Beautiful Furlough Day

Whew, today was exceptionally busy day. I’ve got 4 articles to write for the newspaper, baking to do, books to read, and photos to edit. This morning I drove to Placerville to pick some produce:

and ended up with 10 pounds of blackberries, Marion berries and Ollalie berries. Just look at these ripe berries:

They’re incredibly juicy, fresh and sweet. Now I need to decide what to bake for the holiday weekend!


Busy Sunday

It was an incredibly busy Sunday!  My parents were in town this weekend, in part to take my grandpa out for lunch and a drive in Mom’s new antique car.  We weren’t picking Grandpa up until after 10am so we had time to spare this morning.  Here’s what we accomplished:

Hemmed the curtains from my office closet and window:

Hung my bike in the garage to save floor space:

and fixed a backyard sprinkler.

Then we picked up Grandpa and went for a short drive, stopping by to visit some friends before going to lunch.  The Model A is a lot of fun but getting in and out of the rumble seat isn’t easy. I also got nice and sunburned. Again. After dropping Grandpa off at home for the afternoon we returned for a series of chores in the garage.  This time, in just under 3 hours, we:

emptied the pool of fill dirt, adding to the flower beds,

moved shelving units, sweeping and organizing as we went,

anchored 4 new cabinets in the garage,

added hooks to the walls for my extension cords and canvas bags,

moved the black shelves to the other side of the garage, and

cleaned it all up.  Well, most of it.

Here’s the ‘before’ shot:

and here’s the ‘after’ shot:

Those metal shelves just got shifted over and reorganized, the nice wood cabinets are from a Chem lab that was being demolished.  I don’t know what’s going in there yet, I’d rather not expand my pantry since I’m apt to forget what I have anyway and buy too much.  Maybe emergency supplies like flashlights, water and batteries? Or blankets? I could have a very large liquor cabinet (these have locking doors) or hide the dog treats from the puppies… any ideas?

Furlough Surprise

Sometimes it does pay to have time off even when it’s unwanted.  Today I was minding most of my own business when a door to door sales person made me an offer I could refuse: free carpet cleaning.

As I explained to him, I don’t hate cleaning or particularly love it.  I clean because the outcome is desirable. Besides the joy of watching this guy clean my carpet for an hour, I had so much fun listening to him go through the sales pitch and identifying the techniques  (knowing from the beginning I wouldn’t be buying).  There was the initial set up, looking at my current vacuum which was the same brand but much, much older. Then the product descriptions with words like “hypoallergenic” and “static cling.” He used the word “investment” quite often. As the carpet got cleaner the hypothetical questions started “if you could keep this hair and dirt out of your carpets… would you?”

My answer “as you can tell I don’t live in squalor, clean is usually clean enough.” It was fun to listen to “the pitch” having been on the other side many times.   They offer a free service – clean one room’s carpet – and I get an hour long live commercial on why my vacuum is archaic.  Of course it all comes down to price. And the price is HIGH. Once I was given the initial sales sheet with the warning “don’t freak out” the sales person began to work harder. He asked which model I would be interested in and began giving me discounts. Military discounts. Summer discounts. I like your house discounts.

I made it very clear that I don’t finance depreciating assets, especially a vacuum that would, for all intensive purposes be an upgrade to a machine I own that works just fine. And I don’t have $2,000 lying around.

A few things made the experience palatable: he wasn’t pushy, I had an abundance of free time, and my carpet smells really good.

In the end I did NOT buy the multi-thousand dollar vacuum that promised to clean, shampoo, blow up air mattress, paint, dust and do everything but my laundry.

Things that didn’t make me want to buy from this guy: he tells me about living with a former drug dealer, moving in there after skipping out on his ‘crazy’ girlfriend and being ‘the best’ salesperson at the company. And I don’t care how much you think it helps to share about your life, never tell a potential client that you often forget to wear deodorant when you go out on sales calls.

If you’re in sales please take note. I want to think you’re a good person, a smart person, someone who makes wise decisions like working for the best company. Not the kid who dropped out of school, lives in the worst part of town, has a superiority complex and doesn’t wear deodorant.

Furloughs & Smoothies

I’ve discovered that one of the reasons I’m less efficient with my time on furlough days is that I have so much more of it. Chores that I could complete after work on a normal day somehow stretch to fill the entire day. Today, a test to break my day into chunks and set limits so I can be more effective.

But first, a smoothie.

I have a weekly dance class at 9:30 and I’m loathe to go without breakfast as I’m likely to fall on my face during a turn. I can tell the days I don’t have enough protein because about 15 minutes in I can’t kick, my feet move slower and my arms don’t want to extend.

This morning I started with plain yogurt.

Added a half cup of cherries pitted and sliced yesterday, frozen overnight

Then a half cup of frozen while fresh pineapple since I can’t eat the entire container before it goes bad.  Top that off with a cup of strawberries, again washed, prepared and sliced yesterday and frozen overnight. Here’s the before:

I added about a half cup of milk to make it blend easier and here’s the after:

It’s pretty thick but can definitely be sucked up in that straw. Very light and fruity. Now I just need some peanut butter on crackers before class starts and I’ll be all set.  As you can see in the blender there’s a lot left over. When I buy coffee at my favorite place I try to remember to save the cups and lids (wash them of course) for times like these.

By tomorrow the cantelope I bought should be ripe and I’ll slice that up, cube it and freeze for smoothies.

Zucchini Boats

These are my new favorite recipe and I won’t tell you how many I’ve eaten in the last 4 days. Bit of a warning: I love zucchini so this recipe is full of zucchininess. If you’re not a fan of zukes this probably won’t magically transform you into a lover.

