Feb 27, 2013

My Dog is a Creep

Murphy and I have been spending a lot of time together.  A lot.  Of time.  Other than the fact that he is extremely lazy, I have also noticed that he is a creep.  Some might call him a stalker.  

He creeps on me while I'm brushing my teeth...

And while I'm blowdrying my hair.

While I'm eating lunch...

And while I'm blogging!

He creeps on me when I'm in my car...

And when I'm watching TV.

When I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner...

He EVEN creeps on other dogs in our yard!

Sometimes I have to leave the house just to get away from his unwavering stare. 

In other news, last night I almost burned the house down.  Well, not really.  But it did get pretty smoky while I was cooking dinner!  Oops.

Grilled Sausages and Polenta

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 tube prepared polenta sliced into 1/2 inch rounds, or 1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta (recipe follows)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 bag baby arugula
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  1. Whisk oil, vinegar, rosemary, and garlic together in small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  
  2. Place polenta rounds in another small bowl and cover with 3 tbsp dressing.  
  3. Grill sausages over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until brown on all sides and cooked through, about 7-9 minutes.  
  4. Grill polenta until charred and heated through, about 3 minutes on each side.  
  5. When polenta is done grilling, transfer to plate or serving platter and drizzle with 2 tbsp dressing.  
  6. Combine arugula, tomatoes, red onions, and remaining dressing in a large bowl.  
Ok, so the dressing, sausage, and polenta all tasted amazing.  However, the polenta did not quite grill the way I hoped.  They kind of fell apart on my grill pan, I think due to the grease leftover from the cooking the sausages.  Sometimes, the grill pan just doesn't do the job of a real grill.  Still, it was a delicious meal!

I could not find a tube of precooked polenta in the grocery store, nor have I ever been able to find one, so I had to resort to making my own (if anyone has ever seen these in the grocery store, let me know!  I'm starting to doubt their existence...).  
  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Season with 1 tsp salt.
  3. Slowly stir in 1/2 cup polenta.  Continue stirring about 3 minutes or until it reaches a smooth consistency and all water is absorbed.
  4. Stir in about 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp olive oil.
  5. Transfer to 8x8 glass baking pan and spread in a thin, even layer.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours. 
  6. Using a glass, cut out circles from polenta sheet.  
This sounds like a lot of work, but polenta is pretty much the easiest thing to make (Besides maybe oatmeal).  And it's awesome!  I love the taste alone, but there are so many different ways to make polenta that I never get bored with it.  Nom Nom Nom.  

Umm yah.  I need to work on my grill marks.  Or get a real grill...

Feb 24, 2013

The Time We Ate Two Desserts

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend as much as we did here in New Jersey!  Friday wasn't really anything special...just our usual dinner and relaxing on the couch.  BearFace had to work for a few hours on Saturday morning, so Murphy and I spent the drizzly and dreary day back on the couch blogging, weekly menu planning, and crafting.

Canvas Mounted Photos

This is a simple project that replaces the need for frames (which can be expensive!)  I had a few 8x10 photos that I wanted to mount, and I was really pleased with the way they turned out.

After an energetic workout at the gym, BearFace and I decided to check out the restaurant scene in Warwick, NY.  We settled on Fetch Bar and Grill (maybe because the walls were adorned with puppy pictures?)  I wasn't overwhelmed with the experience.  It was crowded and loud, although the Thanksgiving Eggrolls we ordered as an appetizer were delicious.  I ordered the veggie burger for dinner just because I have been wanting to try one.  Drew tried to warn me that I would be disappointed, but I refused to listen.  Turns out he was right.  Oh well!

So then, we had dessert.  Twice.  Let me preface this by explaining that I have been craving gooey, chocolatey cake allllll week (I think every woman out there can relate to this).  Nothing on the dessert menu jumped out at us, so we walked down the street to Noble Pies.  Our thought was to pop in, see what they had to offer (ahem chocolate cake ahem), and if nothing looked good, on to the next stop!  As soon as we walked in, there was no leaving.  We were immediately greeted by a friendly worker who suggested several different kinds of pies, none of which were chocolate.  At that point we felt stuck and reluctantly agreed to share a slice of blueberry...which was quite excellent.  However, due to the awkward silence in the cafe and lack of other patrons, we gobbled our pie and peaced out as soon as possible.

