April 30, 2022

Mind. Blown.

I was going to look for a meme for that first picture of this post, but I thought this picture of Duck was perfect! (Well... if it was in focus.)

Since I haven't shared any of the random facts from the daily calendar this week (I literally didn't even pull the pages off of the calendar each day because it's been a crazy week), I figured I'd post a few here. Well, as I was writing this post, I fell down the google rabbit hole and now my mind is just blown. Even if these random facts don't make a lot of sense at first, I end up googling (just to see how accurate it is) and then I stumble upon some really interesting stuff! That is the case for this post...

This one made my brain hurt. I always thought of magenta being a dark pinkish or light purplish color, so I had a hard time figuring out where the green fit in. Jerry was sitting next to me, so I asked, "Magenta is a pinkish-purplish color, right?" He said he thought so, too. I googled magenta to see if maybe I was mistaken about the color, but it looked exactly how I thought:

I showed Jerry and he said, "Huh? I see green and blue." My head whipped around toward him, and I instantly thought of that stupid blue/black or gold/white dress. Remember that? Jerry and I disagreed on the color and we were (laughingly) shouting at each other, "It is NOT blue and black! How could you possibly think that?!" and "There is no possible way that you see white and gold. No way!" It was a pretty funny argument. But still.

Anyway, about the magenta, as soon as I saw his face I knew he was lying. Hahaha! After reading that random fact, I had to read it about 10 more times before I understood. I haven't gotten any sleep this week (and if I do manage to fall asleep, I have nightmares about pantry moths and larvae), so I blame my brain fog on that.

This one started out innocently enough, but when I googled it, I fell down this rabbit hole and now my mind is BLOWN about blindness. I had always assumed that blind people "see" darkness--basically what seeing people see when we close our eyes. But I stumbled upon this super interesting article about what blind people "see"--and the answer is: nothing. Well, I couldn't accept that, and the more I read the more my brain hurt. I just couldn't understand it.

The examples in this article really explained it well, but I still just couldn't imagine would it would be like to not see anything--not even black. Here is where it made the most sense to me:
"To try to understand what it might be like to be blind, think about how it “looks” behind your head. When you look at the scene in front of you, it has a boundary. Your visual field extends to each side only so far. If you spread your arms, and draw your hands back until they are no longer visible, what color is the space that your hands occupy? This space does not look black. It does not look white. It just isn’t."
Maybe I've just been completely ignorant all these years, but it never occurred me to question the fact that blind people don't "see" black or darkness. This is so fascinating to me and I want to read more about it when I have time.

And here's a fun fact just to rest your brain (if it was as confused as mine):

I either read this wrong at first or the sentence was just poorly worded, but at first I thought it meant that Joe Pesci wanted to avoid Macaulay Culkin in order to be afraid of Macaulay when he first saw him. After reading it a couple more times, I realized that Pesci avoided Culkin so that Culkin would be afraid of Pesci.

The finger bite sounded a bit dramatic because you'd have to bite someone HARD to break the skin. When I looked it up, I found a quote on this site from Macaulay Culkin about the incident:
"In one of the scenes, they hang me up on the closet door or something and he says, "I'm gonna bite each one of your fingers off, one at a time.' And during rehearsal he actually bit me. He broke the skin and everything!

"I'm a little nine-year-old boy and he's going around biting (my finger). I still have the scar. I didn't even realise until recently.

"I got really mad at him. I was like, 'I don't care how many Oscars you have, or whatever - don't go biting a nine-year-old! What the heck's wrong with you?'"

I love his response about the Oscars--hahaha! So that's a fun fact.

Okay, I'm going to rest my brain with some Better Call Saul on Netflix. I've only ever watched the first season, way back when it started, but I've been watching it again recently. It's so good! I always really liked Saul on Breaking Bad.

April 29, 2022

Friday Night Photos

I don't have many pictures this week that I haven't already posted, so this post will be relatively short--and mostly cat pictures, haha. But yesterday's post took me forever to write--all about my "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day"--so today's short post is a bit of a blog break.

I love when I come across one of the cats sleeping in a nearly-perfect circle! The symmetry is so satisfying for some reason.

Those photos kind of show the size difference between Phoebe and Duck. See how tiny she is? 

Speaking of Phoebe, she's still hanging in there! She quit letting me give her fluids; I could have kept fighting with her every day, but it was a nightmare. It required two of us: one--me--to hold Phoebe and push the needle in, and the other--Jerry--to control the IV bag. I almost posted the picture I took of Jerry's blood all over the IV bag to show what happens when you try to stick a needle in an unwilling cat, but I decided it was too gruesome ;)  

Anyway, I thought that would be the end of the road for her. I tried again to give her the special kidney diet food (it was the ninth out of ten cans; I'd opened the others over the past couple of weeks hoping she'd eat, but she refused to even try it). Well, apparently the ninth time is a charm! She ate about a tablespoon of it, which is a lot for her to eat at one time.

Ever since then, I can get her to eat a few times a day. It's still a big production because the kittens are SO dramatic and when they smell Phoebe's food, they sit outside my bedroom door (I feed her in there to keep the other cats out) and Duck tries to work the doorknob the whole time she's eating. Phoebe is jumpy, so if she hears a noise while she's eating, she usually stops eating to see what's going on.

