Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Which Mandi Gets A Wild Hair. Again.

My kids have a "playroom".  It's the pit of despair.  Don't even think of trying to escape.
Seriously it was just scary.  There will be a "before" shot over my dead body.  All my friends and neighbors who've seen this room are going,
"Yeah.  I've seen it.  It should be condemned."
It should've.  I hope that's descriptive enough of a "before".
as things go, I gave away a massive piece of furniture in that room, and I could suddenly see what the room could be.  What it should be.   And I had an idea.
These were the rules.
"The rules are there ain't no rules."
Sorry.  I love Grease.  There were rules:
1.  Spend zero money.  Every piece of lumber must come out of the garage.
2.  Get it done right away, get it cleaned up, and make it usable.
This is what we were working with:
this wall.
Now, normally, I don't approve of such moulding hate crimes,
but when you're making something more, then and only then is it okay for moulding removal. 
You know what this playroom closet needs?  A window.

And. . .. I certainly didn't expect a non-outer wall to have insulation in it.  That was a surprise.  All my kids one by one were like,
"Why is there cotton candy in there?"
"Hey, this looks like cotton candy in the wall!"
Don't eat the cotton candy, children.  It's "scratchy" flavored.
Regard that I also found the electrical wiring.  I'm getting really good at doing that lately.  I just pushed it to the side and moved on.
So, the window alone turned the dank, dark toy closet into something better.  Something new.
Don't worry.  The inside of the closet got a makeover, too.  Just shush.
So we need some siding, like a house, ya know?
and a roof.
And some paint, and some shingles, and a cute little sign to call it home.
I have a friend who actually free-handed that house sign.  She's awesome. I chose "Penny Lane" just so I could sing the song every time I saw it.  Because after all, it is in my ears, and in my eyes.  There beneath the blue suburban skies.    ( The house number is my daughter's b-day.)
The inside got a little makeover too, which totally isn't worth looking at.  It's just a fun little dress up spot I threw together.
I should have done this ages ago.   Instead of creepy, it's this fun, CLEAN, little hideaway, and so far, it's a hit.
Don't worry-- I didn't leave out my boys.  They got their own wall of awesome on the other side.  I'm just too lazy to clean it up for a decent picture.  I'll show ya as soon as I can talk someone else into cleaning it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Deck In A Day. It's The Family Way.

I have been working my Ay Ess Ess off the last little bit--
indoor projects, outdoor projects, other people's projects--

I'm tired, and apparently have been too busy to actually talk about them.  Well, now.  I wanna talk.  Let's talk.
I coerced the Daddy-o into allowing us all to help in getting his deck at the Lakehouse done. 
We were all gonna be there-- 8 able bodied adults--
and as we all know, many hands make light work.  N'est pas?
This was hard for the Daddy-o, as he is always a one-man show.  He does things all by himself, and he never asks for assistance.  He'll just figure out how to get it done on his own. 
His house?  Built it all by hisself.  With the exception of asking his father and father-in-law to help pull up the walls when they were ready to go.  It's his way.  It is the way of our people.
I'm proud of you, Daddy-o, for taking this huge step.
it wasn't really a deck in a day, as one of our trips to the lakehouse consisted only of digging and pouring the cement footings, BUT,
all the actual lumber and trex work was a 24 hour process.
So, um, do you need help getting your deck done?
'Cause at this point Jeffro and I are going semi-pro at it.  More Jeffro than me, really.  We all laid that trex until we couldn't see anymore.  And then we used flashlights to finish up the last few pieces. Oh yes, we dit-id.
You can see the deck is not actually connected to the lakehouse.  It's set up on the hill.  This is so you can watch people zipline past,
gaze up at the stars, and personally, what I've always wanted to do. . .
launch water balloons into the RV park down below.  Heh.  Heheheh.  Also, my mother took this picture, and I'm pretty sure that's her arm on the right. 
I'm in my jammies back there.  That's so hot. 
Hey Jeffro, I think you have definitely indicated your college allegiance, there.  But I guess we could get you a hat and some matching socks and shoes too.  Just to make it completely clear.
And. . .
 it was everything I ever hoped for.  The water balloon part, that is.
Except for the fact that they don't quite make it into the RV park.  But that's good since I don't feel like getting sued right now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardening. Not Just For Old Ladies.

First of all,
if we've been friends for any length of time, then you know I have this odd obsession with summer.  I love it.  I see summer as the best of life, and winter is punishment for what you did during summer.
'S how I see it.
And every year, I do this nerdy thing, where I pick a summer theme song.  Yep, I do that.  I love how listening to a song over and over will forever associate it with the occasion.  Meld it to your brain.
two summers ago, it was this song.  I have to put it on here 'cause it's so freaking awesome.

Last summer?  This one.  Relatively unknown last year, but possibly a little overdone this summer. 

And this year, (dun dun dun)

I love this song.  Just listen to the chorus, at least.  It's calm, it's chill--it makes me want to sit on my bench swing that can barely hold up my weight, sip a cold drink, and watch my kids play and beat the crap out of each other out in the yard, and then do nothing about it.  Because I'm feeling calm.  Chill.

Man I love summer.


to the matter at hand--

I have a lot of questions for you, by the way.  Questions that need answers.


Gardening.  People.  As a kid, it seemed like pure torture.  Weeding was as fun as a dentist trip. 

When I get to heaven, I'm going to apologize to my grandparents when they took me on a grand tour of their pride and joy garden, and I didn't appreciate their hard work.  So ashamed.

As an adult?  This shiz is addicting, man.

I can't get enough of digging in the dirt and planting.  I love being outside, I love seeing stuff grow--I love this crap. 

