Great Expectations

or “My Life in Blog Sounds Much Cooler Than It Really Is”

Archive for July, 2009

House Tour, part 2…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 24, 2009

You have already seen the living/dining area in our little house.  Now it is time to introduce you to my little bathroom.  This is the bathroom right off the master bedroom and my husband decided it could be mine, while he would use the larger bathroom in the hallway.  I am delighted with this arrangement – I now have my own little domain!  It was bland and dirty (50 years worth of dirt in the grout between the tiles on the floor) when we moved it.  I spent hours scrubbing with baking soda paste and it made a big difference.  I also chose a very bold paint color called Eucalyptus Leaf by Behr (available at the Home Depot).  [apologies in advance – these are not professional photographs – not that you have come to expect “professional” when it comes to the G.E. blog]

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This is the shot of the bathroom from the doorway.  The shower stall is to the left, but that is about it…it is very small!

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This is the wall across from the toilet.  You can barely see the little wire shelf underneath the towel rack in this photo.  It makes a tight space even tighter, but I had to do something because the only storage in this bathroom is directly under the sink and in the medicine cabinet.  I just needed a little more than that.  What were two people supposed to do in this bathroom?

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This is a little watercolor of the Spanish Steps in Rome that we purchased from a street vendor during one of our many trips to that fair city when we lived in Germany.  It is really cute and it “matches” the aquas and browns used in this bathroom perfectly.  This photo really doesn’t do it justice.

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And, finally, a word about the window dressing….my husband warned me that he did not want me spending a lot of money buying “curtains and stuff” when we moved into our new house.  Well, to me, that is just one of the costs of moving…it seems like nothing you had in your old house works in your new space.  But, after having read and received inspiration from many thrifty home decorating blogs, I came up with an inexpensive solution.  These are two kitchen hand towels, folded over and clipped to curtain rings and then threaded on a $9 cafe rod.  I am sure interior designers all over the world experienced a sharp pain in the back of their collective skulls the moment I installed this bad boy – it isn’t going to win any design awards, that is for sure.  But, it was really easy, it does add some color to the bathroom, it does help to “finish” my windows.  So, it is good enough for me.  Plus, in my own tiny realm, I am queen and what I say goes.  [And, when I get around to the kitchen tour, you will see this “technique” again.]

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Good Dancer, Bad Dancer…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 23, 2009

Lately, my rides have been excellent.  It seemed like each time, Dancer was better, stronger, more responsive.  On Saturday, she was particularly excellent.  She was loose and supple and her back came up and round as soon as I got on and started walking around.  Her trot was lofty and full of impulsion.  She was light in my hand and not pulling on the bit at all.  She was the epitome of self-carriage.  She sprang off my leg into her upward transitions without tossing her head up.  Her canter was slow and round but without a hint of wanting to break back to the trot.  Her leg-yields and shoulder-ins were smooth and easy.  I was in awe.  It started raining and I couldn’t stop riding her because it was so much fun.  When I spoke with my husband later that night, he asked me how my day was and I gushed “I had the BEST ride EVER on Dancer!”  He said, “do you realize that you have said that about once a week since we got here?”  I had not realized that, but when I thought back, it was true.  She has been getting better and better.  Cool.

I didn’t ride her on Sunday, but on Monday, she was also very good.  Maybe not quite as good as Saturday, but still very, very nice.  It was also getting ready to storm on Monday, so it was blustery and she was a little distracted (so was the other horse in the ring at the time).

Well, we all know that what goes up, must eventually come down.  On Wednesday, Bad Dancer raised her ugly head.  She would not – would NOT stand still.  Any time I asked her to halt, she got tense and anxious and wanted to move forward again.  When I wouldn’t let her, she tried to go sideways.  When I wouldn’t let her, she would rocket backwards.  When we were working on our canter transitions, she got squirrelly and tried her old hopping, head-tossing, bucking trick.  (But, this time I was actually able to ride through it and keep her cantering – yay me!)  Later, when I was trying to get her to do haunches in on a circle, she really wanted to canter instead, so whenever I would apply my outside leg, even the slightest bit, she would leap forward.  I would stop her, ask again and she would leap forward.  She was HOT.  However, I should note, this definitely wasn’t her worst day.  And, even though she wasn’t perfectly behaved, we did accomplish a new thing we have been working on – the counter canter.  I have done a few steps before, but she hasn’t been strong enough or balanced enough to really do it.  Last night, I had her in a good canter to the right.  I came across the diagonal and headed to the left.  I kept her going all the way around in a big loop to the left, back across the diagonal and returned to my circle to the right at the other end of the arena.  I was so stoked!  We had worked for a while, doing some pretty tough stuff and she was lathered up, but I could tell she was still very wild, so I took off her tack and let her have a good free-gallop around.  She loved it.  She loved it so much that even after I went back to the barn, put her stuff away, changed out of my boots, talked to someone and then came back to get her, she wouldn’t come to me.  She made me corner her.  That is VERY unlike her. 

