Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Way We Decided to Get Hitched, Part II.

So maybe the first part of this story sounded a little somber, but don't let that make you think I was anything but elated at the thought of marrying Brian. He was drop-dead gorgeous, with a football-player build and a confident way of inspiring respect... and he wanted me to be his wife. I could hardly believe it - still can't, sometimes. However, when he suggested June for a wedding date, my first thoughts were "that's five months away!" and "my parents are going to flip out!"

During our conversation, I had pulled out a little one-sheet calendar of 2006, with small numbers arranged in tiny rows. Looking at the year in a glance, I told him June was too early - I was thinking about taking summer classes to earn a few more credits before getting married and moving away from my full-ride scholarship to the university. (This is why my parents were going to flip out.) I suggested October, and he complained that it was too far away. Looking back, I think his objection had more to do with hunting season, but I suppose I'll never know for sure.

Now, keep in mind that we weren't engaged just yet. Although my parents knew we were planning to get married, I believe my mom was thinking more along the lines of a Christmas 2006/Spring 2007 wedding. But Brian's persistence led us to compromise on August. And when we agreed, I held that tiny calendar in my hand and circled the number 26 with a pen. "August 26, 2006," I said. "I like it. Twos and sixes."

Unfortunately, the news was broken to my mom in a not-so-gentle way. I don't remember exactly how it happened but it seems to me that a few days later, I discreetly told a friend that we were "maybe thinking August"... and she then walked up to my mom at church and said, "So, I hear you're planning an August wedding!"

After church that night, my parents were understandably confused and a little hurt. So... what? Are you engaged? AUGUST? Didn't you want to tell us? What about COLLEGE? Why didn't Brian talk to your father? I explained that no, we were not engaged (though I'd be taking that up with Brian very soon), and that I was sorry (I was), and that I had meant to tell them soon (I HAD!), and that I was sure Brian would talk to my dad (of course), and that the date wasn't set in stone (it was), and that I would still finish college (I kind of didn't).

They knew we were both adults, that we had planned on getting married, and that Brian was absolutely the best catch in the world. So it wasn't long before my mom resigned herself to losing Her Favorite Child and decided to get onboard the Wedding Planning Adventure Train.

Of course my next conversation with Brian was: So... when are we going to get engaged? Knowing now that I only had six months or so, I figured I'd better start planning - but I did not want to do that without a ring on my finger. When I told Brian this, he encouraged me to start planning anyway - or wait, if I wanted to. Either one! How hard could it be to plan a wedding? There was no rush to make me his fiancee, it seemed he was saying. We loved each other, we had a date, and besides - he needed to save money for a ring.

Oh, brother, I was thinking. We don't have time for you to save for a ring. I had a trip planned to see him in early March, and I eagerly offered it as an opportunity for him to pop that darn question... the one I'd already pretty much answered by circling that date on my calendar.

But no, he objected. "I'm sorry baby, but we'll have to wait until we see each other in May."


I tried to explain that three months was just not long enough to be engaged. True, I could swallow my pride and plan a wedding without a ring on my finger....

But honestly, I wanted to enjoy being a fiancee as long as I could!

I can see now that it was kind of silly to be saying, "When are you going to propose? Why not March? COME ON!" I wish I would have just left it up to him instead of getting my hair all tied up in knots. I mean, we had already set a date - the commitment was clearly there. My advice to anyone in a similar position: CHILL OUT. Asking your man, "When are you going to ask me to marry you?" when you've already set a wedding date is like... I don't know. Obnoxious. Like a customer who orders something and then calls 24 hours later to find out where their product is. Just bad form.

Thankfully, Brian didn't give up on me. If he had realized that this only signified my impatient, graceless nature, that might have happened. Or maybe he did realize it, but was too swept away by my charming table manners to care. Who knows?

I'm sure you're dying to find out if he ever popped the question.

Too bad!


(P.S. Heehee. Here's Part III.)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The 'Fixing Maegan Project' To Do List: Item 512.

Do any of you have this obnoxious, annoying habit?

No offense meant, of course - the habit would only be obnoxious and annoying to yourself. Not to me. You, my dear readers (hi Mom and Dad!), are nothing but lovely, enjoyable, and sweet-smelling.

