Monday, April 24, 2017

Menu plan for the week of April 24

Hey everybody.  I hurt my finger this weekend.  I'll just say, I have found occasion more than once over the past 36 or so hours to utter, "no, really.  I'm not flipping you off.  I just can't bend that finger."  Typing is a pain.  Literally.  So I'll be brief.  Here's what's on the menu this week.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

I suck at housework

I have kind of always been under the impression that, once my kids are grown, my house will be clean.  I mean, it makes sense.  It's hard to keep up with so many people making messes.  If there were just two of us making messes, it would be so much easier to keep up.  Not only will it be easier to keep up--I will also have more time that could be devoted to cleaning, what with not having to transport kids or attend meetings on behalf of kids or feed kids or remind kids to put on deodorant or turn off lights and flush toilets.

I recently changed my mind, though.  I spent some time in a home that was clean.  Very clean.  One might even say super clean.  And I realized my house is never going to be that clean.  Never, ever.  Because while a clean house is a priority for me, a very, even super, clean home is not.  I am not a stellar cleaner by nature or by nurture, and I'm all about clean enough over here.  Let's get this house clean enough, and then let's go read a book in the hammock.  Or hang out with the chickens.  Or jump on the trampoline (do you think Hubby will let me keep the trampoline when the kids are gone?  Hmmm).  Seriously.  I have better things to do than to chase down every last crumb the second it hits the floor.  Or, at least, I have things that are way more fun to do.

I was kind of disappointed when I realized that my home will never be that clean.  I mean, all these years, I've been thinking it would be.  Now, I know it will not.  In a way, though, it's good that I found out now so I can adjust my expectations.  Now I won't have to be severely disappointed later on.

I found this sign on Etsy.  I think it sums me up nicely.

Click here to purchase
Speaking of which, do y'all clean your baseboards?  I had no idea that was even a thing until I started reading cleaning checklists, and there it was, on just about all of them: clean baseboards.  Wha?  Never, ever would I think to clean those on my own.  So I guess it's a good thing those cleaning checklists exist, so I can add one more thing to the list of things I should clean but don't.  Yay me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wildlife Sanctuary

I've been keeping an eye on the pond for the past several days, because we've been finding little toads floating in it.  They plop in because they love water, and then they can't get back out because the sides are too steep--toads aren't as good at climbing as their frog cousins.  I'm thinking of building some kind of ramp for them, but in the meantime, I just keep an eye out and remove them.

So I'm looking into the pond several times a day, and yesterday afternoon I saw worms.  Huge worms!  I don't know where they came from, because as you know, I was fairly certain I had removed all of them on Saturday.  So either I was wrong, and I didn't remove them all (they could have been hiding in the water lily), or those egg cases hatched (it's possible they've hatched, but not likely that these huge worms hatched just days ago), or the worms liked it so much they came back.

I'm going with option number 3 right now.  I like being known as a sanctuary to the neighborhood beasts (except the bears...and maybe the foxes...and definitely the coyotes (they're LOUD)).

Speaking of being a wildlife sanctuary, Hubby saw a gorgeous fox walking past the partially constructed hen house yesterday.  Just, you know, casing the joint, looking for vulnerabilities.  Hubby looks at me a little funny when I tell him we need the run to be predator-proof, like what predators do you think we have around here, woman?  I mean, he sees the hawks, so he knows the ladies need protection from above, but I don't think he's quite bought in to the we-need-to-bury-hardware-cloth-around-the-run-to-protect-from-digging-predators argument.  Don't get me wrong--he is willing to indulge me, but I can tell he's not sure it's necessary.  Foxes dig.  Foxes like to eat chicken.  With as much emotion at least two of us have invested in this flock, we need the chickens to live.

Speaking of chickens, I'm picking them up three weeks from today.  They just went into the incubator yesterday (chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, and our birds will be one day old when we get them).  I was taken aback when I realized that our chicks' eggs probably had not even been laid yet when we ordered them.  Crazy.

Also crazy is how much I need to do.  I mean, it's not all that much to do, but I haven't done any of it yet.  A lot of planning, and asking friends to borrow various things, but no action as of yet.  At least I know what I'm doing for a brooder, food, water, bedding, and heat--I just haven't done it yet.  I need to get moving.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Xbox Controller Cake

MC's birthday was last Tuesday.  He's such a great kid--not without flaws, but terrific nonetheless.  I love him.  No matter what.

I tell him he needs a hobby, and he tells me his hobby is playing Xbox.  What I really meant was that he needs a non-electronic hobby that he can do either by himself or with others, but it is true--Xbox is his hobby.  So when MC couldn't decide what kind of cake he wanted, I figured something Xboxy would be appropriate. 

One of the things he asked for for his birthday was an Xbox controller.  So I gave him one.  

