Jul 30, 2012

The Maine Event

Last I left you I was heading to my sisters cabin in Maine to host her baby shower and sneak in a lobster roll or two on the road.  Mission accomplished on both accounts.  Here is the skinny on our Virtual Baby Shower...

The Doot - My Co Host in His Finest
First off, my sister and her husband have an amazing little cabin on the waters edge.  Literally.  You can walk down the shady wooded path to the rocky landing and launch a kayak right into the river.  It's amazing and totally a place I would want to live...minus the ever absent landlord, stinky septic, and having to trudge your own garbage to the city dump.  Sometimes the location is worth it...other times not so much.  Anywho...

The Doot ready to Skinny Dip

Besides the picturesque outside, the inside of the cabin is also quaint with a large sliding glass door that looks past the deck and to the water.  The perfect backdrop for some of my sisters favorite snacks growing up:

Bugles and Kettle Corn Enjoying the View

A little decorating before our guests arrive:

My Brother in Law Helping to Hang Banners!  Notice the Steps Down to the House...Yikes!

The Doot Supervising Proper Banner Placement

Once everyone arrived (well, the other two guests) lunch was served:

Delicious Lemon Basil Feta Cous Cous Salad & Tuna or Chicken Salad Mini Sandwiches on Butter Rolls and Croissants

Caprese Kabobs

Spinach and Feta bites on Freshly Baked Bread  Rounds Copied From Pinterest! 

We also served sparkling cider for the mommy and guests.  Since most of our family is in Illinois my mom and older sister, F, had the bigger duty of hosting guests at my moms house.  Once we were sitting with our plates of food we timed it so that mom's guest had just arrived and had drink in hand.  Then, due to technical genius, we fired up Skype on our respective sides and were able to connect both parties into one.  A little pre-planning was done on both ends to hook the computers up to the TV's so the picture would be big enough to see without having to huddle around a tiny computer screen.  Overall it was a success...except for the fact that the women in our family are very loud and tend to all talk at once - does not work with Skype.  To tell my aunts to take turns talking was the hardest part of the experiment and one that we definitely did not master!

Since my sister was moving home in a few weeks (happening as I type!) we told our guests to keep all presents in Illinois instead of shipping them - this saved on shipping costs but also the hassle of my sister having to repack them for the ride home.  Everything she needed for immediate use, like the stroller and car seats, she already had in Maine.  F took turns opening gifts in front of the camera so we in Maine could glimpse the baby shower loot!  She also wrote down who they were from since the ladies were still talking over each other and it was virtually (get it!) impossible to decipher!  After a half hour of back and forth "what did you say?" and "who is that from?" we threw in the towel, shut off the Skype, and enjoyed our half of the party.  The Doot even got in on some of the action by stealing a bugle or two off the table!

Overall a successful attempt to join two parties into one!  Have you guys ever had to improvise on party planning?  Feel free to leave a comment with tips and suggestions to  make such things easier on the masses.

Up Next - Lobster Roll Fever

Jun 22, 2012

Maine - Goodbye For Now...

The time has come, folks.  My little sister is moving home from Maine.  Her new bundle of joy is due mid July and shortly after they will pack up their cars and work their way across the country back to home sweet home Chicago.

With all these big changes coming about I decided to fly out one last time (maybe two lasts times if I go back in July to help them move) to host a virtual baby shower.  "What exactly does a virtual baby shower entail?" one might ask...stay tuned for the deets including the menu, virtualness (totally a word), and the return of...

Wait for it...

The Quest For The Perfect Lobster Roll!!!

I mean, I might as well take advantage of my 4.5 hour drive from the airport to her house in Maine!  This time I am going solo so there will be no mom to back me up on the driving portion nor question the feasibility of a restaurant serving a lobsta roll WITHOUT BUTTERING THE BREAD!

Mom trying to be discreet while poo poo'ing her non buttered roll


Stay tuned for next weeks installment of The Maine Move...

Jun 20, 2012

Mounting Your Computer Monitor To the Wall

Morphing Your Laptop into a Desktop Computer Part 2...

Yesterday we spoke about turning your laptop computer into a desktop with the use of an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor.  Today we are jumping into the 21st century by mounting the monitor to the wall...oh yes, it is all happening.

We will go from this (with stand):

To this (without stand):  
Please ignore the wires as they will eventually be hidden!

All in a few simple steps.

