My little sister, Beans, is making me feel old. She’s buying a house in a couple weeks, and now she has a real-live grown up job. The only benefit to me (therefore the only one I’m concerned about), is that her job involves a bunch of traveling, so she was able to stop by for dinner the other day. I got to see her, give her some crap I don’t want, and receive presents from her, so it was all winning.
I was planning on cooking dinner for her, but at the last minute begged to go out to eat. Beans is super easy going, so out to eat we went! Beans had never had Vietnamese food, and I was dying for some, so we headed over to the Parmer/I-35 area to invade Pho King. Just so all you people know, it is spelled Pho, but pronounced Fuh, so yes, we ate at Fuh-king.
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is beef broth with thick rice noodles, and then you can choose what kind of meat goes in it. I prefer the very thin slices of steak they put in raw, and the hot soup cooks it instantly. When you order Pho, most places will offer you small or large bowls. It’s so cheap, you’d assume the small is like a normal cup of soup, but it’s generally the size of a basketball. Ask your server how big the bowls are before you order. I have never finished a small yet, and I have no idea how big a large is.
When it comes out, they bring you a side plate with raw herbs (usually basil, I think), bean sprouts, limes, and jalapenos on it. Those are for mixing into the soup, according to your preference. I generally throw in a few bean sprouts at a time, and eat them while they are still crispy, and add a dash of Sriracha. Pho is very tasty, and it is great for
Pho King also has grilled meat with rice or noodles, and lots of other enticing things on the menu. I usually get Pho whenever I can, but this time I got grilled pork and rice. The meat is cut very thin, and grilled to perfection. It has some kind of slightly sweet marinade on it, which blends beautifully with the charred, crispy edges. Beans loved her Pho, and even ate it like a native, throwing in raw jalapenos and Sriracha.
I’m attempting to find the best Pho in town, but it’s hard since we tend to go out to eat semi-rarely, and Hubby isn’t a fan of Pho. There’s a new place on my list to try, but unless someone wants to pay me to be a food critic, it’s going to have to wait for the bathroom remodel to be completed. On the Clever Chick Scale, Pho King gets a “I will take everyone I can there, and tell lots of people about it”.
No, there was no blog post Saturday. Yes, I’m a terrible blogger. I’m sure after the Great Bathtub Debacle you understand a bit of why I’m so scatterbrained lately, and will excuse one missed post. Also, Hubby has been a COMPLETE computer hog lately so I can’t upload any photos of all the cool stuff I’ve been up to, but it’s for a good reason, so all my complaining is on hold. And you know I love to complain.
While Hubby’s been focusing on work stuff, and my house is being torn apart, I’ve been chillaxin’ with some books from one of my favorite authors. These books are the equivalent of comfort food to me. I know I’ll love them, and they are always relaxing, but compelling.
The first one I read is called “Fortune’s Fool”. Most of the Mercedes Lackey books I’ve read occur in the world of Valdemar. This, however, is from a series called The Five Hundred Kingdoms. I find this universe to be ingenious, because it is set in a place where the Tradition, a sort of magic force, guides the fate of the land. It wants people to live out certain lives and pathways based on fairy tales. This leads to all sorts of interesting problems and storylines. This particular book is based more in Eastern fairy tales, like Russian and Japanese.
The main characters are the seventh daughter of the Sea King, who can live on land or in water, and the seventh son of a monarch. His job is to be the Fool, the character archetype that recurs in several fairy tales. He is inexplicably lucky, and he channels that luck to aid his kingdom. When an evil sorcerer from another kingdom moves into an abandoned castle, the sea princess and the prince have to figure out how to defeat him. It was a great story, and it had several twists and turns in the plot that I didn’t expect.
The next two I read are called “Owlflight” and “Owlsight”, and they are part 1 and 2 of a 3 book series. I have owned Owlsight for years, and I believe I read all 3 books, but I must have gotten the other 2 out of the library or something. When I found Owlflight on clearance, I snatched it up and skipped all the way home (or actually, to the car). These are set in the Valdemar universe. I own almost all the books set in that universe, and I can’t wait to complete the collection.