I don't know if this is a habit or simply something that bites me in the butt every now and again - in fact, I suppose if it was a habit, I'd be able to recognize it and break it. Which is what I intend to do, only I don't think it will bite me in the butt for a while. And when it does, OH, will it ever be Obnoxious and Annoying.

What I'm talking about is this: whenever I have something of great importance, and I absolutely don't want to lose it or forget about it, I put it in a very special, safe place.

And then I completely forget where that place was.

This happened to me over Christmas when I received an unexpected gift in the mail from a loved one. It was a sweet Christmas card and a nice check for me and Brian. I was so tickled and delighted - since Christmas is always a time of lots of spending - and I immediately sat down and wrote a nice thank-you note.

But THEN! Ah, then I was distracted, because I had company coming over soon and I needed to tidy up the house. I put the Christmas card and check in our large, full, all-purpose junk drawer, but then I paused. It could get lost in that drawer, I thought wisely. I'm going to put it in a very safe and special place.

So I did.

Later, I pulled the card out of the drawer and opened it, hoping to deposit the check at the bank on my way to the store. But gasp! it was gone! (Of course, it was never there in the first place.)

So here was the ensuing drama:

Wait a second! Didn't I put that in a special place? But - what place would be more special than inside the card it came in? Maybe the check fell out of the card. I should organize and arrange this entire drawer, even though I have a ton of stuff to do right now.

----La-di-da, organizes drawer, separates bills and important documents and puts them back in, burns accumulated trash in the fire, stacks magazines in the bookshelf. No check. REORGANIZES drawer. Still no check, and now it is too late to go to the store.----

Darn it! I've organized this drawer twice! Where's the check? Hopefully I'll find it later.

----Goes on Christmas vacation trip to Michigan, has a blast, all the while wondering where that check went.----

Okay, I'm home now. I AM GOING TO FIND THAT CHECK.

----Looks through all the bills and important documents again. Pages through each magazine. Opens original Christmas card 47 times. Thinks, "Why would I put that check in this drawer?! Of course it was going to get lost!" As a last-ditched attempt, checks every 'safe place' in the house. Concludes that the check was burned up with all the junk mail.----

Two weeks later, going about my business, I found the check. It was clipped to our calendar, inside the cupboard that keeps all of our coffee and mugs (opened several times a day). I'd clipped the check to the December page, but since the calendar was opened to November, I didn't see it.

Maegan, why would you have the calendar opened to November - in January?

Maybe that's something else I should change?

Has this ever happened to you?

P.S. I'll finish my engagement story. Don't worry.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New compulsion. Don't be alarmed, there's one of these every few days.

Allow me to interrupt this tale of romance, desperation, and desire, to bring you a little bit of nonsense and some blather about myself, blah blah blah.

I think I know what I will start buying the moment I find out I am pregnant.

Besides lots of fast food.

Not baby clothes, organic crib sheets, or oversized rosaries to hang over the crib.

NO. INSTEAD, I think I am going to go crazy buying books!

A week ago I went with a friend to a semi-annual mom-to-mom exchange. There, I learned two things:

1.) Woe to she that dares to tread where thrifty parents shop for deals!


2.) Even if you're entirely positive you will be a mom someday, you might want to wait until then to go to one of these sales. Just saying - there's nothing like looking through baby clothes for a non-existent child that makes you want to go on home and devour a giant bowl of cheese grits in silence.

But seriously, it was good that I went. It was nice to get out of the house, and I was able to help my friend, who was hauling around a stroller, a wagon, and a little baby - who was perfectly well-behaved, but still. That's a lot of stuff.

The only reason I was going to the sale was to buy some children's books as gifts, if I could find ones in good shape. (Now I wish I would have bought them in any condition.) Anyway, I enjoyed looking through the boxes of books and finding some old favorites that my mom read to us as kids. I didn't buy many, though, and when I got home and sat down and actually read the books I'd brought home, I fell in love with them. I reread Where the Wild Things Are, and The Relatives Came, and I read a few new ones I hadn't ever seen.

