Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My personal challenge

I've decided to make January an experimental month of buying only essentials. That means no eating out, no pop (ack! caffeine withdrawal), no clothes, no books...I'm curious to see how well we handle voluntary cutbacks. Dairy products and fresh vegetables (both essential to me) should be the majority of grocery costs. Pet food and cat litter, gas for the car, utilities, mortgage and credit card bills (oh the shame!) will make up the budget. Car insurance is paid up for the next six months and the LP for the furnace is prepaid.

Of course the kitchen floor is a previous obligation that I can't back out of since the materials are in and waiting for the contractor's schedule.

Updates will be posted.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winding down

My mom found a couple of books for me. One is on knitting so hopefully I can progress beyond dish cloths. The other is a cookbook for midwest gardeners.

The other day I went to lunch with some engineers. The talk turned to green sparked by my canvas shopping bags. The reactions are invariably 'no, I wouldn't do that' until I mention something they want to try. This time the magic was my tankless water heater. Why do so many people think I'm some sort of extreme greenie? I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of changing habits and making wiser choices.

Friday, December 26, 2008

After Christmas

Will I ever learn to keep my guard up? FYI: you don't have to bother making me look like an idiot. I do that just fine all by myself.

So, back to the stuff I can deal with; Gurney's Seeds is having a decent sale and I got out my list and the catalog to do a bit of shopping for spring. I had quite a few already but this gives me a chance to round out my options for the big garden. I used a jar of carrots with the roast I made a few days ago. So satisfying to use my own food. I wish we had more options to buy locally. The farmer's market only runs for three months of the year. There really isn't any other choice but to preserve food myself. I would love to find a source for milk and meat.

Otherwise it's been an uneventful day. We made chocolate chip cookies and that's about as ambitious as we got. I hope everyone out there enjoyed their holidays.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve day

Brrr as usual. It's heading for a balmy 1 degree (-17 C) today but at least the sun is shining and the wind has died down. The delivery man just dropped an FTD box off at my back door. My first thought was 'Roses! Wow!'. It's just as well it wasn't since those trucks aren't heated and it would have been sad to unwrap dead roses. My friend/work contact Sheilah sent a pretty bouquet of mums and carnations to say Merry Christmas and thank me for all the work I send her way. I hope they're cold-hardy enough to revive from the trip but even if they don't it was a sweet gesture. I do envy Sheilah a bit on days like these. Living in California and vacationing in Mexico sounds like a good idea from here.

Last night Michael and Carrie treated me to a delicious meal at Minerva's. It was one of those funny coincidences that we were seated at the table right next to a co-worker and his wife celebrating their 39th anniversary. A lovely evening with good friends that helped me forget for awhile the $900+ I had spent getting my car repaired. Waaahhh!!! My loaner car was a 2009 VW Passat; nice smooth ride but a bit light-weight and tended to be pushed around by the wind. I still love my car.

I'm going outside now to clean the snow off my solar panel. Time to bundle up!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I generally choose to stay home weekends because it's how I destress from work. What's weird is when I have to stay home because of the weather I feel trapped. Why does it seem different just because the choice is gone?

I've been asked a couple times what santa is bringing me...and since it's looking pretty slim I'm going to write about my wish list. The ultimate gift would be diamond stud earrings just because they're beautiful and symbolic of romance, love and commitment. The ultimate practical gift would be a solar water heating set-up. I'd have it plumbed into my furnace system and cut way down on heating costs. Gifts I would be tickled to receive would be things made: fingerless gloves, scarves, hats, preserves, easy recipes, seeds, yarn. And the romantic item I've always wanted: a chain with a heart-shaped pendant.

I received a card from my college friend this week. It's incredible that over eleven years have passed since we finished school. We used to work on our senior design project in their apartment. They didn't have kids then but there was a pool in their building and she taught R how to swim. Now they live in another state with three kids of their own. I love the cards and touching base with so many people this time of year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Here we go again

This is the view from my front door this morning.

