Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weekend Warriors--Back At It

 After a long, long, break from dealing with the house, we were back at it this weekend!

The poor drought and intense heat wrecked havoc on our lawn this Summer.  We spent the first couple of months trying to keep up with the watering--but when we started to see how much the water bill was, we decided it was time to wave the white flag.  After all, we were paying big money to still have a brown lawn!

Not only did the lawn go dormant, but we lost some grass as well--our poor yard became VERY splotchy!  Just two years ago we overseeded the yard, but after the kind of summer we just had, it was already time to do it again.

I love my husband to death, but sometimes, he refuses to listen to me...even when I'm right :-)  Haha!  We had marked off this weekend as our "overseeding weekend" and earlier this week, I mentioned he MAY want to reserve a seed what did he do?  He waited until Saturday morning to rent one! The local rental store was all out, so he had to drive 20 miles to Junction City to pick one up, drive all the way back, overseed the lawn, and return it back to the Junction City store--all within 3 hours!  At least he was a good sport about the hiccup and didn't complain any ;-)

Fortunately, the morning was absolutely GORGEOUS!  While Justin operated the seed slicer, I planted the last of our hydrangeas for the year...we have some low spots in our landscaping near our front porch, so I'm hoping the hydrangeas and monkey grass that I planted over Labor Day will fill in the voids come next Spring!

Oh, and I should give our yard SOME credit--not all of it got fried!

This poor section, never had a chance!  We were going to sod this area this past Spring, but never got around to it.  Thus, most of it was nothing but bare dirt!    However, we literally "over seeded" it this past weekend, laid down a bunch of straw to assist with moisture retention and now we just have our fingers crossed.  Hopefully, within the next few weeks, we'll see new grass emerging!!!

While working in the yard, I noticed that our Zebra Grass was starting to throw plumes.  Generally, I hate plumes on grass--I understand why grass has plumes, but I've always wished that it wasn't necessary.  Well...except for Zebra Grass.  Holy smokes--these plumes were amazing!  They sparkled in the sun and had the prettiest tint of pink--it's moments like this where you really stop and appreciate the nature that has been created for us!

Much to my surprise, we spent all of Saturday in the yard--I had no idea it would take that long AND cut into my other project!

Earlier last week, I picked out a few different paint samples for our bathroom.  Because the other rooms in our bungalow have very "colorful" walls, I decided it was time for a neutral colored bathroom--but naturally, I would still liven it up with accessories!

After trying out countless samples, I quickly realized why I don't bother with beiges.  Most of them were pulling too much yellow--but at the advice of a relative, I checked out some beiges with a blue undertone and guess what?  It worked!  However, our bathroom was full of test "spots" and I couldn't live with it any longer--the bathroom had to get painted over the weekend!

When we bought our house over two years ago, the bathroom looked like this...

At the time, I didn't want to rip out the floor or the tiles above the shower-surround, so I tried to work around them.  I decided to go with a retro-theme and for the time being, it was just fine...but I started to tire of all the black-white-khaki-ness.  And having a wallpaper border.  None of it went with the rest of our house...

But after finding the perfect shower curtain to tie all the rooms together, and after finding the right beige paint, and tearing off the border, the bathroom was getting a facelift!  We went from that ^, to this:

A fairly accurate representation of the new wall color!

I still need to accessorize the bathroom like crazy--but it's already 10-times brighter than before!  Hallelujah!  At some point, we'll rip out the Hollywood vanity light and install some up-lighting that's a bit more modern!  Much to my dismay, the Hollywood bulbs are screwed into the medicine cabinet so it's going to take a good dose of courage to tackle that one!  The final bit of bathroom "renovation" will be the flooring.  Like I mentioned above, I have always hated the vinyl peel-&-stick tiles--and thankfully, Justin melted the tile a few weeks ago when steam-cleaning the floor, so we feel a little bit better about ripping them out and installing real stone!

But before we replace the flooring, we have one MAJOR project to tackle!  It doesn't involve the bathroom, nor the kitchen, nor any of the bedrooms--even though the whole process is really stressing me out, I'm super pumped about it and will be sure to keep you apprised of the progress!

Monday, September 24, 2012

You Either Laugh...Or You Cry!

This weekend, we had the privilege of attending Sunflower CASA Project's first-ever Comedy Club!

It was held at the Wareham Theatre in downtown Manhattan...

CASA brought in 3 comedians to entertain us for the evening.  They were Ken Rogerson, as seen on Rescue Me and There’s Something About Mary...

Brian Kiley, an Emmy Award winning writer for Conan and as seen on David Letterman and Jay Leno...

...and Frank Santorelli, as seen on Conan, HBO’s Sopranos and Law and Order.

As a former CASA Advocate, CASA employee and now a member of CASA's Board of Directors, it's an understatement to say that I was excited for our big night!  After all, child welfare can be pretty heart-breaking and frustrating...and as we always say, "You can either laugh, or you can cry."  You could cry your eyes out but what good does that do?  You might as well be happy and LAUGH when you can!  AND WE DID EXACTLY THAT!!!

