We’re hanging in there, are you?

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I am starting the day with coffee today. I have cut back drastically on my coffee. For a few months I was drinking half to one pot per day. Before lunch. With cream and sugar. I have found I can get the same energy from orange juice so I do that a few days each week and the coffee once or twice each week. Luckily I didn’t have much of a reaction from the lack of caffine.

I have so many pictures stored up and so many posts in my head but I am completely deadline driven at the moment. I signed a contract to write a short book about water storage for household and emergency use that is due at the end of August. About a day later I was contacted about my proposal for a brief history of my home town. Accepted, and could I have it ready by mid-August? The two projects total are only 100,000 words so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to get it done, in fact I typed (wrote?) 3,000 words on one of them just yesterday. Juggling the two projects along with my 20 hour per week gig and trying to pitch a few other stories here and there is challenging though. Not to mention keeping up with the garden and all of its oddities (things happen, I don’t know why so I end up interneting to try and figure out if I need to be worried!) and not totally ignoring the dog and I am keeping relatively busy. I think the crock-pot will be my friend this summer.

In two weeks we will go on vacation for a week or so down to the Gulf coast in Alabama. I have gotten our first few campgrounds reserved and that is probably all the planning I will get to do. I do know we will be stopping for a short jaunt in New Orleans (I’ve never been) so I put Cafe Du Monde at the top of my list of things to see with beignets and cafe au lait. There are several things in my book of 1,000 Place to See Before You Die in the USA and Canada in the general area we will be in so we will probably try and mark a few off the list. We got four or five of them in Colorado last summer so it will be fun to add a few more. It’s a nice travel journal of sorts. If we visit a place, I make a few notes in the margins along with the date we were there.

Last weekend I went to a basic class about raising chickens. I think chickens will definitely be in our future. Robert wants to make sure we build the shed first, so the plan is to build the shed after vacation and into July and as soon as it is done get the chickens. Well, after we build the coop. I think we will start small with only a few chickens. Unless of course I find out that the local processor will take care of some of them for us for a reasonable price, then we will order 25, raise them all for 6 or 8 weeks and send most of the boys off to Trenton to be ready for the freezer. That I can handle. Doing it ourselves? Not so much. But, we do want to avoid the $64 tomato phenomenon with our little homestead adventures.

I am trying to make sure I put aside money each time I get paid for “projects.” Things like chickens, blueberry bushes, fruit trees, all the cool stuff I want to do for our little bit of land. Robert is much more supportive of my schemes if I have some funds to back them up!

Okay, back to work. And in case you’re wondering, that’s my Texas mug in the picture. It holds probably three 8 oz. cups of coffee at once and has all sorts of Texas-isms on it. My favorite? “You can all go to hell and I’ll go to Texas.” said by Davy Crockett. 🙂 The mug is from our vacation to Fort Worth.

Spring Cleaning Day 3 – or not

So this is the third day of spring cleaning with SimpleMom. It is the second day of living room cleaning. For me, it will be the first day I go to work in an office in about 14 months. No worries, it’s not a 9 to 5 job in a cube farm or anything… it’s a part time writing gig in a creative online media joint and I’ll be going in one day a week to work there, have meetings, etc. I might do some cleaning in the evening, but for the most part i will be focusing on “going to the office.” I’m actually kind of excited about it. So, instead of clutter, let’s look at the garden.

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Look at that beautiful cucumber flower. I am hoping I can grow enough pickling cucumbers to actually do some nice pickling, well, at least one nice batch. We have gotten so much rain this week I was worried that the garden might get a little over saturated but it looks like it is actually thriving. The fact that it is not yet regularly topping 80 degrees is pretty out of the ordinary and due to the rain we have hardly had to water the garden for TWO WEEKS! Craziness. The peas are going gangbusters and getting tall and flowering, tomatoes, cantaloupes, squash, cukes, and pepper are all flowering. We’re eating lettuce from the garden almost every night in a salad. There are three tomato plants with little green tomatoes growing and my second batch of potatoes (planted in straw in a chicken wire tube) are sprouting. It’s all looking really good.

