Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lunchtime Visitor

This cute little chipmunk was looking in as I was heating up leftovers for lunch today. Just like Spike, he was on standby, hopeful that I'd share my food.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Sign of a Civilized Society

The shopping carts at Martin's Supermarket are always lined up nicely in the cart rack. I take that as a sign that the shoppers at Martin's are a bit more civilized than those at Wal-Mart or Meijer.

We have one grocery store in the area, Aldi's, that charges 25-cents to use their shopping carts and you don't get your quarter back unless you line your cart up neatly with the cart in front of it in the cart rack.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let the Christmas Season Begin

I stopped by CVS this week for Halloween candy and saw they already have their Christmas lights out on display. They were squeezed between the fake pumpkins and the turkey basters.

First Snow of the Season

Monday afternoon we had rain and hail. The weathermen said it wouldn't stick, but when I woke Tuesday I had to hunt down my snow scraper.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Working from Home Rocks

It was really cold here in Northern Indiana today. I'm too cheap to crank up the furnace so I was wearing a jacket and wrapped up in a blanket, doing my work from my comfy chair in the family room.

Bruce came home from work at lunchtime and brought in some wood and made me a fire. Sure made for a nice working environment.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why Does Being Healthy Hurt?

We took advantage of the drive-through flu shot clinic at the Elkhart fire station this morning. Luckily we had cash on hand because the Health Department wasn't sophisticated enough to accept my HSA debit card for payment.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Beauty of Fall in Northern Indiana