Visibility drops off quickly and it's much worse out of town. I'm fortunate to have even a small town between the house and the northwest winds. I made a quick trip to the post office this morning and the streets were already drifting. There seems to be a trend for Saturday storms going on here. As long as the power stays on we'll be fine.
School is out until after the new year. Lucky kids.
Neither of us is much in a Christmas mood this year. We decided not even to bother putting up the tree. R hasn't been able to find an after school job (the nearest town is suffering from layoffs) so he doesn't have any money to buy gifts.
My company Christmas party was a joke. Even though they made record sales of over $100 million the party consisted of cookies, cider and donated gifts from around town. I was one of the 'lucky' ones to get a gift....a promotional sun visor from a trucking company that went out of business two years ago. I am underwhelmed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Gah! I'd much rather have piles of snow than this wind. It's still snowing, but the wind is evil. We're not supposed to get above zero (-17 C) for the next few days. The wind chill is now at -40 (for F or C!). I'm annoyed that I didn't bring any work home this weekend. If I had we could just hunker down tomorrow and not worry about driving in this. (School is already delayed.) My dog will only pee in the dog pen so I have to bundle up and walk her way out back to her 'spot'. At least she doesn't waste any time on a day like this! I'm not used to having both dogs inside all day feels like a zoo in here.

Tonight I say: stay off the roads, stay safe, stay warm.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why I donated my hair

As long as I'm discussing haircuts here's my story:

In August I had my first mammogram. There's a frightening amount of cancer in the two generations of my family that produced mine so I was thinking a lot of 'what ifs' waiting for the results. I decided that if I got bad news I'd donate my hair to cancer victims before starting treatment. Happily my results were fine but in my relief I still felt the need to do something for those who were fighting cancer. The next day I had ten inches cut off and donated. I hope it helps someone feel a little better in a very tough situation.


In my quest for trying new things I decided to attempt knitting. I have managed to make two rather irregular (read 'many mistakes') squares. While it keeps my hands busy I'm far from making anything useful...let alone being able to knit without watching the needles.

This is what I'd love to be able to make: a Jayne hat just like on Firefly.

But I can't imagine I'll ever be that proficient, at least not in the next decade.

My son

Tall, strong and with an awesome new haircut! I'm just so freaking happy to be able to see his face again. For reference, his bangs were covering his nose this morning.

Happy Dance

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Somedays are just good. My brain was working well so it was a productive, satisfying day on the job. I passed on going out to lunch with the guys and ate my healthy food (also saving money). Ral and I watched the Dark Knight (excellent!) and Life. I'm still wide awake so it's a good time to catch up on the dirty dishes leaving me able to concentrate a little easier on work in the morning. All good.

Another good thing is the next board I do is starting with a completely hellish mess of a schematic, a jungle of dimensions and height restrictions, and unspecified parts. Fantastic! A brand new board that's all challenge. I can hardly wait. Damn. Even with the new boss issues I still love my job.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not a boring Sunday

I was up late last night working. Instead of a nice lazy morning in I get a call from a co-worker "I shot a deer! Do you still want to learn how to butcher?" Ugh, no way, let me go back to sleep! Except I had asked for this so up and away we went to freeze our fingers and be introduced to the wonders of a deer carcass. I'll spare you photos simply because I was too groggy to grab the camera this morning. Oddly enough, even with my super-sensitive nose, I didn't smell anything. My nose may have been numbed by the cold, but it still seems strange.

My son and his girlfriend have broken up. He's angry, which is a normal reaction. I told him I still want to call my ex and scream profanities somedays. Of course, it wouldn't really help but the desire is there to make him feel something. It must be so much easier to be the one who stops caring and walks away. In one way it's much worse for my son; he has to see her at school every day and with other guys. What a mess.

I thawed out a bag of shredded zucchini last night. I'm going to take a break from work now and cook up some bread.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Family history

I've been reading a ranching blog and it's got me thinking more about the ranching history in my own family. My grandparents had a ranch out in western South Dakota and my mom grew up there. It's hard to imagine looking at her and comparing this woman with the photos of a dusty, red-head kid on horseback. It was far from idyllic and I wouldn't have traded places with my cousins for all the horses in the world (the only thing I envied). What I do love is looking at the photos, remembering the stories, and knowing that these places and people were what shaped who we are today.