Then, on the walk back to the barn, she was pushy and was walking all over me.  We had to practice giving me some space and stopping when I stop.  She even got a few “spankings”!  Now, I normally won’t hit a horse, but a horse who won’t respect your space (and who knows better) and could possibly be losing her eye-sight is dangerous.  I felt that I needed to nip that behavior in the bud.  So if she started to come over on top of me, I elbowed her and if she didn’t move over, I smacked her on the shoulder with my open hand (it makes a loud noise).  Just to show me her displeasure, as I turned her around once, she slapped me across the face with her tail.  It hurt like crazy!  Bad Dancer, very bad Dancer.  She usually has such good ground manners and is such a loving horse.   She hurt my feelings a little bit.  😦

I won’t be able to ride tonight, but maybe tomorrow will be a new day.

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Is this really sad?…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 23, 2009

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I am a crier.  It doesn’t take much to bring a tear to my eye.  Sometimes this is very inconvenient.  For example, songs often move me to tears, and there is one song in particular that has made me cry ever since I was a little girl.  Once, when I was in a store and the elevator music version of that song was playing, I had to leave rather than embarrass myself in public. 

My most recent silliness involves the Dawn dish soap commercial where they simulate removing oil from a duckling, a penguin and an otter by washing them with Dawn.  Have you seen it?  For some reason that sweet song paired with those sweet little animals really gets to me.  Now, whenever I hear it, the prickling begins. 

I thought the lyrics were “they’re gonna wash me” (actually, the lyrics say “they’re gonna wash away” in reference to troubles) – so I think what got me was the thought of these cute little innocent animals trusting humans to wash them and remove their troubles – the very same troubles created by humans in the first place.  I know…silly.  

You can watch the commercial here:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUkOgE4K7j4  So cute!

When I was trying to find the commercial online, I happened upon a scathing blog post entitled “Dawn Kills Animals.”  This almost stopped me in my tracks.  I thought “well, if any of those animals actually died, then that would really give me a reason to cry.”  But, the primary complaint against Dawn by the blog author was that the commercial was “simulated” (of course!) and in order to film it, the company had to cover animals in non-toxic paint and corn syrup to simulate oil.  Horrors!  (read sarcasm here) Well…this is hardly killing them, animals get dirty and have baths all the time.  Just ask my dog…  I love animals, and I don’t believe they should be treated cruelly, but it makes me crazy when people take this too far.  The author apparently just wanted to use this to springboard to her main platform:  calling out Procter & Gamble (the parent company of Dawn) on their animal testing.  Leaving that big black hole alone…I have no problems with Dawn “simulating” an oil spill clean up in their commercial, so I am posting it.

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Fun is…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 16, 2009

Inviting four horseloving friends to share good food, laughter and two and a half bottles of wine.  Good times!  (even on a “school” night)

Not being lonely in Kansas?…Priceless!

Thanks ladies!

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Our first dinner party…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 14, 2009

On Saturday night we hosted our first official dinner party here in Wichita.  We invited 14 people (7 couples).  Out of that number, only 4 couples could actually attend.  Our house is very small, so this turned out to be a blessing in disguise and it allowed everyone to sit at the same table for dinner.  To put the leaves in the dining room table, we had to move all of the living room furniture out of the way.

Here is a reminder of how it looked before the re-arranging.

Here is how it looked on Saturday night.

