The Great Move

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I haven't blogged in a while because the last two weeks have been nothing but preparation for yesterday, which I like to call...THE GREAT MOVE. I know I blogged about trying to decide which apartment to choose, but I'm not sure if I ever updated with the one we picked. We chose the newer apartment that wasn't right on the water and had a pool.

Packing is easy. Time consuming, but easy. You get totes and boxes and fill them with your crap, label them and you're good to go. Moving is not quite as easy. And something I never plan to do again.

Saturday morning Tom and I went to pick up the U-Haul truck and waited around for about 40 minutes before we were finally able to get one. Why U-Haul would staff two incompetent employees on a weekend is beyond me, but whatever. By about 8:30 AM we started loading the apartment into the truck. Somewhere around 9:45 we were exhausted. Around 11:45 we had finally finished loading the truck and our cars. I stuck the cat in the carrier and went to the leasing office to pay our final bill and turn in all of the keys. And then found out that the lady who deals with that was on a two hour lunch. Of course she was. So I turned over what I had and said I would just call to see if I could pay the balance over the phone or if they wanted me to mail them a check.

Finally, we get on the road. Gidget hates the car. She also hates her carrier. Needless to say, she was not pleased about being in either and unfortunately it was a very long drive (in cat time) to the new apartment. Every couple of minutes or so she would give me a pitiful face and cry. I kept talking to her and telling her how much closer we were getting, but it didn't seem to help. She also was quite irritated with me when she had to sit in the car while we went into the new leasing office to sign all of the paperwork.

The first thing I moved into the apartment was Gidget. I stuck her and her litter box in our bathroom and figured she could make do for a while. I kept checking on her, at first she was amused and decided to sit on the bathroom counter. Then she seemed to get annoyed because she kept pacing around on the floor and refused to let me bring anything into the bathroom. I gave her food and water and then a bit later finally remembered to bring in her blanket so she atleast had somewhere to sit.

Even with the help of Tom's brothers, moving in was horrendous. When we moved into the last apartment, Tom lived with his brother and I lived with my mom so we didn't have furniture yet. We bought all of the kitchen stuff and moved it into that apartment a few days ahead of time because we had the keys early. But we really only had to move the contents in our room and some basic bedroom furniture. Nothing crazy.

This time was different. We had an entire kitchen, two desktop computers, living room and dining room furniture, clothes, two bedrooms and overall just a freaking shitton of stuff. By about 4 PM Tom and I decided that we were never, under no circumstances going to move again. We would just pay someone to do it. We'll pack the stuff and unpack the stuff, but the physical labor part of it was just OUT!

Somewhere in the midst of getting everything into the apartment, the Comcast guy showed up. We managed to clear a path for him and even have the basics set up so he could do the install. However, its not perfect. When I scheduled the service, we were supposed to get internet, phone, and cable. The cable was supposed to be in both bedrooms and the living room. For whatever reason, we don't have cable in either bedroom so we need someone to come back out.

People joke that Cecil County MD is referred to as Ceciltucky because of how in the middle of nowhere it is and how country-ified it is. The first example is in the case of Comcast. They do not offer HD or OnDemand in Cecil county. Uh, what? Do these people not watch tv? Now I have absolutely no idea how in the world I'm going to watch the shows that come on at the same time as other ones. Believe me, this has me rather distraught. However, there is one pro to this. The bill is immensely cheaper. In Baltimore county I paid $180 a month to have phone, internet, cable w/ HD and HBO. Here, I pay $85. I did check out the prices with Direct TV just to see and unfortunately, its $188 for just the cable to mimic what we had in Baltimore county. Add in $50 or so a month for internet and that is just outrageous to pay.

Anyway, we unpacked and organized things until about 8PM last night before giving up and calling it a day. It took me until around 6 PM today (not counting returning the U-Haul, going to the grocery store and going to Wal-Mart) to get everything to the point where I feel okay about it. Last night it was just livable, today its 99% organized. We still have a shit ton of totes in the dining room, stacked almost to the top of the 9 foot ceilings and absolutely nothing on the walls. Tom's parents are coming down next weekend and we're going to get that taken care of then.