First I baked two 9 x 13 cakes.  Funfetti, in case you were wondering.  I don't know if it was just a fluke (or because I actually greased and floured the pans instead of just spraying them), but the cakes turned out flat (rather than having domed centers) so I didn't have to trim them.  I stacked them on top of each other, with chocolate frosting in between, then cut the controller shape using a template I grabbed from here (I took a screenshot, then enlarged it to just fit on an 8.5x11" piece of paper).

To get the smooth, plastic-ish look, most people would use fondant, but I heated store-bought chocolate frosting in the microwave, 20-30 seconds at a time, until it was pourable.  I added black food coloring and stirred until the color was uniform.  Then I carefully poured the frosting over the cake.  I was not very careful while I was cutting, so the sides were a bit rough, and I also wasn't very concerned with how the sides looked, so I didn't do much smoothing after I poured the frosting.  If you are looking for smooth sides, I would recommend icing with a crumb coat first, before pouring, then smooth as you pour/after you pour.

The knobs and buttons were black fondant.  Hubby ate one and immediately affirmed and commended my choice to not cover the cake in the stuff.  I used toothpicks for support under the joysticks.  The colored buttons (the ones that actually should have been black with colored letters on them) are m&ms.  I about had a heart attack when it appeared there were zero yellow m&ms in my bag of m&ms.  Upon pouring out the whole bag, I found one.  One!  In the whole bag!  The silver circle with the black x was aluminum foil with black fondant on it.

I think he liked it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Menu plan for the week of April 17

I spring cleaned our pond this weekend.  It is always a bit scary stepping down into the unknown.  Especially since earthworms like to overwinter in the pond.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that there are earthworms that live their entire lives in our pond.  

You might be surprised to hear this, considering the prevailing wisdom that worms come up from underground during rainstorms because they would drown otherwise.  Allow me to direct your attention to episode 26 of Wild Kratts: Mystery of the Squirmy Wormy.

Wild Kratts is where I get my scientific animal knowledge these days.  The upside for a worm living its life underwater?  Fewer (are there any?) predators.  

Anyway, it's kind of hard to avoid stepping on worms when stepping into the pond in the spring when the bottom is obscured, and kind of hard to avoid stepping into the pond when one is cleaning it.  It's definitely got the eeewww and cringe factors going on.  I pulled up so many worms, y'all (and only stepped on a few with my bare feet).  And they were big.  Some of the biggest earthworms I've ever seen.  It's like our own little worm farm down there.  I am confident that I removed all of the adult worms, but I did see some egg cases down there that I didn't bother to scoop out, so I'm sure we'll have another bumper crop next spring.  You know, just in case you were hoping to go fishing.

Are you wondering what the worms eat while they're living in our pond?  Algae.  There is plenty of algae down there for them to eat.  Less now, of course, since I cleaned it, but plenty for the reduced number (0) that currently make the pond home.

And are you wondering what we're going to eat?  Well, here you go: here's what's on the menu this week.

  • Tuscan chicken sandwiches, rolls, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
  • Beef stroganoff, corn, bread with butter
  • Creamy chicken and wild rice soupbread bowls (to make bread bowls, roll out rounds of  dough, then drape them over something round and oven safe, like small oven-safe bowls turned up-side down, or crumpled balls of aluminum foil, then bake until done), carrots
  • Cheesy ham & potato casserole, green beans
  • Fend for yourself/leftovers
  • Hamburgers with or without buns, crinkle cut fries, raw veggies
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled green veggie
  • Hot beef sandwiches, rolls, salad, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots


Friday, April 14, 2017

Lenten Practice: week 6 1/2 update and wrap-up

As I mentioned in this post, I've committed, during the season of Lent, to finding 10 things a day, Monday through Friday, to get rid of.  I've posted updates every week throughout the process, and today I wanted to wrap up and say a few words about this project.

On Wednesday, I grabbed some cracked sand toys and broken sports cones out of the sandbox.  Total number of items: 12

On Thursday, (as I was putting laundry away), I got a little fed-up with Hubby's too-full and disorganized sock drawer (I'm sure he knew where everything was, but as the person who most often puts things away in that drawer, I felt a need to organize).  In the course of reorganizing it, I found some socks that had holes in them, so I threw them away (shh...don't tell Hubby).  Inspired, I decided it was finally time to throw out some of the older lost socks in my orphan sock basket.  I also threw away a pair of my socks that had a hole in them.  Total number of items: 14 holey and/or unmatched socks.