I'm going to see what pictures I can dig up and scan in for a little history lesson from real people in the midwest. This one I already had on the computer. It's my great-grandfather Ray Carr taking horses to sell in town.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not a bad day here. The turkey turned out good and we both ate too much. Yikes! What a mess the kitchen is...looks like I'll be taking lots of scraps over to the hens tomorrow. That'll make for some happy chickens and maybe they'll get in gear and start laying again. No football and parades here. We both had good books to devour and there were Clean House episodes on that I hadn't seen yet. Lovely holiday.

Last night I was planning on a girl's night out with Carrie, but she was trapped at work by unreliable co-workers. Michael made for an entertaining stand-in while we waited. I hope he does decide to build a green house; it's not something many are attempting here and would be fascinating to observe what they decide to incorporate into the design.

By the time Carrie finished it was too late for shopping (and she was exhausted anyway) so a late meal and some girl talk (sorry M) rounded off the evening.

Right! Time to tackle the kitchen and get ready for tomorrow. Black Friday shopping? No Way! I'm determined to clean up the basement. Yes, I'm as mad as the shoppers...just in my own way.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More thoughts

Do men in general not feel the need to touch and be touched? Or was it my bizarre luck to fall for the one man who wasn't bothered by five years without hugs, holding hands, kisses...anything.

I could understand doing without if there was a reason for being apart, but it about drove me mad that he made the choice not to be together. Five bloody, freaking years without a single kiss.

Is it possible to be starved for touch?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Falling up

It's nights like this that find me standing at the back door, groceries hanging forgotten in my hands, head tilted, and staring straight up until I'm dizzy. It's cold out but not bitter and the night sky is crystal clear. I could fly, float, fall into the stars. Unbelievably beautiful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


How did the weekend slip by so fast? It seems like the only thing I accomplished was putting casters on the kitchen island to protect the new floor. It didn't help that I put in at least five hours on work today. I did manage to sneak in a break to watch an episode of Hustle. I've got a big crush on Robert Glenister. How ironic that I'm attracted to an English con-man.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Yesterday we were informed at work that my manager is being demoted and next week his replacement starts. Of course, the new boss is someone I don't get along with (to put it mildly). I don't trust him and I'm scared that a job I enjoyed is going to turn into a place I hate. This is the first time I can truly understand how upset my ex was when his good boss was replaced with a tosser he couldn't respect. I'm feeling completely overwhelmed. My defenses were already shattered from the breakup and now this.

Monday, November 17, 2008


A few weeks ago I saw a coyote by the highway. This was very unusual; skunks, foxes, badgers are common around here, but I'd never seen a coyote before. A neighbor has been seeing LOTS of them following the railroad tracks about a mile from my parent's farm. Why are they moving east? Have the west-river ranchers stopped running sheep? Curious...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hooray for the internet

I confess that plumbing is not my favorite pastime. So much so that I would gladly have a plumber on retainer if I were filthy rich. Imagine how grateful I am for all those helpful websites that guide me (with illustrations!) on pesky little plumbing jobs. Today I removed the popup stopper from the bathroom sink; allowing me to clean it with baking soda and vinegar (yes, green). Now, woosh, down the drain the water flows...not oozes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Why is it supposed to be helpful to talk about your problems? I could tell someone that the guy I loved for the last five years stopped loving me...they could agree that it sucks...and then what? More details? Yes, I saw the signs that he was losing, I don't know, he didn't say anything. Awkward pause...

And what's with the fade away exit? Why no exit line? I can think of some great ones:
I'm taking a sensitive position and you're a security risk.
I'm bisexual and my boyfriend is jealous.
I won the lottery and I'm not sharing.
I'm bored.

So, I accept that I won't know the whys and get on with everything else that has to be done. I can still be thankful for the good: friends and family who care, a job I enjoy, a home I love, and so many fascinating things to learn and try. I'm feeling more centered now than I have in months. I'm doing fine.

Fog Driving 101

After this morning's fog I thought it's time for a refresher on the basics.