I knew instantly that the pie would not do.  I NEEDED chocolate cake.  I certainly wasn't going to bake one at 8 pm on a Saturday night, so what was the next best option?  Stop at the grocery store and pick up a microwaveable molten chocolate lava cake, of course!  I was slightly embarrassed during check out, but it was worth every bite.  BearFace also thoroughly enjoyed his microwaveable chocolate chip cookie.

I can't speak for Drew, but I was definitely feeling the second dessert Sunday morning.  But it didn't last long.  We headed out early for a swim at the Y, and after a solid 45 minutes of laps, I worked off about 1/2 of the 1/2 of the pie I consumed.

Workout done, we did some grocery shopping on the way home and then spent a few hours relaxing before taking Murphster out for a hike on the boardwalk.  It was packed with people today, so pictures were barely an afterthought.  I spent most of the time on the boardwalk keeping Murphy under control on the leash and trying to avoid oncoming dogs and people!  The poor guy just wanted to be friends with everyone, and he doesn't seem to understand that not everyone wants to be friends with him.  He did get some attention from a wobbling toddler out for a Sunday stroll.  Murphy bestowed him with some gentle kisses and snuffles, and was greeted with wild giggling in return.

[Side note: One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is people who are irresponsible with their dogs.  I will admit, I do let Murphy off leash when we are hiking, but only when there are no other hikers around and only because I know that he actually listens to me (ok, so maybe he occasionally ignores me for a piece of poop, or a chocolate lab puppy...).  If I do happen to spot a hiker, I immediately put him on the leash and get out of the way.  It is rude to assume that someone wants your dog in their face.  I expect the same courtesy in return.  So when I am walking on the crowded boardwalk with my leashed dog and step to the side to let a German Shepherd and his owner pass, this is NOT an invitation for said owner to let his dog run up to mine and say hello without asking.  Was I rude when I informed you that my dog is not always friendly when he's on a leash?  Maybe a little, but perhaps it will teach you a lesson!  How do I know your dog won't bite mine?  How do you know my dog won't bite yours?  (Alright, Murphy is the friendliest fellow there is, but he definitely gets tense with new dogs since he was attacked by the husky last year.  Probably just Mom being paranoid, but I don't like taking chances with strange dogs.)]  I apologize for the rant...clearly I am still annoyed.  So, when you're out walking with your dog, remember to be respectful of others!

Our daily dose of fresh air taken in, we threw on our chef hats and put together a fabulous dinner.

Thai Turkey Sliders with Creamy Peanut Sauce

I got this recipe from an issue of America's Test Kitchen 30 Minute Suppers, but this appears to be the same recipe.  These turned out fantastic!  Drew and I were both a little skeptical, and he admitted that it was the first dish I have prepared that he was nervous to eat!  But in the end, we both really enjoyed the burgers.  The combination of cilantro, lime, and chili-garlic sauce was just perfect (Just be warned: fish sauce smells downright nasty).

I could not find slider buns, so we used toasted whole wheat English muffins instead.  I also had to add about 2 tablespoons of water to the creamy peanut sauce.  Not sure what happened, but it ended up too thick.  The water did the trick and didn't take anything away from the taste.  We served the burgers with a side of:

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

BearFace actually made these himself!  He found a recipe online and everything!  Unfortunately, he has blatantly refused to share the measurements with me.  But basically, it's pretty simple:

2 sweet potatoes (or however many people you are feeding)
Black pepper

  1. Poke the potatoes liberally with a fork, then bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour.
  2. Remove the top of the skin from the potatoes and scoop out insides into a bowl (They should resemble a canoe!)
  3. Add milk and butter and mix until smooth.
  4. Add cinnamon and black pepper to taste.
  5. Scoop mashed potato mixture back into potato skins, and bake for another 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle with some dried parsley as a garnish.
Although BearFace in the kitchen makes me quite nervous on occasion, I did my best to keep my mouth shut and stay out of his way.  And he proved to be quite the chef!  (Watch out for a blog from him coming soon...A Bear in the Kitchen: How to Cook When You Have Claws For Hands).  Seriously though, those were some tasty potatoes. 


Feb 23, 2013

Cheese-aholics Anonymous

My name is Michelle, and I have a cheese addiction.

