A Firey Start to the New Year

Let me start by saying that we are all fine, including our cats.

Almost two weeks ago, one morning right after the big kids left for school, BF and I were sitting in our bedroom, playing with the baby before he had to get ready for work, when I heard this weird beeping noise that I hadn’t heard before. At first I thought it was a truck backing down the street, but when the noise didn’t move closer to us I listened harder and realized that it was coming from inside of our house. I figured it was the automatic thermostats battery warning, so I headed down to the family room to reset it.

Once downstairs, I found the thermostat quiet. Feeling confused, I continued my way towards the beeping sound. I walked through the kitchen and down to the basement. The beeping was coming from the laundry room and when I opened the door I immediately saw the red light on the smoke detector blinking. I took it down from the ceiling to reset it and as I turned my eyes caught a glimpse of a smoke trail. It was then that I smelled a faint burning and followed the scent with my nose. Nothing was making sense, and I walked around the room in a circle before I heard the dryer running. I remembered the clothes that I had put in the dryer only 30 minutes before, so I opened the door.

The moment I opened the dryer door I could see the flames licking the lint vent. I stared at them for a second or two, frozen with disbelief.  The flames looked so much different than any other fire I had seen before and I debated whether to pull the clothing out of the dryer. When I noticed the fire glowing on the floor underneath the dryer I decided to leave them be and ran upstairs calling to BF yelling “There is a fire in the dryer!”

I ran back down to the basement and looked unsuccessfully for the fire extinguisher and started to panic as the room filled with smoke. BF came downstairs and handed the baby to me and told me to go upstairs and call the fire department. While I was on the phone with 911 BF used to fire extinguisher without success. The dispatcher on the phone told us to get out of the house and that the fire department would be on their way. I yelled down to BF, “We have to get out!” I grabbed a jacket and a blanket for the baby and we went outside to the front porch to wait for the firemen.

It was probably only a minute before the firemen start arriving but it felt like an hour. As the three of us stood on the porch with a police officer, BF told me he tried to get our cat, Spook, outside but he ran upstairs. I became upset and opened the front door to call the cats. Within a minute or two, the entire inside of the house was pitch black and filled with thick smoke. Despite calling for our cats, they wouldn’t come to me; I couldn’t see them, or anything at all, besides the smoke. The police officer moved us across the street, assuring me they would look for the cats.  He then evacuated my attached neighbor and we watched helplessly as more and more fire trucks arrived.

From our spot across the street we could hear glass shattering on the patio as the windows were broken open. The voices of firemen hollering to each other about breaking walls open echoed down the block and I could only imagine my kitchen, which is above my laundry room, being destroyed by the fire. After about 15 minutes, the fire investigator came over and said that the fire was out. He said we were lucky that it was a small fire, but it had left the house inhabitable. He said the firemen would be removing all the windows to rid the house of the smoke and reported that they hadn’t found the cats, but would continue to look for them. He said that after the smoke was cleared and he was done his investigation he would walk us through the home so we could see the damages and advised that I get on the phone with my insurance company while we were waiting.

Watching all the windows being removed and seeing the smoke exiting even the top floor was incredible. I was certain by the looks of things that the back part of my house had burned off.  It was freezing cold and raining and thankfully a kind neighbor invited us to stay warm in their home while we sorted things out. I began with what would be a long line of phone calls, still trying to wrap my mind around what was going on.

Once the house was okay to walk through the investigator and fire chief took us through room by room and showed us exactly what they did and what damage the fire caused. The smell of the house is indescribable, one that got right into our noses and lungs and burned like you wouldn’t believe. Aside from the broken glass everywhere and a hole in the wall, the kitchen looked to be in tact. They led us down to the basement to find more broken glass, water and the walls burnt where the dryer was. The washer was half charred and the ceiling walls and pipes were now black. He led us up to the back yard to see the dryer. It had been white at one point, but was now black with remnants of the clothes that were drying in the barrel and strewed across the patio. The fire chief praised me for have a smoke detector so close to the dryer and for not ignoring the beeping as the fire could have been so much worse.

