Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fishy Delishy

Had my first day of the semester today. Normally I am at the satellite campus near my house for night classes with a bunch of other full-time working adults like myself, but this semester I am going down to the main campus and taking classes during the day tuesdays and thursdays. Been a long time since I went to school during the day. And with 18 year olds. I am going to spare you the details about how old (and mature) I felt, but let me just say it was hard to deny it when I couldn't stop feeling intensely annoyed that the girl in front of me was repeatedly tossing her hair while lamenting about her boyfriend to the girl next to her. She was eating a lollipop while doing it, too! Honestly! I can't even make things like that up.
Annnnyway, after I sat through 6 hours of class and went to work for 2 hours, I got home without giving dinner even a moments thought, so I had a salad and a sweet potato and warmed up chili for Mr. 31. Simple and easy. But, to cheer up my bored belly, I figured I would post about the amazingly yummy and super-healthy meal I made the other night. You better grab a tissue now, because your mouth is going to be watering in .5 seconds.
I had seen a few recipes for fish topped with a fruit salsa and wanted to try it, but on this particular evening they all called for ingredients I didn't have, so I just decided to wing it. (One of the things I always have in the freezer is fish. I like the flash-frozen stuff they sell at Wegmans, but I am not a grocery store snob (especially not on our income!), so I am sure any fish would do in this dish. Sidenote: what do you do when you need to have double parentheses like that? you know, a thought within a thought? I don't know if using two sets is actually proper. Oh well.)  Back to dinner: I quick-thawed some tilapia and some flounder and seasoned them with a bit of EVOO (rachel ray anyone?) and balsamic fish rub I bought at Tabora Farm. While they cooked under the broiler - which is my new favorite cooking method! - I made the salsa. It took me less than 5 minutes, start to finish. I also cut up some broccoli and shoved it in the microwave to steam.
To serve, I just heaped the salsa over the fish and topped it with some avocado. It was superbly delicisioso! For lunch the next day I put the leftover salsa on rice noodles and chicken with fresh tomatoes. I kind of think the flavors were even better after they sat overnight!

Mango Salsa  (i didn't measure anything - I just added lots of what I like and added more vinegar per taste)

1 lrg. mango, diced
1 sm. red onion, diced
Handful of cilantro
green onions, to taste 
avocado, diced plus a few sliced for garnish

Mix together all ingredients. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Mix.

Don't you wish you were eating this?

There would have been more in the bowl, but I was devouring it while the fish cooked!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Mouse's House

We had dinner guests tonight and so I spent this afternoon in the kitchen preparing the meal. Yes, yes, it was yummy, but that is not what this story is about. So, Mr. 31 got home from work around 4 pm and ran upstairs to take a shower. At just about that time I decided that I would put my homemade chocolate cake onto my cake stand. Okay, well, it isn't really my cake stand.... it is my friend Michelle's cake stand which she lent me for our wedding - two years ago - and I never remembered to give it back to her. I (randomly) remembered, while I was icing my cake, that it was still packed away in our 'scary closet' (you have one of those at your house, right? who doesn't...and I don't mean scary as in creepy. I mean scary as in where-everything-with-no-spot-gets-shoved-and-its a-giant-mess-and-you'd-swear-you-thrift-store-it-all-once-a-year-but-it-never-gets-any-better kind of scary). Anyway, I thought 'wouldn't that cake stand be a great way to display my handsome cake!' I didn't think Michelle would mind if i used it again..... that's just the kind of girl she is - kind, and sweet. and giving, and big-hearted. So, I head for the closet. In order to get to the back shelf - our 'scary closet' is a deeeeeep one - I had to slide aside a cabinet that is on wheels. I grunted, and puffed, and pulled and finally it rolled aside, making room for me to grab the cake stand and, also,...... revealing a small, taupe colored, dead field mouse! 
Oh, yeah, people. I said MOUSE. In my house. A MOUSE in my HOUSE. Dead.  (Deader than a doornail, actually, which I guess is what happens when you have two cats roaming the house. And you all know how viciously fierce my scaredy cats are.<eyeroll>)
I almost reached down for it thinking it was a cat toy, but then I remembered I don't buy my cat toys. ACK! So, long story short I yelled for Mr. 31 - who came downstairs in his towel and with a full face of shaving cream to be my hero and whisk away little-dead-man-mouse - and I spent a good ten minutes verbally freaking out about having a mouse in my house. A MOUSE in my HOUSE.

I mean, how did he get there!?!? (Don't answer that question. It's rhetorical.)