She still doesn't look great--very skinny and clumpy/greasy fur--but I've been taking her outside a few times a day, which she loves. I'm taking it one day at a time; I know she's not going to be around forever, and I truly thought her time was up a couple of weeks ago, but she's a very resilient cat!

This was a bit of a tense/funny situation when Estelle was chilling in an Amazon box and Duck didn't see her. He jumped on the box, saw Estelle (who flattened her ears back and just glared at him). Duck "ducked" his head (I wasn't sure what other word to use there!) and tried to very subtly step off the box to show submission, but she is ruthless. If looks could kill, well, Duck probably would have lost five of his nine lives that day.

The cats love my electric blanket as much as I do and I was lying on the couch in my bedroom last night reading a book when Phoebe came and laid down on my thighs. Estelle came in a few minutes later and I could tell she wanted to swat Phoebe off so she could lie there. She knows I don't let her bully the other cats into taking their spots, so she very carefully climbed onto the couch by my feet, and then just laid on my shins. It was funny having both of them up there. (And a major test of how large the capacity of my bladder is.)

(Despite what it looks like, that's not crusty food or spiderwebs on my blanket! The cats "knead" their paws on it frequently and they've snagged the fabric, causing little threads to stick out here and there.)

The cats get so much attention on my blog--poor Joey--so here is a picture of him in his glory while we were out walking. He loves this stretch of our walk because I let him off leash and he can sniff around all he wants.

Finally, here is a picture of Noah and his girlfriend, Claire. I think they look so cute together--they've been together since September, but they were friends for a long time before that.

Noah is going to be EIGHTEEN years old in July--can you believe it?! When I started my blog, he was only six. I want to think of something fun to do for his birthday, so if you have any suggestions, let me know! I actually can't remember my 18th birthday... 

Well, I just looked in my photos to see if I had any pictures from my 18th birthday, and this is the only one I found, haha. It was taken at my parents' house, so we must have had dinner and cake over there.

The most uncomfortable and awkward 20 seconds of my life happen when people sing Happy Birthday to me. Does any adult actually enjoy it? I don't remember that day, but I do remember that sweater and it was the most itchy item of clothing I've ever worn.

Okay, that's all I've got. Have a great weekend! xo

April 28, 2022

The Story of My Crazy-Bad Day

Since I usually post about running on Thursdays and I didn't start my running plan this week, I figured I would write about my crazy day on Monday. Tuesday? I can't even remember--it was a blur of a couple of days because I was moving non-stop.

This is a very long story. Hopefully entertaining, though!

In the morning, I decided to put the ingredients for split pea soup in the crockpot (surprisingly, it's one of my kids' favorite meals!). I also wanted to cook some rice to put in the fridge for Noah so that he could make fried rice for his lunches, something he really likes.

I prepped the stuff for the crockpot and put the dishes in the dishwasher. I noticed it was full, so I put the detergent in there and started it. It made a very weird noise and then stopped completely. I tried again. Same thing. I pulled out the filter and cleaned that, but it wasn't really dirty--I just didn't know what else to do except wait for Jerry to wake up (when he works nights, he sleeps until early afternoon).

I laid on the floor to see if I could see anything under the dishwasher that might have caused the problem, and then a very loud alarm sounded. It sounded like the smoke detector, but the pitch was different and I realized it was the carbon monoxide detector.

It had chirped a few days prior and I changed the battery (the number of chirps determines what the problem is). This time, it chirped five times in a row, and then before I could even get off the floor and go to check on it, it chirped five more times. Five times means it needs to be replaced. So, I figured I'd put Noah's rice in the rice cooker and then look for a new carbon monoxide detector on Amazon.

I measured out the rice and then when I started adding the water, I noticed that a couple of grains of rice were moving. I was totally grossed out when I discovered that they were little worms/larvae! The bag of rice was huge (I always buy a big bag of it because we eat a lot of rice) but I obviously didn't want to eat it. I assumed the rice was contaminated when I bought it from the grocery store and I even thought of taking it back to the store.

I was annoyed at this point, because the dishwasher wasn't working and the carbon monoxide detector kept chirping and then I found larvae in the rice. All before 8:00 in the morning. 

I threw the bag away and then grabbed a bag of brown rice (I have probably five different types of rice in the house--like I said, we like our rice! haha). I inspected it through the bag because I was now paranoid that the larvae were in everything. I didn't see larvae in the bag, but I saw a bunch of things that looked like grains of sand--and it just didn't look right. I took out a third bag of rice--and found larvae.

At this point, it was obvious that it wasn't just that one large bag of rice that was contaminated. I started pulling things out of the pantry to inspect them: dried beans, rice, pasta, peas, lentils, barley, quinoa, white flour, wheat flour, everything. Even if I didn't find anything in them, I knew I wasn't going to want to eat them because I would imagine that the larvae or eggs or something were in there. Still, I looked at everything closely...

...and I realized that most of it was contaminated.

pantry moth eggs

pantry moth larvae

pantry moth eggs

I was so grossed out--and I started thinking of how we'd probably even eaten some and hadn't known it. My whole body felt itchy and I imagined bugs crawling on me. I wanted to know what these things were and how they got there (I swear, my house isn't gross and dirty!). I did a little searching online and then it hit me.