This set of books centers around Darian. He is a young boy, living on the edge of Valdemar in a small town called Errold’s Grove. His parents vanish, probably killed in the forrest, that has been warped by loose magic. He is then unwillingly apprenticed to the local healer and mage, Justyn. When barbarians attack the town, Darian hides in the woods, and is rescued by the mysterious Hawkbrothers, the guardians of the forrest. It is up to Darian and the small band of scouts to rescue the townsfolk from the barbarians and the mage that guides them.
In the second book, Darian has grown up some, and has been studying magic among the Hawkbrothers. The town of Errold’s Grove is thriving again, but when a new band of barbarians is spotted headed toward the town, the Hawkbrothers band together with the military to prepare. When it is discovered that the barbarian tribe are seeking help for a mysterious illness, the allies have to decide how to handle the situation.
If you have read anything by Mercedes Lackey, all three of these are definitely consistent with her writing style and creativity. On her website, it says that she has written over a hundred books. I have no idea how this lady can be so prolific, and yet so consistently good. On the Clever Chick Scale, these all get a “Has earned a place on my shelf, and will only be loaned out grundgingly, to trust-worthy people, who will be hounded mercilessly until its return”.
This puts me at 25 (or 24.5) books read for the year. I only read half of that terrible Shopaholic book, but I think it rounds up. So an average of one a week? I’m currently bogged down in a couple I started awhile ago, so we’ll see how my average does.
My favorite topic of complaint over the last few months has been our attempt at home remodeling. Many of you have heard bits and pieces of the story, and I even mentioned it in an earlier post, but I thought I’d go ahead and get the whole story down in one place.
This all started when the people who owned my home before me, who by now we all know are lazy jack wagons, ignored the upstairs tub dripping. They must have ignored it for at least a year. This leak proceeded to run along the side of the tub, and work its way through the grout between the tiles. Unfortunately, there was just sheet rock behind them instead of green board or hardi board, either of which would have been waterproof. The sheet rock slowly dissolved, leaving only a thin skin of paper holding up the entire tile wall.
Here’s why the previous owners are awful human beings: the water leaked enough to cause a water stain in the ceiling of the garage. Did they take that as a hint to fix it? No. They decided to simply replace the sheet rock in the garage to trick us into buying the house. We could have knocked off a large chunk of the price if they hadn’t been so deceptive, and would be having an easier time paying for their laziness right now. I hope a sinkhole swallows their current house and their insurance refuses to pay for it.
So Hubby and I got the leak fixed, discovered the illusion that is our “wall”, and started showering downstairs. This spring we had decided to get the whole shower fixed. We found a contractor who shall remain anonymous until their work is completed, at which point they will get a whole blog post, which I’m hoping will be entirely positive. We finally agreed on, and purchased tile, and ordered a tub.
Woe to ye who do not research large purchases ahead of time, for ye will surely be subjected to endless torment and frustration.
We went to the normal places to shop for a tub: Home Depot, and Lowe’s. I always prefer to support local businesses when I can, but I couldn’t seem to find a local plumbing supply shop, until we stumbled into Austin Plumbing Supply. I had already found a tub online at Lowe’s that was on sale, and would be shipped to our home for free. I should have ordered it and stayed home.
We went to the showroom, which is on Burnet (at this moment, but who knows how much longer it will be there). The person we were dealing with, who I believe was the owner, Bill Sullivan, said we should go over to their warehouse and see what they had there. We 10 minutes over there, where he tried to sell us two tubs that were not even close to what we wanted. One was basically the same as the one we already had, and the other was some big, fancy Whirpool number. This is how the conversation went:
Me: “That’s not what we want”.
Bill: “Yeah, but I’ll make you a deal on this one”.
Me: “I don’t want a deal on that one. I want a tub without all those jets and things”.
Bill: “This is usually a $1,500 tub. I’ll give it to you for $700. That’s less than half what it usually costs”.
Me (thinking I know $700 is less than half of $1,500, jackass. Don’t insult my intelligence): “I don’t care. That’s still way more than I want to spend, plus it will cost me a ton more to install. I found a tub I want for $500, so I’ll just go order it from Lowe’s”.