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The Spring Cleaning Party has been really fun. I’ve been trying to hit most of the pople that are posting about it and reading up what they are doing, looking at before and after pictures and leaving comments. It’s interesting to see other people’s organizing ideas, see that my house isn’t really the messiest place ever (it’s just normal) and read about some of the revelations people are having. I’m really glad i decided to participate. I think Robert is enjoying it too. He, of course, likes the clean house, but he’s also helping out and making an effort to purge some of his stuff too since I am making a real effort to go through my stuff. I hope being at work most of the day doesn’t derail the Spring Cleaning Party at our house, I won’t actually be behind but I have a lot going on Thursday and Friday as well. Not to mention I have some sewing projects I’d like to finish up so I can meet some deadlines. We’ll see I guess.

And here’s one cute puppy to start your day.

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Spring Cleaning, Day 2 – The Living Room

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Day 2 of the Spring Cleaning Party focuses on the living room, family room or wherever the family spends the majority of their time. Now, honestly, that might be my office but I’m saving that monumental task for the day everyone else tackles kids rooms (which we don’t have). Daisy woke me up at about 6:45 begging to go outside – even though Robert was in his office wondering why she hadn’t wanted to go out yet. I took her out, came back inside and considered staying awake and getting started. But, I decided a little more sleep might not hurt. 😉

I got up, made coffee and started pulling everything out of the living room. I know for some families this is going to be a huge undertaking. Luckily, our living room is pretty sparse so it wasn’t awful. There are no bookshelves, which helped. All my before pictures look pretty clean due to the clean sweep on Day 1 but I did get into all the drawers and sort things out.

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This is all the stuff that came out of the living room. The coffee table is a big rectangle with a drawer that pulls out from both sides. The end tables both have drawers and then the entertainment center had stuff in it too. That white laundry basket is completely full of DVDs. It covered the dining room table but it wasn’t packed init was definitely doable in one day for me.

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This is my before picture which I’m sure will annoy some of you since it looks completely clean. I’m telling you, before we decluttered, that coffee table was covered in magazines, DVDs, Wii stuff, books and more. The clean sweep did wonders for my house. This view will be important later though, I promise.

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I found these big piles of magazines in the coffee table drawer. They obviously got shoved in there several times in an effort to “clean up” before company came over. Unfortunately they were mostly all mine too. What can I say. I’m a writer. I like to read… wait til you see the bookshelf in my office. It’s scary!

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I kept two cooking magazines to go through and pull out recipes for the recipe file, a few that I haven’t read that will go on the to be read pile (and then to the recycling bin when they are done) and then, I went through a lot of Texas highways and Birds and Blooms my Grandma had given me and pulled out the full page photo pages. I use the pages to make envelopes for the handmade cards I make. I had been hanging on to the magazines for that reason. It is a much smaller pile now that I pulled those pages, and put them in a folder with my craft stuff. All the other magazines went into the recycling.

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We had some rather unfortunate puppy accident stains on the carpet. (Robert is going to be unhappy if he knows I posted this one – just keeping it real!) I used the heavy duty carpet cleaner recipe from the SimpleMom eBook. Whoa.

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That was after letting it sit on the stain for several hours (salt, vinegar and borax). Several hours after letting it sit and then vacuuming I can see the outline of the stain again though, so it may need another treatment or two to really get it all out, I’m not sure. I need to go buy a gallon of vinegar before I do any more treatments though since I’m out.

All in all, the living room is good. Things are organized, purged a little and it feels calm and clean. Oh, and I cleaned the windows which hasn’t been done in at least 2 years. They look so much better. Wow! And if you need to clean your screens?

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Put them in the shower and spray them down. It worked really well for me! The only thing that is left to be done is for Robert to go through the huge pile of VHS tapes. I am going to ask him to try and contain it to the wooden box with the duck on it. So they are put away and out of the way since it won’t be something we would use very much if at all. Most of them are EMS and Firefighter training stuff so I am just asking him to hopefully pare down some. So, ready for the after shot?