You may remember that my office is a crazy shape - 8.5ft wide by 11.5ft long with one angled wall and doors on both sides (essentially it is a walk through room from the kitchen to the other bedrooms).  In order to make the most of the space I had to make sure the desk was narrower than most in order to fit the daybed + desk and still have to walk between the two.  The desk measures in at 20.5 inches deep and 78 inches long.  According to OSHA your monitor should be a minimum of 20 inches from your eyes.  With a 20.5 depth that does not leave much room to spare.  More info on that HERE but see the diagram below for a quick glimpse:

With the stand my computer sat 7 inches from the wall which left only 13.5 inches to the end of the desk and about 17.5 inches to my eyes.

I decided that mounting the computer on the wall would help to alleviate this problem as well as making the whole look more stream lined...especially when I eventually get the cords hidden.

To mount your monitor you will need to buy a wall mount bracket.  I bought the following off of amazon.  It is cheap, stable, and easy to use...did I mention cheap??

Here is the process in 3 easy steps - make sure to clear the area you will be working in!

1.  Move the computer away from the wall and locate your studs.  Drill two pilot holes then go for the gold and screw the mount to the wall...make it level, folks!

The tape marks the outline of my studs

Thankfully my studs were exactly where I needed them as the directions insist not to use mollies for this ordeal.  I had to flip the mount upside down to use it on the right stud but either way it works the same - the logo is the only thing that changed as it is also upside down.

2.  Take your monitor off its stand.  Dell monitors have a simple button you push and the stand pops right off.  Some have screws.  Regardless of how it gets off get it off!  I suggest laying a towel down on a flat surface and your monitor screen side down on top so you can work easily.  Did I do this?  Not so much...Once the stand is removed you may or may not have to take the four corner screws off the back of the monitor where the wall mount will be.  Do that now:

3.  Screw the wall mount to the back of the monitor.  **You may need two people for this as you have to hold the monitor at the same time as screwing it into the wall mount.**  Screw the 4 corners to the back of your monitor and you are done!  I have no pics of this step as I was doing it by myself!

Again - don't mind the wires (nor the dark photos...rainy days!) as I will eventually hide them and keep you posted when I do!  In the meantime - I love the look with out the base.  Oh - and the fact that it now sits only 4 inches from the wall makes the monitor clock in at 20.5 inches away from my eyes...major improvement!

But the VERY VERY BEST thing about this little upgrade is that, with the help of HULU, I can now use my computer as a TV from the daybed.  The large monitor is the size of a TV and the new mount moves away from the wall and tilts up and down for maximum viewing pleasure!  

All my favorite housewives from the comfort of my office!  :)

For more information on computer ergonomics check out THIS post at Squidoo!

Stay tunes to my Computer Morphing series when I attempt to go wireless.  In the meantime I will be working in my garden this week.  The veggies are in full bloom...as are the weeds!  Ill pop back in tomorrow with the latest pics from our garden.

Jun 19, 2012

Morph Your Laptop into a Desktop Style Computer - Part 1

My office has been through a multitude of changes since we first started working on it February of  last year. There have been paint changes, layout changes, and overall concept changes.  E is pretty much over the shape-shifter which I call my office but I am more than willing to accept the changes as they come.  After all, I am a woman and it is my prerogative to change my mind!  Uh...but that being said, I too am ready to zone in on the perfect space so I can move on to one of the many other projects getting backlogged at LBR.  Today I would love to share with you my latest point of perfection:

Morphing my laptop into a desktop computer...oh, yes, with a few wires it can be done!

Last year I spoke about my chronic back and shoulder pain which I contributed to the amount of time spent hunched over my laptop for work.  After trying a new chair, new desk, and a few simple fixes we came up with this:

We opened the laptop as wide as it could go and propped it up (more on that HERE) so the monitor was at eye level.  We then added an external keyboard and mouse to make it user friendly...without it you could see typing would be quite awkward!  You can buy a stand for this but, being ever so frugal, this works just as well without the hassle and cost of another piece of equipment.  Plus, this contraption was only used for a short time before we mixed things up again which would make the new stand utterly useless in the future...

The laptop propped up worked wonders for my back and shoulder instantly but eventually we aimed to make a more permanent solution by adding a separate monitor to the mix.  This was easily done by connecting a VGA cable (less than $5 on Amazon) from your laptop to the new monitor like so:

Plug one side into the monitor...
Plug the other end into the laptop.

And there you have it!  With the external keyboard, mouse, and monitor you have yourself a new desktop!   As many of you  know, E is a computer hoarder and insists on keeping old computers, laptops, and all sorts of outdated computer related paraphernalia in the event we might eventually need it.  In this case it all worked out for me as this entire upgrade cost me NOTHING!  A freebie worthy of an ice cream sundae.  For those of you without computer geek husbands, the cost of such a project is less than $115 but the savings to your back is priceless.  Here is a breakdown for the Average Joe::

VGA Cable - $3.88
Mouse - $6.43
Keyboard - $6.88
New Acer Monitor - $93.88 - Make sure it has the capability to be mounted on the wall if you are interested in future tweaks!

GRAND TOTAL:  $111.07 plus tax

Or you can go wireless with the keyboard and mouse for as low as $18.95!  I fully intend to do this in the near future...

**Don't forget to check garage sales and friends basements for extra parts...if your neighbors are anything like ours your project could be super cheap or even free!**

You will now have a laptop connected by a couple of wires to your "new" faux desktop computer.  For a while I hid the laptop in my closet which is right next to the desk but today I got busy with a new solution which I will share with you later in the week...

Stay tuned for the next computer update:  Mount your monitor to the wall in 2 simple steps.  

Anyone else updating your office space or have any tips/tricks to share?  Feel free to leave a comment below!

Apr 19, 2012

Garden Prep

Yesterday was spent trying to tame my garden.  I suppose it wouldn't of been so difficult had I put the garden to bed properly last fall.  But, alas, after my trip to Spain in September I just let the garden run willy nilly until the snow came and I haven't stepped foot in there since...shame on me!

Here is what I started with:

Mission #1 - Move Raised Bed (the one with the hoop) to East side of Garden

We will soon begin building our deck in the back yard.  Due to our ugly chain link fence, the only way to get in the back yard with the earth mover is through my precious garden.  Since I am itching to get my plant on, I had to move one 3x8 raised bed (more on those here!) out of the way into it's new permanent spot.  Eventually we will put two more beds in but this summer we will make due with what we have.

I looked at this move from every direction.  Shovel out all the dirt to a container or tarp then shovel it back in?  Try to shimmy and move the bed with all its contents?  Uh, no.  I went the easy route!

1.  I rolled back the weed block where the new bed was going - see the first photo above.
2.  Picked up one edge of the bed and shook it free from the weed block I stapled to the bottom (here).
3.  Placed the wood frame over new weed block...eh, choose not to fix it to anything...
4.  Started shoveling the giant dirt cake that was left into the newly relocated wood frame.


It will all look nice and even when I get the paths back in there.  Oh, on a side note - anyone have a good idea for paths?  I am between gravel, grass, and the current which is mulch.  Let me know if you have any tips!!

Mission #2 - Remove weeds so the gate can close!

This was the not so fun part.  My first year in the garden I encountered a snake while digging around in such overgrowth.  This time I went slow and strategic one weed at a time.  It took about 15 minutes but I got it done...and look what I found!

No, It's not a carrot!  This is the worst weed root of em' all.  This sucker is as long as my size 8 shoe...and that's just the root!

Here is the updated entrance that is now (mostly) weed free:

And then this happened:

Booo - I had to call the day early on account of rain.  Though nothing is in the forecast, I am looking forward to a good soaking so I can get my lettuce planted asap!!

Next on the list of Garden To Do's?

  • Move water spicket/hose to a more centralized location
  • Plant lettuce!
  • De-weed the rest of the garden
  • Mulch between neighbors garage and our yard to keep the weeds at bay
  • Build hoop house for my lettuce so the birds to eat it!
  • Work on some kind of fence/entrance from our yard to the garden without having to go the driveway...with a doggie door so Bubba can keep the squirrels out!

And the list goes on!  Anyone else out in the garden today? 

Jan 20, 2012

Drastic Weather Calls for Drastic Measures

Seriously.  It. Is. Freezing.

I know you have all heard me talk about our living room/kitchen addition and how we didn't add heat as we were hoping the fireplace and small gas space heater would do the area justice.  Well.  It has not.  Neither have done what they were meant to do.  Our fireplace sucks it... literally, it sucks the heat of the fire right up through the chimney.  Our gas space heater blows...not so literally, it actually stopped working all together.  What we are now left with is half of a house (unfortunately the recently gutted and rehabbed half) that is completely useless to us in the winter.  It feels a little something like this:


You see, the cold half of the house connects with the heated half of the house in two places.

