What shall I do?

I know I want to run a 5k and half marathon. Okay, so I want to run, but I will end up power walking instead. Maybe try out some new ethnic cuisines. Travel to some new spots. Try some new classes. Support a new charity. Some may be exciting adventures, some may be boring. I welcome your suggestions for something new to try.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

#22 - The Bag Lady & B. Makowsky...

My name is Brenda and I have a problem. (Hello Brenda).  It's been 3 months since my last purse...

Yes, it is true.  I am a purse-a-holic!  I have an entire cupboard over my telephone desk dedicated to my addiction. And it's not just any purse.  No, I am addicted to designer handbags.  I blame it all on Coco Chanel.  Those cute little black and white C's on a quilted background were what hooked me.  I coveted that purse for many years.  Oh sure, Dooney & Burke and Coach helped sate my cravings along the way, but I eventually purchased that Chanel bag.  And then another, and then another.  Oh and Kate Spade seemed to worm her way into my cupboard space as well.  Her winter line always draws me in.

Now all you men reading this are just hearing blah, blah, blah at this point.  But many of you women out there understand.  A handbag reveals the person you are.  I love my Mom to death, but her purse speaks volumes about her.  They are cheap and functional, true to her more practical nature.  I didn't get that gene.  I want a purse that says "sure she's wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, but she has style and class, she appreciates the finer things in life...just look at her handbag!"

A few years back I decided to turn my addiction into a mission.  The goal, to eventually own a purse by each deisgner.  As a woman of limited means, I am a long way from achieving my goal. However, it is a journey that will bring me great pleasure for years to come.  I'm not interested in just having another notch on the post though.  There are plenty of ugly designer bags out there that could have had shelf space in my purse cupboard.  But they would have said "she had money, but no taste".   So my quest for purse perfection includes three major rules...1. A bag brand I do not already own, 2. It must be adorably eye-catching and distinctive, and 3. It must be at least 50% off (70-80% is even better).  My best score so far was a Marc Jacobs bag in a supple cobalt blue leather, retail $2,350...I snagged it for $219 at a Nordstroms in L.A.  Talk about a natural high!

Now getting to my 50-50 challenge.  This summer I was shopping with Ariel at Nordstroms Rack.  I can't remember what we were looking for, but the handbag section seemed to be calling me.  While Nordstroms is a favorite place to purchase my handbags, the Rack usually has the ugly bags mentioned above.  But this day was different.  Amongst those hideous Juicy Coutures and Michael Kors bags was a charming B. Makowsky bag in a sunny yellow with tassels, zippers and pyramid studs.  Oh, and leopard print lining, how fashionable is that?  OK, so I like my handbags to be a little more youthful, there's nothing wrong with that.  I'm not over the hill yet and I can always go to one of my Chanel bags when I want to do classic.  And this bag was yellow!  YELLOW!  I had been looking for a yellow bag for ages!  This bag was delightful, a virgin brand to my cupboard, and was 60% off. It met all of my criteria.  Out came the Nordstroms card and into my life came this extravagance that left me feeling giddy with guilty pleasure.

I have used my sweet little yellow bag all summer and well into fall.  Now that the snow has been falling it is probably time to find it a spot in the purse cupboard and bring out one of my darling Kate Spade felt bags.  I always feel a bit guilty sticking that new purse into the cupboard for the first time.  I blame that on Toy Story, giving inanimate objects feelings.  Damn you Pixar!  I hate hurting my purses feelings.  We are a family and I know they sense that I have favorites.  I know they feel rejection when they are not getting the attention they crave. Apparently for my next challenge, I need to seek out a handbag therapist...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#21 - It ain't easy being cheesy...

Last August I undertook the task of learning to make cheese.  It was no coincidence that this occurred at the same time a bounty of tomatoes emerged from my garden.  There is nothing better than a vine ripened tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese.  A lazy Sunday afternoon provided the time to surf the net for cheese making techniques.  Mozzarella is one of the easiest cheeses to make as it does not need pressing or aging.  But a look at the sites with recipes and readers comments also revealed that it isn't a walk in the park either.  I assembled a shopping list of the needed ingredients, milk, rennet, citric acid, and cheesecloth.  I had the citric acid already.  Baskin Robbins had dropped their daiquiri ice at one time and I used the citric acid in a home made version. I purchased the rest of the ingredients that week, along with a thermometer.

The following Sunday I got out my stainless steel stock pot (no aluminum allowed).  I poured in the gallon of whole milk and let it sit out until it was at 55-60 degrees, at which time I could add the citric acid.  You slowly heat the milk to about 88 degrees and add the rennet.  I had purchased junket, which was a rennet tablet used for custard.  Then you let the mixture set for the curds to start forming.  After 20 minutes, there were only the tiniest of curds.  I let it sit another 10 and nothing.  I let it sit another 15 minutes and still no larger formation of curds.  The whey had somewhat separated from the curds, but they were small enough to go through a strainer and looked nothing like the pictures shown.  I threw out batch #1 and started fresh on batch #2.  It met with the exact same results so I decided to do more research and resume the cheese making the following week.

The cheese recipes, blogs and comments were insightful, but not particularly helpful.  There was a variety of suspicions about the causes of the cheese not curding properly.  Some blamed it on the milk.  Ultra pasteurized milk should be avoided.  Fresher milk is better than older milk.  Some brands work better than others.  Raw milk is best, but you can't buy raw milk these days and I have no cow in my back yard. Can you imagine the size of the pooper scooper I'd need if I did?  Some blamed it on the pasteurization process.  You can add calcium chloride to the milk to counteract it, but just try finding it in food grade.  I have two bags of it in my garage to melt the ice, but it's not something I'd want to throw into something I am going to be eating.  Some blamed it on the temperature not being accurate enough.  And some blamed it on the type and quantity of rennet.  The brand I was using worked well for some and was awful for others.  Liquid junket was recommended.  Some even blamed it on the water, saying you should only use distilled or bottled.

Cheese making was put on hold until I got my baby girl settled back into her plush dorm with the killer view of Boston.  Once I was back in Utah though I gathered a variety of milk brands and types, found the liquid rennet at Whole Foods, and I was ready to experiment with the various tips and techniques that had helped others make successful cheese.

I morphed several recipes and tweaked things here and there.  Batch #3 had a little more success, but still wasn't setting up properly.  The liquid rennet seemed to help, but it still wasn't curding into solids as it should.  Batch #4 was getting a bit better and I tried completing all the steps in the recipe, but it ended up being like ricotta cheese.  I used my last gallon of milk on batch #5.  I heated the milk a bit higher than recommended.  I added a lot more rennet than the recipe called for as per a reader's comment left on one of the recipes.  When I went to check the curds, voila!  The curds still weren't totally solid, but they were finally bigger curds.  To finish the process you drain the curds, then reheat them again in the whey and you start working the curds into a stretchy ball.  As the cheese hardens you put it back into the hot whey to soften it so you can stretch it again.  Adding some salt at this time adds some flavor to the cheese.  I managed to end up with 6 medium sized mozzarella balls.  Some were moist and some were dry, but the flavor was good.

Before you get the idea that I was successful and on my way to becoming a cheese maker, let me say I made another 2 batches two weeks later and both failed miserably ending in a batch of ricotta. They were different brands of milk so maybe it was the milk.  Or maybe it was the rennet, or the water, or the temperature.  All I know is that it ain't easy being cheesy...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

#20...The quest continues…Snug as a bug at Snug Haven

It's been awhile since I have posted, but I have not forgotten my quest.  New things are still happening on a regular basis.  However, life has got in the way and I have been remiss at sharing them with you all.  On my laptop is a virtual sticky note with what has been accomplished, but not yet shared on the 50/50 Challenge blogspot.  I’ll try and catch up, then post them in a more timely manner from now on. 

