Taste Test

For Thanksgiving we’re going to visit some friends, and I’ve been asked to bring an appetizer.  I’ve decided on kale chips and apple chips, both of which sound cheap and sophomoric, but they’re both actually quite delicious.  The kale chips were successfully batch-tested last week, and got a thumbs up from the husband who is notorious for hating most edible things green.  Their deliciousness factor was boosted by the fact that they were oven fresh, and the warmth added an extra depth, the way warm buttered popcorn is so much tastier than cool or room temperature popcorn.  Both great, but better when warm.

Today I hope to batch-test another run of kale and see how it holds up overnight.  Probably best not to put it in the fridge, but it only took twelve minutes to make one pan so that can always be made the morning of.  I’ll also need to find a container large enough to hold both appetizers, as there should be enough for ten people.

The apple chips are from this glorious recipe, crafted by my talented friend Denice, whom you should prepare to hate.  My first batch came out nothing like her batch, beautifully brown and professional looking.  My first batch came out looking like perfectly even little slices of charcoal, and I don’t know what her oven runs on (besides magic) but cooking those bad boys for half an hour at three-fitty was definitely not the best approach for what I did.

Note: I had to use tinfoil, as I was out of non-stick spray.

Next batch: took a dozen slightly larger slices, re-seasoned (sea salt, cinnamon sugar, nutmeg) and sprinkled liberally but evenly, and put them in for ten minutes at 350.

That batch came out better – there was an interesting texture, similar to the bags of dried apple slices you can buy, but they were still mostly stuck to the tinfoil.

So I’m off to buy more apples and kale and non-stick spray and donate books and get an eye exam and also maybe hopefully new glasses and ship a Super Secret Package, and tonight I’ll test more stuff.  I should also be making a list of stuff to test in the (new!!!) crock pot, as *that* in itself will be an adventure, because I’ve never used one.

Notes for the next batch of apples:
- slice thicker
- less salt
- nonstick spray
- flip half the batch at 6 minutes

Please let it come out looking mostly like this:

I like kale, kale-y, kale-y, kale.

KALE!

So, I’m a little behind on the Kale Train.  When green smoothies started taking over the planet a couple years back, people swore by it.  Kale, KALE!, they said. You put that leaf in your mouth, you’re gonna rule the world.  Even though it’s kin to the cauliflower, which I hate because all I can think of (when thinking of cauliflower) is the steamy smell of it floating through my house growing up.  It just smelled….bland.  If aging yellow had a smell, that’d be it – hot, bland, and not nice.  These days I eat many MANY types of fruits and veggies, but cauliflower is one I’m putting my foot down on.

I always enjoy trying new recipes to keep up my motivation for healthy eating.  The more delicious stuff is, the more likely I am to eat it until I get burned out.  During our yearly bout of hot, where summer extends its reach into October and everyone forgets why they moved here, I tend to eat lots of salad-style items and things that require minimal cooking.  My go-to recipe was one I discovered while visiting a friend over Memorial Day weekend, and has now been adjusted to my own personal preference.  I emailed it over to a friend, so here’s Recipe #1:

“My current favorite recipe is quick, easy, summery, delicious, healthy, and totally vegan if that last bit is important at all.  It’s also kind of addictive.

Summer Quinoa Salad [you can make a giant batch ahead of time]
Ingredients:
quinoa
heirloom tomatoes
cherry tomatoes (or whatever those little baby red and orange ones are)
black olives NO PITS
limes (minimum 2)
garlic powder
celery salt
black pepper
sweet onion

1) Make a bunch of quinoa.
…a] 2 cups water + 1 cup quinoa is a decent size serving for one meal
…b] combine the water and quinoa in a regular pot, bring to a boil
…c] when it starts to boil (usually about 7 minutes) bring the heat down super low and cover the pot

…d] another six minutes or so and the quinoa will start to turn translucent and you’ll see the spirals come out. it’s done then.
…e] at this point the water will have mostly boiled off. stir it all up, drain any remaining water

2) Combine the quinoa into a big mixing bowl with a few dashes of black pepper, garlic powder, and celery salt.  Stir it all up.
3) Cover the mix and pop it into the fridge overnight.

THE NEXT DAY…
the quinoa should be nice and cold, and have a mild seasoning flavor.
4) Prep the heirloom tomatoes

…a] chop them up into medium-sized chunks, a fist-sized tomato should give you two handfuls when you’re done. don’t dice it.

5) Prep the olives
…a] the canned black olives work just fine; chop into chunks.

