Monday, August 31, 2009

Listen! And Asian Ribs

From time to time I suffer a bout of insomnia. Sometimes I can't fall asleep at all and other times I fall asleep, but wake up continuously. A few years ago I found a solution that works well for me. It's a form of self-hypnosis, I suppose, because it involves keeping your mind on something other than the fact that you're not sleeping.

It works like this. I make lists in sets of ten. It doesn't matter what the topic of the lists is, but ten seems to be the magic number (and you must be laying down with your eyes closed; sitting in a kitchen chair and writing them on paper won't work). I will list ten songs I like, ten places I'd like to go, ten foods I hate or anything else that comes to mind. When I start needing my fingers to keep track of what number I'm on, I know I'm on the verge of sleep. I can't remember ever making more than three lists before drifting off.

Recently, I tried making a list of ten sounds that I like. It took quite a bit of concentration because, think about it, how much do you pay attention to sounds? Other than music or listening to others speak, sounds tend to be in the background. You hear them but you don't pay much attention to them. Singling out the ones you like best isn't easy, but here's what I came up with, in no particular order:

  1. The whirr of a fishing pole being cast and then the lure plunking into the water.

  2. The ringing of church bells.

  3. A cat purring.

  4. The clip clop of a horse trotting.

  5. The pop of a cork being removed from a wine bottle.

  6. The sizzle of food on the grill.

  7. The pop and crackle of wood burning in a bon fire.

  8. The roar of the ocean.

  9. The patter of rain falling.

  10. The tinkling of the seashells rolling against each other as the tide rolls out.

What sounds do you enjoy?

Asian Ribs

I've made all sorts of barbeque style ribs, but yesterday, I made Asian style ribs for the first time. They were so delicious that I just had to blog about them. The recipe comes from Allrecipes and can be found here.

They were falling off the bone tender. I served them with sesame noodles and green beans. We got a little crazy and sprinkled sesame seeds (which I should have toasted, but forgot) over everything.

I don't think I could ever get sick of barbeque style ribs, but these were so delicious that I will definitely make them again and again.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bertha Who? And Sunday Brunch With A Shout Out

I was telling the kids, recently, that I used to live down the street from a girl named Bertha. I was about four years old at the time and Bertha was a teenager. I didn't really know her, but I knew her name. I remember that, when she walked by, my friends and I would say "Bertha, Bertha Butt, she's one of the Butt Sisters" and she would laugh, but I never knew why. When I told this story to the kids, they thought it was hysterical.

Last night, my son decided to search the "Bertha saying" on Google to see what would come up. To his surprise and mine, it was part of the lyrics to a song by the Jimmy Castor Bunch. There's even a video. Of course, Mr. Willoughby, who I swear knows every song ever written, knew it right away and could have solved this mystery had I told him the story.

I can only assume that the older kids starting quoting this song and my friends and I picked it up from them, because I don't think I was listening this kind of music when I was four. Do you remember this song?

Sunday Brunch

We don't have a chance to have a family breakfast together very often, so we love to have Sunday Brunch when we can. We don't worry too much about fat, calories, sodium or cholesterol since we don't eat like this every day.

On today's menu was bacon, Breakfast Potatoes, and omelets. I cooked the bacon and potatoes, and Mr. Willoughby made bacon and cheese omelets as well as crab stuffed omelets. He makes the most delicious, beautiful omelets so I always leave this job to him.

The recipe for the breakfast potatoes came from Rachel's blog at Rachel vs. "The Kitchen". If you haven't been to Rachel's blog lately, you need to check it out. She has amazing recipes. The potatoes were extremely easy and incredibly delicious. The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute a little bit of bacon grease for the olive oil. Thanks for the great recipe, Rachel!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Bar Is Open

Yes, mateys, we're continuing the pirate theme tonight. Captain Willoughby and I have created a new and potent drink that we hope you like.

Pegleg Willoughby
  • 1 1/2 ounces coconut rum
  • 1/2 ounce Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 6 ounces cola
  • ice

Mix coconut rum and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and pour into an ice filled glass. Top with cola.

Enjoy your Pegleg Willoughby responsibly, please mateys! If you start walking as if you have a pegleg, you've had too many. Unless, of course, you have a pegleg!

Happy Saturday Night!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh The Humility!

It probably comes as no surprise that I do stupid things from time to time because I've often blogged about them. There was the time I thought the bleach in the washing machine had disintegrated my laundry, and the time I took the expired coffee creamer to work. I also misread a recipe, once, and added 1/4 cup of baking soda instead of 1/4 teaspoon (this produces bubbling lava when baked, not bar cookies). If those weren't stupid enough for you, here's a few more:
  • When I was in middle school, I signed up for intramural racquetball. A bus took the group of us from school to the indoor racquetball club which was a few miles away. Some of the kids were really excited when we got there, oohing and ahhing, but I was trying to be cool so I headed for the stairs to the locker rooms. In the uncoolest way possible, I caught my foot on the top step and slid all the way down the stairs on my knees.

  • I was sending away for some free offers I had found in a magazine. Each request required you send a self addressed, stamped envelope. I got distracted while I was putting the requests together and didn't notice that I had put them together backward. I put the envelopes addressed to the companies inside the envelopes addressed to me. A few days later, all of my self addressed envelopes came back to me with the requests still inside. Exactly as I had mailed them!