My mouser friends will know instantly when I mention Folktoberfest what I am talking about.  For my non-mouser friends, Folktoberfest is the Michigan version of the Wee Forest Folk collector’s convention I host in California each year.  This year I flew into Grand Rapids to stay with my friend Lee.  She was a volunteer at the event in charge of shipping so we went up to Clare, MI a day early.  The event coordinator, Nancy B-R, put us up for the night in one of her vacation rental cabins on Budd Lake.  Her group of cabins are called Snug Haven Resort.

I have wanted to visit Snug Haven for years.  The photos on her website are inviting and it looks like a great place to unwind, but I have never managed to work it into my schedule or find someone to share the adventure.  Then this opportunity popped up for Lee and her helpers (myself included) to do the event shipping from the Lodge. 

Despite my expectations, things did not start out so well.  Mother Nature decided to give us a chilly, wet October day for our arrival.  The bottom door to the Lodge had been inadvertently left open and it was quite chilly inside the cabin.  We literally huddled around the fire for the first hour or so until things warmed up inside.  Lee had brought a pot of chili and had it simmering.  As the temperature rose and the aroma of the chili filled the air, we perked up and started our packing duties for the event shipments to those who were unable to attend. 

The Lodge cabin itself was charming with a wood paneled interior.  The fireplace was the heat source, set to a thermostat so it turned on and off as needed.  The view of the beach and lake was lovely, even on this gray, blustery day.  We had work to do so it was not as relaxing as it could have been, but we shared some chili with our host and celebrated a friends birthday with cake later that evening.  Spending time with friends is always a good end to any day, especially in a pleasant setting.

I often feel as if I need a vacation after I take a vacation, but I think I could end up well rested after a vacation at this charming little lake.  I enjoyed my short stay at Snug Haven and hope to be back again some day...

Monday, August 29, 2011

#19 - What Happens in Vegas...Goes in the Blog

On August 11th, my baby girl turned 21!  A celebration was in order so we planned our first girls trip to Vegas for August 10-13.  We originally planned to drive, but something told me to check the web and lo and behold, we could fly for just a little over $100 each, cheaper than the price of gas.  Bally's had a special and we got a room for three nights with a $25 pool bar credit for under $200.  We overpacked our bags and headed for the airport to grab some lunch before our flight.

It didn't start out well.  The line for the skycap took 20 minutes.  It was midday and the parking lot was packed.  Add another 30 minutes to look for a spot, wait for the shuttle and take the long ride to the terminal.  The line at security was longer than usual, but it normally moves pretty fast.  I've never spent more than 15 minutes in the line there.  I'm not sure what the problem was, but the line was slow and several times we weren't moving at all for several minutes.  This went on for 30 minutes as we made our way through half the line amid restless passengers.  Finally the line started moving at a normal pace again and we got through the final half in only 10 additional minutes.  Add another 5 to get through the TSA checkpoint and a 5 minute dash to the gate and we boarded just as they were about to give our seats away to those on the waiting list.  It obviously wasn't just us as more boarded well after we were seated and they looked as hungry as I was.  I grabbed some candy from my purse and wondered if I should even bother to try my luck at the slots this trip.

But things got better.  OK, so the line for the taxi was unbearably hot.  Then they got better.  We got an upgrade to a bigger room that overlooked the pool.  We unpacked and set out to find some food and fun.   We did some shopping at the Miracle Mile before heading over to the new Aria hotel and shops.  We found a Wolfgang Pucks for dinner (another first for me) and shared a meat platter appetizer before our pizza's.  It was expensive and delicious.  We went back to the hotel, grabbing some desserts in Paris, and made plans to head to the casino at midnight where Ariel could put a dollar in the giant slot machine as she turned 21.  Then we made the mistake of sitting down on the beds.  Ariel decided her approaching advanced age meant she could justify the early night and opted to stay in.  I didn't even get to wish her a happy birthday at midnight as she was fast asleep by then.

I let her sleep in on her birthday and once she was finally up we headed out.  She hit the giant slot with no success so we headed to the Forum Shops where we found the most delicious cupcakes for a late breakfast.  For lunch we headed through the Venetian to the Palazzo and Cafe Luxe for lunch (two more firsts).  We hit more shops over at the Fashion Show before dragging ourselves back to the hotel with tired feet and lots of packages.  A quick rest and we decided to head back to Wolfgang Pucks for a meat platter redux and share some pasta.  The meat platter had prosciutto, mortadella, salamis and various sopresattas with cheese, grilled squash and marinated olives.  It was to die for. Feeling stuffed, we did a bit of gambling on the way back and finally ended up in the room with some dessert.  

It was all good, until a group of four young gals moved in next door and decided to smoke in a non-smoking room which drifted into our room under the connecting door.  More irritating than the smoke was the noise they made as they loudly chatted and giggled.  Sometime after midnight I fell asleep, but was awakened several times by coming and going, their chatter and the smell of more smoke.

Friday brought more shopping, gambling and food.  Oh, and a complaint to the front desk about our smoking neighbors who assured me they would take care of it.  Ariel won a $30 jackpot on the penny slots and cashed out. We had lunch in Paris.  For dinner we headed back to Wolfgang's and got the meat platter to go and picnicked back at the room with that and a leftover cheese platter from lunch. Yes, it was our third night in a row with the beloved meat platter.  Plus we'd grabbed several flavors of cupcakes from a shop in the Monte Carlo.  It was a good thing there was no scale in our room so I could live blissfully in denial.  The gals were smoking again so before we headed out for a bit more gambling we complained to the front desk again.  When we came back the room, all was quiet next door and there was no smell so it was a peaceful night.

Saturday morning had not quite dawned when the fire alarm went off at 6:30 am.  I ignored it. Granted, Bally's is in the former MGM Grand location that caught fire in the 80's, killing 85, so I probably shouldn't have taken things so lightly.  But this isn't my first hotel fire alarm.  The first few you evacuate, walking down the 20 plus flights of stairs in your jammies.  I still remember the time the fire escape exited the hotel on the backside of the block and we had to walk around the whole block to get back into the hotel (at 3 a.m. in our jammies).  After that you get a bit more jaded.  If there's no smoke, I stay put until the hotel figures out the exact situation.  It took another five minutes, but they shut off the alarm and we got a bit more shut eye.  As there wasn't a peep from the gals next door, I assumed they had been moved the previous evening while we were out.  Or maybe they were kicked out and they are the ones who pulled the fire alarm.

We had some time before our late afternoon flight so we headed out to do a bit more penny gambling and then used our pool bar credit on some very expensive frozen drinks before stowing our luggage with the bellman.  We headed back to Cafe Luxe for lunch and then to the mall to return a shirt that Ariel felt busted her budget (she gets that from her Grandma, not me...LOL).  Things took a bit longer than planned so we rushed back to the hotel to grab our bags and take a cab to the airport.  Ariel hit a $15 jackpot at the airport and again cashed out.

All in all, it was a terrific girls trip to Vegas filled with lots of little firsts.  I won a little and lost a little, but scored big at the Macy's clearance rack.  I got to see my daughter try out quite a few firsts of her own.  The girls had a great time in Vegas, even if much didn't happen there...

Monday, August 8, 2011

#18 - Brushing Up...