I finally stepped up and admitted that I have a problem.  A cheese problem, or addiction if you will.  I'm sure it has been evident in all of the food pictures I post, in which the dish is completely obscured by the mountain of cheese topping it.  Besides the cholesterol that it adds to my diet, there is another reason I am beginning to see this as a problem. Something in my diet just isn't working for me...I had some testing done last year, and found out that I have severe acid reflux.  I started taking Prilosec every day, but something is still a bit off.  I end up with a lot of abdominal pain and cramping that sometimes lingers for weeks.  I decided that an elimination diet is the only way to solve the puzzle.  And first on my list?  Cheese.  Well, dairy.  That's right, I'm going dairy-free for one whole month to see if it makes any difference.  And I'm pretty sad about it!  Over the next month, I'll be exploring different dairy-free recipes, and coming up with some dairy substitutes to my favorite dishes.

Now that I've admitted to my addiction, on to more exciting things!  BearFace and I had our first visitor this week...one of my old UConn horse pals, Sarah Towle, spent the night with us on Tuesday.  She is a teacher and was able to get away for the night while on her February break.  We spent Tuesday afternoon pampering ourselves with a mani/pedi while BearFace was at work, and then had this delicious dinner waiting for him when he got home:

Stir-Fried Noodles with Tofu, Scallions, and Peanuts

Sarah and I actually doubled this recipe, and it was the perfect amount for the 3 of us, with a little leftover for lunch the next day.  Which was a plus because it was delicious!  Sadly I did not take a picture, but believe me, it looked as good as it tasted.  I happened to have some tofu in the fridge, so we only had to pick up a few ingredients before throwing everything in the wok, and it was ready in a snap.  I also added in some kale because I have a ginormous amount of it in our fridge.

Sarah and I started Wednesday morning out at the our local diner.  On top of their ridculously awesome pancakes, they also have a ridiculously awesome weekday breakfast special: Buy 1 breakfast, get 1 free.  Can't argue with that...  We shared the blueberry pancakes and my personal favorites, the Chunky Monkey PB pancakes (buttermilk pancakes stuffed with bananas, chocolate and pb chips).

After rolling ourselves back to my house and digesting a bit,  we took Murphles out for a hike.  It turned out to be a great day because I finally found the boardwalk trail I have been searching for (Sarah must be good luck).  It was pretty cold and windy, and we definitely froze our butts off, but it was a fun, scenic hike!

I bet this is beautiful in the summer/fall.

 One last thought before I wrap this up...

If anyone has been wondering what became of Rupert, we figured it out!  While I was in the city this weekend, Drew spotted Rupert and a little white terrier in our yard.  Where exactly in our yard were they?  Sitting on the brick patio outside the slider, staring at the sleeping Murphy who was laying in his sunspot on the rug, completely unbeknownst to him.  Unfortunately they scampered off before BearFace could capture the picture of a lifetime.  We discovered that they belong to our neighbors, who seem to have found out about this unlikely duo's wanderings, because they have not been seen since!  


I needed a little hiatus from blogging.  I have been quite busy, between visiting friends, putting some finishing touches on our new place, and catering to my spoiled dog-child's every need.  And of course, job hunting.  Job hunting can be both exhausting and extremely frustrating, as I'm sure everyone knows.  I think it was the mental exhaustion that left me with no desire or energy to write a post at the end of the day!  I have a few bites from a couple vet hospitals, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping one of them will work out sooner than later.  (I am DEFINITELY not cut out for stay-at-home dog mom). 

Now on to the catch-up:

Valentine's Surprises

I did in fact decide to be a good girlfriend and cook up some Valentine's surprises for BearFace.  For dinner, I made:

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I decided to substitute sweet potatoes for regular old potatoes, and they came out great.  I did purchase 3 sweet potatoes but only ended up using 1 since it was kind of a monster.  I had some rolls in the fridge from another dinner, and toasted them up for dipping.  BearFace was pretty excited that we were having beef for once, although steaks would have been nice (if only we had a grill!)

Perfect warm dinner for a cold winter night.

While the stew was stewing in the crockpot, I set to work making our Valentine's dessert:

Strawberry Valentine's Cake Balls

1 box strawberry cake mix
1 container strawberry frosting
2 containers Baker's dipping chocolate
Sprinkles for decorating
  1. Bake cake according to package instructions.
  2. While cake is still warm, crumble cake into a large bowl.  Mix in entire container of frosting until combined with cake.  Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  
  3. Form 1 inch balls with cake mixture, placing on wax paper-lined baking sheet.  Reserve a small amount of cake mixture for decorations.
  4. Melt dipping chocolate in microwave, following instructions on package.
  5. Roll cake balls in chocolate using 2 spoons, then place back on baking sheet.
  6. Decorate with sprinkles or remaining cake mixture (I shaped polka dots and hearts out of the cake and placed them on the chocolate.  Make sure to add decorations before chocolate hardens!)

