Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby Birds, Hallucinatory Dessert, Holiday Goal Setting

Oh, the CUTENESS!! I am just about to die. Baby birds practice their songs in their head while sleeping. Baby birds! Practicing! Baby bird tweets! and chirps!

(There is also some interesting ideas about memory and learning in that article, but I am pretty distracted right now with the cuteness of it all.)


I love birds, bird songs and bird watching. Anyone else? (Vicki - are you still scared of birds? That was you, right?)

My great-grandmother always said I had an old soul. I think she was right.


It only snowed about 2-3 inches over the weekend but it has been below -15 degrees outside all weekend. There still hasn't been any W _ _D to speak of, so the snow has stayed put and isn't melting away. Also, the cold is totally bearable without the W _ _ D.

The town I live in doesn't plow (I KNOW, RIDICULOUS. It is not as if snow is a rarity around here.), so all the snow has been driven on and is packed down tight. This morning, it looked like I was driving on white fondant icing. It even felt like it a little, kind of solid but creamy. It looks like the entire town has been wrapped in the smooth, flawless icing. Walking to work was like walking in a winter wonderland! It is awesome (but slick).


I am sooooo behind on Christmas stuff. New goal: send out-of-town gifts to UPS by Tuesday after work and get cards in the mail by Wednesday. Cookies? Oh, man. Baked and ready to deliver by Friday.

Man, I am going to be POOPED by the weekend.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

W _ _ DY

I cannot believe I am about to type this, but I am kind of glad winter has arrived.


Before you accuse my of losing my mind, I should explain that some unusual circumstances have brought about this reluctant (and noncommittal) change of heart. First, we have had a warm, drawn-out autumn. We never have weather like that. Ever. Usually, fall lasts all of three days and winter arrives and stays for eight, maybe nine long months. This leisurely fall has given me time to get accustomed to the idea of winter. It doesn't seem as scary. Still scary, just not as scary. The difference is sublte, but important.

Also -- and this is probably the most influential factor in my gracious attitude toward this winter season -- there really has not been any (Oh, do I dare type it?) W _ _ D to speak of. (Don't say it out loud! Please! You will jinx us back into our normal, howling 40+ MPH W _ _ D! Please, for the love of all that is sweet and pure, for bunnies and kitties and unicorns, DO NOT SAY THAT WORD OUT LOUD.)

Sure, there was that one day of 45+ MPH W_ _ D with gusts up to 70 MPH. But that was only ONE DAY. Usually, circumstances are flipped. Usually, there is ONE DAY of calm throughout all of winter. People come outsides in droves, so freakin' sick with cabin fever (W _ _ D Fever?) that they jump at the chance to be outside. So much energy gets freed up when you don't have to lean into the W _ _ D that you just feel like leaping around for the hell of it. Because you can. Every pup in town gets an extra walk on that day because it is just so damn nice to be outside.

So, if this is what winter could look like, not as an exception but as the rule, I could definitely get into the season. It is pleasant to be outside, even if it is only 11ºF outside. Who knew? I certainly did not.

Yep, wherever we live next has to be relatively W _ _ D-free. What a difference.

Oh, man. It STILL is not W _ _DY. Holy cow!

Remember - don't say the word out loud! Please! My sanity depends on it.

Monday, December 8, 2008


A. just finished his last presentation for the semester. He has one more class and he is officially done with his dual-masters.


I guess this means I really need to finish The Thesis From Hell by May, now, doesn't it?



I am really stressed over the logistics of Christmas this year. A. and I will be driving to Sioux Falls, SD with the dogs, where they will promptly be abandoned at this really great doggie jail. For three days. This will only be their second stint in jail and I am pretty stressed about how they will handle it for three whole days! But it is an awesome place, so I feel confident they will be in good hands.

But. We have to be in Sioux Falls no later than 6:00 p.m. on the 23rd or the kennel won't take the dogs. Um, that means there can be no funny weather. No delays of any sort.  If we are late, we have to figure out what to do with the dogs for the entire trip. Having the dogs with us will probably really stress out my stepmom, and, thus,I would feel like shit the entire trip. So!

No worries there, traveling through Wyoming and South Dakota in December!!! Everything is sure to work out just fine.


I totally thought I was on top of the Christmas shopping, but then I remembered two entire sets of grandparents. How rotten of a person am I? I FORGOT MY GRANDPARENTS. Geez.


I am hoping a night curled up by the fire (yay! curled up by the fire!!) writing Christmas cards and baking cookies will chase away this Grinchy Anxiety and bring in some Christmas Cheer.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Five

Updated to add the following video. Holy cow. It is both horrifying and THE MOST HEARTWARMING THING I'VE EVER SEEN.

I have had it with the stupid Glade commercials where the woman tries to conceal that she bought regular candles by lying, telling her friends they are expensive "boutique" candles and her bitchy friends gleefully calling her out on it. The commentary on women, female friendships and status infuriates the living hell right out of me.

2. I don't suggest substituting Johnny Walker for Jack Daniel's in a whiskey sour. Gross. I should have known better.

3. Tonight I intend to curl up a hot cup of Russian Tea* (or Spiced Tea**)and a mountain of cookbooks and determine which cookies I will be baking over the next week for my holiday cookie gift bags. I am so anxious to just go home and get started! The Cookie Action Plan needs to be finalized! I love this planning stage as much as I love the baking stage. So. fun.

4. I nearly have my Christmas Card List updated and ready to go. Thanks to the VERY GENEROUS gift from the Petty Bureaucrat last year that still makes me all warm and fuzzy and teary-eyed from the sheer thoughtfulness of it, I will not exceed my Stamp Budget.

5. Winter hadn't really arrived here until this week. Last week I was too warm wearing a sweatshirt -- without a coat -- outside and last night it got down to -20ºF. Good times.

The wood stove is AWESOME. I cannot explain how much more comfortable we are now, all warm and toasty. I am so very grateful that A. and I had the the monetary and logistical resources to install the stove.

I cannot help but think of folks who are not as fortunate as A. and I and who are struggling to keep warm.
I'd like to encourage you one more time to look up your state LIHEAP office, whether for your sake of for the sake of someone you know. Please don't hesitate to share this information with someone who might need it. It is scary, for whatever reason, to acknowledge that we or someone else needs help. Corny as this is going to sound, you may be a blessing in someone's life if you share this info.

Qualifying incomes have increased so more people than ever can qualify for heating assistance. Also, it is possible that even if utilities are included in rent that people can still recieve assistance. The landlord or manager who handles the actual utility bills needs to be involved, but I believe it is only one set of paperwork they need to fill out. It will not be a monthly commitment to paperwork by the property owner.

Warm Friday wishes to you!

* Russian Tea Mix

1 cup instant tea powder
2 cups orange-flavored drink mix (e.g. Tang)
1 (3 ounce) package powdered lemonade mix
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine instant tea powder, orange drink mix, lemonade powder, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Mix thoroughly. Store in a sealed jar.
To use, mix 3 to 4 tablespoons of mix with 1 cup hot or cold water. Adjust to taste.

** My friend, Bibliodiva, makes her Spiced Tea with a smidge different proportions and ground ginger. It is super yummy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Catching Up; Also: Invaluable Info for All Pet Owners has been busy around here. I won't bore you with all the details, just some of my favorites.