I'm one of the millions of Americans who hates going to the dentist.  It's not just the pain endured, it is the amount of money you have to pay the guy who inflicts it.  That just seems so wrong.  But even before I had to pay my own bills, a visit to the dentist caused me great anxiety.  Growing up, the dentist was a friend of the family.  If he would come to see my Dad, I would run screaming into the house.  At his office my Mom said I would cry so loud that she would just sit in the waiting room pretending I was someone else's child and not hers.  I can still remember every detail of that office I visited so often as a result of my poor teeth.

Besides the pain, I have one other gripe with my old dentist.  Somewhere around the age of 10-12, I was no longer allowed to go to the toy drawer and pick a prize.  I deserved a prize after putting up with that kind of trauma.  I personally think today my current dentist should be offering me a free manicure or pedicure after every visit.  Lord knows I have paid for several of his vacations so it seems like I should get a little reward.  The physical pain is easier to manage now than when I was young, but the anxiety level has increased ten fold.  I gladly pay the $25 extra for the laughing gas.  So why not charge me an extra $25 bucks on that $900 crown and let me pick from a treasure chest of adult themed goodies like jewelry and spa services.  However, the real key seems to be trying to avoid going at all.  I need to do whatever is possible to not need to visit the dentist.

As a result of my extreme couponing challenge, I managed to snag a Sonicare Electronic Toothbrush for next to nothing.  My dentist has recommended them for years, but as he also sold them I was unimpressed with the endorsement.  Prices have come down considerably and they now have an economy model.  Target had it on sale for half off awhile back and with an additional manufacturers coupon I got it cheap.  It was time to enter the world of hi tech teeth brushing.  Then it sat in the box on the counter for well over a month until a tooth started hurting me.  I made an appointment with the dentist and broke open the package.

The toothbrush is nothing like the electric toothbrushes of my youth.  Those just did the brushing for those who were truly lazy or wanted a novelty.  This uses ultrasonic vibrations of some kind to clean your teeth.  Think of an electric toothbrush as a robin flapping it's wings.  The Ultrasonic is like having a hummingbird in your mouth.  Because of it's intensity I thought it might give my gums trouble, but it is gentle as it cleans around the gum line.  In fact, it is gentler than my soft bristle manual toothbrush.  In the couple of weeks since I have been using it, I had a root canal and a temporary crown, then had the root canal finished up a week later and permanent crown put on.  Through it all this tooth brush performed like a champ.  It leaves my teeth feeling cleaner than a regular toothbrush.  I like it a lot.

I'm hoping this new appliance can cut down on a few trips to the dentist over it's lifetime, unless of course they start offering that treat chest filled with goodies I can choose from...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#17 The Bluebird...

When we moved to Utah 16 years ago, I was amazed at the amount of people willing to sit out in the summer weather and listen to a plethora of outdoor concerts.  Don't get me wrong, the evening weather is cooler and I sit on my patio often at that time of night.  However, the weather is also fickle here.  Far less predictable than the temperate California climate I was raised in.  An evening thunderstorm can pop up at any moment and send me scurrying indoors.  Native Utahns aren't afraid of lightning like this California girl is.  They didn't even used to call the kids in from recess during a storm until a student was struck by lightning a few years ago (and thankfully was fine). Their non-chalance results in several people being struck by lightning each summer, which does nothing to allay my fears.

There are at least 10 amphitheaters in the Salt Lake Valley and the surrounding ski resorts.  All have a summer concert series.  Some have had terrific bands I have wanted to see, but never enough to pay actual cash to risk braving the unpredictable elements.  But that all changed last weekend due to my more adventurous spouse.

Tim was in town for the weekend and one of his favorite artists, Lori McKenna, was doing a concert at the Sundance Resort amphitheater.  It is part of their Bluebird Cafe concert series.  The Bluebird Cafe is a famous venue in Nashville, where songwriters perform their works of art.  Sundance is a ski resort best known as owned by Robert Redford and the home of the Sundance Institute which hosts the Sundance Film Festival every year.  They have deep roots in the entertainment industry.  They have partnered with the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to bring their artists to Utah to perform.  In addition to McKenna, Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin shared the stage with her.

The concert itself was delightful.  The narratives between songs were informative and funny.  Songwriters are storytellers and they did a good job entertaining the crowd of 700+.  Many of their songs were well known as they had been performed by famous artists and a few were songs that are just near and dear to them, but never made it high on the charts.  They are country artists, which is NOT my thing, but these were mellow songs.  More like gentle folk music.  Nothing like Take Your Cat and Leave My Sweater.  I don't think a pick-up truck was ever mentioned.  So it was very enjoyable.

The views were stunning.  The river was still raging from the snowmelt seeming more like May than July.  The weather remained cloudless and clear.  However, we were in the mountains.  When we arrived, it was 85 degrees and taking the sweatshirt and blanket from the car seemed silly, but once the sun went down I was so glad we had them.  The sandals were a mistake, both for the cold night air and the hike to the amphitheater and back to the parking lot.  But it was a great evening.  I certainly enjoyed myself enough to give it another try.  I've learned the rewards outweigh the risks when it comes to the summer weather for these outdoor concerts.  I guess an old dog can learn new tricks...

Monday, July 25, 2011

#16...A tradition continued?

Traditions are important to us as they help us feel connected to the past and provide memories for the future.  When Tim and I first married we made an effort to combine our families traditions as well as start some new ones.  One of those traditions was partaking of Baskin Robbins custom ice cream sandwiches over the Christmas holiday, which came from the Lyon family.  As the years progressed, finding a store who would make the custom sandwiches got harder and harder and we adapted to just having our favorite BR ice cream flavors instead.

A few years back I found an ice cream sandwich kit and purchased it.  Thoughts of rekindling the ice cream sandwich tradition danced in my head.  But the holidays got busy and I never got around to making them.  In fact I totally forgot about them until I found the kit this past week.  While I prefer the traditional chocolate cookie, I used store bought chocolate chip cookie dough as suggested in the brochure.  I let it soften and spread it in the pan as directed.  I cooked it for the suggested time.  It was one giant raw cookie.  Don't get me wrong...I LOVE my cookies soft and undercooked.  So when I say raw, it is not even close to undercooked.  Back into the oven it went and was cooked for almost double the suggested time.  It still wasn't perfect, but as an impatient person I was willing to accept imperfection.

The kit includes three different shaped sandwich makers; a star, heart and fancy square.  They come in three parts.  You pop off the bottom and use the main body to cut your cookies shapes.  Pop the bottom back on and layer a cookie in the main body, then a scoop of ice cream, then top with a cookie and use the cookie press that goes on top to squish it all together.  Pop off the bottom again and use the press to push the newly formed ice cream sandwich out.

With practice you could possibly make an ice cream sandwich to rival the photo on the box.  Mine looked NOTHING like that.  My corners weren't crisp and the ice cream was melting over the bottom.  I probably should have cooked the cookies a bit longer, but you want a soft cookie in your sandwich so it is a fine line there.  I also should have used rock hard ice cream although not sure how easy that would be to press.  It looked a mess, but tasted pretty good.

Will I make these again?  I doubt it.  But I did learn a valuable lesson.  If I want to carry on the tradition I will just go to BR and buy their damn cookies and make my own custom sandwiches.

Monday, July 11, 2011

#15 - The Baskin Robbins Challenge

OK...so this may have been motivated by my intense love affair with ice cream, but these two sundaes are new and only available for a limited time.  It seemed only reasonable that this would make a very tasty and enjoyable new experience.

I hit Baskin Robbins a few weeks back for a mint & chip shake and the flavor of the month, Super Soldier Swirl, caught my eye.  I asked for a sample and was pleasantly surprised that the vanilla ice cream with blue chips and a cherry swirl was delicious. Even more appealing was the signage showing two new limited time sundaes available as part of the upcoming Captain America movie promotion.  While it looked good, I was craving that mint & chip shake and that was what I ordered.