7) Prep the sweet onion
…a] dice the crap out of it
…b] you can substitute using those pre-minced onion in the seasoning bottles if needed

8) Limes!
…a] 2 limes for every 1 cup of quinoa you’ve used.  Squeeze the limes into the quinoa, stir.  Taste test. The flavor should be cold and bright, not overpowering.

9) All the other stuff!
…a] dump in your tomato chunks / tomatoes / black olives
…b] maybe add some mozzarella if you’re feeling the cheese need
…c] stir it all up

10) OM NOM NOM

 

So, there’s that.  I’ve also recently been buying bundles of kale but have been scared to try it, thinking it would be bitter and terrifying and taste of dirt.  You guys, color me effing WRONG, because it’s fantastic!  I even am okay with it raw, although there is a more defined bitter taste then.  However if you chop it up finely enough and blend it with enough other stuff, you’ll be fine.

That said, I’d like to tell you YOU CAN MAKE KALE TASTE LIKE POTATO CHIPS.

What’s this wizardry, you ask?

Well, I found this recipe (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/06/panfried-kale/) which looked simple enough, and decided today was the day kale was going in my mouth.

I have a gas stove, so this was over fire on top, I didn’t try baking it (although that’s apparently great as well).   From my Facebook post:

  • I broke up a bunch of kale, drizzled olive oil over it, tossed in a handful of garlic powder, and covered it for about three-ish minutes, or however long it took to turn bright green. Then you flip it around a bunch, and during this time I also cut up a bunch of tomatoes and mozzarella for a little side dish thing. By then the kale was starting to saute nicely and had some crispy brown edges going, so I figured it was done at that point.

That. Was. Delicious.  The crispy brown parts tasted like pop chips. Oh my goodness gracious.  And now I understand the love of Baked Kale in replacing potato chips, and when the heat breaks I’ll be doing that.

Now, tonight’s kale did not come out awesomely. I had a bunch of reddish kale, added a healthy splash of veggie oil over it, then started chopping tomatoes and avocados while the kale was covered and sauteing in the oil.  Squeezed 1 whole lemon and 2 limons, added a spoonful of butter to the juice, and warmed it up in a skillet until the butter had melted.  At this point the kale had wilted up nicely, so I dumped all the juice in and stirred it all around for a minute or so.  All done – add it to a bowl with your tomatoes and avocados.

Ladies and gentlemen, do NOT use that much juice unless you are a fan of biting into a full lemon.  Argh!  I was able to eat about half of my bowl of kale, but the lemon juice taste was really putting me off.  Overkill.  That said, now I know better.

I made that little concoction after seeing this:  Babble.com’s recipe for a summer salad of wilted kale and tomato.

Photo courtesy of babble.com

For a moment I thought I spied some asparagus in there, which – when done properly with just the right seasoning of black pepper – would probably launch this bad boy into the most delicious realms of outer space.

So, test it out, have yourself some healthy, easy, quick meals, and thank me later.  And if you’re still scared of kale – don’t be!! If you like eating spinach / romaine / salad mix / lettuce / etc, this will give you that great feeling with good texture.  And apparently energy, which is a nice little bonus I’m feeling about twenty minutes after eating half a bowl.

Yum!

Yardwork and Moving Forward

It’s been a busy weekend for me.  Got things done around the house, plotted out World Domination, and Cleared The Yard (phase 1).  My fingernails hurt.  That reminds me …it’s summer now, which means the nails need cut down and manicured.  Long manicured nails don’t work for me in summer – too many things going on that result in wrecking said manicure.  Therefore it’s time to chop ‘em off, clean up the edges all nicely, and go on about my business.

This weekend’s business involved a lot of hard work that I’m paying for today, but I like the progress that was made.

I started on The Backyard.

Before:

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More ‘before’, with Darnell (the random neighborhood cat) pictured in top right.2

Six hours later, this is what I accomplished with a rake and shovel:

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Here’s a shot looking out from my bedroom window. Note the missing iceplant.
There was also a line of fake plastic rocks that is now MIA.

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Today, I hurt. Last night I hurt so much that I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to vomit from how painful my arms felt.  No vomiting occurred, thank goodness.

The photo above shows how I got a large section almost completely cleared. The goal is to get the rest of that stuff pulled up so it’s just back to bare dirt.  Now I’m planning my next step, and I think this is how it will work out:

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Top-down view, fence at the top, hopefully vegetable planters and a compost box will be off at the left.  Potted plants – probably jasmine – I want to grow up to cover the fence; at least a large portion of it that isn’t currently covered.  In between, railroad-tie-style rectangular beams of wood will split up the yard while providing something similar to tiers.