 1.  My office.  That room really is quite warm as it is closest to the furnace so it gets heated first and there is an actual door to block the heat loss.

2.  The kitchen to the dining room.  That doorway is open with no door to block the heat loss.

The walk way from the kitchen to the dining room is the current equivalent to leaving the front door wide open. You can actually feel the temperature dip 20 degrees when going from the dining room at the front of the house through the kitchen towards the back of the house.  20 degrees...I kid you not.

In the Kitchen
In the hallway by bedrooms

It is BRUTAL!  Today I got desperate.

After suffering through many a cold day/night with the heat kicking on every 5-10 minutes I knew we had to do something.  I didn't want anything permanent (as we will soon, fingers crossed, be fixing the problem all together) but I wanted something quick.  My first thought was to use a curtain to close off one room from the other.  My second thought was that I had no spare curtain nor did I feel like installing a rod.  So I went with what we have already lying around:
  • Tension rod - check
  • Blanket - check
All I did was wrap the blanket around the tension rod and secure that baby to the very top of the doorway.  Is this unsightly, yes, but it worked!

From the Dining Nook...this room is still in desperate need of paint...

From the Kitchen...perhaps red isn't the best color for this...

It kind of looks like an exclusive club... OK, maybe more like a strip club, but whatev...it is working!

I am happy to say the furnace hasn't clicked on in over 10 minutes.  I realize this is a VERY TEMPORARY solution (and perhaps I will change the red to a beige fleece blanket we have!), but this year I have vowed to use what we have or wait for what we need.  We don't NEED a new curtain or curtain rod for this little project.  Like I said, that would be a temporary fix.  This is ugly to us but no one else (except all of you) will ever see it.  When guests come over we will simply take it down and blast our 2 electric space heaters in the back.  But, for now, this works for us.  It is saving money on heating and saving us money on a temporary fix that we would have bought things for to make pretty but ultimately not need in the long run.  This is how we rock it LBR style...

Anyone else have ideas to block out the cold?  I am in the process of getting up the motivation to plastic all of our old single pane windows.  Oh, yes, I said single pane...in CHICAGO!!!  Damn - our list of To Do's is out of control...

Jan 19, 2012

DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets - CHEAP, Delicious, and Healthy!

Ok - so you know I am always on the fly (literally) and it is hard to eat when you have no stove, cooktop, or refrigeration at your disposal.  Last year I shared some of the lengths a which I go to to eat healthy on the plane - Burrito ala Galley post right here - but now I am tackling a new issue.  Instant Oatmeal.

In an effort to eat healthy in the mornings I have taken to instant oatmeal as a quick, healthy breakfast that meets most of my flight attendant needs.  It can be kept in my bag without refrigeration and cooked up at a moments notice with hot water from the coffee maker on board...or in the hotel room if needed.  Perfect, right?  Eh, not so right.  The cost for an organic box of instant oatmeal is $3.49 + tax for 8 packages which makes them around .47 cents each.  Not too bad...but most people (not me) like to eat more than one package at a time.  This 8 package box will last me one week of work.  That means 4 boxes a month which equals a little over $15 a month.  Overall, the price is ok but the amount of packaging that comes with it is ridiculous.  We love to recycle here (and at work!) but I could no longer justify the constant boxes coming in and out of this house on a weekly basis.  Some may think I am crazy, but this year I am doing my best to reduce my overall impact on our planet and instant oatmeal is first on my list!  :)  Here is how it's done:

  • 2 cups quick oats (I got mine in the bulk food section at Whole foods for $1.39/lb)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  1. Take one cup of quick oats and pulse in the Cuisinart or blender till they are a somewhat fine powder
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients above.  Mix mix mix and store in an airtight container.
  3. Use 1/3 cup oatmeal mix to about 1/2 cup hot water, milk, or soy milk.   How much liquid depends on how runny or thick you like your oatmeal. 
  4. Let stand for a minute then enjoy!

