March 21, 2018

Pancakes for dessert, and for dinner, and for breakfast…

by Janie Jones

Recently, in one of my magazines, there was a recipe for buttermilk pancakes.  For some reason, it sounded particularly good.  So a few weeks ago when Leif was visiting I made some for breakfast.  We gobbled them up, they were really good.  So good I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

Last Sunday I made another batch for my dinner, with strawberries, bananas and whip cream, even though it was just me.  The other day I had some of the leftovers with strawberries and chocolate ganache as a dessert when my sweet tooth was running rampant.  And this morning I had some as “pancake tacos” stuffed with sugar and blackberries on the way out the door.

Normally I’m not really that big a pancake fan.  But something about these, they are just, wow.

March 10, 2018

Double Take

by Janie Jones

I opened up Amazon’s website to do some shopping and the banner headline, I swear to the sun and the moon and the stars, said “Sneaky Pee.”  For a split second I thought it was going to be advertising come bladder control problem.  Then I noticed the photo along with the heading and it was of a roll of bills.  Save money on your depends?

Oh, on a double take it said “Sneaky Pete, Amazon Prime original, stream the new season.”

Thanks to my vision problems, this sort of thing happens more and more often.  Although it’s usually not so funny….

March 9, 2018

Where are little cats X, Y and Z when you need ’em?

by Janie Jones

I had meant to use some of my winter holiday where I had 16 consecutive days off of work to get some real stuff done around my house.

As it happened, I did very little besides sofa surf and eat way too much.  Then I spent much of January and February feeling really poorly.  The best physicians and specialists Big City can afford were all about giving me this pill or that pill but no one really was telling me what was causing me to feel poorly.  It is a bit of a pickle, as it is very likely it is a combo of things, but I don’t like to just take drugs that mask symptoms.  I’d much prefer to nail down the problem and work on something to actually fix the problem(s) causing the symptoms.

Anyway, I digress.  This post is not meant to be about my health.  Instead, it’s about me trying to manage some positive changes in my environment.

So,  on Thanksgiving eve the floor contractors sort of finished the job.  I quickly put some furniture in place to make the living and dining room areas usable and went Christmas decorating crazy.  Then, as I mentioned above, everything else came to a grinding halt in the wake of holiday revelry and relaxation.

Sounds lovely, no?  But in actuality, this meant that a large pile of boxes (large as in floor to ceiling covering a 6×8 foot area, or the majority of my basement except a walkway around the pile from the stairs to the spare bedroom, the pantry closet and the laundry room and a narrow area just wide enough for my exercise machine) has languished unpacked.

This is perhaps not a critical issue, but I do use my basement every day for exercising.  Leif will use the spare bedroom when he visits and of course I need to do laundry weekly or so.  So it happens that I am constantly reminded of what a disaster it is downstairs.

Now, if you dear readers have not yet discerned from many years of perusing my drivel, I am a bit of an organization freak.  I have been dubbed “Just-so Janie” and it is some how physically painful for me to be in an ugly, messy environment.

Not like I’m some feng shui freak, but chaos and disorder and dark and dingy do make me feel a little anxious, cranky and sap my energy and enthusiasm.  So perhaps a little part of my aforementioned health issues might be in some part a small measure of the emotional drain associated with the mess in my basement.

The problem with the basement was exacerbated by The Plan.  The Plan being the organized way to deal with the unpacking.  See, it didn’t make sense to unpack all that stuff which belongs mostly to the dining room and kitchen until the remodel of the dining room was complete.  What’s more, there was a lot of crap in the kitchen cupboards that needed to go in the basement pantry closet (tools, remodeling supplies, cases of beer/soda, extra canned goods, paper towels and Ziploc bags, you know stuff you tend to buy in large quantities or are big and bulky) that I couldn’t move downstairs until downstairs was cleaned out.  And there was a large number of boxes of extra kitchen stuff stacked on the open soffits above the cupboards that couldn’t be unpacked until the extra stuff in the cupboards was moved.  If you too are a neat freak I’m sure you’ll understand my pickle.