Like this, but using rock filler instead of sod:

The yard slants down in kind of a curve, and has a fairly steep grade.  The section of squiggles along the bottom of the drawing would be that red bark/mulch stuff.  The top section (top right in drawing) will be flat enough for a nice patio area, and then just have to figure out if it would look better with a tarp cover or a pergola cover.

Awwww:

 

My goal is not to spend a lot of money, just to make something inexpensive that’s enjoyable for us while we’re living here and also improve the value when we sell.  Any additional reading/art nooks I can create in the meantime… thumbs up.  :)

Them Orange Handcuffs

Larissa Horvath:

I had the My Pet Monster. I had the cuffs. And this is AWESOME.

Originally posted on THE SURFING PIZZA:

IMG_8551

If you instantly recognize these, then you’re probably in your thirties and had no friends as a child. To those of us who know, they’re simply iconic. They’re like Ray-Bans and the Rubik’s cube, Tab soda and MTV. They’re the orange handcuffs from My Pet Monster, whom we’ll get to in a minute. My Pet Monster was awesome enough, but, but them orange handcuffs. Them orange handcuffs.

They had plastic links that broke apart when you pulled them. This feature alone put them on a pedestal well above the crappy plastic pair that came in my police toy kit. I didn’t pretend to be King Kong. I didn’t pretend to be the strongest human alive. No, I just sat on the floor handcuffing myself and breaking the chains apart over and over and over. Or occasionally, I switched it up by handcuffing the dog. Who looked at me, sighed deeply…

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Let Us Take A Moment To Raise Our Glasses

Hi!  Hey, how’s it going?  Good?  Great.  I’d like to take a moment to talk about something fun (to switch it up), and do a shout-out.  A birthday shoutout, even.  You see, my friend has deactivated her Facebook BUT I’m still going to write a post and then link it on my Facebook because there are quite a few of our mutual friends there, and I still want to share the love with the Internets.  :)

ANYWAY.  Story time!

Once upon a time there was this girl who liked to dance.  She was like…five, or some such crap.  [Look, it's what you do in PA. You go to dance class. You wear the feathers.]

That girl’s name was Maria.

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I too enjoy dancing (and had to wear an equally horrendous spangled outfit), but that’s not why we met.  We met because we grew up in a town of like sixty people, and our moms went to high school together.  (This is not a Your Mom joke, so shut up.)  Anyway, we met when we were in ….first grade, I think.  I distinctly recall being in sixth grade together but it gets kind of fuzzy then and I’m about three feet tall in the photo below so let’s just call it first grade.

We met, and she was awesome, and we went to places like Sea World together.

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We did other stuff together that kids do.  Painting and such.  Here we are being very serious about painting pumpkins.  The focus! The intensity! The …..fashion.  Don’t fight the fashion. Don’t act like you don’t want both a jean jacket and an Aliquippa sweatshirt because you know you do.

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So, me and this Maria chick got along pretty well.  We went on a crapload of adventures. Some of them involved stuff like pony riding and being very serious about petting zoos.


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I didn’t enjoy all the parts of the petting zoo, but it was still pretty fun.

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Time passed, grades passed, and oh yeah we were in the same homeroom for all four years of high school (not to mention we were in the BEST homeroom).  I’m third from the left and she’s second from the right, and again, please pay attention to ALL the glorious 90′s attire.

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School continued, and we kept going on adventures – we went to Cedar Point! We got sunburned! It was awesome! We all wore scrunchies and some of us opted to look like a crackhead in the photos.

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We graduated in 1999, because that was a great year, and I’d also like to take a moment to send love to my other ’99 Band Crew.  :)

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Maria and I kept in touch, and time passed.

Fast forward to when she came out to San Diego to visit me (in 2006ish?).  I introduced her to a friend of mine, and then a couple years later introduced her to another friend of mine who would be taking their engagement photos.

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Her wedding was at the Bellagio in Vegas in 2009, and it was awesome.  I did the wedding makeup for her and her maid of honor – not like they even needed any, but it’s a weddin’. You get dolled up. :)

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The event was amazing.

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We partied a whole freaking lot.
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All of us partied, even Jason.

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More time passed, and she got all glammed up and came to my wedding in 2011.

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She’s always super classy, in case you didn’t know.

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We generally are always really freaking fabulous, also in case you didn’t know.

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Her mom made little candies as favors for my wedding, which was both thoughtful and delicious.

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We still have adventures!  She partied with me in Phoenix, one of my favorite cities during the months of November to February, and introduced me to a whole crew of people who (like her) are extra fabulous.

