Suddenly So Busy!

I’m going to enjoy my free time today, because for the last few days I’ve been super busy, and it will continue for the next month!

On Friday night, Jess, Rob, and the baby came over for dinner. I did all the cooking before they got here, so when they arrived we could just sit down and eat, and then we talked for a while, and then they had to go home because baby was getting tired. We had baked ziti, salad, garlic bread, and brownies. While I was taking the ziti out of the oven, I touched the top heating elemant with my pot holder and kind of singed it. No problem, I’ve done that before. But while we were sitting there eating, I smelled something burning. I got up, and the pot holder I thought I had just singed was actually slowly burning, plus now it was burning the other pot holder it was sitting on, and they were both smoking! I quickly ran both under water, but they weren’t salvageable – both had holes burned through them! (Good thing we were sitting in the kitchen, so I noticed the smell – otherwise that could have been really bad!)

Lina and Erika came out on Saturday and we went to Ikea and then lunch in Plymouth Meeting. Somehow, I ended up buying more than super-shopper Lina! But it was all things I needed: pants hangers, new pot holders (haha), a cutting board… Oh, and they now have this little half-shelf that fits in the Billy bookcase and is the perfect size for holding CDs! I am excited to set mine up, I actually keep my CDs on my Billy bookcase and was recently thinking that I needed a new storage solution because I’m running out of room.

Today I went out shopping for an outfit to wear to an upcoming wedding, my weekly food shopping, and some other things. I was gone for a couple hours, went to four stores, and amazingly got everything on my list. For the wedding outfit, I have two potential dresses (and two potential pairs of shoes, but that will come down to comfort). I’ll show GG later and see what he thinks…

Coming up this month: Two big projects at work; two doctor’s appointments; rehearsal dinner; wedding; a middle school musical; a two-day, one-night business trip; overnight spa trip; concert; and Easter trip!

My 3rd Consecutive Day Working at Home…

Well Wednesday I worked from home because that’s my normal day to be home. And then I had band practice, which thankfully ended on time with no meetings or anything afterward, so I was home at a reasonable time.

Thursday morning we woke to snow. Not much, and it wasn’t sticking, but they said it was going to be much worse by the afternoon. So I decided not to risk getting stuck at work, and stayed home. Also, we switched to a different e-mail system so everyone’s all confused by e-mail now. (Which is great, when most people aren’t in the office that day.) I totally should have gone to work, though, because it never got bad all day, the roads were just wet.

Late Thursday night, the snow finally started to stick. I went out at one point and sprinkled some ice melt on the driveway and sidewalk. (Side note: GG picked up a couple bags of ice melt for us because we ran out of salt after the Snowpocalypse. This new stuff is called “Blizzard Wizard!”) By the time I went to bed, you couldn’t even tell I’d done anything – not because the snow had piled up, rendering ice melt useless, but because the wind had picked up to the point that snow had blown over everything.

This morning, Friday, I really wanted to get to the office. When I woke up, the snow was really swirling. I called our weather hotline, and they said that due to weather conditions and road closures, my office would not be opening until 10 AM. (Another first! I’ve never had a delayed opening here!) Around 9:00, it started looking even worse! So, I gave up. I’m staying home again. I can actually do most of the things I need to do from here, albeit slowly. I don’t have any pictures of the current weather conditions, but imagine being inside a snow globe that was just shaken. So, I will enjoy yet another day at home, maybe going out eventually to shovel things off if the snow stops blowing around…

Ninja Master Prep

I’d seen the Ninja Master Prep on QVC a couple times and it looked like a nice alternative to the Vitamix (at about 1/10 the price), so since I happened to be buying something else, I tacked this onto my order as well. I got some smoothie ingredients and was all set to try it out as soon as it arrived.

The general idea is that there are two blades, a higher and a lower one, so that things at the very bottom of the bowl get blended, as well as stuff higher up. The motor itself is the “Ninja,” a pod that sits on top of the container and can be moved between the different sized bowls. It claims to be very powerful and can quickly crush ice into “snow,” etc.

