Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green Valley Book Fair

Labor Day weekend was a while ago, but I wanted to document a fun road trip we took to the Green Valley Book Fair.  Ever since I met Jenny Kurtz all those years ago in AST when I moved to Richmond, I've been yearning to see this book fair.  She went just about every time they were open, and would always come back with so many awesome books on the cheap!  Awesome for book nerds like us!

I knew the book fair was up in the mountains somewhere, but didn't realize it is just 4 miles south of JMU, so of course we had to take a detour to drive through campus and hit up our favorite spots in Harrisonburg...oh wait, most of our favorite spots are closed.  Good thing Tyler, who travels a lot for his mysterious and eponymous appraisal company, posted on Facebook a while back about a new burger joint in the 'Burg that served burgers with weird toppings.  So before we headed out on our trip that morning I double-checked the name of the joint with him, Jack Brown's Beer and Burger Joint, and jotted down the address.

We could tell by the number of college kids sitting in the outdoor patio area how popular this joint is - it was around noon when we go there, so I knew I was in for some comfort/hangover food.  I saw a burger with breakfasty toppings going to most of the college kids, so I couldn't wait to get in there and check out the menu.  But first, the decor.  Oh, the decor of this place.

They even have safety tips posted on the walls :)

I like the story of this place - 2 guys who have been friends since they were kids and always dreamed of opening a beer joint together.  They collected all these beer cans from early on, and when they saw their dream become a reality, they used the beer cans to line the walls :)

All they do is beer, burgers, fries, and fried oreos.  They did a ton of burger research and didn't want to be Jacks of all trades, masters of none, so they stuck to the basics.  Brilliant.

Even the bathroom had cozy artwork - who am I to go against the dinosaur's recommendation to try the Elvis burger?

The Elvis has peanut butter on it.  Yep, it sounds horribly gross and unnatural, but it's so weird that it sounds like it works.  So I tried it - and it was fabulous!  It added some sweetness to the burger and I loved it!  Dave got a boring BBQ burger and we shared some sweet potato fries.  And for dessert, a fried oreo. 

Once our bellies were full, we took one lap through and around campus to see what had changed (pretty much nothing except the awesome stadium makeover) and then stopped at the University Outpost.  It's weird to go in there because I'm so used to it being a steakhouse, but whatevs.  I got an awesome new sticker for my car and Dave got a new t-shirt. 

Once we got our JMU fill, we headed back down 81 to the book fair. 

It did not disappoint - 2 or 3 warehouses full of books!  It was like my Heaven!  It was so well organized and even though it was the last weekend of the fair there was still plenty to choose from!  I had an idea of which books I was looking for, but I should have dome some serious classics/fiction research before I went so I could have picked up some that I don't have.  Without a list the fiction section was a little overwhelming.  I enjoyed the history and comedy sections - that's where I picked up the 4 books I purchased, one of which I can't remember now:

And here's one I had to leave there, no matter how hard it hurt.  <3 Bailey Salinger :)

Dave picked up some nerd books about math and SQL and stuff, and then we started the trip home!  We took the scenic route through Bridgewater and Dayton to Staunton, and stopped for dinner at the Mill Street Grill.  Bonnie, Ashley, and I ate there during a road trip one time, and I've wanted to take Dave there, and this was my opportunity!

Good day reminiscing, being nerds, and spending some time on the open road :)  That's a perfect day for me <3

Monday, September 27, 2010

The road to Richmond

It's no secret that I'm still working on my college degree, 14 years later.  If I had known years ago I'd be 31 without a degree, I would never have treated college the way I did all those years ago. I am in my last semester at the local community college and will be transferring to University of Richmond's School of Continuing Studies to complete my Bachelor's degree next fall. 

On one of my trips to Tweed, I perused their fabulous selection of Virginia college memorabilia.  I was tempted to buy a bunch of stuff, like the JMU wine cozies and party tray or the UR garden flag, but Dave kept me sane and I put it all back.  I noticed a little UR notepad and thought it would be cool to use to write down all the things I need to do before starting classes there.  A list of milestones/accomplishments I need to reach between now and next fall. 

