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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Hi folks!  I know it's been a few months since I last posted, but I just didn't have the motivation.  Now I have a few fun things to share so we'll begin with Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday (with the possible exception of Christmas).  When we first bought our house in Normal, I was psyched to hand out candy since we lived in a neighborhood with a lot of young families.  Over the three Halloweens where we were all ready to pass out candy, we had a grand total of zero children ring our doorbell.  Zero.  Now I know that some parents are really paranoid about taking their children to houses of people they don't know, but there had to be a good handful of "irresponsible" parents out there judging but the kids who were always playing unsupervised in the alley as I was trying to drive home.  I remember one year where we'd bought so much candy for the no-show trick-or-treaters that I tried to pawn it off on the pizza guy.

This year, things were different in Wisconsin.  Shortly after we moved here, I learned from a neighbor that the area where we live has two different trick-or-treating options.  This year, the city had trick-or-treating scheduled for Sunday October, 28th from 1-4 PM.  1-4????  Halloween is supposed to be creepy!  There is a rush of adrenaline in walking past spooky decorations that goes beyond vast amounts of sugar.  Luckily for me, our area, "East Towne" holds it's own trick-or-treating.  From 6:30-8:30 PM on October 27th we could sign up with the neighborhood association to hand out candy to kids.  Not only that, but a lot of people go all out in the decorating department.  This inspired DJ and I to invest in some cool outdoor decorations.

That's an animatronic Frankenstein.  He roars and lights up when someone walks past.  We also had fake boards on the windows and some zombie warning signs out by the driveway.  

Ok, so Saturday night rolls around.  I got dressed up as the Queen of Hearts and DJ went as the Mad Hatter.  Note that we weren't going out anywhere to celebrate afterwards, we just dressed up and hung out at home alone :)  We didn't have that many trick-or-treaters, but I was sure we'd have a ton the next day for the city-wide festivities.

And boy did we ever!

I was so excited that I started out the afternoon by giving out fist-fulls of candy.  And not some lame stuff- Twix, Skittles, Butterfingers, etc.  Well I made several mistakes.  1.  I didn't bother to estimate how many kids we had.  My grandma Richardson always took a tally so she knew how many Tootsie Roll Pops to buy each year.  DJ's mom did the same thing.  I was not smart enough to do so.  Mistake number 2 was the amount of candy I was handing out.  With over an hour left to go, we were running dangerously low on candy.  This prompted a very panicked scene that enfolded as we were running back and forth between answering the door and ransacking the kitchen.  It went something like this:

*Cabinet squeaks as we open it*
DJ: Do we have anything else?
Natalie:  I'm looking!  *pause* Oh!  Here's a few jawbreakers.... Some pez....
DJ: Um, what about these?  *holds up a bag of crystal light hard candies*
Natalie: No way!  Those are sugar free!  We can't hand that out!
DJ: What about these? *pulls down my hidden bag of milk chocolate dove miniatures*
Natalie: Are you crazy????  I'm not giving those kids my good chocolate!  Not to mention it is foil wrapped not sealed in plastic so I think that's a bad move (a nice recovery, I thought).  What about this?  *holds up a box of hot chocolate packages* It's freezing out there!  And it's chocolaty....  
DJ: *makes a weird face, then shrugs*  What about the snack sized bags of Doritos?  

Eventually, we ran out of even these wonderful treats and DJ volunteered to walk 4 blocks to CVS to restock.  Even after he came home we gave out over 60 pieces (one at a time) before trick-or-treating ended.

The best part of the trick-or-treating experience, however, was DJ watching the small children sloooowly ascend the steps to the house, ring our doorbell, and then rush back down to the bottom of the steps until we opened the door.  Why?  Because they were afraid of Frank!  Though he sort of stopped roaring and lighting up for most of the afternoon, the kids were terrified of him!  Even when I assured them he was fake and tried to shake his hand.  Watching the kick that DJ got out of watching scared kids was hilarious.  