My co-worker's replacement started a couple of weeks ago and she is delightful. (Except she slurps her soup when she eats at her desk. Aaaacccckkkk.) She is nearly self-directed already, and I am finally getting to my own projects. I am really, really behind and I have an anxious tummy, but I am crossing things off my weekly punch list and that makes me feel better.


Just a few short moments ago, I caught a potentially very bad boo-boo on a printer's proof. I feel crappy I sent the file to the printer that way but I suppose I should feel better that I caught it before it was printed 33,000 times. Yes? Goodness, I am so fucking relieved that I can start to actually FOCUS on MY WORK again. Damn.


I went hunting with A. again last weekend. We saw a lot of deer, but they were all outside of his range. We stalked one herd for nearly a mile and a half before losing them.

I actually had a lot of fun out there with A. Of course, we didn't come home with a dead deer. I might have felt differently about things if it had been a "successful" hunt.

A. and I got along so well out there. I got to see A. in his element. I saw how much he admires and respects these creatures, the land. I am unabashedly proud of him. He is a good, good man.

I learned a lot. I learned that there is a simultaneously a lot of hard work and sitting around involved in hunting. I learned I can only tolerate a few minutes of staring out of a scope before I get antsy and bored. I learned that I can, indeed, fall asleep and take a nap totally unprotected, lying on dirt, rocks and yes, deer poop. I learned that deer look a helluva lot like sagebrush. I learned that the term "stotting" (when the deer do that graceful bouncy thing). I learned that they cover a lot of ground by stotting, and that the maneauver is not solely for my delight. I learned that those huge, adorable ears of a deer are a great defense mechanism and that I am not very good at remembering to whisper. I learned how to read a BLM map (though not very well). I learned that A. knows that country very, very well and that his relationship with it is fierce.

I made a real effort not to complain, even when I was uncomfortable. Fortunately, the weather cooperated during both trips and though last weekend was cold, it wasn't wet or snowy or muddy or freezing. A. helped me climb down a really steep little ditch because he remembered that shit makes me freak out a bit, and I belly crawled through dirt and deer poop when necessary because I remembered that it was important to A. that a hunt be done properly. No wusses allowed.

All in all, it was a really wonderful experience. I am truly honored and touched that A. asked me to join him, in this particular area of land especially.


Hunting season ended with sunset on Saturday, so we got to spend all of Sunday hanging out with A.'s family. It was a lovely, laid-back kind of weekend. No nieces or nephews were there, so it was quiet and relaxed.

It was one of the best weekends of my life.


That, in spite of the fact that Belle got herself sprayed by a skunk at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night. I'd let the dogs out for one last potty before bedtime. Why? WHY? Why couldn't I just take my chances and see if they'd wake me up in the middle of the night? WHY?

The idiots were outside for all of two minutes, but Belle still managed to get herself into a pickle. When I went to let them in, Buster came trotting right back in. Belle, however, didn't. I could hear her rustling around in some leaves, out of sight. I figured she found something. I started over toward her. Before I got to her she bolted right past me, into the house.

It wasn't until she'd passed me and was already inside that I caught a whiff of skunk. The realization was swift. And horrible. OH, NO. And that damn dog was already inside A.'s mom's house!


I caught the little shit before she could start squirming around on the carpet, spreading the stench. I had her back outside in 10 seconds, but boy, 10 seconds was enough to make that house reek for two days. (Saturday night we all went to a concert at a local high school and everyone around us was commenting on how they smelled a skunk. The stench permeated all of our coats. My purse has to be trashed. Horrid. Also, totally hilarious. We are the skunk people!) While I was holding her and trying to clean her up with vinegar I really thought my eyes were going to melt out of my head.

A. found the following homemade recipe online, and you guys, it took that skunk oil right out of Belle's coat. She only faintly smells of skunk now, and only when you rub her on the neck where she got sprayed. This recipe is pure gold. PURE GOLD.

Skunk Odor Removal Home Remedy

  • 3% Hydrogen Peroxide - 1 Quart
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 Cup
  • Liquid Dish Soap - 2 Teaspoons

  1. Begin by mixing the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and liquid dish soap.
  2. Immediately massage the skunk odor removal solution into the dog or cat's fur and skin. [Don't give your pet a full bath at this point. All you will do is spread the skunk oil throughout their entire coat. Try and just clean the affected areas.]
  3. Continue to work the skunk odor remedy into the pet's fur, as would be done with shampoo.
  4. After ten minutes, thoroughly rinse the solution from the pet's fur using running water.
  5. If the odor remains, repeat steps 1 through 4 again. Hydrogen Perixide might discolor the fur of your pet.

You are welcome. Gold, you guys! Pure gold!


A. would be so disappointed if I forgot to mention that we sat next to Wilfred Brimley when we stopped in this itsy-bitsy town for lunch on Saturday, just a few miles north of where we were hunting. He will forever remember us as The Skunk People, as we still smelled from the night before.

Good times! when we went into this

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Five

1.  Work still sucks. A lot. I am truly not being paid enough.

2. I rocked our monthly household budget this month. Big time!

3.  As a result, I have already purchased Christmas gifts for both names I drew in A.’s family, A.’s mom, and two out of three of my co-workers. 

4. Normally I purchase my next year’s holiday cards right after Christmas, when cards are on sale for 50–75% off. This is the only way I can afford my Holiday Card Habit. Last year, however, I was ice-fishing with someone, and missed all the sales.

Two weeks ago, I found really pretty holiday cards online and on sale. Normally, they were $20 per box of 16 cards. They were on sale for $1 per box! I am all set for under $10. They arrived earlier this week and they even look great! Woo hoo!

5. I, um, am going hunting with A. this weekend.


The last time I went “hunting” I was a little girl and it was with my dad. These “hunting” trips consisted of my sisters and I getting dressed from head to toe in hunter orange, heading up to the mountains with my dad, running around all batshit crazy until we were exhausted, eating chili that was cooked over the fire, and heading home.

My dad’s rifle never came out of the sleeve.

This is how I imagine one goes “hunting.”

A. has our course – our ON FOOT course – all mapped out on Google Earth. There is much strategy and sneakiness involved, and not much riding in the truck.

My feet already hurt.

Also, I am really nervous I am going to cry like a blubbering idiot if A. does kill a deer. Also, I am afraid I am going to puke when confronted with all of the activities that follow a successful shot.

Oh, my.

Happy Friday – and HALLOWEEN! – to you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How Was Your Tuesday?

This was my Tuesday:

Work sucked the very life out of me.


I tried to bring it back with a dinner of Totino's Pizza Rolls (damn, you Tessie!), Ben and Jerry's FroYo Cherry Garcia, and a Whiskey Sour with two maraschino cherries.


It didn't work. All I got was a tummy ache.


I was reminded by this lovely lady that a life of gratitude is a life full of gifts.


I am grateful to and for her.


Too bad I keep forgetting about the time difference every. single. time. I attempt to call her. I am sure she does not believe me when I say I adore her.


I voted! Whoo!!!!!


A. was away at his study group so I got to crush on Steve Martin during his interview on the Daily Show without any teasing. It was awesome.


I swear I will get my shit together soon and write a real post. These "snippets" can only be fun for you for so long, yes?