After the walk through the investigator told us we should grab some clothing, arrange for a place to stay for a few days and hire someone to board up the windows. He advised us that the electric and gas had been shut off to the house as a precaution and warned us that adjusters would be flocking our block quickly, trying to get our business. He said it would be a few days before we could return to the house, maybe longer before we could move back in. The insurance company was very kind and helped set up the cleaning company and board up. My contact let me know she was available to help at any time and would be able to set us up with a hotel while everything was being worked on. I let her know that I would like to stay with family for a few days while the clean up was being done. Little did I know that what I thought would be a few days would quickly turn into a few weeks.

While I was on the phone with my insurance contact I saw one of my cats poking his head out of one of the open windows and immediately felt relieved. A little while later when BF was in the house collecting some clothes for us the other cat came out to him. I was so grateful that they were okay. I am so grateful that we are all okay.

The whole day went by in a haze, it was cold and rainy and while we waited for the board up and the cleaning company to come evaluate the home we got lunch, made numerous phone calls and tried to focus on the positives. We were okay. The house wasn’t a total loss. The cats were fine. It wasn’t until we spoke with the cleaning company that we realized just how much damage was done to the home. They said that the whole house would need to be cleaned, from top to bottom. Our clothes, our electronics, the walls, floors, and everything in between. They said it could be weeks to months before we would be able to live there, and still, none of it was sinking in.

I made arrangements for the big kids to stay with their father for a few days and BF and I made our way to each of our parents houses. He had Elliot with him for the night and I just wanted to cry and vent with my parents. The next morning I picked up Elliot and we spent the day with my folks. I was on the phone a lot with the insurance company, who advised me that since the damage was far worse than initially thought I would need to meet the next day with large claim adjusters.  Thankfully, my dad offered to go to the house with me and my mom and brother offered to watch Elliot while we were there.

Entering the house the next day was nothing short of depressing. The smell still burned my lungs and the house was cold and dark. The adjusters were kind and happy people who let me know that even though things were bad, we really were very lucky. They said the next house that they had to visit was a total loss, and although things were bad at our house, it really could have been much worse. Things weren’t really sinking in still, and when one of the adjusters let me know that everything would need to be replaced, I admit that I was surprised. I never knew how damaging smoke could be. She said everything was destroyed, and no matter how well we cleaned our items the smoke smell would always return.

After two nights of sleeping in different places from BF and not having the big kids, I wanted us all to be together again more than anything. Since we were told it would take much longer to move back home, and the kids have school, I had to make arrangements for us. I worried about the cats and let my insurance contact know I wanted them to be with us, rather than having to board them somewhere. I was concerned that we would be placed in a run down slum in Philadelphia, but was set up in a very nice hotel with two bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen. It’s not too far from the house, the schools and the normal places we go and they allow pets.

I’m still feeling very overwhelmed and just want to be home. I am so grateful that I have a good insurance company and my family (including the cats) are all together and safe. The repairs have been slow going and more things have gone wrong in the process, but I’ll get to that at another time. I’ve learned a lot during this experience although I could have done without any of it. I’ll leave you with saying what I’ve been saying over and over these past few weeks though.. You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. Oh, and please make sure you have working smoke detectors in your home, they really do save lives.

The Kitchn Cure: Cure My Kitchen| Days 9 & 10

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

The Kitchn Cure | Days Nine & Ten:

Cook yourself a meal/Plan a dinner party

Halle-flippin-luja!

This is my last post for The Kitchn Cure! Yup. It took me almost 3 months to finish a week-long project, but hey, hey — I did it! I’m actually not planning a party for the day 10 part, but I am throwing myself a little party for not bailing out after two months. Hehe.

The project itself really wasn’t hard, it’s just that it took me a long time to get things done because of the baby and a lack of motivation.

Anyway — On to day nine: cook yourself a meal!

I cook a lot in this here kitchen, but to wrap up this series of posts, I wanted to cook something extra special and share the recipe with you. This is one of my all time favorite recipes and a favorite in our home. Are you ready?

It’s meatballs!