On Thursday night, I made a quick sweep of the house for any straggling clutter to count toward Friday, since this post will be published early Friday morning.  Amazingly enough, there still is some.  Total number of items: 47
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • another pair of holey socks (it hurt to toss this pair...but now I'll have room in my drawer when I finally find those cookie monster socks...)
  • 8 magazines
  • 29 coupon inserts
  • 4 random pieces of paper with random information written on them
  • noise maker--I don't know why someone at a school would give this obnoxious thing to my child as a reward, but they did, and I managed to hide it away long enough for him to forget about it
  • bracelet
  • keychain

Total this (half) week: 73

Six and a half week total: 634

When I started, I had doubts as to whether I'd be able to keep up.  I tend to declutter as I go.  If I come across something that is broken, or we don't use anymore, I throw it away or put it in the donate pile right then.  I knew I'd be able to find some things by digging deeper, but I was less than confident that these items would amount to 10 per day for the 33 weekdays of Lent.

As you know, if you've been reading along, I have found plenty of items, almost double the 330 to which I committed, most of which I had forgotten about (or my children had decided to put somewhere, anywhere, instead of throwing away--I'm looking at you, gum wrappers).  The commitment I made gave me the motivation to dig deeper than I usually go in my day-to-day life in search of clutter.  I even braved the storage room. It is amazing to me that we still, after all these years of constant evaluation and decluttering, have things that are no longer useful to us.

During this time, I also learned not to assume I know what's in a box, bag, or container.  There were many times when I thought I knew what was contained in something, and since those things were not things that I wanted to declutter, I didn't need to check those containers.  But I decided to check anyway--like the bag of pinecones that I thought was tulip bulbs.

I have to tell you, it wasn't easy, especially this last week.  I ran out of steam and enthusiasm for the project right around the time that I had achieved 330 items.  When you start a project, it's easy, because it's new and exciting, but finishing has never really been a strong point of mine.  I don't know how many times I have started a project and then stopped just short of completion.  It was important to me to see this through--to maintain the discipline for the prescribed amount of time.  I am so proud of myself for finishing.

So.  Life lessons learned through this year's Lenten practice?

Dig deeper.  Don't assume.  Never give up.

Happy Easter, y'all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lenten Practice Update: Week 6

As I mentioned in this post, I've committed, during the season of Lent, to finding 10 things a day, Monday through Friday, to get rid of.  Here's how I'm doing.

On Tuesday, I went through Bubby's toy box and set aside some toys that I thought Bubby might be willing to part with--I wanted to wait, though, until consulting with him.  So on Wednesday, I added those toys to the donate pile.  Total number of items: 12.

Thursday.  Yup, I finally made it into the storage room.  And I stayed there Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Didn't even have to dig too much, or make any difficult decisions.  Total number of items: 119
  • 1 snow bibs
  • 8 spring coats
  • 1 winter coat
  • baseball cleats
  • 3 pairs of shin guards
  • 8 winter hats
  • 9 pairs of mittens and gloves
  • 3 swim trunks
  • 3 pairs of sandals
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 20 small toys
  • 2 toothbrushes (in their packages)
  • fish tank stuff (the tank itself broke a couple of winters ago)
  • 2 Halloween buckets
  • 30 children's books

Total this week: 131

Six week total: 561

Monday, April 10, 2017

Menu plan for the week of April 10

Better late than never?  Can't talk now--gotta get started on supper. Here's what's on the menu this week:



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Chicken Vision Board

Well, it's official.  Yesterday I ordered chicks, and they'll be here in mid-May.  There's no turning back now.  Getting ready for chicks kind of reminds me of getting ready for a baby.  Except no one has offered to host a chick-shower for me, and for some reason, I'm a lot less confident in my ability to keep chicks alive... (that's messed up.  Children are a much bigger commitment than chickens, so why am I more worried about the chicks than I was about kids?  Or am I experiencing selective amnesia?)

We decided to get a mixed flock of five--mixed so we can easily tell them apart, five because then there's one for each of us (and heaven help us if something happens to one of them...).  Bubby helped research chicken breeds, making sure the ones we chose are good egg layers, have generally pleasant demeanors, and are cold-hardy.  And, of course, they had to be cute.  Here they are:

Barred Rock--
Sawblock says this one should be named Rocky 

Black Australorp
Bubby feels that Austro is a good name

Cinnamon Queen
MC says we should name her Toasty Crunch 
Easter Egger
This is the one Bubby says I should name.  I'm waiting until I meet her to decide, but I'm thinking something along the lines of Edith (Edie for short)

Rhode Island Red
AKD thinks Red is an appropriate name

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lenten Practice Update: Week 5

As I mentioned in this post, I've committed, during the season of Lent, to finding 10 things a day, Monday through Friday, to get rid of.  Here's how I'm doing.