They are pantry moths. And I knew exactly when and how they got inside my house.

I buy 50-pound bags of in-shell peanuts from an animal-feed store (the peanuts are meant for animals, not people). Usually, I put the bag right into the garage because it's huge and I don't want to store it in the pantry. Well, the last time we bought them, Noah picked them up on his way home from school, and he brought them into the house. They sat in the house for a day before I took them out to the garage.

When I was pouring the peanuts into a 5-gallon bucket (we seal the bucket and keep that in the house to feed the squirrels, then refill it as needed), I noticed a couple of tiny moths fly out. I didn't really think anything of it--the peanuts are animal-grade and they are in a huge mesh bag, so I always expect that there are some bugs in there.

Over the next week or so, I noticed a couple of tiny moths by the back door; but living across from a marsh, it's not that unusual for a pest to get inside now and then. We have the house sprayed in the spring which minimizes summer bugs, but with it being so cold this year, we haven't had the bug spray guy come out yet.

When I read the info online about the pantry moths, it clicked for me instantly.

A few sites compared them to bed bugs because they spread fast and are hard to get rid of. By this time, my whole body was itching like crazy. To be sure to get rid of them and keep them out, you have to basically get rid of everything that isn't in an air-tight jar or can. The larvae and moths can eat through cardboard, paper, and plastic. After that, you have to inspect every surface, every can, jar, literally everything in the pantry for the cocoons--the larvae like little crevices, so they are hard to find. (Is your skin crawling yet? Haha)

The thing is, my pantry is huge. It's one of the things I like most about our house! When we chose the layout, there was a "sunroom" between the master bedroom and the kitchen, and I didn't really see a need for it. So I asked them to split it in half and make one side a walk-in closet for the master bedroom and the other side a pantry in the kitchen. So, the pantry is much bigger than your average pantry. Not cool when dealing with pantry moths!

I grabbed some garbage bags (which were in the pantry) and when I pulled the first one out, I noticed a cocoon on the garbage bag! I just started going through each shelf and tossing anything that could be contaminated into the garbage bags. I felt sick about all of that wasted food! 

Then I grabbed a super bright flashlight, some rags and a vinegar solution (which kills the eggs/larvae), and the shop-vac. I took everything out of the pantry--all of the cans and jars and everything--wiped it down and looked for signs of cocoons.

I keep my cookbooks in the pantry, and I even went through all of those--I found a couple of cocoons between the spine and the pages of a couple of books. I keep extra wrapping paper in the pantry (and found cocoons under the outer layer of the rolls); reusable bags (found cocoons); and a few other things (which thankfully weren't contaminated).

I couldn't believe it. How did I not see them before?! 

After I took everything out of the pantry, I went through it with the flashlight, looking in every possible nook or cranny I could find. I even found a larva under the edge of the contact paper I had on the shelves. I vacuumed every little speck I could see, and then cleaned everything with the vinegar solution until the pantry was cleaner than the day we moved in.

Meanwhile, my kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off, with stuff everywhere. I cleaned all of the cans and jars as I put them back into the pantry. Then I looked on Amazon for a carbon monoxide detector... and a huge pack of air-tight food storage containers.

We've always used little plastic clips to "seal" bags after opening them and I assumed that was good enough. It's definitely not, as I discovered. I keep the sugar and flour in Tupperware containers but I checked them anyway. I found larvae in the sugar! I realized it was from a couple of days prior when I took a bag of sugar from the pantry and poured it into the sugar container.

Thankfully, Amazon had same-day delivery, so the containers were delivered that night. I went shopping in the morning to replace the dried goods. It wasn't nearly as expensive as I was imagining (thankfully all of my spices were in air-tight jars!) and I brought everything home. At the store, I even inspected each item I bought--I was imagining these larvae everywhere. 

When I got home, I put everything into food storage containers and then into the pantry. Noah couldn't believe how empty and spotless it looked. It was gleaming and I no longer felt the creepy crawlies when looking at the food.

And then.

Duck was bugging me for treats, so naturally the rest of the pets came into the kitchen when they heard me getting treats for him. While the cats were eating theirs, I opened Joey's treat jar to get him a treat and I saw a moth. I slammed the lid down and realized my mistake--the one thing I hadn't checked was the pet treats. They aren't in the pantry, but on a shelf next to the refrigerator, so I didn't think of it. (I did check their food, which I keep sealed in storage containers, and it was fine.)

Joey's treat jar is was kind of like a cookie jar in that the lid didn't seal, but basically just sat on top of it. I lifted the jar to look at the bottom (it was clear glass), and it was like looking at ground zero for the stupid pantry moths. I lost count after eight moths and there were I-don't-even-know-how-many larvae in there.

I grabbed some packing tape and sealed the jar the best I could in those circumstances, and threw it in the trash outside. (In retrospect, I should have dumped a little vinegar in there first.)

After looking around AGAIN and making sure I didn't miss a single thing, I felt satisfied. If I hadn't discovered Joey's treat jar issue right away, who knows how long it would have been before the moths came back. 