Not just any old meatballs though, these are absolutely delicious! They are melt in your mouth-are there any more meatballs left, because I’ve been dreaming of them all night long-meatballs.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

They are a bit pricy to shop for, so they are good for special occasions, but be warned — you’ll be making up special occasions just to have an excuse to make these tasty things. These meatballs don’t get served with pasta. There’s no law that says you couldn’t make pasta with them, but really it isn’t necessary, so why waste your time. Throw together a simple salad, buy a fresh baguette, or make some garlic bread, but really, the meatballs are the prize.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – Makes Four Servings (about 32 meatballs)
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking

Ingredients

For the meatballs:
2 pounds mixed ground beef, pork and veal
1 egg
1 small yellow onion (finely chopped)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or Romano) cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Method

Meatballs — Add all ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to gently, but thoroughly, blend together. Form the mixture into meatballs 2 inches in diameter and set aside.

Sauce — Add the oil to a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds longer. Stir in the diced tomatoes and wine then bring to a boil.

Marry them together — Carefully drop the meatballs into the sauce and gently spoon the sauce over them. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook until meatballs are firm and cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before stirring in the basil. Transfer to a serving platter or divide meatballs among plates.

manga!

As for the party planning.. Tonight I will be having a glass of wine, admiring my now functioning kitchen, and wondering just how long it will actually take me to tackle the January Cure that Apartment Therapy announced today. That’s right folks, I’ll be attempting another cure to start the New Year 🙂

Weekend Start Off

The forecast is calling for more snow today and so far I’ve been proven absolutely wrong in my “there will be no snow this year” prediction. I enjoy the snow when there isn’t anything that needs to be done outside of the house. Today though, we have plans of doing some Christmas shopping, so hopefully it won’t be too messy out.Do you have any plans today that could be ruined by the weather?

I also need to do a mega-sized food shop but I think waiting til tomorrow will have to do. People act crazy when it is supposed to snow and I know the market will be packed with people. I can still remember a few years back when there was a snow storm and the news was broadcasting from the market when they said “People have cleared the shelves out buying essentials such as milk, bread, and chips.” Chips. That still makes me laugh. Personally, my go-to junk food is Entemann’s, but chips are good, too! Do you stock up for storms and is there a go-to snack you like to have on hand when you are trapped inside?

I’m almost done decorating for Christmas. The outside of our house hasn’t been done yet, but we will probably get it done this weekend. I know the lights will look pretty in the snow, so we should probably get to work on it today. I think I’m about halfway done my gift shopping, too. So, I’m feeling pretty good about the holiday. How about you, if you celebrate Christmas, are you all done your shopping? Did you decorate this year?

The Kitchn Cure: Cure My Kitchen| Day Eight

calla lillies

Hurray! The day is finally here. This is the day I’ve been waiting for folks, the day where the task was to buy flowers! I haven’t bought fresh flowers for my home in a ridiculously long time. Too long, but with the cure I HAD to do it. Oh darn.

The Kitchn Cure | Day Eight:

Bring fresh flowers or a plant into the kitchen

I decided on calla lillies because they were inexpensive and looked more exotic than the other choices at my local market. I would have liked to get a money tree at Ikea, but that will need to wait until I’m in the area. For now, I’m perfectly happy with these pretty flowers 🙂

Only two tasks left to go and I will be done with the cure. It’s seriously taken me just under two months. Sheesh, I’m glad that I’ve stuck with it though! I have a big dinner planned for tomorrow, hopefully it will finish up this project for good!

Do you buy fresh flowers for your home frequently? When you do, what kinds do you like to buy?

What Would You Spend $1,500 On?

I used to cringe every month when my cable bill would arrive in the mail. Without fail, every month the bill for my bundled package of cable, internet and phone would be just over $200. I was on a tight budget and had to make some tough decisions about what was worth the money. I called my cable provider to try negotiating a lower price, but even for the most basic package they offered the bill would hover in the $150 a month range.

I knew I needed internet service, and didn’t really want to get rid of the cable, but at $2,400 a year, I simply could not afford the luxury. I was scared to get rid of my cable, how would I watch my shows? But, I had to be reasonable and realistic about money, so I came up with a plan and put it into action. This is how I did it and how it ended up saving us $1,500 a year.