Perhaps it was fate that later that week the BR facebook page had a link for a Captain America game.  While I was not an instant winner, the losers get a coupon.  That days coupon was a BOGO for 99 cents on the promotional sundaes.  Now my plan was forming.  Tim was in town and I suggested a trip to BR for dessert.  I was going to use a tactic he often employs when we eat out.  He asks what I am having and then orders something else so he can eat two dinners.  This would work rather well for him, except I am one of the most indecisive people on this planet when faced with food choices and usually do not make a choice until forced to do so by the wait staff.

I knew that Tim would go for the chocolate Hydra Force Sundae, leaving me the freedom to choose the Super-Soldier Sundae and have a sample of them both.  Wrong. He asked if you could use it on another sundae.  You could and he ordered something else.  I opted for the Hydra Force, but asked for chocolate syrup instead of hot fudge. It had chocolate mousse ice cream, brownie bits and chocolate chips in addition to the syrup.  It was 1010 calories of pure heaven and so rich I couldn't even finish it.  But the challenge would not be complete without tasting the Super Soldier Sundae for comparison.  Even though it was only 560 calories, I still needed a weeks time between to justify adding it to my diet, which I did on Saturday.  The Super Soldier Sundae was made from Super Soldier Swirl ice cream, with cake bits and strawberry topping.

In between the consumption of each sundae, I did some research.  I'm not a Marvel Comics fan and while I vaguely remember Captain America as a cartoon character, I was totally unfamiliar with him.  It was obvious he was a superhero, but I had no idea to what the Hydra Force referred to.  Hydra, I learned, is the evil organization bent on world domination.   I gather from the comics that it does not do too well as good always triumphs over evil.  I think they have been using the wrong tactics.  They could easily obtain world domination just through the Hydra Force Sundae.  And while the Super Soldier Sundae was good, for this challenge I would say that evil triumphs over good big-time in a sinfully chocolate treat as the Hydra Force Sundae totally dominated my world.  But in the interest of patriotism, I may need to sample one more before they are no longer available just to be sure...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#14 - Formerly Illegal Fireworks...

Utah is a state that loves fireworks almost as much as guns.  It must have something to do with the similar sound.  Like most states we had the usual array of safe and sane fireworks, fountains and sparklers mostly.  But just a short drive into Wyoming was a wonderful world of illegal fireworks that shot into the air and burst into a variety of colors.  Just like the lottery in Idaho, Wyoming's tax coffers are filled with the purchases from Utah residents.  The Utah Highway Patrol would sit on the state line with their high powered binoculars looking for those cars parked at the fireworks store and making their way back to Utah with their contraband and hit them with a fine (and amass a kick ass collection of fireworks I always suspected they used at their own home displays).

Sometimes the economic crisis works to an advantage.  Our narrow minded state legislators usually waste their time making the most ridiculous laws (like having to put a barrier, nicknamed the Zion Curtain, in a restaurant bar so young children would not be corrupted by the pretty bottles and colors of people pouring and mixing alcohol). This year they decided to allow some formerly illegal fireworks to be sold in the state and keep our tax dollars at home.  With a few tweaks to our law, you can purchase cake aerials that look like a fountain, but shoot up into the air before exploding and are almost as good as a professional display.   From June 26th to July 26th (July 24th is a state holiday here) you can purchase and set these off according to your local municipalities rules.

Now I am not always a good citizen, but I was not one of those who would drive to buy the illegal fireworks.  I was content with our safe and sane display each year while admiring those shot off in the neighborhood from the neighbors who had the guts to go and get the illegal ones.  But now that these were legal I was very excited to try them for myself.  I couldn't wait to give the formerly illegal fireworks a shot (no pun intended).

The bad side to the economic crisis was that I no longer had a fireworks budget.  So I decided I would not buy groceries the rest of July and have a little fun with the family.  I would have loved the $129 finale that had 42 shots, but I was frugal.  We found a couple of decent ones for $10 and spent $20 on a "finale".  The finale was really no better than the $10 cakes.  And the $10 red, white and blue aerials were pretty awesome.  When these things are popping off right over your head you can't help but be wowed.

All in all there were less fires and firework accidents in the state this year.  I imagine by allowing some fireworks to be sold here, it kept enough people at home and not buying the bottle rockets and m-80's from Wyoming that seem to cause most of the problems. The 4th was the loudest I ever heard it here and the pollution levels were way up, but it was an awesome display all across this valley.  God Bless America, I am hooked on these!  If I hit the lottery (in Idaho) you're all invited to the mother of all home fireworks displays next year!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#13 - My Pond

Years ago we purchased a pre-made pond kit at Costco.  It was a hard shell and we set it up next to our patio.  We didn't even dig much of a hole for it, but rather a shallow hole to rest in and then propped it up with parts from an old concrete birdbath.  It wasn't pretty, but it still gave off the sound of water with a fountain.  When we built our deck six years back we extended it farther than our concrete patio and took up the spot where the pond was.  So we cut a hole in the deck and laid the pond liner in it and continued our enjoyment of water.  We liked the pond so much we put in a real pond in our lawn.  When I say "we", I mean the people we hired from the Home Show.  They specialized in putting greens, but were getting into the pond business and gave us a great deal to be their guinea pig.  For another few years we had the big pond and the little pond, neither of which I could ever claim to be a creator of or do any significant work on other than writing a check.

A few summers ago the hard pond liner cracked.  She served us well, but it was time to throw the old gal away.  So for almost two years I have had a huge hole in my deck. The pets have loved it, using it as an entrance to the netherworld of under deck exploration.  We did get a quote to cover the hole, but at $1800 for labor and materials we said, "um, no".  Yes, it was an eyesore, but with two kids in college you can turn a blind eye when asked to lay out that much cash, especially when it is NOT for a Chanel handbag.  I just looked past the hole to the nice pond out in the lawn.

I did search for another pre-made hard liner, but never found one the same shape.  So as a new challenge I decided to tackle the hole and turn it into a pond from scratch with my own two hands.  Luckily there was no hole to dig, only a hole that needed some sand to soften the dirt.  The deck had been boxed in with the framing around the hole for support so I bought a flexible pond liner and got out the old staple gun and started attaching the liner to the frame.  It went pretty well for awhile, but as I tend to cut corners and take shortcuts I decided to just fold up the excess liner rather than cut it to size.  As it filled with water it became apparent this was not one of my better ideas. The water pressure pushed the excess liner out under the deck frame like a balloon and there was a slight leak from one of the creases.  This would need to be fixed.  But I needed a new focus before tackling that problem.

I decided to work on the pump and filter to make sure the waterfall would work properly. The pond guy had sold me everything I would need.  Well, everything I would need if the dang pipe didn't need to go at a 90 degree angle.  Plus the fittings were so tight I could barely get them together even when using a blow dryer on the pipe to expand it. I hit Lowe's to see if they had the more flexible tubing, which they did.  Hooray! However, they have no fittings for the tubing...boo hiss.  I managed to use the fittings the pond guy provided by using my dremel tool to sand the ridges off two of them. This made plastic dust get all over my clothes and resulted in experience #12 (read previous post) and delayed any further work on the pond for the day.