1. Turn your lights on! This day, of all days, you need to be visible. Please.

2. Leave early. Yes, this is for you, young lady. Tailgating and passing when you couldn't see what was coming = stupid. If you can't get yourself out the door early enough to be on time then suck it up and accept that you will be late. There is nothing worth risking your life or the driver of the pickup truck you didn't see. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


There's a sheet of ice covering everything this morning and more accumulating as the freezing rain continues. I'm relieved school was called off because I wasn't looking forward to trying to drive there and I definitely wouldn't let my son drive himself!
No 'snow day' for me when my work comes home in the thumbdrive. grumble

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Winter is really here

It could have been much worse, out west river they were dumped on with over 40 inches of snow in one day. Like every year, my initial reaction is a cry of 'I'm not ready!' Brrrr, I was literally not ready when I stepped out into my frigid porch yesterday morning and looked around for my snowboots...I actually expected to have them handy even though I haven't seen them since last winter. I unearthed the trusty boots in the basement and a new season has begun. Ugh. I don't think I've enjoyed winter since I was a kid. The bitter north wind that joined in this morning hasn't helped my attitude!

On a brighter note, I've finally got a working breadmaker! The aroma of freshly baked bread even lured the teen out of his cave (the new Gears of War 2 was holding him captive). Yum.

The work on the kitchen floor continues. Fortunately, I have Tommy ready to pitch in and keep my spot warm while I'm busy elsewhere.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good exhaustion!

I had a burst of energy after work tonight so I started ripping up my old kitchen floor. It's in pretty bad shape so the ceramic tiles come up easily enough. Getting the screws out of the cement board is tougher but mostly time-consuming and dirty. I can see why my contractor quoted much higher for them to do the removal. It doesn't take any skill so there's no reason for me not to do it myself. They get to put in the bamboo flooring though.

My tomatoes have already been zapped by the cold nights. So much for the polytunnel extending my season! I've got green tomatoes to use up now...thinking of trying chutney.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is tolerance so rare?

I just read a news article on all the religious community uproar over California's Prop 8. I will never understand how so many people can be so full of hate. Why is it ok for athiests to marry but 'oh noes!' don't let the gays marry?

So much for freedom.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I made a yummy roast with veggies the other day (huge shock for everyone who knows me and my deplorable lack of cooking skills). It was a good way to use up the last of the carrots from the garden that didn't get canned. I didn't get a chance to take a picture because my parents dropped by just as it was finishing...hmmm, what are the odds?

I wish there was a course available to learn how to cook real foods in a flavorful way. Not the sort of dishes in cookbooks where ingredients are shipped in from around the world and have to be hunted for in the store. I read about Stonehead cooking every meal from food he's raised or grown himself and those meals are colorful, varied, and interesting. His family certainly isn't suffering with boring, cooking-rut menus which is all I'd manage in those circumstances.

I never watch cooking shows, but I love cleaning shows like How Clean Is Your House and Clean House. My house is certainly not antiseptic and sterile (not likely with all these pets!) but I can't relax and feel comfortable if it's cluttered. Tonight I'll be curling up in a clean living room to watch Life. Now, what to do about dinner...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is my little polytunnel. It's the largest for the smallest price I could find and it's just big enough for my tomatoes. I started looking when I realized the growing season was going to end before I would get much out of my plants. Today it's windy and definitely nippy outside, but toasty warm in there. My plan is for the straw bales to protect the tunnel from strong winds then mulch the garden next year.

As you can see the tunnel barely covers the tomatoes. It was fun putting it up without damaging the plants!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canning -- How to:

Answering a request for how I canned my carrots here is the process I used...

After washing/preparing the carrots pack tightly into jar up to within an inch of the top. Add 1 tsp of salt. Pour in boiling water until carrots are covered and screw on lids. Place in pressure cooker trying not to let the jars touch each other. Boil for 10 minutes, then place pressure disk on lid at the 10 pounds pressure setting for 40 minutes. Remove from canner and as they cool listen for the pop as each lid seals.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


My very kind mother brought her pressure canner over today so I could save my little carrot harvest for winter. Pressure canner is now firmly on my want list. She had fun too since I had the carrots cleaned and ready to go all she had to do was help me fill the jars and get it hissing away on the stovetop. Then we sat back with a slice of zucchini (courgette) bread and zipped over to England via a Midsomer Murders dvd.

Thanks to Mom I went from this:

To this: