Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Like a Raging Rhino

I don't always sleep well.  In fact, sometimes I lie awake for HOURS and HOURS on end.  This week has been pretty good.  No staring at the ceiling ... at least too much.

But the other night, something woke me up.  A sound.  I wasn't sure what it was.  I waited.  Nothing.  So I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

Then I heard it again.  It sounded like ... a horse, galloping.  It stopped.  I waited.  Nothing.  So I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

Then I heard it AGAIN.  Okay, sometimes my cat George (who has the feline equivalent of OCD) will have one of his "twitchy" moments, and will run around like a racehorse.  I looked down at the bottom of the bed, and sure enough he was gone.

I got up, and (our cat) Katie was sitting in the hall looking at the ceiling.  I looked at the ceiling.  And heard it again.  Like thundering hoofs.  On the roof.

I went into the guest room and there was George, sitting on the bed, looking at the skylight.  He started purring the minute I walked in, self-satisfied, as though saying, "Ha!  It's not me."

Then we heard it again. A sound like galloping overhead.  Again and again we heard it it.  And eventually we saw it:  A rogue squirrel. Raging squirrel It jumped over the skylight and stopped, its fluffy tail (not a good ruse to hide its rodent-ness) hanging over the skylight.

That's it?  A squirrel.  Running the Squirrel 500 on my roof at 4:52 a.m.!!!

Good grief.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Cleaning!

Saturday, I decided to clean my office.  Mostly, that meant going through my closet to make room for the stuff that's been sitting on my floor for months on end.

I found all kinds of wonderful and not-so-wonderful stuff. 

I found lost jewelry.  I found many tubes of chapstick Woman cleaning and gluestick.  I vacuumed.  I dusted.  I spent about five hours just working on this one room . . . and it's still not where I want it to be.  Mostly, it's my desk that's still a mess.  (Although I still have yet another pile of papers to go through and file/toss.)

There's a lot to be said for living a tidy life.  Now if I could just do it on a regular basis.

Have you started your spring cleaning yet?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Well what do you know -- I'm CHEAP!

Lincoin_coin_pouch I've never lived in Scotland.  I've visited there four times (and have come to the conclusion it's the most beautiful place on Earth), and when it comes to finances, there's no doubt I'm a Scot.  (Hey, my paternal grandmother was born in Levin, so I come by it honestly.)

It's difficult to actually come right out and say I'M CHEAP, so I try to couch it by saying "I'm thrifty" (or if I want to sound REALLY noble, frugal).  That said, you can't skimp on certain things in life, like useful appliances (dishwashers and laser printers immediately come to mind), and fresh fruits and veggies will always taste and be better for you than canned.

I heart saleBut when it comes to decor, well, I'm a skinflint.  A big part of that comes from me hounding garage (tag) and estate sales for the past 12 years.  See, I used to be a vendor at a gift/craft/antiques co-op.  My specialty was "smalls."  Stuff that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, both for me and my customers.

So it really bugs me when fru-fru New York City based magazines deign to share with their readers the secret to finding "real" bargains.  Come on, can you even buy a bagel in NYC for less than five bucks?  Then don't tell me an old lamp I can get for under $5 at a garage sale is a steal at some fancy boutique for just under $200.

Yes, I know that prices are a LOT higher in a large metropolitan area.  So why don't these so-called experts hit smaller cities/rural areas looking for real bargains for their readers?

Tricia's cup I've decorated a good deal of my home in garage sale finds.  I bought a pine corner cabinet for $100; solid cherry end tables for $70; I've got a beautiful (still in the box from Blenheim Palace, England) reproduction Victorian tile tray for $3.  Most of my bone china tea cup collection was purchased for less than $5 per specimen.

I've decorated the stairway down to my basement pub (complete with brass rails) with square plates.  I refuse to pay more than $1 each (and have paid as little as 5 cents for some of them).  Just last summer I bought a brass floor lamp with a nice shade for only $6.
My point: don't believe these magazines.  Especially ones that tell you you can find bargains at flea markets.  Forget them!  I haven't seen a bargain at a flea market in over ten years.  (Probably because all those editors of decorating magazines are willing to spend so much more than an item is worth.)

I gave up on Country Living and their ilk simply because the average reader doesn't have a million dollars to sink into decorating her house.  They ought to change the names of these magazines and aim for their true audience:  Country Living for the Stinking Rich, or Cottage Living in only 50,000 square feet!