How was your Tuesday?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

To Each Their Own

So, while baking cookies (Peanut Butter Crunchies!) tonight, I got sucked into the 17 and Counting show. The family fascinates me.  I am amazed by the sheer organization of the family, but am also genuinely, equally attracted to, and horrified by, their strong, strict religious views.

The eldest boy, 20-year-old J-something, "proposed" to a young lady (after asking for her hand in marriage from her father, to make sure it was a legit transaction. Ahem.) Apparently they don't date until they are engaged. It is the "path of courtship." They only date the person they are convince they are supposed to marry. They feel pretty strongly that God has arranged all of this and they just needed to be open to his wishes. But this is what I found the most awkward - they aren't even allowed to kiss until their wedding day.

The prohibited kiss made the whole proposal and giddiness of the two lovebirds very, very awkward. I felt bad for them.  It just all felt so -- anticlimantic. (Also - they kept telling each other how much they loved each other, and they had chaperones with them at all times. Whoa.)

They can hold hands, however. And they pretty much strangled each other's fingers in lust/frustration.

But, congrats. If this is truly the path these kids have chosen with honest discernment and entirely of their own volition, without coercion or pressure, then I wish them only blessings and happiness in their life together. I am not being snarky. I mean it.

I, however, am off to give A. a good night kiss [wink, wink] clear the hell out of wedlock.

To each their own.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Five

1. Last night A. and I had my friend, G. (the one I haven't seen in nine years!), over for dinner. It was so fun to spend the night catching up, telling stories and laughing heartily. I hadn't thought about that suburban that caught on fire in years.

2. We've decided to get one more cord of wood this weekend, while the weather is supposed to be nice. I will feel more confident that we have enough to get through the winter after this weekend, though we've already cut, chopped and stacked all the wood we have. The idea of having to do that yet again leaves me in a poopy mood.

3. I am itching to try knitting again. You knitters out there: Do you have any easy, fun patterns for beginners? I have a couple, but I think I'd stick to a pattern I know one you like with much more gusto.

4.a. As I pulled up the lane to the house last night after work, NPR played this story about Rachel Maddow. You guys! She is awesome. (I hope she starts getting more sleep, though.) I was so tickled that I couldn't pull myself away from the radio long enough to run into the house and turn on the stereo, so I sat in my car. I had a "driveway moment!"

4.b. Are any of you members of your local NPR station? A. and I are, and I have to say, I love it.

5. This afternoon I will run to the county courthouse to cast my absentee ballot. I will be traveling for work on Election Day. I am SO DISAPPOINTED that I won't be home to have friends over and watch the results come in with John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. [SNIFF]

Instead, I will be surrounded by colleagues and will have to 1) keep 99% of my opinions to myself and 2) BEHAVE.

So. Boring.

A., however, is looking forward to the peace that will prevail in my absence.

Happy Friday to you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Do Not Have a Sore Throat

I DO NOT have a sore throat.


Yay, Tampa Bay Rays!!!!


I DO NOT have a sore throat.


I have an ever-increasing crush on Rachel Maddow. I don't get the MSNBC channel, so every night I get online to watch her show. She's so smart! And funny! And cute!

I mean, look at how poised, collected, and even polite she was when dickhead, former Bush speechwriter, David Frum made an asinine attack:

Adorable, yes?


While discussing a November print project with my boss, I wrote on my face with my pen. NO, I DON'T KNOW WHY I DID THIS. My hopes the raise will come through? A tad deflated.


Actually, I had my pen in my hand and tried to tuck my hair behind my ear and managed to write on my forehead. I still look like a bonehead.


Sunday night was SO FUN. I made spaghetti from scratch while A. whipped up an awesome marinade for last night's moose steaks. (Turned out yummy, but a bit spicy.) All the while, the Red Sox/Tampa Bay game played in the living room and the dogs wrestled all happy like.


I DO NOT have a sore throat.


A very dear friend, whom I haven't seen in nine years or so, surprised me at my office yesterday. SO. THRILLED. I am meeting him for drinks tonight.


A. came home from hunting this weekend with an antelope. Woo hoo!


I have a sore throat. Dammit.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I made homemade roasted tomato soup, Autumn Sausage casserole, and Crazy Cake this weekend. Fall is here, and it is time to nest!


It has been snowing lightly all evening. It isn't sticking, but there is the smell of snow and chimneys in the air.


A. and I spent the afternoon chopping and stacking the remaining firewood. We've fired the stove most of the day, and we are toasty warm. We are ready for winter.


A. and I arrived home a couple of hours ago from a "going away" party at my boss's place in honor of my (former) co-worker. I miss him a lot. I don't think I realized just how much of a friend he'd become over the past two years.

I guess I am going to have to start taking lunch hours so I can drag him out to lunch to catch up.


AP, the partner of my best friend, DPR, turned 30 today. Freakin' BABY. So young! He and I caught up with each other on the phone for a bit tonight, and truly my soul is content and light. AP is simply one of the most genuine, loyal and adorable people in the whole world.

Everyone should have someone like AP in their lives.


AP is trying - very hard - to convince me to move A. and I closer to he and DPR when A. graduates. It might be working. At least on me. Hee hee.


The dogs have 3/4 of the couch, I am smooshed into the remaining 1/4 and A. has been relegated to the rocking chair.



I just brewed a lovely cup of tea, Apricot Ginger Black Tea from Good Earth Teas. It is yummy. I usually drink the original Sweet and Spicy tea by Good Earth, but this sounded like a lovely autumn tea. I do love the Sweet and Spicy tea. A very dear friend, a wonderful graphic designer in DC recommended it to me and I've never turned back. Plus, I think of her every time I brew it.


I am warm, cozy, blessed and happy.

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Five

1. We are expected to get 1 - 4 inches of snow this weekend.

2. Yes, snow. Bye-bye, Summer, you shy, finicky motherfucker!

3. Some of the nicknames I've had over the years include:

  • Shorty (so original!)
  • Freckles
  • Spitfire
  • Stressa
  • T-Rex (my favorite)

4. From the above list, you can accurately deduce that I am a short, freckled ball of stress who can get mighty pissy and doesn't generally like to get pushed around.

5. I used to be one helluva firecracker, but have toned that shit down over the last few years. I miss it. So what if my foot routinely found itself in my mouth? Ha! Small price to pay for having confidence and speaking my mind.

The sole of my shoe is looking mighty tasty. I am tired of being quiet.

Look out!

Happy Friday to you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Last weekend, A. and I went up toward the northern part of the state to visit his family. His younger sister and her little boy and six-week-old daughter were there from Santa Fe, as well as his older sister and her two kids so it was kind of a mini reunion. The brand new baby was pretty darn sweet, and the other niece and two nephews were a handful. It was fun and crazy and full and tiring and just right.

The dogs always do really, really well around the kids even though they aren't around them that often. Their tails get stepped on and their ears get tugged and they pretty much just sit there, hanging out. Belle always investigates when a baby is crying. I don't know if it is out of concern or curiosity. She sniffs the baby with her ears perked up, and then sits close by. At one point, during one of her swift runs around the 50 acres of A.'s parent's place, Belle whizzed by Little M. It was a pretty close fly-by, but she did take care not to tackle him. I was pretty proud of them for being such gentle dummies. (Watching Belle run as fast as she can, with absolute grace and -- I swear -- a smile on her face, is one of my favorite things in the whole world. Really, it makes my heart soar.)