Wednesday.  I'm running out of places to look for clutter, and I'm just not ready to go into the storage room yet, so this is a hodge-podge from all over the house.  Total number of items: 13
  • Bubby's outgrown PJ pants
  • Pair of socks
  • Spatula that doesn't really fit well in the space available to it.
  • 6 canned food items that we're not going to consume--these are all items that we purchased for a recipe that will never be prepared or that we got for free, and will either be donated to a food bank or shipped to unsuspecting friends and family via mystery shop.
  • Full size shave gel (that I got for free)--Hubby prefers shaving cream, so he'll never use this, and Sample size men's shower gel--none of the boys will use this--these will be donated to a shelter.
  • Open container of Mrs. Stewart's concentrated Liquid Bluing.  This is used to make white clothes look whiter.  I bought it for a science project, which I did, but then I saved the rest so I could make my white clothes look whiter.  Hasn't happened yet; probably not going to happen later.
  • Empty product container that I've been using to store things in the laundry room.  I repurposed another container that does not have brand markings and was able to recycle this one.

On Thursday, I finally cleaned and sorted our basket of bath toys.  It's been at least 2 years since anyone has taken a bath in our household (and that was probably me), so I think I can let most of these go.  I did save a couple of sentimental favorites.  Total number of items: 19 bath toys.

On Friday, I decided to brave the basement (not quite the storage room, but I'm getting closer) and go through our costume box.  Turns out pretty much all of the costumes are too small for anyone in the family.  Whoops.  Total number of items: 61 costume pieces.

On Monday, I went through the bin I refer to as the "weapon" bin (yes, I am mom to boys).  It's where the kids keep their swords, daggers, golf clubs, and hockey sticks, as well as some small soft balls.  Total number of items: 16
  • 6 pieces of trash
  • a toy dagger, plastic golf club, and toy hammer
  • 7 more canning rings that had fallen off the shelf (because the container was too full) where I keep them, behind some boxes.

On Tuesday, I was back in Bubby's bedroom, going through his "stuff" drawer, top of his dresser, and toy box.  Maybe next week I'll brave the storage room.  Total number of items: 25

  • 22 pieces of trash, including gum wrappers and broken toys
  • 3 toys

Total this week: 134

Five week total: 430 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Menu plan for the week of April 3

Happy April, y'all.  This morning Bubby mentioned that he has nine more weeks of school.  That sounds like such a small number!  But it's true--the 3rd nine-week quarter ended on Friday.  Uffda.

I have a super busy week this week--well, super busy Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday--so I'll get right to it.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Friday, March 31, 2017

I Am by Michele Cushatt: a Review

I Am is my favorite name for God.  To me it means that God is who and what God is regardless of our perceptions.  That means that while we may see God as loving, vengeful, neglectful, micro-managing, or compassionate, that doesn't necessarily mean those things are what God is. God just is, and God never changes.  And that is so comforting to me.

I'm in the process of reading I Am: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is by Michele Cushatt.  Ms. Cushatt's assertion is that we can know who we are, based on who God is and what God knows and says about us.  

Let's take a closer look at that story in Exodus 3.  The bush is on fire, but not burning up.  God calls to Moses to come near, but not too near and tells Moses to remove his shoes.  God tells Moses to go to Egypt to free God's people, and Moses says,
Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? (vs 11)
Who am I, Moses asks.  And you know how God answers him?  He doesn't, really.  God says,
I will be with you. (vs 12)
And a little later,
I AM WHO I AM. (vs 14)

The book is divided into six sections, each with 10 short, 3-5 page chapters.  Each chapter begins with a title and a short Bible passage pertaining to that title, followed by a relevant story from the author's life.  Each chapter also includes a pertinent quote, and a one paragraph section titled "Who Am I?" which draws the reader deeper into the topic.

I really like this book.  It is just what I need: a daily reminder that I am precious and loved, and that I am enough.  Each new chapter confirms what I know to be true: I am valuable, not because of anything I have said or done or thought, but just because God says I am.

Moses asks who am I, and God responds, "I AM."  It doesn't matter, really, who we are.  What matters is that God is.  What matters is who God says we are.  And what we are according to God is the subject of this book.  We are loved, we are known, we are accepted, we are filled, we are forgiven, we are enough.

I received this book for free through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Be Kind to Your Future Self and other tidbits

I like to listen to podcasts while I'm cooking and doing housework, and one of my favorites is Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  On one of the recent podcasts (click here to listen), she urged her listeners to be kind to their future selves.  What this means is to do something today that will make your future self happier or make her life easier.  So that could look like eating right and exercising today to avoid a host of medical problems years from now, or it could look like setting out your clothes for the next day the night before to avoid rushing in the morning.  It could look like putting things away where they belong so they're easy to find, or taking care of tools and equipment so they last longer.
For me personally, this looks like rinsing out the kitchen sink right away when I pour something in the garbage disposal, because it's so much easier to get the sink clean when the food is not dry and crusty.  I know that I will be happier later, when I don't have to scrub a crusty, dried-on mess.  It also looks like putting the toilet seat up or the lid down after I use the toilet in our hallway bathroom, because our boys can't be bothered to put the seat up before they use it.  I know that I will be much, much happier later when I don't have to wipe off the seat, or worse, sit down before realizing that the seat is wet*.