As I finished my cooking (sans the cake stand which I never got to in the midst of all the excitement) I starting thinking about the many other things that slip into our lives unnoticed. Things like television and its seductive commercials and addictive shows. We just got cable in October and, not gonna lie here, we love it. I get my fix of decorating and real estate shows and Mr. 31 has an entire history channel to learn new trivia from and endless sports channels.  But I do find myself, on a more regular basis than I prefer, zoning out in front of it. Watching nothing in particular. Flipping through the channels aimlessly. Looking past the language in a show I like, turning a 'blind' eye to the scads of infidelity that today's tv families portray as 'normal' and 'acceptable'. If the tv looked like that dead mouse, would I sit in the same room with it, giving it my attention every night?
Another "silent sneak" in my life is friends. I love mine, and certainly can not live without them. They keep me sane, and act as my sounding boards, and make my laugh. Seeing them often, spending hours over meals with them talking and confiding, is a crucial 'need' of mine. And I thank God for them. But how much more deep, more amazing, could my relationship be with God if I spent hours a week with Him, if I nurtured my relationship with Him as carefully, and with as much vigor, as I do those relationships with my girlfriends? I think of Asaph's writing in Psalms 73:23-25: "Nevertheless I am continually with You, You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You. And there is non upon earth that I desire besides You."  Wow....
I can think of a dozen other things that have snuck in, unnoticed, to my life over the past months and possibly hindered me from spiritual growth. School, anxiety and stressing over minor, uncontrollable issues (why are they so hard to give to God?), shopping..... really, my list could go on. I don't want to bore you all though.
So, I guess I'll set some traps. Yes, real ones smeared with peanut butter and waiting for a little mouse nose to dare to come strolling along (because - as my loving hubby pointed out - 'where there is one, there is probably more'. oh, gag me!), but also theoretical ones to help remind me that I need to be more diligent of the mice in my life. Especially those that may be running around my feet being so silent I don't even recognize the destruction they could be causing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unto the Lord

I had dinner with my friend Sheri last week and, as usual, at some point in an evening filled with intellectual and mind-stimulating topics, the conversation turned to our husbands. She mentioned that she and her husband were currently in a 'debate' (read: heated, argumentative tiff) over who did more in the house. She joked that this happened every few months, which gave us a good laugh.
I knew all too well the scenario she was describing. In our house it happens (give or take a few details) like this: Monday night I make dinner and wash the dishes and do a load of laundry. The next morning I send Mr. 31 out the door with a kiss and a packed lunch and head to work myself. After work I run to the grocery store, come home and unpack bags, make dinner, and do the dishes. The next morning we repeat the kiss, lunch, work routine and after work I head to class at the local college. I get home at 9:30 pm and there is a pile of dishes in the sink! Just sitting there. At this point, I begin the 'angry banging'. (Come on ladies, you know what exactly what I mean.) I clean the dishes, and the kitchen, with deliberate force and noise. I bang each dish in the sink, slam the cabinet doors open and closed and stomp my feet till they hurt on the tile floor. Mr. 31 comes downstairs and looks at me, even (bravely) attempts conversation, which I respond to in short, attitude-filled, sentences. He gives up and goes back upstairs. Maybe I cool off before bed, maybe not.
This cycle repeats itself for several weeks - not always around dishes, mind you. Finally, at an undisclosed moment in one of these little hissy fits, Mr. 31 pointedly asks 'what is wrong with me?' and, well, you know how it goes. It's not a pretty scene. And, so, for a few days after that Mr. 31 goes out of his way to help around the house and I am content. But, as with all vicious cycles, it is cyclical.

Now, here is the thing. Mr. 31 works much harder than I do. He does physical labor all day long, and often on the weekends too, if I beseech it of him. I am a young, healthy individual and there is no sensible reason that I can't do the small amount of housework that is asked of me on a daily basis. The other thing is, Mr. 31 is always appreciate of me. He thanks me for meals (even when he doesn't like them) and he never minds if I am days behind on the laundry, or if there are dust bunnies running across the living room floor (ummm, not that this ever, actually, happens at my house, of course...). He thinks it is important that I take time to relax, and never thinks bad of me if I slack off of the housework to snuggle on the sofa with him. In all honesty, he doesn't put any pressure on me. And, since, there are only two of us in the house, I guess that leaves me putting all the pressure on myself. And unfortunately when I feel under pressure, when I think I 'have' to do something, it makes me cranky. And when I get cranky, I get moody and even less motivated to do the work. And there you have it folks, it is this enigma that truly creates the nasty cycle I mentioned earlier. Sadly, it is Mr. 31 that suffers. (Well, I guess myself, too. I mean, it is really hard being that cranky all the time, you know. <eyeroll>)