A showy display on the Indiana toll road, as seen on my way back from Chicago today.
My passenger took the photos -- my hands were on the wheel and my eyes were on the road.

~~~ The sassafras tree in our back yard is the most colorful spot in the yard right now. ~~~

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Garden - Pre Frost

We had our first frost last night. The remaining flowers in the garden are now frostbitten. Here's the last photo of the garden pre-frost.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Freecycle Rocks

It's a well-know fact that most Americans have too much stuff. We buy Rubbermaid boxes to hold all of our stuff. We have space bags to store our stuff in less space than it would normally occupy. We have attics, garages, storage sheds and closets full of stuff.

When you're ready to purge, visit

Most people who know me know that I hate clutter. A few years ago I stopped buying stuff. Sure I buy groceries, some clothes and toiletries. But, gone are the days when I add unnecessary stuff to my shopping cart. Occasionally I will buy functional stuff for the house or landscaping products... hard to totally detach from consumerism ;-)

Instead of buying unnecessary stuff, I periodically go through my house and gather up the stuff that, for some reason in the past I felt I just must have but have found that I no longer need. Then, I get rid of it. Either by donating it to Goodwill, selling it in the annual neighborhood garage sale, or posting it on

It's hard to believe that someone would want a 27" TV with great audio, but no video, but someone in the Freecycle community took one off my hands this summer. And, that metal computer desk that was gathering dust in our basement... no longer there thanks to Freecycle.

Last week, after I finished painting the garage, I thought I should get a smoke eater or air purifier for the garage so I wouldn't have to repaint after the walls soak up more smoke. (We don't allow smoking in our house -- only outside or in the garage. And, the smoke out there gets really thick when we have parties or card nights.)

I did some research on and found the air purifier I wanted to get. A few online price checks turned up an average price of $300. Dang, that's a lot of money. On a whim I posed a request for an air purifier on Within a week I had a free air purifier with a hepa filter from a lady in South Bend that no longer wanted hers. Seems to be brand new and the filter wasn't even dirty. Rocks. Check it out and sign up in your community. Warning: Sign up for the digest version so you don't get 20 emails a day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Still Making Progress

One of the boards on our deck has been warped for the past several months. One item on our fall chores checklist was to replace that board. We did have an extra board to use, but Bruce found that a few screws solved the problem.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Have You Carved Your Pumpkin Yet?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Newfound Respect for Pork Steak

During this past weekend's freezer inventory project, we came across a few pieces of meat that have been in the freezer for a long, long time. I know why they've been in the freezer for so long (because I didn't want to cook or eat them) and I wasn't anxious to thaw them out.

1) Bag full of cut up fish chunks (not sure who gave this to us, but definitely not store bought).
--I knew Bruce would want these chunks fried and I don't like fried food.

2) A bag of chicken leg quarters.
-- Wasn't sure what to do with these other than put them on the grill and I'm not the griller in the family.

3) Pork steak.
-- I hate pork steak.

Well, Bruce thought we should either throw them out or thaw them out. Seemed a shame to toss out (good?) food so my evening projects this week have been coming up with ways to cook these foods.

Monday night I fried up the fish in our electric skillet. It was a very mild fish and Bruce liked it, but I didn't think it had much flavor and the house smelled like old grease for two days.

Tuesday night I oven fried the chicken leg quarters with a dusting of flour and cajun seasoning and a stick of butter. Tasted pretty good, but it was too greasy. I should have waited until I had some Pam to spray on it, rather than using butter.

Tonight I cooked up the pork steak. Actually, I found a recipe online and mixed it up on my lunch hour and it cooked itself in the crockpot for the rest of the day. It was delicious. I guess the trick to making it edible is to cut off as much of the fat as possible. When I've had pork steak in the past, it was so greasy I couldn't stand it.

Here's the recipe:

Pork steak (cut into portion size chunks)
1 teaspoon oil
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 large onions -- sliced thin
Salt and pepper

Season pork steaks with salt, pepper, and paprika. Place steaks in crockpot with oil, turning to coat. Slice onions very thin and lay on top of meal. Mix other ingredients in a bowl then add to crockpot. Cover; cook on low for a few hours. The longer you cook it, the thicker the sauce gets.

Note: The recipe didn't actually call for Balsamic vinegar, it just said vinegar. I wondered what kind -- white vinegar (I had some left over from coloring easter eggs) -- cider vinegar (I had some left over from making cukes/onions this summer) -- rice wine vinegar (I had some left over from a recipe I had 20 years ago) ??? Then I came across a bottle of Balsamic vinegar in my pantry. Seemed like a safe choice so that's what I used.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spike Loves Grandma

We had Grandma over for dinner this evening. It was nice for us to take a break from the fall chore list. And, it was a relief for her to get out of the institution for an outing that didn't involve a trip to a medical facility.

After dinner and pumpkin pie, she snuggled with Spike for a bit. He had been a little miffed that after all of his begging during dinner, the only handout from Grandma was a dry little piece of pie crust. And, it didn't even have Cool Whip on it.

Halloween Decor Gone Horribly Wrong

In December I wrote a blog post about the house that threw up Christmas. Turns out that as the seasons change, so does the color of their vomit.

Worried About Our Economy

As Cheryl and I were finishing lunch Friday, Bill Moor, a columnist for the South Bend Tribune, stopped by our table and asked if we would comment about how the free falling stock market is affecting our lunch conversations and our everyday lives.

We've actually been talking about this quite a bit lately and we were happy to share our thoughts with Mr. Moor. My 401k statement had actually arrived in the mail just before I left the house to meet Cheryl for lunch. I thought about opening it, but I didn't want to bring down my mood so I set it aside.

I had a hunch they'd use some of what we said in the paper, but I honestly didn't expect that we'd be on the front page of Sunday's paper -- both online and in print.

Here is the part of the story that included our quotes:

Market has many on edge


By BILL MOOR Tribune Staff Writer

"It's just hard for people to have rational thoughts in such an irrational time."

Sharon Gillis says she is afraid to open the envelope with her 401(k) statement inside.

"It scares me," she says.

Her friend, Cheryl Seitz, feels the same way.

"Sure, it is weighing heavily on me," she adds.

Sharon, who works for a website development company, has decided to put off buying the new car she had her eye on.

"I don't want to go into debt at this point in time," she says. "I don't want that kind of stress, right now."