Needless to say, Halloween was a hit at our new house!  And here is a photo of Albus to see you off...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bathroom transformation

Our bathroom is finished!!!!  It's been all torn up for three weeks and it is finally done!  Basically, we tore out all of the original tile and changed out the sink for something more functional for the tiny space.  I know, I know.  Why would I go and tear out a bunch of original 1940s tile?  It was pink.  Like, Pepto pink.  I couldn't handle it. Not to mention the fact that we left all of the original tile in the downstairs bathroom and the kitchen.  Which is awesome.

But again, the main thing was the fact that the bathroom had zero functionality for two adults getting ready in the morning.  It had a really annoying pedestal sink that you couldn't set anything on or store anything under.  Also, there are now shelves in the shower to stash shampoo bottles on!  I realize this isn't a big deal to anyone but me.  That's fine.  I'm just going to use the internet to shout about it because I'm so damn excited!

Here are some before and after shots:

That's the best shot I can get since the room is so small!

We went from icky pink to a sand color with a mixed glass and stone mosaic trim in gray, brown and green.  And we've got so many more places to keep things now that we've added cabinets and such.  You can't see it in the photos, but there is a brand new shower head too.  *sigh*  It is wonderful.

And here's a photo of us in front of the house:

Tonight's Menu: Some recipe from Food and Wine that I accidentally cut the name off of.  It's like a fancy grilled cheese sandwich with sausage in it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tiny library, big heart

While driving back from the best bakery in my neighborhood (The Rocket Baby Bakery) I noticed something really cool.  This thing was SO cool that I found it necessary to go home, get the dog and walk back the way I'd just come in order to check it out.

I discovered that there are a number of Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood!  This one was about 7 blocks away with at least 3 others in a 2 block radius.  Sorry the top is cut off.  I was trying to take a photo and wrangle the dog at the same time.

I was even lucky enough to talk with the owner of the library, Jeannie (she was out mowing her yard).  She wanted to create a Chinese pagoda style library and here it is!  When I got home, I went to to learn more about the project.  

It started out as part of the Wisconsin Partners for SustainAbility and their goal was to create over 2,510 libraries (so, more than Andrew Carnegie).  This library is number 2,700 and some!  You can even find her little library and more pictures on the site's google map page.  

Jeanie was telling me that she's only had her Little Free Library up and registered for 2 or 3 months.  She says that she gets LOTS of little kids who come to pick out books on the weekends.  Boy was I glad that I'd taken a Little Bear book to donate!  

I knew that things like this existed, but I didn't know there were so many of them in my new neighborhood.  For the record, there is one in Bloomington, IL that is registered.  Go to the website to look them up.  Or better yet  (librarian friends who have their own houses) go and make your own!

Hooray for books!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Month One of Underemployment Complete

Well.  It's been a month.  I haven't exactly been sitting on the couch for the last month.  What with buying a new house and moving to a new state.  But I have gotten to the point where I miss working.  A lot.  There's still plenty to clean and organize here, but I find myself asking"What's the point?"  If I don't get a job for the next 1,3 or 12 months those things will still be there.  If I do All Of The Things this week, what in god's name do I have waiting for me next week?  And on it goes.

So today is a day for comfort food.  Here are easy recipes for two of my favorites.  The main dish I "invented" back when DJ and I bought our first house.  The dessert I have been making since I was a kid.

Confetti Casserole

1/2 C uncooked Minute rice
1/2-3/4 lb ground beef
1 can of Cream of Whatever You'd Like soup (or use this great recipe from Once A Month Mom found here)
1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 C chopped broccoli
1/2 C chopped red pepper
1/4 C shredded cheese of your choice + extra to sprinkle on top
salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook the Minute rice according to the instructions on the package.  Set aside.
Brown the beef. Drain and set aside.
Spray your casserole dish with cooking spray and mix in the all of the ingredients.  Sprinkle the extra cheese and place in oven.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees ad enjoy!

Notes: I am lazy and use frozen chopped broccoli.  And I never use all of an onion in any recipe so I have lots chopped onion in my freezer.  And red pepper.  If I use frozen ingredients, I nuke them in the microwave for a minute and a half.  I use a 2 quart casserole dish to bake everything in and it is very tasty and warm on a cool or rainy day.  It should feed 4.  Add more meat and veggies if you'd like to feed more folks.  And do yourself a favor, leave this uncovered while you cook it (unlike I did this time around).  The cheese should be more browned and less melty.