Well, a few weeks ago I finally got motivated enough to paint the dining room.  Then I built the new china cabinets.  But the basement mess felt so big and so deep and so tall I didn’t know quite how I’d move it at all.

In the end I took two vacation days off from work and, in a truly Seussian fashion, yesterday, the first day off, I pulled everything out of the kitchen that didn’t belong there.   This included the boxes filled with my extra kitchen items (I have a problem.  I collect Way.  To.  Much.  Kitchen. Stuff) which I unpacked.  By the end of the day I had a contractor 33 gallon trash bag full of newspaper that had cushioned my cherished possessions, an immense pile of empty cardboard boxes, and, naturally, crap everywhere.

The mess is daunting, and I’m not done.  There’s still about a dozen boxes in the basement of china and decorative glassware and specialty kitchen crockery.  The pile of cardboard and wrappings is still growing.  I feel like I need one of those clean up cars belonging to the Cat in the Hat.


cat in the hat clean up car

Image from The Cat In the Hat, by Dr. Seuss


But it was rather thrilling to excavate beautiful things I haven’t seen or used in 4+ years.  I can’t explain my joy at once again seeing my collection of antique green glass dishes and my special occasion china, my favorite wine glasses with the raised bumblebee motif, and my unbelievably insane collection of bowls of all sizes.  I did a little happy dance around the pile of empty boxes.

I am really excited to have all my cherished possessions on display and available for use again.  Plus, I have a new dining room table and some elegant velvet upholstered chairs that have languished in their shipping boxes since late October waiting for the dining room to be ready for their debut.

So much more work, but so much more ultimately thrilling than going to the tropics for spring break.

Back to work!!!

March 5, 2018

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

by Janie Jones

I like fortune cookies, with or without the fortune.

For New Years Leif and I got together with some friends and had a stir-fry themed meal.  Leif makes some rockin’ Chinese, I tell you what.  He does it all: all manner of stir-fries, egg rolls, miso soup (which is technically Japanese I guess), egg-drop soup, hot and sour soup (which I don’t like, but I have on good authority from friends that he does quite well), even spring rolls.  One thing he doesn’t do is fortune cookies.  So I buy a box of them at the grocery store, ’cause you gotta have fortune cookies when you eat Chinese.

Anyway, I still had several in the cupboard, and as I like them just for eating regardless, I’ve been tossing the leftovers in my lunchbox from time to time.

Today’s fortune said:  Good news will come to you by mail.

And what do you think?  I received my acceptance letter to grad school today.

Hmm.  A fortune cookie fortune that could actually be considered accurate.

To bad it wasn’t:  You will receive a large and unexpected windfall of cash today.  I might have been accepted to grad school, but I have no idea how I will make this work.



February 21, 2018

Umm. I kinda think that’s stealing

by Janie Jones

So, I go outside this morning to walk the dog and as I leave I notice foot prints in the snow coming from the neighbor’s front yard up to the side of my house.

This sets my spidey sense tingling.  Why would someone walk through the neighbor’s yard and up to the side of my house.  Peeping tom?

Then I remember that yesterday the neighbor was out front working on his ten-thousand year old blazer.  It occurs to me that he might have been using my electricity for jumping, or whatever, his truck.

Now, it’s just a little electricity.  And, I know the neighbors are feeling some hard times.  So, part of me thinks I should just let it go.  But then, there’s the principle of the thing.  It is basically stealing to take something from some one without permission.  Despite my propensity to be forgiving, I also don’t want to give the impression that they can just take whatever they want of mine whenever.

These neighbors, let’s call them the Smiths.  As it happens, the Smiths are kind of your stereotypical white trash (can I say that or does that make me some sort of bigot/racist/non-politically correct asshole?).  Some of my friends who have a clue say they smell various illicit substances wafting from the Smith’s dilapidated house.  Frequently Mrs. Smith can be heard hollering at Mr. Smith, or the Smith step-children of late adolescent/early adulthood years, using language so colorful a sailor would blush.  Not less than three times emergency services has been to the Smith residence since last fall, and I have seen Mrs. Smith carted off in an ambulance twice.  Also, last fall Mr. Smith was often to be found burning trash in their yard (this is within city limits and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to burn trash as well as the aforementioned illicit substances).  And then there’s the young people of not so favorable appearance who wander up and down the alley to the Smith’s place at strange times of night and day leaving  me to wonder what type of business they garner their meager income from or, how they squander their welfare dollars.

