Close encounters of the double bass kind…

So something unintentionally hilarious just happened.

I’m baking some strawberry cupcakes for when Jillian comes over tomorrow to watch the Parks and Rec season finale and used up all the strawberries in the container, so I open up the front door to toss the container into the recycle bin. Just reaching the landing at the same time is a young blonde lady (probably a college student) with a double bass.

“Hello!” I say, brightly, being the friendly person I am (Ha! Honestly it’s because I can’t remember what my neighbors look like so I try to be blandly pleasant whenever I come across someone in the building.).

“Hello,” she says.

I toss the container into the bin, but it bounces out again. “Well, that didn’t work at all,” I mutter, leaning awkwardly further into the hall to retrieve it.

Why awkwardly, you ask? Because she seems to be wheeling the double bass toward me and now she’s very close to me. I figure she’s doing some sort of three-point turn to try to get it up to the door of one of the apartments on either side of mine. At any rate, I grab the container and drop it into the recycle bin, then pop back inside and shut the door behind me.

And I pause, thinking for a moment. I peer back out through the peephole and, sure enough, she’s standing right outside the door, looking very confused by what just happened.

I realize that if I hadn’t been in her way, she would have come on inside my apartment. After a few minutes of checking on the cupcakes, I sneak back to the peephole.

She’s still there. She’s on her phone now, so she’s clearly decided, like me, that something strange has just happened and one of us is at the wrong apartment. (As far as I can tell, it’s her.)

I text Drew, thinking maybe he knows what’s going on:

Eventually she made her way back down the stairs – I’m still not really sure what was going on, but I find the idea of the two of us standing on either side of the door, trying to figure out what just happened pretty funny!

So if you’re a blonde double bass player, I didn’t mean to slam the door in your face – I didn’t realize you thought you were expected! I hope you figured out where you were supposed to be and are having a good laugh about it with your friends!

 

Josephine goes for walkies!

She still hasn’t summoned enough courage to venture down the stairs, but she often makes quite the fuss about wanting to go out, so we strap her into her harness, put on her leash, and let her explore the hallway to her heart’s content. Her adventures don’t often last very long – by the time I’d gotten my camera, she was already trying to lead Drew back into the apartment (sorry about the blurry photo – I’ll try again next time!):

Also, I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with the perspective in this photo, but Drew is not that tall and the door is not so hobbit-sized…

What the %#+^€¥£ hell am I listening to?!?!

*frustrated Wookie noise accompanied by supplication of the gods hand gestures*

What is this noise?! Someone’s clearly left the lights on over at the nearby tennis courts but unless those lights are powered by their own power plant that i didn’t know was located in my backyard, it can’t be them.

It sounds more like an airplane circling endlessly but unless Willard has suddenly become an international hub, it can’t be that.

I suppose it also sounds like a helicopter but unless the LifeFlights have just started randomly patrolling, it can’t be that.

What are you, slightly fluctuating humming noise that is just loud enough to keep me awake?!?!?!

DIY FYI

So, an attempt to fix a leaky bathroom faucet turned into replacing the sink and vanity instead. Just a tip for any of you out there who might be working on a similar project, do not – I repeat, DO NOT – glue the sink to the wall. It is unnecessary and also results in the next person having to pray it off the wall, along with a few tiles.

Not cool, previous resident. Not. Cool. Fortunately, the new sink and vanity I chose is taller than what used to be in the room, so it actually ended up covering the missing tiles.

Speaking of which, how about a hint when selecting a new sink and vanity for a very small bathroom? Be sure to measure the depth of the vanity. It fits in my bathroom, but the next time you have food poisoning, head my way because then you can throw up in the sink without having to leave the toilet.

Also? It’s very helpful if you have a handy father who can sort of jury rig things around because you have an old bathroom and Martha Stewart hasn’t taken the placement of the above valves into the design of the cabinet that will be sitting in front of them.

Also also? Pipe wrench fight!

Something’s afoot!

We’ve got at least one fire truck in the area and guys with flashlights looking for something. Two just went into our basement saying something about a boiler, an old gas line, and my building’s “heck of a chimney.”

Wonder what’s going on?

ETA: Well, it looks like the trucks and ambulances are gone, but there are still guys with flashlights talking about the boiler. Oh, sounds like someone smelled wood smoke, saw steam coming out of our building, and thought the building was on fire. Now they’re discussing bringing “the gas guy” out. Hmm, “something’s going on,” someone’s said…

ETA2: Not sure why it took them so long to come over here if this is where they thought the fire was – all the vehicles were at the end of the block at first.

ETA3: That seems to be that – apparently nothing that needed following up on. Back to sleep for me!