I didn't want to give them away! I wanted to keep them for myself for my future kids, for when we all pile on our bed and a couple kids sit on top of my back and one sits on each side and a couple little ones sit on top of them, too. I firmly believe that the reason I loved reading (and still do!) was because my mom read books to us every night. She didn't just read the words - she pointed to the pictures and made the characters talk and showed us the noises that the animals made and added sound effects for the weather in each picture.

I loved being read to, long after I could read on my own. I hope my kids do, too.

I'm keeping these books, I told my nicer, gift-giving self. Suck on that.

So I stashed my new-used books in The Empty Room/The Future Nursery... but then something happened. Immediately, the small size of the pile made me a little bit itchy.

Seven books is not nearly enough.

And that's when I started looking online, at Amazon and and BestWebBuys, for all the old books I used to love looking at. And then yesterday, I bought five! And then today... well, I had five in my shopping cart, but since they're out of print they're a little pricier. So - I just bought three.

(People and Noah's Ark and The Little Riders and Christmas and The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night and We the People and The Star-Spangled Banner and Gobble Growl Grunt. I loved Peter Spier books then and I still do.)

But I swear I'm done now.

EXCEPT - next month (in about three weeks!) the Wake County Library System will be having their annual booksale! And baby, I'll be going!

I'll be looking for the books I used to love hearing, like Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The Snowy Day, and Chicken Soup with Rice. And more.

And whenever our family grows, so will the stack in The Empty Room. Except hopefully, it won't be so empty then.


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Way We Decided to Get Hitched, Part I.

I'm just a few months shy of two-years of blogging. Initially I started this blog hoping that I could develop it into a 'real website', a collection of recipes, housekeeping tips, pregnancy and infant info (ha) etc. But besides the fact that there are many, many other blogs that do that job infinitely better than I could dream of doing it, I have definitely learned over the past (almost) two years that my heart's not into that. Sure, it would be nice to have a blog like this one or this one, but you can bet that those blogs are A Lot of Work.

Also, my life doesn't look like that, so I'd be hard-pressed to blog like that. Key sticking point there.

Still, I'm happy with my blog. I've come to realize that it's serving more as a journal of these early years of our marriage than a hub for the masses. And as I've said before, writing my thoughts down in a diary is not a strength of mine, so having a few readers to spur me to posting (hi, Mom! hi, Dad!) helps me keep a record. I've already read back over my limited archives and laughed at memories I'd already forgotten. I'd like to keep doing that.

Now, after that long-winded introduction to what will undoubtedly be a long post (what's new?), I'd like to tell you about Our Engagement. Of course, both of you (hi, Mom and Dad!) know this story, but I want to write it down anyway. I'm sure that in my mind, the finer points will grow hazy through the years. I hope it will stay here for me to read later.

The Way We Agreed to Get Hitched, Part I.

Brian and I had a whirlwind relationship that started in the summer of 2005. To me, Brian seemed too good to be true. I felt giddy at the thought of him. I was certain God would dangle the possibility of a relationship with Brian over my head and then snatch it away, if only to illustrate that my wrong choices through the prior years had reaped their consequences. So when Brian, who had not yet come right out with his intentions to date me, told me that he would be moving to North Carolina at the end of the summer, I was crestfallen. Surely now God was pulling him out of reach, I concluded.

But the night before he drove south for good, he stopped by the house and told me he wanted me to be his girlfriend. Knowing now that we were serious about each other, but also realizing that a new, long-distance relationship would be difficult to navigate, we agreed to a trial run. I had a semester of college in front of me and he had a new city and a new job. We agreed to see how things looked by Christmas.

Then, in September, his accident happened. Whisked away from a dream hunt in Alaska, Brian found himself back in Detroit, consulting with specialists to see if he would ever regain sight in his right eye. For a few weeks of this time, he stayed with me and my family. Brian's faith and integrity through these dark circumstances showed me that he was exactly the man I wanted to marry. I now see that one blessing of those horrific months was that we fell in love with each other, though I don't think either of us realized it at the time.

In November, he told me that he loved me for the first time. By December, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we wanted to be married. Still, it shocked me when, on the way to the airport after his Christmas visit, Brian told me that he planned to schedule two weeks of vacation for 2006 - one for a bowhunting trip, and one for a honeymoon. That night I sat in the basement with my family, watching the movie Polar Express with everyone but not paying any attention to the movie. Instead, I was thinking that I had just spent my last Christmas at home and I hadn't even realized it.