But it was an exhausting weekend for A., myself and the dogs! A. and I certainly are not used to the schedule and chaos and noise and constant need for attention that accompanies kids. We both dove right in, though, as we figured it is only a few days and maybe we could ease the burden from his siblings for a few minutes at a time. But, by the end of the long weekend we were ready to head back to our quiet little lives.

And so were the dogs. They were ready to go, and they did not necessarily feel like waiting for us to get going.

(They hopped in there entirely of their own volition.)
(Also: look at those bat ears!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Goodness

Enter here for a chance to win a free handbag from Handbag planet! This Friday is looking up, don't you think?

Friday Five and Them Some

[It is Thursday night, but I thought I'd get a jump on this.]

1. Often, I will walk into the house after work to find that some king of ball game, currently baseball but it depends on the season, will be playing on the TV and a baseball game will be on the radio, both at the same volume. A. will listen to both programs simultaneously in this fashion.

I have fight of the urge to just let go and let the schizophrenia take over in these instances. How does he do this? I have no idea.

2. I just finished the last disc of the first season of Brothers and Sisters . My friend AGR has been urging me to see the show for some time, and HOLY SHIT, AM I EVER HOOKED. Do you think I will be able to find the entire second series at the local shop and be able to watch it before the third season premier on Sunday? (I don't have the Tivo set up yet, so if I miss Sunday, I really will miss Sunday's episode. *gasp*)

I have a raging headache, however, from ALL THE CRYING. I blame Sally Field.

3. Dear Lord, how does Sally Field do it? She knows just how to twist my heart into a mess.  The scene at the cemetery in Steele Magnolias still makes me cry -- the kind of sobbing that is accompanied with copious amounts of snot, an incurable stuffy, red nose and a headache for three hours afterward -- even though I've seen that movie no less than 40 times. (I am not exaggerating.)

4. Once, I've even tried to make "Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa."  It turned out weird. (Check out what I found while Googling the recipe! There is an Armadillo cake in there, too!)

5. I can't re-train myself to only use one space after a period.  It is IMPOSSIBLE. Maybe I'll have to deliberately type a sentence over and over again until it finally sticks?

Bonus: I am having a harder and harder time resisting poking my eyes out at every mention of Gov. Sarah Palin. In any context. WTF!?!?!?!
Happy Friday to you!

Double Bonus: A. is hunting right now -- alone. Please keep his safety (and my resultant nervous tummy!) in your thoughts/prayers/well wishes/karmic exchange.  Thanks!

Oh, Hell! Here is number Eight: I posted a request to borrow New Moon on my local Freecycle site and DIDN'T GET A SINGLE OFFER. I am still disappointed.  I feel like if you've read the series, you would understand the angish of having to wait for oodles of holds at the public library to get the next book in the series and thusly you would JUMP to help a neighbor out! Would you? Wouldn't you? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Thank you for your words of encouragement. They have meant a lot and have helped keep me from spiraling into a worthless sea of self-pity.

Things have been looking -- balanced. I am really glad I didn't flip off The Universe. Hooray for good karma!


I had a decidedly British-themed breakfast this morning. I found some British-style baked beans in the store last week and have been obnoxiously daydreaming about them every since.

I need to get out more.

I warmed up some of the beans and spread them over (homemade!) toast to accompany the tomato I roasted. Beans and toast! Roasted tomatoes for breakfast! I considered having a cup of PG tea as well, but decided against it. I really needed jet fuel coffee, instead.

I didn't enjoy the vast majority of food when I lived in England, but they know how to make a breakfast that will stick with you through the morning.


A. and I picked up the truck last Friday afternoon. The mechanic was able to re-thread the problem section and we didn't need to replace the catalytic converter. Then, totally unprovoked, the mechanic offered to cover labor if we paid for the new oxygen sensor. That certainly sounded fair to me. Fair, and generous. The bill came in at one tenth of what we had anticipated. Thank goodness.

We have also managed to narrow the difference between what our insurance company will cover for the new roof and the actual cost to the point that I can eek this last project out. Whew.

I am ready to say "bye, bye!" to September.


Over the weekend, I mentioned to A. how unfortunate it was that the set up of my organization makes it pretty much impossible to get promoted, or to really position myself for a decent raise. I've been feeling like I've hit a plateau, and I need to re-energize myself to get through the next year (We won't be looking for new jobs until May, when A. graduates.) My organization is housed within the university infrastructure, and it is ridiculously complicated to "move up."


It took me three unsuccessful tries to spell "plateau" before I finally had to cheat and use Firefox's spelling suggestions. I am losing my touch.


First thing Monday morning, my co-worker announced he took another position on campus. He doesn't necessarily want to leave our program, but the opportunities for advancement, promotions and raises are EXTREMELY limited, if they exist at all.He needs to do what is best for his family right now.

I am a bit panicked about having to cover his position (that he does SO WELL, by the way) until we hire someone to replace him, (who, I am already sure, won't be nearly as competent as he is), but mostly I am just really sad to see him go. I've never worked with anyone so generous and patient, competent and motivated and with such a fantastic sense of humor. He and I spend a great deal of our days together, and it will be difficult to say goodbye. But, I wish him only the best.


I had 14 -- yes, 14 -- different print projects in production during the month of September. It was brutal.

I met every last deadline.

*fist pump in the air!*

Happy Wednesday to you!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Well Wishes

To Jess and Torsten:

May you share your dreams with each other, encourage each other to pursue them, and grow together in love, respect and grace for the rest of your lives.

All the best!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Five: Purging Freak-out Edition

1. Have you heard those deep, rumbling waves of booming noise in the sky lately? The Universe has had a great belly laugh at my and A.'s expense lately.  I am trying really, really hard not to give it the finger.

On our first trip to get firewood the chainsaw didn't work properly.  Hell, it just didn't work. It refused to idle, and the pull cord refused to retract after three or four pulls. We spent most of the day taking apart the chainsaw, re-wrapping the pull cord, putting it back together, trying to get it to start, then trying to keep it running long enough to cut a damn tree. VERY. FRUSTRATING.

We returned the chainsaw and replaced it.

On our second trip, the new chainsaw worked much better, though it had some trouble idling at 9,000 feet. Totally understandable! Everything is hard to do when there is no damn oxygen in the atmosphere.

We finally started to make progress when a huge storm appeared directly over us, out of nowhere. Lightening struck, more than once, within a few hundred feet of us and hail the size of marbles came down in angry torrents. Thankfully, we were near the truck and could wait it out while safe and dry. When the storm finally passed, we hauled the tree we had just downed before the sudden hail to the truck in two inches of hail and mud. It wasn't fun trying to keep from breaking my neck, sliding around on mud and ice, all the while catching my feet and rolling my ankles on all the uneven ground, covered in downed limbs.

When we drove down the mountain, not even a quarter of a mile away, all was dry. The storm, it seemed, hovered directly over us and where we were working. NICE.

We did find a great spot on our way down the mountain and hauled in two more trees, so at least the day ended on a positive note. A. and I had even managed to keep our spirits up throughout the day.

On our third trip, we never made it to the camp site or to any trees before the truck broke down. A 30-mile tow to the nearest town, a week and a half in a tiny town shop and $800 later, we brought the gas guzzling, money pit truck home. On the way, we filled the bed with about a half a cord of wood.  We still didn't have enough for the full winter, so we decided to go up again the next day.