But mostly, being kind to my future self means keeping on top of small, everyday tasks that don't take long to accomplish, like washing the dishes each evening.  Whenever I don't feel like doing whatever it is, I remind myself that my future self will really appreciate that my current self accomplished that task.

Try it.  How can you be kind to your future self today?

Speaking of toilets, long time readers will be happy to know that we have replaced that toilet, and the new one works phenomenally.  The problem is, now we have a toilet in our garage, and Hubby is determined to use it for...something.  Maybe even more than one something.  He's talking about using toilet parts in our chicken coop.  Oh yes.  He's going to turn the tank into a waterer, and he's going to use the seat for the chicken (pop) door.
For all I know, he's going to try to figure out how to turn the bowl into a feeder.

Speaking of chicken coops, Hubby has fallen down the rabbit hole known as chicken coop design.

This is my favorite--the Wichita Cabin Coop
He's spending hours watching videos and consulting plans and taking measurements.  He's talking about how we can scrounge materials and use scraps we already have on hand (like toilet parts).  He's learning about what chickens need for their physical environment.  And he's enjoying it.  This coop might be here much sooner than we thought.

I failed to realize just how much Hubby would enjoy the planning and building process.  It was so considerate of me to provide him with this task that will enable him to do some of the things he is good at and enjoys, and it's so considerate of him to put his unique talents to work making something that will make me happy.  Thank you, Hubby.

Speaking of growing our own food, I think I'm going to pull the taps this weekend.  We did get a little more sap yesterday, probably about a gallon, and we're expecting temps to go slightly below freezing again today and tomorrow, but then looking at the forecast, I think we're done.  There are buds on the trees, and with all this warmth, it's only a matter of time before they pop open and the sap stays where it is.  I love the whole syrup-making process, so I am a little sad to see it end, but I am satisfied with our yield, and I know that it will be used.

And...I think that's all for now.


* You may wonder why I choose to put the seat up or the lid down  instead of insisting that my children put the seat up, then down.  Believe me, my friends, I have tried.  And I have decided that it will make me much happier to release that expectation than it will to continue to try to uphold it.  And yes, I do occasionally apologize under my breath to my future daughters in law.  I promise I will strongly encourage those boys to install urinals in their future homes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lenten Practice Update: Week 4

As I mentioned in this post, I've committed, during the season of Lent, to finding 10 things a day, Monday through Friday, to get rid of.  Here's how I'm doing.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I went through our hallway closet.  Total number of items: 25
  • 7 tubes of decorating icing--some of these tubes were clear, and the contents had separated, so I assumed they were all separated.
  • 4 plastic cake decorating tips--I replaced these with metal tips several years ago, but never got rid of these.
  • a bunch of mini-muffin liners that were flat--I rarely use liners in my mini-muffin cups, and these wouldn't have fit anymore anyway.
  • 3 cake/cookie/candy decor items that were looking a bit...not-so-good
  • 5th grade reading workbook--I think everyone is beyond 5th grade level now.
  • tablecloth
  • 2 vacuum tools and a vacuum bag that don't fit our current vacuum.
  • one lonesome glove
  • decorative flag
  • plastic hanger (the kind stores hang their clothing on)
  • 2 free samples--I never wanted these in the first place, but the sample site I requested them through wouldn't allow me to request just the one sample I wanted.  It made me sign up for all three in order to get that one.

On Thursday, I noticed that our dead CFL box was full, so on Friday, I took those to be recycled.  Check with home improvement and hardware stores in your area to see if they accept these.  Total number of items: 17 burned out compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

On Monday, I went through my dresser drawers and found some clothing to get rid of, including 7 pairs of socks.  Total number of items: 12

On Tuesday, I went through the clothes in my closet.  Total number of items: 10
  • 8 Pieces of clothing
  • 2 plastic hangers (the kind stores use to display clothes)

Total this week: 64
Four week total: 296

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Whatever You Say by Leigh Fleming: A Review

I was thrilled when our one of our friends from West Virginia, Leigh Fleming, sent me a pre-release copy of her new book: Whatever You Say: A Highland Springs Romance.

Whatever You Say is the second in Leigh's Whatever series, and will be released one week from today, on April 4.  The first in the series is Whatever You Call Me, published last year, and the third, Whatever We Are is anticipated to be released later this year (Mrs. Fleming has been busy and productive, my friends.  Click here to sign up for Leigh's newsletter).

While this book is part of a series, it definitely stands on its own, taking a minor character, Kate McNamara, from Whatever You Call Me, and exploring her story.  Kate is an ambitious young attorney, aspiring to be the best, and fighting for a deserved promotion to senior associate, when she hears the news that her grandmother has broken her leg. Kate rushes to Highland Springs to help her grandmother recover, all while trying to keep up with her heavy case-load back in Washington, D.C.  Kate is the quintessential young professional, who is too busy focusing on her career to even think about love.