Any way, up until last Thanksgiving Mr. Smith was very friendly and regardless of the hinky-ness I have just described I was prepared to be understanding as long as they kept to their property and I to mine.  Then, just before the holiday he sold Leif an old wood stove.  I guess then he figured he could come and try and sell off other items to make some quick cash, as he came around twice more peddling various things.  Again, to be neighborly and helpful to a less fortunate individual, I bought some nice army surplus gloves off of him, but that was it.

After I made it clear I wasn’t interested in buying anything else, the week before Thanksgiving he shows up begging to use my internet so he can access his unemployment benefits with this sad sack story about his miserable marriage, being laid off and being broke.  I did feel for the guy, so I agreed to let him have a guest pass code to my internet until Christmas.  I laid out terms that his access would be limited to the hours I was at work and only Monday through Friday.  I reserved the right to revoke the pass code if I saw any other devices using it besides his iPhone.  I gave him a list of local places that gave free internet access and said, that come December 26th, the pass code would be reset.  This was my attempt to be helpful and neighborly, but I was not prepared to be his free internet provider indefinitely.  He offered to barter for the use of the internet, but I declined any sort of barter.  I told him it was my good deed and a way to pay forward kindnesses done for me when I was down on my luck.

Curiously, a few days after Thanksgiving, someone stole some change and a broken Amazon fire stick out of my car in my garage.  And, Mr. Smith hasn’t spoken to me since except one brief comment on the weather when I ran into him shoveling while I was walking the dog.  I have no proof, but my instincts tell me either Mr. Smith or one of the weirdos that come and go from the Smith residence was responsible for the theft.

I have had no real opportunity to bring the subject up even casually, but naturally as I had no proof I would never pointedly question Mr. Smith about it.  In general, I don’t think Mr. Smith is the worst of the problem, I think it’s Mrs. Smith, the step-children and wanderers-by who are the ones to really worry about.  And, in such cases with weirdos, it seems like the best policy to keep on cordial terms lest I become a target of more flagrant acts of theft, vandalism or antagonism.

So, now this thing happens with the electricity.  I have a timer on that outlet with lights.  It gets dark here early in the winter, and I am up early in the dark to walk the dog, so I have my holiday lights still come on at dusk and off at 10pm, then back on at 4am until dawn.  I feel it is the height of audacity to “borrow” someone’s electricity without permission and then on top of it to unplug their own cords to do it.  And, not only is it is audacious to do so, but in the winter here you leave a trail in the snow announcing to the world you were trespassing and using my electricity.  Does that not really strike anyone else as bold and inappropriate?

What do you think?  Should I be worried?

February 20, 2018

Random and Weird

by Janie Jones

My left shoulder has been exceptionally itchy for the last several days.  I’ve tried craning my neck and peering at my shoulder through the mirror, but I can’t notice so much as a pimple.

But.  It.  Is. Driving.  Me.  Insane.

I just might have to drive down to the local dollar store and buy one of those long handled back scratchers.  You know, the ones you make fun of thinking, “Who would spend their money on something so dumb.”

On account of the lack of a real back scratching device, last Sunday while building my china cabinets (which turned out pretty well for cheap, laminated build it yourself crap), I used the claw on the back of my hammer.  Which actually worked pretty well.  So, thinking back on that, I am now seriously contemplating going in search of my toolbox.

Anyway, it’s probably just the dry winter air making it so itchy.  I would prefer to hope that it is not something so mundane but instead, like they say about itchy palms, that I am due to come suddenly into a large sum of money.

I suppose if I won the lottery I could hire someone to come in just to scratch my shoulder for me.  Or apply lotion.

Crap.  Now I’ve got Silence of the Lambs on my mind.

February 18, 2018

I am not dead, I just bought a house

by Janie Jones

Greetings to anyone still out there.

I did buy a house last June.  Not the one mentioned in the previous post.  That first house ended up having some issues with the inspection that I didn’t want to deal with.  As it happens, I found something I liked better a short while later.  So even though it was stressful, it worked out well in the end.  How often do I say that?!?

