Jenyfer Matthews
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May 22nd, 2015
Retrograde-d

A Mercury retrograde began on Monday – astrologically speaking this causes obstructions to progress, technological issues, slow-downs, traffic problems, etc. I have always been interested in astrology but have only more recently been aware of things like retrogrades. Frankly, it explains a lot! And even if I hadn’t know that the retrograde had started, I’d still have been suffering the effects.

Monday evening I was out taking a walk and dropped my phone on the sidewalk, cracking the screen. Tuesday afternoon was spent having that fixed (and picking out a better, more protective case). Wednesday I decided I needed to mow the lawn. I got two small sections done and the mower stalled. I cleaned off the spark plug and got it going again… very briefly before it stalled again. So I checked the air filter (it was ok), checked the oil (topped it up), and went to get some better, fresher gas (which I added along with some fuel cleaner). Then I went to the parts store for a spark plug. I got the mower running again and finished the front yard. On to the backyard… where I hit a brick paver and bent the blade of the mower so thoroughly the mower would not run at all. In the process of removing the blade I discovered a ridiculously thick layer of grass and dirt caked on the underside of the mower – that probably wasn’t helping things either. I scraped off what I could of that and then went to Home Depot for a new blade… which I did not install that evening because by then it was getting late and I had had enough!

Yesterday I was pulled over on my way to drop my daughter off at tennis – apparently one of my brake lights was out. The policeman was kind enough not to give me a ticket. Back to the auto parts store for a new bulb. After I got home I decided to install the new blade on the mower to make sure that it fit and that the mower would still run before I made the effort to change the oil. It started, but the blade didn’t mount correctly so it was also clattering and throwing sparks. Back to Home Depot to exchange blades. I got one that was 1″ shorter than is actually called for but it mounts correctly and there is no danger of it hitting the housing! Success! I went ahead and hosed off the rest of the muck from the underside while I was working and then I called it a day. It would probably be faster to rent some goats to cut my backyard at this rate!

At this rate I am scared to see what the weekend holds for me.

I did at least get a few plants in my kitchen garden Last weekend:

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I was being a bit conservative – I only planted 5 tomato plants (1 cherry) and 4 basil plants. And though I was worried I had waited a bit late to plant anything, we also had a frost warning two nights later! I did buy some seeds on one of my many trips to Home Depot – carrots and cilantro. I will try to remember to take pictures as the summer progresses because while this spot looks silly now it always turns into a jungle by the end of August.

I need to do some research on asparagus also. I have two large crowns of it which have been settled in this spot for two years now – one is sending up normal looking stalks and one is not:

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The come out of the ground very thin and twisty (sometimes twisted around each other) and then immediately want to go to seed. Does it need another year??

The retrograde lasts until June 11… I hope I can make it through without too many more issues!

May 17th, 2015
Music Education

I love music. I love taking road trips on my own when I can listen to music LOUD and sing along (with no audience). I have the radio on in my kitchen most of the time when I am home. The only time I don’t really care to listen to music is if I am working or trying to write. If music is playing I am singing along. If I am trying to write, I need to listen to my thoughts!

When I was a child, I listened to whatever music my mother played. She had a turntable with a really long stick and she would load half a dozen (vinyl) albums up on the stick and let them play on the weekends as she went about her housework. Once they had all dropped and played that side, she would flip them over. My earliest memories are of Elvis, but she went on to Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Tom Jones among others. I was a big Elvis fan as a young child. I once won some school competition for selling the most candy bars and chose an Elvis poster as my prize (he was wearing a bedazzled jumpsuit with a Hawaiian leie)

My mother’s car was her domain as well – she liked a lot of the current popular music that my sister and I liked, but if she wanted to listen to a cassette that is what we listened to. I know a lot of Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond as a result. I remember one summer when she was on a kick for Billy Joel’s Innocent Man album.

I myself like to listen to the radio, so I like a lot of the current popular music my own children like. However I have a six disk CD changer loaded up with disks I like… and I usually turn them off when the kids get in the car and listen to what I know they will like instead. Hmmm… something is wrong with this picture.

I remember not necessarily enjoying my mother’s musical selections at the time, however now I appreciate the fact that I was exposed to them. I love hearing those songs and remembering my mother. I made myself a disk of Billy Joel songs this week and put it my car and have been playing it even when the kids are with me. Baby steps.

They will listen to what they like on their own time anyway. Why not expose them to something new?

April 27th, 2015
Stumped

There is a vaguely kidney bean shaped flower bed in my front yard, and a large stump of what the neighbors tell me was a pine tree in the narrow end closer to the house. I have been wanting to have the stump removed since we moved in but it has been pretty low on the priority list overall.

However, that end of the flower bed tends to get pretty ratty looking in the summer. There is ground cover in that end of the bed that disguises the stump for the most part, however the grass from the yard has migrated into bed as well and is so thoroughly integrated with the ground cover it isn’t easy to just weed out – think sod. Also, there are some roots coming out from the stump that end up in the yard and disrupt the border of the bed (which is how the grass got in so easily).