Of course, this is a romance, so we need a handsome and slightly mysterious love interest for Kate: enter Brody, a successful songwriter, who has given up his music writing career and returned home to Highland Springs, where he delivers firewood to little old ladies and serves on the community center board.  Our heroine, driven career woman Kate, just can't figure Brody out, but as she gets to know him better her intrigue increases until she can't resist.

I really liked this book.  The characters were unique, likable, and memorable, but most of all, real.  They were multifaceted: human and flawed, but also wonderful--I found myself really falling in love with Kate and Brody, and rooting for them.  The story was well planned and executed, and while I pretty much guessed how the book would end (spoiler alert--it's a romance.  It's practically required that there be a happy ending), I had to keep reading to see how the story got there.  No, seriously.  I had to keep reading.  I finished the book in a day and a half.  Yup, it was that good.

On a personal note, I loved the setting in wild, wonderful West Virginia--Leigh's descriptions of rural West Virginia were so poignant and beautiful, and it brought back great memories.  And I really loved how Leigh incorporated names of her friends and family, many of whom I know personally, into the book (feel free to write me into your next one, Leigh :-) ).

Bottom line: a fun, lighthearted, can't-put-it-down read--perfect for the beach or cabin. Book candy. 

Thanks so much for inviting me to read your book, Leigh!  I am really looking forward to reading Whatever We Are, and wish you the best.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Menu plan for the week of March 27

Hi everyone.  So we tried the Trader Joe's Mandarin Chicken last week, and it was pretty good.  Two of us loved it, one of us liked it, if there wasn't too much sauce, one thought it was ok, and the other prefered the chicken tenders from Aldi (I think he would have liked it if it had no sauce, and since the sauce is packaged separately, that would have been doable).  Of course now I'm kind of afraid to try any of the other frozen entrees from TJ's, because Mandarin Chicken is supposedly the best they have.  I probably should have started with not-the-best.  Oh well.

I think the sap season is just about over.  I'm seeing just 3 days in the 15 day forecast that are predicted to fall below freezing, and those are all just below.  I've got three more gallons of sap ready to go, but I'm going to wait and see on those few days before I cook it. Whether or not we get more, I'm happy with this year's syrup production, at just over 2 quarts.  That's enough to give some away and still have some for me to use.  So...I guess I have to start pulling out all those maple-syrup-sweetened recipes.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Friday, March 24, 2017

This week in crazy dreams (3)

They're baaaaack!  Well, maybe not--only one dream this week, but it was definitely crazy.  For your reading pleasure, I present: this week's crazy dream.

I brought Hubby along with me on a mystery shopping assignment and it was going poorly. I was supposed to interact with four different employees in four different departments, but there were only two employees on the sales floor.  Even if there had been more, because of the small size of the store, it would have been extremely awkward for me to try to engage with four different people.

Just when I was thinking there was no way I could complete this assignment, I noticed 4 or 5 employees congregating near the back of the store. As I made my way over, more people kept joining the meeting until there were 9 or 10 of them.  Where had these people been hiding?!  When I was close enough to hear, they opened the door and stormed out angrily because they had all been fired.  Yup, all of them, which left this tall, pale, creepy looking guy who had missed a spot shaving as the lone employee/owner.

As Hubby and I left, me contemplating how I was going to write about that in my report, Chef Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible burst in to save the day.  I stepped in a puddle and saw the swarm of fired-employees on and around a red convertible in the parking lot, and they started singing, Grease-style.

John Travolta was so young...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Feeling homesteadish

I finished another 2 half pints of syrup the other day.  This is the first time that I've actually been able to keep accurate count of the number of gallons of sap I've cooked--always before it's been a best guess estimate.  So this time, I cooked 6 gallons of sap to yield about 2 cups of syrup.  Using that ratio, it would take around 48 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of syrup.  Not that we're going to make one gallon.  Nope.  I promised.  Only 2 3 quarts.

In other news, I've finally convinced myself that yes, I do want chickens, and yes, I'm willing to deal with all of the stuff that goes along with having chickens.  And by stuff, I mean more than chicken poop.  To that end, I've begun frequenting chicken keeping supply stores to get a feel for what kind of equipment I might want.  It was during one of those forays that I discovered that one can buy empty cardboard egg cartons at stores that sell chicken supplies.  The cost at my local store?  Forty-five cents each.  I bought a filled-up-with-eggs cardboard egg carton at my local discount grocery store for fifty-three cents the other day.  I'm saving my egg cartons.