First impressions: Wow, there are a lot of components! The set QVC sells comes with an extra bowl and extra pitcher, plus storage lids for each, so you end up with: 1 “ninja” (the actual motor, which sits on top of the bowl or pitcher), 1 set of pitcher-sized blades, 1 set of bowl-sized blades, 1 pitcher splash guard (the lid you use while blending), 1 bowl splash guard, 2 pitchers, 2 bowls, 2 pitcher storage lids, 2 bowl storage lids, and a little recipe booklet. I washed everything as soon as I got it, but I still haven’t figured out where to store all these pieces. They’re not really stackable or anything. The blades are extremely sharp. (I haven’t cut myself yet, but I’m being very careful.) I do like that even though they’re plastic, the pitchers and bowls seem very sturdy and well-made. And they’re BPA free! They have rubber on the bottom that holds them securely to the counter while blending, and the splash guard lids have rubber gaskets around them and fit securely, so nothing comes out. My one complaint/worry is that the blades are on plastic rotors, and it seems like it would be very easy to damage them. I have read many accounts and negative reviews from people who stripped the plastic gears within their first few uses.

My first couple attempts with using this were to make smoothies, and they turned out great! The blades handled frozen berries that were hard as rocks, and everything turned out nice and smooth and creamy. I first tried using the pitcher, since it has the nice pour spout, but it doesn’t really pour that neatly. I made my second smoothie in the bowl, which I think is my preferred container, but that’s also not built for pouring. Oh well.

Smoothie ingredients

The blender in action

Finished smoothie

My next experiment was making chicken salad. I’d seen them chop chicken in the demos on TV, and the recipe book included two chicken salad recipes, so I figured it’d work great. Well, I put my hunks of chicken into the blender (there was too much for the bowl), turned it on, and in a couple of seconds ended up with chicken puree at the bottom, and whole pieces still at the top. So I pulled out the whole parts, dumped the dust at the bottom into my mixing bowl, then put the unchopped pieces back in for a quick pulse. Maybe I just like chunkier chicken salad, but this was sort of gross. It became more of a chicken paste. Luckily, I learned my lesson and didn’t bother trying to chop up my celery in the Ninja.

The next recipe I tried was salsa. There was a recipe in the booklet, but I kind of made up my own. I used a small onion, a few plum tomatoes I’d broiled in the oven (hoping for a charred or smokey flavor), a ton of cilantro, and a little salt and pepper. That was it! Within a couple of pulses, the tomatoes were really well chopped, but there were still some huge pieces of onion. If I’d been smart, I would have chopped the onion a little by itself, then added the rest and chopped it all together. Oh well. I took out the blades and mixed in a little bit of fire-roasted corn. GG says it’s the best salsa ever (even though it’s not spicy!), and wonders why anyone would buy salsa when it’s so easy to make it yourself. I transferred mine to a Rubbermaid container, but I guess I could have left it in the bowl with one of the storage lids on it.

Delicious, fresh salsa

Up next, guacamole! Once again, I was a little disappointed with the consistency. After the first couple chops, it was a little chunkier than I would have liked. So I gave it one more pulse, and it was like the straw that broke the camel’s back – it became more like a chunky paste. It was still delicious, though! But I’ll have to keep practicing to get the consistency that I like.

Guacamole ingredients

Still a little chunky

Small chunks

Clean up is super easy. Most of the things I made in it I’ve just been able to rinse out, and it’s totally clean. There’s no little crevices or anything for food to get stuck in. Everything can go in the dishwasher, but I don’t usually trust that. The motor can’t go in the water, of course, but it doesn’t really get dirty since it’s completely seperate from the containers, and doesn’t even have to be in the vicinity until the lids are on.

