Thursday, December 29, 2011

Licensed At Last

Since Alex was 14, I’ve been harassing him about getting his learner’s permit. He put it off, and put it off, and put it off. He didn’t see the need, he didn’t want one, etc. For Christmas this year, I bought him a wallet. I included a few gift cards to some of his favorite places (2 for food, 2 for desserts), but the place for the driver license is front and center. Still no interest. Grrr.

Florida used to allow the learner’s test to be taken online. In January, they discontinued it. I got him to take that drug and alcohol education class online a few months ago, but we had to go to the DMV for the test. Finally, last night, he went to the site to get his certificate completion number for testing reference. We were surprised to discover that apparently right after he took the class, Florida reinstated the online test. I paid for it, he sat down, and took the test. Finally! In addition, I was happy to discover that the rule stating you must have the learner's permit for 12 months before you may test for the full license only applies to those under 18. That means I will not have to still be driving with him when he goes to post-graduate classes next year. Assuming we can afford whatever an 18-year old male driver does to insurance rates, of course!

There are two parts to the test: road signs and road rules. There are 20 questions in each part, and you must get 15 right to pass. You are not told how many you get right/wrong, only if you pass. Which he did. We expected the signs test to be easy. I’ve been pointing them out and explaining them since he was little, and most of them are pretty self-explanatory anyway. We did not expect the rules test to be so simplistic. I read those questions while he did it (no, I did not tell him the answers), and I just have to say that we both now understand why people drive like they do!

An hour at the office today for paperwork and processing, and now we finally have the license. Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The line forms where?

Alex wonders if they will figure out why business has been a little slow lately.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bathroom facelift

I’ve wanted to change out one of the bathrooms for quite a while. It was an orange wallpaper nastiness when I first moved in. We promptly ripped all that out and made it pretty. We painted it a light beige top, green bottom, and a shimmery flower wallpaper border in the middle. I loved it when we did it. 15 years later, I was tired of it.

I specifically made sure to take photos of what it looked like before I started tearing stuff out, but I apparently misfiled it and cannot find the picture right now. You can see sort of what it looked like here, when I had taken off the border and had various paint chips taped to the wall:

Also notice the disfigured wall by the light. There had been large wooden beams making a frame up there. They were attached the wall, and then had plastic across it so you could not see the ugly utility light that was the main bathroom light. That was a challenge to take down! And then, of course, the wall looked nasty where the beams had been.

When I took down the fluorescent light, I discovered the light box was not in the center as we had expected. It was all the way over at the left end of the light. In fact, the “light box” was merely a hole in the wall with the wires coming out. There was no box at all, nor was it located anywhere near the beams that could support holding a box. As the new light was designed to attach to the light when it was installed, this was a problem.

Messing with electrics is not at all my forte, and it makes me very nervous. Having a bathroom with no light at all was even less appealing, however. So, I checked the wires, and discovered they could just barely reach to the middle of the wall where I wanted to put the new light. I punched a big hole into the wall and used this pvc light box that has clamps that expand to hold it into place without having to attach to beams. Alex and I stretched out an old wire coat hanger (good thing I still had one in the closet!) and used it like a shepherd’s hook to wrap the wires around the hook and drag it through the wall to the new hole. That was quite a challenge!

After patching up the original hole, I painted the bathroom and then installed this new light. Doesn’t it look so much nicer?

I still need to either replace the mirror or do something to cover where it is eroding along the edges, but I’ve got to do it as I have the time and funds. The visual difference of just the paint and light change is really amazing and cheers me up immensely. Now I’ve got to do the same thing to the other bathroom! At least I will be prepared for the level of difficulty in changing the light fixture for this round.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It did not work out to celebrate Thanksgiving with "blood family", so we spent the day with "heart family". We've done this before, and it is always a nice time. There were 8 people total: Valerie, her two kids, her mom Doris, her boyfriend Michael, her friend Katherine, and the two of us. As usual, we had more food than necessary, but it provided wonderful leftovers. Due to some paperwork snafu (on their end, not mine), the jobs I had planned to do on Monday got pushed to Wednesday, so all the prep work I’d intended to do got scrubbed and I ended up doing it all Thursday morning. Thankfully, Alex was very helpful getting it all done, and at least I got the grocery shopping done on Monday before the stores got crazy.

Our menu:

Turkey – Valerie baked hers for Thursday, but I also bought one and baked it on Friday. It’s good, filling, and so very inexpensive this time of year! Some of it got frozen for later use. I also made a big stockpot of broth from the bones.

Ham – I got a spiral-sliced ham from Costco. Those come pre-cooked, but I had to heat it and make the glaze.

Stuffing – Doris made this. It was good, but I’ve realized that I’m not a big stuffing/dressing eater. It’s nice, but I don’t get overly excited about it.