Now, just because I am willing to deal with all the stuff, including poop, that goes along with having chickens, does not mean that Hubby is.  His part is actually pretty simple (but time consuming), and mostly on the front end: building the coop.  But he doesn't have time to build the coop.  Next year, he tells me (or actually, I might have a coop in the fall, ready for chicks next spring).

One of my boys jokingly asked me if I was going to start keeping bees too, now that I've pulled the trigger on the chickens.  Little did he know that, yes, I've considered bee keeping, too, especially after I discovered that this exists:
It's a gravity-assisted-harvest bee hive.  Because harvesting is the hardest part, in my opinion.  Squee!

Guess I'd better start saving...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lenten Practice Update: Week 3

As I mentioned in this post, I've committed, during the season of Lent, to finding 10 things a day, Monday through Friday, to get rid of.  Here's how I'm doing.

On Wednesday, I went through the boys' bathroom.  I was absolutely shocked to see the number of medications we had that were expired.  Total number of items: 17
  • Pair of holey boots (these were sitting on the boot dryer over the register--why did I put them on the boot dryer rather than throwing them away in the first place?  Don't know)
  • 13 expired over the counter and prescription meds (our community has a drug take-back program, so I dropped mine off on Thursday.  Click here for information on safely disposing of unused medications)
  • 3 bath toys

On Thursday, I looked around the laundry room for some clutter.  Total number of items: 11
  • 2 pencil nubs not worth sharpening anymore
  • 2 dried up dry erase markers
  • 2 expired coupons
  • Empty bug spray bottle
  • Empty sun screen bottle
  • Huge paper valentine
  • Hat that I don't wear anymore
  • Mittens that I don't wear anymore

On Friday, I continued looking for clutter in the mud room.  Total number of items: 11
  • Empty seed packet
  • Discarded clothing tag
  • Pair of worn out gloves
  • 2 gloves without mates
  • one pair of fleece gloves no one wants
  • 3 winter hats no one wants
  • one poor abandoned flip flop
  • one red plastic thing (no one knows what it is--it's probably not important...)

On Monday evening, I was hanging out with AKD while he cleaned his bike, and I organized the shelves out in the garage that I think of as "my" shelves, because it's mostly my stuff on them.  Total number of items: 17
  • 2 broken sprayer nozzles (no worries, we still have three (count 'em, three) that are not broken)
  • 7 unmatched, holey, or too-small garden gloves
  • 2 pairs of ice skates (these are being donated to Bubby's school)
  • pair of rollerblades
  • 2 almost empty bottles of chemicals
  • a handful of potting soil (technically, I kept this, since I threw it out in the yard, but it's out of the house!)
  • an old iPad screen protector (this was the surprise of the day--no idea why it was out there)
  • a paper grocery bag of at least 2 dozen pinecones that I was saving for a project. 1) I can get new pinecones if I decide to do the project.  It is like they grow on trees, and 2) I had forgotten that they were even there, so if I did decide to do the project, I would have gone out and collected new ones anyway.

On Tuesday, I collected some worn out and extra sheet sets and towels.  If you have old towels or blankets you're looking to get rid of, check with your local Humane Society or animal shelter.  I also found a few other miscellaneous items.  Total number of items: 13

  • 2 sets of sheets
  • 2 single sheets
  • 2 random pillowcases
  • 3 hand towels
  • 3 wash cloths
  • picture frame
  • 4 toys 

Total this week: 69
Three week total: 232

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Uncluttering my inbox

Y'all know I'm uncluttering my house during Lent, but what I haven't shared is that I'm also uncluttering my email inbox.  Like a lot of people, I use my email inbox as sort of a to-do list.  Each email in my inbox represents a task I need to accomplish or something I need to remember.  Admittedly, this works well for lots of people.  For me though?  Not so much.

I know folks who routinely keep 100 or more emails in their inboxes.  Mine was consistently around 30 or 40, and it was overwhelming.  See, the problem is, while each of the emails represents something I need to do or remember, it's not always readily apparent from the subject just what that is.  So in order to access my "to-do" list, I need to read the emails.  When there are 30 to 40 emails to sift through, and I need to read each of them every time I want to figure out why I'm saving each one, and if I still need to save it, that wastes a lot of time.  And then there was the constant low-level anxiety because I was always afraid I was forgetting about something--I would lose important emails in the noise of dozens of less important ones.

Image Source
So I set a goal to keep my email inbox to 5 or fewer read emails.  Remember that guy, who is probably a professional at something?  You know, the one who says if a task will take you 2 minutes or less you should do it right away?  Yeah.  I'm doing that now, at least with regard to my email inbox.