As we got ready to head out for what we hoped was our final haul of wood the oxygen sensor in the truck went kaput.

The truck is back in the shop. We may have to replace the entire catalytic converter. The one we replaced in March. For $700.  (If the garage, the one who replaced the catalytic converter in the first place, tries to charge us for a second one in six months, I really think I am going to SNAP. In fact, I've been calling around town to a couple of garages that longtime residents recommended and getting quotes. Why the hell would I have the same garage do this? A. is nervous I will really let it rip with the current mechanic and his concern is not unfounded.)

I am very, very near the end of my rope, folks.

So much for a carefully planned budget with the damn wood stove!! Ha, ha! At this rate, it will pay for itself in three to four years, and we may not have enough wood for the entire winter to boot.

*shaking my fist at The Universe*

I really am trying to focus on the positive little gems that have surfaced in all of this, too. Maybe it isn't so much positive things as thinking about how much worse things could have been. We could have really been stuck for days in the mountains, it could all be costing us $3,000 instead of $1,500. We could have been without the resources to break free of propane heat this winter. At any moment, A. could have cut  his arm off with the chainsaw or I could have been struck by lightening.

We are lucky!

See? Positive thinking.

There has been a great little happy gem, though. A friend of mine from college found me on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. He will be in town later in October and I am absolutely thrilled to see him. It has been at least eight years since I've seen him. I've always (not so) secretly harbored the fantasy that he is my long lost brother. Wooooooo hooooooo!!!

2. I haven't been sleeping well and I haven't been able to concentrate at work. Simply put, there isn't room in our current financial situation for this bullshit. The money isn't there. I suppose it doesn't get any simpler or more complicated than that.

3. Last night, while lying in bed wide awake, I completely rearranged our finances and think I've found a way out of this. It is not ideal by any stretch but will see us through and will just have to do. I am able to concentrate again.

4. I haven't felt like posting because all I've been doing lately is stressing out and worrying about money.  Thinking about where I've been and where I am now. (Have I mentioned leaving a well-paying job to become a poor-as-dirt grad student was one of the hardest things I've done?) Where I hope to be, where A. and I are working to get to. (Is that not the most hideous sentence ever? I am too worn out to fix it. Sorry.) Who wants to read about that? And, hell, I don't really want to write about it, don't really want to share this situation with anyone. I don't want to feel like I have to defend myself, explain the choices A. and I have made. I don't want to fight the urge to plea with you to understand that we take special care to make sound financial choices. Because we really do, and I hope you understand that. I wrestle with my pride and my (righteous?) anger. None of this is really what I want to say, it doesn't capture the depth and breadth of the arguments I run through in my mind. But, it is there, as unexpected and unsavory as a sudden upset stomach. There you have it.

5. I find I am relieved I did post this. As unstructured and poorly-written as it is. I should move on to chapter two of The Thesis while I am on such a roll!

I am not ready to tell The Universe to go to hell. Not yet, anyway.

Happy Friday to you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Beans and Toast

Last night, I baked two loaves of whole-wheat bread and the house smelled absolutely divine. I have been longing to bake bread all summer, and it is finally been cool enough the past week or so to fire up the oven.

All evening, while waiting for the dough to rise and A. was in the back room studying for class, I ran the second season DVD of Footballers' Wives. My best friend, JelBel, and I got hooked on the series when I lived in England, and the rainy, cool days have made me nostalgic for the UK. A. periodically wandered through the kitchen and made fun of the accents. I love that trashy crap! If you are hunting for a new guilty pleasure, I highly recommend the series.

I forgot how much I missed the following words and phrases:

"for fuck's sake,"
"piss off"
"in the post"
"this is a load of shit"

Also, I nearly forgot my crush on Ian Wright. He has nothing to do with Footballers' Wives, but A. always makes fun of his accent as I swoon watching him on Globe Trekker. (I LOVE THAT SHOW.)

I picked up the last word, "loads," while I lived in Birmingham, England. A. says I still use it, to this day, as in "I had loads of wine last night." Which I did, incidentally.

Also, Ian is a whiny piece of poo and Tanya Turner is a genius.

I think beans and toast for breakfast are in order for the rest of the week.


At one point, A. came in and paused the DVD for a bit to flip the TV to the local PBS channel so I could watch the final 20 minutes of The Natural History of the Chicken.


Long live Liza!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Doggies, Stoves, Baseball, Babies and the Undead

I was really pleased with myself last night. I remembered to pick up my copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer that was on hold at the public library.  So many folks in my Reader have been talking about how this book takes over their lives that I thought it would be the perfect thing to keep me from working on The Thesis.

Boy, I hit the jackpot.

I curled up in bed with the book at 9:30 p.m. last night. The first time it occurred to me to put the book down and go to sleep was over 200 pages later at 1:00 a.m.

My ass? It is dragging.


A., myself, A.'s parents and his older sister, K. and her 2-year-old daughter, S. spent the weekend in Denver watching the Rockies/Astros series. SO. FUN.

A.'s family stayed with us on Friday before we headed to Denver. (A. and I went to Denver Friday night and drove back home. It really was the best thing to do, logistically.)  My dogs woke A.'s niece, S., up in the middle of Friday night with wet noses and doggie kisses. They were wondering who was in the guest bedroom, and they snuck in there to find out, the little shits. This, apparently, delighted her like nothing else the entire weekend. All Saturday morning she chased them around, put her hand up to their mouths and said, "kisses? kisses?" When we returned home from Denver on Sunday night, she walked into my living room, looked up at me and went, "Where's Belle?" She wanted more kisses. I told her the dogs were outside and she ran to the back window to see them and proceeded to chatter at them through the window until it was time to hit the road again.

A.'s niece, S. is hilarious. She is fearless. (Except she has a complete melt down whenever her mom is away. Hoping she'll grow out of that!) She will try anything, including any kind of food. She learned how to dip ciabatta bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar this trip. She loved it! She also took her first ride on public transportation! Yay, public transportation! I may have taken a ridiculous number of photos of her on the light rail. I was so proud! I am really hoping the experience molds her in some way to be a huge advocate for public transit. We will have to wait and see, I suppose.

A.'s cousin plays for the Astros, so we were in Denver to cheer him on. It was hard not to cheer outright for my beloved Rockies, but Houston has a shot at the wild card and it would be great to see A.'s cousin have another go in the post-season, and possibly the World Series. He's played in one World Series before -- and they won! He hasn't been with the Astros for long.

I am not going to say outright who he is because 1) I've never asked him if I could mention him here; and 2)it would make this half-assed anonymous blog suddenly quarter-assed anonymous. Besides, it will be fun to sprinkle little tid-bits in here and see if you can figure it out! If you think you know who it is, e-mail me your guess and I'll let you know if you are correct or not. Please don't leave any guesses in the comments, though. Shauna at Pickles and Dimes guessed who he was with only a couple of clues. Think you can match that?

A.'s cousin played in both the first two games, and played well. He didn't play in the final game, but came in as a pinch hitter. He hit the tying RBI and was then brought in for the winning run! I was horse throughout Monday I'd been cheering so loud on Sunday.