I like the apartment, although I didn't think everything was going to fit in here once I first saw it. Its an open floor plan, you walk in and the bedrooms branch off on both sides. Heading straight is the living room which is open to the kitchen and the dining room. The kitchen is pretty big. There was enough room for all of my kitchen gadgets! What I can't figure out is how I managed to squeeze so much kitchen stuff into a kitchen half the size. I mean, I have almost all of the cabinets taken up now. We have a humongous pantry too. Ironically, I have that full too. One of the best things about the kitchen is double sinks. Now I can finally defrost meat and rinse stuff off without them being in the same sink! The dining room is bigger than I expected, we have the table in there and a bookcase and there is still room to move around. No more being squished! The living room is kind of small, but everything fits, although the tv is against the wall blocking the door to the water heater.

WE HAVE A WASHER AND DRYER! I can't tell you how excited I am about that. No, really. I'm going to save $50 a month in quarters to wash clothes and never again will I need to wait for the jackass who leaves their shit in the washer or dryer for hours or the one who comes through and opens them when your clothes are in, stopping them mid-cycle. I can wash clothes whenever I want now! I never have to wait again. Its pretty freaking awesome. I did have to learn how in the world to use a front loading washer though. That was a bit of an experience.

Our bedroom is set up almost identical to the way it was at the other apartment, but it houses our desk with both computers now. There just wasn't enough room in the living room to put the desk too. Our bedroom closet is awesome. Its a walk-in and has shelves and racks everywhere! The bathroom is gigantic. I have a floor to ceiling shelving unit for linens, a large under the sink cabinet and then another large cabinet next to that. The tub is a bit smaller but we have a large countertop with the sink which is really nice. The guest bathroom is just as big.

The only real problem I have with the apartment is that it was made for people who are 5'5 or taller. I can barely each the second shelf in the kitchen cabinets. The bar type thing we have is chest-level to me. And the shower head is about 6'5 from the floor. However, the bathroom sink is super low. Like to the point where I have to uncomfortably bend down to brush my teeth. It's odd. The actual shower head is a bit of an issue too. I can't figure out why everything else in the apartment is higher end (large wood cabinets, ceramic tile, modern appliances) and yet the shower head is one of those standard cheap ones that you find in hotels that do better at watering plants than washing people. The spray that comes out of it is pretty damn ridiculous. I can hardly wash the shampoo out of my hair. But, thats just something else that we're replacing when Tom's parents come down.

Oh and the cat! When we moved last time she hid under the bed and refused to come out for two or three days. This time, once I let her out of the bathroom she was walking all around exploring things, sniffing things and getting in our way. WTF? I thought we were going to have the same reaction as last time! But no, she goes where she pleases and acts like she owns the place already!

This is getting long, so I'm going to end it off with our U-Haul return experience.

We woke up early (again) to get the truck back on time. When we picked it up they said there was a location that was about 15 minutes away so we figured that would be the best place to take it back to. Well, Tom is driving the truck and has the GPS and I'm following him. We cross over the main road, take a few turns and end up driving down the main street with cute little shops and historic stuff that just gives you that small town feel. Once we passed that I was beginning to wonder where we were going because ahead looked kind of....empty. So we start heading down all of these narrow, winding back roads, past huge houses with even huger lots of land, a forest (No, I'm not kidding), more houses, and just general nothingness. I was getting ready to call Tom and see if his GPS was taking us the scenic route or if he had entered the wrong address when we turned down a residential street and about half way down was a little Mom & Pop shop with U-Haul's out front. Who would have thought? But honestly it looked like we were driving in the country and were no where near civilization.

Hearty Beef Stew

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Nothing makes me crave beef stew more than a cold winter's day, especially when there is snow on the ground. There is just something some satisfying about having a large pot of beef and veggies simmering away on your stove and heating up your house while the wind blows outside.










Hearty Beef Stew
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Servings: 6-8 people

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Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. beef cubes
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
    • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
    • 1 can corn, drained
    • 1 onion, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 bag fresh green beans, cut in half or thirds
    • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tbsp. paprika
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 tbsp. cornstarch (or flour)
    • 2 and 1/4 cups water, divided
    • 2 cups beef stock

Directions:
1. Add 1 tsp. of oil to a large skillet over medium high heat.
2. Mix together flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Dredge each piece of meat through the flour mixture.
3. Add all of the meat to the skillet and cook until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes.
4. Remove the meat from the skillet and put into a large stockpot. Add in the vegetables, spices, 2 cups of water and beef stock. Put over high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 10 minutes.
5. In a cup, add the 1 tbsp. corn starch and 1/4 cup of  warm water. Stir until the cornstarch is incorporated.
6. Pour half of the cornstarch mixture into the stew and stir. Pour in the other half and stir.
7. Reduce the heat to low and let cook until the vegetables are soft, at least 1 hour, stirring as needed.
8. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Can be left at low heat for up to 4 hours.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

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This was the first dessert that I made for Tom. He had never heard of them before. So, since Valentines Day is tomorrow, I figured I'd make them again.