  • I was on Facebook this afternoon (I'm still learning how to use it) when I noticed a picture of someone my husband works with listed as someone I might want to add to my friends list. My Facebook page is for my blog so it doesn't have my name attached to it anywhere and I couldn't figure out how it had connected this man with me. I thought Facebook was psychic until I remembered that I had searched for friends by using the listings in my email address book.

  • While walking into work one day, a gust of wind made a mess of my hair. A coworker told me she had some hairspray in her office if I would like to borrow it. I got it out of her desk and used it to tame my windblown hair. It seemed very wet and didn't do much to hold my hair in place. When I took a closer look at the bottle I noticed I had sprayed my hair, not with her hairspray, but her lens cleaner.

  • Someone had brought some delicious looking bagels to a potluck brunch, so I decided to have a cinnamon raisin bagel with strawberry cream cheese. It tasted so bad that I was certain the strawberry cream cheese was spoiled. I went back to the table to look at the container and realised my mistake. I had assumed it was strawberry flavored because it was pink, but it was actually salmon flavored. Trust me when I tell you that fish, cinnamon and raisins is not a good combination.

It's Friday so I'll be back later to open the bar. Hope to see you then!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Sporting Good Time And Some Shout Outs

It feels like fall in our neck of the woods. Not only because it never got above 65 degrees today, but because we spent our evening at a football game. Tonight was the first JV football game of the season. Our son is number 58.

He plays nose and a few other positions on the line.

He's out there somewhere! He played a great game and had two amazing tackles. It was a home game, so his team really wanted to start the season with a win. This was the score four minutes into the second quarter.

His team scored one more touchdown before the end of the game. The final score was 46 - 0. Not a bad way to end his first game, wouldn't you say? We couldn't have been more proud of him!

Shout Outs

I follow so many great blogs that I'm having a hard time keeping up with all of them. If I haven't commented on your blog lately, I'm sorry! I haven't forgotten about you, I'm just trying to get caught up. I do need to give some shout outs to a few of my blog friends for some special reasons.

The first shout out goes to Amy at The House Of Seven Tails. She accepted my challenge and posted a wonderful time travel blog that you must read. She did an exceptional job of bringing her time period to life.

The second shout out goes to Deidra at Jumping Tandem. She is celebrating the one year anniversary of her blog with a fun giveaway. Drop in and say hello to be eligible to win. Deidra has such beautiful and captivating posts, I'm sure you'll love her blog as much as I do.

The third shout out goes to Purple Hoodie Chick. She just started a new blog called Wireman Says... to share her love of reading with the blog community. Stop by and say hi!

Monday, August 24, 2009

For The Love Of Coffee

I love coffee. It's the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning. Depending on my schedule for the day, I either head straight for the shower or straight for the coffee maker as soon as my feet hit the floor.

I was a teenager the first time I ever made a pot of coffee myself. We had an automatic coffee maker at home, but I had never been the one to make the coffee, so I had no idea how much to add. There was a measuring scoop in the can and I assumed I should use one scoop for each cup of coffee. The machine made 12 cups, so I assumed I should add 12 scoops. The basket was so full I couldn't close the lid all the way. Once the water started to pump through, the whole thing overflowed hot water and coffee grounds all over the counter top.

I didn't drink coffee on a daily basis until I started working full time. After the first few days at my new job it became clear that the morning coffee ritual was an important social event among my coworkers. There were unwritten rules for being part of the "coffee club", though. If you were the first person in the office in the morning, you were expected to turn on the coffee maker. If you took the last cup, you were expected to make a new pot unless it was close to the end of the day. In that case you were expected to set the coffee maker up for the next morning. The boss kicked in the money for the coffee, but everyone else in the club took turns going to the store to buy it. Money was collected separately for sugar and creamer.

I said yes immediately when I was asked if I wanted to join the coffee club. I was anxious to fit in with my coworkers. They were already suspicious of me because human resources had made a mistake setting my start date at the time they hired me. The department wasn't expecting me for another two weeks so they didn't have a cubicle or supplies ready for me yet and my boss was on vacation so I had no one to train me. The department head decided to put me in the absent boss's office until my cubicle was completed and give me past month's work to review. This, apparently, led everyone to assume I was a spy from human resources. No one told me that at the time, but I got a lot of curious glances as I sat in the boss's chair and reviewed spreadsheets and reports.

On the first morning that I was part of the coffee club, I tried to time it so that I would get my coffee as some of my coworkers were getting theirs. Instead of pleasant morning conversation, I walked into a debate over who was supposed to bring in more powdered creamer. "I'll bring it in tomorrow morning", I volunteered. It seemed to be fairly effective because I was then included in the conversation and, later in the day, asked to go to lunch with the group.

I hadn't gotten my first paycheck yet, and didn't have a dime to my name, but I was still living at home and knew we had three huge unopened containers of creamer . My grandma, who had a tendency to stockpile things, had given them to my mom because she was running out of room in her pantry. I put them in my car as soon as I got home so I wouldn't forget to take them to work the next day.

When I brought them in, I made an announcement to everyone in the coffee club that there was now a fresh supply of creamer in the coffee room. I made made sure everyone knew I had provided enough for a month or two. I was sure this would score me some points with my new buddies.

Later that day, one of the club members poked her head in my temporary office and asked where I did my grocery shopping. I told her the name of the store and then asked why she wanted to know. She suggested that I let the manager know their stock was outdated. It seems the creamer I had brought in expired in 1977. This was August, 1986. Score one for the new girl!

