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At Least the Lawn is Turning Green

Ben’s back to work today which means we’re pulling out of this brief sickness fog and are on the solid road of recovery. Hurray for that! The cold, blustery & rainy weather continues and my driveway is smattered with the carcasses of all the huge worms that I squashed under the wheels of my car yesterday morning. Ugh.

The good part is that the rain is helping to green up our grass. Here’s a funny / ironic story. We live at the end of a row of houses with a house on one side and that awful bit of forest and tiny ravine on the other. The forest is the villa de rabbit garden and we “think” all the houses drain in our direction. This causes our sump pump to run several times an hour. It’s crazy. Anyway, our closest neighbor is a bit older and works from home, so he’s always out fiddling with his lawn. We’re talking 2x a week lawn mowing and many fertilizer applications. The result is a lush, green lawn that makes ours look like a dried biscuit. Ben’s been eyeing things up and decided to fertilize the same time this year.

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It’s a couple weeks later and despite the careful and timely application, somehow, EVERY lawn surrounding ours looks green already except ours. It’s not fair!!! We may have to turn to the professionals one of these years. I just don’t trust them to keep those chemicals far, far away from my garden. The past two days of rain have helped green things up. We’re not caught up to the neighbors but at least we’re not brown and crispy anymore.

One of our projects last year was to sand and re-stain the back porch. We spent hundreds of dollars on stain stripper followed by sanding products to get inside the tight grooves and spindles of the porch and even rented a power sander for the larger pieces of wood. We slapped on a thick coat, following careful instructions and got about 75% of the way last year with the intent to finish this Spring. Now we’re noticing it’s already peeling off. It hasn’t even been a year!!!

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Not sure what to do now. I’d hate to strip all this off and then try something new so we might try a second coat and then just leave it for a few years. Nothing is as frustrating as trying something yourself and not having it work. We are, unfortunately, not home fix-it professionals!

Despite being sick, Ben grilled burgers and veggies for us last night. I’m always excited to be back in grilling season because it just feels like there are more options for dinner every night. Plus, I’m getting addicted to grilled vegetables. They are so much better than just steaming them!

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Since we’re trying to eat more veggies for lunch and dinner, we definitely go through a lot more than normal. Each time I throw a $3.49 pepper or $2.89 tiny zucchini into my grocery cart I wince and look forward to pulling them out of my garden. I’m hoping after this chilly week I can start planting, wouldn’t that be exciting!?

Time to get the umbrella and skip to work. Happy Tuesday!

Please Don’t Poke my Hand

Happy Monday! Is it raining anywhere else this morning? I can see the driveway is absolutely littered with worms scurrying all around. I guess the dormant season is over for them. Hopefully they’ll decide to vacate the area so they don’t get squashed by my car when I drive to work. Ewww. :/

We’ve had a crazy past couple of days. I had my yearly health assessment done at work. They check your blood pressure, height, weight, and waist circumference and then draw blood to do a cholesterol screening. I’m not the best at having my blood drawn but it’s always the same arm, always the same place, and I can mentally work up to the experience. (I’m a wimp, ok?) But after 4 pokes and enough arm squeezing to feel like something might fall off, she stabbed me in the HAND and did the blood draw there. Not mentally prepared.

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This blood draw happened on Thursday and I still have the mark visible today! Not fun. The whole thing made me a bit woozy and I ended up going home a little early… Maybe I had really low blood sugar? I’m not sure, but I felt really terrible after I left and went back upstairs to eat my breakfast and stop my hand from shaking. Plus, it was painful. You definitely feel every second when it’s in your hand. Never again, please.

I fully recovered though (was there any doubt? :) ) and then Ben got some bug and has been coughing and wheezing all weekend. I woke up at 5am on Saturday morning hearing him wheeze and cough and 10 minutes later was out the door loading up on cough drops, Sambucol, throat lozenges, soup, and cook & serve pudding. His throat has been the main issue and luckily no headache or fever but it’s lingering and we’re not seeing a lot of improvement. He’s even taking a sick day today for more recovery time. I’ve been taking extra doses of Vitamin C and so far, so good. I’m hoping with another day of rest he’ll be as right as rain.

As you can imagine, we didn’t do too much. I made most of the meals and did some cleaning. Yesterday afternoon was beautiful and I spent a few hours sitting outside reading. It was wonderful. I also learned I really need a new outdoor reading chair. I headed out for some investigation but after a few stops, couldn’t find what I wanted. Instead, I scored some great deals on coffee and picked our some flavors we’ve never tried before. Vanilla cream puff? Yes please. :)

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Still chugging away and doing well trying to cut back on calories and drop a few pounds. I am down about 8# now and that feels pretty encouraging. The good(?) thing about my diet is that all our dinners are gluten-free, so my friend who has Celiac can stop over any night and not have to worry about the food. Bonus, I guess? :)

Since Ben’s throat was wonky, we made eggs loaded with veggies on Saturday night thinking soft foods would be best. Actually, this meal hit the spot and was really delicious:

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Here’s one of my lunches too. I cooked up the Ideal Protein pasta and then sautéed veggies in coconut oil and drizzled some diet-approved dressing on top. Pretty filling (which isn’t always the case).