So now, if I get an email that tells me the date for something, I put it on my calendar and delete the email.  Right then.  If I get an email receipt for an online purchase, or a notice for a bill that's paid automatically, I make a note of the amount, then delete the email, right then--if I need the details, I can look them up online.  If I get an email telling me that my order has shipped, I keep it until the package arrives, then delete it.  If I get an email from some company that I don't want to hear from, I unsubscribe and delete.  Right then.  If I get an email, the subject of which I need to discuss with someone, I make a note on our whiteboard that I need to talk to that person, and then I delete the email.  Right then.  Unless, of course, I need to send a response.

If I get an email that I want to be able to refer back to in the future (like travel plans), but that I don't want cluttering my inbox, I will forward the email to myself, changing the subject to something that will remind me what the email is about.  My email program is set to automatically save a copy of all sent emails, and then when I need to reference that particular email, I can use the search function to easily find it in my sent folder.

It's been working so far, and I am pleased.  My inbox has stayed below 5 emails since I started this project.  I feel so.much.better not having all of those read emails hanging over my head, taunting me.

How about you?  How many emails are in your inbox right now?  Does that number bother you?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Menu plan for the week of March 20

Happy spring, everyone!  We put away the snowblower yesterday, so I guess we're finally conceding on this supposed winter.  It's all good, though.  There are so many great reasons to love spring--I'm starting to translate amorphous wishes to specific garden plans (AKD wants cucumbers and sugar snap peas this year... Actually I should probably get started on the peas, since they like cooler weather).  And, of course, there's the sap.  The only unfortunate thing about spring is the fact that it means the hot is coming.

I went to TJ's last week.  I had dark chocolate peanut butter cups in my hand, but then I decided to go for something with maybe a little less sugar, and a lot more protein.  Every time I've asked my friends or googled, "what should I buy at Trader Joe's," Mandarin Orange Chicken has come up.  Every single time.  In fact, Mandarin Orange Chicken won favorite overall in Trader Joe's 2016 Customer Choice Awards.  So I had to buy it.  And we're eating it this week.  Let's see if the food lives up to the hype.  And I'll just have to try those dark chocolate peanut butter cups next month--they won favorite candy, after all.



Friday, March 17, 2017

No crazy dreams this week

Hi friends.  No crazy dreams for you this week.  I am aware of having dreamed this week, but I couldn't remember any of them after waking up (except that I know one of them took place at church), so they must not have been too crazy.  I know you're disappointed, but the crazy dreams are definitely cyclical for me, so I'm sure they'll be back.

In the meantime, the sap is running again.  I guess it's fairly typical to have several distinct sap runs in one season, as the temperatures fluctuate, but since that didn't happen the first time we made syrup, it seems foreign to me.  I have to say that, after navigating through my initial surprise, I am enjoying this drawn-out, stop and go sap season.  It's nice to be able to take significant breaks in the sap-cooking schedule without having to worry about the sap piling up.  As I mentioned, I finished six half pints, plus a little extra, last week (halfway to my goal) and I'm eager to get back to work soon.

In other news, Bubby and I went out on Wednesday after school to check the taps, just in case.  The temperature Wednesday popped above freezing briefly, so although we didn't think the sap would be running, we wanted to make sure.

As we were walking from front to back, somehow the subject of chickens came up, and Bubby made it clear that he really, really wants our family to have chickens.  I'm not certain why he wants chickens--I do know he wants a pet, and maybe he's latched on to chickens as the pet most likely to be parent-approved.  He even offered to give me all his money so we could get chickens, AND offered to help take care of them, so you know he's serious.

As you may know, I occasionally chicken-sit for friends.  It's fun and all, and I love hanging with the girls, but I just haven't been ready to get some of my own.  After Bubby's announcement, I started doing a little more rigorous research into the costs involved.  Once the flock is established, costs are minimal, but start-up is pretty steep.  Not as steep as getting, say, a pedigreed dog, but definitely more involved than getting a goldfish.

I want a flock of chickens and all of their supplies, including a coop, to drop from the sky, fully formed.  I don't want to have to order chicks in the mail and drop everything to pick them up at the post office.  I don't want to have to keep them under a heat lamp, worry about them getting sick, or pooping in their food or drowning in their water.  I don't want to have to worry about the transition from brooder to coop, or deal with the first weird, malformed eggs.  I don't want to have to worry about rodents infesting the coop or predators eating my chickens.  I don't want to have to deal with spilled food and frozen water.  I don't want to have to decide what to do with the hens when they stop laying.  I just want adult hens to magically appear and start laying eggs, and continue to lay eggs in good health until they are taken up into heaven a la Elijah.

If I am going to have chickens, I want the universe to super-duper pinky promise me that the experience will be problem-free.  I cannot deal with any more yuckiness than what is already present in my world.


We seem to be heading that way, toward owning chickens.  It seems inevitable that we'll have some someday.  I just don't think I'm ready yet.  So I remain ambivalent.

Happy "Everybody's Irish" Day from me, Gardening Without Skills, and this weird caped chicken.
photo credit

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