I fessed up about where I had gotten the creamer and everyone got a good laugh out of it. For the next five years that I worked in that department, I was ribbed about it. Any time I brought in supplies for the coffee room, someone would make a big deal out of checking the expiration dates on the containers. It wasn't the impression I had intended to make, but it turned out to be the ice breaker I needed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Bar Is Open

Aye, mateys! The plank, errr, bar is open. If you haven't guessed, we have a pirate theme going tonight. Captain Willoughby and I have created a drink that we think you will enjoy. It's like a root beer float for grown-up pirates.

Shipwreck Willoughby's
  • 1 1/2 ounces Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
  • 3/4 ounce Irish Cream
  • 6 ounces root beer
  • ice
For each drink, mix Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, Irish Cream and root beer together by stirring gently. Pour into an ice filled glass (if your root beer is icy cold, you can skip the ice).

Enjoy your Shipwreck Willoughby's responsibly, mateys! Happy Friday!

Are you up to my challenge? If you haven't seen it, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Challenge! Where Would You Go?

I've finally gotten some long overdue tasks done and I'm determined to keep the "get it done" attitude going. This morning, I used bribery with myself. I was looking at the onscreen preview guide and saw that some good movies were coming on. I decided I could watch a movie or two as long as I was doing something productive while I watched.

One of the movies was Somewhere In Time. The preview guide called it "earnest and hokey". I've seen it dozens of times and I've never found it to be hokey. I think it's a wonderful story with gorgeous scenery. I think I like it so much because I like the idea of time travel. I don't believe it's possible, but I love the notion of it.

Time travel is a common theme among some of my favorite movies and television shows. Besides Somewhere In Time, I love the movies Frequency, A Christmas Carol, Back To The Future, The Butterfly Effect, Groundhog Day (more stuck in time than time travel), The Lake House, The Langoliers, Meet The Robinsons, Time After Time, Twelve Monkeys, and Peggy Sue Got Married. Quantum Leap is one of my favorite television shows, though it's not on anymore. And I can't possibly forget the Twilight Zone, especially the episode A Stop At Willoughby! I haven't seen the new movie The Time Travelers Wife, but I certainly plan to. I'm debating whether to read the book first.

If some day, time travel were possible, I wonder where, or should I say when, in time I would like to go. This sounds like a challenge! Here are the rules: You will stay in the time and place you choose for 24 hours, and you can interact with anyone, but you may not alter history in any way (meaning you can't prevent a death, stop an event from happening or introduce items/ideas not available in that time). Creativity is highly encouraged! If you accept this challenge but don't want to post it to your own blog, feel free to share your time travel story in my comment section.

So where and when would I go? I thought about this a lot. I wanted to choose something a little unexpected. I wanted to go somewhere outside of my lifetime, but in a time period that I know a little about so I wouldn't be entirely surprised by my surroundings. I wanted to see people or a place that would be meaningful to me in some way. I finally decided that I would like to go back 141 years from today (100 years before I was born) to the very place I sit to create my blog every day.


The date would be August 20, 1868 in a small town (possibly before it had a name) in Michigan. The exact location, I believe, would be a farmer's field. This house was built in the early 1860's but it was moved at some point, so I'll have to wander around until I find it. I expect that the town itself will have a small dirt road running through it with a few businesses on either side. I think I may find a blacksmith, a general store and maybe a bar or saloon. Train tracks run through our small town in the present, so I wonder if I might find a train station. I'm fairly certain there will be a school and probably a church or two.

I expect to see men dressed in work clothes because this is a farming community, and the women to be wearing dresses. Fancy clothes, I believe, would be saved for church on Sunday and special events like weddings and funerals. I think it will be common to see people riding through town on horses or in buggies and wagons pulled by horses.

Talk of the civil war is probably still common. It's been over for three years and I'm certain it's still fresh in the minds of those who served and those who waited and worried about them. Andrew Johnson is the president, though he's at the end of his term. Ulysses S. Grant will take his place in eight months.

Mark Twain hasn't written Tom Sawyer yet, but a wonderful new book called Little Women is available as is the new Jules Verne novel In Search of the Castaways. Laura Ingalls Wilder hasn't even dreamed of the books she will someday write as she's only 18 months old. Trade cards, an early form of baseball cards, are becoming popular. If I could bring one back to 2009, I might be able to sell it for $20,000 or better in like new condition. For those who enjoy sheet music, In The Sweet By And By and Ten Little Injuns are new choices.

I hope to spend my day visiting with the family that lived in my house at that time. I also hope to see how the community I now call home got it's start. I expect to be impressed by the tenacity and ingenuity of the people who lived their lives with so much less, and in some ways, so much more than we have today. I expect to be humbled by them and I expect leaving to be a bittersweet experience.


Now it's your turn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Wonderful Surprise And A New Attitude

I walked outside to water my plants and found a wonderful surprise waiting for me on my front porch. It was a package from my friend Joanna at The Fifty Factor. Joanna and I became acquainted when she spotted the name of my blog a while back. You see, Joanna is from Willoughby, Ohio, the inspiration for the idyllic town in The Twilight Zone episode A Stop At Willoughby. That episode is, of course, the inspiration for the name of my blog. What a wonderful coincidence, don't you think?

On a recent trip back to Willoughby, Joanna picked up some souvenirs for me.

I love this poster! I'd like to frame it and hang it in my office.

A calendar of summer events in downtown Willoughby and two flyers for the Last Stop Willoughby festival. One side has information, the other side looks like a ticket.
A City of Willoughby totebag! I've been needing a new totebag and I can't imagine finding one that I love as much as this one.

