Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Saying Goodbye: Shadowfax

Just a few days after my dear cobalt was totaled by a tractor trailer, we had to go back down to Maryland to collect what was left inside my car.  For me it was also a time to say one last farewell.  The whole day, I kept having the Muppets song "Saying Goodbye" running through my head.  The lyrics, as with most classic Muppet songs, really are beautiful.  I know it seems to cheapen the song when it's being related to a car, but it does still ring true where change, especially when adapting to a sudden change, does bring about a time to recall fond memories.

"Saying goodbye, why is it sad?  Makes us remember the good times we had"

Anyone who knows me knows I get attached to my cars, and I loved that little car.  Before it, I'd had a Ford Escort (nicknamed the Frodomobile for being such a trooper) for 9 years.  It was a great car as well, but I'd always wanted a sporty little car with a spoiler, be something I could mod, and to learn stick-shift.  So in 2009 when my escort was getting near 100,000 miles, we decided we'd best sell it, and I narrowed my sights to the affordably-sporty cobalt coupe.

Sorting through used cars until I'd found 2 local manuals, it came down to a 2007 yellow (which would have been named Bombadil) and a 2007 white cobalt, but it was an easy decision after seeing dog scratches all over the yellow's interior, a burned clutch, and the smell of badly masked cigarette smoke.

My Shadowfax, at under 6k miles, was barely broken in and in brand-spanking new condition, and even came with the exterior black decal (when the dealer came back from where they were washing the car for me and asked if I wanted the decal off, I panicked and told him no way!).  I was still just starting to learn how to drive stick shift from some good friends of ours in the same month that I got the car, but didn't feel road-ready with a new car, so my brother-in-law, Ben, kindly drove it home from the dealer for me and gave me some more tips about driving it.

Shadowfax when we first got him
In the ensuing months, I learned how to drive stick with Shadow.  My poor guy was patient as I stalled multiple times or didn't let off the clutch fast enough.  It felt like learning how to drive all over again, and with it came an excited nervousness each time I ventured out.  I remember sometimes I'd come home from just a grocery run and find my hands shaking.  But I stuck it out and kept trying, until it started to click and come to me more naturally.

Now I can say that I don't even have to think about what I'm doing while driving, as it's become as much a part of driving as using the turn signal.  I had a lot of fun driving with him, and he never gave me any problems.

I also joined the My Cobalt forum and became friends with some great fellow cobalt owners these last few years.  From them I learned how to take care of my car, got inspired with mods and showed off my work on Shadow, and just killed time chatting with them about life while bored at my former cubicle job.

Just for the sake of memory lane, here's some pix of Shadow and some of his mods (if you don't care about project cars, skip the pix):

seat covers
painted chevy logo white, capped the holes left by the front plate (also debadged the back)
painting the dash

installed short shifter with new TWM knob and SS boot
ditched seat covers, got rubber mats
the year he got 2.5 feet of snow dumped on him, and still got me to the film set for Infinite

 "Much to say, foolish to try, it's time for saying goodbye..."

Yes, a lot of memories, gained car knowledge, and people I've met through having Shadow.  I'm grateful for that period of my life that lil car gave me, and how well he stood up to the impact in the crash.

As Karl headed back to the car we'd arrived in with the last of our items, I patted Shadow on his hood and thanked him for being such a good car, and that I'd miss him.

One last pic with Shadowfax on his good side
I'm letting go little by little.  :)

It's helps that I have some direction on what to look for with my next car now.  We did some test-driving this past Saturday of various vehicles, and I think we have a plan on what to keep an eye out for now.  Our check for my car also came this past week, so we're all settled on that front.  More on car-hunting in another post!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Roasted Rosemary Chicken with Polenta & Kale

I love roasting chicken.  It is one of the easiest ways to cook chicken, and gives one of the biggest payoffs in taste.  You basically throw spices and herbs onto the meat, leave it in the oven, and come back in an hour and eat dinner.  On top of that, these sides don't take any more than another 10 mins to make, and require no prep.  This meal is win-win!