We met his cousin's little ones. (Most family gatherings are in the summer, and they can't make it, obviously.) His daughter is three and his son is 10 month old. So chubby and adorable and I immediately understood why people threaten to eat babies. (I don't go ga ga over babies. I am telling you, he was ADORABLE.) He was getting tired and a little fussy and he was doing that thing where he just snuggled into his grandpa's neck? You know what I am talking about? *melt* He kept fussing, so Grandma gave him his little blankie. I am not exaggerating when I say that the instant he touched his blankie he sighed and cooed and was generally the happiest, most contented baby in the stadium that night. Even A. went, "awwwww...."

This probably sounds boring as hell, but damn, I loved being around the family all weekend.


It has already been getting chilly. Last week most of the highs were in the 50s and we've had at least five nights dipping into the 30s. A. hasn't hesitated to start a fire in the new stove. We are getting better at figuring out how to fire it so it is efficient, but so far it has always burned clean. Woohoo!

I started my first fire last night! Woo hoo! And holy cow, that thing is WARM. We haven't even run it long or very hot and the entire house has been plenty warm. Winter doesn't look so scary. For us. So, I've decided to volunteer to help get the information about the heat assistance program out to my neighbors and some low-income neighborhoods in town.


A. talked to the mechanic yesterday. The truck started fine and ran for ages. Of course. We couldn't,t get it started for days! (Oh, Universe. You are funny.) The mechanic said the fuel pump was getting really, really hot and that was the only thing he could think of that was causing the problems. We are having it replaced. Hopefully we will be back in the mountains getting our last couple of cords of wood this weekend.

I am considering driving the car, too. Just in case. A. thinks I am being ridiculous. I think I am making sure we get home again. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


A. and I packed the truck for camping, fly-fishing and gathering one last haul of firewood over the weekend and hit the road shortly after work on Friday night.

Before we left, we finalized our plans to meet our friends MG and Little A. at the campground; they were to arrive late, around 1:00 a.m.

It was such a fun drive. It was a glorious night. It was a new moon so the stars were as brilliant as I’d ever seen. The air was cool and heavy with the scent of late summer. A. and I had a lengthy and animated conversation about McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin for his VP candidate. A. was even getting into it. He discussed her foreign policy experience (or utter lack thereof) and we both shared our concerns than ANWR is going to be opened up to drilling. We both talked about how impressed we were with Sen. Biden. It was fun for me because A. usually lasts three minutes in these conversations. So the twenty minutes or so of politic-talk seemed really special. We chatted about our grandparents, and I went on and on about my great-grandma and how awesome and ornery she was, as is my way.  We pulled over to see if a truck pulling a large trailer needed help. They declined; they pulled over to avoid overheating is all. We were relaxed and engaged. I’d dare say we fell a little bit more in love with each other. It was one of those kinds of conversations, you know?

Then the truck started having trouble shifting while going uphill. We both thought it was the oxygen sensor, as we'd had trouble with it before and the truck behaved similarly.  Then, nine miles from the nearest town and two miles from the top of the mountain (where there was a smidge of hope of getting cell phone service) the truck died.

A. tried to maneuver it off the road while going uphill without any power steering. We were stuck half on, half off the highway on the inside corner of a blind bend in the dark.


Things could have been worse. The truck and trailer could have been loaded with a couple thousand pounds of wood. It could have been raining or hailing. The dogs could have had diarrhea or upset tummies. We could have already been in our campsite, two miles off the highway down a steep, narrow and rutted road. We could have not told anyone where we were going.

We were really, really lucky.

But it was still a pain in the ass.

A. unhooked the trailer rolled it until he found a side road to store it, about a quarter of a mile down the hill. He chained and locked it to a tree so it would be easy to pick up but hopefully hard to steal. A fellow (total stranger to us) from our hometown happened to stop by and pulled us about 100 feet up the hill to a pull-off so we were off the road. Then he took A. to the top of the mountain and A. was fortunate enough to reach our friends MG and Little A. on their cell phones. I kept my morbid crazy-mountain-murderer fantasies at bay. A. told MG where to find our spare key to the car and he swung by the house on his way through and brought the car up for us. The folks we stopped for earlier dropped of their trailer and drove back to see if we needed help and offered to let us stay in their cabin just up the road. We declined, but were warmer inside from the hospitality shown us from all these strangers. MG and Little A. arrived around 2:30 a.m. with our car, happy to help. 

Like I said, we were really, really fortunate.

And while I kept insisting we were actually really lucky that things worked out so well, The Universe decided to toss us a little bit more crap at 2:30 a.m., just to test my optimistic resolve. (The fucker.) The spare car key doesn't have the button doohickeys, so you can't unlock all of the doors at once. While I was fiddling with a passenger side door, A.'s friend reached in through the open window to unlock the doors to help me out.

Now I know that trying to unlock the vehicle from inside will cause the alarm to go off. Now I know that I have an alarm. Now I know that a car horn sounding every two seconds for two minutes will cause my dogs to howl incessantly.

After searching frantically through my owner’s manual to figure out how to turn the damn thing off, MG gave up and unhooked my car’s battery.  Later, during the drive back home, I found the instructions on how to disarm the alarm. It wasn’t under “alarm,” “anti-theft,” “theft,” “disarm,” or “horn.” It was under “radio.” Because obviously the only reason to have a car alarm in the first place and the only situation in which it would go off is in the event of an attempted radio theft. Obviously.

We were snuggled into our own bed by 4:30 a.m., safe and sound.

Yesterday we had the truck towed to a little town 30 miles from where we were stuck and the mechanic is working on it. We aren’t looking forward to this bill at all, but then, who does?

I would have loved for everything to work out as planned last weekend, but I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant missing the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers alike.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Five

1. I am utterly, totally sleep-deprived. Between the Olympics and the DNC, I have spent entirely too much time glued to the TV lately.

But - I loved the convention. I am heartbroken I couldn't be there (Denver is only 2.5 hours away. So close! Yet, so far away.). I loved that "women's issues" were presented (rightly so) as more than just the conversation around abortion, but the right to better and equal pay, safety from violence, reliable access to effective health care and better schools. A tad more encompassing, seeing as how women are a bit more complicated than simply having uteruses. Nice.

And though I really wish someone would make a more concrete stand for gay rights, I like that, at the very least, equal access to "heteronormative" rights for gays and lesbians was brought up and brought up often. Smacks a bit too much of "separate but equal" but at least the battle is moving forward and is in the public, and out of the closet. 
Oh, and check this out! Biden not only uses public transportation every day, he loves and fights for it! *crush*

I am going to watch a bit of the RNC, but will have to meditate beforehand and remind myself over and over to listen and to try and control my legendary disbelief and anger whenever I hear something from the Official Repbulican Machine. NPR did a story yesterday about what RNC delegates adopted as the official RNC platform and holy shit - I was frothing at the mouth. Really?! I doubt McCain will campaign on some of the issues because as much as I dislike him, I don't think he is actually that crazy. He is not actually Cheney. I know and love many Republicans and can respect
some of the party's positions, but The Machine just about kills me. I mean, really????!!!!

(I love to follow politics, so be warned, there will be rants and exclamations popping up here for the next couple of months. I will be respectful -- and feel free to respectfully point out to me if I forget that promise -- but I won't kowtow to anyone. Feel free to comment if you like, but I'll delete any comments that are cruel, rude, or attack me or anyone else commenting on this site. Just saying.)