These are the food storage containers I bought. (Amazon affiliate link) They came in a pack of 24 various-sized containers (with labels). I like them!

food storage containers

Things I learned either from this experience or reading on the web:

- Store all food in air-tight food storage containers. The little plastic bag clips don't count.
- Inspect food before bringing it into the house (most people who find pantry moths unknowingly brought them home in a contaminated item from the store).
- Only buy what will fit into the containers (I can't store an extra bag of flour in the pantry, for instance, unless it's in a sealed container).
- Pantry moths don't mean that your house is dirty; like I said, they are usually brought inside from a contaminated food item (like a box of pasta, for instance, which then gets put on a shelf).
- The food doesn't have to be expired or old for them to camp out. Most of the food in my pantry was relatively new; and definitely not expired.
- Finally, don't ever EVER bring animal-grade peanuts into the house! Hahaha. 

It was a very exhausting lesson to learn. And yes, Joey got new treats! Poor dog.

And on the seventh day, she rested. (Well, it was the third day, but it felt like seven!)

April 27, 2022

Wednesday Weigh-In: Week 48

I can't decide whether to keep this shirt or return it. I rarely buy clothes on Amazon, so I have no idea why they suggested it to me. I love the colors and that it has pockets, but I think the pockets make my hips look big. Anyway...

This week has been... challenging? Exhausting? I probably shouldn't say that the whole week has been like that; just the past few days. Still, it makes the week feel so long!

I am SO SORE today. I think it's DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) from working in the yard on Monday. I don't think I've felt this sore since I ran my first marathon. Even taking a deep breath makes the muscles in my chest and back hurt.

Interestingly, I kind of like it! It's a totally different kind of pain than the chronic pain that prompted me to see a rheumatologist. This kind of pain is from exercise, which makes it actually feel kind of satisfying. I know that I'm not injured or anything like that, so my muscles are just achy. 

Last week, I said that I wanted to challenge myself for 10 days to do a few simple things:

-Eat roughly 1600 calories per day.
-Exercise 30 minutes a day in the morning.
-Read 10 pages per day.
-Write in my 5-year journal daily.
-In bed by 10:00 PM.

We all know that I love challenges, but I probably only complete them 10% of the time, haha. However, I've managed to stick with this one! I started walking in the mornings with Joey, and I planned to start a new running schedule yesterday; those plans were completely shot down, which I'll write about soon. It's just a very long story (but hopefully entertaining) about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ;)

I am way too sore to attempt to run today, but as soon as I can move without groaning, I'll give it a try. I've had a very active morning, though, so I'm counting that as my exercise. I started a new book and I really like it so far, so the reading has been easy. Writing in my journal is one of those super quick, easy things to do but I just think, "Oh, I'll do it later" and then don't get to it. But I've been writing in it first thing in the morning so that I don't forget. And as far as being in bed by 10:00, I've been really good about it! I'm usually in bed by 9:30, actually. It feels strange that my kids stay up later than I do.

So, I've had a pretty good week! I actually wasn't dreading getting on the scale today because I know I did everything "right" and I wouldn't change anything.

I was at 152.6 last week, so I was happy to see that I lost the weight I'd gained last week, plus 0.2 extra. It's been MONTHS that my weight has been hanging around the high 140s and low 150s. I'm starting to think this might be where my body just wants to be. I'd really like it to be about 10-15 pounds less, but I'm not in a rush, so I'll just go with it and see what happens.

I have my DietBet weigh-in on Sunday or Monday (the deadline is Monday) and I'm pretty much there--I have to be at 148.7. So, as long as nothing significant happens between now and then, I'll be good to go!

April 26, 2022

Transformation Tuesday #68

Happy Transformation Tuesday!

I can't even describe the crazy day I've had. I was already sore from working on the yard yesterday and I had plans of catching up on blog stuff, but I had a bit of a disaster that started early this morning. I'll have to write about it this weekend--it's a long story--but I felt like I was in a sitcom. You know how a whole series of events can lead up to what should be a very bad day, but it's so bad that it's actually kind of funny because it couldn't really get any worse? Hahaha, it was a day like that.

Thank you for all the suggestions for the yard work! I will definitely do mulch and skip the bricks. I was dreading putting the bricks in anyway, so I'm glad to scrap that idea.

I have a couple of readers' transformations to share today... enjoy! :)

I salvaged my in-laws old front door after I sold them a new one. It was in really rough shape. Layers and layers of paint, wood rot, splits. I worked on it on and off for over a year, and finally took it to the door shop at my work to let the professionals restore it. They got it back to good as new, and I painted it pink and hung it as a barn door on my laundry room. Now my pink door dreams have come true. My house is full of boys, so this is my ONE pink contribution ;-)

- Valerie, Oklahoma

Valerie, it looks fantastic! I can't even imagine all the hard work that went into restoring it, but it was definitely worth the effort (regardless of who did it). I certainly understand having a house full of boys; I'm glad that you're able to have your something pink! ;)  -Katie

In January I went away on vacation and left my dog home with a dog sitter. She is a great dog but is a bit of an anxious rescue. She must have seen something out the window and TORE UP my guest room blinds. I was shocked when I got home. Now I have family coming to visit and was able to find an exact match to replace only those slats at Lowes. This has been her first and only destructive behavior in 2 and a half years!!! Now the blinds are perfectly replaced and ready for my brother's visit!