Happy Halloweeeeeen!

All right! After a brief delay due to technical difficulties and a migraine (WHAT?!), it’s time to post, post, post about my party! First up? The decor!

I gutted these on Saturday to roast the pumpkin seeds and then started carved one on Tuesday (kitty-bat), one on Wednesday (Grim Reaper), and the last on Friday (cute ghosts). Two of them were moldy and sunken by Saturday. Hopefully it only added to the ambience!

Next. The costumes! We had a flapper and a gangster, Katy Perry and Kitty Purry, John Denver, Kermit the Frog, Lady GaGa, Jem (side note: I was Jem when I was in…3rd grade?), the Green Lantern, a copy cat, and a Real Housewife of Tennis.

Then there were Jell-O shots, courtesy of the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen (you can also find recipes up on their website). Apart from GaGa, though, who was definitely doing his darnedest to make sure I didn’t have leftover shots, these weren’t a big hit – they tasted good (especially the Fuzzy Navels [aka Moldy Bellybuttons]), but people stuck with more traditional drinks. So unfortunately that meant throwing away a lot of Kamikaze Eyeballs and Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkey 75‘s.

And then? The food!

Top left to right, there were *deep breath* Salted Brown Boo-tter Rice Crispy Treats; Chocolate Snake Cheesecake With Venom Glaze; Spooky Sweet Potato Samosaah! Pops; Roasted and Salted Pumpkin Children, Orange-Rosemary Betwitched Nuts, and Cilantro S’Lime Peanuts; Sugar Creepies; Vampire Pizza Bites; Poison Apple Cupcakes; Pumpkin Cookies With Brown Butter Ooze; and Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes With Maple-Marshmallow S’Cream Frosting. Not pictured are Murky Maple Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Soup; Yeast Coffins; Robot Devil’d Eggs; Vlad’s Caprese Skewers; and Ghoulish Goat Cheese Squares With Spine-Tingling Raspberry Chile Chutney.

Whew! It was literally a week’s-worth of cooking and baking and carving, but it was worth it. I had quite a bit of leftover food, but everyone seemed to enjoy it! After this, though, it’s potlucks. 😉

ETA: I realized I posted this in such a hurry that I didn’t even really discuss the food, so I’ll remedy that now!First the sweets:

  • The salted brown butter rice crispy treats are simple and yummy – my mom said she could taste the difference the brown butter made, though I couldn’t. Working with the food coloring was a bit of a trial – I realize now that I should have colored the butter and marshmallow mixture before adding the cereal because stirring the rice crispies (especially as the marshmallow starts to cool) is…difficult. It’s also a little tricky to spread once you’ve got that first layer in, but stick with it and it eventually will come together. I got the idea to do the black and orange Halloween layers from this – I will never have the patience to do that rainbow one (though it’s certainly a nice effect).
  • I found the chocolate cheesecake to be on the soft side and also quite too rich for me, though, others seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Note: Martha doesn’t specifically say to butter the bottom of the springform pan, so I didn’t, thinking there was enough butter in the cookie crust recipe that it wouldn’t need it. It does. Also, I should explain for those of you who didn’t click the link to Martha’s website – there’s supposed to be a snake stenciled on the top of it, hence the name. I couldn’t find powdered food coloring, so I tried sanding sugar which clearly did not work.
  • Kate liked the apple cupcakes, but they were definitely not a favorite of mine (though I admit this could be because I only managed to eat one several days after the party). The consistency of the cupcake with the chopped apple wasn’t for me and the dulce de leche had just sort of soaked into the cake instead of being a filling. That may be my fault – I cooked the dulce de leche for 3 and a half hours, but I see now I should have gone for at least four so it would have been firmer – maybe firm enough to stand up on its own with the cupcake.
  • The pumpkin cookies were good, but I think I didn’t brown my butter enough for the frosting – it just didn’t have much flavor.
  • The mini pumpkin cupcakes with what was originally intended as whoopie pie filling were good – I think people liked that they were just bite sized and easy to eat.