Checked other providers:

This was the most important step and the one that saved me the most money. After asking Comcast to give me their best price, I went on-line to Verizon and tinkered around with their packages.

In my case, not only did I get a better deal, but also a lower price, by signing up for a phone and high-speed internet package. The two combined were cheaper than purchasing the high-speed internet a la cart. My total price for high speed internet and phone was $60 per month including taxes and fees.

Dropping cable and switching my internet provider saved me $150 a month. That’s $1,800 a year in savings!

Bought a streaming player:

There are a lot of different devices out there that allow you to stream internet to your televisions. In fact, you may already have one of these devices in your home. Video game consoles such as the Wii, XBox and Playstations, as well as many BluRay players offer wi-fi features. Other devices like the Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast can be purchased just for video streaming. .

These devices provide you with a variety of different “channels” that you can add to your home screen, many of which are free. The better channels that are offered come with a low monthly subscription cost, but don’t turn your nose up just yet, I’ll talk more about those soon.

Prices for these devices vary from $35 all the way up to hundreds of dollars for video game consoles. I have provided links to all mentioned video streaming devices at the bottom of this post.

In my case, we bought a Roku box for $80 and also put to use two items we already had: a Wii and a XBox 360.

$1,800 (cutting cable and switching internet provider savings)- $80 Roku purchase = $1720 annual savings

Additional Required Equipment:

Aside from a tv and a streaming player you will need two other things to make your equipment work:

  • A wireless router (internet providers usually provide this for free, be sure to ask)
  • HDMI cord (you may already have one, if not they can be purchased for as low as $8 but can cost a lot more. I bought an $8 one before I ditched cable and it works just fine.)

Ordered Hulu and Netflix and activated Amazon:

Netflix and Hulu are the most popular companies that provide tv and movie streaming. If you subscribe to these providers your fee will be $8 each per month. These are optional, but in my opinion worth the money.

Though they are similar, there are quite a few differences between Netflix and Hulu and the content they provide.

  • Hulu plays current shows a day after they air on national tv and usually only provide part of a season (and sometimes up to two seasons) of most current shows.
  • Netflix offers older shows and usually the full season catalog; they also offer some premium cable shows.
  • Neither have HBO shows.

You can read about each and browse the selections they offer by clicking the links above.

We also have an Amazon Prime membership because BF orders a lot of things from Amazon and he wanted to get free 2nd day shipping by paying an annual fee. Included in the $80 per year fee is another tv/movie service called Amazon Instant Video. The selection there is often the same as Hulu and Netflix, but not every show is free. What I like about the service is that you can order new release movies for $3.00 — this is more than half the price of what Comcast On-Demand charges.

$1720 cable cutting/provider switching savings – $16 Hulu/Netflix monthly fees & $80 yearly Amazon fee = $1,448 total annual savings

Great things about cutting cable:

Obviously, I am thrilled about the $1,500 I saved last year. Over the course of 5 years that will save me about $7,000 that I would have paid to Comcast! That is a lot of money!! Aside from the money, I really enjoy using streaming players in our house for a few other reasons.

  1. I can watch tv shows in their entirety and I mean every episode ever. There are a lot of great shows I missed out on over the years!
  2. I can watch what I want, when I want. If I have the urge to watch Desperate Housewives at 3am, I can. If I want to watch it at 3pm, I can do that, too.
  3. I can pause, rewind, fast-forward and replay anything I may want to. Believe it or not, this comes in handy!
  4. There is always something for everyone to watch, from cooking shows, to foreign films, and everything in between.
  5. It’s not as hard to do as you may think it is. Believe me, I was worried I would be unhappy, but in the end, I think it is all a matter of what you are used to.