As friends, Cheryl and Sharon never thought they would talk about the economy so much.

"Last week, we were trying to figure out the bailout and just not coming up with answers," says Cheryl, a residential account representative for Old Fort Building Supply.

Both in their 40s, they figure they will see the stock market get better before they start thinking about retirement.

Cheryl even made her first online stock acquisition this week.

"Part of me just thought it would be a good time to start buying," she says. "I think you have to continue to believe."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crossed Another Fall Chore Off My List

Wow, what a difference this stain made on the cedar fence. We just put the fence up this spring and it had really faded quite a bit over the summer.

Someone that lives in a nearby neighborhood had such a beautifully stained fence that I knocked on their door to find out what they used on it to get that color. They happily shared the info with me and I picked up two gallons of the stain at the Osceola hardware store.

On Friday, it took me six hours to stain the front of the six panels of fence. Bruce helped me stain the back side on Saturday and it only took three hours.

I absolutely love Hardware Plus -- the Osceola hardware store. Their prices are competitive and they have knowledgeable employees on standby to answer any questions. In fact, they intercept you as you walk through the door and guide you through the store picking up everything on your list.

Mystery Frozen Food

I had planned to get an early start staining the back of the fence this morning. But, I found a few distractions along the way.

I conned Bruce into helping me take inventory of the food in our freezers (both the chest freezer and the refrigerator's freezer). My trick is telling him that I need his opinion on something. And, as he gets out of his easy chair to come give me his opinion, I spring the task on him.

He pulled everything out of the freezers and I made a list of their contents. In theory, this should help me do some meal planning for the next few weeks, and save some money buy not buying so many groceries.

There were a few oddities in the freezer that neither of us could figure out what they may have been. There was a Ziploc bag filled with something that looked like chicken gravy. I thought I could toss that into the chicken and noodles that I have cooking in the crockpot. After the gravy thawed, I asked Bruce to taste-test it to make sure it was, in fact, chicken gravy. Turns out it was apple sauce.

I can't wait for the frozen mess in the Tupperware bowl defrosts so we can figure out what it might have been.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Never Buy a Used Rental Car

Today was the first day of my new twice-weekly schedule of renting a car to drive into my work's Chicago office. I've driven Fords for the past 20 years so when I do rent cars, I spent the first 15 minutes trying to figure out how everything works.

Today's rental was a 2009 Nissan Altima with .5 miles (not a typo -- it had one half of one mile on it). The rental car guy told me how to start it (step on the brake and push the start button), but he didn't mention there was anything out of the norm about the gear shifter.

I put it in drive -- take a close look at the photo above. The shifter moves down and then to the left and down. I assumed this was some way to lock it into the drive position. So, I pulled out of the airport car rental area, and drove about a mile toward the highway. I could see, hear and smell that the transmission was burning up. It wasn't shifting. I had it up to about 40 mph, the tachometer was up to 6 and still it wasn't shifting out of first.

Before I got onto the highway I stopped, pulled over and called Enterprise and reported the problem. I figured I'd have to go back and get a different car. The rental car guy told me to move the shifter over to the right. Apparently, the right position is for automatic transmission and the left position is for manual transmission.

No where near the shifter did it say anything about automatic vs. manual. And, who's ever heard of a car that has both automatic transmission and manual transmission.

Seems to me like a lot of rental car companies are soon going to be selling very, very low-mileage Nissan Altimas with burned out transmissions.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Have You Decided?

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Garage Revitilization Project - Phase II

I've finally finished the first half of the garage make-over project. I finished painting the ceiling today and then touched up the top of the walls with the wall paint color. Then we moved all of the cabinets, freezer and everything else over to the finished side so I can start in on the other side.

Unfortunately, as we moved all of the cabinets back to that side of the garage, we gouged the new epoxy floor coating. I'll have to touch that up.

If things go good this week, I'll paint this week, each evening after work, and then next weekend epoxy the floor. Then, it will be completely finished.

Bruce Makes Progress on Fall Chores

The neighbor behind us played the "bitch and win" game and won! He'd been complaining about our bushes making it hard to mow the back of his yard.

Today Bruce gave the bushes a major trimming. When he finished, I mentioned that if we put edging down around the bushes and filled in with mulch that the area would look a lot better. He suggested I invite my friends at HGTV over to take on that project.

Spikes Loves Sarah Palin

HGTV Makeover - I Want

I got stuck in the HTGV mode Saturday morning. This front of house makeover was particularly interesting because the house has the same basic shape as ours and their Craftsman makeover is exactly what I want.

These people had a huge budget though. They spent $2,000 on four light fixtures. $18K on stone and $22K on the stamped and stained concrete driveway. We don't need new windows thankfully -- theirs cost $36K. No mention on the show what the porch with gable cost.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let the Halloween Season Begin

When I was a kid, Halloween was just one day. Well, for my brother it was three days -- he'd go trick or treating the night before Halloween, on Halloween night and again the night after Halloween.
Now, Halloween is an entire season. It starts in late September as the back-to-school supplies are replaced with bags of candy at the stores. Then come the pumpkins doing disgusting things emails. Followed close behind by the neighbors decorating their homes with blow-up Homer Simpsons in skeleton costumes.

We've already eaten a bag of Halloween candy and are seriously considering opening another bag. Those little trick or treaters don't stand a chance.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another project... what in the heck are we thinking???

I thought I'd finish painting the garage ceiling tonight. Well, at least half of it. But Bruce had other ideas. We've been complaining for months about the doggie urine smell coming from our dining room. So tonight Bruce ripped up the carpet.

We don't have any new flooring to put down yet and will probably wait until one of the home centers has another six-months-same-as-cash sale before we get the hardwood flooring we want. So, for now, our beautiful dining room furniture, which now serves as my office furniture, is sitting on very unattractive raw underlayment.

Now that I'm working from home three days a week, I'm hoping that I can keep the dog from using our house as his personal urinal.