On day 2, I emptied the pond and fixed the liner so it was the correct size for the hole without any excess.  I then put the waterfall together.  The fittings were still tight and required a blowdryer, but I somehow managed to get them on the pipe.  The waterfall for this pond is just a single fall from a black plastic reservoir.  It is unsightly, but the pond guy had sold me rocks to stack around it.  Lots of rocks.  Rocks that were supposed to be put together like a puzzle to both hide and support the reservoir with a flat rock placed on top.  This did not go as planned.  My first attempt was a bit wobbly so I decided to try and put in one more rock to stabilize it better.  Plop, plop, plop, plop...one by one the rocks all tumbled into the pond.  Attempt number two went much better, except after standing back to admire my handiwork I saw the pond liner was scrunched up under the reservoir and was leaking onto the deck rather than back into the pond.  This time I took all the rocks off by hand and only one or two fell in to be retrieved.  The third time was the charm and actually turned out looking the best.

Once the waterfall was set, I added some stones over the edge of the deck to give it a more finished look.  At some point one or more of the dogs will step on one and end up in the pond, but I'm hoping they won't do it a second or third time.  Last step was the plants.  Pond plants are nothing new to me so that was the easy part.

I shun hard work and manual labor whenever possible, but on those rare occasions when I push myself I do end up with some nice results.  This is way better than a big hole in my deck and a nice addition to the big pond.  Tomorrow I shall BBQ ribs and steak as I sit out on the deck and enjoy my handiwork...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

#12 - Lost & Found...the Metal Detector

My 12th new experience was not planned.  Far from it.  And it was the result of one of those bizarre things that happen infrequently in our lives, thank goodness.  I was actually working on what was to be my 12th experience and without ruining the surprise I will just say I was using my dremel tool and ended up with fine particles of plastic all over my clothing.  I hopped off the deck onto the lawn and started brushing the dust from my clothes.  There was a lot on my pants and as I was brushing my hands over the sides of my legs my wedding ring flew off on the backstroke and landed somewhere behind me in the grass.

I searched for a few minutes with no luck.  I called Ariel outside to help and we searched for another hour with no luck.  We both even went out to the street behind our house to see if it somehow had flown over the fence.  I scooped muck from the pond to make sure it wasn't in there.  We walked barefoot over area.  We got on our hands and knees and felt all the grass.  Now my ring isn't exactly tiny so I would have thought we could have felt it, but that area of the lawn happens to be pretty thick.  While making some phone calls for some sympathy and advice, Ariel headed inside to google who might sell metal detectors and found that our local sporting goods store had them and one was on sale.

I made a quick trip to Sports Authority and bought the sale machine for $89.  It did not list that it could find gold, but they said I could bring it back if it didn't.  It was almost 9pm by this time and the light was fading fast.  I put the detector together, added the batteries which I thankfully had the presence of mind to purchase there (although at an outrageous price).  I manned the detector sweeping it over areas of the lawn.  When metal is detected it makes a loud whine.  I threw my other ring onto the grass, which of course landed right on top and was very easy to see to make sure it would pick up the signal from a gold ring, which it did.  We had some false tones and Ariel searched the grass as I would keep sweeping that area to show where the tone was.  After several misses where it was just picking up some metal buried under the lawn we got a hit! Ariel dug around and found my ring buried well inside a thick clump of grass.  We had been over that area on hands, knees and feet several times without success.  So kudos to the metal detector and kudos to Ariel!

The metal detector is kind of neat.  I will try it in the front yard to see if I can find the diamond earring I lost there last year while gardening, but I'm pretty doubtful on that one.  Still, it's worth a shot.  And it may just come in handy in the future.  If nothing else it can be a really expensive stud finder.  But I'm not complaining about the price. This wasn't my original wedding ring, it was a bigger "I can afford this now" type of ring purchased about 10 years ago.   So the metal detector was worth EVERY penny!

Now back to work on the project formerly known as #12, I'm just hoping it will be #13 and nothing new hits in the meantime...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dbox Update...

My #5 new experience was trying out the Dbox at our local theaters.  This is a simulation type experience where your seat moves to the action on the screen.  I saw Battle Los Angeles and it was awesome.  Lots of movement with the constant action on the screen.  I loved it!  I recommended it.  I encouraged everyone to try it.  But that was then and this is now.

Trev was home when I tried the Dbox and he loved it as well.  Ariel is now home for the summer so I took her along to see the new Pirates movie so she could experience Dbox too.  What a big disappointment.  While Dbox can be terrific, I discovered it is all about which movie you see.  You need a constant action packed film to make the extra cost worthwhile.  Pirates has some action, but also plenty of non-action scenes and for those the seat is as steady and calm as the doldrums.  There was far more non-movement than movement.  And we found when the movement comes sporadically, it ends up being distracting to the movie rather than enhancing it.  If this was the first movie I had seen using Dbox I would never try it again.

I am going to write both Dbox and my local theater to give them feedback.  At double the cost of a normal ticket they need the experience to be enjoyable enough so you continue to use it.  It is still very cool technology and it is the first class legroom section of the theater, not to mention for those of us that are vertically challenged you can also see over the person in front of you.  But for the price you still expect a few extra bells and whistles...

Monday, May 30, 2011

#11 Extreme Couponing...

If you haven't seen the new show on TV, Extreme Couponing, it is about people who buy thousands of dollars worth of products for almost nothing using coupons.  The cash register total will be $1200 and after they deduct all the coupons it ends up something like $8.  These are people who get stores to bend the rules and they will buy 80 of an item if they have that many coupons.  Some they put away in their stockpile, some they give away to friends and some to charity.  It's pretty impressive, but also a little bit insane.

I know I could never go to that level, nor would I want to.  However, I challenged myself to a lower form of extreme couponing.  I have used coupons before so nothing new there, but I really have never mapped out the sales to get the best deal on the products.  This required a whole new strategy far different than the occasional clipping and rarely using method of the past.  The first step was signing up for a few "deals" sights (the Krazy Coupon Lady is a good one) and a few coupon internet sites.  The next was clipping coupons from the Sunday papers.  The third was doing a bit of research.  Then it was time to plan my first shopping trip.  Target seemed an excellent choice as it had a flier with Target coupons that could be combined with manufacturers coupons.

I won't lie, the prep work is a bitch.  It took me hours and hours to look at the ads, compare the coupons, match the Target and mfg. coupons up and then make a spreadsheet with the quantity and sizes required to meet the coupon requirements. And that was just for one store.  Plus it took me three times as long to shop to make sure I was getting the right stuff.  But some of the rewards were fun.  I got 8 boxes of Puffs tissues combined with a large bottle of Tide Liquid Stain Release on a promotion for a $5 Target gift card.  It worked out like this...Puffs 8 pack on sale for $8.99 less coupon for $1.50 off and $2.50 Target gift card value for $4.99 which makes it about 62 cents per box.  Add in a coupon where I got a 3 pack of Puffs to go for free for buying the 8 pack.  The Tide was on sale for $10.99 with a $3 coupon and the gift card split of $2.50 to bring it down to $5.49.

Another good deal was on Iams dog food.  The 40 pound bag was on sale for $33.33.  I had a $1 off coupon.  By adding in an 8 pound bag for $12.75 I got another Target $5 gift card.  I have a rebate for the 8 pound bag so will get the full $12.75 sent to me by check.  That makes the 40 pound bag a total cost of $27.33, which is an excellent price.  I also met with some success on tanning products.  Banana Boat sunscreen was on sale for $6.49 with a $1 off coupon.  Hawaiian Tropic after sun lotion was also on sale for $6.99 with another $1 off coupon.  It also had a bonus of a small sized tanning lotion bundled with it for free.  Buying the two products also netted another $5 Target gift card.