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Last week the temps were mostly in the 60s and this week we’ve slid back into the 50s. I’m hoping for low winds so it feels warmer and I can get a couple afternoon/lunch time walks in. I managed 2 lunch walks last week and it felt amazing to be outside (plus breaking up the work day is so good).

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Herb “Gardening”

Ok, so here’s a bizarre little story for today. Ben’s mom frequents a lot of the year-round farmers markets and found out about a lady who was having a “Build an Herb Garden” class in her store. We (Ben, Me, Ben’s mom, Ben’s dad) all signed up and thought it might be fun to learn more about herbs.

My initial knowledge was pretty bleak and extends 99% into the culinary world of herbs. I don’t know much about tinctures, salves, or anything in the medicinal world. I also know there’s quite a lot you can do to make teas. So – lots to learn!

We showed up and her store was really a random hodge podge of various objects. You could browse around the store and at least 80% of her wares looked like cast-off odds and ends with no price tags. The store itself was old – the ceiling was falling down in parts, it felt like the heat wasn’t working, and her cats (yes, cats!) roamed freely. Some would knock over random items or jump up on customers… It was a unique experience.

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It was fun seeing her pots of herbs scattered throughout the store. I saw one cat nibbling on something and wondered if that was a plant she was trying to sell. Hmm. Totally bizarre! :)
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We were hoping we’d get some seeds or maybe a seedling plant to put in our gardens, but instead we received a sheet of graph paper to graph out a garden and another sheet of paper showing a list of taller plants on one side and shorter plants on the other. From there, it was basically an open 2-hr session of people asking her questions and her not really giving anyone answers. Interestingly enough, I think some of the people who attended knew more than she did and that’s where I picked up a few interesting tidbits.

As my mind wandered a bit through some of the session, I got to look more towards the back of the store where she had some really cool apothecary stuff. I’m familiar with epidemic jars from historical books and movies but I’d never seen one up close.

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It was an expensive class considering we didn’t really get much out of it but it made me want to grow some of my own herbs. I think it might be a bit optimistic to tackle tea but I thought maybe I’d start with more of the herbs we use for cooking all the time. A couple years ago I tried growing rosemary but I learned in the class that rosemary doesn’t do well in Wisconsin winters and needs to come indoors. Maybe that’s why it never grew! :)

There were also a number of people who grew comfrey and judging from the wide range of medicinal uses – I’m thinking that may be one to learn a bit more about and maybe try and grow too.

Always fun to learn new things. Is anyone trying to grow any herbs this year besides me?

Toasty and Full of Sunshine

What a weekend!

What a weekend!

WHAT A WEEKEND

I can’t get over how fabulous it was. Saturday saw a high in the mid 60s and yesterday hit 70! It was pretty breezy but who can complain? All the dormant WI inhabitants leapt from their houses and paraded in the yards and in the streets. The amount of walkers, runners, and bikers was almost startling (but after a long Winter, why would anyone have been inside??).

But before I get to all the fun and games, you can probably guess by this email that I didn’t lose any of my fingers waiting for the furnace to be repaired. Sun-Thurs was pretty awful and there was a whole lot of this going on:

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Each time I cooked anything in the oven I would leave the door open afterwards to help warm the kitchen. The parts arrived on Thursday and we were greeted with warmth – and the lovely smell of hot oil. We learned they oil a lot of the parts and when it gets warm… the smells wafts through the air ducts. While this was especially unpleasant, apparently most of the time people get smoke from the oil which sets up the smoke alarms in the house. Luckily, that didn’t happen. However, it felt weird running the furnace (finally) with both of the patio doors wide open!!

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Crank her up and let her go!! Woooo heat. :) Is it ironic that our furnace died the LAST cold week of the season? Had it been this week – not a problem!

Friday night felt like a Mexican night, so we went back to the new Mexican place and I browsed their menu for something that would keep me on diet. After nixing the tortillas, black beans, rice, guacamole, and cheese – my delicious dinner was born:

041It was two chicken breasts piled with a variety of veggies. Ben got a jumbo margarita (boo!) and I sipped on my diet-friendly water. The things a chubby chick has to do, right? ;)

040 039This is an awesome place though. Not a lot of business (hope they don’t go OUT of business!) but a huge menu, great atmosphere, and really cool decor. I enjoy it every time we go.