Ingredients: zucchini, red/green pepper, onion, butter, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese

Start by buying bigger zucchinis, no scrawny ones here. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove the stem. Next, use your knife and make two incisions on either side of the zucchini – these will help you scoop out the zucchini.

Grab a bowl because you’ll use all the zucchini insides you scoop out. Guide your spoon around the incisions and scoop the “flesh” until the zucchini has a nice hallowed out center.

When you’re done with the zucchini scooping put the “boats” on a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 375.

Take your peppers and onion (any color or variety works) and chop it up pretty small. There are no set quantities, just chop until you get a good mix. Most of your zucchini flesh will be in big chunks so go ahead and chop that up too.

Add a tablespoon of butter to your skillet on the stove and saute the peppers, onions and zucchini bits, stir frequently. You don’t need to cook the vegetables, just heat them up a little.

Add salt and pepper (garlic salt is also good) and toss with breadcrumbs. Again, just coat it all until the mixture is thicker and scoopable.

Scoop the mixture into each boat and kinda squish it down.

Cook for 30 minutes, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Usually while these are baking I will prepare some grilled chicken or rice. So yummy!

June Project Update

How are your June Projects going? Mine is squeaking by, I definitely need to finish some chores this week to keep on track. The magazine stack is slowly growing smaller and I’ve been adding new recipes to my binder.

The ‘to be filed’ pile can be done in ten minutes and I might even clear out my ‘to be shredded’ box. When it comes to going through a lot of paper and recycling I find it’s easy to designate a bag. I use paper bags from the grocery store so I can dump all of my paper directly into the recycle bin.

If you think it’s too late to get started, don’t worry! Here are three tips to get you started tonight:

1. Set up a filter – an email filter is a great way to avoid distractions and save time. I’ve mentioned before that Costco sales emails have their own folder, photo deals from Shutterfly, Hotbook, Walgreens and Snapfish go to one folder and correspondence for my volunteer projects go to another. So easy! Check out this article on what types of email to filter and how to get started.

2. Put like things together – if I asked you to grab a red pen would you know where to look? How about a spatula? Puzzle? Shampoo? If two or more places come to mind then you can start simplifying by moving like items together.

In my house black sharpies go in the middle desk drawer. Cleaning rags under the bathroom sink. This saves SO much time trying to find something in place A only to find it’s not there, looking in place B and giving up by buying another at Wal-Mart. Another benefit is knowing how much you have! If your towels don’t fit in a large basket do you have too many? If you gather all your printer paper and only have a ream should you buy more? Do you find duplicates that you don’t need or would you benefit from a backup set?

True story: I have 5 pair of scissors for little ole me. One pair goes in the office for paper only, the rest reside in the kitchen. This way if I grab one for scrapbooking or another to open a bag of pretzels I don’t have to spend an hour hunting down a pair to cut out a coupon.

Grouping like items also makes it easier to get dressed, pack and clean. The best part of “cleaning up” is knowing that when you come across something you know where it should go.

3. Gather and toss – do you get advertisements in the mail every week like I do? Such a waste… if I want to view deals I go to the site directly to view the grocery flyer and I never buy those pizza or oil change deals. But since I can’t find a way to stop the mailman from leaving me those papers I gather and toss them once a week.

When you collect your mail sort into two piles: to do and to wait. If it’s a bill, birthday card, or other important document it becomes a “to do.” Bills should be paid, cards acknowledged, checks cashed, coupons sorted, etc. If you have no immediate use for the mail it becomes to “to wait.” This pile has a shelf life of 7 days, no more. Every other day I get an advertisement for a new cable service that I’m never going to use. That skips the “to wait” pile and goes into the recycling. Same for credit card offers (which are shredded first), pet food offers, and grocery stores I do not frequent. What remains are circular ads for stores I do shop at and those are only good for a week. At the end of the week they go straight into the recycling.

Magazines go right into the “to read” magazine file and I try to keep just the last 3 months on hand at once. After all, recipes for Christmas ham and soups to ward off the cold are not very useful right now!

I don’t have a cute little box or basket for this type of mail, just one bar stools in the kitchen. Everything in my “to do” pile gets move immediately. Bills go on the calendar and then filed in my “to be paid” folder. One of these days I’ll go paperless but I’m not there yet.

Furlough Lessons

Last week I learned an important lesson in furloughing – get stuff done! Instead I reasoned that since I’d be working all weekend I could relax a little, didn’t really need to work on my projects and could in fact lie around reading books and playing with puppies.


Not only was I rushed beyond the limits of my fragile sanity but just one event had the potential to throw everything off. Friday that event was a group lunch. A required group lunch. Which left me no time to run to the printer during my lunch hour. Doh! Friday after work I managed to run to the printer, take home my work, pack for the weekend, change for the gym, workout, shower and then leave town. It was entirely more exhausting than it had to be.

This week went a little differently because I had several time benchmarks. They were:

8:10a Doctor appointment

9:30a Dance Class

11:10a Brunch with Friend

between 12 and 4p Visit another friend at work

4:30p Library Event

With that in mind I added in a half dozen errands based on where I needed to drive. I was able to pick up vegetables at the co-op, shop for books in downtown Sacramento, pick up presents for an upcoming baby shower and buy cookies for my Grandpa (who has probably never used a computer lest read my blog).

I was back home by 3:30 to get ready for our Annual Board Meeting at the Library which was a blast!  While this weekend isn’t as busy as all my travel and work like last weekend I am really glad to have a jump start on the week. There’s food in the fridge, gifts to wrap, books to read and cookies to deliver.