After a bit more discussion along this line, he gave me a rather irritated look, and said we should all go back to the showroom. We drove back through traffic, all the way back down Burnet. He had me find the website with the tub I had in mind, and said they would match the price. At the time we were on a deadline for the contractors to get started (little did I know that date would be missed by 2 months at least), and he told me we would have it delivered in time for the start date. After he ran my card he said it would SHIP within 2 weeks, not ARRIVE within 2 weeks, which is what I needed. I should have cancelled the order at that second, but I didn’t know any better.
After that, there was a consistent string of delays, ignored phone calls and emails, and excuses. We finally got the tub and the flange (part of the tub) delivered, but no tub skirt. The skirt is the front white wall of the tub, and this one was a separate piece. When the tub was delivered, the (seemingly 15 year old) delivery boy told us the skirt would arrive in a couple of days. I called the store after he left, and they said it would be a couple of WEEKS.
We stopped hearing from them completely, and I even emailed them saying, “Please just email me back if your business is still open”. I had no idea that I was correct. The local paper did an article about the fact that Austin Plumbing Supply closed its doors without telling anyone, before they declared bankruptcy. I found out because my contractor physically went over to the store to find out what was going on, and saw numerous customers wandering around, unsure what to do when faced with the inexpicably locked doors.
The Statesman has since written another article about the bankruptcy, and the effect on customers. Personally, I feel really lucky that we got a tub at all. I’ve disputed the charges for the remaining purchase with the bank, and it’s already been refunded. My contractor says we don’t need the skirt (oh yeah, turns out the tub is discontinued as well, so getting any remaining parts my be nigh impossible), and she can build and tile a small wall instead.
I’ve posted this before, but I’ll post it again: this is the link to Austin Plumbing Supply on Yelp. For those of you unfamiliar, Yelp is a website where people can review businesses and restaurants. They have a five star scale (five being the best), and this place has an AVERAGE of one star. One!! It turns out that I’m not alone. Bill Sullivan is apparently rude to every person he comes across, and once he has your money, doesn’t care about actually providing the materials he’s promised. No one deserves to go out of business more than this guy. I am gleeful at his downfall, and I hope he can never open another business again.
Hubby and I were very lucky, and I hope everyone uses this as a lesson to research any place you’ll be making a major purchase thoroughly before handing over your card. Hopefully, the world is now a little safer for consumers, and with any luck, I’ll be able to shower upstairs in less than 2 weeks!
I love making quesadillas. They are hot, cheesy, melty, and easy to make. You can put almost anything in there and they are delicious. Once, Dr. Stacey and I made some with brisket in there, and yup, amazing. Today I used cooked, cubed, fajita chicken, onions, and cheese.
Just lay the bottom tortillas on a cookie sheet, and place the fillings on top. Try to keep everything on the tortillas so the clean up is easy.
Sprinkle cheese on top, add top tortillas, and put them in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Once the cheese is melty and the edges are crisp they are ready to come out.
Gorgeous and tasty!
Other filling ideas: beans, peppers, jalapenos, spinach, mushrooms, pretty much any kind of meat. These are a great way to use up leftovers, or tiny bits of things, like when you have just half a chicken breast, and don’t know what to do with it. There are tons of combinations that would be great, so have fun with it.
We don’t generally eat a lot of fruit, but during this time of year when it’s all delicious and cheap I can’t resist. The other day, strawberries were on sale for a dollar a pound, so I bought 3 pounds. We can’t eat all of that right away, so I cut a bunch up to freeze for later this year. I like to add them to pies and smoothies. First, I washed them all, cut off the tops, and sliced them in half. I lined them up on a cookie sheet that I know fits in my freezer, then I took lots of pictures of them, because they were so pretty.
This is them in the freezer. Once they were all frozen, I put them in one big freezer bag.
I used the same method to freeze a whole bunch of chicken the other day. I just covered the cookie sheet in wax paper so they were easier to pull off and put in a freezer bag. This method is a great way to take advantage of sales or when produce is in season.
As I said, Tinkerbell is a little slow, at best. Just this morning she started to fall off the bathroom counter for no apparent reason. She saved her self from the 2 foot fall by latching onto my ring finger with one claw. I now have a tiny puncture wound. Tink is constantly looking out of windows and doorways, begging to be released into her “natural habitat”. Like most cats she is painfully curious, and her two attempts to exist outside for more than five minutes have ended disasterously.