Some of these cake balls have the chicken pox. 

Our bellies full, we spent a cozy and lazy night on the couch.  It was nice to relax before I was off to NYC on Friday for a fun-filled weekend!  (BearFace opted to stay at home on the couch for the weekend.  Not really the city type).

I was amazed at how simple it was to get to the city from our new mountaintop home....just an hour drive to the train station, where I hopped on the train for a $4.00, 10 minute ride.  Easy peasy.  I cabbed it to Mad Dawg's apartment, where BeenBag was waiting for me, fresh off a plane from Louisiana!  We spent the afternoon snuggled up on the couch, catching up on our lives and waiting for Mad Dawg to arrive home from work.  And then we were all 3 off to meet up with Miheer, Seamus, and Colleen for dinner at Uva.  We started off with some wine and appetizers, and then Miheer and I shared the scallops and gnocchi for dinner.  For some reason, gnocchi has always been on my "do not order" list...not sure where the bad connotation came from, but I haven't eaten it since I was about 5.  MISTAKE.  I was overwhelmed by its dense, pillowy deliciousness.  Definitely back on the "order" list!  

From dinner, we went to a nearby karaoke bar for a night filled with creepy old men, random one-liners (What if I tapped in right now?), and cheering Miheer on while he killed it singing Adele's Rumor Has It (he was in an a cappella group at Uconn...he's no joke!) 

No one is safe from blog pictures.  No one. 

After lunch at Tia Pol with Mad Dawg's mom the next day, I took the subway to my brother's apartment where we grabbed dinner at BareBurger, and then waited for the troops to arrive.  BeenBag, Mad Dawg, Miheer, and Joe's girlfriend Chrissy came over to his apartment for some drinks before we hopped in a cab and went to Red Lion for the night.  Another great night for the books.

After brunch at Docks with Joe and Chrissy the next day, (I had the smoked salmon frittata...unreal!) I hopped on a bus back to the train station and headed back to New Jersey.  In addition to an amazing time seeing friends and family (hadn't seen Mad Dawg in a loooong time), I also made great strides conquering NYC's public transportation system all alone (with step-by-step instructions from the experts).  But seriously, I was quite proud of myself!  And since it's so easy to get to the city now, I'm sure I'll be back to visit soon enough (maybe I'll be able to drag BearFace with me next time). 

Home Sweet Home

When I finally arrived home Sunday evening, I was pretty much running on empty!  BearFace and I grabbed a pizza at one of our local pizza places and then called it a night.  He had Monday off of work for President's Day, so we did some grocery shopping the next morning and then spent an hour at the YMCA.  He signed us both up over the weekend, and we have been enjoying the pool for doing laps, and I have been using the treadmill as well.  (I established pretty early on that I will not be running on our mountain road).  Time to get back in shape! 

Feb 14, 2013

Just Trollin'

So BearFace has taken to calling me the mountain troll, due to the fact that on certain days (mostly during blizzards), I do not leave the mountain.  And since I am not working, I really don't have a definite reason to leave.  Although the rest of the world is only a 3 minute drive away, it seems like another world down there.  At first I was against this new moniker, but I will admit, I am starting to see the resemblance:
  1. I recently stopped washing my hair and it is starting to hang in tangled, greasy locks.
  2. On a whim, I chiseled my fingernails, toenails, and teeth into dagger points.
  3. Due to lack of sunlight, my skin has begun to turn a pasty white/grey color.
  4. I have taken to standing in the middle of the mountain road yelling "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" at our neighbors as they drive by (So far, no one has laughed).
  5. When that gets boring, I hold up a sign saying "YOU HAVE TO PAY THE TROLL TOLL" (Also not super amusing to our neighbors, but I've made $27 so far).       
Ok, just kidding.  Numbers 3-5 are a joke.  I do actually leave on an (almost) daily basis to look for jobs!