I was thinking about all this as I drove home after dinner with Sheri. And then I remembered something that one of my facebook friends had posted on her wall months ago. She had written that she was 'cleaning the house unto the Lord'. It stuck in my head, but in a different way than I think I needed it to. I had chuckled over it and thought how crazy that was - I hated cleaning my house. I certainly couldn't imagine doing it with a good attitude unto the Lord. (And I guess I could have done it with a bad attitude, but, let's face it, that would defeat the 'unto the Lord' part.)  Anyway, I decided to give it a try this week. I figured the worst that could happen is that I had to tell God I was taking the house chores back to myself.
Now, before I share this next part, lets just clarify one thing. I don't mean, in any way, that I have enjoyed  doing the dishes and laundry this week. Let's not get crazy here, people. But I do need to admit that I have noticed a bit of an attitude adjustment. Monday I decided I would take the time while I unloaded the dishwasher to pray. When I finished, I still had a lot I wanted to talk to God about, so I moved onto wiping down the counters and washing the pots in the sink. After that I figured while I was at it I might as well sweep the floor. Surprisingly (or not), it all took me less than a half hour and I didn't mind at all.
The next day I got home late and there was a pile of dishes in the sink. I felt frustrated for one minute, but than I thought about giving that pile of dirty dishes up to the Lord and a weird thing happened. The thought crossed my mind that if God wasn't blessing Mr. 31 and I so much in our lives, I wouldn't have a sink, or dishes to be sitting dirty in that sink. It was very humbling.
Tonight I came home, ate dinner, threw in a load of laundry and ran some errands. When I came home I remembered I had to go downstairs and finish the laundry. For one second I moaned abotu it, and then, in the next second I thought of a friend of ours named Dan, who has been paralyzed for over 30 years of his life from the neck down, due to an accident in his early 20's. I thought how he would probably give anything to be able to walk down to the basement on strong legs and fold the laundry with healthy arms. And here I was, griping about the 5 minutes it would take me! Wake up call again about how blessed I am. You better believe that I folded those jeans with all I had unto the Lord, and, just for good measure, threw another load in to wash!
So, maybe you could all send a prayer up for me (try doing it while you wash the dishes!) that I can make this new attitude a habit that lasts. I would really appreciate it! I think my pots and pans would, too - they sent me a postcard saying they're a little sore from all the banging around.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Different Kind of Resolution

I don't make new year resolutions. I think I might have at one point in my life but in recent years I have realized that I a.) never keep my house any cleaner b.) never go to the gym on a regular basis and c.) don't actually want to stop taking afternoon naps in lieu of attempting to do something (anything!) more productive, so therefore even the concept of making those resolutions is just plain impractical.  

However, if I did have reason to change my mind on this 'no-resolution resolution' this might be the year. Especially since a friend gave me the following, which I really, really like.

A New Year's Resolution

I will.....
Like Paul, forget those things which are behind and press forward.
Like David, life up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.
Like Abraham, trust implicitly in my God.
Like Enoch, walk in daily fellowship with my heavenly Father.
Like Jehoshaphat and Ezra, prepare my heart to seek God.
Like Moses, choose rather to suffer than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season.
Like Daniel, commune with my Lord at all times.
Like Job, be patient under all circumstances.
Like Caleb and Joshua, refuse to be discouraged by superior numbers.
Like Joseph, turn my back to all seductive advances.

Like Gideon, advance even though my friends be few.
Like Aaron and Hur, uphold the hands of my spiritual leaders.
Like Isaiah, consecrate myself to do God's work.
Like Andrew, strive to lead my brother into a closer walk with Christ.
Like John, lean upon the bosom of the Master and learn more of His spirit.

Like Stephen, manifest a forgiving spirit toward all who seek my hurt.
Like Timothy, study the Word of God.

Like the heavenly host, proclaim the message of peace on earth and goodwill toward all men.
Like my Lord himself, overcome all earthly allurement by refusing to succumb to their enticements.

Realizing that I cannot hope to achieve these objectives by my own strength, I will rely upon Christ for "I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me." (Phil 4:13)  
- Author Unknown

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Bath.

Hope everybody had a great holiday and a fun, safe new year! I can't believe they are both over.

So, I had a long (okay, i lie - it actually felt like the shortest week of the year....), relaxing, awesome week off  with Mr. 31. We slept in (glorious!), ate a lot and spent some quality time with family and each other. He even agreed to go outlet shopping with me, although I can't get overly excited about that because I know the underlying truth is he went more for the Auntie Anne's pretzel stand than for me. No biggie though, he is a great shopping buddy while he is munching happily on his treat.