Overall, I like it. Barring any problems (which, from reading reviews of anyone who’s owned it longer than a few months, seem inevitable), I’m pretty happy with it. The main thing seems to be that either everything is going to be uniformly smooth (e.g. making a smoothie drink), or if you want to keep it chunky you need to blend in small batches (e.g. making salsa or chicken salad).

A Parking Story

Since I don’t drive in cities, Julie offered to drive me to dinner on Saturday night. So I did some research ahead of time and found a nearby garage to park in (she said she preferred garages to lots, I didn’t blame her), and paid for parking.

When we got in, we were directed to the third floor, where the cars were parked two layers deep on each side of the aisle. Julie said we were going to be there a few hours, and the guy working there was kind of vague about where he wanted her to park, so she decided not to let herself get parked in, and took a spot in the front row of cars.

So we went to dinner, came back to the garage, paid in the lobby, and headed up to the third floor. Surprise, there were now two layers of cars parked in the aisle! So much for not getting parked in!

And of course, there were now no attendants to be found. Finally, a couple guys showed up and they moved enough cars out of the way so she could get out. It was very tight, though. I would have gotten out to help direct her, but she was literally right against the bumper of the car next to us, so I couldn’t even open the door. (I think she actually did scrape that car, ugh!) Luckily, some very nice women happened to be walking by, and helped guide her! And one of the attendants came over to help. It took a lot of back and forth and straightening out and hard turning, but we did finally get out of there!

I was so happy at that point that I hadn’t driven! There’s no way I could have gotten out of that spot. Also, from now on, I think parking lots are just fine! In honor of our parking adventures, I sent Julie the video of TMBG’s Glasgow.

“Seasons will pass you by; I get up, I get down”

Good things:

  • GG and I finished doing our taxes.
  • I went out with friends to a fun Mexican restaurant in Philly – delicious guacamole and enchiladas, and a fun time with good conversation.
  • Besides one tiny drop, there have been no drips or leaks in our house for the past six days.
  • The snow has melted enough that I can see the edges of our grass.
  • I’m cooking dinner this week for my honorary nephew and his parents.
  • I made a delicious salsa in my Ninja.
  • Oh yeah, I got a Ninja, it’s pretty cool so far, and 1/10 the price of the Vitamix.

Less good things:

  • Band board.
  • I’m not sure how that leaky wall is going to turn out. (At least it’s not drywall!)
  • I have a couple really busy weeks coming up.
  • Our good friend is on his way to Afghanistan.

“The Drips,” Day 3

Well, I don’t know if we’re on Day 3 yet because I have my fingers crossed that maybe my house has stopped dripping. Anyway, I found out what happened, and I’ve learned a whole lot about roofs and gutters in the process.

When it snows a lot, you get a lot of snow on the roof – duh. Then the inside of your house is warm, so the bottom layer of snow starts melting and runs down to the gutter. The metal gutter is cold, and it’s cold outside, so the water freezes in there. This is called an ice dam. As more snow melts from the roof, it hits the gutter full of ice and has no place to go. So it makes its way under the roof and down the walls of your house!

The best thing to do is to prevent this from happening. There are different types of heated tapes and things you can install on the edge of your roof and turn on when it snows to melt the snow. There’s also membrane things you can put under the roof that will keep water out. Since this has never happened before, it’s probably due to the massive amount of snow we had, so I don’t think installing electric roof tape is really the way to go for us. But I might call the roofer when it gets a little warmer to see about putting in that membrane, because I think we also get some leakage upstairs when it rains, and I’m sure that would help.

So what can you do if you already have an ice dam situation? You can use a long-handled tool called a roof rake or snow rake to scrape the snow off the first 2-3 feet of your roof. That will give the rest of the snow enough room to melt without clogging up the gutter. The best thing to do is chip away at the ice in the gutter so the built up water can get out. There are apparently companies that will use steam to melt the ice in your gutters. If you can’t reach the gutter, you can fill a stocking with ice melt and throw it up there.