2. A. and I now have seven healthy, happy nieces and nephews! A.'s little sister, B., delivered C. a week ago Wednesday. As B., puts it, it "was a very comfortable labor," Wha...? She is a better woman than I, clearly. And - Little C. is the second of only two nieces and I am rather antsy to start spoiling her rotten.

3. A snippet of an exchange between A. and I one morning lst week:

[A., was watching this awesome, awesome show on the History channel called Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed while I puttered around the kitchen, getting ready for work.]

A.: Man, these commentors on the show are really getting into a lot of philosophical conversations about Star Wars. This is so cool.

Me: This is the kind of thing you do in American Studies. I swear, you should go into American Studies. You'd be so good at it.

A.: Oh, you missed it. The folks on the show were talking about how weird it was to [interview? do a panel with, I don't remember because I am old] with Stephen Colbert becasue it is weird to see him as him self, not as Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report.

Me: Oh! I bet it would be strange. In a weird way, I expect him to be in character all the time. I think of it as a character, and that he would be in character but I, oddly, think he would be in it all the time.

A.: Yeah, I know. Right after they talked about this I flipped to the Comedy Channel during a commercial and the Colbert Report was on. It was weird.

Me: Who says postmodernism is dead?

A.: Exactly.

I am with the perfect man. A casual chit chat about Colbert and postmodernism and Star Wars, all before breakfast? AWESOME.

4. I've had the same coffee travel mug for 14 years. It may be time for a new one. The adorable local kitchen store has a cute stainless steel one with a yogi in the Tree Pose on it. It has occupied my mind for, oh, the last three months. I think I really want it.

5. A. and I are meeting another couple in the mountains tonight. We are going to go fly-fishing (woo hoo!!!) for the first day, and then will spend the second day harvesting wood, mostly dead aspens. It should be a great weekend! The dogs are going to have a blast.

Happy Friday to you!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Feeling Squirmy

Three times in the past two weeks, my belly button ring has gotten SERIOUSLY snagged on my belt buckle.


Each time, the ring snagged when I was bent over doing something. Once, while gathering firewood, it got so snagged I COULDN'T STAND UPRIGHT. The latest incident was this morning.

Oh, god. The pulling. The pulling!!!



So, I am taking the damn thing out. I've had it for 12 years and the only time I even remember it is there is when I snag it. It was a silly college thing and I've been over it for about 11 years. I've just been too lazy to deal with it. It was a small miracle I went through with getting it in the first place.  The idea of or actual sensation of pulling skin freaks me out to no end and I've been know to pass out at the mere sight of needles.

This morning, while I practiced meditative, calming breathing A. tried to unscrew the ball so he could take it out, but to no avail. I think I am going to have to go to a parlor and have it removed. (It is still the original captive bead ring.) Every web site I've seen recommends going to a parlor or having your own pair of ring opening pliers.

Dear, God.

My belly button feels weird.

Oh, God. I can't get the sensation of pulling skin to go away. I am feeling a little sick.

Do you have any youthful piercings or tatoos you wish you could remove?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Awwww . . .

If you are having a bummer of a day, I nearly guarantee this will cheer you up.

Keep Going

Holy cow, Hillary was amazing.

One of many favorite snippets from her speech last night:

My mother was born before women could vote. But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President.

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

How do we give this country back to them?

By following the example of a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.

And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they're shouting after you, keep going.

Don't ever stop. Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.

Indeed, keep going.

Have you watched any of the DNC? What do you think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Warm, Passionate Hearts

Last Thursday A. and I had this wood-burning stove installed. It looks soooo lovely. Cozy! Cute! Brand-spankin'-new! It sits at the joining of our kitchen and living room, just teasing us. I find that I am almost -- ALMOST -- looking forward to winter. (Oh, who am I kidding? I am looking forward to a long, mild fall and short, short, short winter.)

It seems like it has been an absurdly long process to get this stove. Neither A. nor I can agree on who's idea it was to get the stove in the first place. He insists I brought it up, but two weeks ago I found a wood stove catalog (stamped with the same company's info that we did buy our stove from) that was more than a few years old in the bookcase in the office. As in, this little publication has been in A.'s life longer than I have. So, perhaps this was one of those decisions that manifested itself in simultaneous little whispers to both mine and A.'s subconscious brains. Who knows?

I suppose I am most to blame for how many days this decision took from our lives. I really wanted to know I was doing the best possible thing for our family's finances, you know? I developed spreadsheets that estimated the total cost of the purchase, taking care to think of all those other costs that come with it such as installation, accompanying materials for the stove (chainsaw, trailer for the truck, trailer permit, fireplace accessories, fuel for trips to the mountains, firewood permits, etc. A. thought of the cost of a spare tire for the trailer. Go, A.!). Then, I created three other rows to compare costs. One row if propane prices stayed exactly the same as they did last fall and winter (which I am certain they won't); one row estimating costs increasing by 30% from last year's prices; and a final row estimating if costs go up by 70% from last year. (The state energy adviser estimates winter energy costs to go up 30-70% in our state. Holy hell, OUCH.) At worst, the entire cost of the stove will be pay for itself in just over two years, at best, by next fall. 

Well, these scenarios are best and worst for us. It will definitely be worse for our neighbors, our friends, and low-income members of our community if prices increase so dramatically that our not-so-little purchase pays for itself quickly. While I'd love the satisfaction of knowing I made a wise financial decision my stomach would be sick for all the people truly struggling through the winter.  I hope it takes years for the stove to start earning us savings.

The stove, no doubt, will increase the quality of our days and nights throughout the long, long winter ahead. With A. in grad school and what he calls my insistence to work in the oh-so-high paying fields working for society's unfortunate, money is tight in our household. (He likes to joke (or say with pride?) that even if I do ever decide to go to law school, I'll probably still choose a practice that represents poor people, and hence still won't make any money. His observations is not unfounded.)

During the winter, we keep our thermostat at 60°F. Sometimes, to take the chill off a particularly harrowing walk from the car to the house in 40-mile-an-hour winds with razor sharp snow freezing any area of exposed skin, we might turn it up to 65°F for 15 minutes or so. I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to being much, much warmer this winter. I would be lying if I said I can't wait to see what this season's colors will be in the long underwear line. I'd be lying if I said I love pulling my "inside scarf" -- a Burberry knock-off that looks EXACTLY like this one -- around my neck and pairing it with my neon lime-green fleece vest, that nothing makes me feel cozier than bundling up to deal with the temperature inside my house.

A. immediately started to daydream about romantic nights when the electricity goes out, cuddling in front of the fire, candles burning and an open bottle of wine breathing on the table.

I am a pragmatist, he is a romantic. Apparently.

I would be lying if I said I don't get anxious every time I hear the heater kick on in February, wondering if there is any way I can make the propane last through March. Propane costs are less in late summer than  in the middle of winter, when demand -- and desperation -- are at their highest. We always fill up our tank in August, and then try to carefully ration our usage throughout the winter. It is a truly apprehensive thought, knowing you are utterly and completely at the mercy of a company out to make a profit. This idea is what dwells in my mind throughout February and March, darkening everything else with its sad, sad implications.

So, this wood stove makes me feel like I can fight back a bit. That I am not quite as powerless as I was last winter. That A. and I stand a fighting chance.  That I can finally say, "Fuck you, Amerigas!" and be able to back it up.