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So, the short version is that this chick is SUPER EPIC ULTRA MEGA FANTASTIC, and I am happy that we are still friends, and need the whole internet to wish her a happy birthday.  We may not have a ton of photos together, but that’s because it’s hard to take them and be in them at the same time.  ;)

Happy birthday to one of my favorite yinzers.  Here’s to many more shenanigans, you crazy broad.  Muahahaha!

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Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Titles

Every time I clean the house, I want to tell the internet.  HEY!  Hey, my house is clean! Okay, it’s not pristine but… but I’ve done things.  Adult things.  It’s cool.

Last night I reactivated my Pinterest account, and that was kind of fun.  Everybody likes bookmarking, right?  This gives you pictures as well.  That’s nice.  Browsing boards and updating my own stuff got me remembering how much I enjoy healthy eating (veggies om nom nom), so looking through the pictures inspired me to make a big list of groceries to buy.

Today I went and bought the groceries, am working on meal plans for the week (because you can’t eat good food if you don’t buy it first), cleaned the kitchen (!!!), reorganized the utility area by the washer-dryer (!!!!!!!!!!), updated the cats’ litter area (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and put things in the shed (NO PUNCTUATION AVAILABLE).  [FYI, I am terrified of our shed.]

Uh, then I actually put all my groceries away, threw out the old crap in the fridge, cleaned off my desk, and am now getting ready to crochet another cup cozy for J’s coworker.

Woot, I crocheted it! Crotch-et-ed. That’s how we pronounce it because we’re classy. Heyyy it’s a thing I made and it’s functional. Aw yeah.

We don’t have a pantry but I’m planning on reorganizing our storage areas (which are um, not really much of any storage areas).  On top of the fridge, in the hutch, one big drawer, and the shelves on the microwave stand.  I guess that will help me keep on top of what’s available to make and also make it easier to make.

That might not have made sense, but whatever.

In other news, I’m trying to cope with the mental madhouse my brain has become. It feels like lots of little birds are trying to build nests, take flight, and kill each other. And they’re all telling me how awful I am.  I’m not coping really well with all the stress lately.

Anyway, at least my kitchen is clean.

NO SERIOUSLY CATS WHY ARE YOU PLAYING IN THE LITTER KNOCK IT OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have a great night.

So We Got Robbed And This Is The Post Where I Talk About That

For years I’ve said – and believed –t hat the only consistency in my life is inconsistency.  My mantra has proved itself correct once again.

I spent a good part of yesterday evening cleaning glass out of our kitchen sink.

It came from a broken window, which is how people got in.

Again.

The FIRST time they broke in they were able to jimmy the window open so there wasn’t really a mess.

Let me reiterate – we got robbed three weeks ago. Nearly three weeks exactly; the first incident was March 26.  I noted (with mild amusement) that my last blog post was made on March 26, about how things were going well but it was a bit hectic.

They took some electronics, jewelry, weapons; little stuff.  They left the window open, didn’t hurt the kitties, there wasn’t really that much of a mess (except a bunch of things hastily pulled open / looked through).  Someone jimmied the kitchen window open, let their partner in through the back door, they were fairly…uh, polite? Respectful?  I only use those words because they didn’t break or mess up things too badly.  It still sucked, but it was kind of easier to cope with because there was less of a mess.  I spent the entire night cleaning, crying a little here and there, and generally feeling disappointed in humanity.

We fixed the window.  We got things set up with the police, our insurance, a security system inspection (originally scheduled for 4/29).  All buzz words that people ask – checkpoints.  “Did you call the cops? Did you call your insurance? What about an alarm?”  Yes.  We got all that taken care of.  I didn’t sleep for two nights but the trauma kind of… was easier to push down and start building a wall around.  We talked about what we should do to make our home more secure and started discussing what we need to do to move.  We told very few people about it – close friends and family, people that we would normally trust to watch our house, that kind of thing, but we kept it quiet.  You don’t really talk about that kind of stuff because of paranoia and also it’s really rather exhaustive.  I stopped checking in on social media, and kind of withdrew overall.  There were a few days of just sitting, trying to reorganize.  The stress did a number on both of us both physically and mentally, but we began to recover and I even started to feel like I had some energy to do anything besides lie on the couch and read.

Yesterday, the house got broken into AGAIN.  Jason came home from work around 330 and found the mess.

The mess.

First, all kitties are safe and accounted for.

Second, aside from a cloth carry-bag from a local hotel and some change, they didn’t take anything, except our remaining peace of mind.

They busted the window over the kitchen sink.  Glass and dishes were everywhere.

Bedroom: all the drawers dumped out, jewelry box again dumped out, closets ransacked, stuff under the bed pulled out.  They stepped on the laundry, messed up the furniture/bedding.   This means that – yet again – all the items that they touched needed to be re-washed, including the bedding. There is no worse feeling than knowing some random person is in your house, TOUCHING WHERE YOU SLEEP.