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Here is a closer view of the table, set with my wedding china – “Mi Amor” by Noritake.  This is another reason it is secretly a good thing that not everyone could make it – I had enough plates, glasses and silverware.  I guess if we are going to keep doing these things (and, I assume we are) then I am going to have to “re-register” for some of these things in the form of birthday and Christmas gifts from family.

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You probably noticed that my lovely olive table cloth purchased on our 10th anniversary trip to the South of France doesn’t quite make it to the end of the table.  But, I figured it wouldn’t matter too much – my husband and I were sitting on the ends anyway.

Here is a close up of the centerpiece I arranged.  I was quite proud of it and thought it turned out well.

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The evening began at 6:00 pm.  We invited all of the guests to the backyard, where I set up an appetizer table and we had a cooler full of drinks.  I wish I had taken a picture of the appetizer table, because it looked very cute with its own flower arrangement and a brightly colored tablecloth of its own.  But, by then I was running around like crazy and didn’t remember to take any pictures.  The theme of the evening was “A Few of our Favorite Things” and was a chance for us to share some things we love with my husband’s new crew.  It also gave everyone a chance to socialize outside of the office and for them to see where we live.

Here was the menu:

Appetizers

Trio of dips with pretzels and fresh veggies (carrots, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and yellow peppers) – the dips were hummus (store bought), guacamole (my sister’s simple, but delicious recipe) and salmon dip (recipe courtesy of my  mom and always a crowd pleaser)

Three different types of olives

Bruscetta- toasted rosemary bread witha topping of chopped heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil grown on my back porch with a drizzle of Italian olive oil

Spicy garlic shrimp – this was our favorite food in Spain.  Just thinking about eating it there makes my mouth water.  Mine isn’t exact, but we did bring home some of the dried peppers that impart the unique flavor we remember.

Main Course

Lemony Chicken Piccatta – from Italy

Grilled Pepper-Rubbed Sirloin – Beef,- its what’s for dinner in South Dakota – the only nod to my husband’s home state

Mashed potato casserole – again courtesy of my mom

Grilled baby asparagus – asparagus in general is reminiscent of Germany – they LOVE their asparagus!

Mixed green salad with toasted/candied almond slices and sliced strawberries with a raspberry/walnut vinaigrette dressing (not from anywhere in particular, but delicious nonetheless)

Dessert

Apple and Fruit Strudels

Fresh whipped cream made in the special dispenser we bought in Germany

Jacobs coffee – from Germany

Of course, we also had a variety of wines from Germany, Italy and France on offer throughout the evening.  (Although, I was probably the largest consumer of those!) 

I hope everyone enjoyed sampling some of our various favorite recipes.  I know that going to your boss’s house for dinner is usually something that you dread…

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It’s the thought that counts…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 13, 2009

On Friday afternoon, my husband had a sad and weary look on face when he came home from work.  His day had been hectic, but the thing that put him over the edge is that he had bought me some flowers and then asked the lady to hold them in the cooler until the end of the day when he planned to come by and pick them up.  Well…he got busy with other things and then the day was gone and the shop was closed for the weekend.  Poor boy!  I told him I didn’t mind at all and that it was definitely the thought that counted.  In fact, I went over to get them today and they are gorgeous!

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I think I will still be able to enjoy them for several days.  Now, if he really wants to be my hero, he will say yes to my dream tv stand.  (See my previous post on the subject.)

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My dream tv stand…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 13, 2009

Before we left Montgomery, I tried to talk to my husband about purchasing a piece of furniture that could be used as a holder for our big screen television and assorted audio/visual accouterments.  After I went out scouring the town for our choices, he refused to consider purchasing anything.  He thought we shouldn’t spend the money so close to our move.  When I pushed him on where we would put the television (because I know this is an important subject to him), he said that we would make do with something we had for a while.  So, the tv is sitting on a sofa table and the cable box, blu-ray player and stereo components are sitting on the ground. 

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Obviously, this is less than satisfactory.  So, almost as soon as we had this set up, he started talking about buying one of the cheap, plastic entertainment centers that I really hate.   We were stymied – he wanted to buy something cheap and temporary – I still wanted to look for a piece of furniture we could be proud to have in our home.  I spent an entire Saturday going to antique shops here in Wichita, but I didn’t see a single thing that would work. 

I found something great (and cheap) on Craigslist – and although I sent the seller an email the same day that the listing was posted, it had already been purchased by someone else. 