Easy-Peasy Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 Stick of margarine
1 C graham cracker crumbs
1/2 C powder sugar
1/4 C peanut Butter
Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a saucepan, melt margarine. Add the peanut butter and stir until dissolved.  Add powdered sugar and graham crackers.  Mix well.  Add this mixture to a foil-lined 9X9 pan.  Sprinkle well with chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 for five minutes until the chocolate chips are melted.  Spread the chocolate chips with a knife and place pan in the freezer to harden.  Cut into bars when the mixture has frozen.

Notes:  This is easy to make into "peanut butter cups" instead. Super easy and sooooo tasty!

And here is a photo of the original recipe card that I wrote out (in purple pen) in the third grade.  Note that spelling has been an issue my entire life:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Plumbers and that thing librarians HATE that I did. Three times.

This is part episode of "Adventures in Home Ownership" part "Librarian Pet Peeves."

Let us begin with the librarians.  I did it.  That thing that all (OK.  Maybe not all, but MOST) librarians hate.  And I didn't do it just once.  I did it three times.  And it felt dirty.

It's that thing that people do day in and day out and they never even look up from their laps.  Even if the entire library was papered with naked bodies they wouldn't notice (OK.  That might be the singular thing that would actually catch their attention).

You're thinking "Oh god!  You didn't sit by the window and look at porn did you?!?!"  No.  But it's almost as bad.

I, ladies and gentlemen of public librarianship, went to the library for one thing and one thing only: free wifi.  See, I haven't gone to the DMV yet and we didn't have the interwebs installed at the house and I REALLY needed to look up some phone numbers of contractors/fencing guys/veterinarians etc. and check my email so I went to the library.  I didn't even look at any books. I knew I couldn't check any of them out.  So even though I am itching to finally read the new Anita Blake vampire hunter book and Insurgent I didn't even look.  Partly because I've already seen the um, organizational structure of my local library and it gives me a panic attack; but mostly because I knew I couldn't take the books home with me.  The sad part?  I still haven't gone to get my Driver's License.  I don't want it to drive, I want it to read (and yes, I know I can probably technically get my card without the Wisconsin DL)!  I'm still ashamed of myself.

On to the plumbers.

This isn't a story of butt cracks, my friends.  Oh no. That would be trivial.

I shall begin with our first plumber.  I found some water in our basement.  I was terrified because I noticed it while our tile guy was in the second floor bathroom ripping out everything in site.  I thought he'd hit something and the walls were filling up with water only to slowly trickle down into the basement.  The first plumber, let's call him... Michael, told me what the problem was and how to fix it (the grout on the inset soap holder in the first floor bath was bad and leaking.  We needed new caulking.).  Then he installed the new shower head that we'd bought because I wasn't smart enough to figure out that not only was the first piece on the old-ass shower head threaded and would unscrew easily, but so was the ball type piece.  Idiot!  I paid him $98 and he left.  He gave me some other commentary on some pipes but all I registered was a bit of Used Car Salesman and "blah-blah-blah I know, we have an old-ass house with old-ass pipes."

Enter our second plumber perhaps 3 days later. 

Let me preface this by saying that there wasn't anything wrong with what our first plumber did.  At least, not that I've noticed.  My tile guy told me that he was going to call his plumber guy because he needed to cap some pipes near the sink and also to basically transform our shower from three knobs to one knob due to the new shower hardware we decided on.  He said that the guy would be here Saturday morning around 9:30.

 I said "What's this guy's name?"
To which my tile guy says "Well, he goes by Buckshot."

BUCKSHOT????  Oh God, this is going to be interesting.

When DJ got home that night, I told him my guess was that the guy was a 'nam vet.  He'd gotten some shrapnel in his leg and "Buckshot" sounded like a bad-ass nickname. I never found out if I was right or wrong, but it didn't matter in the slightest.