Trolling aside, Murphy and I started our morning off with a bang today!  I got up around 8 am (kind of love that part about being unemployed), headed outside for Murphy's morning pee, and out of the corner of my eye, spotted something fluffy.  What looked to be a St. Bernard puppy was standing on the side of the road a little ways down from our driveway.  Always the animal lover, I called the puppy in hopes he would come galavanting over to me, and Murphy and I would have acquired a free dog (useful as Drew's Valentine's present).  By the time I got out to the road, however, the puppy had decided to turn around and run the other way.  Murphy and I went back into our yard, and I spotted the fluffball sitting in the woods on the side hill.  I quickly ran back into the house to grab boots and a leash with which to wrangle the beast, but again, by the time I got back out the pup had disappeared.  We walked part way down the mountain, but despite our best tracking efforts, could not find our furry friend.  I hope the puppy (let's call him Rupert) found his way back home.  And don't worry, I really would have returned him to his rightful owner.  Too much hair for my house!

Cat nap.  Further proof: he is a cat in dog's clothing.

Morning adventure complete, Murphy spared no time hurrying to the living room for his daily sun nap while I made some breakfast:

Almond Banana Breakfast Oats

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Eat it.

Like the blog's author, I have made these every morning since I found the recipe!  They are that tasty.  I did, however, substitute vanilla soy milk for almond milk because my grocery store does not carry almond milk (Most likely I was looking in the wrong place).  I did find almond butter in the store, but it was a whopping $7.00 for a tiny jar!!!  Via the same blog, I decided to try making my own:

Simply Delicious Dry-Roasted Almond Butter

I was skeptical at first, but I actually love it.  Although it was a time-consuming and kind of messy process, it seems worth it for how long I expect the almond butter to last.  I actually started halving the breakfast oats recipe.  1/2 cup of oats was just too much for me...I'm more of a light breakfast person (It keeps me full until almost 1:00!) 

While we're on the topic of recipe-sharing, I threw this together for dinner last night:

Rustic Tomato Rice Kale Soup

Disclaimer: We are NOT going vegan!

I did adapt this recipe a little bit to add some meat protein, since we are a meat-eating household.
  • I sauteed 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in bite-sized pieces, and seasoned with garlic salt and pepper.  Add this in at the end.
  • I substituted chicken broth for the vegetable broth, and probably added closer to 3 cups than just 1 cup.
  • I was not able to find fire-roasted tomatoes in the store, so I went with a can of crushed tomatoes instead.
  • And finally, rather than using frozen veggies, I added 1/2 a bag of fresh broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower (similar to the stir-fry veggies I used for the Orange Chicken).
Top with your favorite cheese (I used brie, and in hindsight probably could have gone with just one slice), and dip in some crusty dipping bread!  This was probably the best tomato soup I've had, although I think I would leave out the rice next time.  The combination of spices were superb!

[Side note: I hope you have noticed our recent upgrade in dishes!  That's right, the country-style plates and bowls along with the horribly dark, 70's kitchen were left back in Salem County.  I love cooking in our new kitchen...it's bright and inviting, and I was finally able to unearth my own dishes and cookware that have been living in my parent's basement for the past 2 years.  I'm trying to upgrade my food photos as well by using an actual camera instead of my iphone, but it's been a slow transition.  It's just so much easier to snap a quick one with my phone, which always seems to be nearby.] 

On that note, I'm off to be a good girlfriend and do some Valentine's baking, cooking, and crafting. Pictures to come.  Maybe.  Someone has been making a little TOO MUCH fun of my "kitchen command center".  Why didn't I put the pencil can on top of the fridge instead of magnetize it, BearFace?  BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO, that's why!  And also it would get in the way of the over-fridge cabinets.  So there.

Feb 12, 2013

Feeling Crafty

Well, I sure hope everyone weathered that blizzard alright!  I was in shock at all of the pictures on Facebook and Instagram of Connecticut swimming in snow.  Although the same storm hit us in New Jersey, we only ended up with a little over a foot of snow.  BearFace had to work Friday and Saturday, while Murphy and I hunkered down and weathered the storm, and then shoveled our way out on Saturday (ok, I only shoveled part of the driveway...).

So what did I do while under house arrest?  Crafted!  I unearthed my supply of arts and craft stuff, and put a year's worth of Pinteresting to use.

The craft center, where it all happens.

First up: Good Dog Treat Jar

Murphy better step up his game...only good dogs get treats!


Hot glue gun
Colored paper
Mod Podge

  1. Arrange letter stickers on colored paper, then apply mod podge over all layers.  (Will dry clear) 
  2. Apply mod podge on back of paper, then place on jar in desired location.
  3. Using a hot glue gun, glue a strip of ribbon around jar.
  4. Decorate with stickers, or any other fun designs!
Next: Kitchen Wall Art

Perfect for the bare wall behind my kitchen sink!