- Stacy

Ohmygosh, what a sweetheart! She must have missed you a lot while you were gone. That's lucky you were able to get the slats you needed without buying all new blinds. I didn't even know that you could do that!  -Katie

Seeing this reminded me of one of the first times we left Joey home alone and he tore up the corner of our couch. He was an anxious chewer for the first year and a half or so that we had him, but hasn't chewed anything since. After that happened, though, I got out a needle and thread and sewed it up the best I could--finishing with a brown Sharpie, haha. I was kind of impressed with my handy work!

Thanks so much for sharing your before and after photos! As you know, I love seeing transformations--big or small. Please keep them coming! If you'd like to share a transformation, just send a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. And make sure to include your name and a description of your transformation. Have a good night :)

April 25, 2022

I Need Landscaping and Exterior House Ideas!

Okay, I've been complaining for probably at least two years now about our "landscaping". I put that in quotes because, well, we have nothing planted right now! A few years ago, we tore out what we had. Our annual "spider sprayer guy" said that the things we had planted were like spider magnets). I would rather have no landscaping at all than have spiders, but the outside of our house looks embarrassing. Truly. I hate even showing these pictures.

I've said lots of times that our "house" is a manufactured home/trailer/double wide/call it what you will. It's not in a trailer park (not that I think there is anything wrong with trailer parks!) but that may help with figuring out what to do with the exterior of the house. We don't plan on selling it (we really like the location) so I'm not worried about resale value.

Anyway, I *finally* decided to work on the landscaping area today!

We let it go for so long that it grew over with tons of weeds and grass and just looked terrible. We killed the grass and weeds several times, but they kept coming back. After reading about it online, I decided that we needed to remove the top couple of inches of dirt along with the weeds and grass. This is what it looked like most recently:

After the new roof, but before the new gutters

Weeds/grass/dirt that needs to be removed. And the landscaping bricks.

I've been wanting to get this done for a couple of years, but I developed severe chronic pain that was eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia (a kind of blanket diagnosis when everything else is ruled out). I will write an update about that soon, because it could take up a whole post of itself. But for now, let me just say that I was able to do this very tough manual labor today!

I don't know what got into me, but I got really tired of looking at it and thinking about it and talking about it that I just decided today was the day I would at least attempt to dig out the dirt/weeds/grass. It's been raining a lot here lately so the ground is soft and I figured it would be easier than waiting until it dried.

There sod cutters you can rent where you push it along and it cuts for you, but the area isn't huge and I figured I'd try it myself first with a shovel. I grabbed a shovel (the kind with the flat edge and not the pointed one) and started digging into the dirt. It was hard work! I was pouring sweat pretty quickly and even changed into a t-shirt.

We have a huge wheelbarrow so I just started dumping the clumps of dirt/weeds/grass in there. The reason for taking the couple of inches of dirt with each scoop is to get the roots with it; the roots make the whole piece stick together in a shovel-sized clump.

When the wheelbarrow was full, I asked Noah if he could help me dump it over the dike across the street. Well, it was about 1,000 pounds too heavy for that. I could barely push it! I eventually got it across the street and tried shoveling the dirt out and throwing it over the dike. Unfortunately, because it was in clumps, the shovel wasn't working well. So, I just had to use my hands to pick it up, piece by piece, and throw it over the dike.

My second trip across the street didn't go so well. I turned the wheelbarrow around and before I could push it very far, the whole thing tipped over! It was too heavy to stop once it started tipping. I almost cried. After a few obscenities, I realized I just had to laugh it off. I was in the pouring rain, shoveling mud and weeds, and the heaviest load of it just dumped into my yard. I picked up all that I could.

Meanwhile, it starts raining and everything is muddy. My shoes were caked with mud and I was soaked. But I kept going--wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full, I shoveled scoops and then threw them over the dike. It took me about five hours, but I got most of it done! There is a pile of landscaping bricks on one end that my parents gave us, so we plan to use those along the sidewalk. I think? We'll definitely clean them first. But I couldn't dig underneath those, obviously.

Yes, this looks like a total mud pit right now, but I'm happy with how it's going. When it's dry, we can level it out and do whatever else we need to do.

This is where I need some ideas/advice! I know NOTHING about landscaping or plants or flowers or mulch or gravel or any of that stuff. And I hate it! I hate thinking about it, talking about it, reading about it, all of it.

Here is what the exterior looked like most recently (this is the only picture I could find that shows the trees in the front yard--hard to see them, but it's the best I had):

I had plans of extending the porch farther to the right, where the stakes are, but wood is so expensive now! Maybe someday.

And then after the new roof (but before the gutters):

First, we do plan to power wash the house soon. We need to power wash it before the spider guy comes to spray. But here is what I need help with:

1) What do we fill that space against the house with? Should we use the landscaping bricks or no? Also, should we use mulch, stones, or whatever else people use? And what about a weed barrier underneath?

2) What are the most low-maintenance plants we can possibly use? That side of the house is shaded for half the day and sunny for half the day. I promise that I won't take the time to plant things each year (I wish I could say that I would, but I won't) so I need stuff that requires the littlest maintenance possible. 