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It just feels like Mexico :)

We spent the weekend almost entirely outside. We surveyed some potential projects and cleaned up remaining Fall branches/leaves/sticks.

One of our projects is to replace the faded shutters on the front of the house. Ben got started on the lower ones.

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And we were not surprised by what was behind the old ones:

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There seem to be wasps everywhere we go! lol

I cleaned out the front flower patch. I really want to give it a facelift and some mulch, but I’m still trying to figure out if I’m going to remove some shrubs and make the area bigger or not.

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My bleeding hearts are getting too big and too close together and I have such tough ground that some things are stunted and don’t grow very well. Maybe some new soil gently mixed in might help. Meanwhile, tulips are looking perfect!

Ben put an emergent on the lawn that is supposed to help prevent weeds and all the pricker plants that ate at my bare feet last year. Fingers crossed!

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Saturday night we were invited over to visit our friends. I have zero pictures (fail) but they made bratwurst and had an assortment of chips, popcorn, pickles, pound cake. We diced up a huge bag of zucchini, yellow squash, and a variety of bell peppers – tossed them in olive oil with some spices – and brought that for a grilled veggie that would keep me on my diet and allow me to bypass all the bad food (minus the pickles, they are ok!!). The veggies were a huge hit! Yay!!

We were more tired yesterday after all the fresh air and outdoor work but we still managed to get a bunch done. I hung 4 loads of laundry on the line, trimmed back 3 really overgrown bushes, and cleaned two bathrooms. Ben also cleaned out part of the garage, started getting a list of seasonal parts we’ll need for the lawn mower, and put together a new shelf for me in the basement:

057I am HORRIBLE at throwing things away and worse at organization so every little bit that starts to get put together makes me feel proud. :)

We stopped for lunch and decided to clean out veggies from the prior week. We both had salads but Ben put turkey on his. Mine was paired with a protein bar:

049 050 051All in all, you can’t get much better than a weekend like this. It’s raining this morning which should make the grass really green up and the extended forecast looks pretty good too. I’m excited for the week!

Did anyone else make good use out of the beautiful weather? What are you looking forward to this Spring?

Freezing in April

Howdy folks,

I am blogging to you this morning and putting my fingers in peril by doing so. The furnace stopped working in our house on Sunday and we’ve been battling increasingly cold conditions ever since. Our repair guy ordered the replacement parts and they arrive tomorrow… but in the meantime Brrrrrrr!!

Last night we turned on the gas fireplace in our family room and huddled together under electric blankets with mugs of steaming coffee/tea in our hands. Ben set up a space heater in the bedroom so we could take the chill out of that room but showering and moseying around the house has been frigid. How come we can’t get some weather in the 60’s to help out??

I was trying to think of something to make that would use the oven and decided to mess around with some of the ideal protein foods. I got a box of pancake mix and a box of oatmeal and thought maybe I could re-purpose them into muffins that would be portable and easy for lunchtime snacking at work.

I whisked up a little egg white, water, vanilla, and baking powder with the mixes and then spooned them into mini muffin pans. I can get 6 minis for each packet of food.

Don’t the oatmeal muffins look pretty good?

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I put too much water in the pancakes though and they turned out really flat…

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They also stuck to the muffin tins – so I had to scrape them out with a spoon and use them as my late-night protein rather than a bake-ahead lunch.

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The muffins were… just okay. They looked better than they tasted. It may be the egg whites in them but they were on the spongy/rubbery size. Not the greatest but still perfectly edible. Bonus for anything that can be taken to work!

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Dinner really is a piece of cake on this diet. Breakfast is too because I can eat one of the once-a-day “restricted” items which are the foods that can be unwrapped and eaten without any prep. Lunch is always challenging because I need 2 cups of veggies as well as a non-restricted item, which tends to require prep that’s hard to do at work.

But I’m hanging in here overall. The diet is slowly moving and I’m keeping my eyes glued to the 10-day forecast in search of 50s and sunshine. Soon!! I’m also trying to make an effort to get up at work every hour or two and stretch my legs. It’s all good.

Hope you are all staying warm!!! Come on Spring!

Easter Weekend

Happy Easter!! I hope you had a wonderful and blessed holiday!

My Facebook page is inundated with adorable kids in their fancy church clothes, candy baskets, and random cake/cookie/cupcake recipes all celebrating the risen Lord.

What I want to know is, what is the obsession with the peanut butter eggs? I only mention this because there have been multiple women at work commenting about their hidden stashes of eggs and that they have enough bags (yes, plural), to last them a few months.

And this, of course:

peanut butter eggs

Don’t get me wrong, I bask in the glory of all things peanut butter, chocolate, and sugar-laden as much as the next person but I guess I always think of Easter more along the lines of the Starburst jelly beans. Mmm…

No candy for this girl though, I stuck to the diet and ate on-plan all weekend. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Now that I’m starting week #3, I can honestly say that it’s back to the normal now. I’m more or less in a routine as far as meal prep goes and I don’t have to think about it as much. With the birthday festivities cutting into my first week, I didn’t lose as much as I had wanted, but I am down 5.8#. Can’t complain.