This is the house I did buy:

New House w All 1

Janie, the spud and Rupert on the front steps of our new home

Built in 1919, it’s a traditional two storey with 3 bedrooms and a partially finished basement with a 4th bedroom.  There is a large kitchen with a fairly open concept living room-dining room.  The yard is very small, but out back the home has a nice big deck, a detached garage and extra off street parking (a big must in my area).   While in good structural condition, it was lost in the 80s and needed a lot of cosmetic upgrades.  Most urgently the rooms all needed fresh paint and to ditch the 30+ year old carpet.  Underneath most of the nasty old carpet was maple hardwood flooring.  It has been a laborious, stressful and expensive process getting the floors re-finished, but they are finally done everywhere except the stair case (which my contractor was supposed to have done before Thanksgiving, but that’s another story) and the kitchen.  I have new tile for the kitchen, so hopefully I can look into getting that re-done soon as well.  Eventually I also want to paint the exterior.  I am not fond of that brick red color and, though you can’t really tell in this blurry, enlarged photo, the paint job was pretty shoddy.

This is not my first house reno, but it is the first time I had to do a whole house by myself while working two jobs.  It has not been a pretty process; I have broken down and hired contractors for a lot of the floor work and while it saved me personally a lot of time, the dealing with people who don’t give a rat’s ass about what you want even though you are paying them to work on your house has been very frustrating.  But I am almost done (conveniently I am also almost out of money) and I am really looking forward to having a home to be proud of again.  Lately I have been, what do they call it?  Oh, yes.  Happy.

I still have a massive pile of unpacked crap in my basement.  Mostly it is stuff for the kitchen, dining room and decorative fru-fru (such as my wall hangings, decorative glass and pottery) but as I haven’t decided what to do about the kitchen, which is in much need of new, well, everything, and I am still working on finishing painting and wallpapering some of the interior rooms it hasn’t made sense to unpack it all.  However, I did go and set up all my Christmas decorations.  Some of which hadn’t seen the light of day since December of 2013.  When the spud arrived home for the holiday, she said, “Momma, our new house looks like a movie set.”  I knew then that all was right with the world.

My second job, being seasonal, is over for the winter, but the reno work is still slow going.  Most projects have to happen on the weekends and be woven in between other mundane things like grocery shopping and laundry and the occasional fun times with friends.  And, after the holidays, I deflated upon putting away all the decorations and got nothing done but sofa surfing during most of my free time in January.  But, I am trying to grab my motivation by the scruff and shake it back into action.  I do really want to get stuff done, it’s just boring and, well, exhausting to work all week at the JOB then work on the house.  Plus, I don’t really like sanding, and staining, and painting and wallpapering, I just want the finished product.

Things got really bad a few weeks back until I had an epiphany:  Audio books.  I got myself a subscription to Amazon’s Audible, and listened to a Jane Austen spin-off while painting the dining room.  *Cue corny music*  Ahh-ahh-ahh!  I actually started to look forward to painting so I could listen to what would happen to Elizabeth and Darcy in the next chapter.  So, hopefully my new subscription will help keep my nose to the grindstone.  Today’s task awaiting me once I am done here, is to build my new china cabinets and listen to the sequel to the book I listened to while painting.

Anyway, I appear to have digressed.  Those last few paragraphs were probably very dull reading.  The point I was trying to make was, while I am happy, I am getting a bit tired of always being on the job with the house reno stuff.  I want it done so I can just enjoy my new home in my free time.  Eventually I will get there.  And, I will probably be pleased as punch and foist before and after photos on you all.  You might not want to come back to my blog at that point….

Thanks so much to those of you who have always been such an amazing support network for me.  I don’t know if it has been because of the craziness of life, or what, but I just haven’t had the blogging muse despite missing you all.  It has been a tough decade, but I think I might be able to say I’ve finally made it through.  Even though I don’t write much anymore, I do think of you often and how honored I am to have had you as readers and friends.  Hope 2018 finds you all well and enjoying the best life has to offer.


Janie Jones, homeowner