I guess that sounds a little bit sad, but I was more thrilled to be married than sad to move away. It was just the rush of it all that took my breath away. That January my best friend's mom passed away, and I remember that winter as a time of sadness more than excited anticipation. But Brian and I were chatting over the phone one night and he said, "Let's pick our wedding date."

Poor guy. He was lonely, still adjusting to his new disability and his new location, and - of course - head over HEELS in love with me. :) Of course he was anxious to get married! But even knowing that, I was taken aback when he then said, "How about June?"

To be continued!

Part II

Part III


Monday Musings, AKA "Not Going To Be A Regular Blog Feature, So Don't Worry"

Hey all, it's Monday!

On my to-do list today: take the car for an oil change and emissions inspection, cook some sort of a healthy meal (I'm thinking enchiladas and salad, since I've already got the filling in the freezer), do a little grocery shopping, WORK, exercise, and build a fire because... well, it's not that chilly, but I am just soaking up this cool weather before summer descends upon us furiously. In April.

It was a great weekend. We spent pretty much all Saturday moving a pile of firewood from point A to point B. Brian chopped down an enormous dead poplar and split the entire thing with an ax, while I hauled wood from different parts of the yard, dismantled our woodpile, and restacked it to our discriminating standards. In the process, dozens of cockroaches were spotted and killed, a few fingers were smashed, and several memories of this were reminisced upon and shuddered over:

Seriously. That was the worst of times and The Worst of Times. It's hard to believe that it's been three years since we busted our butts to split, stack, and burn that wood. (YES, yes, Brian gets most of the credit, but my butt was busted in close proportion to the busting of Brian's butt.)

Back in 2008, it was with great pleasure that we resorted to burning what was left:

But don't be fooled - we still wound up with a pretty significant woodpile that still hasn't run out in three years:

So with all this wood to burn, and a temperature today of less than fifty degrees, how could I not build a fire? It's the very least I can do. In honor of the splinters, the sore backs, the gallons of sweat, and the hundreds of hours spent on that woodpile.

Can't believe we've been in this house for three years now. All the work we've put into it makes me love it more and more.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Eating my way to new leather boots, monogrammed sheets, and copious amounts of Yankee candles.

I've really been trying to save money on groceries lately. It's easier to save in the winter, when I'm not buying hundreds of pounds of summer fruit for Brian and blowing the produce budget out of the stratosphere. In the winter, we also have lots of venison stocked up, and the cold weather lends itself to roasts and stews that make use of tougher cuts of meat and cheaper veggies. But the biggest reason it's easy to go cheap in the winter is because Brian will eat potatoes, pasta, bread, rice - cheap things that help me stretch meat and vegetables. In the summer, he's desperate to be fit and trim (er, uh, both of us are), so carbs are taboo.

The reason I'm doing this is because of greed. Yes, that's right. Brian and I have set an amount for our grocery budget, and whatever I don't use on food, I get to keep.

Keep for shopping.

(Not that I don't go shopping with the rest of the money. I would just... have more.)

So what are your favorite cheap meals? So far, my list includes:

-Enchiladas (rice, beans, venison)
-Spaghetti and meatballs (homemade sauce, venison, pasta)
-Pot roast (venison, potatoes, carrots)
-Chili and cornbread (beans, venison, tomatoes)
-Soups! Potato, chicken, ham and bean, split pea, beef vegetable... all cheap.
-Sandwiches! Bread costs pennies to make.
-Omelets (eggs!)
-Meatloaf and mashed potatoes (venison, potatoes)
-Stir-fry (rice, venison, veggies) or fried rice
-Pasta carbonara (pasta, bacon, eggs)
-Tacos (meat, beans, veggies)
-Venison steak and salad
-Chef's salad (lets me stretch chicken by slicing it - then I add hardboiled eggs, cheese, avocado, and lettuce ingredients)
-Shepherd's pie (potatoes, venison, veggies)
-Eggs in a hat

That's all I can think of at the moment. On Tuesday I made Monterrey Beans and Cheese, a meal I loved growing up, and today we are having chili on top of baked potatoes. This weekend I'll make a couple loaves of bread for sandwiches and we'll probably eat homemade pizza at some point, too. And for breakfast, Brian is super easy - he likes toast most of the time, or sometimes I'll make popovers, fried eggs, or sausage and potatoes - so I don't have to buy cereal or milk.