Anyway, at some point during the week my wonderful husband threw a major wrench (kind of literally) into my calm, stress-less week. This is how it happened: 
Mr.31: I think I am going to replace the exhaust fan in the bathroom.
Me: Awesome! No more screechy, whoa-is-there-a-plane-landing-in-my-shower fan.

And so we went to Lowe's and picked out a fan. Hence, where the trouble began. You know how it goes: the fan/light combo we currently had was 20 years old, square, plastic and ugly. We can buy that same thing (just 20 years newer) for $30. Or, for $65 we can get a sleek, round, frosted lamp with a nearly silent fan. (sigh) Of course, we leave with the nicer one. And on the way home Mr. 31 says, "well, since I am going to be cutting the ceiling and doing the work for a different light, I think i will just go ahead and rip out all the wallpaper."

Time-out: Ok, let me take a quick minute to give you some crucial info regarding our bathroom. When I bought our house, way back before I even met Mr. 31, the bathroom couldn't hide it's scariness. Old, stained tub. Dark, wood wainscoting (as in nearly black!). Wallpaper everywhere - wall and ceiling - in a hideous 80's floral print. Huge cabinets, vanity and mirror that overpower the room, leaving a space so narrow that Mr. 31 and I can't both move in the bathroom at the same time. Scary place! But, still livable. And so, as you all know, time just keeps ticking on and we just keep using the ugly, narrow, scary bathroom. Mainly for the money aspect, but also for the 'when-will-we-really-find-the-motivation-to-remodel' aspect.

Apparently, Mr. 31 found that motivation this week.

He put in the new light and stripped off all the wallpaper. Then he patched the walls and put on a coat of primer. Then he sanded it all and caulked and removed all the existing hardware on the walls, cabinets and doors. And then he traipsed downstairs in his dust covered boots and looked at me sitting at the kitchen table quietly sewing my curtains for the mudroom and he uttered the scary, inevitable words that I knew in the bottom of my heart were coming: "Well, I think we should just go ahead and do the bathroom remodel now. Whaddya think?"
What do I think? What do I THINK??
I think that you can't just spring this on a girl. Especially not this girl. I think that I normally spend weeks, months, planning remodels out in my head, drawing pictures and searching for discount materials. I think that I need much more time to stress, and waver over decisions,  while flipping furiously through home decor magazines. I think that I need countless nights spent lying awake in bed, agonizing over prices and questioning if we can really afford to take on a remodel. I think, I think, I think....that I was not ready for this!
But, lucky for my(indecisive)self, my husband is a just-get-it-done type of guy. He also hates to sit on a unfinished project in the house - as he puts it, 'it makes him feel like he can't breathe if there is a project half done.' And so while I hemmed and hawed and wrung my hands on the sofa he set a budget, picked a wall color (with my approval, of course - i am not totally out of my mind!), and carted me to all the local home improvement centers. And, therefore, I guess we are embarking on a bathroom remodel. Here are the plans: (any thoughts??)

- New floor. Probably going to go with the vinyl tiles that you can grout. My cousin put them in his kitchen recently and gave us rave reviews. Price is right on, too.
- Restoring the tub and tiles. Experimenting with a new product that is some sort of epoxy material. Have heard good reviews for this and Mr. 31 has been wanting to try it.  
- Ripping out the large vanity and cabinets and replacing with a streamlined cabinet that is designed for narrow rooms. I am not wildly in love with our options - all look cookie-cutter to me- but it is the best option for our space, especially since we don't want to spend a lot of extra dough on changing the plumbing all around. I can help temper the cookie cutter-ness in other ways.
 - New mirror. I think I am going to use this as a way to help add character into the room. Hoping to find a decent mirror from an antique/thrift store that I can re-finish.  Some ideas I like: this
and this.
 - Paint. All dark wood work will be painted white and we are using a bright, vibrant red on the upper half of the walls.
- New hardware : knobs, towel racks, tp holder. Maybe I should just spray paint the old ones...???
-  New light fixture. We already have this - bought one at a yardsale a year ago that was brand new. At the time I squawked about it, but Mr. 31 insisted. Thank goodness he is so smart.
- New shower curtain.  
- New accessories - I'll have to use my nifty thrifty skills for those.....

Our budget for all this is small, so it will take a lot of squeezing and scouring for deals, but I am starting to get a little excited about the ideas. If anyone has ideas, or experience with this, please pass your advice along - I would love to hear it! Meanwhile, if you need me, I will be busy stressing over towel racks.....  
Before' shots:

Old medicine cabinets. Currently have white primer on them but will be ripped out.

Narrow, narrow!
Huge, bulky vanity.