Isn't Joanna the best? If you haven't visited her blog, The Fifty Factor, you really should. I know you'll like it as much as I do.

A New Attitude

I'll admit it, I've gotten a little lazy, lately. I'm guilty of starting things and not finishing them. I'll get the laundry done, but it will sit in baskets waiting to be put away. I cleaned out the bird feeder, but I haven't refilled it yet. It seems everywhere I look there is something that needs to be done that I'm casually putting off.

What's happened to me and how did I get this way? I like things neat, clean and organized. I like to make lists and check off what I've accomplished. When did I become such a slacker? Can I blame it on summer?

Enough is enough! I've got to get back on track and prioritize. I've got to adopt a new "get it done" instead of "I'll do it later" attitude. I've got to improve my time management skills. Why am I telling you this? Because I've heard that you are 50% more likely to do something if you write it down. I'm also hoping that I'm not the only one who has slacked off a little.

I don't want to be June Cleaver (I don't think she would float margaritas in her pool, after all), I just want to feel on top of my game again. So who's with me? Anyone else suffering from this mysterious malady? And if you're not, do you want to drop by and put away my laundry and fill my bird feeder?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Panic At The Flea Market, Great Grillin' And Some Improv

Panic At The Flea Market

Going to the flea market used to be a Sunday tradition, but we've had so many projects going on around here that we've been skipping it. Yesterday, though, we thought we should start bringing the tradition back. After all, the flea market only runs through October and that will be here soon enough.

The temperature was climbing and we didn't get out the door as early as we had planned. By the time we got there, it was in the upper 80's and the humidity was high. There wasn't a cloud in the sky for the sun to hide behind. You could break a sweat just by standing still.

We had made our way around the outer perimeter and down one row of vendors. As we started down the second row, our daughter said she was too hot to keep walking. I knew she was disappointed that she hadn't gotten a new video game at one of the booths, so I thought she was just being pouty and I didn't take it too seriously. After a few more steps she again said she couldn't walk any farther, but this time we noticed she had gone very pale. Clearly, she wasn't being pouty, she was sick. Just as my husband reached out to pick her up, she folded in half. He grabbed her before she could hit the ground.

We carried her to a concession area while people looked at us curiously. She and I sat down at a picnic table while my husband got her a cold drink. She took a few sips and then we carried her to the car and left with the air conditioning blaring.

She was fine after that. By the time we had finished lunch, her color had come back and she said she felt good. She stayed indoors most of the day because we had the air conditioning on and we didn't want her to get over heated again. I think it was just a case of being overcome by the heat. It was scary when it happened, though.

Great Grillin'

The heat and humidity never let up, but it was still a great day to grill. We decided we wanted to make something fun for dinner, and what's more fun than mini burgers? We used ground chuck, and instead of rolling it into meatball sized balls and flattening them, Mr. Willoughby spread the meat into a large rectangle on a cookie sheet. He then cut it into rectangles, the way you would slice a pan of brownies and put them on the grill. We used small brown and serve style buttermilk rolls as buns and created a topping buffet with condiments, cheese, onions and mushrooms.
We all enjoyed having several little burgers instead of one big burger because you could create completely different toppings on each one. We also decided that cutting the meat into rectangles would be a fast way to make regular sized burgers for a crowd. It's much faster than hand shaping each patty.

Some Improv

I picked up a new variety of marshmallows yesterday, chocolate and vanilla swirl. I had never heard of them before, so as soon as I saw them, I knew I had to get them. We had been planning to have a fire in the fire pit and I thought they might be fun to toast.

It was still awfully hot and muggy last night, so we decided against having a fire. We had been excited about trying the new marshmallows, though, so a little improvisation was needed.

We used wooden skewers and toasted them over the flame on the gas cooktop.
Yes, the one in the picture is mine. I did get a little carried away and held it over the flame for a bit too long while I was trying to get a picture. It became engulfed in flames while I was zooming in. It was still tasty, though!

For my own piece of mind, I must remind you that, if you're crazy enough to do this in your own kitchen, be extremely careful. Children (and adults trying to take pictures) should be carefully supervised!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Bar Is Open

The pool theme continues with tonight's drink. It's essentially a Lemon Drop Martini, but we've made it a touch sweeter and renamed it.

Teeny Weeny Bikini Martini

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka

  • 1/2 ounce Triple Sec

  • 2 teaspoons simple syrup*

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice

  • Ice cubes

Pour vodka, triple sec, simple syrup and lemon juice into an ice filled cocktail shaker. Shake well to combine. Strain into sugar rimmed martini glass. Recipe yields one martini.

Please enjoy your Teeny Weeny Bikini Martini responsibly! Happy Friday, everyone!

*Simple Syrup is equal parts sugar and water mixed together, brought to a boil for three minutes, then cooled.

Just For Fun And A Shout Out

I spent about an hour writing a post about the future this morning. It was about the flying cars, robot maids and unisex silver jumpsuits that we all expected to have by now. Remember when the year 2000 sounded exotic and far away? Well, when I was all done, I looked it over, decided it wasn't that interesting and deleted it. Surprised? Don't be. I do it all the time.

I've decided it would be fun to take yesterday's timeline and flip it. Instead of looking into the past, let's take a peek at the future. We'll use the same date from the timeline through the past.

Here we go:

August 12, 2009 - Our children are 9 and 16. My husband and I have been married for 20 years. We've been living in our current home for 13 years. My husband has been working for a major communication company for 15 years.