What are your favorite cheap meals? Please, help me buy things for myself! :) I'd prefer that Brian not suspect I've gypped him out of more gourmet meals. Haha.


Easy, hearty chicken soup with homemade dumplings - I think they're called NOODLES, but whatever.

When you hear about soup with 'dumplings', what do you picture? I picture the dumplings that I grew up with - big, fluffy biscuit-like dumplings for a thick soup. Delicious. If those are the kind of dumplings you eat, too, then this is the recipe you want to make:

Smitten Kitchen Chicken and Dumplings (photo credit Smitten Kitchen)

This is the soup I've made for a couple years now, and I usually substitute carrots, celery, and onions for the vegetables in the recipe. It's wonderful. The dumplings are fluffy and flavorful, and although the soup is a bit of work, it's definitely worth it.

Turns out, though, that when Brian hears 'chicken and dumplings', he thinks of something else. One day, he said, "You should make dumplings the way my mom does." Thinking he meant the flat, noodle-type things that some people consider 'dumplings', I said, "You mean chicken and noodles? I've made that before."

Nope, that's not what he meant. What he grew up eating was not a thick stew with fluffy biscuit dumplings but instead a brothy soup with small, dense, gnocchi-size dumplings. So I set off to find a recipe that fit that description, which sounded suspiciously like noodle dough cut into a different shape.

(Yes, that's pretty much what it is. This photo looks a lot like my soup, except the dumplings have no fancy, scalloped sides. Also, these are gnocchi in the picture, but that's not what's important. I'm just trying to give you a general idea, because I didn't have the presence of mind to photograph my own soup.)

Anyway, I found out that the dumplings Brian grew up eating are also delicious, and a bonus is that the soup is much easier to make. It's perfect for a winter afternoon. Start it in the morning so it has time to develop the flavors.

Here's how I do it.

The Soup (serves 4, makes good leftovers)
-Two or three celery stalks
-Two or three large carrots

-Two onions
-A few pieces of chicken - bone-in is best. (I usually look for a value pack of cut-up chicken; last time I was at the store, I found a package of 2 bone-in breasts, four thighs, and two chicken backs for about $3. Dark meat is better for soup, but white meat works too, so I bought it, figuring it would be enough for two pots of soup. So for this I used two thighs, one breast, and one chicken back.)
-Salt & Pepper to taste

The Dumplings
-2 cups of flour
-1 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup water

Several hours before you want to eat, slice the celery and carrots on the diagonal into pretty-looking pieces. In the empty pot, melt a tablespoon of butter, throw in the vegetables and a sprinkle of salt and soften them over medium heat for ten minutes, covered. When they are tender but not mushy, remove them with a slotted spoon into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for later.

(I hate mushy carrots.)

Dice the onion and add another tablespoon of butter to the pot. Cook the onions over medium heat for five minutes until they are translucent. Remove the onions to a plate, just for a little while.

Remove all skin and fat from your chicken. Over medium-high heat (add a little olive oil if there is no remaining fat in the pot), brown the chicken well - about four minutes on each side. Brown=flavor. When the chicken is sufficiently brown to your taste, fill the pot with enough water to come about two inches from the top. Stir well to loosen the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and throw the onions back in there. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low, or just enough to gently simmer.

What will happen now is that the chicken will cook through and become soft, and the meat and the chicken bones will give the water body and flavor (making broth). Let it simmer for an hour or two - the longer, the better, so if you want to let this happen in a crockpot while you're at work, PERFECT.

When the chicken is soft, remove it and separate the meat from the bones. Chop it into chunks and return it to the pot. Taste the broth and add salt gradually until it's perfect.

For the dumplings, mix the flour, salt, and water together until a smooth dough forms. You can do this in a mixer, food processor, whatever - or go old-school and use a wooden spoon. When it's all smoothly mixed (it shouldn't be sticky), use your hands to smush the dough onto a floured surface about a half-inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to cut it into strips about an inch wide. You might have seven or eight strips, but it'll be enough.

Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Pick up a strip of dough and use a pair of scissors to snip pieces right into the boiling soup. I make them about this size:

Only, of course, they have no fancy scalloped sides. Who cares?

Add the carrots and celery back into the pot, on top of the dumplings you just snipped into the broth, and put the lid on top. Let them boil about five minutes.

Finally, ladle and serve. Top with a TON of black pepper, which is delicious, but may just be my personal taste.

I know this sounds like a lot of instruction, but it's really very easy. Please forgive the lack of picture, and try it anyway. You will thank yourself.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don't complain to God. In fact, don't complain, period, and I'm looking at you here, Maeg.

I wonder why I'd rather vent to a friend about a problem than talk to the Lord about it. On one hand, it's nice to hear an immediate human response, an opinion about my problem, advice, sympathy. On the other hand, I often end the discussion wondering why I just aired my grievances and complaints so freely instead of speaking with gratitude, like I should.

I don't know about you, but I feel so strange complaining to the Lord. "It's not complaining, Maegan," you might say. "You're just telling him what's on your heart." Plus, dummy, you might think to yourself, it's not like He doesn't hear you when you're complaining to your friend. These things are true, but I can't help but think: the Lord knows the thoughts in my head and the emotions I'm feeling. But when I voice them out loud to Him in prayer, it sounds like whining. It just does.

Picture a privileged family - I'm one of the children. One day, I don't get what I want, so I complain to my sister. Of course, since she is also privileged and accustomed to our cushy life, she completely understands my perspective and agrees that my problem stinks, and that I am totally justified to feel bummed out.

Now say (if we're still sticking with the privileged family analogy) that my dad is a surgeon in a pediatric unit at the hospital. Every day he sees children who smile at him and tell him thank you. He knows that they're in pain, and their gratitude astonishes and blesses him. When he comes home and I complain that I didn't get what I wanted, he will surely listen to me. He loves me, of course - I'm his kid. But I guarantee you that he would be thinking, Oh, BROTHER. Or even worse, that he would think I was disgusting, appalling in my selfishness. He would shake his head in disappointment.

This is exactly why I feel I cannot complain to God. And maybe I am right about that. I should not complain to Him. If He truly knows the thoughts and feelings within me, then He will be blessed when I speak praise and thanksgiving out loud.

Psalm 95:1-6
"O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Brian and I just experienced a time of disappointment, and I am learning how to deal with it. I find myself praying, Lord, you know my heart. You understand why I am disappointed. But I will trust you, and know that you have a perfect plan. Thank you for all of the blessings you've given me. Forgive me when I feel ungrateful or fall into self-pity. I don't want to have those disgusting attitudes when so many of your children are experiencing such grief and trial.

If you experience the same struggle that I do - feeling sorry for yourself and then feeling condemned because you have been so ungrateful! - I want to encourage you with this passage:

(Psalm 103:13-18)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Above all, praise the Lord that he remembered his promise to us and did not leave us in our sin. Praise Him that he sent his Son. We will walk with the Lord for eternity, because He was faithful and did not forget us.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WonderWife Power Tool: Review of the Electrolux Unirapido Vacuum

When Brian and I adopted the Delightful and Wonderful Beauregard, the war on dog hair began and hasn't ceased. At first I was convinced that the shedding would decrease as his body got used to being an 'inside dog' (we think his fluffy coat was a result of living outside for the first 8 months of his life). But after he shed that extra fur, we changed his diet. And then changed it again. And each time we adjusted his food, a flurry of fur ensued. Since then, we've settled on the perfect kibble, but the changing seasons and Bo's general existence mean a constant cloud of shedding. He reminds us of Pigpen; when he stands in the sunlight and shakes his coat, the resemblance is startling and disgusting.

As much as we love Bo, Brian hates, hates, hates the fur everywhere. Our floors are all hard, with one 8x12 berber-style area rug in front of the fireplace, and when the sun shines in it is easy to see a trail of hair gathered along the baseboards. GROSS. Thus, I sweep a lot. But brooms are a pain because they often push things around, into cracks and under sofas. My mom is always telling me that I need a dust mop, one of those long, furry yarn pushers, and I tell her that I DO have a dust mop, but it's just not a perfect solution.