My total was $169.24 and my coupon savings was $58.24.  I walked away with $15 in Target gift cards.  If I had used my Target charge card I would have saved an additional $8.45.  I got a free bag of dog food, a free suntan lotion, a free pack of puffs to go and a free bottle of pantene shampoo.  If you add in the price of the the savings and the free stuff I spent about $70.  So nothing earth shattering savings wise, but it was all products I will use now or in the future at a pretty good discount.  I was not drawn into the trap of buying something I will never use just because it is a good deal.  The downside is if you are paid for your time, then the savings isn't as great.  If you consider it a hobby though, you are getting paid to play.  I shall continue this throughout the summer and see if I can get more efficient and better at finding the deals, especially the free stuff.  Stay tuned to see how much I spend to save a few bucks...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#10 In a pickle...

Curing olives did not turn out so well so I decided to try another food preserving method and this one met with much more success.  As I mentioned in my last post, I have canned plenty of fruits and veggies in the past, however I have never made pickles. Growing cucumbers isn't my thing so there was no bounty to play with.  And pickles are pretty darn cheap, especially when you buy the giant jars at Costco for less than $4.  But there in the produce section of Harmon's was the cutest little bags of pickling cucumbers on sale for $3 a bag.  The lightbulb went off and I decided to try making pickles.

I'm not big on following recipes exactly so I improvised a bit.  You can buy dill pickling spices or make your own.  I bought a premixed package that you mix with water and vinegar and heat to boiling.  In the jars I put the cucumber cut into spears, some fresh dill sprigs from my garden and some onion slices.  I poured the pickling mix over them, screwed on the lids and set them in the fridge.  After several weeks a taste test has revealed they are crunchy and have a delicious dill flavor.  Jar one is almost gone.

I doubt I will regularly make my own pickles unless cucumbers are cheap, but they were better than most store bought pickles I have purchased.  And they were easy enough that I will try some bread & butter pickles, my favorite, in the near future as well.  Plus if I have a few on hand in my fridge they will make handy thank you gifts as needed.  I'll just add a note that says thanks for helping me out of a pickle...

Monday, May 23, 2011

#9 Curing Olives

When it comes to preserving foods, I have been known to can a time or two in my life, but mostly the usual stuff like fruits, vegetables and salsa.  My mother-in-law showed me how to can meats once and I do have to say they were delicious, but I always was too afraid to try them myself in case I did something wrong and poisoned a loved one.  I also used to dehydrate quite a bit, but it has been awhile since I have tried preserving anything new.

While visiting my Mom's ranch last month I noticed one of her olive trees was still bearing fruit.  That gave me the idea for #9, learn how to cure olives.  She has quite a few mission olive trees around her house, but the one bearing fruit took a tall ladder and some help from Trev who was visiting for Mother's Day to harvest.  We were not skilled, nor terribly well prepared and half the fruit ended up on the ground which caused a bit of bruising.  I packed it up in my carryon and the TSA was none too gentle either so it wasn't the best fruit by the time it arrived home, but it was about the journey to try something new, not trying to make the best olives ever.  I can hit the olive bar at the local market for that.

Olive fruit is hard and bitter.  It needs to cure to take some of the bitterness out and soften the olive.  To cure olives you can soak it in water, a salt brine or just cover with salt.  Mission olives were recommended with the salt brine.  I took my somewhat bruised and mostly under ripe olives and made the recommended brine to soak in.  You give the olives a slight whack to crack them enough to allow the curing process to reach through the skin.  It was a fine line between cracking the skin and cracking the whole olive open.  Then I tossed them into the brine and set them aside.

Olives are buoyant little suckers.  I would check them and the side in the brine was curing, but the top side not so much.  I put an aluminum foil top over them to make them stay under the brine and while better, they still were coming out uneven.  So I decided to switch to the all salt method.  It was far easier than the brine method, although not recommended for this olive type.

After a few weeks I can now say I have cured olives.  I can not say I cured olives well or even cured truly edible olives.  OK, they were edible, but only in an I am really starving and too lazy to fix anything kind of a way.  I'm not sure a food bank would even hand them out to the hungry.  The curing brought out every little bruise they suffered in the harvesting and traveling from California to Utah through the intense security we have endured since Bin Laden was killed.  Haven't flown since then?  Consider yourself lucky.  It took me 15 minutes just to get my shoes back on my feet.  But I digress...back to the olives.  They were soft enough to eat while still firm and actually had a pretty decent flavor, but cosmetically were the ugly stepsisters combined.

So I have learned how to cure olives and how not to complain about the high price of olives at the olive bar.  They are worth EVERY penny!

Friday, May 13, 2011

#8 Emcee the Mouse Expo

Those who know me know that I am rarely short on words.  But want me to shut up?  Just stick a microphone in my hand and put me in a room full of people.  Since 1994 I have put on a Wee Forest Folk collectors convention called Mouse Expo.  Back in the early days Tim did the emceeing.  When he stopped attending, Mark Blakely took over the job.  I've never been fond of public speaking, but could do so in a pinch.  But I remember the day I hated it.  I was giving a talk on displaying your Wee Forest Folk and a woman in the front row started nodding off.  OMG...I was boring!   I rarely used the microphone after that and never have emceed the event myself.  But this year we had a slight hitch.  My emcee could not make the event at the last minute.  So the Headcheestress of the Academy of Alchemy took the stand and the microphone.  I did pawn off some duties, but I took control of my fears and did a good portion of running the event from the front of the house for a change.  I do enjoy sharing my wit and thankfully most got it and laughed.  I think no laughs at a joke is even worse than having someone nod off while you speak.  And I did look pretty damn good in that witches outfit.  Too bad Halloween isn't year round.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#7 - Going Green...

I never minded sharing the mowing responsibilities when we had a walk behind mower. But the move to a 1/3 acre prompted the purchase of a ride-on mower.  I rebelled and refused to mow again.  The thing has always scared me to death.  With 4 dogs, I think I will run over one of them.  I also worry I will crash it into something.  I'm short and I can't see directly in front of it.  Not to mention it is just another one of those machines in my garage that requires gas, oil, parts, etc.  And you can't drive your mower to jiffy lube to have some nice young man take care of that for you.

However, the lawn does not seem to appreciate the fact that I am currently left with no man in the house.  It has started growing and won't stop.  I tried to reason with it, but it just laughed at me.  Once again, the laws of nature have overcome all common sense, while the mower sits in my garage with 2 flat tires and a dead battery.  So I did want any modern, self-respecting woman of today would do.  I rolled up my sleeves and drove to Lowes where I promptly purchased a new mower.  But not just any mower.  A chick mower!

What is a chick mower you ask?  Men love engines.  Men love power.  Men love loud noises.  Men love things that smell.  Chicks want something that runs as easy as any other appliance they have picked out for their home.  This new cordless, rechargeable, "green" walk behind mower is now in my garage.  It is the ultimate chick mower.  Well, maybe not ultimate.  I saved the $100 bucks by not buying a self propelled model.  But almost ultimate.

It is sleek.  It is easy.  It is cool.  It is hip.  OK, it's a mower.  But a sleek, easy, hip, cool mower.    All I have to do is charge it for 4 hours and it is good to mow my 1/3 acre in one charge.  I push a button, grab the handle and the blade starts up and purrs like a kitten.  The neighbors won't even know I am mowing the lawn on a Sunday, which can get you arrested in Utah.  The one lever wheel adjust was pretty nifty.  It tackled even the highest grass like a dream.  And no need for the rear bagger because it mulches. There were no smelly fumes and no future maintenance is required. But I saved the best for last.  It folds up!  Just unlock the handle and fold it back over the machine til it locks in place, then flip it up on it's rear wheels to store.  Takes up less space than my kitchen garbage can.  