When I was in college, I lived in an apartment with a few roommates, which I think is pretty “pathet”, or “really cool way to live”. One night, as a roommate was leaving, Tink snuck outside. We were living on the edge of San Marcos at the time, and everything around was a cactus-y wasteland. Hubby and I didn’t notice she was missing until the other cat, Mudface, started looking for her.
We went outside with her jingle bell toy, calling her name and asking the neighbors if they’d seen her. We looked for 45 minutes or so, then headed back to the apartment, preparing for a serious search and rescue effort into the scrub lands. Hubby heard a pathetic mewing coming from a holly bush, three feet from our front door. Tink had achieved her goal of reaching the outside world, then panicked, and hid in the closest place possible.
The second time she was outdoors was much, much worse, but it makes for a funny story now. She was sick, and we were driving from Houston to San Antonio at night. She started acting really odd and twitchy, like she had to use the bathroom. I had the bright idea that we should pull over at the next rest area and see if she would go on the grass. I hadn’t had cats very long at this point in my life, or Tinkerbell in particular, so I had no idea how ridiculously stupid I was being.
She took off towards the woods. Hubby and I ran wildly after her, but to either side so we wouldn’t scare her into running further away. The area was partially lit, but she headed for the dark area, with a lot of trees, and who knows what else. Thankfully, she ran up a tree. Like 20 feet straight into the air. Then she sat up there and cried.
We called the local sheriff who showed up 45 minutes later and determined that we needed the fire department (Cat up a tree, and we need the fire department? I can see I’m not the only clever one here!). The “fire department” showed up another 30 or 45 minutes later.
When I say “fire department” I mean “two guys in a Toyota pick up with a ladder tied to the top”. It was a small town, but this was still less than comforting. The one guy put on his whole fire fighter suit, complete with helmet, before he would climb the ladder to get my retarded kitten. I can only assume he didn’t have a lot of oppotunities to use his gear, so he was probably really excited, and wanted to look professional.
He climbed the ladder and rescued her, and it was super dramatic and heart wrenching. We eventually got her home, and she was fine. She still tries to talk me into letting her outside periodically, but I have learned my lesson quite thoroughly.
We have had a ton of chicken in the house lately, and Hubby is starting to get tired of it. Being the Clever Chick that I am, I plan on tricking him into eating as much of it as I can. I cubed up some baked chicken to make into chicken salad. Hubby loves spicy stuff, so I threw in some Sriracha, or Rooster sauce, to liven it up. You will need:
Dill, garlic salt, Sriracha, ranch dressing, mayo, chicken, celery, and peas.
I microwave the frozen peas in water, then drain it.
This is 2 or 3 chicken breasts, 3 celery stalks, and about 1/2 cup of peas. I like a high veggie to chicken ratio in mine.
I also like it moist, so let’s just say there’s probably an unhealthy amount of ranch and mayo in there. I added the Sriracha gradually, since it’s very spicy. I used maybe a teaspoon of garlic salt, and maybe two teaspoons of dill. I tend to cook by adding a little something, tasting, then adding more if I need to, which is why I’m terrible at giving real recipes.
Anyway, here’s what it looks like when complete. I usually just eat it with a fork, or on a salad, or wrapped up in a piece of lettuce. I have been obsessed with Sriracha, so expect more recipes with it in the future.
I love Netflix, not just because it gives me an endless supply of movies and TV shows, but because it suggests things I might like. One of those suggestions was Hogfather.
This movie is set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. He has written a whole series of books set there, and this movie was made from one of them. This movie is set on the night of Hogswatch, which is similar to our Christmas Eve. Someone is trying to destroy Hogswatch, and Death’s granddaughter has to try and save it.
I think the best way to describe the series, is a fantasy series, with lots of humor thrown in. Kind of like the land of Narnia, but with clever, funny bits woven throughout. If you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett, or Douglas Adams you’ll enjoy this.
If you’ve already seen this one, or you trust my advice so much that you’ll watch anything I tell you, another Discworld movie is available. Horray! It’s called The Color of Magic, and it stars Sean Astin and Tim Curry.
Sean Astin plays Discworld’s first tourist, and he teams up with the most terrible wizard on the Disc and has hilarious and ridiculous adventures. They even explore beyond the Disc! Tim Curry is actually good in this, rather than horribly distracting as he can be sometimes.