3) The exterior of the house: we can't get new siding for a while (the new roof was expensive). Should I paint the shutters a different color? I would love to remove them, but the sun would have bleached the siding and it would be obvious that the shutters were removed.

4) Do I paint the foundation blocks? Most houses around here do not have them painted, but I figured I'd ask anyway.

5) I know I need to replace the doors--for sure the storm door ASAP. We can't do the windows until we do the siding, even though we need new windows as well.

6) Should I put anything around the base of the trees in the front yard? Or just leave them as they are? Or should I remove them? I really want my Asian pear tree to grow fruit, but I guess I need another one so they can cross-pollinate. The other tree is an apple tree. I could cut that one down and replace it with another Asian pear tree. These aren't a priority, but I figured I'd ask. 

Okay, I realize that's a tall order of questions! But if you happen to know about this stuff, please give me some advice. I love the interior of our house now that I've redone the whole thing but the curb appeal is definitely not appealing. 

I'm proud of myself for doing what I did today! Even though it looks like a muddy mess right now, I'm so glad I'm getting it ready to plant stuff. I've been putting this off for so long and I assumed it would take days to finish. I got it about 75% done today (I just have to move the bricks, but I'll make the kids do that).

Thanks in advance! xo

April 24, 2022

7 Fun Random Questions and Answers

I am in desperate need of a fun, silly, relaxed blog post. I have been super stressed out about so many different things lately and I am tired of thinking about serious stuff! I just want to write something meaningless.

Today, I accidentally deleted all 45,000 photos from my computer. Yes, you read that correctly. I had planned to back them up to an external hard drive, but I moved them instead of copied them and it was a huge mess. It's still a huge mess. So I can't really find photos easily right now unless I know exactly when they were taken. There are no faces or places identified. I just can't even write about it because I'm upset. Soooo....

I looked for some icebreaker questions on Google and I picked some that were appropriate for the blog. Here are seven random not-to-be-taken-seriously questions!

1) What is your spirit animal? (The animal that is most similar to your personality)

*I would have to say a squirrel. This post pretty much explains it all, and it was one of the most fun posts I've ever written: "All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Squirrels". Squirrels are super anxious (just like me!) and a bit gluttonous when given the opportunity, haha. It takes a lot to get them to trust you. But once they do, they will be great companions. Which is a lot like me--I don't trust people easily and I'm very intuitive to others' feelings/intentions. If I get a bad vibe, I'm outta there (just like a squirrel). I wish I could say I was as fast or as dodgy as squirrels (they'd make great soccer players!) but they surpass me in athleticism.

2) What is your favorite seat on an airplane?

*I am VERY particular about this when I fly! I'm a super nervous flyer (I literally white-knuckle the whole flight), so my preferred seat is this: when facing the cockpit, I like to sit on the left side of the plane in a window seat. I like to it to be just barely in front of the wing. Looking out at the wing makes me feel "grounded" somehow and there is less turbulence there.

Funny story: I was SURE to choose a window seat for a flight, like I usually do, and when I got to my seat, this was my "window". REALLY, Delta?! I could not have had more anxiety in that seat than anywhere else on the plane. I need to be able to see the wing to feel "grounded". 

My older brother, Brian, is a Delta pilot (he was promoted to Captain just before COVID!) and I always ask him about the turbulence before my flights while I wait to board. Other pilots report areas of turbulence, so he can pull up a chart and tell me how the flight looks. This helps so much with my anxiety!

3) What's the worst haircut you've ever had?

*Well, now, I just wrote recently about all of my horrible hairstyles as a kid. To pick just one is going to be tough. I'll do a small collage and you can decide!

4) What two things do you consider yourself to be very good at?

*I would have to say that I'm very good at writing. Don't judge me by my blog! My blog is not my best writing; it's more of a journal. I've always been a great creative writer, though. I used to write short stories and poems when I was a kid, and I would win creative writing awards.

When teachers asked about what we wanted to be when we grew up, I always answered "an author", but they told me I'd need a back-up plan because it's very difficult to make money as a writer. Maybe a blogger isn't what I had in mind because it didn't exist back then, but it's working out for me now ;)

This is a book I wrote in third grade for a young author's contest, hahaha. I never said I was good at drawing!

Another thing I'm very good at is reading people's emotions--I can read between the lines very well, and if someone is feeling bad, I can sense it. It's a blessing and a curse at the same time; when others aren't happy, I feel it myself, and it is really hard on me. On the other hand, I can do whatever is in my power to help them.

5) What two things do you consider yourself to be very bad at?

*I am terrible at meeting new people and making small talk. I wish I could be charming and clever and funny (my older brother, Brian, fits that definition). I am very quiet and shy, and I guess I just don't feel worthy of getting to know. I feel like if someone talks to me, they are only being polite rather than being interested in what I have to say. (Okay, this isn't light-hearted anymore, so I'll move on!)

*Another thing I'm very bad at is replying to texts or phone calls. It has nothing to do with the person who is trying to get in touch with me, though. I am the world's slowest texter (I type with one finger) and it makes me crazy wasting my time typing out a text. So sadly, a lot of texts go without a reply--the people who know me best expect that, though. When I text from my computer, my replies are WAY too long, haha. I can type very fast on the computer.