Meanwhile, garage sale season is only a week or so away.  What treasures will I find this year?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Picture(s) of the Day: My Bathroom

A few years ago we were really tired of our bathroom, but who can afford a $40,000 gut job like they do on HGTV. Sarah Richardson thinks nothing of spending that much on a total makeover--right down to the studs.

Obviously we don't have Sarah's budget. So, we did it all for about $2,000 (yeah, YIKES--much more than we'd planned on spending) and have been quite happy with the results.


We bought the dresser at an antique arcade (the same one where I had a booth for 12 years).  It was small, so we had to special order the sink.  (That was a lot more than a regular sink, I might add.)  The jar was $1.50 at a yard sale and I fill it with Yardley soap from the dollar store.  We did real beadboard instead of paneling, which was expensive, too.  And after we yanked out the old double sinks and awful Formica (in dark brown) cabinets, we had to have the floor under it done.  (You can't match tile that's 40 years old it turns out.) Those are two of our cats watching the wall drip.  (They're easily entertained.)  I got the Starfish at Joanne's in their bargain bin.  I think it's cute.  (I actually got three and now all three hang there.)

I saw that color brown paint in a bathroom redo in an issue of MidWest magazine.  We're not afraid of color and against the white beadboard, it looks nice.  The prints (on the right) I had for years, but they had crummy frames, so I bit the bullet and bought new frames at Joanne's with sale coupons.

And here's what it looks like over our tub (we have a separate walk-in shower, so there's no fear of it getting ruined.


Mr. Ivy was nervous when I told him I wanted to hang an old sideboard mirror in the shower, but it turned out nice.  So we now have a kind of Victorian bathroom room in a contemporary ranch house.  Oh well, we like it.

Have you remodeled your bathroom?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Paddy's Day

To celebrate the day, Mr. Ivy and I always make Irish Soda Bread.  Maybe you'd like to make it, too.  This is the recipe we always use.

Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups buttermilk
¼ cup corn or canola oil
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup golden raisons
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Foil-line a baking sheet, lightly grease.

In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk, and oil together.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture.  Add the caraway seeds and raisins.  Stir until a soft dough forms.

With floured hands, shape the dough into a large ball on a lightly floured board or waxed paper.  With a sharp knife, make an X across the top of the dough.  Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the top with milk.  Bake in the center of the oven until golden brown (30 to 40 minutes).

Serve warm with butter.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Picture of the Day: My Guest Room

Oh dear, another day with nothing to say.  Okay, here's a picture the north end of my Guest Room.  I had a lot of fun collecting everything you see here, and most of it came from yard sales.  (I got the chair and dresser from an antique shop.)

Guest room dreser

The mirror was a $5 splurge from Salvation Army.  I stripped layers of paint and voila!  A lovely oak frame was underneath.  The bowl and ewer cost me $4 at a yard sale in Oswego. The colonial pictures were $5 at Goodwill and the other two (on the right) were $2 each at a yard sale.  The EXTREMELY heavy waste basket is from the 1950s and I got that at an estate sale for 50 cents.  We saw the same wallpaper at a darling B&B we stayed in in Vermont and were lucky to find it in a discount bin at Sherwin Williams.  The other frames (on the wall and dresser) are counted cross stitch that I did.

What's your guest room look like?  Do you have treasures from yard sales in it?

Friday, March 11, 2011

If it's Friday--it must mean fish!

During lent, we always have fish for dinner on Fridays.  Now this isn't a bad thing unless you're going to be evil and have a delicious fish fry.  Fried fish, french fries, and something green to (pretend) to balance everything out.

We usually have fish on Fridays anyway, so lent isn't a big deal.  And we're usually good.  Broiled cod with a mixture of mayo and dill weed is nice.  Or recently we saw a recipe on the Internet (I think on the Rochester TV station) where they wrapped cod in Prosciutto.  (The prosciutto gets nice and crispy under the broiler for a minute or two.)  Sometimes Mr. Ivy will make scallops, too.

But mostly I want my fish fried.  And I want it to be haddock.  A nice, thick fillet.  Fried with beer batter. (Add a martini to that and you've got heaven on a place mat.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting primed for a Royal Wedding

I collect stuff.  Lots of stuff.  And one of the things I collect is Royal Family memorabilia. 

This is the latest addition to my collection.

Kate and Wills mug

Are you looking forward to the royal wedding?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Picture of the Day

Sometimes I sit down to write a blog entry and say to myself -- what the heck can I write about today.

I know -- I'll fudge it with a picture.  And that's what I've done today.