9:30 arrives and the doorbell rings.  I let Buckshot in (and no, I didn't pull the joke that DJ came up with which was "What's your last name?  Buckshot Johnson?  No?  Sorry.  You must be some other Buckshot").  I showed him where the second floor shower was and he got to work.  The rest of this story has been relayed to me by DJ several times since I believe I was in the basement doing laundry at the time of the occurrence.  The following is a loose portrayal of what took place:

Buckshot: Well, I'm finished.  If you can pay me, I'll be out of here.

DJ (with a bit of confusion as our tile guy had not mentioned us needing to pay this dude as he was being subcontracted): Um, I didn't realize we had to pay you.  I thought this was being covered under our contractor.

Buckshot: I was told you were going to pay me in cash.

DJ (the incredulity is mounting.  In addition, it is still morning...): Um, ok.  I don't have $200+ in cash on me.   I'll be right back. *DJ goes to get his checkbook* Ok.  Who do I make this out to?

Buckshot (with a bit of hesitation):  Well, um. I guess it would be, well.  You, um.  See the problem is, I don't have a bank, see.  And um, the bar where I normally cash my checks burned down so.... um, I guess make it out to Tom Riddle.

See what I did there?  I've been itching to use that name all day!

And that was our second experience with a plumber in the Milwaukee area. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pet Adventures

Much has been happening with the pets since we took them out of their familiar environment.  Since we've had a dude tearing out tile in our upstairs bathroom, I've been getting this face from Albus:

This look says: "Mommy, why are you letting the scary noises
happen to me and why aren't you doing anything to MAKE THEM STOP???"

He sort of hides behind a box, chair or TV tray in an attempt to get away from the noise.  Which makes me feel REALLY bad.  Until I remember that he's a dog and his only jobs are:
  • Eating
  • Pooping
  • Looking cute
  • Barking at anyone who comes to the door

And let me tell you, he is a pro at those jobs.  You'd think he'd be in barking heaven with all of the repair people coming in and out of this house lately!  He barks his little doggy head off at them and then they sit and pet him.  Tough life.

We also went to visit the new vet last week.  He was very nice.  And I have to say, our last vet was weird.  He kept calling Albus a "little turkey" over and over.  So, what?  You want to eat him?  He has nice legs?  I don't get it.

Albus is VERY scared when it comes to getting his nails trimmed.  So much so that our last vet gave us some sedatives that we're supposed to give him an hour before we start.  He gets really dopey and sleepy but the moment we put trimmer to nails it is as if we never gave them to him.  So this time, the new vet trimmed his nails.  He had one of his assistants hold him and then he tried to soothe the dog and quickly trim up his nails.  Albus whined and cried and moaned just like he does at home.  And then he pooped.  That's a new one.  Afterward, the vet said that Albus wasn't being bad or naughty, he was just really, really scared.  But he didn't try to nip or bite him so things could have been worse.  Then the doggy got a treat and it was as if the nail thing never even happened. 

The cats are also really confused by the move. I decided to move them up here separately since we knew it would be virtually impossible to move both of the cats or (god forbid) both cats AND the dog at the same time.  Penny did OK.  She meowed a bit but I just turned up the car stereo.  Moving Phoebe was going to be a really big test.  She made noises like she was being slowly murdered when we put her in a carrier and moved her the one mile from DJ's apartment to our last house in Normal.  I called the vet and asked if the sedative pills that he'd given us to feed to Albus before we trimmed his nails could also be used on cats.  When the doc told me "yes" I made high five motions to myself and proceeded to crush up a pill into some wet cat food.

Well Phoebe is way smarter than that.  She wouldn't touch it.  Even when I put a layer of uninfected food on top she still wouldn't eat it.  So I just broke the teeny pills in half and crammed them down her throat.  Surprisingly, she actually swallowed them.  They didn't appear to do much but she did let me put her in the cat carrier.  Once we were on the road, I decided to let her out of the carrier in the hope that she would stop moaning.  Well silly me, I decided to do this while I was going through the drive-thru at McDonalds.  So picture me pulling up to the window swearing like a sailor because a certain cat has decided to jump up on my shoulder/edge of the front car seat in an attempt to jump out of my open window.  I'll just bet that made the day of the teenager working the drive-thru who was trying very hard to cover up a smirk.  Other than that, the drive north was pretty uneventful.