I found a buffet at World Market that was reasonably priced, the right dimensions and ok for the purpose, but somehow, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it.

Then, on a whim, I searched on eBay.  Guess what I found?  The absolute perfect piece of furniture for my purpose.

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Maybe this isn’t your style, but I ADORE it.  It is a French antique and it is very similar in style to a china hutch/buffet we bought in Germany that we love, love, love.  See…

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The only problem is the price – it is about $600 more than the upper limit of what I had hoped to spend.  (So, it goes without saying that it is about 4x more than what my husband would have liked to have spent.)  Also, it is located in New Jersey!  The seller is an antiques dealer and he offered in the listing to help arrange for shipping.  How much would that be, I wondered.  I tried, but I just couldn’t get this out of my mind.  So, I emailed the seller and explained that while I loved the piece, it was already over my budget.  I asked how the shipping would work….he replied and offered to do it for $100.  Basically, it sounds like it comes on a moving van whenever the company has one going by my area of the country.  That could take anywhere from 30 to 60 days…but, $100 is a good deal.  The shipping company is fully bonded, licensed and insured.  The seller has a 100% positive feedback rating. 

I have emailed my husband to lay out my case and have broken into a cold sweat awaiting his reply.

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Wichita = Powerful Weather…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 10, 2009

As a Southerner, I am no stranger to big thunderstorms.  But, on Wednesday evening, I experienced a thunderstorm Kansas style.  Yikes!

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(note: not the actual lightening I saw, but very similar to how it looked)

I thought I heard distant thunder while we were finishing up dinner, but it looked sunny and gorgeous outside.  I left the house a little before 9:00 PM to go take care of Dancer.  What should have been a 20 minute round trip, turned into a 2 and a half hour saga. 

While driving, I noticed what looked like a small patch of dark clouds off to the west.  It looked like rain and I thought I saw a few flashes of lightening.  I got to the stables and went inside.   I greeted Dancer and put the drop of Cosopt into her eye.  I went into the tack room to get something and when I came out, two riders were coming into the barn.  They had been riding in the outdoor arena in a lesson, but all of the sudden the weather turned dangerous and the instructor made everyone come inside.  The instructor told me that a “popcorn thunderstorm” had cropped up.  (What an innocent and fun name for something so scary!) So, I helped her to go around the barn closing all of the big doors and the individual stall doors that opened to the outside.  By the time we had finished with that (10 minutes?) the sky was dark black and HUGE streaks of lightening were zig-zagging all over the place.  The air smelled electric.  We turned on the weather radio and heard that the storm was carrying hail and I was advised that it wouldn’t be safe or prudent for me to drive home at that moment.  So, we pulled our cars into the indoor arena.  We discussed bringing in the horses that were turned out in paddocks without walk-in shelters and really wanted to do so, but determined that it just wouldn’t be safe to go out onto that flat land with that much lightening all around us.  I said a little prayer for those poor horses.

The rest of the time, we alternated between listening to the amazing reports on the radio (hail the size of quarters up to ping pong balls covering the ground like snow) and peaking outside to see this awesome force of nature for ourselves.  Another horse owner showed up (his horse was one of the ones outside), but when he saw how bad it was, he drove home again without bringing his horse in.  The lightening would sometimes bathe the property as if it were daylight for what seemed like seconds at a time.  Luckily, I had brought Copper with me on what I thought was going to be a very quick ride out to the stable.  If she had been left at home, she would have torn the house down, I am sure.  As it was, she did very well.  She was on-edge with her tail between her legs and her ears plastered back against her head and she stayed next to me like glue.  But, she did enjoy meeting lots of new people and investigating around a new place.

My husband had returned to his office in an attempt to keep up with the overwhelming tide of email he receives on a daily basis.  So, unfortunately, his car was outside when the hail began.  He rushed outside and drove the car to a car wash, where he waited for 45 minutes for things to calm down.  Unfortunately, his little BMW is now covered in dents.  [I wanted to take a picture to illustrate the damage, but I wasn’t able to really capture it.]

We had detritus from our trees littering the yard in the morning morning and alot of the blossoms on our new plants were blown or pounded off, but miraculously, the plants themselves look ok.  All in all, I think we were very lucky.  The worst thing would have been if I had been out to the stables earlier, I would have put Dancer outside and she would have been pelted with hail.  Ouch!