"Why don't you just use your vacuum, Maegan?" Good question. Because it's OLD, as in 'at least twenty-five years old' and 'doesn't work at all on the wood floors' and 'I don't know why we still have it'. But I couldn't justify the purchase of a brand new expensive vacuum when a.) we don't have any carpet, and b.) I couldn't imagine pulling out and plugging in a heavy Dyson or Oreck every time I spotted that nasty trail of fur along the wall.

Ah, but enter the $80 Electrolux Unirapido (listed here, at When I bought it, it was $71, so I felt like I got a great deal. My brother- and sister-in-law have two big golden retrievers, and I was surprised by their fur-less floors when I visited them. They raved about this vacuum, but I didn't give it much thought until they bought one for Brian's mom for Christmas. I tried it out when we were there, and I was hooked. As soon as we got home, I bought one.

Let me tell you what: I love this thing. I LOVE it.

The basics: This vacuum is essentially a full-size dustbuster that charges on a stand. (Incidentally, Electrolux also makes a similar vacuum, the Ergorapido, WITH a dustbuster that can detach. I'm not reviewing the 2-in-1 model, just the basic floor cleaner. I don't think I'd use the dustbuster very much at all.) There are no bags to change, just a dust bin that pops out very easily and that rinses clean. The two filters inside the dust bin also rinse clean. The vacuum has a runtime of approximately 20 minutes when fully charged, and has two settings of suction power. The higher setting is best for carpets, and the lower setting lengthens runtime and works just fine on my hard floors.

1. It is cordless. This means there is nothing standing between me and a 15-minute vacuumed house. Nothing to tangle, fuss with, or limit range.
2. It is quiet. The lower setting sounds like a hair dryer.
3. It SUCKS. Very powerfully. The feeling of popping out the dust bin to see all the fur and dust I've picked up in one cleanup is extremely rewarding. It also works well on our area rug - much better than our 25-year-old Eureka. The rug itself is difficult to vacuum, because things get caught in its loops so easily, but this vacuum does a very good job of picking up fireplace debris and dog hair.
4. It's fun to use. The head swivels sharply, with just a slight turn of the wrist.
5. The dust bin and filters are very, very easy to clean. When I rinse them in the sink, they look brand-new clean.
6. It is absolutely perfect for hardwood floors. It doesn't scratch them, and the suction power is strong enough to pull stuff out of the cracks - unlike a broom.
7. It is very light - less than five pounds. I have it charging behind our bedroom vanity (set at an angle in the corner of the room) and it is nothing to reach behind there and lift it out with one arm. It's hidden from view, like a secret agent that I can deploy at will.
8. The brush wheel is easy to pop out and clean - no screwdriver needed to access it.
9. It works really well for vacuuming the leather furniture. Even though Bo is not allowed on the couches, his fur still winds up there.

1. Only a 20-minute runtime on a full charge. I've never had it run out on me, because it cleans fast, but the threat is always in the back of my mind, especially since it's so goshdarn fun to vacuum with it. ("How long have I been using this thing? Hope it doesn't run out.")
2. The filters need to be rinsed fairly often before the suction power starts lacking. However, like I said, this is really easy to do.
3. The button to open the dust bin is large, and sometimes the button accidentally gets bumped during a cleanup and the dustbin cracks open. But the vacuum continues to run. It's not like the dirt goes anywhere when this happens, but if I didn't notice it, I imagine that the vacuum performance would be reduced.
4. The brush wheel doesn't do well with long hair. Every two days or so, I have to pop out the brush wheel and snip off all the hair wrapped around it because the suction power will weaken. STILL, I'd rather do that than have my long hair being tracked around the house. Plus, it's super easy to get the hair off the brushes.
5. I suspect this is like most vacuums, but if there is crud right up against the wall, I have to brush it out from the corner so the vacuum can get it. I don't think many vacuums can get stuff that far into a corner, but a broom can. I suspect this is the only thing that my broom has got on the Unirapido. Also, I prefer to do stairs with my broom. Too many little crevices for the vacuum.
6. It's not a work of art, even though they offer it in a couple (bright neon) colors. But if you can find a discreet place to plug it in and charge it, it won't be on display.