August 12, 2010 - Our children are 10 and 17. Our daughter will soon be starting her first year in middle school while our son will be starting his last year in high school. We're still working on building the pool deck we started in 2009.

August 12, 2014 - Our children are 14 and 21. My husband and I have been married for 25 years. My husband has taken an early retirement on his 30th anniversary at the communication company. He now has time to finish that pool deck we started in 2009.

August 12, 2019 - Our children are 19 and 26. Our daughter will soon be starting her second year in art school, and displaying her class projects at upscale galleries. Our son will be entering the last phase of training to become a psychiatrist and playing bass with his increasingly popular band. We're considering tearing down the above ground pool and pool deck to install an inground pool. I've finally started writing that book I've always wanted to write.

August 12, 2024 - Our children are 24 and 31. Our daughter has become an accomplished artist. Our son has a successful psychiatry practice and tours with his band in his spare time. I'm writing the second chapter of the book I started.

August 12, 2029 - Our children are 29 and 36. My husband and I have been married for 40 years. We're living in a beach house on the Atlantic ocean that we bought with the earnings from my best selling book and complaining that the kids don't visit often enough. We're thinking of putting in a pool......

I encourage you to make your own timeline, past or future, because it's fun.


**Just for the record, our daughter does want to be an artist and our son plays bass in a band and is planning a career in psychiatry. I didn't want you to think this was all fiction!

A Shout Out

I wanted to give a shout out to one of my newest blog friends, Kathy, at Two Hands Full Of Daisies. She posted a recipe for deviled eggs that I knew I had to try as soon as I saw it. It looked so good, in fact, that I made them that afternoon. Why no pictures, you ask? Because they didn't last long enough. We loved them! Thanks, Kathy!


I'll be back later to open the bar. I hope to see you then!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I made Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce and Chicken Parmesan for dinner last night. It's not a difficult meal to prepare, but it does require the oven and multiple burners on the cooktop so it heats up the kitchen. After dinner, it was still awfully warm inside, so I left all of the dishes right where there were and my husband and I went outside to sit on the back porch and cool off.

We had eaten rather late, so it was already dark outside. Our neighborhood was uncharacteristically quiet and the only sounds were that of the crickets chirping and the faint whoosh of cars passing by on Main Street. It was a perfect summer evening, the sort that you dream about in the middle of February.

I asked my husband what he thought we might have been doing at that exact moment one year ago. Had we been sitting in the same place enjoying similarly beautiful weather? Had I made the same meal for dinner? What about five years ago? How about 10, 15, and 20 years ago?

I know I've taken a walk down memory lane more than once in recent posts, but looking at your life and the world in five year increments fascinated me. Have you ever thought about it that way before? Some things change so gradually that you hardly notice the difference from one year to the next, but when you look at five year intervals things can be dramatically different.

My timeline, starting with yesterday, then one year ago and then jumping five years at a time, looks something like this:

August 12, 2009 - Our children are 9 and 16. My husband and I have been married for 20 years. We've been living in our current home for 13 years. My husband has been working for a major communication company for 15 years.

August 12, 2008 - Our children are 8 and 15. Our son has begun counting the days until he turns 16 and gets his drivers license. In two short months, my brother in law, Gordy, will lose his life in a house fire. You can't turn on the television without seeing a dozen political advertisements.

August 12, 2004 - Our children are 4 and 11. Our daughter will be starting preschool in a month and our son will be starting his second year in middle school. This is our dog Molly's last summer, but of course, we don't know that. The top grossing movie is Shrek 2.

August 12, 1999 - Our son is 6 and I'm pregnant with our daughter, but we don't know it yet. My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We're in the planning stage of some major renovations to our house. The number one song in the US is Genie In A Bottle by Christina Aguilera.

August 12, 1994 - Our son is 19 months old. My husband has just started working for a national communication company. We're living in a beautiful house in Detroit, but the neighborhood is so bad that I can't take our son outside unless my husband is home. We're considering getting a dog as a family pet. This is my maternal grandmother's last summer, but we don't know that. The number one television show is Friends.

August 12, 1989 - We've been married for four months, still newlyweds. We're living in an apartment in the suburbs about a mile from the house I grew up in. I'm working as a tax specialist for a major retailer, where I will also work as a legal assistant in the near future. My husband is working at the corporate offices of a lumber company. My paternal grandmother has recently passed away. Tomorrow, the Sega Genesis will be released in North America.

How does your timeline look? Looking at mine makes me appreciate today and the people I love all that much more.


Special note to Joanna - You're so thoughtful! I've sent you an email with my address. Thank you for thinking of me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For Sale

Now that we have the new pool up and running, we want to get rid of the quick set pool we were using before. Of course the first thing we thought to do was to put an ad on craigslist. I know it's getting late in the season for a pool, but we're finally getting some hot weather and I thought there might be someone interested in it. The pool is in excellent shape and comes with some extras we purchased separately so it's more than complete. I decided to price it at about a third of what we paid for it. I placed the ad and sat back and waited for responses.

For the first few day, no one seemed interested, but as soon as the temperature went up, the emails started rolling in. Out of fairness, I contacted the responders in order to make arrangements for pick up.

Responder number one was excited to come and get it and would get right back to me for my address. I waited and waited, sent a few emails to her, and waited some more. Finally, I told her I would need to contact the next person on the list if I didn't hear back from her within a certain amount of time. When I didn't hear from her, I contacted person number two. An hour later person number one said she was still interested and would come and get it right away. Too late, I've already contacted someone else. Before I could tell her that, she sent an email rescinding her offer.