The comedians came in from all over the country--the venue was secured, but had to be dressed for the event--the food had to be prepared, served and cleared--volunteers had to be identified to help with all the details of the comedy was a HUGE undertaking for the agency!

Finally, the night was here.  The comedians took the stage in half-hour intervals and they were hilarious...

I mean, so hilarious that your stomach hurt AND tears were running down your eyes from laughing so hard.  It was one of the best 90 minutes of my life!!!  But the best part?  The funds raised at the Comedy Club will help our agency serve abused and neglected children who find themselves a part of the court system.  If you're interested in learning more about CASA Advocates and what they do, be sure to check out our link at

Fortunately, the comedy club was a GREAT success and I'm hoping it will be back next year!  If you want a taste of the hilarity that awaits our next Comedy Club, check out the YouTube video for a taste of Brian Kiley's stand-up!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Bye to Hurricane Isaac & Asplundh!

I'm pleased to say that we finally have Justin's last storm behind us!

Long story short, after 4 years of letting storms interrupt our lives for various lengths of time, we're DONE!  No more ice storms, snow storms, hurricanes, windstorms, you name it!

Almost two weeks ago, Justin left for Hurricane Isaac and returned home yesterday morning.  He had just enough time to do some laundry, watch a movie and sleep in his own bed before reporting this evening to his new job with Union Pacific!

So, here's a quick run-down of his last storm.

As the hurricane neared Louisiana, the guys got called out and I dropped Justin off at the yard around 4:00 am that Tuesday morning.  

The guys drove down to Beaumont, TX so they could ride out the storm in a fairly safe location.  Once the storm made land-fall, they attempted to drive into New Orleans where all the dispatched crews were supposed to report. 

As you can imagine, they ran into a slight problem on their way there...FLOODING.  At one point, they were 45 minutes away from downtown New Orleans.  But because of the flood waters, they had to back-track several hours away until they could find an alternative way to get into the city.

Eventually, they pulled into NOLA, ate supper and met up at the Sheraton.  The local utility company had made arrangements for the crews to be put up at the Sheraton until they could distribute their assignments--but again, they ran into another problem.  There were 15,000 utility workers in NOLA, but nowhere near that many rooms at the Sheraton.  

Based on what Justin reported, it became chaotic at this point.  The 14,500 workers that couldn't get rooms at the Sheraton started running all over downtown and the French Quarter trying to secure a  room...and most of the guys deserted their crews.  It became each man for himself!  Fortunately, like the wise guys that they are, our Asplundh guys stuck together and found rooms at the Westin.

You mean, Justin's on a hurricane and staying at the Westin?!  Must be rough!

A lot of the guys, Justin included, were kinda excited about being in New Orleans as they'd never been there.  That's right--my own Southern husband had never been to New Orleans!  He's spent TONS of time in Northern and Central Louisiana, but he had never made it that far south.

Unfortunately, though, this is what the city looked like by the time they got there...
The French Quarter


After the first night in New Orleans the guys spread out around the state and got to work...and the Westin was long gone!

From this point forward, they got to shower in one of these trailers...and SLEEP in these trailers!  Inside the trailers were cots and electrical outlets.  The cots were small enough that Justin didn't even fit, so he had to sleep in the fetal position after working 16-hour shifts.  Not the most pleasant experience but he just kept reminding himself that this was his last storm!

Every morning, the guys would meet in the staging area to receive their work orders for the day and eat breakfast under a large event tent.

Somehow, they managed to have more workers than they had work trucks, so a lot of the guys were bussed to their work areas--and bussed back at the end of the day.  Fortunately, as a Foreman, Justin was able to drive to and from his work site!

The guys worked hand-in-hand with linemen from all over the country to restore power.  They worked 16-hour days,  every single day.  Not that the schedule was any different from other storms, but every other time, Justin had a decent place to rest at night.  Obviously, this wasn't the case with Hurricane Isaac and Justin was just so glad that this was his last time doing this!

Slowly, the crews started to be released back home.  Justin's crew was released Friday morning and instructed to drive as far as they could in 16 hours.  The guys ended up in Perry, Oklahoma and found out they were getting called out to ANOTHER storm.  Knowing he had to start his new job on Sunday evening, Justin tried to beg out of the storm and  to his surprise, the begging worked!

Except, he had no way getting back to Kansas.

To keep with the unpredictable nature of our lives, Justin found this out at midnight and called to tell me this.  And to make things better--he had to be out of the hotel room by 10am.  I did the math and that meant I would have to be on the road no later than 6am in order to get to Perry in time.  Just dandy :-)

As I was getting into my car the following morning, Justin called to say that he found a ride to Wichita. Thank the Lord!!!  I'd still have to be down there by 8:30 am, but that was so much more do-able!

We've always had a love-hate relationship with the storm work. The overtime is REALLY nice for our bank account, but every other part of it just sucks.  I can't put it any other way!   Every job has a part that you dread, but I know we're both glad to have this behind.  Asplundh has been very, very good to Justin but he won't miss occasionally sleeping in cots and showering in semi trailers!