What I do miss about cable but don’t mind living without:

  1. Live tv. Sure, coming to the party a day late isn’t always the best feeling in the world, but honestly, my life doesn’t change drastically (if at all) for watching Elementary on Friday night instead of Thursday.
  2. HBO. Yes, I missed out on Girls. Yes, it made me sad, but I really did save a lot of money, and if I want to now I can afford to buy or rent it on DVD.
  3. The News – okay, this really still bugs me. No local news. That might be a deal breaker for some, but I found my way around it.. You watch it on the computer, as it’s on air. That’s right, most news channels broadcast their news live over the internet. For a news junkie like myself, it’s nice to have the option.

How I feel about the switch:

I only wish I would have switched to cable-free sooner and saved myself more of that money!

Seriously, that’s a lot of money, especially over the course of a few years! How about you, have you made the switch or are you thinking of it? Just imagine what could be done with all of that money you’d be saving!

If you have any questions about cutting your cable and switching to on-line streaming, I’d be happy to help!

Helpful links:

Devices
Services

The Kitchn Cure: Cure My Kitchen| Day Seven

The Kitchn Cure | Day Seven:

Special Project

I really want to finish up the Kitchn Cure, so to speed things along, today’s post is a plan for the special project. We haven’t worked on it at all and don’t plan to for a few weeks. Or months. But, hammering down a plan is always a good start!

Click Image for Hardware Resource
Click Image for Hardware Resource

We plan on lightning up the room by putting a beautiful light grey color on the walls and a medium grey color on the cabinets. Once they are done we will be updating the cabinet and drawer pulls, as well as getting new invisible hinges.

We still are debating on the table and chairs I posted in the last wish list post, because now we are considering an island and then converting the attached room into a dining room. Big ideas. We will see if we have the guts to do any of it.

We will paint though hopefully someday soon! I can’t wait to get this Cure behind me! I can finally see the finish line ahead. As always, if you are working on the cure, link up! And don’t forget to click over and check out NaughteeBits progress below!

Live Blogging From Our Kitchen: He Don’t Need No Stinkin Recipe!

Tonight I’ve decided to try something different.. Live blogging, from the kitchen, while BF makes a yummy dinner.

Yumy chef

He’s trying something new tonight and so far I’m loving the ingredients..

These are the babysitters while we work..

They won't change no stinkin diaper!
They won’t change no stinkin diaper!

So what BF has done so far was finely chop mint, thyme, and rosemary and added them to a small container of riccota and then stirred in a palm-full of each Romano and Asiago cheese.

And I’ve been summoned to change poop…

Be right back!

False alarm! He just wants to eat. How awkward.

Snapshot_20131119_184347

Now back to the food!!

Then he washed and rough cut carrots and snap peas — why, I don’t know yet..

While I was gone he :

  • pounded down some chicken breasts (with a rolling pin, need that meat tenderizer)
  • rolled some of the cheese mixture up into the breasts and tied with twine
  • poured some butter over each (need that pastry brush)
  • ground black pepper and fancy pink Himalayan salt (OOOh lala) over chicken

IMG_0902

And I took a few more pictures but the battery on my camera died.

So, we will just let that charge

while the chicken bakes
at 400 degrees
for about 25ish minutes.

 Okay! Camera is back! Here is the chicken before it went in the oven:

not cooked yet

And here are the mysterious snap peas and carrots:

IMG_0919

He just sauteed them with garlic, butter, salt and pepper.

Isaac is home in time to eat!

all i said was i love you that time!

It smells so good in here! Yay! Chicken is done!

Oh this smells and looks great!

This was such a great meal and a lot of fun to do!
So delicious!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Tree Hugger!

One Thanksgiving, when I was about eight years old, my brothers and I were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the living room while my Mom and Dad were cooking in the kitchen. My brothers and I were enjoying the floats and the big character balloons up until the very end when the last float of the parade was Santa’s Sleigh. It pumped out Christmas music as dancers dressed liked elves pranced around the float and Santa waved from the top. I ran into the kitchen to tell my parents how crazy the parade was to have Santa, “Christmas is still another month away!”

Being a child, a month felt like such a long time and December was always the longest month. It now strikes me as funny that I was so annoyed with the Santa Clause float. I was just a kid and I wonder why the float didn’t excite me and put me in the holiday spirit.

