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Archive for September, 2014

Can I have some Cheese to go with this Whine?

Bye daddy

Whining is so unattractive.

Ah but this is a vintage whine, so bring me some aged cheese.  Preferrably blue-veined Stilton, with Bosc Pears and some nice crackers, please.

I’m caught up in too many important issues all demanding my utmost attention:  2 banks; 1 WV permit inspector; a dozen noisy neighbors; 1 untenable work situation; menopause; diabetes; hypertension; weight gain; insomnia; 3 cranky, geriatric pussycats; 1 dead lizard (sorry, Victoria Heather Gold); migraines; and, then there’s trying to be helpmeet to Chad Blair, who deserves to have me share his not inconsiderable burdens.  I’m not supposed to whine.  I’m supposed to <<pause and remember it’s 9/11>>.  I’m supposed to be thankful I’m (relatively) healthy, have a (relatively) secure job that pays the bills (even though I hate it and have to commute 3-4 hours a day).  I’m supposed to look on the bright side, be calm and keep a stiff upper lip.

Right.

A wise person (or perhaps several) once said:  “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Those are easy words to say, but how many people can actually execute that sentiment?  Or as the song goes:  “Nice work if you can get it, and if you get it..won’t you show me how?”

The reality of modern, urban life is you have to pay the bills, and through the years, we get suckered into the expectation of what “life” is supposed to be, including the home, the 2 cars in the garage and all the stuff that goes with it.  We fill our lives with hobbies and all the bits and junk they entail, but somehow never get around to using up.  We spend according to (or beyond) our income.  We may, if we are diligent, save a bit for the future, but mostly, we dress fancy, drive sporty and live high.  Until diabetes and cranky knees catch up to us.  Until that job we had to get to support that lifestyle (even though it turned out to suck the hell right out loud within six months) turns out to be a no-escape nightmare.

Why are some jobs so difficult to escape?

I work for the federal government and live in the western suburbs of Northern Virginia (we call it NoVA), out past Dulles Airport.  It was as clost to the city as we could afford, and it provided my husband a reasonable commute to his job in the local school district.  At the time we bought our home, every mile closer to Washington, DC added $10,o00 to the price of a home.  It pretty much still does, 10 years later.  We also, due to a lot of circumstances, had to buy in 2005, and refinance in 2007 at the peak of the real estate boom.  Now we’re stuck, with a mortgage package that is still underwater by about 5-7 % considering seller closing costs.

So we can’t move because we can’t sell our house for what we’d have to pay out at closing.  It will take another 2-3 years to make that much at the rate the sluggish local market is going.  Two years of tea-party conservatism, government shutdowns, and other attacks on the federal budget mean the local economy is beginning to slump at a time when the rest of the nation is growing.  Since we can’t sell or refinance our terrible mortgages, I can’t afford to get another job that pays less than the GS-14 position I occupy.  These jobs are at the highest eschelon of government staff.  They are usually offerred to in-house, hand-picked candidates, therefore my chances of landing another job in the government are slim to “ain’t gonna happen.”

Work outside the government is contract, temporary, and nobody is hiring now since all the contractors are in layoff mode.  Working as a consultant in my prior field means constant travel, potentially overseas, and with my health issues is ill-advised.  So I’m stuck with a bad job situation in a house I’m beginning to hate in a neighborhood I hate even more.

What’s so bad about the place?

I suppose…I should love it.  Except the house next door is 15 feet away.  The lots are all 500o to 11000 square feet (ours is the largest on a corner), and the neighbors all find it necessary to occupy every weekend day using 3.5 to 5 hp gas weed trimmers so loud we measured 85 decibels standing at our own doorway.  I’m not exaggerating and we have the video to prove it.  This symphony starts at 7:30 am and lasts until dusk most Saturdays and Sundays.  Then there are the children.  They scream as if they are being murdered.  For hours.  In postage stamp lots just a hundred feet from my deck.  Try and relax from an horrid work day and 2-hour commute to the sound of tantrums and screaming.  I dare you.

Our house is 16 years old, so it needs a few things touched up.  We’d love to schedule them as we have time and money, but our HOA inspects every house, every year, and gives us a punch list and 30 days to comply, or they will fine us.  What they will ding us for this year will likely cost between $3 and $10 thousand dollars–that we don’t have.  All to “maintain property values” on a house that has been underwater since 2007.  I wonder if anyone has ever successfully sued their HOA for failing to uphold property values?

We had an escape plan…

But that, too, is going to pieces.

We bought some land in West Virginia.  It’s on the side of a mountain with gorgeous views of the Potomac valley in the winter when the leaves are off the trees.  We hope to build a home there whenever we can sell our house.  We planned to put a small, pre-built log cabin on the land this fall, as an escape for the weekends and vacations.  That hope came crashing down this week.  We learned that the local building code inspector intractibly insists on viewing this cabin as a residence and falling completely under the International Building Code.  Compliance will be impossible.  If we can’t work this out, we can’t have our cabin, and we’ll likely have to sell our beautiful land in which we’ve invested our hopes, dreams, 2-1/2 years and over $60,000.

But wait, there’s more…

I’m also fighting with the servicing banks on both my mortgages, but I won’t go into that here.  I’ll just say that if you don’t have to do it, don’t.

Yes, I’m whining.  It’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to.

Reduced Sugar Brownies with Splenda

Brownies

Darn.  Being a diebetic is kinda hard.  You know what I mean?

So what do you do when you really crave brownies and want to try to stay on track without spiking the blood sugar?  My husband wouldn’t enable my bad behaviour, either.  He’s gained too much weight, so he refused to “beg me” to bake a batch of the classic Baker’s one-bowl brownies.

Another truly wonderful thing about my darling Chad is the way he’s always willing to dispose of my experiments, even when they fail.  In this case, the brownies turned out to be the perfect blend of fudgey, dense and chewey without being too sweet.  They didn’t rise much, but I can live with that.

This recipe is adapted from the One Bowl Brownie recipe I found on Pinterest.  http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2014/04/16/one-bowl-brownies/#Hpu4vl56mQ0Wlsbr.32.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (if you have a double oven use the small one).  Grease a 13×9 pan.  I used a Pampered Chef stoneware bar pan, sprayed with Pam and lined with waxed paper.

Melt 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup butter in the microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, until melted and stirs smoothly.

Add 2 eggs, beaten, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.  Stir in 3/4 cup brown sugar (darker the better) and 1/2 cup Splenda (bulk) sweetener.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 1 tsp cinnamon and a VERY SMALL PINCH of cayenne pepper.  Stir these ingredients, then add them to the chocolate mix.  Stir until blended.  Fold in 1 cup whole walnuts.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Bake 25 minutes until the top is dry to touch and starts to feel firm.  Cool before slicing.

Ingredients:

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 12 oz)
1/2 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher flake salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 VERY SMALL pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1 cup whole walnuts

Serves about 16, depending on how you cut the brownies.

These brownies are thin.  I think you could double the flour mixture and add another egg, but they would be more cake-like.  Not what I was going for.  Chad and I agreed these were perfect.

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