Hot glue gun
Mod Podge
Colored paper
Letter stickers or computer font

  1. Apply Mod Podge to back of colored or designed paper, then apply to canvas as base. 
  2. Arrange letter stickers or printed font from computer on top of colored squares, then mod podge to base paper.
  3. Using hot glue gun, glue strips of ribbon on edges of canvas.
  4. Decorate with stickers, then hang on wall!
Every kitchen needs some of these: Magnets

They actually work, too.  Go me.

Printed design paper
Foam sheet
Mod Podge
Round Magnets (got some at Home Depot)
Hot glue gun

  1. Measure a 1x1 inch square on back of paper and cut out with scissors.
  2. Measure 1x1 inch square on foam and cut out using scissors or Xacto knife.
  3. Mod Podge back of paper and apply to foam, then apply a layer over the top of the paper.
  4. When mod podge is dry, attach magnet to back of foam using hot glue gun.  Allow to set for at least 15 minutes before placing on the fridge.
And lastly: Magnetic fridge pencil holder

Probably my finest accomplishment in life thus far.

Printed design paper
Mod Podge
Round magnets (2)
Hot glue gun
Empty soup can

  1. Measure length and diameter of can, then cut out paper to fit.
  2. Mod podge back of paper and apply to can
  3. Mod Podge over paper, making sure to seal edges to can and press out air.
  4. When mod podge is dry, attach 2 magnets to can using hot glue gun.  Allow to set 10-15 minutes before attaching to fridge.
Along with my new DIY magnets, a few notepads and my DIY pencil can, my kitchen command center is complete!

An excellent spot for to-do lists for certain 
members of the household.

What did Murphy do while I crafted and the blizzard raged?  Slept, obviously.  I guess I never realized just how lazy he is.  

I also threw this delicious meal in the crockpot in between projects.

Since I was out of chicken breasts and certainly wasn't going to attempt a drive down the snowy mountain, I ended up using thighs.  It worked out just fine, but I definitely prefer using chicken breasts when possible.  I also added in some fresh stir-fry veggies, which I found in the produce section of my grocery store (Love using fresh veggies!  Frozen veggies must die).  I added them in about 15 minutes before it was done cooking, then served everything on top of white rice.

My crockpot also loves fresh veggies.  They are best friends.

YUM!  Probably one of my favorite crockpot meals so far.

Good luck to everyone with the great dig-out of Connecticut!  I hope that no one is still stuck in their house.  For once, I must say I am happy to be in New Jersey!

Feb 8, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Murphy

Some of you may have wondered what my dog does all day.  I have often wondered it myself.  Being unemployed, and not having anyone else to talk to, it seemed like a good idea to spend a day observing this strange, wiggling creature that resides in my home.

  • 8 am (1 hour after rising) to 9:30 am

The subject starts off the day with a morning nap.
  • 9:35 am

"Don't you have something useful to do, Mom?  
Like, go to work or something?"
  • 9:59 am

"I was kidding!  Are you really leaving me here?!"

  • Somewhere between the hours of 10 am and 1 pm (While Mom is out job searching)

The subject inexplicably opens the locking trash can, 
presumably in search of snacks.

  • 1 pm to 1:45 pm

"But Mom, I SAID I was sorryyyy!"

  • 1:50 pm

The subject dons a jacket and gets in the car, demanding 
to go on an adventure.
  •  2 pm to 2:45 pm

An adventure is had. 

  • 2:46 pm (No picture of this one, but it was an observation of interest)
    • Upon returning to the parking area at the conclusion of the hike, the subject spots a chocolate lab puppy in an SUV, and jumps in the backseat with the puppy.  Mom yells "COME" at him, and apologizes profusely to the driver of said vehicle (who was quite friendly).  The subject completely ignores Mom. 
  • 3 pm to 4:30 pm

The subject takes a post-adventure nap.

  • 4:30 pm-5:59 pm

"Excuse me?  I know it's not dinner time yet, but 
I'm feeling a trifle hungry and was wondering if 
 you could feed me.  I'll show you where the food is."

  • 6:01 pm

Despair and starvation set in. 

  • 6:10 pm to bedtime

The subject goes into a coma after devouring his nightly meal. 

This was actually an eventful day for Murphy, despite all the napping.  Usually the "garbage scavenging" time is spent also napping.  Such an odd dog... 