I received an email right away from person number two. She wanted to come and get it that evening. I sent her my address and waited. She never showed. The next day she said she would definitely come some time that evening. I asked her to let me know when to expect her. She never responded and never showed. This pattern continued until I had gone through every responder on the list. I finally stopped checking my email every hour and contemplated removing the ad from craigslist.

Yesterday, though, I got another email from a woman who would like the pool for her kids. It's larger than the one she has, but she doesn't want to pay what I'm asking. In fact, she wants to pay about half. I'll think about it.

This morning, I found another person interested in the pool, but his email is the best so far. He wants to know if I have some sort of guarantee policy (huh?, I'm not a store) that the pool does not leak. If I can provide said guarantee, he may be able to send someone out this week to take a look at it because they want to use it for jello wrestling at their fraternity. Nice.

Now I remember why I stopped placing ads on craigslist.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Water Hazard And Willoughby's Wonderful Things

Water Hazard

We had thunderstorms on Saturday and the temperature was around 70 degrees. Not exactly optimal swimming weather. Sunday, however, was perfect for spending some quality time in the pool. It was sunny and 93 degrees and the water looked like this (yes, that's actually our pool).

So we all got our swimsuits on and got in. The water was a little on the cold side, but we got used to it in no time. After about an hour, we decided to get out and sit in the sun for a while. The kids had other things to do, so they disappeared, and Mr. Willoughby and I got back in the pool, which we had all to ourselves.

We swam around for a while and then decided to do a little floating. Mr. Willoughby's floatation device of choice was one of these (not our actual rafts).

While I opted for one of these.

(No, that is not Mr. Willoughby and I in the picture. We look much better in our swimsuits than those two slackers! You believe me, don't you?)

The sun was warm and without anyone splashing around, the water was calm. We floated and talked for a while and then it happened.....we fell asleep!!! The hazardous part here is not that we were in any danger of drowning, becoming entrapped in our floatation devices, being swept away by a rip tide (it's a pool, not the ocean), or capsizing. As I've told you before, we live on the corner and our yard and pool are fairly visible from the street. We were in imminent danger of being spotted by neighbors and anyone passing by while we snored (not that I snore) and drooled (not that I drool) our way around the pool.

I have no idea how long our snooze lasted, but our son came out to ask if we were ever getting out of the pool. He said we had been in there for "five hours" (I believe this to be an exaggeration). We finally relented and dragged ourselves out.

The lesson to be learned, here, my friends is that warm sunny days combined with ridiculously comfortable floatation devices can be hazardous to your dignity. I don't remember seeing that warning printed on the box.

Willoughby's Wonderful Things

I have two food items to share with you, today. One is a wonderful spice blend you may or may not have tried and the other is a wonderfully fast, easy and delicious recipe.

Penzey's Spices is one of my favorite places to get quality dried herbs and spices. We don't have a store nearby, but I've been ordering from their catalog from years. They have nearly every herb and spice you've ever heard (and some you haven't) as well as a huge assortment of their own blends. Ozark Style Seasoning (above) is one of my favorites. I've used it in all sorts of things, but my favorite is baked chicken. Sprinkle some on the skin of the chicken pieces before baking and you'll get a taste reminiscent of fried chicken without the added fat. You can place orders on their website, but I encourage you to order their catalog. It's free, has recipes and suggested uses for their products, and often has a coupon attached. Their Ozark Style Seasoning, especially, is a wonderful thing.

We don't have dessert very often, but last night I was craving something sweet so I thought I'd whip something up. Of course, I didn't decide this until about 20 minutes before dinner was ready so I needed something that I could prepare quickly. These brownies fit the bill. I had them ready for the oven in under 10 minutes. They're not only quick and easy to prepare, they're also delicious. They're a little less dense than some recipes, but still fudgey and not at all cakey. One of my favorite things about them is that they don't sink in the middle so they maintain a uniform thickness.

Fantastically Quick Brownies
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

In medium saucepan, melt butter. Let cool for one minute. Add sugar, cocoa, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well, making sure eggs are completely incorporated. Add flour, salt and baking powder, mix until well combined. Pour batter in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 28 minutes. Cool before cutting into bars.

Enjoy them, they're wonderful!

Monday, August 10, 2009


While I was enjoying my coffee this morning, I read an article about warehouse shopping and whether or not it's a good deal. The stores they mentioned were BJ's, Costco and Sam's Club. The article wasn't very decisive, it basically said you can save money depending on what you buy. It was the reader comments that followed the article that were the most puzzling to me, however. More than one reader claimed that they could spend $300 on food items and not have enough for more than one meal. Huh?

If you read my blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of Sam's Club. We don't have a BJ's or Costco nearby, so I don't know much about their merchandise or prices, but we shop at Sam's Club about twice a month. Three hundred dollars, for us, would buy enough food for three weeks or more worth of meals. What did these people spend their money on? I supposed if you were lured into buying a lot of snacks and frozen convenience foods you wouldn't have many meals, but wouldn't you know that as you were piling these items into your cart?

A while back, I posted a list of bargains from Sam's Club (click here if you missed it), so today I want to share a few tips I use for warehouse shopping. Do you care? Maybe, maybe not, but we save about 50% compared to shopping at the supermarket, so if I can help you do the same, it's worthwhile.
  • I always hear that you should make a list and stick to it to avoid buying things you don't need. I may jot down a few things I don't want to forget, but I don't usually make a complete list. I don't even make a meal plan before I go. I know that if I buy things like chicken, shrimp, ground beef, and pork tenderloin I'll be able to use them in dozens of recipes. The same is true with baby carrots, potatoes, pasta, canned tomato products and assorted cheeses.
  • I expect to freeze most of the meat I buy as soon as I get home from the store. Other than what I'm going to prepare for dinner that night, it all goes in the freezer. Sometimes I break things down into meal sized portions before freezing, sometimes I'm lazy and just throw the whole package in the freezer. The defrost setting on my microwave works really well, so I don't worry about planning meals days in advance.
  • Frozen prepared foods come in big boxes, so if I'm going to buy any, I have to take into consideration the amount of available freezer space I have. We're not big fans of most of them, anyway, so it's not usually a problem but we do occasionally buy frozen pizzas or tequitos. Right now, I have a box of frozen soft pretzels (my son's request) taking up an entire shelf of the freezer.
  • I expect to buy an impulse item each time we shop at Sam's. Sometimes we'll sample something we really like and decide to buy it. Once it was crab cakes, another time it was smoked sausage. If you limit yourself to one or two, you won't blow your budget.
  • I know that I will still have to make a trip to the supermarket to pick up a few things I can't get at Sam's Club or for things I don't want to buy in large quantities. It's usually minimal, though.
  • The optical department at Sam's Club has great prices and their optometrists are wonderful. We always get my daughters glasses there. Also, if you buy their glass cleaner (for eye glasses, not windows), you get free refills forever.

If you have any great tips for shopping at warehouse clubs, please feel free to share them in my comment section. And if you've spent $300 on food, but can't make more than one meal, we need to talk!

Friday, August 7, 2009

At Long Last, The Bar Is Open

I posted a recipe for Mixed Berry Margaritas that was made with frozen mixed berries a while back. They are spectacular, but if you don't have frozen berries on hand, you're out of luck. This recipe is equally wonderful, but uses frozen condensed mixed berry punch (in the freezer section of your supermarket next to frozen orange juice and lemon juice). Take a guess where I took the picture!

Mixed Berry Margaritas

  • 12 oz. can frozen mixed berry punch

  • 3 oz. tequila

  • 12 oz. ice (use the empty can to measure)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into salt rimmed margarita glasses.

Enjoy your Mixed Berry Margarita responsibly, please!

*The picture was taken in the new pool (as if you hadn't guessed that!). I promise you, the water is much clearer than it looks in the picture.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Time Passes

It's a simple fact that you become a legal adult in the US when you turn 21. For me, that was March 18, 1989. I can't say that anything magical happened on that day to make me feel more mature or adult in any way. I remember when it really hit me that I was an adult, but it didn't have anything to do with turning 21, having a job and earning my own money, getting married, paying bills, ordering a drink in a restaurant or anything you might expect.

The moment it hit me that I was an adult was during dinner with some friends of ours. This was shortly after we were married and they had come to our apartment for the evening. We were enjoying some pleasant conversation when the topic turned to bathroom cleaners. We discussed which ones worked best and the attributes of spray versus foam and paper towel versus sponges. Like being hit with a ton of bricks, I realised that only adults would talk about cleaning toilets and tile with the same enthusiasm once reserved for such topics as movies and music. I may have been an adult before that day, but that was when I really took notice of it.

A lot of time has passed since then, twenty years to be exact, and I'm amazed at how quickly it's gone by. When I think of all the things that have changed and all of the big events and little events that we've lived through, it's incredible. It seems to be true that the older you get, the faster time goes by. There are still times when I have to remind myself that I'm an adult. When I'm talking about music with my son, for example, it makes me feel a little bit like a teenager again. Or when I play with my daughter I get to be nine for a little while. But then I think of how many bottles of bathroom cleaner I've been through in the last twenty years and I'm an adult again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spilling The Beans

I was going to wait until it was easier to post some pictures to spill the beans on our yard project, but I changed my mind. We're about two thirds of the way through summer and I hate to wait any longer to give you the details of our project in case it might inspire you to do something similar.

So what did we do? We put in a pool! Everyone in the Willoughby house loves the water and we've talked about getting a pool for the longest time, but it just wasn't in the budget. We've always had a quick set type pool (you know the kind with the inflatable top ring) and used it a lot, but it wasn't the same as having a real pool.

An inground pool would have been ideal, but was a little out of the budget, so we had been talking about an above ground pool since last year. Initially, I balked at the idea because I didn't think it would look very attractive in our yard. Once we came up with the idea of adding a surrounding pool deck and landscaping, I was sold. Our back yard is huge so we were sure we would have plenty of room.

I should stop here and tell you about the cost because you may be thinking that even an above ground pool can be pretty expensive. True, it can be. Our pool is 24 feet long by 15 feet wide and 52 inches deep. Along with the mechanical systems, winter cover and solar cover our pool could cost thousands of dollars in a swimming pool showroom. So what did we pay? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. We had to buy sand to put underneath it which came to about sixty dollars. Other than that, it was all just labor. An older couple had purchased a house with this pool in the backyard and were giving it away in exchange for taking it down and hauling it out of their backyard. It also had a wood deck that surrounded approximately half of the pool that had to be taken down (some of which we will be able to reuse). We found their ad on craigslist and contacted them right away. We were the first responders so it was ours! It took two full days of work and multiple trips to get the pool and deck dismantled and brought back to our house (it was nearly and hour drive between their house and ours). That was the end of project number one.

Project number two was to carefully dismantle the gigantic wood playscape in our yard. We built it eleven years ago, but the kids are too old for it now and it was in the exact spot where we wanted to put the pool. Also, we wanted to save the wood and reuse as much as we could for the deck around the pool. We thought it would be a fairly quick and easy project, but it wasn't. Most of the screws stripped out when we tried to remove them and the bolts that attached the uprights to the structure had to be cut out.

Project number three was to unload six truck loads of sand onto a tarp in the driveway. The company we bought it from is less than a mile away from our house, but would have charged more for delivery than the sand itself cost so Mr. Willoughby hauled it in his pick up. Because of the weight, he could only pick up a half yard at a time. We needed 3 cubic yards, so it took six trips. The store had limited hours on that day which meant we had to work quickly to remove it so he could go back and pick up the next load. Between the two of us, we shoveled nearly 4 1/2 tons in a less than two hours.

Project number four was to prepare the site for the pool, which meant removing the grass and leveling the ground. It is preferable to dig down the high spots than to build up the low spots. If we had had access to a bobcat or skidsteer, this would have taken a few hours. We did it all by hand, one shovel at a time, and it took days. The kids helped a little, but for the most part it was just me and Mr. Willoughby. Remember when I told you we have lots of mature trees in our neighborhood? That also means lots of roots. They were far enough from the trees that they could be cut out without causing harm to the trees, but each one had to be chopped out with an axe so it took forever.

Project number five was to install the buttresses and outer ring of the pool. The buttresses support the weight of the water on the long sides of the pool and have to be partially buried in the ground. More digging, followed by measuring, squaring, adjusting and leveling.

Project number five was to pile the sand in the middle of the pool before the sides went up. We again moved 4 1/2 tons of sand with two shovels and a wheel barrow.

Project number six was to install the pool wall. This was, surprisingly, much easier than we thought it would be. We thought we would need extra help, but we managed fine with just the two of us.

Project seven was to spread out the sand within the pool walls before the liner was installed. It had to be coved and tamped down until it becomes firm. Mr. Willoughby did most of that himself to reduce the foot traffic over the sand.

Project number eight was to install the liner. This took three of us and went very quickly. It's a beautiful liner, by the way. It looks like mosaic tiles around the top and is speckled blue and white down the walls and along the bottom. Luckily it was not damaged when we initially dismantled the pool.

Project numbers nine, ten and eleven were to fill the pool with water, install the top rail and hook up the mechanical systems.

The next project is to build the deck surround, but we haven't had the time to do that yet. We have it planned out, and most of the wood will come from the playscape and the original pool deck, so we hope to start some time this week. After that, I'd like to do some landscaping around the base.

We've already been swimming in it at least a half dozen times. The water is on the chilly side (about 73 degrees), but we don't care! You would be surprised how fast your body gets used to it. We have a pool heater (also a freebie from craigslist) that we are going to try to convert from natural gas to propane so we can bring the temperature up a few degrees, but that's another project!

If I've inspired you to want to try this in your own yard, I would say it's a challenging project without the help of heavy equipment (sod cutter, bobcat, etc.), but certainly doable. Once you are swimming in it, it's all worth it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Here At Mission Control......And Some Random Musings

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, although I can't see anything on my screen, my computer is still working. The bad news is that, since it's a laptop, I can't easily swap out screens. The good news is that Purple Hoodie Chick let me borrow the monitor from her desktop computer (and thanks to my son who set it all up for me). The bad news is that some functions (picture files, data files, links, etc.) show up on the laptop monitor and have to be dragged onto the secondary monitor. More bad news, I can't see them well enough to click and drag! So, for the time being, it looks like NASA Mission Control around here with multiple monitors and cords all over the place, but at least I can still access my blog. I just won't be able to post pictures or clickable links for a while. I had planned to start giving you a peek at our yard projects, but without pictures, it won't be as much fun so I'll save it for another day.

Instead, let's talk about some random things I've been wondering about.
  • Why do some stores and restaurants have their phone number posted on their sign or above their entrance? If you can see the phone number, aren't you close enough to go in and ask your question or place your order? And if you're thinking it might be nice to call and place your carry out order later, can you really save the phone number to your cell phone while driving by at 40+ miles per hour?
  • Why do they post a sign saying "Bump" next to a large bump in the road? When you add up the cost of the sign, the post and the manpower to install it, wouldn't it be more cost effective to fix the bump?
  • How often do condiment containers in restaurants get cleaned?
  • Why do they ask you where you'll be going and what you'll be doing when you cross the border into Canada? Do I have to have a purpose or can I just come over and look around? And really, if I were there to commit a crime, would I tell the border agents?
  • Why are there instructions on shampoo bottles? Does anyone actually need instructions to wash their hair?
  • Why will my vacuum cleaner suck the fringe right off my rugs but it won't pick up crumbs in my kitchen?

Just wondering!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Was It A Prediction?

Remember in my last post when I uttered those immortal words, "It is what it is"? Well, I now have to say them again. Yesterday afternoon my computer screen started going dim and then turned to black. My husband is trying to diagnose the problem, as we don't know if the screen has burned out or the mother board is fried. Wouldn't you know this would happen just as I was ready to get back to posting my regular Friday Night Drink Demo? It was a good one, too!

Right now, I am using a borrowed computer, but I don't have access to my picture files so it may be a while until I am back to regular posting and commenting. I hope to be back before the weekend is out, but that will depend on whether we can fix what's wrong. What else can I say, but, it is what it is!