6) What is your favorite smell and why?

*Hands down, my favorite smell is Curve, the cologne for men. Jerry wore it when we dated and he still wears it to this day because he knows how much I love it. I makes me feel so nostalgic and happy and just in love. There is nothing that makes me feel more safe and loved when Jerry is wearing Curve and we're cuddling on the couch watching a movie.

7) What “old person” things do you do?

*Hahaha, I do a lot of "old people" things! Something that I started doing over the past few years that really makes me feel old, though, is that I watch TV with the closed captions turned on. My hearing isn't great anymore and it's much easier for me to watch a show if the captions are on so that I don't miss something. When I was a kid, I remember my friend's mom always had the captions on and it drove me crazy! Now I feel bad for my kids when I turn on the captions, so I try to keep them off if I'm watching something with them.

It actually became kind of a running joke between Jerry and me, so he had these shirts made for our anniversary (in 2020). We always laugh at some of the captions on TV and one of them is [chuckles]. So he put that on a shirt (with our picture) and "since 1999", which is when we started dating.

Okay, well, that was a fun post and just what I needed today! [chuckles]

April 23, 2022

Vegan Recipe Review: Lentil Tortilla Soup

Since I started eating a vegan diet in January, I've been doing this recipe series to try out new ways of eating (mostly) familiar foods. I've always loved trying new things--even if it doesn't sound good to me at all--because I never know what I may take a liking to!

Each week, I pick a recipe (usually via Pinterest or one that is recommended to me) to prepare--exactly as written--and taste. When my meat-eating family is here and willing, they taste it as well and give me their honest opinions. I've been trying to pick a variety of recipes so that I'm not always making the same dish with a different sauce or something like that.

This week, I wanted to pick something that I really felt like the family would enjoy. I decided on Lentil Tortilla Soup (mainly because the photo from the website looked really good, haha!). My photo doesn't look so great because I didn't put toppings on mine--just try to imagine it loaded with stuff like my nachos last week. This Lentil Tortilla Soup recipe can be found on Eat With Clarity. (I'll link to it again at the end of the post)

This recipe called for "cashew cream", which I was unfamiliar with but I assumed it was similar to what I did with the cashews for the nacho "cheese" last week. And I was right! Cashew cream is just raw cashews and water (with optional things to mix in; I only added a little salt). After soaking the cashews, you blend it until it's perfectly smooth and I was surprised at how thick it was.

You only use a small amount of it, so I have currently have quite a bit leftover in my fridge that I'm not sure what to do with.

Anyway, the ingredients list was pretty long: onion, olive oil, garlic, jalapeño pepper, bell pepper, fire roasted tomatoes, red lentils, black beans, corn, cashew cream, tomato paste, vegetable broth, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, salt, oregano, and lime juice.

I actually had pretty much everything on hand (I just needed the jalapeño). I did buy some tortilla chips for the family to use on top of their soup (I didn't want to use the calories for them, because I'd use way too many, I'm sure.)

You actually have to use the blender three times in this recipe! Once to make the cashew cream. Then to blend the tomatoes. And finally, to blend some of the soup when it's done cooking. I didn't even bother to wash the blender; I just rinsed it out in between.

So, like I said, it took a while to get everything prepped--chopping veggies, measuring spice, opening cans, blending cashews and tomatoes, etc. I will state right away that this recipe was NOT done in the 30 minutes stated. It took me over 30 minutes just to prep the ingredients! 

After that, though, it was pretty straight forward. You just sauté the veggies, adding one or two things at a time, and then finally, you put the rest of the ingredients in the pot (except for the lime juice) and let it cook.

The house smelled amazing and the kids and Jerry were drawn to the kitchen to check it out. I didn't say I was making "vegan lentil tortilla soup"; I just said I was making tortilla soup. That satisfied them.

Just before serving, you take a cup of the soup and put it in the blender before adding it back to the pot. It makes it a little thicker.

When it was done, I was kind of shocked at how much it made! It says that it serves four, but it would absolutely serve six. The bowl below was about 1/6 of the recipe; I couldn't have fit 1/4 into my bowl. I would say that there were leftovers, but the boys at them all.

The verdict from the family: YUM! They added cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips to theirs, but they loved it. I had it plain and I loved it just as much. (I imagine if you're not vegan and you don't want to make the cashew cream, you could just use regular heavy cream; but try out the vegan one--you might be surprised!)

We loved this soup and will definitely make it again. I don't think I'd make any changes to it, either. Well, maybe I'd add another can of black beans for more fiber. Still, though, this has 13 grams of fiber in 1/6 of the recipe!

This is absolutely a soup that meat-eaters would enjoy. In fact, when I have people over for dinner (hopefully sometime soon!) this would be a great recipe to make.

Again, this recipe can be found at Eat With Clarity. If you try it, I hope you like it as much as we did!

April 22, 2022

Friday Night Photos

Remember I said I was "digitizing" photos the other day? That just meant taking pictures of pictures because I'm technological like that ;)  Anyway, the sunlight was causing glares and reflections on the pictures, which was frustrating, so I came up with this ridiculous jig for my phone--and it actually helped a lot!