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I rearranged the furniture too. The couch wasn’t working where it was so it needed it. And even though there were only two magazines and one book that were ready for the coffee table, I couldn’t bring myself to put them out there. It looked too nice all clean and clear. I also worked on integrating some of our knick knacks on the mantle. I have Jim Shore angels, Robert has ducks. There were ducks in the guest room, ducks in one bathroom and ducks in the living room. I brought all the ducks into the living room. Two on the mantle, two on each end table. If I ask him if he wants to keep the ducks, he will automatically assume that I don’t like them, so I am working on figuring out a way to ask the right way. Plus, I don’t want everything to be totally minimalist.What do you think about the angels and ducks together?

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In case you’re wondering, the fireplace is directly behind the couch. There is no good way to arrange the living room it seems. One wall is the fireplace, one wall has three windows, one wall had french doors into Robert’s office and the entryway. The only blank wall has the TV on it. To face the TV, you have to have your back to the fireplace. Someday we hope to remodel the garage into a media room and have a formal living room which will fix it, but until then, we just kind of ignore the fireplace.

I’m a day ahead on this since I started on Sunday. I spent, I think, three hours in the morning and about two hours in the evening to get it all done. I went to my new office for a few hours in the middle and had dinner, called my Mom (she thought the Spring Cleaning Party sounded good but needed to know what an eBook was) and played with the dog a bit. The living room is supposed to be Days 2 and 3 but obviously, for me it was only Day 2. Tomorrow I need to spend some time working (I work from home) and I will either tackle my craft area in the dining room or do one section of my home office. I think my office will take two full days so I will be breaking it up here and there throughout my spring cleaning.

Ready for a puppy picture? Daisy definitely wanted to be outside playing today instead of inside where the mean old vacuum cleaner was. She hates the vacuum, we’re not sure why. She doesn’t mind the blender or anything else loud.

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Spring Cleaning, Day 1

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I decided to join the Spring Cleaning Party, hosted by SimpleMom and I can already say, I’m loving it! I purchased the eBook so I can more easily prepare each evening for the next day’s tasks and also have the time/ability to give Robert a head’s up of what will be going on. Day One is really simple. You have to go through your house two times. The first time, you pick up trash (and in our case, recycling galore) and the second time you make quick decisions on some of the little clutter-y stuff that visible. I actually decided to start a day early so that Robert would be available to help go through some of that clutter-y stuff that belongs to him instead of presenting him with a big basket of stuff to go through at the end of the day. Also (yay!) I’m starting a part time job today so I wanted to have a jump on things. So, the details. We worked on this on and off all day long. We stopped occasionally to watch TV, eat lunch, work on dinner prep and we even stopped to take an hour long nap because neither of us went to bed at a decent time last night. So, it could be done in a few hours I think. We have decided from the start that we are each responsible for our own home offices, so those will be done in bits and pieces throughout the week. And the guest room is not being touched at the moment because it has the emergency preparedness kit spread out all over. We have ordered some things to add to the kit so we don’t want to pack it all up, put it away, only to have to bring it back out in two days to reorganize it. So, those few rooms, we didn’t touch too much so far.

I did not take tons of “before” pictures because honestly, I was pretty embarrassed by the state of my house. Here is one of my desk in my office before I did anything to it. Imagine a similar state on oh, pretty much every horizontal surface in our house. I’m not even kidding! I meant to take one of the dining room table but it was almost done before I remembered!

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That is the area just to the right of my keyboard and such on the desk. It was obviously getting very disorganized. The coffee table in the living room was like this, the dining room table, Robert’s desk, portions of the kitchen counters. It was really really bad, to the point where I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by it and not really having a good plan on how to start. That’s why I bought the eBook. At first I thought, well that’s kind of silly, like I can’t figure out how to clean the house. Well, I found out by having it, it gives me a place to start and some clear instructions on what to do. I’m sure as I go along I’ll adapt lots of things and tweak things, but the thing that really helped me was just having a place to start. Want to see my desk later?