Black Bottom Cupcakes
Servings: 24
Source: Knottie JVeaux
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 cup cocoa
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/3 oil
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    Cream Cheese Filling:
    • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1 bag of mini chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Mix the first 4 ingredients for the cream cheese filling together. I use a hand mixer for this especially if the cream cheese isn't quite room temperature yet. Add in the mini chocolate chips and then set aside. If your mixture is a bit runny, stick it in the fridge until you need it.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Stir until well combined. Add in the remaining wet ingredients and mix until everything is well incorporated and there are no lumps. You can use a hand mixer for this too.
3. Preheat the oven to 350. Line cupcake tins with paper wrappers.
4. Fill the liners a little less than half full with the batter. Add a generous scoop of the cream cheese filling to the top.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cream cheese center has slightly browned. Serve warm or refrigerated.

Weekly Meal Breakdown #5

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I guess I couldn't make it to a 5 week record. Sorry about that! We haven't made it to the store yet, so I'm basing these prices off what the circular says. It should be pretty accurate.

We are on operation clean-out-the-freezer-and-pantry since we are moving at the end of this month. I'm really not interested in lugging frozen meats and half open boxes of stuff to the new apartment so we're trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible. Being snowed in for the past week has definitely helped that plan out a lot!

Sunday - Beef Stew
beef cubes $2.39
4 carrots $0.56
4 potatoes $0.66
canned corn $1
1 onion $0.14
beef stock $1.39
Total: $6.14
This should make enough that we can have leftovers next week.

Monday - Shrimp Bisque
1/2 bag of shrimp $6
red pepper $1.29
half and half $1.10
onion $0.14
tomato sauce $1
Total: $9.53

Tuesday - Pineapple Pork Chops w/ Cheesy Risotto and beans
pork chops $5
1/2 can chunk pinapple $0.50
1 cup Arborio rice $0.35
1/4 onion $0.04
chicken stock $1.39
mozzarella cheese $0.22
canned beans $1.29
Total: $8.79

Wednesday - Apple Cider Chicken with Rice and Apple Bacon Green Beans
3 chicken breasts $6
1/4 cup apple juice $0.10
2 granny smith apples $0.48
boil-in-a-bag brown rice $0.67
1 slice bacon $0.12
green beans $1.79
Total: $9.16

Thursday - Lasagna w/ Garlic Bread 
6 Lasagna noodles $1
1 lb. ground beef $2.69
1 lb. beef cubes $2.19
2 cups cottage cheese $2.29
can of tomato sauce $1.29
can of tomato paste $0.79
6 slices bread $0.12
Total: $10.37
This one is a bit more expensive than usual because Tom suggested I include beef cubes and ground beef to make it more like my dads lasagna. But, it will provide at least 3 meals of leftovers.

Friday - Monterey Chicken with French Fries and Corn
3 chicken breasts $6
1/4 cup taco cheese $0.28
1/2 bag french fries $1.75
canned corn $1
Total: $9.03

And the total for the week comes to.....$53.02. Not bad at all!
 

Garlic & Chive Butter

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Every time that I pull out steak for dinner I spend some time trying to figure out how to make it. Steak is such a simple meat and hard to mess up (unless you're my mother) that I always feel like I need to do something to it to make it more interesting. 
Growing up, I only had steak one way. Seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and then marinated for an hour or so in Worchestershire and A1. Sure, its great, but sometimes you just need something more interesting. 
If I don't go with my old fall back, I'll season it with McCormick's Montreal Steak mix, cajun seasoning and garlic, or a spicy pomegranate chipotle marinate I have. Even those got boring after a while. 
So last week, I was watching some show on Food Network and the host was making a compound butter for some recipe. I can't remember what she used for it, but the words that stuck out to me were 'It's great on steak and you can freeze it for up to 2 months' 
I didn't want to do anything super fancy, having not made a compound butter before, so I decided to stick with simple flavors. Garlic, pepper and chives. I probably could have chopped up some onion or something, but I figured for my first try, I'd just go really simple. 

