Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pictures From Iowa

Just look at the details on this Victorian house. The boys and I walked around my son's new hometown this weekend snapping photos of the wonderful houses they have there. The amazing thing is that the ones you will see over the next couple days are just a smidgen of the houses like this that are all over the little town. It is so amazing! I'm sure the residents are used to people snapping pictures of their homes, but if not, the police surely got a report of some lady taking pictures all over town. For the most part I snapped from across the street so as not to really freak the owners out. The next couple posts will be house related, then I'll move on to the downtown.

The house above is right across the street from my son, AND it is for sale for around $144,000. I took quite a few pictures of this house, but unfortunately my camera did not capture the paint colors or accents. It's really a pretty house! However, hubby quashed the 9 hour commute to work...Darn!

Another confection. I must have held the camera at a slight angle since most of my pictures look a little tilted. Trust me, they are not sitting at this odd angle...I was. But then everyone who knows me knows I am slightly off center.

I can understand why my son fell in love with this town! It is cute and the people are friendly. It is about 40 minutes to Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, or Muscatine. There are yarn shops in Muscatine and Cedar Rapids, but I didn't get to explore them this time. Instead, the boys and I did a massive book buying tour of the Half Price Books stores from Kansas to Iowa. I found some completely outrageous finds in both jewelry and knitting books. I will take a picture of some of the stash and post later after my 2 yr old nephew is laying down for his nap. We have him for a couple weeks, so I am learning to do what needs to be done when he is napping. It has been a while since the boys were babies. I don't have both my niece's babies, just the 2 year old. Having both the 2 yr old and the 5 month old was just too much for this old lady. And this way, Auralius gets individual attention.
Speaking of Auralius, he just disappeared up the stairs, so I'd better go chase him.
In the next post, I'll tell you about the adventure we had getting to Iowa and why we had to stay at a hotel 90 miles from my son's home because of fog...It was "interesting" to say the least!
Good coffee and Great Friends to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas?

Me neither.

Did you get everything done on your TO DO list?

Me neither.

However, I'm alright with that. I didn't get all the baking done that I wanted, but I am waiting for a cheesecake to come out of the oven that is destined for Stillwater tomorrow after we pick up the rental car. We are planning to have Christmas breakfast here in Kansas, then head to Oklahoma in the evening. Friday morning bright and early I am driving oldest son back to Iowa. I rented from Dollar car rental this time. I did call the customer service to add days to the rental and got really good service. I was very happy with the professional attitude. I figure we'll have some wiggle room built in just in case the weather gets really bad and we have to stay a day longer.

I am planning to spend the weekend in his little town, so I'll get pictures of all the wonderful Victorian homes there. The town has hundreds of them and an absolutely adorable downtown. I intend to hit the quilt shop while I'm there. On the way to my son's little town, we are planning to stop in Des Moines and hit the Half-Price bookstore chain there. I go to this used bookstore chain in Kansas City every time I go. LOVE THEM! However, stopping in Des Moines depends on what the weather is doing.

At this point the kids and I are planning to leave at 6 a.m Friday. This way we avoid rush hour in Kansas City. I got to Kansas City last time right in the middle of rush hour. While I didn't have any trouble, it was a bit unnerving. I haven't seen anything like that before--let's just say I am motivated to work my arrival time not to coincide with rush hour.

Before we head off to Stillwater tomorrow, we are making a big batch of homemade instant hot cocoa mix for everyone.

Homemade Hot Cocoa

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa

3/4 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

1 dash salt


In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and blend well. Store in a tightly covered container.

For a single serving:

Combine 1/4 cup cocoa mix and 3/4 cup boiling water in a cup or mug. Stir to blend. Add marshmallows to hot cocoa if desired. And we all desire marshmallows don't we?!

I add a little more mix to my cup, but that's just me...I hope you enjoy this easy recipe.

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cinnamon Pecans Recipe

I make these for gifts every year so I thought I'd share with you:

1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 cups pecan halves
2 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients except pecans. Place over medium heat, stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Add pecans and continue to cook-stirring until pecans are completely sugared with no syrup left in the saucepan. Spread on waxed paper and let cool.

These are really GOOD!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Note to the Thrifty Car rental story

I decided to blog about my experience that I had when I turned the car in today since I think it adds a positive angle to my last post. As mad as I was when I talked to customer service, I try to present positive points when they arise to anything I blast. I won't remove the first post since it is valid for that day, but there is another part to the story.

I was pretty darn mad about the experience I got after calling customer service for Thrifty the other night-if you couldn't tell. However, when I checked the car in a day early at 4:40 p.m, I had to let you know that I was really pleased and surprised with the agent at the counter. I really wish I had retained her name since she really made me think that I might consider Thrifty again at some point. I talked with her about the problems I had with not getting the GPS and the "customer service" issues. After she and I talked, I thought "That is a person who needs to do the customer service training for Thrifty". She completely walked through all the complaints I had and didn't interrupt at any point, or play down the issues I brought up. She explained why the GPS reservation did not transfer, laughed about the GPS story and basically delivered superior customer service. Since I turned the car in a day early, the discount I got for weekend rates would not apply. After we talked, I was OK with that since I understood why and that it was not a "penalty" as the customer service rep had barked at me when I called them Thursday. As I said, I entered the building with a not too positive background and left thinking "OK, I may just give them a second chance". I may have to hunt down her name--Thrifty needs this girl. They should give her kudos for turning things around.

As I said, I try to be fair when something changes. Since I blogged about the REALLY bad experience, I wanted to add the REALLY good experience.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crappy service from Thrifty Car Rental

I am preparing to go to Iowa tomorrow to pick my son up, so I thought I'd rent a car from Thrifty car rental. I rented a compact and decided that I needed the GPS system just to help me navigate.