As the years of my adulthood pass, I witness Christmas being egged on sooner and sooner by retailers. Just last month when BF and I were at the nearby mall, walking through Bloomingdale’s we saw a few workers pulling out elaborate Christmas decorations. I rolled my eyes a bit but held onto comments about how ridiculous it felt to see Christmas displays when Halloween was still a few weeks away.

Over the past few weeks it’s been hard not to notice all the sales the stores are advertizing. Good sales, at that. I thought they were just clearing out stock so they could bring in seasonal items to sell, at first, but most of the discounts I’ve seen have been for things people will be buying for Christmas gifts. Video games, tv’s, toys, winter clothes and accessories, appliances, and home goods. Is it true? Is the holiday season already upon us?

For some reason I am not feeling as annoyed with it this year as I have been in the past. Maybe it’s because I have a baby now and little kids make Christmas feel more exciting. Maybe I am just happier and less cynical than I have been in the past. Maybe I am just used to being told we should get in the spirit sooner than later and have finally been brainwashed.

Last night, while driving home through the city, I spotted a lit up and fully decorated Christmas tree in someone’s apartment. I did an out-loud chuckle and pointed it out to BF. Through the rest of the ride home we saw no less than a dozen homes lit up with Christmas lights. BF asked if I had Christmas lights we could put up this year. Ten minutes had passed before I noticed the excitement brewing inside of me about decorating the house this year. Maybe even early.

Then I thought about all the Christmas things we’ve already begun doing early. We started watching holiday movies last week. Natalie and I talked about restarting our “bake a million Christmas cookies” tradition again. I’ve been thinking about what gifts to buy. There have been talks about a tree. The 8-year-old version of myself wants to scream “What, are you crazy?!” The 35-year-old kid in me feels good to get excited about Christmas again.

For the past three years our Christmases have been very low-key. I was tight on a budget, I was depressed, in pain, and I certainly wasn’t in the spirit. I almost feel like I want to make up for all the missed laughter and fun moments this year. I think I will decorate early. I will play holiday music and continue watching happy movies. I’ll make a ridiculous amount of cookies and enjoy buying gifts. I look forward to seeing the stores decorated and I’ll see past the frowns on people’s faces and focus on the ones who are smiling. I’m excited to spend time with my family and loved ones this year and I’m going to make it my mission to get the older kids excited for Christmas again, too.

Sensai Trains the Toilet Paper Ninja

We do so many silly things in this house on a daily basis that I’ve decided to make Sunday’s about our silliness. I might tell a short story, post some images capturing the moments, or maybe a video, who knows. We really are a wacky bunch who like to goof around and laugh.

In my first post for Silly Sunday I’ve included some pictures I took of my sons. Isaac (the older one) dressed El (the baby) up in toilet paper and a snap bracelet and taught him some karate. I told you we were goofy 🙂

Happiness at Fourteen

Yesterday was my middle child’s birthday. He turned 14. 14! I can hardly believe how fast it all goes by. I’m pretty sure that is the same anthem every parent sings and it isn’t news  that kids grow up so fast. But 14!

We didn’t have a birthday party for him — I stopped those when they hit age 10 and all they wanted to have were expensive and annoying sleepovers. Instead, we had a really nice day, all five of us, just hanging around the house and feeling happy. BF decided to get my son his favorite dinner as a surprise, then we sang Happy Birthday, had ice-cream cake and watched a movie together.

What made me happiest about the day was that even though we didn’t do anything spectacular, or go anywhere expensive, my son told me it was the best birthday he’s had in years. He was so grateful for his gift and grateful that we only thought of him for the day. It makes me feel so good that after all the crap we’ve been through he is genuinely the happiest I’ve ever seen him.

Our home has never been happier or more loving than it is now. Gone are the days of worrying about being ourselves, feeling anxious, or worrying about what the days and nights might hold. We walk through the rooms of this house not having to anticipate being yelled at, argued with, or antagonized. Now we walk through this house laughing, joking and smiling with one another.

Life feels good, and it’s wonderful to hear my son say it, and to know how good he feels inside these days.