Oddly enough, it was the savories that went the fastest:

  • Oh, sweet potato samosa pops. These bastards nearly killed me. I doubled the recipe. MISTAKE! The filling just never ended – I ended up throwing out probably half of it because after I’d made twice the amount of pops the single recipe called for, I still had a huge amount of filling staring back at me. No matter how many teaspoons I scooped out of there, it never seemed to diminish! So don’t let the size of one sweet potato fool you – it will be enough. (Vegan)
  • The salted and roasted pumpkin seeds ended up being not crunchy enough for me – I should have roasted them longer, even though I did surpass the time called for in the recipe.
  • The orange-rosemary buttered mixed nuts are amazing and really so super simple, so if you’re looking to impress with not much effort, this should be your new go-to recipe.
  • The cilantro-lime peanut recipe actually calls for raw peanuts which are impossible to find in the market (at least around here they are). I went with roasted, unsalted peanuts, but I think maybe the roasting makes them particularly resistant to flavoring because I couldn’t really taste the cilantro or the lime here.
  • The maple garlic cauliflower soup was also a hit – only one bowl-full left at the end of the night. And it was super easy to make, too! I actually made it a week in advance and froze it. Alas, I didn’t take it out of the freezer early enough and there was much swearing and hacking at it in an attempt to get it into the slow cooker to thaw and keep warm for everyone. The yeast coffins were hot rolls – from a box as always.
  • People love deviled eggs. I thought it was just me!
  • They also love caprese salad on toothpicks. Can’t say I blame them!
  • The goat cheese squares with raspberry chile chutney were also popular, though I was afraid that the chutney would be too spicy for people – there’s an entire chipotle chile in adobo sauce in there (the chutney cooks for three hours and the chile just ends up disintegrating. A warning about the chutney – it WILL make your house smell of vinegar. Quite strongly. For three hours. Plus.

So there you have it!

Silly kitty!

I had my housewarming/Halloween party last night (yes, I know it took me three years to finally have a housewarming party), so the previous week has been filled with cooking, baking, decorating, and all the other things that go into planning a party. And of course, no matter how well I scheduled and planned and worked ahead, the day of the party counted down into a bit of a rush. My mom came over and cleaned and helped me make a few last minute food items while Heather put final touches on the decorations.

Josephine volunteered to deejay.

What’s an animal that lives in Illinois that screams that’s not a peacock?

Monday night, around 2 am, I woke up to a horrible screeching sound and my first thought was, of course, “BANSHEE!” It went on for maybe 30 seconds and then stopped. Once I’d woken up sufficiently to reassure myself it wasn’t actually a banshee, I figured I’d just heard some animal being eaten by another animal – unfortunate, but, you know, the circle of life and all that, I guess.

Then last night, again around 2 am, I was jolted awake by the same noise. This time it went on for maybe a minute. When it was over and I’d once again convinced myself that it probably wasn’t a banshee, I decided to figure out what was making such a horrible noise. When I’d told Liz about it on Tuesday, she’d suggested that maybe it had been an owl, so I started my google search there. Turns out eastern screech owls live in Illinois! But, after listening to a couple of websites that had audio clips of their calls, I learned that, contrary to their name, screech owls? Don’t screech.

So I started searching for pretty much the title of this post and up popped a similar question from someone in Ohio – they were guessing it was either an owl or a fox. One of the people who answered the question linked to a video of foxes making various sounds and, lo and behold, that was what I’d been hearing! But you have to close your eyes and pretend that it’s just woken you up in the middle of the night (it’s not that scary when you see the little fox actually making the noise).

Isn’t that horrifying?! I agree with one of the commenters who says “We seriously thought we had a velociraptor living in the pond area behind our apartment. The sounds at the beginning of this are identical to what we heard. Who would ever guess a fox makes this noise? It was utterly bone-chilling when we heard it.”

Apparently more and more foxes are moving into urban areas – it keeps them safe from coyotes and there are plenty of rabbits and squirrels to snack on (and probably garbage cans to root through). Everything I read said that foxes are hardly ever a threat to dogs and cats which is a relief because there are at least two neighborhood cats around here that go outside. But there are also chickens somewhere (I know because I often hear the rooster in the morning) and it sounds like foxes are good at burrowing into coops, so I hope their owner has taken necessary precautions!

I’m happy to have more wildlife around here, but…they need to not make that noise anymore.

Your offering pleases me.

There are squirrels who like to visit my garage. In the mornings, I have to give my garage door a little yank so I don’t end up with an armful of squirrely biting when I open it up. I often hear them scampering off before I open the door.

This morning, I opened the door and waiting for me right by the hole where they come in, was a sprig of fake flowers!

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(Apologies for the blurry picture – it was early and I don’t think Richard was quite awake yet.)

Very thoughtful of them. It was gone when I got home from work, so some squirrel has a very well decorated nest!

ETA: They brought them back! The next morning, the flowers were waiting for me in almost the same, exact place!

 

TA DA!

Done!

Kind of. I thought the books with brightly colored spines would take up the whole shelf space in my living room. Alas, there are more black, white, off-white, and multi-colored spines than I thought and I’m left with nearly two empty shelves still! I’m thinking I’ll finish them off with black books to make the colorful books pop more, but I haven’t decided what to do with the rest of my books that go on the shelves in my bedroom. If I’m not careful it’ll look really bland and dark in there!