From the above story you would probably conclude that Phoebe is a curious, smart little cat.  And you'd be right.  She is also a demon from hell in cat form.

Here she is sleeping behind DJ's Keurig maker and k-cups on the kitchen counter.

I can't tell you how many tiny places I have found this cat.  In the tiny space behind the microwave.  Inside the top of DJ's unassembled theater chair, under a wooden cart in the kitchen... I know things are really unfamiliar in this new place, but come on!  Cut it out.

But that is all child's play compared to the night we thought we would have to murder Phoebe.

I don't condone animal violence.  All of those ASPCA commercials with the rheumy-eyed kittens and shaking dogs with Sarah Mclachlan singing her sappy little heart out make me sad.  But I seriously wanted to murder our cat.  Or at least give her to a no kill shelter.

To begin with, the cats had been shut up in the upstairs for a few days because we were having our basement painted (including the floor!)  We had to keep the cats up there for another few days since it would take a few more days to dry and we certainly didn't want a couple of sticky cats wandering around the house!  I don't remember why, but that day had been particularly long and grueling.  I think it was the day we got back from moving a bunch of furniture from DJ's dad's.  Add to that the fact that we had been sleeping on an air matress for a number of days and that made us rather unhappy campers.

And then Phoebe started meowing.

She does this every once in a while.  Some nights around like, 2 AM, she'll get a wild hair and meow right outside our bedroom door.  I don't know why.  It isn't like she wants to play with us.  That's not really her thing.  Anyhow, that was the WORST night in the world for her to pull that gag.

But it didn't end there.

Usually, she meows like, eight times and by that time you're half awake and really pissed off and you stomp over to the door and whip it open. Most nights when you do this, she runs like crazy.  A sort of kitty "ding dong ditch" if you will.  Other nights she makes the mistake of sticking around or pulling the prank multiple times in a row just as you are about to get back to sleep and you have to give her a little smack on the kitty noggin before she runs off.

But that night, it kept going.  And going.  And going.  And it wasn't just her little teasing meows either.  It was the horrible moaning noise she makes when you put her in the cat carrier.  And she stood right outside our door and did this repeatedly.  We were at a loss.  What is her deal?  She has food and water and a litter box.  And a cat bed!  The dog is put away so he can't bother her.  But does she stop?  No!  Not after a smack on the head.  Not after yelling.  Not after shaking her because it is 5 AM and we're all so tired we JUST WANT IT TO STOP!!!!  (Clearly we're going to do well with a lack of sleep when we have kids).

I can't even remember how we made it through the night after that.  I do know that we slept in until like 1.  The next morning when we weren't sleep addled, we figured out a way to keep the cats on the ground floor without them escaping into the basement.  The grand solution: wedge a huge packing box in the doorway at an angle.  Tah dah!

Phoebe is still with us.  She is still a demon.  But we won't kill her :)

On a happier note, what do you get when you add adorable dachshunds, a costume based on the racing bratwurst from the Milwaukee Brewers games and a festival?  You get the 2012 Dachshund costume contest which immediately followed the Dachshund Derby (wiener dog race!!!) at Milwaukee's Germanfest.

So to recap:


Bean, the winner of the 2012 Dachshund costume contest.

Basically, a wiener dog in lederhosen.  If I could have found a photo of him on the interwebs, I would have included it.   Ah-mazing!

That concludes this episode of Pet Adventures.

Tonight's Menu: Spinach Strata 

Tomorrow's Menu: "Cheater" Fondue with cheese ravioli, chicken nuggets and broccoli dippers

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mmmmm. Bread.

I used our bread machine today.  I have to say thanks again MM for buying it for us when we got married!  Yummy, yummy bread.  Here's the recipe for the tasty cheddar herb bread that I made today.