There are some animated movies of Discworld available on Netflix as well. I didn’t find those to be as entertaining, but Hubby enjoyed them. I plan on finding some of the Discworld books so I can immerse myself in all the humor and detail. I’ll let you know how they are. On the Clever Chick Scale, these both get a “I will recommend these to friends, and eagerly await new ones”.
This is part 2 in the Strange World of Clever Chick. Odd things have been happening to me for weeks now, and I had to document it, or lose what’s left of my sanity.
We have a very sad peach tree in the back yard. The previous owners, who we all know are morons, planted the thing at a 45 degree angle, so that it’s leaning across the only pathway in and out of the back yard. It is also surrounded by tons of massive trees, so it never gets enough sun. We live in Texas, so it never gets enough water, but neither does anything else. The first year we lived in the house, there were a series of hail storms that knocked every baby peach off the tree. The second year, squirrels at them all. This year however, we have Flapjack.
He chases squirrels like he’s in doggy heaven. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the trees, or on top of the fence, or in the yard. He races after each one as though he will really catch it. When they get into the peach tree, he can reach them because there’s a bench next to it, so I had high hopes of harvesting my own fruit this year. The peaches had a guardian. I have even been watering that crooked, ungrateful wretch every night. I went out there on Thursday to water. The peaches were about the size of a 50 cent piece, and starting to turn peach! I went out there on Friday. No need to water. They had all vanished overnight.
Last night, Tinkerbell, our Siamese cat, inexplicably started attacking the Chrsitmas lights that hang over our bed. They’ve been up for over a year, and she’s never taken any notice of them. She has brain damage from being hit by a car years ago, so I just picked her up, and carried her away from the lights, hoping she’d forget they were there. Hubby and I were laying in bed reading, and petting Flapjack. He likes to lay in bed between us for a little while before he goes to sleep on the floor. He suddenly perked up, and I realized he was looking very intently at something to the left of my head. I looked to see what was so fascinating. A roach.
I think I teleported. The next thing I knew I was standing on top of the ottoman, shrieking. Hubby already had a shoe in hand. Somehow he’d gotten the roach onto the floor, and was attempting to destroy it, but those things are crafty. After much shrieking, running, jumping, and more shrieking on my part, Hubby destroyed and flushed the beast. Woe ye who piss off my Husband, for that shalt be thoroughly vanquished with a flip flop. I, of course, was super-paranoid the rest of the night. I had to sleep with my hair in a braid, because I would flip out every time I saw one of my dark brown locks from the corner of my eye. We all know I do not deal well with roaches. I hope this teaches you all to pay attention to your animals. They don’t just predict hurricanes, and notify us of children in wells.
Another tiny weird thing happened the other day. I was in the shower, and I was washing my very long, heavy hair. A section of it dropped, hitting me on the shoulder. It felt like someone laid their hand on me, and it was freaky as hell!!
Some of you know that we’ve been attempting to have our upstairs bathroom remodeled for months now. There was a long-term leak (again left by the previous home owners, those fantastic human beings), which caused a ton of sheet rock to be damaged, so we have to have the entire tub, and tile surround area removed and replaced. All of this was supposed to be completed in April, but everything has been delayed repeatedly because we ordered our bathtub from Austin Plumbing Supply (link is to the Yelp page because their website has been shut down).
They were constantly putting us off, saying there were delays, or just not responding to emails or calls at all. After a few weeks of this, I looked them up on yelp, and they have only terrible reviews. They have an average of 1 out of 5 stars, so that should tell you something. Sometimes, I’m just not as clever as I try to be. I should have researched them before making a major purchase, but hopefully all of you lovely little minions can learn from my mistake. We finally got the tub and one of the parts delivered to the house, with the promise that the other part would be arriving in a couple weeks.
After even more back-and-forth, I got an email from my contractor this morning. They are closed. Went bankrupt. I think it’s kind of funny. I mean they deserve it, but they either owe me a part, or $75. I’ve already called my bank to dispute the charges since they didn’t deliver the product, so in a way this isn’t my problem any more. It’s nice to not worry about that horrible company anymore (at least for now), but we’re still no closer to being able to shower upstairs.