And if you want to see me put these all together, here’s a video! I was thwarted by my technology (I couldn’t get far enough away with my iPhone to video the whole width of the shelves and it cut out while I was doing the blue books and I didn’t realize it until I was done with them. Boo, Richard III!), but it took me long enough to do it that I’m going to make you watch!

Or at least give you the option of watching. Hope you like it!

If you see any out of place books, feel free to give a shout – I mostly just wanted to get them on the shelves and up off the floor, so I did it pretty quickly. I expect I’ll spend the next month or so staring at it while I watch TV and leaping up to adjust a book here and there…

ETA: Is it me or does the back of my pink shirt look like an angry face?!

It’s going to get worse before it gets better…

It’s like doing one of those little shifty tile puzzles in here. I’ve just gotta keep my head down, my game face on, and power through these bastards!

Keep your fingers crossed that I have a finished project to show you tomorrow, otherwise it may mean the books have become sentient and taken over my apartment during the night.

The things we do for new furniture…

I have new furniture! My old loveseat was perfectly comfortable, but was not very practical when it came to having people over unless they already knew each other fairly well or for sleeping on. So I got a new one!

I had been hoping for a sofabed, but aside from buying one exactly like the one I recently got rid of (which I really couldn’t bring myself to do on principle), there were no affordable, nongiant options. But this one is long enough for one person to sleep on comfortably (unlike the loveseat which required the use of the accent chairs in order to make a space long enough to fit on) and I think fits nicely in the space, though I’m not showing you the whole room which is a bit cramped with the table and the treadmill.

And I got a new bed!

It has hidden storage!

But the real story here is the ordeal I went through with Ikea in order to finally get these home with me. It took two trips to Chicago before I was able to actually buy them – the first time I’d been told that I needed to go to the store to order one, but when I got there, they said that none of the Karlstad pieces were available in the States yet; the second time I went…I actually can’t remember what happened the second time I went, but I know I didn’t come home with furniture; the third time, well, the third time requires its own paragraph.

We rented a little U-Haul trailer early in the morning, attached it to my parents’ car, and headed up to Ikea, fingers crossed that everything I wanted was in stock. And it was! So after 15 hours of driving, I was finally the proud owner of a new couch and bed. We just had to drive the three hours back home and then I would be free of Ikea!

We loaded up the trailer and drove off, anxious to get back and get everything put together. But about an hour away from home, a warning light came on in the car, so we pulled off into an F/S station to let the car’s internal computer or whatever reset because we’d just been going up a hill and thought that may have had something to do with it. When we started the car again, it wouldn’t go into gear and something underneath was smoking! Never a good sign. Then we realized that the back of the car and the front of the trailer was covered in transmission fluid. Also not a good sign.

So we called AAA to come tow the car and my dad to come help us figure out what to do with the trailer full of my furniture which AAA couldn’t tow. He borrowed their neighbors’ Jeep which had a towing hitch on it, thinking we could use it to tow the trailer back. Unfortunately, the hitch was the wrong size, so that option was out. Then the towtruck guy said he thought he could tow the trailer behind his truck (it was the kind where the car gets winched up on to a platform on the back), but that fell through, so we ended up having to leave the trailer in the F/S parking lot. So basically, it became a race to get back home, buy a hitch that fit the neighbors’ Jeep, and get back to the trailer before someone decided to steal it.

Long story short(er), everything turned out okay, but it was a bit stressful and a VERY long day!

Wanna see something weird?

It’s harder to see than I thought it would be, but there’s now a security camera out by our dumpster. At first I thought maybe somebody was just really interested in our trash or the squirrels that hide out there, but then I noticed that it’s actually pointed at the driveway, so there goes those theories!

I’ve become sort of fascinated by it. It’s bigger than security cameras usually are and pretty low down – it would be really easy to steal it – and has this really bright, slow-blinking red light on it, which makes me think of Hal from 2001.

I walked around to all four other garage areas to see if maybe the condo association had installed them at each driveway, but this is the only one. And when I got back from my mini-casing of the joint, there were two people taking out their trash, too, so I wandered over and asked them if they knew why it was there. They seemed as baffled as I was and assured me that I wasn’t unobservant –  it really is a new addition.

Mostly, I think, I’m obsessed with the thought of who is watching its footage. I mean, did the association put it up? Did the owner of that garage put it up? Is someone sitting in a darkened basement somewhere, staring at endless footage of our dumpster?

And I don’t usually fall in with the ‘Hi, Mom!’ crowd, but for some reason, I’m really having to resist playing a game of charades with it…