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It’s by no means perfect, I still need to find a place for some of those notepads but it’s about 99 times more calming and stress free to look at, don’t you think? And ALL of the rooms (except the guest bedroom) had a similar treatment. That’s one tiny space in my house but my whole house is like this. It feels really good just to sit and look around. I feel calm, I feel happy and wow, do I feel energized. I am completely shocked by the feeling too. I knew the clutter was bugging me but I had no idea how much. I am so glad I decided to do this. Robert agrees. It just feels better in our house. There is still dog hair on the sofa and a stack of books in the hallway that I need to sort through but overall the house just feels more calm. It’s wonderful. I’m totally psyched to do the rest of the job now. And check this out.. we had 2 bags of trash, just regular kitchen trash bag sized and a TON of recycling.

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We are a magnet for paper and cardboard it seems. Before I broke all the boxes down, they were in a stack taller than me! The best part is that we already ran them down to the drop off bin so even the recycling bins are empty. Well, except for the celebratory beers we had with dinner! Day One was a huge success. Did anyone else feel so completely happy once it was done? Maybe it is from the sheer amount of clutter/paper/stuff we had allowed to build up around us but it has really been motivating to get each room cleared out.

And now, to end with a puppy picture.  Daisy likes to run through the hose when I am watering the garden. She was just a little soaked here!

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My How She Has Grown, and updates

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The little puppy I brought home in November has almost doubled in weight, grown taller and turned into a mighty fine dog. She is calm and relaxed most of the time, she is learning well in obedience classes and, best of all, is very good at going out in the yard and  being off her leash without running off.

Lots of things are coming up for me. I will be going up to Indiana for a family quilting retreat. Yes, we have created our own retreat. Shortly after that I will be going to the SXSW interactive Festival in Austin. I feel a bit nervous about that one… as if all my geeky online friends will find out that I’m really not so geeky after all!

I’m having a dreadfully difficult time getting things done lately. My brain is slow to percolate ideas and put words together into sentences when I am writing and it is getting very frustrating. Sure, I can write stuff, but frequently I write something, read it back and it is so utterly boring there is no way it will work.  My creativity, it seems, has left the building for the moment. I hope it comes back soon.

I am enjoying participating in Paperback Swap lately but I fear I am using it as a way to avoid going out to find friends close by, at least for the moment. There is a local book club that meets through the group but they meet up an hour from where I live and the two books they have read so far seem less than appealing to me. So, on the one hand I’d like to be social. On the other, a book I’d not pick up on my own and an hours drive, not so much…

The wood stove has been working out wonderfully for the most part. We really need to install the second one to keep the bedrooms and my office warm. We have been out to cut firewood a few times as well and we’ve actually had fun doing it together. We took Daisy the first time and she played in and around a pond with another dog. She was filthy but really happy, so, I didn’t mind giving her a bath. We are hoping to get a hydraulic, hand operated wood splitter soon. It just uses hydraulics and manpower to operate so that seems good.

Mid-week mini vacation

Robert had some things to do in Austin yesterday so we headed off together on Tuesday night for a little midweek getaway. It was very nice. We talk about anything and everything in the car when we are traveling and it was nice to talk about some things that are coming up for us, our hopes and dreams and plans for the future, thing we need to work on at home and any number of other things.

While in Austin we went to a place called Flip Happy Crepes where you can get sweet or savory crepes from a kitchen in an airstream trailer and you can eat them at a mish-mosh of picnic tables, folding chairs and live oak trees. The crepes were tasty, the weather was amazing (high 70s and sunny) and it was just a very nice thing overall. We also stopped in to REI and the gigantic Whole Foods with all the bells and whistles.

We next stopped by the capitol building as I had mentioned I had never seen it before (our last true trip to Austin I broke my ankle so we didn’t see so much!) and we tagged along on a tour for a few minutes and then looked around ourselves for a little bit.

Robert did his businessy things, and then we had dinner by the river and the Congress Ave. bridge. It was really a nice time of being together. On the way home we stopped to pick up the puppy from my Aunt’s house… she is still worn out from playing with the other dogs.