First question--
(plants for my porch)

can one have too many potted plants?  Is that possible?   Because I'm just putting them anywhere.

(another random pot 'cause why not)

Can it be like a whole crazy cat lady thing?  Like, could I become the crazy pot lady?

(this isn't my place, but I'd definitely take it.)

That didn't come out right.

(Urns for the front of the garage.  I bought the geraniums on clearance nearly dead and think theyr'e starting to perk up nicely)
So, basically, if it'll hold soil, I believe that it should be planted in.  This is true, right?


I took these dollar pots, and the daughter and I got all fun 'n crazy with 'em,

and then we planted 10 cent packets of zinnia and teddy bear sunflower seeds in them,

and miraculously, 10 cent packets do indeed grow!  Hurray.  And obvs, I stuck them outside by my garden because I'm still under the impression that I can have as many flowers and pots and crap out here as I want until someone tells me differently.

Oh, Oh!  Other sidenote!

I also planted trumpet honeysuckle to climb my arbor in the garden and am ridiculously excited about that, AND. . .

everyone's all, "I like your flowers!" and I'm like, "Those are hydrangeas, and they're gonna be like 5 feet tall and they're going to be amazing I swear just wait!"

Please don't die, hydrangeas.

Kay.  Second question:

every dang time I ask someone what I could plant next year in my planters that would be perennials next time (since it cost me so dang much to plant these annuals this time),

I get the same response:

"Oh, anything would be fine in there."

Um, no.  Not all perennials would just look amazing in here.  Help a girl out.  Something not too tall?  Not too wide?  And please don't mention how I need to edge my grass?

Kay.  On with the next question.

I know, I'm beating a dead horse here--

But with thee change of scenery back here with the deck 'n all, just like I said over and over, it's snowballed.  We wanna make it better back here.

And I cannot stop dreaming of a firepit area.

Something like this.  Something hardscaped.  Something nifty.  I'm serious about this.  Seriously serious.

Serious enough to call and get estimates and start digging up the lawn, and I'm this close to having the work started like now-- yesternow--

but help me. 


Stamped concrete?


Stamped concrete?

Slate, stamp, slate, stamp,

slatestampslatestampslatestamp. . . ?? 

If the price is basically the same, what do I do?  Does it even matter?  Am I always this indecisive?  I have no idea?  Help, I think? 

Monday, June 9, 2014

It's That Time Again. Time To Cook With Betty.

Once a year-ish,
I like to whip out this 60's Betty Crocker and get cookin'.  There are great, classic, go-to recipes in here.  And then. . . there are some "other" recipes.  The red-headed stepchild of the family, if you will. 
Those are the ones I love. The crazier recipe, the better.  I find it to be so choice.
If we haven't been friends for long, you've been missing out on such culinary creations as--
Petals 'N Pickles.  These were un.real.
I like to call this one,
"Worms Writhing In Sand".  I dare you to tell me the 60's photo in Betty's book doesn't look like that.  I dare ya.
(Actually, it's a meringue cake that smelled fantastic and was actually pretty good.  I confess I was disappointed.)
And the last wonderful "smart" and "neat" dish I chose was the "Tangy Tomato Aspic" (dun dun dun.)
Wait.  First, let's talk about aspics ("an 'As-what'??").
Someone back in the 50's got this crazy idea that everything should be gelatinized.  These things are so amazing. 
Take your entire meal, throw it into to Jell-o,
mold it,
and voila.  It's a jiggly masterpiece.  My family really likes tuna pasta.  Can you imagine that as an aspic?  Wow.  That could really be something else.
This was the face of American cooking, people.  We put our trust in Betty.  And. . . we got aspics.  ("An 'as-what'?")
Okay so um, first off--
why are we only cooking with Betty once a year?  It's so delightful.  I believe this should be a bi-annual, nay, a quarterly task.  Don't you?   Of course you do.  What could be more fun then wasting perfectly good ingredients?
But back to the aspic.  ("An 'as-what'?")
(Yeah.  You read that right.  Hot dog-macaroni aspic.)
My Tangy Tomato Aspic didn't turn out, because I don't just have aspic molds lying around like the rest of the world.  I'm not fancy enough for that. 
And if I can't master the art of an aspic, how can I go on?  
Let's do this again.  We must. 
Check out the Tangy Tomato Aspic's cookbook buddy next door:
"Perfection Salad".  Yes. This is happening.
Wait wait wait.  Can we get a close up of those little Perfection Salad mini-aspics?

'Mmm mmm mmm.  We're all licking our chops about now.

Lemon jell-o, cabbage, pimientos, salt, lemon juice OR vinegar (because they're so close in taste??  What the. . . )?
My spidey senses are tingling with warning.  But how can we go wrong?  I mean, it is a "Perfection Salad".
Just look at these all ready.  You know, this one time, I saw this cat cough up a hairball, and some other stuff came up to, and it. . . never mind.
Actually it kinda reminds me of what freezing egg drop soup in a mini bundt pan might look like.
Here's the real trick-- the test-- this is where I become a real man--  or woman--
getting them out of there clean and still properly shaped.

I DID IT!!!   YES.  I am totally bringing these to the next church potluck.

You know what these taste like?

Exactly like you'd expect lemon jell-o with salt, cabbage, pimentos, and pickles to taste like.  Shudder.  And I really do have a strong stomach.
I think I just. . . yeah.  I had an idea.  I'm leaving these out as a warning to my kids.  Think my real cooking is bad, kids?  Wanna complain about dinner again, kids?  Well allllllll food is off limits until you apologize.  Eat crow.  Or, one of these perfection salads.
"Yeah.  You heard me, kids.  Every.last.bite."