Being green was not the reason for the purchase, but it is a green product with no exhaust fumes being spewed at mother earth.  Sure, it uses electricity, which is produced by ozone killing electrical plants, but that's just semantics.  Whatever the reason, I love it.  The only downside was saving the $100 for the push model, which was in stock.  It may be going back to be exchanged for the self-propelled model which will need to be ordered.  I'm thinking the extra $100 will be worth it come July 31 when it is 100 degrees in the early morning.  

So I am sold.  Cordless, rechargeable is my new thing.  The weed whacker is next. Come winter I may spring for a cordless snow blower.  The gas cans that have gas and gas/oil mix can remain untouched until one of the men decides to return home and wants to feel an engine between their legs.  But this chick is going green and loving it...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#6 - OK...so it's kind of gross, but...

The sixth new thing I have tried is nothing exciting.  In fact it is rather gross.  If you don't like gross, stop reading.  Ok, you're still reading.  You've been warned so now it is your own fault.  Today I finally tried the Neti Pot.  Those who know what a Neti Pot is are saying ew....those who don't are about to.

I have had daily allergies for years now.  Several times a year I also get sinus infections.  When we get what's called an inversion here in the Salt Lake Valley, it traps all the pollution and the fine particles just drive me nuts.  I first saw a Neti Pot on Oprah and have seen it on many shows since.  Everyone who uses it raves about it. But it has always scared the heck out of me.  I mean, really scared the heck out of me.  So much so, that I bought one a year ago and have never been brave enough to use it.

The Neti Pot looks like a little watering can.  You fill it with warm water and solution. You then tip your head forward and to the side and pour the contents up one nostril so that it flows out the other.  Yes, you pour the water through your nose!  It is supposed to clean away the allergens in your nose so that it doesn't irritate it.  Many people who use them say they work so well they no longer take any medications.

Now, I am a Pisces and love being in the water.  But I hate two things, water splashed in my face, which is why I take baths instead of showers, and water in my nose, which is rarely why you see me swim underwater.  Pouring water into my nose is terrifying.  I get that drowning feeling whenever water gets up my nose.  I feel panicked when I get water up my nose.  Did I mention how much I hate water in my nose?

I had a fear to conquer.  And conquer it I did.  It wasn't as bad as I thought.  It was still awful, but not terrifying.  It felt just like when you get water up your nose when swimming.  I can still feel a little bit of water up there somewhere, but it does feel fresher.  I believe I will keep doing this in hopes of never getting a sinus infection again.  So one fear conquered, but don't expect me to be holding frogs any time soon...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

#5 - The D-Box experience...

I have wanted to try the D-Box seats installed at our local theater for some time, but have had a hard time justifying the extra price.  At $16.50 that is almost double the price of the regular ticket.  I know what you are saying if you live in a big city...that IS the cost of a regular ticket.  We are spoiled here in Utah and our evening shows are only $8.50, matinees just $6.   The Megaplex at the District, just a few minutes from my house, has 20 theaters to fill.  In fact, there are over 250 screens within a 45 minute drive of me, so it is easy to see why the prices are competitive here.  Utah is the home of the multi-screen theater.  If you look at the box office receipts for cult classics like Harry Potter or the Twilight series, Utah's Megaplex chain usually has the #1, #2 & #3 spots for opening night sales.  They take their movie going seriously here, so we are fortunate to have both an iMax and D-Box theater at our Megaplex.

For those who do not know what a D-Box seat is, think Star Tours or Soaring over California.  It is an interactive seat that moves with the movie to give you the experience of being "in" the movie.  The seats are comfy and spaced farther apart. They are a little higher off the ground so my feet dangled even more than usual.  They have a control setting and default to medium.  You can change the settings to high, low or off just below the armrest.  While the placement is easily accessible, I did accidentally change the settings several times when resting my hand on the armrest.

Trev was in town this week so I did a redux of Battle, Los Angeles.  Yes, it is worth seeing twice.  The first time was in the largest of the theaters, the one going all the way to row S.  I do enjoy an action film on the largest screen possible.  I also like sitting in the back row.  The D-Box theater is smaller with a smaller screen and the D-Box seats themselves are lower than I prefer to sit.  But the D-Box experience was pretty darn cool.  Every missile, gunshot, grenade and alien artillery rumbled my seat. Every helicopter or humvee ride felt as if I was in the vehicle.  And as the helicopters turned in flight, so did our seats.  I admit to getting a little motion sickness, but not sure if that was entirely the D-Box as the movie is filmed with a hand held camera. Nausea aside, it was AWESOME!  My companions also gave it a thumbs up. Definitely worth the extra bucks, but I might pack some Dramamine next time...

Friday, March 25, 2011

4-1/2? Well, not really...

I thought about crossing another "new" item off the list today on my 50/50 challenge.  And this would have been accomplished by not doing something, rather than doing something new.  But I caved...sort of.  Let me explain further...

I have a problem.  My kids would say a serious problem.  You know how you've purchased a pair of shoes or an outfit you've never worn?  Or for the men, how you've bought that new tool that is still shiny in your garage?  Well, that is me and scrapbooking.  Twice a year we have the Scrapbook USA Expo.  It is huge.  Tens of thousands of women shell out between $12-$75 just for admission.  Usually I only pay the $20 early admission rate which gets me a goody bag too.  I then shop for the latest and greatest scrapbooking items that I never use.  I have boxes and boxes and boxes of the stuff.  I do sometimes use the paper, glitter, rubber stamps, embossing items, markers, die-cuts, etc. on crafts projects.  But in the 15 years I have been here I have only made one full scrapbook page and that was at a church event.

My intentions have been good.  As the baby of the family I am on the one with the empty baby book and an envelope full of photos.  I vowed my children would have their young lives well documented.  But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  I have boxes of photographs, tons of scrapbooking supplies, and empty albums.  Trev does have one baby book to be proud of, but only because his Auntie Pam had way too much time on her hands in those days.  She was a little busier by the time Ariel came along, so she is the one who now feels left out, as I did all those years ago.  How do I know this?  She tells me regularly.  I even started buying the page kits where everything is all cut out.  All you need to do is add photos and glue.  I must have at least 100 of those alone.  But still no finished pages have come from them.

So the Scrapbook Expo is in town this weekend.  Did I really need to go and see the latest and greatest?  Did I really need any more supplies?  Shouldn't I actually do some scrapbooking before buying more?  No, no and yes.  As of this morning I had resolved I would not go for the first time since they have held the bi-yearly event.  I could count that as something new.  But on the way back from the shop my car took the wrong exit, the one that leads to the expo center.  Two hours later, not only had I been around the Scrapbook Expo, but I also had managed to take in the Gem Faire next to it.

I am proud to say I purchased nothing.  Scrapbooking, it seems, no longer compels me to purchase unnecessary items.  There were a few things I might have liked, but not enough to stand in a line with 40 other women purchasing them.  I could have dropped some serious cash on jewelry at the Gem Faire, but again I have plenty that I never wear.  It seems I am finally growing up and becoming fiscally responsible.  Only took me 50 years....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#4 Wii Fit Plus...

Those of you who are techies and those who are young will be unimpressed with this accomplishment.  But those compadres who know what it is like to both love and fear technology will understand.  I can remember using a rotary dial phone.  I can remember when computers were programmed in fortran or cobol and were the size on an entire room.  The young have no appreciation for having to punch hundreds of cards to get a computer to run a simple program.  They don't remember when you had to SHARE computers and got blamed for anything that went wrong with them.  I hated to even turn ours on, and I was almost 30!  So excuse me if a video game console is a bit daunting and I've never actually used the thing.