What I am slightly nervous about is our furnace. We had a weird issue a few weeks back which turned out to be a fluke, but yesterday the house felt cold and upon investigation we discovered a small pool of water under the furnace and no pilot light on. Since it was Easter, we didn’t call anyone to come and check it out. This morning, however, the house temp was a lovely 61 degrees and I think calling the furnace folks is #1 priority for Ben this morning. :-) Hoping it’s a quick and inexpensive fix!

Things are going well in the land of sports too. Michigan State (my dad and brother’s alma mater) and Wisconsin both made it into the Final Four of the NCAA championship. Everyone is all crazy-excited for the final game tonight. I’ll confess, I’ve never been much for college sports and really don’t care about the outcome. Shouldn’t these students be in school and not gallivanting all over playing basketball? I’m just saying. BUT – the start to the 2015 MLB season is underway and the Cardinals are already leading their division (never mind that no one else has played a game yet – I’ll boast while I can). :) But yes, the Badger fan base is alive and strong with more red and white garb than I’ve seen in a long time.

We went out to dinner Saturday night and all the TVs were tuned into the game. I was tuned into delicious eats:

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A delicious salad with lots of fun toppings along with a filet and mountain of broccoli. It takes a bit of getting used to eating a salad without dressing so when it’s loaded with fresh cracked pepper and a sprinkle of salt, I’m doing OK. I am always thankful when the veggie of the day is something that’s allowed on the diet (i.e. no potato, corn, or carrots).

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Ben ordered the table-side steak sauce. A lady came and opened up a hot plate with lemon rinds and garlic. She roasted them for a few moments before adding their homemade sauce. The result was a delicious-smelling garlic bonanza that left my mouth watering. I stuck my finger in to sample and it was delicious. Ben certainly enjoyed it!

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My tulips are still growing and the rest of my plants are trying to decide if they want to grow or not. Some are still dealing with the winter rabbit trauma:

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But the plan still is to rip these out and put in something that won’t be so appetizing. I had planned on planting peonies but I think this side of the house isn’t in full sun… so might need to re-think that a little bit. Plenty of time.

Ok, my fingers are feeling like ice. Time to run them under some warm water and get to work. Here’s hoping for a fabulous week!!

The Sun’ll Come Out – Today

SIXTY-FIVE DEGREES EXPECTED TODAY!

(never mind the 46 degrees forecasted for tomorrow)

It’s back to being lighter out so I can drive to work and not rely on my headlights. That’s a great feeling! It was beautiful and in the high 50s yesterday but I was stuck working in the office late and didn’t get a chance to head out for a walk. Maybe tonight is the night.

I received a last-minute invite to see Annie at our local performing arts center. Somehow whenever Ben and I go to a play it always ends up being a musical. We saw Wicked, Little Women – the musical, and The Book of Mormon” in the past few years… and he made me promise not to drag him to a musical ever again. Ha ha. Luckily this was a girls night out event. :)

Our men got together to do their own thing and we ladies made a pit stop for delicious eats:

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I still am not a fan of the mason jar drinking glass… but it IS charming to look at. Every so often throughout the night we’d stop and take a totally random photo and send it to the guys. Amusingly, they would take pictures and mail them back to us (but I don’t know how to get sent photos off my phone so you can’t see those)

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No dining establishment would be complete without a large pig statue outside:

008We got terrific parking and wandered around the atrium until it was time to find our seats. At times like this you get to sit and people-watch and because the production was Annie, there were tons and tons of children there which you don’t often see at a pricey touring show.

012We had front-row seats in the balcony so there weren’t people in front of us. I even remembered to bring my glasses so I could see the larger objects on the stage. Old age is no joke on the eyes!

Our shoes: just because

014We joke that my friend Jess has child feet because she wears a size 6 shoe. I wear a 9.5/10!!!

It’s been a long, long time since I have watched the original movie but I still remembered a lot of the lyrics to the songs. I think movies you watch as a kid have a special place in your movie heart <3

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Look! Look! – no cell phones are allowed. I’m taking a picture of that anyway. bwahahaha #thuglife

015It was a cute show. The acoustics in the theatre aren’t the best so I was glad I knew the lyrics and wasn’t straining to pick them out the way I was for The Book of Mormon. They had some pretty set changes though and one where you saw New York central park with snow falling in the background. Really pretty.

I’ve got a mis-mash of odds and ends at work today but hoping to get out on time and maybe tackle clearing out a bit of my flower bed. I’m seeing some tulips popping through!! Yay Spring!!

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