To top EVERYTHING off, my high school reunion is THIS FRIDAY (as I’m writing this. As you’re reading this, it was yesterday)!! That’s right it’s my
ten year five year reunion (yes, I’m uh..(carry the 4)…23! Really!!) on Friday. I’ve been dieting, and I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the past 3 weeks, but it’s getting hard to be good. I went to Wendy’s yesterday. I still hang out with lots of my friends from high school, so I don’t think I’m nervous, but I keep having crazy dreams, like I’m supposed to get married but forgot to plan the wedding, or I’m supposed to be in medical school, but I never went to any classes, or I got a job but forgot to finish college, so now I have to finish it on the side without my boss finding out. All these crazy things keep happening, which are small, but they’re big enough to keep my slightly off-balance. Add bad sleep to that equation, and you get one crazy Clever Chick. Everyone, please wish me luck, and don’t let me have any carbs until Saturday.
I have been having a weird couple of weeks. It seems like random, slightly unpleasant events keep occurring. That, in and of itself, is not unusual for me, but things have been happening so frequently that I’m starting to wonder if I slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum. Maybe I’m in a parallel dimension that’s very similar to my own, but in which dishes jump off counters, fruit trees have no fruit, and I’m a pirate.
First of all, the other day I was just walking through my bedroom, just like normal. Somehow I smashed my left foot into my bed. I tend to trip on things, and bump into things a lot, but this was horrific. It is still hurting, 5 days later, and it was hugely swollen, with weird purple spots (See?!? Even bruises are weird in this dimension!). The ironic part is, a large portion of my left foot is numb at all times, due to a pinched nerve in my back. Did I smash the numb part? Of course not. So I’ve been hobbling around like a wicked crone in a fairy tale.
A week or so ago, I went to my dentist for a normal cleaning. Did it work out with a pat on the back and a free toothbrush? I’m not that lucky. First of all, I got a COUPON for a toothbrush. What? I depend on the dentist to supply all my travel sized dental equipment. A coupon for a normal sized toothbrush doesn’t help me. I already have dozens of them laying around at home. Second of all, my nice, young dentist, from my same hometown was gone. Instead, I have the love child of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mr. Clean. He was polite, but intimidating. Turns out that one of my fillings from last year needs to be replaced (he wouldn’t say if it was done incorrectly before), and he wanted to give me a GOLD tooth. Granted, it would be way in the back, and I do love pirates, but still. My insurance company decided that if I was going to have the fun of being a pirate, I had to pay for a large chunk of it myself, so normal filling it is. That whole experience was not fun, but I’m sure everyone knows what it’s like, so I won’t force any of us to relive the horror that is the dentist’s chair.
Right now, in my kitchen, there is the inexplicable sound of water running. I have checked the sink, under the sink, the outside hoses, the water heater, the water heater downspout outside, and the sink upstairs. Hubby has checked it all too, and we cannot find anything. It’s like Chinese water torture, but instead of dripping on my head, it’s giving me visions of water building up inside the walls, slowly destroying my home, and everything I love.
As always, Hubby and I are constantly trying to lighten the workload around the house and be more ecofriendly, when possible. Our dishwasher is tempermental at best, and we were having to rewash things at least twice. We decided that if we each had one bowl and one plate, we would just use them, and hand wash them ourselves. This way, the dishes don’t stack up, and no one gets resentful having to wash up the gross dishes the other person leaves with food on them in the sink rather than just rinsing them. 3 guesses who does that. We went to the thrift store and picked out one each. The whole system was working great. There were a very small number of dishes each day that we easily hand washed. Then, somehow, my bowl jumped out of my hand and committed suicide. It exploded across the kitchen, scaring the crap out of me and Flapjack. I cleaned it up, and everything returned to normal, but now more dishes are appearing. I decided I would just use one of the bowl we had, but they must be multiplying on the counter. It’s bizarre.
More of the Strange World of Clever Chick in Part 2: Seriously, call Stephen Hawking
Apparently, I’m pretty far behind on this, but I finally got around to it. There is a Clever Chick Facebook page! Hooray!
There has to be an easier way to do this, but that’s the link I found. Fan me so I can tell if I did this right!