This weekend I was on call for work more or less the entire time. Add that to the busy week I’d had and I was looking for something to take out my frustration on. So I decided to start digging up the mess of ground cover and grass in that flower bed.

stump

You can sort of see what I’m dealing with here – the ground cover and grass vs. the area that I’ve dug up. The pot is on top of the stump.

But as I was digging there were largish pieces of root that were just breaking off the stump so I started thinking about one of the larger roots that ran from the stump out of the flower bed into my yard – and wondering if I could remove it… So I got out my hatchet to try…

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You can see in this picture I am not the first person to have had this idea!

I wasn’t sure how sharp the blade of my hatchet was when I started but it seemed to work well enough.

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I was astonished and thrilled when I actually managed to get this large section of root out of my yard finally!

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The end I chopped was probably about 6″ in diameter and the middle bit was larger. Part of it had been sticking out of the grass but it did leave quite a furrow when I pulled it out. I ended up taking some of the sod I dug out of the bed and replanting it in the furrow I created. I tossed that root onto my log pile for a fire next winter. Waste not, want not.

(The sticker on the handle of the hatchet is a price tag from an estate sale, naturally – best $3 I’ve spent!)

It is amazing and ridiculous how much digging that root up lifted my mood!

April 25th, 2015
One Thing After Another

What a busy week it has been – and not necessarily entirely the fun kind of busy.

I had a minor, low speed collision in rush hour traffic at the end of last week when the person in front of me stopped suddenly and I bumped them from behind. We opted not to call the police since the damage was minor – and all to my tiny car. It honestly didn’t look like a big deal but that wasn’t what the body shop found of course. So I arranged to drop my car off bright and early Monday morning.

Last weekend I drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin for a tennis tournament with my daughter (in my damaged car). I was white knuckeling it through Chicago in the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic after my other collision. The tournament ended quickly for my daughter so we drove back home on Sunday. It is about a six hour drive from where we are in Michigan. As I was driving home I got a call from work asking if I could do a few things when I got home. Those “few things” ended up in my working from 4pm to 2:30am.

Monday I dropped my car off at the body shop and got my loaner. While it was in the shop, I decided to have the cloudy headlights replaced since they would have the bumper off anyway. Then it seemed like every morning this week I had doctors appointments for myself or for one of the children and every evening this week I had something to do to – including a retirement party and a going-away party for two different people on the same night. I got my car back on Thursday evening (wow – the new headlights made it look as if the car had previously had cataracts!) and then had to take it to the dealership on Friday to have an airbag replaced – which resulted in my being given another loaner car.

This weekend there are two soccer games for my son (one of which required a 5 hour round trip because of distance and construction traffic), school work for my daughter, and being on call for work. Is it any wonder I didn’t have time to write anything INTERESTING for my blog?

On the up side, my tulips are coming up and my daffodils are about to bloom. I also see signs of life from my asparagus and my peonies. So I believe spring is coming in spite of having had three days of snow showers / freezing rain this week.

April 14th, 2015
Muddling Through

I’m a planner by nature and I find that my weeks always go more smoothly when I have some ideas for dinner before the week starts. Not necessarily a set-in-stone plan for every night of the week – I can wing it a few nights – but at least three ideas of something I can make with what I have on hand. If I’m really on top of things I can think of ideas with enough time to pick up what I don’t already have in stock.

The last two weeks have not been great weeks for meal planning.

I muddled through much of last week and we got take out twice. This week is not shaping up to be much better so far. I think I know what I’ll make tonight (spinach and cheese quesadillas) but I’m already celebrating the fact that I only have to get through three more dinners this week because Friday my daughter and I leave for a weekend tennis tournament in Wisconsin. Can’t do much cooking in a hotel room.

I really need to get my act together.

Some of what is throwing me off is the shift in seasons. It’s starting to warm up enough outside that the warm and cozy winter entrees don’t appeal quite so much, however it isn’t quite warm enough to move into my full on summer menu either. I suspect I’ll be muddling along for a little while longer, though in the process of writing this post I already have an idea of what I can make for dinner tomorrow – at least if I do a bit of advance prep this evening (pasta with peanut butter sauce).

Sometimes you really do need to talk it out!

April 3rd, 2015
Surprise!

I was suspicious when my son called me at work asking where the baking soda was… previously the only baking he’d done was from mixes I’d bought him and he was currently out of those. He was not inclined to tell me what he was up to…

This is what I came home to after work:

chocchipcookies

He wanted to surprise me. He certainly did that.

The cookies were extremely flat and crunchy. After some discussion we decided that he had melted the butter rather than softening it. Lesson learned.

