Saturday, October 25, 2014


I'm not good at menu posting! Here's what we've eaten lately:

Greek salad and baked potatoes
Baked salmon with new potatoes, zucchini, squash and onions.
Grilled dry rubbed chicken with butternut squash and roasted brussels sprouts.
Turkey sausage and vegetable soup with more Greek salad for lunches.

This week:
Vegan white bean soup with cornbread.
No filler salmon patties with roasted corn and steamed broccoli.
Gluten free spaghetti with clam sauce
Dijion and rosemary beef stew- crockpot

These two weeks are designed around using some stuff from my dying garden. I've got carrots, jalapenos and green tomatoes. My herbs are looking very fluffy and I'd like to give them a good hair cut before we get a frost. I don't like eating mammals but we're trying to give Gavin some crockpot recipes for college so he will be cooking that!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Maple Hill Lodge- a review

Recently I had the pleasure of taking a school group that I sponsor to camp at Maple Hill Lodge in Umstead Park in Raleigh, NC.

They only rent the facility to groups so it was my first chance to check it out and I was very excited. Finally a camping trip that couldn't be ruined by the weather! The place is booked pretty solid on the weekends during prime camping season so I was also really happy that we were camping on a Wednesday.

It rained torrentially all morning but then the sun started peeking out right as we all arrived.

The lodge itself is immaculate despite how old it is. The park has campers clean the space to perfection after every visit and then maintains the site itself. It's a big open room with screened windows and a fireplace so it's even good for winter camping. While it's not the same as wilderness tent camping it was still a really fun time. The bathrooms had flush toilets and running water and were located a short distance from the cabin for middle of the night stumbling convenience.

The outside fire pit was huge and our group enjoyed making sure the fire kept going all night. (Some of them did not sleep at all.) The inside fire warmed the space well even though overnight temps got to be in the low 50s. Our weather was perfect and the leaves around the campsite were gorgeous.

At $38 a night this place is a bargain for any sized group.

The only drawback to staying here is the proximity to the airport. All night long the peaceful sounds of leaves rustling, fire crackling and crickets chirping would be interrupted by the godawful racket of an airplane flying low over head. Except for a few hours in the middle of the night you don't get much peace and quiet. Then at about's like a jet a minute taking off. Not exactly a natural paradise.

If you have a sense of humor or if you sleep really hard Maple Hill Lodge is still a great place to visit with your group if you want a taste of the outdoors without any stress.

Be Our Guest

I told my friend Erin that we couldn't have a party because we didn't have a bathroom. She immediately worried that we were using a bucket (I'm sad that this seemed like a possibility) but we were just doing what we do best...making do with an ugly situation.

The reality is that I may have been a little hasty when decided to demo the guest bath on fall break....but it was terrible before. We took out the vanity, and most of the wall with it, so it's not like it was ready to receive party guests. Unless it was a very spooky Halloween party.

So I did what any normal person would do....and made it worse.

Tile demo was surprisingly simple. I used my rock hammer and made sure to take a Safety Selfie.

That's me trying to look mean and tough. Then I harnessed all of my limited rage and destroyed tile until my arm fell off. The difficult part was scooping in into a bucket to haul it out to the dumpster.

And here is how it looks now.

Ah. Much better. 

 After we did this we were like, "Wait! We should do the upstairs bathroom at the same time." It's a bad idea at the moment but it is an easier way to get ONE bathroom looking guest ready. The upstairs bathroom is MUCH closer to being functional. B already put in the new vanity and burned the moldy old one. Now we just need to paint and replace a couple of things.


I made some pillows out of tea towels that I bought for $1.

I think they turned out pretty well and so does Pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Tale of Two Glasses

This summer I decided to use some of the proceeds from my summer job to get a real pair of glasses. I don't know why, because I am not spectacularly brand motivated, but they had to be Coach. I wanted FANCY glasses. I wear glasses all the time. I want them to be cute because they are on my face where everyone sees them. I want to look like a classy grown up lady.

Coach underpants? Not worth it. Coach glasses...ok I'm listening.

So I went to Target to order them and they were like, "Oh guess what. Your prescription expired two days ago. LOL." and I was like, "Ok I'm gonna go to this in store Starbucks before I smash something." and the Starbucks was closed. It was a tough time for me.

I rallied, though. And I made an appointment even though I hate eye doctors. All that, "Is this better? Or is this better? A? Or B? About the same?" is hard on an introvert.

Then, oh happy day, I ordered my glasses.