What did we do? Yesterday I called my roof and gutter guy. He said he didn’t really do anything with snow or ice removal, but referred me to a much bigger roofing company in my area. They do do snow removal, and when I called yesterday they were planning their route for today! So I got on their list. I thought they were just going to remove a few feet of snow from the edge of the roof, roof rake style, but GG was home when they came and he said they were up on ladders, banging at the gutters, so this leads me to believe that they were removing ice! (I was happy to hear that, because I thought their price was a little steep just to pull snow off the roof – but I was willing to pay because I just want the dripping to end.) Also, when I found out about the steaming last night, I thought, “I could do that.” I got my steam cleaner and reached out the top of the window, and steamed the bottom of the gutter. I don’t know if that helped any, but hey, it couldn’t have hurt.

So, when I get home this afternoon, I’ll be checking to see if the dripping has stopped, thanks to the clear gutters.

The Longest Weekend Ever

I feel like I’m coming to the end of a super long weekend. So many things have happened, so I’ll just do a little run-down…

  • Snowpocalypse II: It did snow again. And snowed, and snowed, and snowed… It started Tuesday night, and didn’t end until Wednesday afternoon. GG and I went out early on Wednesday to shovel, so we wouldn’t have to do two feet at once when it finished snowing. It was pretty futile, though. Both our workplaces closed for the day, so we camped out on the sofa and watched movies. It was a nice day inside together. By Thursday morning a lot of highways were closed, so my office was once again shut down, but I still worked from home. (I don’t think my office has ever been closed before – let alone two days in a row! This was historic!) We went out that morning and shoveled for real. It was the worst shoveling experience of my life. We absolutely have nowhere to put any more snow. I had to dig my car out of a snow drift. We can barely get in and out of the driveway between the snow piles on either side. Yeah, climate change sucks.

    My car was in this

    Our canyon pass – AKA driveway
  • Toilet Trouble: I went back to work on Friday, which was one of the longest, craziest days I’ve had at work in a long time. GG left for work in the afternoon before I got home. That was the last time the toilet was known to have worked. Later that night, I heard the toilet run on its own for a few seconds, which it never does. And the next time it was flushed after that, the tank never refilled, it just made this hissing sound. In order to get the hissing to stop, we filled the tank with buckets of water from the bathtub. I was kind of nervous about flushing this way, not to mention that it was a total pain, so we tried to avoid using the toilet at home as much as possible. The plumber came this morning, replaced some hoses and parts, and everything is good now!
  • Fire and Ice: On Saturday we went out to Lititz to go to their 5th annual Fire and Ice Festival with some friends. I was under the impression that this was a combination chili cook-off and ice sculpture event, hence “fire” and “ice.” But actually I think the “fire” part happened the night before, because they had fire breathers on the streets of town! But anyway, we missed that part. So we went to the chili cook-off and ate a ton of chili (I actually didn’t try the last few samples, because I just couldn’t look at another cup of chili). Then we walked around and looked at the ice sculptures. Most of them were roped off or otherwise untouchable, but some of them you could sit on or interact with.

    GG rides his ice dolphincycle
  • The Drips: I’d been worrying about all the snow on our roof, because our roof isn’t flat but it isn’t really pitched, and there’s still quite a bit up there. As I feared, we’ve developed some leaks. One of the front windows upstairs has a leak under it, dripping down the wall and soaking the carpet. And the window directly below that, in the living room, also has a few drippy spots. This just started yesterday. When everything froze up again last night and the dripping stopped, I used some sealant on the cracks, which seemed to help a little, but the water just finds new ways in. I currently have a series of buckets and containers lined up across the living room window sill to catch the drips there. Upstairs is harder, because it’s just running down the wall, so you can’t really catch it in a bucket. And it seems like the more you touch it (like trying to dry off the wall), the worse it gets. So I just put some plastic over the carpet and I’m leaving it alone until it dries up again tonight and I can try some more sealant.
  • Valentine’s Day: Well, the day itself was kind of boring. GG went to work and I did some errands and visited people. Then we went out for dinner at Marly’s, which I ate at once before and GG had never been to. It was awesome. The food was so good, I had my leftovers for breakfast this morning because I couldn’t stop thinking about how good it was! The restaurant is BYOB, so we brought some Lindemans Framboise. I don’t usually drink, so I was really sleepy when we got home and I just conked out on the couch for a bit while GG watched TV. Super romantic.
  • President’s Day: I have the day off work for the holiday today, but some of our sites were still open and stuff had to get done, so I had to work a little bit this morning. Then the plumber came. Then I went out to get some things, but nobody has the stuff I want. Home Depot doesn’t have any tools for removing snow from your roof, and I couldn’t find any slippers I liked at the mall. So now I’m sitting at home, being slowly driven insane by the drip, drip, drip…