In just a few short hours, Justin starts his new job as a Railroader.  We have no idea what lies ahead of us, but we'll soon find out!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Favorite Things--The Gluten Free Edition

I try not to make a big deal of it, but I HAVE blogged about it, so hopefully that doesn't come across as making a big deal of something!  

Long story short, my body is definitely wheat intolerant.  Am I celiac?  I have no idea.  Knowing how my body responds to just small amounts of wheat, there's absolutely no way I could eat wheat-based products for 6 weeks in preparation for a biopsy.  Instead, I avoid wheat and it's all good :-)  As far as barley and rye goes, I'm not sure about that either.  Fortunately, it's not a common part of the American diet so I just don't eat it (or miss it), either!

When I do mention to somebody that I have to avoid eating wheat, they always ask, "So what DO you eat?"  And my response is, "Well, normal stuff!"  And to me, it's all normal--meats, veggies, fruits, eggs, cheese, rice, potatoes, etc...and of course, there's the junk--Cheetos, potato chips, monster cookies, occasional ice cream following by a Lactaid, etc.  Again, all normal food :-)

But then comes the "other" stuff--the breads, rolls, TV dinners, etc.

With these, you have to be EXTREMELY careful.  Not because there are some awful tasting products out there that will cost you LOTS of money.  But because of the nutritional value--or lack there of--of products that are specifically made to be gluten-free.

One reason I don't say much about my intolerance is because I'm worried people will think that I'm following a fad diet.  Yes--I admitted it.  For once in my life, I do care what people think :-)  Funny thing is, eating gluten free does not necessarily guarantee a weight loss.

IN FACT, gluten-free products most often have a higher calorie content and they're loaded with fat.  Rice and almond flour is actually pretty awful make the breads, cookies, crackers, etc gluten free BUT appealing to the taste-buds, the manufacturers have to add lots of fat and other calorie boosting ingredients.

So there you have it.  Gluten free does not mean you'll lose weight!  In fact, if you rely heavily on pre-packaged gluten-free goods, you're more likely to GAIN weight!

That said, I'm going to introduce you to some of my favorite pre-packaged gluten free foods!  Ha!  Do as I say, not as I do ;-)  But really, I consume these in VERY limited quantities and it's taken me quite a bit of time (and wasted money) to find the good stuff.  I guess the only reason I'm posting this is because if you know someone who is newly diagnosed with Celiac disease or has learned that their body doesn't tolerate gluten/wheat, feel free to share the suggestions!

And in no particular order (literally!), here are some of my favorite gluten free products:

Yum.  Yum.  YUM.  This frozen dinner tastes just like a real tamale!

My "Sweet & Salty" weekend breakfast wouldn't be complete with this!  Nothing beats a slice of this raisin bread with a little butter and cinnamon-sugar and a fried egg topped with salsa verde and cheddar!

I use our cast iron pizza stone to make the crust ultra crispy!!!

The texture of this makes great garlic bread!

Last Mother's Day, I made a chocolate cake using this mix.  And nobody suspected that it was GF!

Thus far, this is my most favorite pre-packaged bread machine mix.  While baking, it smells like real bread and the finished product's texture is pretty decent!

HUGE MISTAKE.  I never should have bought these.  They are DELICIOUS and make awesome s'mores!!!  And they're slightly addictive, too :-)

Another item that I should never, ever buy.  Even the ultra-picky giant of a husband will eat these cookies without a single complaint or bit of hesitation!

I kinda like this mix!  Super quick and easy to make--and the rolls are very similar to a Pillsbury cinnamon roll.  If you're expecting a Mrs. Powell's-like roll, well GOOD LUCK finding a GF equivalent!  Spread a little cream cheese frosting on these and you'll be in heaven!

My other favorite frozen dinner--and it's also by Amy's!  Whenever I make one at work, it drives the other agents crazy because it smells so good AND authentic!

This is great for drop biscuits or creating a biscuit-like topping for casseroles.   It tastes just like the regular Bisquick but word of caution--you cannot substitute it 1-for-1 with regular Bisquick in recipes!

I love, love, love this dinner roll option!  I use this when I make my Jenny's Tomato Bread (recipe can be found here), want something to dip in a soup, etc.  Only word of caution--if you're going to top the roll with anything, be sure to slice it open and broil it first.  Otherwise, you'll end up with a big, soggy, disappointing mess!

Trader Joe's corn-based pasta is awesome!  And super cheap, too!    Only downfall?  Our closest one is 2 hours away :-(

I love, love, love cookies--and when I want something with a bit of spice, I go for these!

This is our go-to for pancakes...Justin LOVES the pancakes from this mix.  It's a little pricey compared to regular flour, but worth every penny!

Knowing I can't get to Trader Joe's often, I stock up on this stuff at Hy-Vee.    When we went to Dallas,  I made my "pasta bake" for the guys--it was 2 lbs of pasta, 3 lbs of beef, half-pound of pepperoni, 2 jars of sauce, bunches of diced tomatoes and TONS of cheese.  Justin, Isaac and Seni ate the entire pan in one sitting.  And they had no idea it was gluten free!
Again, do NOT buy these!  They're incredibly addictive!  The chocolate ones are actually kind of gross, so really DON'T buy those!  But these are totally awesome :-)