I just cut out a piece of cardboard and glued white paper on one side. I cut out a hole big enough for the lens of the camera on my phone. Then I used double stick tape to tape my phone on the cardboard side with the lens lined up to the hole. That way, when I held it over the picture, the reflection of my camera wasn't on the photo. Hahaha! Hillbilly picture taking, right there. (The picture on the left is a picture of me actually using it to take a photo. 

Moving on...
Back in the days when I was young I'm not a kid anymore
But some days I sit and wish I was a kid again
Anyone remember those lyrics? They are from a 1994 song called Back in the Day by Ahmad. The good old days of nostalgic hip hop! Here is the video on YouTube, if you're curious! (Or if you just want some nostalgia on a Friday night.)

I only had a couple of pictures on my camera roll this week, so I thought I'd post some of the old school photos that I recently went through and took pictures of. There are some oldies but goodies in here! I was thinking I should do a post about all my old horrendous hair styles (what was my mom thinking?!) but I realized I already did that post last year, hahaha.

So, here are some (hopefully) never before seen photos from my childhood...

This one made me laugh for so many reasons. This is Brian (my older brother) and my dad on the roof of our shed. First, I noticed the horrific caulking job around the windows of the shed. Then the fact that my dad painted the "chimney" to look like bricks. And I had to ask my mom what the heck the whole thing was--she told me it was a bird house. She was so embarrassed!

I have no idea what this mess is, but clearly I enjoyed eating it. Cookie dough? But how gross is that with all those hands in there! 

How creepy is that mask my sister is wearing (on the left)?! Hahaha, remember when Halloween costumes had plastic masks and some sort of plastic gown you wore over your clothes? I just thought this makes was hilarious. That's my dad and Brian with her.

I have to admit, I was a very creative kid. I was always coming up with new ideas to play, usually involving my best friend, Sarah, and our little brothers. On this particular day, we were playing barber shop. The boys had to sit on their booster seats (milk cartons) while we styled their hair.

This picture is so embarrassing I don't even know where to start. First, I decided to dress like a McDonald's worker for Halloween because my sister worked there (that was the uniform back then). Second, those glasses. And those teeth. But worst of all, the hem of my pants. 

When my sister was in high school, it was cool to "french roll" your pants--you would pinch excess fabric so that it was tight around your ankle, and then fold the extra fabric over. Then you would roll it up 2-3 times so that it stayed like that. I remember sometimes people used rubber bands to get them to stay rolled tighter, so I had to be like my sister, of course. I just used rubber bands to tighten the hems against my ankles. Clearly, I had no idea how to do it correctly. And as for Nathan--I have no idea what the deal is with his shoes!

I like this picture a lot and I can remember when it was taken. My dad was in rehab for alcoholism and it was my birthday. My family got to go visit him and there was a bedsheet covering "something" in the shape of a bike. When I pulled it off, I found this pink and aqua bike for my birthday gift. I loved that bike! (My dad has been sober ever since.)

This picture cracked me up. I'm pretty sure taking a bath in the sink was fairly common(?) but how many parents left knives stuck to a magnet right next to the sink while their kids were in there? Hahaha!

Oh, man, all you can see in this picture are rolls. My arms and legs look like they had rubber bands around them!

I had completely forgotten about this--does anyone remember when McDonald's used to have a playground like this outside? Do they still have these?

I have no idea what I was pouting about here (second person from the right). Maybe because Nathan got to hold a gun for the picture and I didn't? Haha!

I don't know if tetanus shots were required for babies back then, but from the looks of our swing set, they certainly should have been ;)

Everything about this picture is so funny! The wallpaper (yes, it was popular then, so I'll discount that); the random gun hanging above the mantle (my mom must have let my dad decorate), and the random "Happy Birthday Sue" sign that my cousin and my brother made.

Again with my glasses! My mom always let me pick out my own glasses.

How many of you recognize this couch? I swear, every single person I know had a couch like this at some point! (This is Nathan, Lance, Spence, and me. Spence is the friend of mine who passed away from brain cancer a couple of years ago.)

The neighborhood kids before trick-or-treating. I always picked the most embarrassing costumes! On this particular year, I wore Brian's Red Wings stuff. I'm not sure which player was on the back of it. I think maybe Bob Probert? 

I had to ask my mom what in the heck we were playing with and it turns out that it was a scope that obstetricians used to listen to a baby's heartbeat. The doctor would put the ear pieces in and then press the other part to the woman's abdomen. I believe Jeanie and I were at the birthing center where Nathan was about to be born.

At first I just thought this was a cute family Christmas picture, but then I noticed I was holding a hot water bottle. What the heck--?! I'll have to ask my mom about this one.

And there you have it--some fun family photos ;)

And this news is just in... my new nephew was born today! Remember when I went with my sister-in-law to her embryo transfer back in August? Well, the embryo transfer took and now I have another nephew! His name is Hunter and he was born at 2:11 PM today; he was 8 lbs. 4 oz. and 21 inches long. I'm excited to see him!

Well, I spent all evening at Eli's baseball game and I'm starving, so I'm going to make some dinner. Have a great weekend! xo

(Here is the post with a bunch of the awful hairstyles I've had through the years...)

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