Freckles, Fringe S2 E15, Heroes S4 E18, More Snow

I went to the dermatologist today for my regular mole check-up. I have many weird and frightening moles all over me, they run in my family. But we have no history of skin cancer or anything, and though she’s pointed out a couple on me that she wants to keep an eye on, my dermatologist has never shown great concern over anything on me. So I was surprised today when she circled a tiny freckle on my back that was kind of an irregular shape. They took a little scrape of it to test, and I’ll get my results in two weeks. I’m sure it’s fine. But man, either the test site or the bandage over it is really itchy. And it’s right in the middle of my back where I can’t reach!

I also have to compliment my dermatologist. She is fantastic (as evidenced by the three-month wait to get an appointment)! She is just super fast and calm, like she doesn’t want to stress patients out by going, “Oh, that’s a weird one!” For a regular mole check, she just goes over your whole body while her assistant writes down the numbers she’s calling out as she comes across moles. And then she just came back after the fact and was like, “Okay, now this one we’re going to take a sample.” Boom, boom, done.

I had wanted to write a separate entry about the latest episodes of Fringe and Heroes, but I don’t think I am now. Suffice to say, I found last week’s episode of Fringe, Jacksonville, totally amazing. And I think I’m falling in love with Peter Bishop. (Yes, I know he is a fictional character.) Totally rooting for him and Olivia getting together (though what happened to him and her sister – they were pretty close last season). I cannot wait to see how they wrap up this season! And speaking of season wrap ups, the Heroes season finale, Brave New World, was great. I wasn’t really liking this volume, but it redeemed itself in the finale. Lots of nice callbacks to Season 1, such as Claire’s “attempts,” and all the heroes converging on NYC to avert a disaster. Also a nice wrap-up to the Hiro and Charlie story. I guess the show is coming back, but really I would have been happy with that as a series finale!

We’re getting snowed in again, fantastic. We could get another two feet, on top of the two feet we had from this weekend. Even with the melting that’s happened in the past couple days, that’s… a lot of snow. We don’t have anywhere to put it when we shovel, I don’t know what we’re going to do! At least I work from home tomorrow and band practice is canceled, so I don’t have to go anywhere. Neither will GG, probably. And I could stay home Thursday too, if I needed to (since they’re saying it might not stop until late tomorrow night). I would really like to be able to go to work on Thursday, though… Oh well, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

Snowpocalypse 2010!

As predicted, it started snowing on Friday night and continued until Saturday. The final total in Philadelphia was 28 inches. I estimate we got 20-22 inches at our house, because I measured 16 when we went out in the morning to shovel, and then there were probably 4-6 inches that fell after that. (We shoveled twice because I didn’t want to end up doing three feet at once.) We’re getting a little spoiled, because the last few times it’s snowed, the town has taken care of the sidewalk in front of our house. They own the property on either side of us now, so they just do our sidewalk, too. The main problem with our house is that we have a long driveway and a lot of sidewalk, but only a tiny square of grass! So everything got piled into one giant snow mountain. And the more you shovel, the higer you have to lift it to add to the pile. So it was tiring, and I am definitely still sore today.