Kudos to Trevor for setting up the system over the Christmas holidays and to Ariel for instructing me how to use the Wii Fit Plus this weekend.  I am happy to say my Wii character is in the normal range for weight and BMI.  I even have a sassy hairstyle and purple clothing.  The aqua eyeshadow is a bit over the top, but that can all be part of my mid life crises.  My Wii age last night was 55, but I must have improved because this morning it said I was 37.  Maybe it was just happy I weighed a half pound less so was giving me a compliment.  Thankfully it made no comment about the lack of rhythm in many of the "exercises" I tried.  I have learned I have no business leading a marching band and my math skills aren't what they used to be.

As I get to know the Wii Fit, it is going to have to get to know me a bit better too.  It keeps saying I lean to the left.  Everyone knows that is illegal in Utah.  If I were to take the Wii Fit to California and use it there would it suddenly say I lean to the right?  OK, so I do lean a little to the left in Utah if you consider that the Tea Party is the middle in this state.  Yes, there are people even MORE conservative than them.  Just google the Eagle Forum and Gayle Ruzicka.  She makes Sarah Palin look like a liberal.  Her goal this year is to keep socialism from being taught in our schools.  Apparently the unions have managed to get socialistic code words in the curriculum to make our next generation vote democrat.  Seriously.  I think this woman needs to spend a little less time at the State Capitol and go buy herself a Wii Fit Plus.  Not sure how she'd react if it tells her she leans to the left...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#3 St. Patrick's Day 5k

This was my first 5K.  I thought it might be my last, but it wasn't all that bad.  I could have gone faster if I wasn't afraid of dropping dead from a heart attack.  Ariel could have gone a lot faster if she wasn't afraid of me dropping dead of a heart attack.  Now that I think about it, I wasn't all that worried until she told me that is why she agreed to run with me, so she could call 911 right away.  And she was dead serious (no pun intended).  So I did a fair amount of walking to make sure the call wasn't necessary.  Next time I will push a little harder, but have 911 on speed dial just in case.

I wasn't last. Woo hoo! In fact 20+ people came in after me.  Woo hoo!    I'm trying not to think of the 200+ that came in ahead of me.  And some of those were little kids.   I am going to pretend the darling little dog that we helped return to it's owner (he was chasing after the runners) added a lot of time to my run. While it seemed like only a minute or two, it could have been a lot longer.

I was a little discouraged that my age group had 13 people in it.  I was hoping for three so I would medal no matter how slow I was.  Apparently I am not the only 50-54 year old female having a mid life crisis and trying to prove I am not old.  It seems to be a trend.  There were far fewer 55-59 year olds, they all medaled.  And no one in the 60 or above age groups.  Apparently at 60 more wisdom sets in.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

#2 - An easy one...

#2 was an easy item to check off the list...went and saw a new movie, Battle Los Angeles.  Ok, so I have seen movies before, but not THIS movie.  And if it was a dud I wouldn't have counted it.  It was, however, awesome.  The beginning 1/2 hour I was thinking how disappointing the movie was from the previews. Then the action started and it was intense.  Ariel described it as Independence Day, Cloverfield and District 9 all rolled into one.  There was even clapping from the audience when the credits rolled so we weren't the only ones entertained.  If you like action, a little horror and a feel good ending then I recommend you see this movie, you'll enjoy it.  Now on to #3...

Friday, March 11, 2011

#1 Happy Birthday to Me...

It's here...I am 50 and fabulous!  So to treat myself I stayed up late and waited for the iPad2 to go on sale.  It seemed to me fate that it was to be released on my birthday.  Destiny awaited me.  At 1:32 am MST I joined the iPad generation.  While it won't be here for 3-5 business days, it is the first step towards learning a new piece of technology and #1 on my list.  Of course I promptly felt regret at the purchase.  The Mom in me always thinks I should have spent the money on the kids, even though they have had their own iPads for months.  Tim has had one almost from the beginning.  My friends post on facebook from their iPads.  I even used one to tour an art exhibit.  They were everywhere I went, taunting me.  I have been green with envy (which is the color of my new case btw).  No matter how much I wanted one I couldn't justify spending that kind of dough on a new toy for me.  But a 50th birthday only comes once, so Happy Birthday to Me!

After 4 hours of sleep, the rest of the day was nice enough.  A much needed pedicure and manicure.  A visit to Nordstroms shoe store.  And I picked up dinner at Red Lobster and some Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.  Now it's off to the airport to pick up my baby girl.  It's been a pretty good day.  One down, #49 to go.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras...

Fat Tuesday is an appropriate name for the day before lent.  I bought a king cake today in spite of the fact my religion does not celebrate lent and therefore I don't need to stuff myself today.  But liking to get into the spirit of different holidays I had two pieces and boy do I feel fat now.  The king cake is a Mardi Gras tradition in the south.  In Europe it is served for epiphany.  Named after the three kings (wise men) who sought out the Christ child (Christ the king), it is similar to a twisted cinnamon bread, formed into an oval ring (to symbolize the eternal nature of Christ), topped with icing, then sprinkled with gold, purple and green sugars (to again represent the three wise men).  A small plastic baby trinket is placed into the cake and whoever gets the slice with the baby is the king of the party...and the host of the next king cake party.  Stories vary as do the actual ingredients.

I am thinking one of my last things to do on this challenge shall involve Mardi Gras 2012.  Since it will be three weeks before my birthday next year it fit's in my time frame.  If things are going great financially, look for me in the Mardi Gras crowds lining Bourbon Street in the Big Easy.  I'll be one of the few females with my shirt on.  If the budget is still tight, I'll post a photo of the king cake I will make from scratch...

Monday, March 7, 2011

My thinking cap is indecisive...

I have a list of about 20 things to either do or look into so far.  Sorry Dan, I have no desire to go to Vermont and learn how to tap a maple tree, but the other suggestions were great.  While there isn't a lot that I currently do, I have found there is a lot I've already done (including knitting and making a souffle Angela).  I used to try and keep up with Martha Stewart until I realized that the real reason she went to jail was so she didn't have to do that stuff anymore.

There are several things in the works for next week.  My daughter will be home for spring break so wanted stuff we can do together.  But I'm a bit stuck on what to do to kick things off on my birthday.  I have something planned, but there is a chance it might not happen so I want a back up plan.  So far about the only thing I can think of is getting a body wrap and that's gonna set me back about $100.  I know it will be my birthday, but it's been ages since I've had a real spa pedicure so would rather splurge the $50 on that and pick up a new pair of shoes.  Besides, there's no one around to see my silky smooth skin after a wrap, but the sales staff at Nordstroms can admire my freshly polished toes as I slide them into pair after pair of expensive shoes, until I settle on that one inexpensive pair that made it's way into the mix.

I did have another thought, but was afraid it might end my quest at #1.  I've always wondered if PETA would accept a donation from me if I brought it in to their office wearing a fur coat while eating a roast beef sandwich?  Maybe I should make that my 50th thing I have never done before.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Can I do it?

I think I can.  Starting this coming Friday, my 50th birthday I will attempt to do 50 new things throughout the following year.  The hardest part may actually be thinking of 50 things, not doing them.  I'm hoping I don't have to resort to bungee jumping or sky diving, but I don't want them to be too boring either.  I may be able to splurge on an item or two (a cruise perhaps?), but most will need to be within my very limited budget.  I will try not to repeat things, such as seeing new movies or reading new books.  I will make an exception for travel though.  I hope to see as many new places as possible.  I'd really like to hit all 50 states this year as well.  I'll try and knock off as many as I can.  Maybe I need to concentrate on the states I haven't visited yet and then I can say I have visited all 50 by 50.  So follow my blog and watch my progress for all things 50.