Dresser Top

This is the top of my 7-day dresser (a tall narrow dresser with 7 drawers, supposedly for 7 days worth of underwear.  Wow--women in the olden days wore a LOT of underwear!)  My Mom made the quilted wall hanging in the background.  Pretty, huh?  That's a fake wedding picture Mr. Ivy and I had made at the State Fair some years ago. (Before the real wedding.) What fun!

What's on the top of your dresser?

Monday, March 7, 2011

An everyday celebration

Pot and cup
I admit it, I'm an anglophile and I love all things English. Especially an English tea. I love to get out the good dishes and make egg salad, cucumber, and salmon finger sandwiches.

And what else do you need for a nice English tea?


Here's a really easy recipe I use when I want to whip up a batch in a hurry.

2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots (or sultanas, raisins, currents)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 425ºF. Grease cookie sheet. Mix Bisquick, apricots, 3 tablespoons sugar, the whipping cream and egg until soft dough forms. Turn dough onto surface dusted with Bisquick; roll in Bisquick to coat. Shape into ball; knead 10 times.

Pat dough into 8-inch circle on cookie sheet (if dough is sticky, dip fingers into Bisquick). Brush dough with milk; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Cut into 8 wedges but do not separate.

Bake about 12 minutes or until golden brown; carefully separate wedges. Serve warm.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Be my friend on Facebook

Angel on cloud I have become a /Facebook-aholic.  I check it on a daily basis -- and sometimes more than once.

This is not good.  This is a terrible time sink. I have to admit, I still like some things about MySpace better than Facebook.  I mean, you can see your potential friend's profile BEFORE you invite them to be your newest chum.  (This weeds out the and pedophiles and other sex offenders.)

I've found some wonderful new friends and readers on MySpace, but it's just too much trouble compared to the ease of using Facebook.

I don't have many friends on Facebook, but I'd love to meet more women who are interested in the same kinds of things I am.  You can find me at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000845902464

Will you be my Facebook friend?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Up To My Ears In Cords

Yesterday, I pulled all the entertainment centers apart and hooked them all up again.

What's with that?

Boombox Well, our CD player died about two weeks ago.  We've been listening to Happy Hour music on a baby boom box I got for 75 cents at a church sale.  A great deal, huh?  Well, someone blew the speakers out (no doubt blaring the bass at maximum decibels), so it wasn't a treat to hear our favorite music.  So, off we went in search of a new CD player.

We already knew that CD players are hard to come by.  (Heck, boom boxes are hard to come by, too--why do you think I bought one at a church sale?)  As it happens, PLACES to buy CD players are just as rare.

Now that Circuit City is gone, the only "chain" appliance store in the area is Best Buys.  Only, when we got there, the shelves were strangely empty.  They had floor models of two Sony CD players, but a check with the computer told us they had none in stock and didn't plan to stock them, even though both models won't be discontinued until 2010.  "Wanna buy the floor model?"  No.  "Okay, you can order it online."  And pay for shipping.  Hmm.

Then we remembered The Stereo Shop.  As it happens, we both bought our very first CD players from the Stereo Shop.  CD player2 They had one of the same Sony CD players in stock -- didn't plan to order any more.  ("Not a hot item.  Most people use their DVD players.") What the heck, we took it.  (And $2 cheaper than Best Buy with no shipping charges.)  We bought locally, left a smaller carbon footprint, and had a good product by a good company.  (Did I mention my 30 year-old Sony Trititron TV still has a great picture?)

We also had a bad (naughty) DVD player.  It doesn't like us.  You can fart around for five or more minutes just trying to convince the thing to play a DVD.  The only reason to keep it is because it also has a VHS player in it, which plays beautifully.  Too bad we play more DVDs than tapes, eh?  As it happens, Aldi had a little DVD player on sale for $25.  Aha!  The answer to all our DVD problems.  And, as it's soooooo tiny, I could put it on top of the CD player in my office (the one I bought from The Stereo Shop over 20 years ago and is still going strong).  So I unhooked the JVC DVD in my office, opened the box to the new one (I asked the girl at Aldi, "Is this a good brand?"  She shrugged and said, "Ya got me, but it's flying outta here like crazy") and hooked it up.  (BTW, I never read directions.  Why bother?)  The thing worked like a charm.