Feb 6, 2013

Protector of the Household

So Murphy had an interesting night.  It started out like any other night.  BearFace and I returned from dinner and settled down on the couch for some TV and relaxing, and Murph did a bit of chewing on his bone and then reclined on his bed.  When it came time for bed, I tucked him into bed in the kitchen, made sure the trash was locked (didn't know they made locking trash cans until recently...what a genius invention!), and shut the kitchen door.

Around 3 am, I woke up to find BearFace missing.  A few seconds later, I heard him open the bedroom  door and then heard Murphy's nails clicking into the bedroom.  This conversation followed:

Michelle: What are you doing? Why is he in here?
Drew: The kitchen door was open and he's freezing.
Michelle: What?! What are you talking about? Like the door to the outside? Why was it open?!
Drew: Yes.  Must have blown open and Murphy is shivering.
Michelle: OMG MY POOR MURPHY!  Come here and I'll snuggle you!

It being 3 am, this was really all the conversation we had.  I pondered all day until BearFace got home from work and I was able to get the full story from him.  Apparently, he awoke to a bang and heard Murphy crying in the kitchen.  He didn't think much of it, but decided he was a bit parched.  When he walked into the kitchen in his half-asleep state, he instantly noticed the frigid temperature, and saw the outside light beaming onto the floor.  He called Murphy, who happened to be just outside the door, shivering.

Our door has to be slammed shut or it will blow open, so this was not the real mystery.  The mystery is what Murphy was doing after this occurred.  My thoughts?  He was protecting the house and making sure nobody came in!  More likely he was wondering who the heck opened the door, and why his Mom would make him sleep in such a cold room without his coat on.  Either way, I feel very fortunate that A) Murphy is such a good dog and did not decide to go on a moonlit adventure, and B) Murphy did not invite any critters in to help him open the locked trash can.

Seriously...there were some curious critters 
out in our yard last night. 

Luckily Murphy was not too traumatized by the late night happenings, and was ready for a hike when I got back from job hunting in the afternoon.  I have been itching to get out and explore the trails in the area, especially because Salem County was extremely lacking in good hiking.  Sussex definitely makes up for what Salem lacked, with trails upon trails of varied difficulty levels, all complete with mountains as a backdrop.  I did some searching online today and found a bunch of nearby trails, some of which are part of the Appalachian Trail.  

Simply stunning.

Murphy just doesn't really get the magnificence of 
the view.  Too busy looking for poop.

Someone was in a hurry!

I especially love winter hiking because you can easily spot animal tracks (Of course I always assume they belong to mountain lions or dinosaurs).  Aside from this zigzagging pheasant, the pup and I also spotted some bunny hops, a deer, and perhaps a coyote.  For someone who enjoys the great outdoors as much as Murphy, BearFace and I do, I think we are really going to love it here!  

Feb 5, 2013

Magic Mountain

First, let me start off by making an announcement:  I CAN MAKE PHONE CALLS FROM INSIDE MY HOUSE!!!  That's right, this mountain even has better cell reception than Salem County did.  So, if you refrained from calling me over the last 6 months for that reason, please feel free to dial away!  (My mom has called me almost every day since we moved here, just because she can.)

Second, let me say that this past weekend of moving was absolutely exhausting.  After packing all day Friday, we got up early Saturday morning to pick up the UHaul and load up.  Everything took a little longer than planned, so we didn't get up to Sussex County until around 4pm.  Then we had about 1 hour to unload it all and dump it in the house so BearFace could go get the used furniture we purchased from one of his coworkers.  My parents and Ruby were nice enough to meet us at the new house to help us unpack and also to transport some of the things I had in storage in their basement over the past year and a half (I know my Dad was thrilled to get rid of it all)!

I did try to prep them with the fact that the house we are renting is literally on top of a mountain.  I guess this did not really sink in, because I was greeted with this statement as soon as their car doors opened:

Michelle: Uhhh, well we just found this place online and liked it...
Mom (in the background): Blah blah blahblah blah
Dad: But why did it have to be on top of a mountain?!?!?
Michelle: Well why not?  It's beautiful here!
Mom: MICHELLE!!  Can't you see the smoke that is billowing out of the van?!?!?
Michelle: Oh.  Yep, now I see it.  Well, I guess it's time to get rid of the van.  Don't blame it on the mountain.