Cheddar Herb Bread Machine Bread


1 1/4 cups lukewarm water 
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon extra-virgin
olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tsp Italian herbs 
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground coarse pepper
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese
3 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons instant active dry

Place all of the ingredients in your machine in the order that your manual recommends (mine puts liquids in first, followed by dry ingredients and then yeast on top).  Choose the basic setting.  Mine has a three hour timer which includes all of the mixing, rising and baking.   Let cool for at least an hour.  Makes one 1.5 pound loaf.

Aaaaaaand here are some pictures of the new house:

 The first two photos are of our bedroom.  Those rooms are now two different shades of mocha.  The icky pink bathroom in the third picture is now completely torn out.  The dining and living room still look like the pictures except that they are crammed with boxes and a few pieces of furniture. 

Tomorrow's Menu: probably marinated beef in the crockpot with brown rice and some veggies.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First real post

So.  I've been "underemployed" Since the 7th.  This week has been the first where I've actually been finished with signing legal documents and moving our stuff.  Granted there are still a hundred boxes sitting around here unopened but... whatever. 

Here are some things I have done since moving up here:

  • Opened a new checking account
  • Had the interwebs, phone, Dish and a home security system installed
  • Got new carpet put in our library/music room (more carpet coming soon)
  • Had 5 rooms plus most of the basement floor painted
  • Had the renovation guys start tearing out our upstairs bathroom (Oh the tile dust!  Why didn't I think about the tile dust?!?!)
  • Talked to every single office in the Milwaukee area about water testing.  And now that I've found the right lab that will test to see if we have lead in our water, I have to take the water to them instead of the other way around.  
  • Bought a ton of shit (including but not limited to: carpet, lamps, sink, TV stand, about 8 rolls of shelf liner, garbage cans)
  • Went to my local Ace Hardware to have some keys made and basked in the small, hometowny-ness of it
  • Visited the local bookstore and purchased Montana 1948 

Things I have yet to do:

  • Finish a book. Which sucks because I'm currently working on Tracks by Louise Erdrich and I've enjoyed every book I've ever read by her.
  • Get a job
  • Clean out our garage.  Which is a problem since neither the hubs nor I can park in there at the moment.
  • Meet my neighbors to the south.  Which is also a problem because we're going to be installing a fence next to their property and we should probably talk about it with them before it goes up.
  • Successfully hook up my flexible dryer duct to the vent and have the damned thing stay hooked up.  Apparently I fail at simple home fixes.
  • Get a job
  •  Attend some sort of 'fest in Milwaukee (Yep.  Missed Summerfest, Bastille Days and several others).
  • Have visitors at our new house (though I hear this will be remedied soon)
So there you go.  Nothing too exciting yet.  But I have yet to spend more than 45 minutes in my local library so we'll see what happens then.

Update: Since I now  have plenty of time to make lots of tasty food for dinner these days, the hubs is requesting that I have a daily menu on here.  You know, like when you were in middle school and they'd read what lunch was on the morning announcements?  Like that.

Tomorrow's Dinner Menu: Lasagna Roll-ups, fresh green beans, homemade cheddar herb bread.

Tonight's Menu was: Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken, homemade garlicky potato wedges, sliced strawberries.

Friday, May 18, 2012

There isn't much to say...yet.

I guess I should give you a bit of background.  I live in central Illinois.  I work as a Teen Librarian.  Teens rule.  They are a lot of fun.  But my husband has an awesome new job so we're moving to (drum roll, please): the cheese head state.  Wait.  Folks in the great state of Wisconsin probably don't like being referred to as "cheese heads," do they?  Or maybe it's just those who have no interest in football who would be offended by that.  Crap. 

All technical terms aside, it appears that due to the current economic climate (and the fact that there are two library schools in very close proximity to my new home) I will be unemployed for the time being.  But I'd like to call it "underemployed."  Because I will be employed reading, fixing up our new house and "nesting" as it were- though I can't imagine anyone will pay me to do those things. 

So this blog is a way for me to stay sane.  Maybe I'll talk about things in the world of libraries to keep myself fresh.  Maybe there will be book reviews.  Maybe I'll just tell awful stories.  Either way, it's going to be an interesting ride.  Hop in.