At least I hope so. I was wiping off the stove about a week ago and suddenly looked down to see that the front (gas) burner was on low, invisible in the the sun coming in the window. He’d been cooking and forgotten to shut it off after. Thank goodness that nothing caught fire – including my sleeve as I wiped off the stove top. I have vivid memories of trying to make french fries as a teen and the oil spilling over and setting fire to the stove top – and then knowing to use baking soda to put it out but having to jump for it because it was stored in the cupboard above the stove…

Maybe I should get us a fire extinguisher…

April 1st, 2015
I Believe in Spring

My son is on spring break this week and is hanging out at home while I work. On the one hand, I love that he is old enough to be at home on his own and can take care of himself but on the other hand, I’m scared of what I’ll find when I get home every day. Will he have tried cooking again? How many dirty dishes will he have created? Will there be any food left to eat? He’s grown just over 2″ taller since Christmas and put on about 15 pounds.

Keeping him in groceries is a costly challenge. In some ways it might have been cheaper to take time off work and go on a trip somewhere!

It seems as if half of the population of our town went away for the break, judging only by the minimal traffic on the streets (which is pretty minimal on a bad day as it is) More power to them. As pretty as it is at the moment – sunny and nearly 50F – we woke up to snow yesterday morning and tomorrow there is rain in the forecast. I’m going to take advantage of the weather today and the longer days and take a walk after work.

Even if the calendar hadn’t told me so, I know spring is on the way because I can see my tulips starting to come up. I’m ready to see some color in the yard other than white…

March 25th, 2015
Sweet Inspiration

Sometimes when my mind is wandering, inspiration will suddenly strike. It would be the solution to a problem or just a random idea for how to deal with a project I’m working on – like the perfect color for a piece of furniture I’m restoring. Sometimes it is a twist on a recipe.

For instance, it suddenly occurred to me that I could make a basic white sauce and then add some of my homemade pesto to it to make a pesto cream sauce. That may seem obvious to many of you but it was nearly a revelation to me. I’m planning to make it soon and add some shrimp to it for a special meal.

The other day I was hit with the inspiration to make a cake – a variation of a pineapple upside cake, only with my homemade apple pie filling. And then when I did actually make it, I also tossed in some pomegranate seeds for texture and color. It was fantastic – and eaten too quickly to get pictures.

I told my friend about it and she said she’d had a variation made with peaches and drizzled with a cinnamon roll-like glaze. Guess what’ll I’ll be making next time?

Both of my children have entered the insatiable teenage years… they really appreciate it when I get inspired in the kitchen!

March 16th, 2015
Paraffin Voodoo

I was in the Cincinnati area this weekend for a tennis tournament – the bonus aspect of which is that I also get to visit with a friend of mine at the same time. Before my daughter and I hit the road on Sunday, my friend and I made a trip to a fabulous nearby grocery store, Jungle Jims. To call it a grocery store is a serious understatement. The place is nothing short of awesome – so much so that I find it hard to describe it adequately. You really kind of have to see it in person. The closest I can come to describing it is to say it is similar to Trader Joe’s – on steroids.

Within the store, there are sections dedicated to the products of various countries, one of which is Mexico. The products include more than simply food however – there are also toiletries, and in Mexico’s case, candles. Mexico is a predominately Catholic country and they are apparently very into devotional candles. There are candles with pictures of Jesus and Mary and various saints printed on the holder. But there are also candles dedicated to various situations and problems, some of which very specific.

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Who couldn’t use some fast luck?

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I know a few people I could think of while burning this candle!

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Where has this candle been all my life?!

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In case this front of the candle wasn’t clear enough, there are instructions on the back:

Candle1a

I love the “Love” with the strike out mark through it!

And in case the candle above wasn’t to your taste, you have a few more options to choose from on the same theme:

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If the sword doesn’t get your message across you can always try a cobra:

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I would love to know how the color scheme works since all of the break-up candles are brown.

My friend and I had a great time looking at all the choices and trying to read the Spanish for more clues. I am in no way mocking these candles – I think they are great. There are a few I wish I’d known about a long time ago!

March 9th, 2015
Hell in the Kitchen

My children have always been big eaters… at least I thought so until they hit the teen years. Their daily eating requirements before were nothing compared to lately. You hear those stories about people who get lost in the wilderness in a snow storm and survive for 15 days on a pack of M&Ms and eating snow. I don’t think my children would survive for half an hour without eating. They are very much like infants still – needing to eat every couple of hours.

Last week my son asked me to teach him to make scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs are a good basic thing to know how to make so I showed him. He was so pleased with his results that he immediately wanted to make two more eggs.

The next day I came home from work and he was in the kitchen eating a bowl of… brown mush. I looked a bit closer and it was oatmeal, but so brown that I asked him had he put cocoa in it? No, cinnamon. LOTS of cinnamon. In fact, much of my kitchen was dusted with cinnamon – there was a fine layer all over the countertop, the trash can lid, the floor, and even on the wall. The. Wall.

There was also a dirty pan on the stove from the eggs he’d made himself.

He next asked for me to show him how to make pasta. This boy loves nothing more than he loves pasta. I also know that if I allow him free reign on making pasta that no box of pasta I bring into the house will be safe. I’m beginning to wonder if they make cupboard locks to thwart teenagers.

The next kitchen lessons are definitely going to be in cleaning up after himself and portion control. The silver lining on the excess cinnamon is that I’m fairly certain cinnamon is a natural insect repellant.