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A piece of good news…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 9, 2009

I just found out yesterday that I was selected for a job I applied for weeks ago.  I had almost given up hope.  It is a position within the same organization, but moving back into the area in which I worked while living in Germany.  I like my current position, but I think I will really love my new job.  It will also give me the opportunity to travel a little bit, which is fun, and if I am lucky, maybe I will even make it back to Europe for a trip.  How wonderful would that be? 

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To top it all off, my salary will increase significantly.  Of course, I am happy about this, but it does feel a little weird to be receiving a salary increase when other people I know have lost their jobs entirely.  I will not take this blessing for granted. 

Thank you Lord – you are too good.

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The 4th of July…

Posted by mandyhuckins on July 8, 2009

Usually means relaxation, but this year it meant yardwork.  As you can see from this picture, our new house, while blessed with mature trees, does not have much else going for it in the yard department. 

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Here is the after:

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The side/front before:

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And after:

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On Saturday morning on my way to the stable, I stopped for gas.  Then, my car would not restart.  I called my husband.  He came, poked around under the trunk, tried to start my car by using the jumper cables and determined that the battery was bad.  We went home for tools to remove the battery and so that I could change out of my riding clothes.  We took out the battery and headed to WalMart to have it tested.  Yep – they confirmed it was shot, but they did not sell the kind of battery I needed.  Luckily, for a mere $135, Sears did.  Back to the gas station to install the battery.  A quick lunch a long and expensive trip to Wal-Mart and we were ready to begin.

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While my husband was unloading and organizing all of our supplies, I had to go back and retrace our steps because he thought he had lost his Blackberry.  After going back and searching and waiting in lines to be able to ask someone if it had been turned in to a lost-and-found to no avail, I called home to report the news.  “Um, babe, you will never believe this” he says to me, “I just opened the door to the car and it was in the pocket.”  Hmm.  You didn’t thoroughly check in the car before you sent me off on  goose chase?  Like that should surprise me – this is the man who asked me the following set of questions while we were getting ready to attend an evening function on Thursday night.  “Mandy, were are my rings?’  (By the kitchen sink where he took them off to wash his hands.) “Mandy, have you seen my blue shirt?” (I don’t know where that turned out to be.)  “Mandy, where are the shoes that go to my uniform?” (Those were left at his office when he changed clothes after a change of command ceremony earlier in the week.)  “Mandy, have you seen my cell phone lying around anywhere?” (That turned out to be out in his car.)  So, I should have learned to check behind him by now.

I digress…my point is that after all of the running around, we weren’t ready to do anything in the yard until about 2:00 in the afternoon.  Not exactly according to plan.  The ripping out of old things took quite a while.  So, all we were able to accomplish before we had to shower and get to a 4th of July party that evening was planting the geraniums and mandevilla in the planter box and replanting the red-tipped bushes on the side.  My husband also tilled up the front bed and we planted some hydrangeas I bought weeks ago in the back yard. 

Here they are…beautiful!

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I hope they stay blue.

On Sunday afternoon, after a trip to Home Depot for more supplies, we finished up the front bed.  Here is a close up of some of the flowers we planted.

Zinnias:

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And

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In the middle is a butterfly bush.  The two larger bushes are forsythia.  Too bad we have already missed their beautiful, golden, flowery displays this year.  We will have something to look forward to next spring (if they survive!).  And, the other plants are spirea.  We should still get some blooms on them this year, I think.

The geraniums and in the back a crimson mandevilla:

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 My grandma Judy is known for her geraniums.  If I can get these looking half as good as hers, I will be very pleased.  And, my grandma Gladys gave me a mandevilla as a housewarming gift when we bought our first house in Charleston.  It was a pink one (my preference, actually), but the red looks better here.

In the back yard, we each have a tomato plant in a pot.  We got these when we first moved in.  Mine is short, but has two good looking tomatoes on it.

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Colin’s has been growing like a weed and is much taller than mine.  It has its first small tomato:

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It sure is fun watching things grow.  I have been watering everything and the weather hasn’t been too bad for the past few days.  Please cross your fingers that everything will survive.

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