Once the van stopped smoking, they helped me organize and unpack for a couple of hours while we waited for BearFace to return with the furniture.  During which time it began to snow.  It was a light, slow snow, so we didn't think too much of it as we headed down the mountain to dinner at The Vernon Inn.  Our first foray into dining in Sussex County was quite a hit!  We ordered the Buffalo Chicken Dip as an appetizer, and I had a pulled pork sandwich for dinner (Sussex County: 2, Salem County: 0).  The best part about this restaurant is that Tuesday night is WING NIGHT!  BearFace and I sorely miss Rocks and Wings at the Bidwell Tavern near UConn...perhaps this will be a replacement!

As if we had not had enough adventures for one day, there was one more in store for us as we piled into the van after dinner to head back up the mountain.  There was only about an inch or so of icy snow covering the ground, so I really thought we would be ok on the way up.  Not so...as soon as we hit the first steep uphill (pull out your geometry books and look up an 85% angle, then imagine driving up it), things got a little tricky.

Dad (driving): S%&*! We're not going to make it!  My tires are sliding!  We're going down!
Michelle: Dad! You can't take your foot off the gas!  We're going to get stuck!
Michelle: MOM you're being ridiculous!  This is not helping!
Drew: You're doing great, just keep going.  Slow and steady.

Clearly BearFace is not from the Santoro family, as 'calm under pressure' is not one of our best traits.  After coming to a complete stop and sliding backwards until my dad was able to turn into a driveway, we went back down to the bottom and stopped at Burger King to regroup (also I was about to pee in my pants) and form a plan.  My mom was adamant that we should NOT attempt another trip up, and should instead go to the fire department and ask them to drive us up.  My dad thought we should wait for a bit until a plow would hopefully go up before us and clear the road.  I voted for Drew to drive, as he is a pretty experienced snow driver and definitely the calmest of the bunch.  And Drew, always the optimist, kept quiet and let us squabble it out while offering encouraging words.

We finally convinced my mom to get back in the van and make another run for it.  I was really hopeful, I was!  But we failed once again, in the exact same spot.  After sliding back down once again, we seemed pretty much out of options until a plow went by!  My dad flagged him down and asked very politely if he would be willing to drive Drew and I back up to our house and then bring Ruby down with him.  He kindly agreed, but clearly thought we were nuts.  It was certainly an interesting first night!

Sunday was spent shopping for apartment necessities, and was equally exhausting.  We were able to see more of the area, however, and it is absolutely picturesque.

About 10 minutes drive from our house.

                                             Sunset from the kitchen.                       Morning in our backyard.

With the moving, unpacking, organizing, and deep-cleaning complete, all that's left is a little more decorating.  It feels so great to finally be in our own place, free of roommates, mounted deer heads, and 70's kitchens!

And how does Murphleson feel about all of this?

Murphy: Dad, you're going to have
to step it up a little.  Mom, keep up the hard work!

Murphy: Wait, I thought this was a game...why are you unloading 
everything on top of this mountain? 

Murphy: Guys?  Guys?  Why does no one ever 
tell me when we're moving!

The pictures pretty much say it all...at first he thought it was just another adventure, and Murphy is always up for an adventure!  But by Sunday night, the reality was starting to sink in and he was feeling a little unsure.  Coupled with the lack of attention from Mom and Dad while we unpacked and cleaned, the little guy seemed pretty blue.  Luckily, a hike with Mom cured his puppy depression.

Murphy: Alright, there's hiking here.  We can stay.

I have two recipes to leave you with before I wrap things up here:

Not especially healthy, but sometimes you need something rib-sticking and comforting!  It took me about 10 minutes to throw all of the ingredients in the crockpot yesterday, which allowed me to keep scrubbing my shower and still have a warm dinner waiting for BearFace when he got home from work.

I also made a batch of: 

Homemade Flavored Water yesterday, after trying my mom's over the weekend. 

2 quarts water
1 medium lemon, sliced thin
1/2 cucumber, sliced thin with skin left on
2 tsp grated or shaved ginger
10-12 fresh mint leaves
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and let sit for several hours before drinking.
Sounds like a weird combination, but I loved it!  It is very refreshing, and for someone who avoids sugary juices and sodas, it is a great alternative when you feel like a beverage with some flavor.  (I considered taking a picture, but pretty much it looks like water with stuff floating in it.)

We're off to the Vernon Inn when BearFace gets home for Tuesday Wing Night, and then it's a full day of job hunting for me tomorrow.  Hopefully it won't be long until I am employed again...I'm already getting bored!