I like knowing that A. and I are responsible -- or have reclaimed some of the power, if you will -- in how we feel this winter. It makes going to the mountains to get firewood feel like a revolutionary act, in a way. With each blow of the splitting maul, we get to deliver a blow to unregulated industry. It feels that way, when the cost of a barrel of oil is directly related to the cost of heating your home. Plus, it is pretty nice to have an excuse to run around the mountains.

Our firewood adventures aren't all rainbows and unicorns and bunnies, of course. There is often much swearing going on, and a constant battle with the f'ing chainsaw. (Our latest theory is that it has a hard time with the low oxygen at high-altitude. We will stay below 9,000 ft from now on and see if that eliminates some of the battles.) Plus, moving and loading and chopping all that wood is HARD FUCKING WORK.

But, the work feels . . . honest.

This may all sound very melodramatic and such, and hey -- it's me writing so it may well be just a tad over the top. You might rightfully accuse me of over-romanticizing the experience in the mountains, the work at the house splitting wood. But I am acknowledging that it is still work, and that it requires different kinds of resources to make it happen. We are fortunate enough to be able to afford to make this happen. We could buy the stove outright with some of our savings. We could buy the trailer, doubling the efficiency of our trips to the mountains. We can afford -- painfully -- the gas required to take the truck. It would be an entirely different situation if we didn't have these resources, or have friends and family that could afford to share these kinds of resources. The line between our circumstances and the worse circumstances is thin. We could very well find ourselves navigating beauracratic labyrinths, trying to secure other resources. It would be lonely and frightening, and it would be so very hard to claw a way out.

We are fortunate. We will be warm.


If anyone reading this anticipates trouble with heating costs this winter or if you know someone who might, please, please don't hesitate to inquire about the energy assistance programsin your state. Most programs offer assistance from October through March, (but you can sign up now, I believe) and will even retroactively help pay for months that you weren't registered. In my state, officials expect there to be plenty of aid, so don't let the fear that their won't be enough aid to go around stop you from applying. Please don't be too proud to ask for help. Programs like these are tools to help you get through difficult times that are out of your control. It is a resource. Just as are federally-backed mortgages, financial aid for college...  Please consider assistance if you need it.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Egg Timers and Espionage

I knew Julia Child was involved with the Office of Strategic Services as a research assistant during World War II, but I had always read that her being an actual spy during WWII was just a rumor.

Turns out, Julia KICKED ASS.

You have no idea how much more this endears her to my heart. Fois gras AND a spy! Wow. Truly, here is a woman who did what she wanted. If she was ever afraid -- whether it was to learn to cook, to be on live television, or that she'd be caught by her enemy -- she never gave in to her fears. She pushed on and made the life she wanted.

What a wonderful role model. (I think so, anyway.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Great Decluttering: Weeks Two, Three and Four

  • I have a pile of 20 books between A. and I that need to be sold/donated/freecycled.

I want it noted, for all prosperity on The Internet, that 17 of these books are mine. Those of you who know me in "real" life understand what a big deal this is for me. Also? Two of the three books A. contributed are western romances or some shit that he *claims* he has no idea how they got on his bookshelf. Yeah, right.

  • Terra Cotta Bird House - Artemisia
  • One flower vase - Artemisia
  • One computer keyboard - A.
  • Extra 32-ounce empty yogurt tubs - Artemisia
  • All miscellaneous paperwork/junk mail from living room, front entrance table, and kitchen - Artemisia

  • A friend of ours is moving to the Midwest and A. took a mini-fridge off his hands. DAMMIT.


Man, Oh man, how I love Freecycle. I have given away so much stuff, totally usable, presentable stuff as well as  used (and cleaned) 32-ounce yogurt tubs.  I love that it is less hassle to get rid of stuff through Freecycle than trying to deal with our overwhelmed Salvation Army. The SA ends up throwing a lot of donations into the landfill. With Freecycle, I can at least hope that my items find a second use and avoid the landfill.

The only problem with Freecycle, for me, is coordinating the pick-up of my items up for grabs. The standard procedure for our local Freecycle group is for whomever is collecting the items up for grabs is responsible for picking them up (the donator does not deliver).  Since A. and I live seven miles out of town, leaving stuff on our front deck for folks to pick up on their own time doesn't really work. (Not to mention, our place is notoriously hard to find and I'd spend my evening on the phone, reiterating directions.) I am trying to figure out a good place to either meet people or drop my stuff off so as to avoid driving around town. It is not so free if I use up all the gas in my tank. I don't want people showing up at Workplace, that seems both tacky and inappropriate. I've suggested meeting in the parking lot of a restaurant that is in town and that I drive by on my way in to work or on my way home. That seems to work for most people. 

Do you have any other suggestions?

Since I am still dedicated to The Great Decluttering, I just ignore the posts listing free stuff. If A. and I decide there is something specific we are in need of, I'll just keep my eyes open.

I have no intention, whatsover, to show A. how to get these notices himself. No, no, no.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Five

1. Daily ins and outs around here lately have been -- busy.

2. Projects that have been completed, are underway, or are being planned that have made life busy for A. and I:
  • budgeted, in excruciating detail, the cost of buying and installing a wood-burning stove rather than remaining solely at the mercy of The Propane Motherfuckers all winter;
  • moved money around accounts to pay for said stove; 
  • researched, then bought a CHAINSAW;
  • researched, then bought a trailer;
  • bought fencing materials;
  • put up 3/4 of the fence;
  • bought more fencing materials;
  • finished fence;
  • Choosing stain for new fence;
  • Finding a good evening to stain the fence;
  • Scheduled insurance adjuster to see if we had hail damage to the roof and found out that we do, indeed, have major hail damage and need a new roof;
  • Pursue estimates from SEVEN different contractors to fix the roof and some siding;
  • dealing with copious amounts of INFURIATING paperwork form homeowner's insurance company;
  • Buy and install new storm door on front porch; and
  • collect estimates to rent machinery and buy gravel to redo lane out to the house.
3. Surprises that have made the list above even more stressful than average:
  • Final estimate for the stove came in $800 over the original estimate. Throws off my entire "it will pay for itself in two years easily" argument and I am now doing something known as "fuzzy math" to make it all work. and here I thought I'd never have anything in common with President Dodo!
  • The insurance company will only cover cost of replacing roof less the cost of our deductible (ok, I get that) as well as less its depreciation. Huh? Since it is being replaced for hail damage -- as clearly stated on the claim -- how old the roof is should be irrelevant, yes? Has anyone else heard of this?
  • So, it appears as though I will be reading and then re-reading our policy and anything else I can get my hands on to prepare for a fight with Foremost Insurance. (Yep - I am naming them. Fuckers.)
4. I've had a headache for about two weeks now and it won't go away. I think this hideous Friday Fave Otherwise Known as The Mundane and Ridiculous List that Won't End is causing it. I hope I don't have to amend Section 3:1-4 with anything else.
5. Needless to say, I've been a huge Stressball and yelled at A. for no good reason. He definitely didn't deserve that. So, I feel like an asshole on top of everything else.
Bonus: This weekend, A. and I are going up to the mountains to get wood for our More Expensive Than Previously Thought Wood Stove. I've never done this. Should be a shitload of work. I hope A. doesn't down a tree in my direction, but I wouldn't blame him if he did.
Happy Friday to you!