I'm not going to publish the full list in case I don't reach one of them - they're personal goals and I don't want to disappoint anyone other than myself if I don't reach some of them.  But they have to do with finishing my last 2 classes with certain grades, graduating, applying and being accepted to UR.

I also have a plan to keep myself busy between graduation from JSarge and starting classes next fall.  I'll keep that under wraps for now in case I change my mind and just want to catch up on some books, sleep, and/or movies during those months, in addition to getting my groove back at work.  I've lost my way a little during this college journey.

If I meet all the goals, I might post them...we'll see.

As an aside, I can't do it until I graduate from UR, but to symbolize the beginning and end of my college adventure I'd like to get 2 tattoos.  One on the inside of each wrist - a Duke dog and a spider...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ABC catalog - hit or miss?

I got an ABC distributing catalog in the mail yesterday.  While they normally go in the recycling bin (I've asked 3 times to be removed from the mailing list), the picture of the cozy pet bed sacks and WWE Encyclopedia:  The Definitive Guide on the front intrigued me to look further.  In a bad, snarky way.  My investigation into the treasures included in this catalog did not disappoint.  Let me 'splain.

But before I 'splain, I must say that if I offend you in any way by bashing something you'd consider buying, or maybe have been looking for in your shopping travels, I apologize.  Wait, no I don't - this stuff is useless!  Really?  You've been looking for a dog, cat, or frog that is not only a scotch tape dispenser, but also holds paper clips, pens, and post-its?  Well, you're weird.

The first item I'd like to share is the Toilet Mug.  Yep, I said it:

According to its description, this 'silly shaped mug makes a great gag gift for a coffee or tea lover.'  I think the caption should read:  'buy this mug for a friend or family member who drinks tea or coffee and get punched in the face.'  I think anything you drink out of this mug would taste like pee - am I right?  What a horrible idea for a novelty item!  Imaging drinking out of this in the galley or cafeteria and seeing people staring at you with a face of horror, no doubt thinking 'Dear God, is he drinking out of the toilet?  Even my dog knows better!'

Next, we have the Deer Ridge sueded shower curtain.  Deer Ridge is actually the name of a whole collection of bathroom items which, on their own, wouldn't be so hideous if paired with plain, subtle bath rugs, and a white or tan shower curtain.  But the shower curtain is just too much.

BTW, I've never seen suede verbed before, what does 'sueded' mean?  Surely the curtain isn't actually suede, since it's only $17.95 - is that some sort of marketing ploy to get us to think it's suede?  Who knows.  Anyways, it screams 'we live in the woods and love it so much we want a nature view even when we're in the can!'

Next up is the 'Dishwasher Magnet Art' - which has a best-seller star on ABC's website.  That makes me laugh.  If I had a stainless steel dishwasher, I surely wouldn't cover it up with this hideous 4-snowmen-and-a-bunny scene.

I also wouldn't cover it with 'Harvest,' with the bountiful cornucopia filled with fruits and vegetables.  The 'Apples' one isn't so bad because it reminds me of apple picking and my disastrous attempt at making applesauce, but I wouldn't buy that one either.  Blech.

The last item I'm sharing is the least repulsive of them all.  As I shared this with multiple men at work today, they all said it would be helpful while cutting the grass, as well as sitting on the couch for long periods of time without the pesky interruption of having to get up to get a drink.

That's right - if you're too lazy to get up to get a new drink when you've finished the first 4 or 5, look no further than your waist to retrieve another.  You can fit a whole 6-pack in this handy drink holster, and it comes in black, pink, and camouflage - something for everyone, right?  It's just magical.  Those men who saw this in the catalog and applauded it might be getting one for Christmas - and at $4.95 each, it won't break the bank even if I buy 6 - one for Dave and the rest for all my honorary big brothers! 