Garlic Chive Butter
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: 1 stick

Ingredients:
    • 1 stick butter
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp chives
    • 2 turns of fresh black pepper

Directions:
1. Let butter soften to room temperature. 
2. Put butter into a bowl. Add other ingredients. 
3. Using a hand mixer, combine the ingredients together. 
4. Scoop butter out onto a piece of wax or parchment paper.
5. Fold paper over to encase compound butter.
6. Stick in a ziplock bag.
7. Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months. 

Since I used a stick of unsalted butter, I did add in a bit of salt, maybe two shakes worth. Have fun making this recipe or changing up the ingredients to create your own.

Snow, snow and a side of snow

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As of 3 PM today, I have decided that Mother Nature has something against the state of Maryland. Apparently the state has done something to royally piss her off and she has decided to retaliate with back to back blizzards.

I've lived in Maryland my entire life, through nor'easters, blizzards, light dustings, sweltering summers, tropical storm Isabelle, ice storms, and ridiculous rains but never in my life did I expect something like this to happen here. One interesting thing I've noticed is that Maryland follows a pattern for blizzards. Its 3 years, 3 years, 4 years and then it repeats all over again.

The first storm I can remember is what came to be known as the Ice Storm of 1993. I was 8 years old so I don't have a ton of memories, but I remember how big of a deal it was. It started off with snow, probably about a foot or so, which is a pretty decent amount to Maryland standards. And then something horrible happened...it turned to nothing but sheets of ice. I can remember going outside to see what it looked like and being amazed that there was nothing but sparkly ice in place of the snow. I'm pretty sure school was closed for a week. I can also remember needing to go somewhere with my mom towards the end of the storm and driving into the city and being shocked to see piles of snow that were taller than me.

The Blizzard of 1996 is the next big snow storm that I remember. I was 11 years old and schools were closed for a week again. We moved into the house that my mom is currently in a few days after the storm. There were still gigantic piles of snow all over the place and I had to adjust to a house that didn't have a huge hill out front for instant sledding options.

Then came the snow of 2000. This wasn't a blizzard and was probably one the smaller snow storms that we had ever received. I vaguely remember it, just that schools were closed and walking half a mile to go to a park with a large hill to go sledding.

2003 was my senior year of high school. This was the year that I learned just how much I hated snow. Why did I start to hate snow? Because I had a car and lived on a relatively main road. It took me more than 2 hours to dig my car out of the snow that was plowed up against it. Once again, I didn't have school for a week or so and for the first time, that was great too. Seniors aren't required to make up snow days. What could be better than that!

The pattern didn't really work for 2006-2007. I can only vaguely remember there being snow, but I can't remember how much or if I was completely annoyed at digging out my car and trying to get to work.

And here we are in 2010. We received our first snow storm in December of 2009. Almost two foot of snow that decided to show up on a Saturday morning and wreak havoc for anyone who had weekend plans. Monday mornings' drive into work wasn't horrible, the roads were mainly clear and there were just a few spots that could have used more salt. Overall, I didn't complain, I knew what to expect. And then last weekend happened. The snow was set to start on Friday afternoon and not stop until Saturday evening with close to two foot of snow in some areas expected. We went to the grocery store on Thursday. Honestly, I've went to the grocery store the day before a storm tons of times in my life but never have I experienced the chaos that was Giant that night. The line for the deli was crazy, the eggs were almost gone, the store was restocking so huge pallets of cereal, toilet paper and cleaners were all over the store, along with tons of people trying to maneuver their carts. Oh and the carts! When we got there, there were absolutely no regular carts left. We stood there for a few minutes, waiting to see if someone would bring one back, but eventually just decided that a cart with the built in baby seat would just have to do. Having already experienced one snow storm, I was amused at the situation and wanted to yell at all of the people at the store 'THE WORLD ISN'T ENDING. ITS JUST SNOW!' but I decided to be nice and skip that.

Friday night the snow started around 4 or 5 here. By 9 PM at night there was enough snow on the ground to make a snowman. Please ignore his abs, I had nothing to do with those. Although I was rather happy with the fact that I found his Reeses cup eyes and carrot nose. Take note of how much of the building you can see under the windows. This will be important later.


