Jenyfer Matthews
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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.

candle5

Who couldn’t use some fast luck?

candle3

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

candle4

Where has this candle been all my life?!

candle1

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:

candle2

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

downsized_0315151231

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.

March 5th, 2015
Amish Life is Looking Better and Better

I’m still fighting with my laptop. In the end it needed a new hard-drive. Not great, but better than buying a new computer entirely.

I brought the computer home and it seemed fine, but the resolution was wonky… the screen seemed all stretched out. I even had to scroll right to see an entire webpage which isn’t normal. I tried playing around with the resolution but could not get it quite right. I got it looking better but still not happy with it. Grrrr…

Then I reloaded Firefox, but almost immediately some other program snuck in and started hijacking my homepage setting and putting up so many pop-ups that I couldn’t see the page I was trying to access. I managed to re-install my computer virus protection / optimizer but that didn’t help. Then I un-installed the programs that I could see in my control panel that seemed to be causing the issues but that didn’t help either. Finally I just uninstalled Firefox all together. Grrrr…

As I was doing that I was also trying to send a text to a coworker and it wouldn’t send. I couldn’t send texts for probably an hour. Texting is my primary use for my phone. Computer acting up and no texts? I might as well be back in the 1980s.

Sometimes I really hate technology…

March 3rd, 2015
Snow, Snow, Go Away

Where did February go??

I guess I shouldn’t complain about the speed with which the last two months have zoomed by since that means spring will arrive all that much sooner. It is snow / sleeting as I type this post.

I lamented the lack of seasons when we lived in the Middle East. Relentless warmth and sun sounds pretty nice until that is all you ever get. There were times when I would look out of the window and blank on not only the date but the month. I remember getting excited when it would get cloudy in the United Arab Emirates. If it rained I was ecstatic (it rained perhaps once a “winter”). I really think that you appreciate the nice weather so much more when you have suffered through the awful stuff.

I was pretty thrilled with sunny and 22F after having had windy and -23F!

Spring is not necessarily my favorite season but I am looking forward to it. I want to be able to go outside and take walks again without fear of slipping on ice. I want to putter in my yard. I have found some wonderful summer dresses on my recent thrift store expeditions that I am longing to wear. And sandals! I’m always happy to get my boots out in the fall but right now I’m missing my sandals.

Time can keep marching along for now please – I want to get to the next season!

February 18th, 2015
Technological Issues

It’s tough to write a blog post when your computer suddenly decides that it doesn’t have a wifi connection … in the middle of surfing the internet.

I did what I could do to diagnose the issue myself but was unsuccessful. The wifi button was clearly showing as “on” but the computer still insisted it was off. So I took it in to a local computer place to have it looked at. The prognosis isn’t sounding great. Just what I wanted to do – buy a new computer.

Technology is that way – it becomes obsolete very quickly. However, I am pretty sure that this isn’t just a matter of the computer getting old and wearing out. I was forced to let my daughter start taking my computer with her to her tennis training every day after she cracked the screen on her own computer. The problem? She isn’t always that careful and more than once I’ve opened the screen when we get home and the computer just pops on because she hasn’t properly shut it down – which is really not good for the hard-drive. As it happens, she did that yesterday. What a coincidence.

I may be forced to purchase a new computer, which isn’t an expense I was looking for at present. But the worst part is that I might still be forced to let her carry it around because school doesn’t finish for a little over three months… I miss the days of books and paper.

The mercury retrograde was over last week – I thought I was homefree on the technological issues…