**Honorable mentions go to the following items:
Women's Hooded Neckwarmers - reminds me of Queen Amidala's casual look:

6 Decorative Balls - made of cold cast ceramic, these are just weapons waiting to be thrown at your next family reunion:
Jolly Snowman Bath Collection - didn't want to include 2 snowman bashing entries, but this one's just awful:
Sets Of 4 Novelty Signs - if you have a t-shirt that says "These Colors Don't Run," chances are you'll love these sarcastic, backwoods signs:

Finally, if any of these items show up at a Dirty Santa/White Elephant/Chinese Christmas game in December, don't be surprised.  However, if any of these items show up in my stocking in December, you will be punched in the face.  That is all.  kthxbi.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trip to Ikea, and an idea!

Saturday, we went to Ikea to snatch up all of the lovely items we had ear-marked in our 2011 catalog.  Of course, we weren't going to buy every single item on our lists, though it would have been nice if I came home with this, this, and/or this.  But...unfortunately my house is full and I was very good about making sure I had a place and a purpose for everything I bought.  Man, I really wanted to bring this white pleather chair home from the as-is section - it was totally not my style, but it was so comfortable....

What I did come home with was a pair of tan curtains for our laundry room (I took off the bi-fold doors and hung sage curtains, but now they clash with the much-cuter-shade-of-green paint), this awesome pillow for the bed in our guest room/craft room, some thread (boring, right?), a mortar and pestle, and some other little stuff I can't remember right now.  I was also going to buy end tables and wall-mounted lamps for the living room, but they were out of stock of both - the nerve!

I realized on the trip that if I bought new curtains for the laundry room I'd have to make new ones for the other windows in the kitchen - oh, what a problem to have, right?  I have grape fabric valences up now, but they're not really my style anymore.

They've worked since we moved in, but I'm over them.  I want to make something like the roman shade I made for our half bath:

The problem is that roman shades are so expensive!  Not worth it at all, so I'm going to make them with some panel curtains I found on clearance today at WalMart.  They were much cheaper than what I'd pay for the same amount of fabric, and they're almost exactly the same fabric as the Ikea ones I bought.  So I'm going to make curtains out of curtains.  Wow, that sounds dorky.

Perfect match, no?  Well, almost perfect.  I got stainless steel curtain rods to match the room, and I'm all set to makeover my windows! 

Can't wait to get started on them, but first I have work, school, work, homework, bio lab, state fair, homework, work, test, work...ugh.  Next Friday's looking good.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fresh flowers make me happy!

I love the smell of fresh flowers in the house - they make everything smell so fresh and clean!  And every time I walk in the kitchen and see them they make me smile :)

Fall is here already...in my mind :)

I cannot wait until the weather is perfect to wear this beautiful sweater that is en route to me!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Final projects for the study

My dad stained 2 long shelves for me when I moved into my townhouse, way back when, and I've been moving them with me ever since.  The items displayed on the shelves have evolved since I was 19, from dolls to Amish souvenirs to sunflowers, and a few things in between...
 How was I ever this girly?

 or this cluttery?

...and now they display some of our favorite books in our updated study.  They just needed a quick update to be ready for their new home, nestled in this reading corner: 

I got to work this weekend staining them with Minwax's Red Mahogany 405.  Since the room is full of dark wood tones, I feel like the old version would look too juvenile for the space.  If the room was full of lighter tones, I would have hung them back as is.

The pics of the shelves above will have to serve as before pictures, because my camera had a temper tantrum and I lost the ones I took when I started the project.  I stained them both , waited 20 minutes or so, and then took a rag and wiped off any excess stain that didn't penetrate the wood.  I'm sure it's not professional looking, but it's my first staining project, and I'm just glad there aren't too many drip marks or blotches :)

After I let them dry for a few hours I went out to check on them and they were sticky.  According to the internets, this is either because it was humid and they needed to dry longer, or I didn't wipe enough of the excess stain off them.  I'm gonna assume it was the latter, so I gave it another pass with a dry rag to get more of the excess off.  They weren't sticky this morning, so we hung them up and adorned them with books and accessories!


The final project in the study was changing the light fixture - we took down the date gold fixture with gross mini-lampshades and replaced it with a rubbed bronze fixture with 3 frosted glass half-globes.  Much better!

I am so excited that this room is completely done!  It's been months in the making, and I'm sure we should have finished it sooner, but life got in the way...regardless, it's done now! :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Strawberry Street is awesome!

After work today, I went downtown to check out a consignment shop my mom told me about - Blue Elephant.  Random that she found out about it before I did since she's in Florida...the girls at the shop agreed :)  It's so cute and full of unique items.  They have lots of vintage linens, kitchen tchotchkes, and a little bit of antique furniture.  The display in the front window was random and awesome, and the 2 girls working there were very friendly and I could tell they are having fun at this new place.

I picked up 2 vintage Fire King candle glow bowls that I can use for prep in the kitchen, sugar and creamer set from Pottery Barn (so cute!), and a heart-shaped candy dish for 12 bucks...

Then I walked next door to Strawberry Street Flowers and Gifts - wow, is this my kind of place.  The smell of fresh flowers fills up the shop, and they had garden accessories, quirky dish towels, candles, and paper goodness.  Love this place!  I bought a dish towel embroidered with an A that I'll use to make a pillow.

I picked up some wine at the Strawberry Street Vineyard and then headed home.  If Dave had been with me, I'm sure we would have eaten at the cafe for dinner, but I came home instead.  I'm happy with my purchases and I'll be going back for brunch and maybe pick up some of those fresh flowers I smelled today.  :)

Product spotlight: Swiffer Dust & Shine

This might sound like an exaggeration but it isn't.  Every time I dust I have an asthma attack.  Not a big one, or a life-threatening one, but an attack.  Every time.  So if you come to my house and it's dusty, that's why.  It's a bit of a catch-22:  if I dusted more often, there would be less stirred up when I do, and I might have less of a reaction; but asthma attacks are scary even when they're little, so dusting more and causing more attacks isn't appealing to me.

Please love me in spite of my dust.

The other week at the store I was looking at dusting products that might make this chore less dangerous for me, and I picked up Swiffer's Allergen Reducing Dust and Shine Furniture Spray.

I used this last weekend while dusting the living room and study and the dust particles didn't bother me at all!  It smells good, not like normal dusting spray, and I even think it gets better results than the other products I've tried like Pledge.

Just wanted to give it a plug - I'll be using this from now on to avoid asthma flare-ups, and maybe my house will be healthier along with me!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fried green tomatoes

Every since I was like 13 and saw "Fried Green Tomatoes" I wanted to try this crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside treat.  Christie got me thinking about them a few weeks ago, and when I was at Berry's Produce on Friday I picked up 2 huge green tomatoes.  I decided this was finally the weekend I'd try to make them.

It's also the weekend I'd use my Pampered Chef coating trays.  I bought these months ago and hadn't even taken them out of the box until this tomato adventure.  They are awesome and perfect for any layered coating recipe.  Here's what you'll need:

I sliced the tomatoes into about 1/2 inch thick slices and coated them using flour, egg/milk, and breadcrumb/cornmeal mixtures listed below:
  • First bowl/tray - 1 cup flour
  • Second bowl/tray - 1/2 cup milk and 2 eggs, whisked together
  • Third bowl/tray - combine 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • Skillet on medium heat - enough vegetable oil to create 1/2 inch deep bath for the tomatoes

I put the coated tomatoes into the vegetable oil to cook.  I had my splash screen ready to go just in case, but turns out I didn't need it. 

I let them cook until they were golden brown and then flipped them....once they were finished on both sides I let them cool on a wire rack.  They turned out like this:

They were tasty - my only complaint is that I may have cooked them a little too long because some of the thinner slices were a little mushy.  But it was good for my first try and Dave loved them.  I don't think there are any left, including the scraps I left on my plate.