After our 9 AM shoveling session, GG and I went to Wawa and got breakfast hoagies (“Start your day on a roll…”), then crashed at home for a few hours. I think we watched something on TV, or watched a movie? I don’t remember, because I was also drifting off to sleep. Eventually, GG and I both got phone calls from friends, which woke me up, and we got back into our snow gear and went out to shovel one last time, since it had finished snowing. That went much faster than the first round, and we were back inside within an hour, doing our little chores or whatever. Later I made dinner, and then we passed out within the first few minutes of Saturday Night Live.

On Sunday I did all the chores I was too tired for on Saturday, and then we went to Julie and Brad’s to watch the Superbowl. There was a lot of good food there, I ate way too much. GG behaved himself pretty well, considering he had a bunch of rum and a couple beers. I was worried about driving back home once things had iced over, but the roads were actually okay. Then when we got out of the car and were walking to our house, GG hit a giant patch of ice and did this really cool arms-flailing move out of the Matrix, and managed not to fall.

Today and tomorrow should be fine, weather-wise, but they’re predicting another big snowstorm Tuesday night into Wednesday. That’s actually fine with me, because 1) I work from home on Wednesdays anyway, and 2) if the schools close Wednesday we won’t have band practice, and we’re supposed to have sectionals this week (which I hate), so I’m happy for any excuse to avoid that.

Before shoveling Saturday / After shoveling Saturday

I wanted to find some awesome song lyrics to use for a title, but I couldn’t, so you get nothing.

Okay, I am ready to be snowed in overnight! We have food, plenty of toilet paper, shovels and salt… Hopefully it won’t be as bad as they’re predicting. Originally they were saying we’d get about a foot of snow, but now the storm is veering to the north, and we might get more like two feet! I went to the supermarket yesterday (unrelated to the blizzard) and it was crowded and they were out of a lot of things already. I can’t imagine how it would be today.

I watched a lot of TV this week, and of course I saw the Lost premiere! I think what I’ll have to do on Tuesdays is watch Lost and then catch the repeats of the Duggars. It’ll be a late night, but at least I generally work from home on Wednesdays, so I can sleep in a little bit. Of course I’m totally confused by Lost already, but I do have one theory that people seem to like, which is that the Man in Black can take the form of any dead person on the island. Obviously he’s Locke right now. I think he was probably also Christian. And all the other dead people who’ve reappeared in the past, maybe he was posing as them as well. It’s not a “posession” thing, because Locke’s actual body is still there (MIB/Locke walked right past it)! But I do think there is some sort of posession going on with Sayid (and apparently Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse said on Jimmy Kimmel that something is “inhabiting” his body).

Things are picking up a bit at work, and I’ve been working on some things that will give me some exposure to the new people, so that’s good, hopefully I make a good impression on them. (Speaking of work, and TV shows, how about The Office last night? Once again, hitting a little too close to home, haha!) I have all these unresolved things going on, though. I really hate having open issues, but I’m waiting to hear back from various people about things, and it’s kind of stressing me out! Also, we’re moving to a totally different system for e-mail this month, with lots of limits and stuff, so everyone’s going to have to pretty much change the way they handle all e-mail. I can’t believe that in this modern age of super-cheap memory (i.e. it’s cheaper to buy more memory than to pay someone for the work time it will take to clean up and delete files) and cloud and network computing, we would move toward massive restrictions on file storage and storing everything locally. Oh well. We’ll roll with it, I guess.

Lots of fun stuff coming up! Superbowl with Julie and Brad, if we’re not all still snowed in on Sunday. Next weekend GG and I are going out for Valentine’s Dinner. The following weekend is a “girls’ night” with some ladies from work, we’re basically going to a super fancy Mexican restaurant – should be awesome. And in a month I’m taking an overnight trip with some friends that includes a spa day! I still have to use up a few more vacation days before the end of March, so if anyone has any ideas…