Midwest Winter Survival Guide 2011

After a lifetime of midwest winters, I’m finally starting to figure out ways to survive the perpetual grey that descends in October and stays till mid-April.  My basic philosophy is just that you have to shake things up a little bit, and I’ll since I can’t really rearrange furniture or paint my walls on a whim, this usually means that I buy something little.  In fact, I’ve spent a few months pondering what to rename the portion of the budget Dave Ramsey calls “Blow money” (which just sounds wrong to me, in at least five ways).  I think I’ll refer to it as my “Mental Health Budget,” for things that aren’t technically necessary, but are really very important for my sanity.  Plus, with a name like that, it must surely justify an extra $20 a month, right?

I’ve gotten in the habit of jotting down ideas for things that I think would brighten my spirits in the doldrums of February, even going so far as to pick one or two items up throughout the year and sticking them in a box to be opened In Case of Emergency.  Without further ado, here are a few things that have never yet failed me.

Source: Wikimedia


I hope I don’t really have to explain this.  It’s like Italy and chocolate and goodness and wonder and sunshine all mixed together.  Plus, that Amazon link up there is for a 5-pack, so there’s a couple spares to share with your fellow sufferers (and at $3 a jar, that’s a pretty cheap way to totally make someone’s day).

Nail Polish.

This is an easy (and possibly cheap) one, but highly effective for me, probably because it’s so visible and you can make it last for a long time.  Target has a large selection in a variety of prices, though finding this OPI Muppet collection kinda made my night.


I’m pretty sure it’s no coincidence that one of the Clinique semi-annual Bonus Days falls right at the time of year that has the least color.  Last year, anticipating the need to perk myself up, I saved the gift card Mom sent me for Valentine’s Day (thanks, Mom!).  For free, I was able to get a whole bag full of fun stuff (along with the bag itself!).

A few other things:

Brightly colored clothing

Yarn (again, the brighter the better)

Colorful paper products

A note about the links: I picked these links solely because they caught my eye, not because of any compensation, etc. (of which there was none).


7 Quick Takes With No Theme

— 1 —

I’ve been cooking like mad lately.  Last week, I worked normal hours, and was amazed by how different it was to come home after work and still have hours and hours left in the day.  In the last week and a half, I’ve made a couple batches of muffins, a pot pie (totally from scratch), soup, bread, biscuits, scalloped potatoes, and other various and sundry things.  I need to find a willing audience soon, before Christmas cookie season hits.

— 2 —

Mr. Wonderful and I took a short roadtrip a couple weekends ago, and on the way back, we were listening to a classic rock station.  I was singing along to this song when he suddenly realized out loud that the song is not called “Bright Eyed Girl.”  Whoops.

— 3 —

Among the things I’ve cooked recently are these delightful candies.  Candied lemon slices.  So very easy, and so rewarding.  These, along with the candied orange peel recipe from the same blog, and some good dark chocolate, were meant to be together.  Preferably in a cute jar, tied up with a ribbon and given as a Christmas gift.

— 4 —

I was sitting on the couch the other day, reading blogs on my laptop, when Mr. Wonderful peered over my shoulder and started cackling wildly.  “Do you really read a blog called ‘Barefoot and Pregnant‘?!?”  Why yes, yes I do.  Of course, the fact that I do this, and that he thinks it’s awesome, is a good sign.

— 5 —

Warning: Girl stuff ahead.  I downloaded this app the other day, and I have to say, I’m pretty excited (yes, I am kind of a nerd when it comes to collecting data).  I don’t really need this information for real reasons yet, but I’m very curious to start keeping track and finding patterns.  I actually read through the whole 50+ page(!) manual, and so far, I’m impressed by how well-designed the interface is.

— 6 —

I’ve never been big on Halloween costumes (mostly due to my own lack of creativity, I have to say), but I always feel obligated to come up with some token sign of caring.  I was delighted, therefore, to read Betty Beguiles’ idea for a Retro Librarian costume.  This is perfect since 1) I already own all the components, and 2) I work in a library.  Perfect.

— 7 —


Finally, I leave you with the view from a window near my office.  As you can see, we’re very big about putting our monogram on everything possible.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Fall Recipe: Apple Crisp for One

It’s fall – time for warm desserts, wool sweaters, and apples.  I tried to come up with a way to combine those three things, but the smell of singed wool was not worthwhile.  Still, two out of three ain’t bad, so behold: apple crisp for one.

Cut up one small apple (as small as you’ve got; even this one ended up being too big).  Peel, cut into thin slices or chunks.

Mix together 1 tablespoon of oatmeal, 1 scant tablespoon of brown sugar, a pat of butter cut into small chunks, and a sprinkling each of cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a small jar (or ramekin, or oven-safe bowl, but the jar is cutest), layer half the apples, half the topping, the rest of the apples, and the rest of the topping.  Place on a baking sheet just in case, and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Voila.  This is pretty hot (obviously), so you’ll want to let it sit for 5 minutes or so.  Luckily, that’s just enough time to pull out another ingredient that really elevates this dessert to sublimity.

Yes, cream.  You knew it was coming sometime.  I made a halfhearted attempt to whip it by hand, but gave up pretty quickly.  I added about a tablespoon to this serving.

Ecce, behold.

An Unwelcome(?) Paradigm Shift

I have quiz on Friday that I need to study for.  I’m finding that all of my old study habits are coming in handy: notecards, colored pens, writing the same thing 15 times.  One thing has changed, though, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  You see, I’ve been doing most of the work for this class at work, at my desk.  I’m at home now, needing to study, and I just realized that I want to work at my desk.  Maybe you have to know me to know what a big deal this is, but I feel fundamentally shaken.  Practically, this is problematic because my small desk is currently covered with a variety of art projects that will need to be moved.  I’m not sure whether to feel betrayed by my grown-up self, or glad to be able to work on a flat surface.

Snakes on a PlaneSpiders in a Bed


I took this picture yesterday, intending to write something about how happy I was to finally be able to curl up under my quilt at night. You see, I’ve spend the last few months spending my (supposedly) sleeping hours trying to touch as little as possible while simultaneously catching as much of my fan’s output as possible. Yes, I was very pleased with the idea that finally, flannel would be welcome. If only I had known that it would try to kill me.

11:00 rolled around and I decided to turn in. Blankets turned down, lights out, glasses off, and bedtime rosary started. A little while later: Hail Mary, full of – Ow, what on earth could I have rolled onto? (*readjust*) …grace, the Lord is with – good grief, what could that have been? It’s not like I keep a switchblade under my pillow. (Memo to self: get switchblade. A woman has to be protected, after all.) Thee. Blessed art thou amongst – alright, nothing I rolled onto would cause me to swell up…Wait.

It was roughly at this point that I leapt out of bed, grabbed my glasses, and turned on the lights in one smooth (smooth, got it? Not panicked) motion. A trip to the mirror confirmed that I did indeed have a bug bite of some kind on my shoulder. A frenzied calm and peaceful search of my bed yielded nothing, which is kind of okay, because I didn’t really want to know what had been lurking in my bed.

Unwilling to take any more risks, and already feeling phantom bugs crawling all over me, I cast my blankets to the foot of the bed, put on a hoodie (hood up), and more or less slept in the fetal position, my shoulder feeling like I had just gotten a particularly painful shot.

This morning, my boss confirmed that it was most likely a spider of some sort, but as I am unwilling to google “Indiana biting spider,” I think his exact identity will have to remain a mystery.