But, ya'll know I had to jazz mine up a bit!  As a vegetarian, I need to make the most of my food when I eat so I try to add fiber, protein, and a good dose of yummy to everything I eat.  Here is my revised version of Cinnamon Spice Quick Oatmeal:

  • 2 Cups Quick Oats (again, I got mine in the bulk food section at Whole foods for $1.39/lb)
  • 1TBS Cinnamon
  • 1TBS Sugar
  • 1TBS Chia Seeds
  • 1TBS Ground Flax Seeds
  • 1/8 tsp Salt (optional)
  1. Take one cup of quick oats and pulse in the Cuisinart or blender till they are a somewhat fine powder
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients above.  Mix mix mix and store in an airtight container.
  3. Use 1/3 cup oatmeal mix to about 1/2 cup hot water, milk, or soy milk.  How much liquid depends on how runny or thick you like your oatmeal.  
  4. Let stand for a minute then enjoy!
Picture Play by Play:

See the difference in texture from the ground oats to the regular?

Can you see the Cinnamon and Chia seeds?  OK, hardly, but I know they are in there!

Again - THAT'S IT!  I like to add walnuts to the top since I am not sure if adding them to the powder would make them turn rancid eventually.  Either way, I always have walnuts when I travel so it is no big deal to throw them on top.  Other variations could include fruit, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, coconut, and the list goes on!

Here is a list of ideas you can add to the basic mixture:

Cinnamon Raisin:
  • 1 TBS Raisins, 1 TBS Cinnamon
Berries and Cream:
  • 1-2TBS dried creamer, 1-2TBS freeze Dried Berries
Smore's Oatmeal:
  • 1 Graham Cracker pounded to a powder, 1 TBS sugar, a small scoop of mini marshmallows, 1 TBS mini chocolate chips...or regular chocolate chips.
Carribean Queen...or King: 
  • 1 TBS ground ginger, 1 TBS sugar, 1 TBS dried coconut, chopped dried mangoes
GORP Oatmeal:
  • Raisins, Peanuts, chocolate chips in whatever amounts you desire

For now I am keeping my Instant Oatmeal in a airtight Tupperware container.  The whole point of doing this was to save money and help the environment so I feel separating it out into small Ziplocs would be wasteful unless you plan to use them again to which I say go for it!  For me, once I go back to work, it will be easier for me to keep the mixture in a jar with a 1/3 scooper in it.  Since I am not separating it out it would be best to remember to shake the mix each time before scooping so the good stuff doesn't settle to the bottom!

So let's get a cost breakdown.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the quick oats at $1.39 a lb.  I wound up buying 1.62 lbs ($2.25) which breaks down to 7 cups of oatmeal which = 3.5 batches of this recipe.  I wound up only making one batch so that I can make a new flavor later.  Either way, each batch is equal to 6 - 1/3 cup dry portions which is the same amount in the store bought packages.  

Ugh...my math is horrible but let's push on...

3.5 batches = 21 1/3 cup dried portions.  
$2.25 for the oatmeal + 9.5% tax = $2.46
$2.46/ 21 portions = 11 cents per delicious serving!  

As I stated earlier the organic store bought instant oatmeal came to 47 cents each.  We are saving 36 cents per serving.  Now, I know, I know, I added things to mine that cost money.  Each item I added was already in the house and readily available.  Again, the great thing about this recipe is you can make it as basic or extravagant as you want!  The store, in most cases, charges you the same for regular or cinnamon spice.The only thing you really need is the oats and water.

Now that I have this in my arsenal of airplane cooking it will be a rare case to see deep fried hash brown patties passing through these lips!  I am happy to have a cheaper and healthy way to have breakfast as well as one that is more environmentally conscious.  Boxed instant oatmeal beware...this recipe has made you extinct in our house.

So what kind of oatmeal do you like?  If you plan to make this recipe, what flavor combos will you create?

Dec 2, 2011

LIVE Your Life...

A meteorology professor stood before his Meteorology 101 class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty glass mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous yes. The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and then proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed. "Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. "The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18. "There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand." One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."

So I may be the last one on Earth to have read/blogged this story but once I read it (Thanks, Pinterest!) I felt compelled to pass it on.  May all your jars be full of golf balls!! :)

Nov 24, 2011

Giving Thanks...

Be thankful for the family and friends who can share this day with you and grateful for those who make it possible...


Be thankful for the food we have to celebrate with and be aware of those who do not...


Be thankful for all that we can afford and always remember those who can not...


To all celebrating this beautiful day I am thankful to share it with you.

Happy Thanksgiving

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