None of the cons outweigh all the positives of this thing. I love it. My broom has lain neglected in the closet since I bought it, and my floors have been so much cleaner. For someone whose house has a lot of hard floors, I would highly recommend this thing. I feel like it's a secret weapon.

Well, not so secret anymore, but I suppose that is my gift to you.

And if this sounds like an ad, it's not! I wish.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Cravings, crockpot, and cleanup

I've been craving Carolina-style barbecue* for several weeks now, since before our trip to Michigan. The craving would always strike in the car, on the way somewhere, and always with Brian, which was perfect because I could drive him crazy with my whining and groaning. "I've GOT to get me some of that barbecue, Brian," I'd say.

*For my northern friends, this kind of barbecue is usually a whole pig roasted in a pit for hours and hours, chopped and mixed together, and dressed with a sauce that is mostly vinegar, red pepper, and salt. It's great, but the 'whole-pig' aspect makes it tough to make what people call 'real' barbecue on the fly.

"Then get some," he'd say, exasperated. Problem was, I didn't want to drive a half hour to get decent barbecue. I wanted to make it. There are a few things that may be impossible to make at home, like delicious grape leaves or handmade pierogi with homemade sauerkraut, but I don't think roasted pork with vinegar has to be one of them.

So I googled a few recipes and came up with this one as a base. I know the picture shows a sandwich, but the way most people eat this barbecue is straight from the plate with coleslaw on the side. But I digress. Anyway, I decided to sacrifice the roasted pork for something more convenient (and smaller) so I bought a petite pork roast at the grocery store, rubbed it down with salt and pepper, and seared it in my electric roaster/crockpot. I started it on Saturday and cooked it on Low until we came home from church. I threw the sauce together on Saturday, too, and kept in in a Mason jar by the slow cooker. (I left out the Worcestershire sauce. I don't think I've ever tasted it in the barbecue I've had.)

When we got home from church, Brian chopped the barbecue with a little bit of sauce while I made a simple coleslaw. We drizzled extra sauce on our meat and sat down with plates of 'cue and slaw. Ahh - finally, I had exactly what I had been craving for weeks.

Unlike most cravings, however, this sort of felt anticlimactic, almost like, "Oh yeah, this is what it tastes like." It was good, don't get me wrong, but I think I'd hyped it up so much that I was expecting an amazing feat of crockpot cookery. But we both enjoyed it. We put away the leftovers and let Bo eat what was left of the crockpot juices and the coleslaw.

BIG mistake.

Bo had terrible gas that night. It was epic. I didn't mind it so much because somehow Brian was experiencing the brunt of it, but I caught a whiff or two and it was bad. We chuckled on our way to bed and chalked it up to the coleslaw.

Also a BIG mistake.

We woke up this morning at 5:30, and while Brian got ready for work I made a beeline to the kitchen to make his lunch and a pot of coffee. The house smelled slightly like farts, and I thought to myself that Bo's gas must have gone on all night. (I KNOW you want to read about this. Go on. Indulge.)

Brian and I talked a little bit while I wrapped up his lunch and he made his thermos of coffee. He grabbed his backpack from the kitchen stool and walked toward the front door. Seeing that he had forgotten to grab his coffee, I picked it up and followed him. We said our morning prayer and Brian began putting his shoes on.

But as he bent his head to pull his boot over his foot, Brian caught a glimpse of the little hallway leading up to the front door - the very same one we had just walked through. He whirled around with a look of horror on his face. "Oh my gosh!"

Along the hallway was a pile of diarrhea scattered two feet down. I have absolutely no idea how we failed to step in it. We glanced around the room and saw a pile of vomit on the carpet. We let the dog out and Brian cleared out too, thankful (for once) for his long drive to work.

Upon further inspection, I found another pile of puke and two more episodes of, um, number two throughout the first floor. Let me tell you, I'm glad he didn't poop on the carpet, but cleaning poop out from cracks in the hardwood floor isn't fun either.

Gah, I felt so bad for him. I felt bad for myself, too. Because I had to clean it up (my stomach is still weak) and because I don't think I'll ever be able to eat Carolina barbecue again. Power of association, you know.