Next up, the new CD Player and moving the JVC DVD player to the living room.  But first, I had to Wires unhook the old CD player (which was actually a DVD player--and one we hated from day one), and rescue the five CDs it had been holding hostage since it died two weeks before. Next, plug in the wires to the amplifier.  Couldn't be easier.  Next, hook up the DVD player.  Only the cord was too short.  Down to the basement to search for a strip plug.  Back to the living room.  The plug won't stay in the wall.  Back to the basement to find another strip plug.  Back up to the living room.  Unplug the TV and lamp and plug into the strip cord.  Back to the DVD Player.  Find Harry Potter DVD in back of TV, which has been missing for two years.  Hook up yellow, white, and red wires to back of TV (also a Sony).  Loop DVD cord out the back.  Too short.  Back to the basement for an extension cord.  Only it's a fire hazard to "daisy chain" an extension cord to a strip plug.  Unplug the strip plug, plug the TV and lamp back into the wall.  Move to the other side of the wall-length entertainment center; unplug the CD and tape players, plug into the strip plug, plug strip plug into the wall.  Can't reach the extension cord.  Haul out step ladder, climb onto top of Entertainment Center, using husband's cane (from newly installed full knee replacement) to hook the extension cord, haul it over to the side and plug into wall.  Turn on all appliances:  Yea -- they work.

Put Harry Potter DVD in DVD player, hit play.  Nothing happens.  Pull TV back out, make sure cords are in all the way; put TV back.  Hit play.  Nothing happens.  Walk to office, call brother on phone.  He's not home.  He will call back in five minutes.  He calls back.  He's now at Sam's Club.  Too noisy to talk.  Will call back.  Five minutes later, he calls back.  Explain situation.  He gives advice and says call back if it doesn't work.  Go back to TV.  Check wires again.  Flip channels looking for an AUX channel around 90.  No AUX channel, but discover we have the Hallmark Channel on our basic cable.  (Do we NEED the Hallmark Channel?  Will we ever watch it?)

Sit in front of TV pondering problem while Harry Potter-Goblet listening to Dr. Oz explain how to grow a new bladder.  Punch all buttons on remote.  Suddenly, Harry Potter appears!  Oh-oh!  Forgot, when plugging directly into TV with DVR, must turn off TV button--switching to video!

Yea!  Back in business.

And that's why I didn't get anything else done yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A feline hunger strike

When mealtime comes for our cats, they eagerly mill around the kitchen, waiting for the sound of the lid being ripped from the can.  Two, if not three of them show up, wanting to lick the lid.  Three of the four eagerly sit up.  (Buster looks like a little prairie dog when he sits up.)

But then three of the four cats sniff their food, glare at me, and walk away.

Classic pate Hey, this is Friskies.  And it's not like we feed 'em the same gunk every day.  Supposedly, we're giving them 10-15 different flavors.  We buy it in case lots -- usually 15-20 cases at a time.  Then I painstakingly separate them so that they get a different flavor for every meal.  They don't seem to like the "classic pate."

It used to be that none of our cats liked any form of tuna/fish.  But suddenly, it's only the tuna that immediately gets scarfed down.  And oddly enough, some times the food that was so repugnant in the morning, is totally gone in the evening.

Lately, I've tossed out more food than they've eaten.  In fact, I've come to ask them, "Should I save time and just throw this away now?"

They glare at me.

Tuna The problem is, you never know what flavor of food will be available when you hit the store.  We usually buy the food at PetSmart.  Sometimes they have LOTS of variations of tuna -- last time we only managed to find one kind.   Foolishly, we only bought one case.  The cats have let us know their disapproval.

I had a couple of coupons for Friskees Select cat food, and boy did they like it.  It disappeared in minutes.  The only problem is, that cat food is double the price of the regular Friskees.

I know, I know--we really shouldn't be feeding our cats commercial cat food, especially after what happened with tainted pet food.  But our cats don't like "real" food.  Okay, two of them will eat a piece of cheese here and a piece of ham there, but offer them chicken or any other kind of meat, and they act as if they're being offered poison.

Anybody else bugged by your pet's eating habits?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Great Sushi Experiment

Here at Ivy Bend, we like to think we're pretty daring.  (We're not, but we like to think it.) And so we went to the grocery store and bought some sushi.  After all, isn't it lovely?


Our verdict?  Eh ... kind of bland.  This was the crab/avacado sushi.  I just wasn't that exciting, and since we're not wasabi or ginger fans, we didn't dip it in a lot of sauce.

So, I guess we'll just have to stick with Indian, Chinese, and Mexican food.  Food with heat.  Food with LOTS of flavor. 

Are you a sushi lover?