When I got to the rental stall they told me the car I was renting did not have cruise control. I upgraded and ASSUMED the cost would include the GPS since I asked for it to be included in the first place. I realized on the way home that there was no GPS. Crap! I'm going to Iowa-I need a GPS. When I called Thrifty, guess what--the cost of the upgrade (to get something BASIC on a vehicle like CRUISE CONTROL) did not include the cost of the GPS..but of course for an additional reaming, I can drive BACK to the airport and pick one up FOR AN ADDITIONAL CHARGE.


Oh, and if I return the car early, there is a $15 penalty. Well, let's just ream it in a little deeper. Yep. Got to LOVE this BAD experience.

Not only am I NOT renting from them again, their crappy customer service has definitely made me want to warn everyone I know not to rent from them to save them from this type of experience!

I never got this kind of service from Avis or Dollar. That is who I should have gone with. My fault for not going with a proven winner. After all, who did I think they were? Avis?!

One funny tidbit--the second woman that I talked to interrupted me while I was speaking to let me know that Thrifty does NOT use GPS--they use the Garmin system..Hmm--apparently there is not a translation for GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM in their neck of the globe. Can anyone guess what GPS stands for? Hint-it's not a brand name like Garmin, but don't tell her--she was pretty proud of herself.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I know it's DECEMBER...I know this is KANSAS...But that doesn't mean I was ready for it!
Neither was our contractor. The ladder that you see at the corner of the picture is his. It rests against the skeleton of our deck. Darn! I was hoping we'd get it completed before any snow hit. Mind you, a couple days ago it was 60+ degrees. I didn't even have a jacket on when I was at the yarn shop on Sunday....But it IS December and this IS Kansas...
I stayed in the house the whole day today except when I had to go pick one of the boys up after school. Let me tell you, there are people who can't drive ON A GOOD day that were out trying to drive in this junk. Surprisingly, the high school parking lot, which is usually just plain craziness, was moving very slowly and carefully. It was a pleasant surprise since I was a geared up to witness multiple accidents.
The accidents and idiots that I witnessed today were adult drivers that should have known better.
Hubby knows that I am not particularly confident in driving in these conditions and was an angel by picking the other son up from wrestling practice so I wouldn't have to venture out again. One little detail I had forgotten was to get gas on Sunday, or even Monday so I would not have to be standing out in the wind and pelting snow. But since I neglected to plan ahead, guess what I was doing in 20 degree weather? Yep! Getting gas. That won't happen again, I promise! I'll make sure to send hubby to gas the car up...only kidding.
I have been feeling pretty under the weather for the past couple weeks, so I actually spent most of the day sleeping. I put a brisket in the crockpot before I went to bed, so this evening when hubby and son walked in the door I was able to have a hot dinner waiting on them with very little effort on my part.
I LOVE my crockpot.
This weekend I am going to make a couple crockpot stews so that we can freeze portions for dinner and extras so cute man has something to take to work with him. Part of our economizing this season is that we are trying to cut down significantly on eating out and concentrate more on cooking at home. Apparently in this economy, a lot of people are doing exactly the same thing. A report on CNN last week said that as the economy continues to fall, people who normally have never seen the inside of their kitchens are opting to learn to cook meals at home. Sales of cookbooks are skyrocketing along with cooking sets that are being bought by people who don't usually cook and are having to stock their kitchen. I tend to be really bad about eating lunches out, so I have been making a little more of an effort to lower that. One day a week, I sit down with the grocery store ads for the week and make a menu based on what's on sale and what we have in the fridge. I am looking at buying a chest freezer in January so that I can start taking one day to do "once a month cooking". This will eliminate the "What's for dinner" brain freeze I sometimes get. Menu planning helps, but on days when what is on the menu doesn't sound good, having extra meals on hand would be great!
Have you tried any once a month cooking? How did it work out for you. I have done sessions at Simple Suppers and Super Suppers here in town and really enjoyed the fact you don't have to clean up, but the cost is what keeps me from doing it a lot. I bought a couple once a month cooking books and plan to work from them so we can save a little extra.

Goldfish Funeral

not that a kid dropping the F-bomb is funny, but I couldn't help laugh...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pumpkin Cinnamon rolls--yum!

I am in the middle of a baking spree here at Casa Crazylife. Cute man and I signed up to take cookies to sell at our high school wrestling invitational tomorrow so I am making many dozens.

While waiting for the butter and eggs to come to room temperature, I was perusing some of my favorite blogs, checking out the links they provided, and I found a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls from Amanda's Cookin'. We LOVE pumpkin here at Casa Crazylife (and cinnamon rolls) so this is a match made in Heaven! I was going to do a step by step tutorial, but here is the stage I'm at right now. All the dough ingredients have been mixed together (I love my KitchenAid 6 qt mixing bowl and mixer--my mom in law spoils me!). I am waiting for the dough to rise. I will report back on how these turn out and provide the recipe link.

Once they are done, there is a caramel icing that gets drizzled on them. Good grief! They sound good just talking about them! A little later I am going to make a cherry eggnog quick bread that I have been eyeing for quite some time. It is an easy recipe and looks like it will freeze well. As you can tell, I am in a baking mood. I am trying a lot of different recipes out so I can decide on some new ones for Christmas morning brunch. I also found an awesome recipe for pudding pie surprise at The Beehive Cottage. I love this recipe. I've had it several times in the past, but this is the first time I've found a recipe for it so you know I HAD to print it out for later next week!