Green beans – Valerie did not make it into the loved/reviled green bean casserole, just served green beans.

Baby Carrots –boiled until tender. I don’t think I actually tried any of these, so I don’t know what seasonings Valerie used.

Mashed potatoes – Doris made some for the meal, but I also made some at home. I’d bought them planning to make them before I knew she was going to do it, and didn’t want them rotting. Besides, I love mashed taters!

Sweet potatoes – Valerie makes a casserole that I don’t want the recipe for. I love to eat it, but I’m quite sure I do not want to know the butter and sugar content. The potatoes are creamed, then topped with a brown sugar and pecan topping. It’s like a candy. No marshmallows are involved.

Mac & Cheese – This was Alex’s request, and he grated the block of cheddar for it. I used mostly cheddar, but added some pepper jack for a little kick, and threw in some smoked gouda I had that was a bit old and rather crumbly. I was amazed how the little bit of that I used infused the whole pan with the smoked flavor. It was quite yummy.

Marinated Asparagus – I generally don’t enjoy asparagus as I find it tough, sometimes stringy, and not all that flavorful. Apparently I normally get served the thicker stuff. Doris used little thin stalks (about the same thickness as the green beans, maybe even thinner) that she roasted then marinated in a vinegar and oil sauce. This stuff was fantastic. I will probably get some asparagus myself to make this again, and that’s not something I ever thought I’d say!

Caramelized onions – I saw this, thought it sounded good, and figured this was a good time to try it since even if I didn’t care for it, someone else might. Nice to use everyone as a guinea pig, huh? The pearl onions were $3/lb and the yellow onions were $1/lb, so I opted to just use the smallest yellow onions I could find. I can see how the pearl ones would have been a little easier for eating, but what I used came out just fine. I also substituted dried cranberries for the raisins since that’s what I had.

Salad – I used a spring lettuce mix, spinach leaves, and romaine lettuce. I grated some carrots, diced green peppers, and used grape tomatoes. I figured we had enough other veggies in the rest of the meal. The leftovers made a perfect light lunch the next day with some of the olives, cheese squares, and shredded turkey.

Cranberry sauce – For someone not that fond of cranberry sauce, I surprised myself by deciding to make some this year. I made a double portion of this recipe, but used two cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon, reduced the sugar by 1/3, and added a finely diced apple. I also zested the orange that I juiced. Apparently I like “real” cranberry sauce, just not the canned jelly stuff, and it was so easy to make. It firmed up a little after it was refrigerated for a while, but it was noticeably soupy at first. I think I would cut back the liquid just a little bit next time.

Baguettes – I got them from Costco and just cooked them up in the oven right before we ate. They are fabulous, and we had enough made-from-scratch food.

Beverages – Katherine brought some wine and tea, plus we had a couple soda options.

Pecan and Pumpkin pie – Valerie purchased from a local diner. Both were delicious.

Death by Chocolate – This was Alex’s request for dessert. It is layers of chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate pudding/mousse, and whipped cream. You can also pour Kahlua or Baileys on the cake for additional flavor, and can put chopped up bits of candy in it. I’ve done it all those varieties, but we left out the alcohol and candy this time. I made the pudding on Tuesday and ended up making the whipped cream, but Alex did pretty much the entire rest of it, including assembly. It unfortunately escaped the photo of the feast as desserts were intended to do separately and then were forgotten.

Since dinner never ends up being served when we expect it will, I made a little platter with four kinds of olives and three types of cubed cheeses to use for munchies. Lo and behold, Valerie had made a tray of sliced cheese, sausage, and crackers! We’ve never included an “appetizer” before, so for us to both do one the same year without mentioning it to the other was pretty funny.

Hopefully I didn’t leave anything out. It was clearly a smorgasbord of food! Even with portion sizes of literally 2-3 bites to basically just taste test each item, it still filled the plate and the tummy. It was a great time, though!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Keep On Truckin'

My car hit the 100,000 mile mark this weekend. I don't recall now what the mileage was when I drove it off the lot in 2003, but it was in the double digits. Now there are six! She's still running well, though, and here's hoping she stays that way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Final Countdown

The senior year schedule looks like this:
1st: Database Programming
2nd: Networking III
3rd: AP Statistics
4th: Economics / AP Government (each is only a semester)
5th: Web Design II
6th: AP English Literature Composition
7th: IT Internship

They don't technically offer a 7th period this year, thanks to budget cuts, but the internship option was still available and will count as an extra class. The internship is working 2 days, 5 hours a week, with the school's IT director, helping to fix things around the school once classes have let out for the day. They also have internships working with area businesses, so I'm not sure how Alex ended up staying at the school. Luck of the draw, I suppose. It still should be interesting and good experience.