Bathroom: Two tiles that haven’t been sealed onto the bathtub frame had been taped on. They pulled those off, apparently looking for a hidden compartment underneath.  The cats were hiding in there/under the bed, thankfully.

Office: pulled some stuff off the shelves, overturned things under the desk, pulled the drawers out of the storage armoire and pulled more stuff out from inside of it.  Toolboxes we’d nearly forgotten about were dumped out.

Living/dining room: couch cushions flipped, some stuff pulled off the bookshelves. Books on the floor (thankfully not a lot, and MORE thankfully all the library books I borrowed seem to be all accounted for).  The memory box that I made with our wedding stuff was dumped out all over the couch. They ripped an envelope that held my veil.  I thought I would be prepared, but after seeing A) my wedding stuff everywhere, the sugar bowls opened up and rifled through, and a recipe box on the floor, the complete senselessness of it all then resulted in hysterics.

I don’t get hysterical. I don’t have big weeping fits or …scenes.

This time I went outside and sobbed on the porch.  Just a mess.  I tried to take some photos to document but can only post a couple because looking at the rest sets off the terrible thoughts in my head. Jason was able to clean up a little bit, but I was shaking pretty badly so most of the photos came out blurry.  I started shaking when Jason called me to give me the news, and continued on throughout the evening.  I’m still shaking and can’t get warm and it’s 70 degrees.

I’d apologize for Brak’s hair being all over the couch but I just hand-vacuumed it two days ago so I don’t care.  I’d apologize for the mess but …yeah. Whatever.  I want to apologize for not having more stuff but IT GOT STOLEN ALREADY BEFORE WE GOT RANSACKED.

Uh, so here’s what I saw when I walked in. Then I walked back outside and sat on the porch for a long while.

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Hey check it out here’s all my memory box stuff from the wedding dumped out and kind of ripped up. That’s cool.

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My French press appears to be alright.  Sort of pictured, some broken glass. Not totally pictured, how the sink is filled with broken glass. That’s a big painting that we were using to block the open window to keep the cats in while we cleaned up.  Also the [expletives] left the back door open so thank whatever you want to thank that they didn’t get out.

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That’s cool. Just dump that stuff everywhere. I didn’t mind having my laundry hanging up. Or my sheets and towels folded.

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I am 900% sure this is not how I left it.

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Brak & Loki, accounted for and cute. Still freaked out. In the background you can sort of see how stuff was piled up in the office. 6

Pris was not having any of it.  She stayed passed out for several hours.  She is accounted for, and equally cute.7

I’m not okay.  When stressful things happen to me, my way of coping is to look at each little fact and then find whatever ‘bright side’ can be found within each bit of logic.  It keeps me sane.

That isn’t working here.  I can’t pull any logic from any of it.  It was senseless, reckless, disrespectful, insane.  I can kind of imagine what it feels like to be raped, because I have no sense of safety or peace of mind.  I’m jumpy and unable to relax, plus I don’t want to go home, because the house just feels like a weird hotel.  None of my stuff feels like my stuff.  I feel very homeless; like the only thing I have is our little family, my purse, my Kindle, my computer and my car.

Our plans to move have been bumped up to ‘as soon as possible’.  Obviously we can’t just give a 30 day notice, and obviously we need to save for a down payment.  I am considering starting one of those crowd-funded/kickstarter projects to help us get going but right now though I can’t wrap my head around any of this.  I can’t really process more than one step in advance of what I need to do right this minute.   Like…. okay, next step… shower, set your alarm for work. You have to be in the office at 830AM.  (I’m there now, FYI.)   Okay, that’s good. How about cleaning up the glass on the kitchen counter. Not the floor, don’t think about vacuuming yet.  Okay, go pick up the laundry and just put it all in the hampers. Deal with it later. Just get it off the floor.

Today is hard though.  I’m very exhausted and can’t do anything much except stare out the window of my office, where I am now.  There is a bunch of work-related paperwork to tackle so my next step is to start on the stuff in Inbox 1.

Hopefully the insurance can help us with a little more money so we can add extra bars to the windows, fix the busted window, fix the fence, and replace a couple stolen items.  Our security system install got bumped up to high priority with the company and I think they’ll be able to do it today.

The mess was cleaned up, a very long shower was had, but I still feel broken inside.

This is very draining to talk about which is why I am making kind of a long post in hopes to not talk too much about it further.  I’m not looking for sympathy but this is too much to just hold in.  I am not okay right now though.  That is all.

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