Saturday, the snowman looked like this:

I took the picture through a bedroom window because I wasn't interested in going outside to get a better shot of him. If you look closely, you can see that the snow is already creeping up our windows in the very front of the picture.




Monday I took a snow day from work and later in the afternoon tried to get out of the apartment complex. The parking lot still wasn't completely plowed and there was 6-8 inches of slush and ice that my car was just not interested in going through. So I gave up and said screw it. Here are pictures of the main road that was supposedly plowed:

If you look closely in the pictures, there are snow covered mountains. They are actually cars. Honestly, I feel sorry for those people. Digging out of that mess is not something that I would be interested in AT ALL.


Then the news started talking about the fact that we were going to get another snow storm. No excuse me, ANOTHER BLIZZARD. Seriously, back to back blizzards? WTF is that about? So on top of the almost two foot of snow that we had, almost 2 more foot was coming to join in. My question was the same as everyone else. Where in the world are we going to put more snow? The roads weren't even completely plowed yet. They still haven't plowed all of the side roads and here we are going to get hit by another freaking blizzard! I didn't even bother thinking about going to the store. I figured we would just make do with what we have and that would be the end of it.

OH and I forgot to mention, a very serious thing happened on Saturday. I RAN OUT OF POPCORN. I really love popcorn. I must eat popcorn pretty much weekly and I ran out on Saturday. Do you know how big of an issue that is?? Its huge, believe me.

Tuesday one of my coworkers was nice enough to pick me up with his 4 wheel drive truck and take me to work. It was my first adventure out of the house. I couldn't believe how bad the side roads were or the amount of people that were out on the roads. I understand cabin fever, believe me, but death or a new car doesn't sound like a fair trade off.

It started snowing again Tuesday afternoon and by the time I got home, a little after 5 the snow was just starting to stick to everything again. I can't take it any more. I can't stand the sight of snow. We're almost out of stuff to drink, the junk food supplies are dwindling, and I can't stand being inside anymore. Full set cabin fever has set in. I'm tired of sitting at the computer, I'm tired of email and the SIMS, the TV just annoys me, and I WANT TO GET THE F OUT OF THE APARTMENT!

I think I'm going to develop a nervous twitch if I can't get out of here soon. So, I'll leave you with the most recent pictures, I just went outside to take:
 
It won't be much longer before the snow will be over our window sills and not just because of the drifts. 

Quick and Easy Lasagna

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My dad makes an awesome lasagna that takes an entire day to cook because he makes it almost completely from scratch. He cooks down tomatoes, uses ground beef, beef cubes, and sausage, and ricotta and cottage cheese. I really need to watch him make it one day so I can write down a recipe, but for the time being, I'll stick with what I can find online.

Since we are currently enduring Snowmageddon 2010 (there is 2 foot or more of snow outside my window), I decided lasagna was a nice, warm and filling thing to make for dinner. Since I didn't make the chicken ratatouille from last week and still had the eggplant and zucchini left over, I decided to add them into the lasagna to get them out of the fridge and save them from going bad. 

Of course, since I haven't blogged about dinner in a while, I completely forgot to take a picture of the lasagna prior to everyone digging in. And here I was thinking that I could freeze the rest of it and have leftovers for dinner one night, but apparently  I'd need to make more than a 9x13 dish.










Quick and Easy Lasagna
Adapted from:  www.allrecipes.com
Servings: 6-8 people
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 6 lasagna noodles
    • 1 lb. ground beef (or your meat of choice)
    • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons cottage cheese
    • 1 zucchini, diced (optional)
    • 1/4 eggplant, diced (optional)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1 tbsp. parsley
    • 1 hefty shake crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato paste
    • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
    • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook al dente according to the directions on the box; usually 6-8 minutes.
2. Brown the ground beef and drain. Preheat the oven to 375.
3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the zucchini, eggplant, cottage cheese, eggs, garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes. In another bowl, mix together the tomato paste and sauce.
4. In a 9x13 baking dish, layer 3 noodles on the bottom. Then add ground beef, tomato mixture and then cheese mixture. Repeat. The dish will hold two layers.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and add the mozzarella cheese. Switch the oven to broil and cook for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is browned.
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