on my desk, enticing me to fill it with something tasty. Who am I to resist?

5 Mar
2014

Following the Arrow

Recently, Oliver graduated from Cub Scouts and earned his Arrow of Light.

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He has been in cub scouts for three years and was very eager to move up to a big scout troop. So eager, in fact, that he was counting down the days until the Blue and Gold Banquet, where the crossover ceremony took place. In the years he’s been a scout I’ve seen him grow to love camping — including sleeping away at summer camp in a buggy canvas tent (he loved it). He’s learned new skills and responsibilities. He’s taken great interest in serving his community (scouting for food and volunteering for our local “make a difference day”). Much hiking happened and my boy’s natural love of nature has grown. It’s been pretty cool.

John and I were very reluctant about embarking on scouts. Neither of us like camping in a tent and many things about the scout organization kind of rub me the wrong way. We took a risk and signed him up — a choice we made because we trusted the people in charge of our local group. We don’t regret it one bit. Our leaders (and now friends) have made this experience a highlight of Oliver’s childhood. I’m actually excited to see what else is in store as he continues his scouting journey.

4 Mar
2014

Mr. Selfridge

John and I have a new viewing obsession, Mr. Selfridge:

selfridge

Image source

This is so captivating that we spent a snowy Sunday afternoon watching several back-to-back — and we NEVER do that! It is free on Amazon prime. I’m starting to worry, though, because we are at the end of season one. It is going far too fast!

3 Mar
2014

I Hate Squirrels

The last week has been a crazy week of house problems. In the end we wound up with this:

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A new water heater. An unnecessary and expensive new water heater. What does this have to do with squirrels? Well, it’s a long story.

About a week ago, the smoke detector in the basement, near the furnace and water heater, started to go off when both the furnace and water heater were on. Weird, we thought. No visible smoke but I know those devices can be sensitive. I called the company that services our furnace to have them come and check it out.

The furnace guy came out, cleaned the furnace and he noticed that we had low gas pressure coming into the house. His take was the low pressure was causing issues when both appliances ran — they weren’t running efficiently and causing particulate matter to set off the alarm. While his explanation didn’t make much sense to me, I figured, well, he’s the expert. Shrug. “Call the gas company,” he said.

So, I did. And, yes, we did have low pressure which took an entire day to resolve, including ripping out chunks of drywall in the basement bathroom to reach some pipes. Every guy that traipsed through the basement, pointed at this pipe or that pipe and said “That’s not right. That shouldn’t be there. This isn’t up to code. You’re meter shouldn’t be here.” and stuff like that. I am puzzled because we finished our basement about 8 years ago and everything passed inspection at the time and we had a p-i-c-k-y inspector. Do codes change that much, that quickly? Anyways, the clogged pipe was found — it was in an outside pipe that leads to the house. Hooray, I thought, problem solved. Then, the last guy that came through said the smoke alarm problem was not due to low pressure but rather the water heater not venting properly. He said it was spewing carbon monoxide into the basement and slapped a warning on the water heater and shut the gas off to it. The water heater has been in the house, venting that way, for 16 years!

OK, we thought. Guess it’s reaching the end of it’s life cycle. And we do NOT want CO in the house. So, we called a plumber, next, to get a new water heater.

Turns out we needed a special sized, hard-to-find water heater in order for the vent pipe to be at the correct angle and resolve our venting issue. It took days of waiting (without hot water) to get it. Friday night, it was installed. And, as soon as it was fired on, the smoke alarm went off. “That’s weird,” the plumber said. And he promptly turned off the gas to the water heater. “Call the furnace guy,” he said.

Late on Friday, found the furnace guy back out here. He shut off the gas to the furnace. We were left without heat or hot water with a big ice storm moving in the next day. At that point, I became an hysterical shrew — this problem had been going on for a week! Shouldn’t the furnace guy have found a venting problem the first time out? Isn’t that what the V in HVAC stand for? Ventilation? He promised to come back in the morning and check it out further. Before the storm.

Early Saturday morning, two guys were climbing all over the roof, trying to figure what the problem is. They discovered a squirrel problem. Squirrels had invaded the chimney (they chewed a hole in the wire grate around it), made a nest, destroyed parts of the flue liner and were clogging up the vent to both the furnace and water heater. The furnace guys cleared the problem and told me that we couldn’t run the furnace or hot water heater until the flue liner was replaced — after the ice storm. I started to cry. One of the guys said “Wait, wait, wait, we can fix this up.” And he spent more time on the roof and, who knows what he did, but the furnace is now running. I can’t run both appliances at the same time until the flue liner is replaced — hopefully this week. You can bet I have carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the house and am very happy they are there.

So, the mystery of smoke alarm is solved. A week later. We do have heat and hot water (sort of…). And now, in addition to a new (unneeded) water heater, we will be adding a new flue liner to the house. Oh, and some drywall to repair the basement bathroom.

I’m hoping for an uneventful week.

2 Mar
2014

Flying Shoes

I found these sparkly shoes for Margaux at a thrift store. They were brand new and perfectly her — sparkly and purple. My daughter felt compelled to enhance them.

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Sadly, they did not fit her and will be returned. May the next purchaser find them as exciting as she did.

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