You'll Need:


* Oven at 350 F degrees

- unskinned chicken thigh & leg for each person
- several fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 crushed garlic clove for every 3 chicken thighs/legs is my preference, but experiment with what you like!
- olive oil
- salt & pepper

- in large baking dish, add the chicken and all of the ingredients around and on top of chicken - be especially sure to rub the chicken all over with the olive oil
- pour some water into the dish, enough to coat the bottom with a few millimeters
- place in oven for approx 1 hour or until juices run clear, checking the water level and re-pouring water if necessary
- serve


- 2 cups chicken stock/broth
- 1/2 cup grounded corn polenta (bob's red mill)

- in a small pot, pour all the chicken broth and heat on medium
- once broth has warmed, slwoly add in the polenta in bits at a time, whisking the entire time
- when all the polenta is added, keep stirring as the polenta absorbs the broth and thickens.
- serve when polenta is a thick consistency similar to grits or oatmeal

Steamed Citrus Greens

- 1 cup of kale or baby spinach for each person
- 1 tbsp lemon juice for every 3 cups of greens
- water

- pour enough water into a frying pan to just barely cover the bottom.  Add the greens and bring heat to a medium.
- keep stirring/mixing the greens around as they cooks down
- after approx 3 mins, the greens should be cooked down: turn off heat, and mix in lemon juice
- serve

p.s. - this is the 100th post on this blog - woohoo!

Thanks to slightlyindulgenttuesday, healthytodaywednesday, jillshomeremedies, glutenfreefridays, and glutenfreewednesdays for the link-ups!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Walnut Creek Patio Chairs - Review

When it comes to decorating our home, we're on no time-table, so we've been using the few things we already had to spruce up the front porch for the time being like this:

(not in picture are the plastic white chairs we've been using):

...and have been waiting on outdoor furniture and potting/planters to go on sale.  Now that it's the end of summer, we stumbled upon an awesome deal.

I was actually looking online at MDF board prices for another project we want to start soon when a pair of resin wicker chairs caught my eye.  Then their price really caught my eye: 75% off!  Sold as a pair, these two chairs were normally $217 for the set, but now the chairs, with tax, were going for $57.51 total! (and free shipping to the store!).

Naturally I was suspicious the price was low because the chairs were not well made and getting low marks from customers.  But looking at the nearly five-star rating and multiple, very happy reviews saying things like,"The dining chairs are an excellent example of getting what you pay for! The quality, appearance, ease of assembly, and other features of these chairs proves to me that paying a little more is worth every penny"....Well, I ran out of excuses.  It was time to pounce.

Even better, I bought them online through Ebates, which gave me an extra 5% cash-back, and then I got 5% cash back from my credit card as well!  (if you haven't heard of Ebates, you're missing out!  If you do any shopping online, you can get cashback at many stores using them - check them out!).  So in total, I spent only $51.76 for these two chairs.  Dang, yo.

When they arrived, I was surprised that the pillows came with them, thinking that only the cushions did - bonus!  Awesome-er still, Home Depot is still selling a 2-pack of the pillows for $25, nearly the same as getting one of these chairs!

The setup truly was easy and painless - I had no trouble doing the assembly, and it took maybe 15 mins to have them both finished.

As you can see, the wicker looks pretty real, but being resin, I won't have to worry about them getting chipped or worn looking.  Best of both worlds.

Last I checked, these chairs are still for sale, although the 'wheat' cushion color is no longer available online.
Edit 8/16: It looks like they're back to normal price.  The chairs were briefly back-ordered when I bought them, so perhaps they got a sudden surge of people buying and decided to re-list them at original price...?  My advice would be to wait a few weeks and see if they go back down in price.  

Gotta love a great find and deal - we've been sitting out on the front porch quite a lot this summer, and these chairs have been a real upgrade for our bums.  I'm also collecting a few other items lately for the porch, so I hope to have an official "reveal" of the completed porch soon!

Monday, August 12, 2013

When We Last Heard from Draven...

Nearly a month since my last post!  Where have I been??

We did go on a vacation for a few days for my family's annual vacay to the Chesapeake Bay.  Did some kayaking, explored the bay on a pontoon boat, played mini-golf and shuffleboard with my sibs...even got a bit of healthy color on my otherwise doesn't-tan-only-burns-to-a-crisp skin.

My hubby and I haven't been on our own vacation, just the two of us, for years.  This past weekend, what was going to be an actual weekend getaway for just my hubby and I in Baltimore turned into much more than we bargained for on the infamous I-95.

First, let me start off by making something clear.  I have two things that make me nervous while driving:
1) Tractor trailers
2) Long/high bridges over water

Now the story.

I was driving us in my car on the bridge that crosses the Susquehanna River.  Being nervous on this bridge, I was furthest from the sides as I could be.  It was three lanes, so I was in the center.  We were nearly to the end of the bridge (yay!) when I noticed that the traffic just after the bridge was moving slower, so I began to slow down and put on my flashers, because I also have seen way too many people not paying attention to the speed of the cars in front of them and don't slow down enough to avoid a collision.