We were a little disappointed that he still didn't get the AP Psychology class. It didn't work out with his schedule either this year or last year. He's otherwise pleased with his classes this year, which is good. It was sad to think this was his last "first day of school" as a "child".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No, I haven't been boxing

Did you know that while poison ivy reactions on your regular skin (arms, legs, etc) creates the little bumps and itchy rash, getting it on the bridge of your nose and corner of your eye also causes the area under your eye to swell up? I feel like Rocky Balboa.

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but it is quite disconcerting to be looking straight ahead and have your face within your line of vision. Especially when it is just on one side.

Particularly annoying is that I knew I was pulling out the ivy, I've tangled with it several times already this spring and summer, and thus I was being crazy cautious about handling it. I was almost successful, too. I have only one little dot of outbreak on my right arm near my birthmark, about half the size of a dime, and it didn't even get me enough to be itchy. Except for my eye. I wear glasses, so how in the world did it get under my glasses to get near my eye yet didn't touch me anywhere else? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Senior Year Has Begun

Alex had his senior photos taken today. Oh dear, I think I'm in for an emotionally tough year! I'll get the previews in about two weeks so I can select the ones for purchase. I think most of them came out pretty good, so it will be a tough choice. We got them to take one of the head shot photos of Alex with a laptop. He's got it open, appears to be looking at something on the screen, but has his head turned toward the camera like he's trying to look at you but just can't tear himself away from the screen. It pretty much sums him up perfectly!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recent Activities

I keep thinking of things that would be fun to post, but have been so busy that by the time I get to it, I've forgotten what I wanted to share. I'm sure I'll regret that later, since it is fun to look back over some of the previous posts to see what we were up to.

I've been really busy with my contract work. It's not great gobs of money, but it is enough to keep the bills paid. Thank you, Lord! It also means a lot of driving to get from job to job. That means a lot of time away from computer, email, etc, so my communication habits have deteriorated. Sorry. It's not that I don't think of my friends, just that I don't think typing and driving are a good mix.

The "road warrior" lifestyle is not conducive to good exercise habits, so my weight loss hit a plateau six weeks ago and had firmly stayed there. I really need to find more time to work on it. The first 25 pounds were wonderful to lose, but I really want to lose at least 30 more.

With school being out, I've dragged Alex along with me on a few of these trips. Thankfully, I've been able to find hotel evaluations to accompany some of my jobs, so we've done overnight trips that allowed us to do some sightseeing along the way.
  • We went to Panama City Beach, FL. We mostly just enjoyed the beach and some fantastic waves, although we found a few touristy things we would like to do if I can swing another trip over there.

  • I dragged him to Albany, GA to visit the Flint Riverquarium. Alex didn't think he wanted to go to this, but then I think he ended up enjoying it more than I did. I did get a few great photos from it that I'll try to post later. We also learned a bit of history of the area. It turns out Mr. Tift started the city, and he was the uncle of the Tift that founded the city of Tifton, which is in Tift county. They were shippers from Connecticut, moved to the Florida Keys, then went back up into Georgia to pursue agricultural interests.

  • Tifton, GA provided some historical education at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture, also known as Agrirama. They have recovered all sorts of old buildings and stores from places throughout Georgia and have moved them all to create a little village. There's the home of the Tifts, the subsistence farmer, the progressive farmer, the drugstore, the general store, the doctor's office, the schoolhouse, the Mason's lodge, a sawmill, a printing press, a turpentine still, a miller's workhouse, a blacksmith, etc. That would have been a lot more fun if it hadn't been upper 90's and really high humidity. I did buy some grits that I watched being milled. They don't get much fresher than that!
Anyway, that's what we've been up to. Hope you are all enjoying your summers, and I certainly hope your temperatures are a lot lower than what we are enduring. I truly do not know how people existed in this weather prior to air conditioning.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Egg Nog, second try

Last year, we attempted to make our own egg nog. It was ok, but really thin. Alex really wanted to make some again over the Christmas break, but we didn't want to use that same recipe this year. Which one should we try? The cooked ones deliver a thicker product, and that's what we wanted. Since there were so many options, we decided to make two different recipes and compare.

This Cooked Egg Nog from was one choice. My sister offered this Homemade Eggnog recipe from Food & Wine for another option.

While the Cooked Egg Nog was better than last year's attempt, the Homemade Eggnog was the clear and definite winner. We even made it again the next day, adding a splash of vanilla. With or without the alcohol, this is quite a tasty treat. Just make sure you keep the temperature really low, especially if you choose to skip the double boiler part and just cook it directly like I did. Otherwise, the egg could start to solidify, and nobody likes chunky egg nog.