When they came in I was so excited but then I put them on and it was like putting on your grammas glasses. Everything was too bright. I couldn't read anything and it was overwhelming. The Target Optical guy was like, "Oh. It might take you a week or so to adjust."

My eye sight is not that bad. I can read and see fine without my glasses. I can see how many fingers you are holding up Jessica Phipps. I can drive if I'm not looking for street signs. Reading the computer or reading signs far away is the biggest issue.

So when these glasses made my vision worse on than off....I knew something was up.

I went back to Target and they were like, "OH JK JK we made them wrong."

Then I waited a week and they came in again and they were wrong in a different way. I took them back. The guy at Target was really snarky and unhelpful. They were not only not nice about it but they were preying on my niceness.

Again, the glasses were wrong. This time they sent me BACK to the optometrist to look at my prescription.  Since these glasses were over $200 I wanted them to be perfect. The glasses came again. This time they were better but they were not perfect. The anti glare coating smudged constantly. They slipped off my bead all the time.  I wasn't even whelmed by them.They were totally underwhelming.

The worst part was that I knew that I could get great non-Coach glasses that would be perfect the first time for $20 from my old standby, Zenni Optical. But, they wouldn't have the cute little Coach logo. After some soul searching I decided that I didn't want to mess around with something so important, not even in the name of fashion and returned the Coach glasses once and for all to Target. At least they were nice about that.

I ordered the $20 ones from Zenni and they came to the house in about two weeks and they were perfect the first try. As an added bonus they are almost identical to the Coach ones...just no logo.

Let's compare.

(Don't mind my resting priss face.)

 On the left, for $270: Coach by Target. On the right for $28 with shipping: Zenni Optical and a slight sunburn from a trip to a car show.

My gold dots from the front are now on the side. No logo. Prettttttty much identical otherwise. Oh, except I can actually, you know, see out of the Zenni ones.

This is not a sponsored post. HAHA. As if! It's also not a condemnation of Target Optical. Your mileage may vary there. I do love Zenni. I've been wearing their glasses for about 10 years and I've never been disappointed. They come correct. And I mean that in the street sense and in the sense that they arrive correctly made. ;) And the price? That's without insurance. I've never seen a better deal.

Rustic AF Fireplace Cover

Our fireplace has had a giant piece of cardboard over it the last few months. It's not very decorative as you can imagine but it was very necessary to allow me to sleep at night.

Why? Well, because one day, a month or so ago, it was raining cats and dogs and hamsters and parakeets outside and B and I were inside reading peacefully. I heard a noise coming from the chimney so I looked up from my book. B looked up too...and then Pumpkin started strolling towards the chimney when.....


It's wings went, "WOOSH. WOOSH. WOOSH." when it was that big.

Now, I like to think of myself as kind of a tough girl but this was not one of my finer moments. I basically took one look at that bat and said, "Nope," and left B to deal with it on his own as I made myself into the smallest ball possible and put a blanket over my head.

B opened the windows and tried to shoo it out, first with my skirt and then with a laundry basket. Finally it left.

Don't talk to me about rabies. No one touched the bat. The bat touched no one. It wasn't bleeding. It didn't get any bat juice into any open wounds. All of our pets have maybe the laundry basket has rabies but except for a slight foaming in one of the corners it seems fine.

So yeah, I put a giant piece of cardboard over the fireplace and left it like that and I am not ashamed. However, it didn't go with the cottage feel that I am trying to achieve so I started shopping around for something else. Our fireplace is very large so a lot of the grates and screens that would cover it were over $200. I started to look for alternatives online....old shutters, old windows and other things like that popped up from time to time. My friend Erin and I went to a store and I almost bought a huge metal thingy for it but I am glad I didn't buy it because the next day I had a flash of inspiration.

Do you ever have an idea so great that you can't even handle yourself until you make it happen? This was one of those ideas for me. I was looking outside during lunch and saw this:

This lovely piece of architecture is poor Zoe's* old pen. It has seen better days. I saw it and grabbed my measuring tape and ran outside because:

Ta da! Rustic gate to fireplace screen! $0. Totally batproof! Isn't it lovely? It's got the perfect old wood patina and little rusty bits and it was the perfect size! It looked so good that I made a new wreath. I loooooove it. 

Here are your DIY instructions.
1. Build a dog pen....but not very well.
2. Leave it for about 4 years.
3. Harvest the gate. Don't get tetanus. 

While I was running around the yard with a tape measure I found another gorgeous piece of wood for a project I am doing for the laundry room. You're gonna love it. I've got kind of a rustic wood farm happening out there.

*Zoe, you might recall, is our neighborhood Ambassethound.