I have been lacking in my passion for my job, or my work ethic or something lately and have much more enjoyed things like hanging laundry  out to dry and sewing. I am going to make a concentrated effort for the rest of the month to balance the work and the housework a bit better so that equal amounts get done. Or, even so more work gets done and the housework is just kept up with. In November, my fingers were on fire and I posted so much it was crazy. I need to grab that back and run with it.

And so, I’m off to work. 🙂

Christmas Wrap-Up

Christmas was very good here. I thought for a little bit it wasn’t but then I grew up and got over it! (long story).

We spent the night at my Aunt and Uncle’s house on Christmas Eve since my Grandparents and my nephew were already there. Robert and I opened most of our presents to each other on the 23rd. We didn’t want to take everything over to the relatives as they were having a rather lean Christmas AND it would’ve been a pain to haul it all there and haul it all back. We already had to take some presents for them, clothes for us and the dog and her stuff, so the car was full.

I got Robert a lot of tools that he was wanting… jack stands, a creeper, a droplight for the garage, and a benchtop grinding wheel. He  also requested socks and underwear and boy did I cover that one! I also got him some sweatpants he was wanting and some long sleeved tshirts. He was happy with all of it.

He got me some really nice skillets, a mixing bowl, tongs, silicon spatulas, the sneakers I wanted, two pair of jeans, something nice from Victoria’s Secret and some perfum (which he just remembered he had yesterday and got it out for me).

We took lots of stuff over to the relatives. We bought groceries for Christmas Eve dinner, and Christmas day breakfast and dinner. We also bought their dogs a 40lb. bag of dog food, a huge box of Milkbones (from Sam’s) and some other treats. We had several presents for my nephew and two presents each for everyone else. And we had stocking stuffers for 8 people. It was kind of crazy. We could afford to be Santa in moderation this year though and no one else really could so I did my best to spend our budget wisely and get everyone nice gifts they could really use (but that weren’t totally boring). I totally scored on a few things – I found the nightgowns my Aunt likes on clearance and was able to get her three for the price of one. I found Tony Stewart flannel so I could make Tony Stewart pillow cases to go with the Tony Stewart sleeping bag we got my nephew.

I loaded  Robert’s stocking with matchbox fire trucks… he uses them in his training work at the fire station and has been wanting to add to his collection. Anyway, Christmas Eve was fun… we just hung out and ate and enjoyed being together. Christmas morning  was fun… my nephew  was all excited and enjoyed his gifts very much. After the presents were opened we started working on cooking dinner and then my Aunt, Grandma and Robert and I played the new game I got from my sister-in-law, Ticket to Ride. It was really enjoyable. Robert and I have played it a few more times since then too.

Daisy enjoyed spending time with her four-footed cousins and playing and hanging out. She behaved really well and just in general has been turning out to be a really great dog.

By the time we came home on Christmas Day we were glad to be home. Robert was off to the fire station for the night. The last few days we’ve been cleaning and working and spending time together and cooking and just enjoying ourselves.

Today we took Daisy to the dog park… she was scared but she did ok. She was jumping on the people a lot, which is bad but I think it was because she was nervous. I made more of the brown butter, brown sugar shorties today. Yum! Best cookies ever.

In the morning I have to take Daisy to the vet again. She has worms again or still has them or something, not really sure. I am going to a different vet than I did the first time. The first guy was just junk, so not going back there.

Need to get to bed. Oh, I’ve recently been trying out Paperback Swap (.com)… it’s great! I love it!

Best part of Christmas 2008 – Seeing how much my nephew really believes in Santa this year. He was using the NORAD Santa tracker all day to see where Santa was, talking to his “elf on the shelf” Phillip Johnny Bob, decorating a cookie for Santa… he just really believed and it was so precious to see his innocence for once. He usually a bit of a cynic and a know it all, as most 6 year olds are I guess. But on Christmas Eve he was filled with wonder and joy. It was awesome.