Which is exactly what caused the crash.

Just a few seconds after I had put on my blinkers and made sure I was slowing down enough, we both noticed a green jeep-like vehicle just ahead to our left going too fast and close behind the car in front of him, and so he started to slam his brakes.  We were just going by him when he decided he hadn't allowed himself enough time to brake, so he swerved and slammed his car right into us.  I remember having a split second to think, "Omigosh! Where should we pull over?! This will delay us quite a bit...".  But then the guy continued to push us, demolition derby style, until he had slid past and was in front of us in the center lane.  However, when he slammed us, he also pushed us so that we were now sliding directly towards the right lane and the edge of the bridge with the water just beyond.

Peachy, right?

All I remember seeing was the cement divider with the water just beyond and below it out my windshield, and thinking how this couldn't really be happening.  Then the nose of the car was suddenly sliding along the cement divider, and then, we came to a stop.  Silence.

I heard Karl say, "Are you ok?!"  (I learned later from Karl that he was concerned because I wasn't saying anything)

I leaned against the steering wheel and just uttered out something to the effect of, "We stopped!  Thank you, Jesus!".  I was just so glad that we hadn't fallen off the bridge, that it was all my brain was processing in that moment.

That's when I turned around to look at Karl for the first time and saw his window gone, glass all over us, and the not-so-subtle headlight and grill of a truck right next to Karl's head.

"What do you mean 'am I ok'?!  Are you ok?!  You're the one with a truck next to you!"

Both of us hadn't even known a truck had rammed into us until we had stopped (and later when we got out of the car, realized it was a large tractor trailer.  Our brains really were kicking into high gear that day trying to process what we were seeing!).

Karl said he was ok, and then a guy, who we later learned was the trucker, came to Karl's window and leaned in, looking super scared and worried, and asking if we were ok.  We found then that Karl had a few cuts from the glass (and Karl asked for a bandaid, lol), but we assured him we seemed to be alright.

It was only a few seconds that went by from the point the jeep rammed into us to the point we were sent flying into the right lane and into the path of the tractor trailer and then pushed along by the truck for about 50 more feet, but it had seemed longer and felt like it was entirely in slo-mo, just like you see in the movies.  Very surreal.

This is for all you "pics or it didn't happen" peeps:

You can see by the tread how much the poor trucker guy had been braking

Oh, and the jeep-guy?  Yeah, he fled the scene.  The police said there are cameras along the highway that may help them to ID the guy, so here's hoping.  Otherwise, if you see a dark green cherokee-like-jeep with scraped white body paint on its passenger side, get their license number, k?

Thankfully, we had several factors in our favor that made it all a God thing, because what happened to us couldn't have happened more perfectly; we were able to walk away with nothing worse than whiplash.  One factor being the lessened speed everyone was already going so that more people didn't get pulled into the accident.  Also, the trucker was paying attention and had also seen the accident with the jeep, causing him to immediately push his brakes so that by the time we were in his path, he was able to just scoot us along with him for the ride to a stop, versus slam, get the picture.  Truly, we owe him (and he was such a great guy - gave him a hug to thank him for basically saving our lives).  Also, the timing of when the truck hit us was perfect, because it was just when the tip of the car's front bumper was close enough to just scrape the cement border, so we had no frontal impact to knock us around, but instead we were just pushed along the divider, which was not half as jarring.

There are so many scenarios (and believe me, I've played them out in my head since then) and how just the tiniest thing could have made it so much worse, but didn't.  Like I said, there's no way it could have been any more perfect.  Praise God.

I'll be finding out soon if they will pronounce my beloved car totaled or not.  Last they told me, they said it was "borderline".  I'm really hoping they choose to fix it, because I really like that car and put a lot of work into it (it's my project car/baby).  I'll be updating on that.
Edit:  it's totaled.  :(

Soooo, other than vacations and death-defying would-be vacations, I've been very inspired lately and have been busy trying out lots of new recipes, foods, methods, etc.  I'm very excited about some of the new meals that have appeared on our dinner table lately.  As I've mentioned before, my ultimate goal with a meal is that it is not only something safe for me to eat (that part is easy), but that it's something both of us find ourselves devouring because it is so good it makes us not even miss gluten, dairy, and nightshades.

Here's some rough, taken-with-cel-phone teasers for recipes to come:

Lamb Shoulder (ready to go into the oven):

Stir fry/wok experiments:

Asian Chicken & Bok Choy Soup:

Roasted chicken thigh & leg:

I'll be posting at least one of these recipes this week.  Take care till then, guys!  TTFN!

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