Thursday, September 20, 2012

My teachers taut me well.

You guys know I like to read. I love it, in fact. I read a lot, and sometimes I come across a misspelled word or badly patched sentence where you can tell the editor just dozed off or had a personal emergency mid-reading. Usually I can sail right on past it without much confusion because generally a reader can guess what ought to be there, and editors can be forgiven for one little mistake in a three-hundred page book. Of course if it happens more than once I start to question the editor's competency. Most people can't edit their own work. We have blind spots. If I didn't have spell-check enabled I'd make more typing mistakes than I care to admit, and I'd probably only notice and correct half of them during a proofreading. That's why we have editors and proofreaders, and we hold them in high esteem because they're smart and they help us present our best writing to the world. Right?

Maybe not. I think I've lost faith in editors. I seem to have found one working at the subsidiary of a huge publishing company who doesn't know the difference between taught and taut. The wrong word was used three times in two books of a trilogy, and context couldn't have been clearer - the author meant 'tight'. If it happens in the third book I'm going to mail the editor a dictionary.

I realize most US writers are writing for US readers whose average reading level falls between eighth and ninth grade (source - PDF). I get that editors have to tweak writing for this audience and that they are probably overworked and underpaid just like the rest of us. Still, I thought an eighth grade student (and therefore most literate adults which should include the author, the editor, and the proposed audience) would know the meaning of the word 'taught', which would mean that if they read the sentence 'I pulled the string taught' they'd know it was nonsensical, even if they didn't know that there was a homophone spelled 'taut' that meant 'tight'. I guess I'm giving eighth graders (and editors) too much credit.

I'd like to take a moment to thank my dad (who read to me when I was tiny), my teachers (who encouraged me to read and write, and were always right when they marked up my papers), and the classic authors from whose books I learned all kinds of uncommon words. You've all enabled me to read well, write well, and become righteously miffed when someone else fumbles my beloved language. Thanks!

Monday, June 18, 2012

My life is pretty boring.

I think this blog needs a makeover. What do you guys suggest?

I'm fond of garden stuff. I can kinda draw. I don't know. I like using the blogger themes because they're easy but they're boring and I'm tired of boring. My life is boring enough.

I'm off work till this evening. This will be my second short day in a row and I worked 4 early hours yesterday and will work 4 very late hours tonight, so it's like having an entire day off in between. Kinda neat. I'm enjoying it, because work is still ok but I don't love it (does anybody love their job? Am I being unreasonable to say that I'd like to want to go to work?) and time off is precious.

Speaking of makeovers, on Saturday after work I caved and got a flat of 20 (ok, 18. Two were dead, empty cells) marigolds. Yesterday (Sunday) I planted a neat line of them next to the lavender where my seeded marigolds had failed to grow, and had a bunch left over and was staring contemplatively at them when Rick got my attention.

"Look at this!" he said.

He was pointing to the tiny space on the other side of our porch steps, which is just a pie-slice bordered by a concrete walk. It contains our gas meter and until yesterday it contained a lot of weeds. This year it also contained lemon balm which is only technically not a weed because I did plant it intending to grow and harvest it. But it's spread from one corner of the yard to ALL the other corners in a ten foot radius. It's coming up in the middle of the yard! This plant doesn't just spread. It flings itself in every direction and thrives. We even yanked some out of the sidewalk four feet below the main plainting and on the other side of a concrete retaining wall. Note to self: Don't let the lemon balm flower and go to seed this year.

But back to the little pie-slice. Rick yanked out ALL the weeds (no small task, I assure you) and left me a nice, well-turned patch of dirt. Not very good dirt, but plain boring plant-something-in-me dirt all the same. He was going to leave it alone but I thought: I have marigolds, and there is an empty space that could use some color! The front of the house has had a makeover from empty boring weed-filled space to slightly less empty, colorful, weed-free space. Well, mostly weed-free. We still need to mow. I did clear the weeds out of the edge beds, though.

I also thought I was rather clever for having bought enough marigolds that they somehow perfectly fit into the front of the little pie-slice. They're spaced a bit far right now but they'll fill in. I hope. I know annuals like better soil and I didn't amend mine one eensy weensy bit. I think they'll deal, though. I'm a lazy efficient gardener, after all. I don't bother with such things as soil amendment for my annuals! They're going to die this fall anyway and have to be replaced! (Remind me to find some short perennials for that pie-slice).

What do you think of marigold as a background color for a blog? Too bright?

Friday, June 08, 2012

Beet it! (+Forward-thinking Friday #3)

After three weeks of looking at my schedule and deciding that a 6am farm stint wasn't what I really needed, I got today off and managed to hike up to the urban farm for a few much-needed (on all sides) volunteer hours. I spent 3 blissful hours weeding peas and harvesting stuff that Tim, the coordinator for the day, insisted that I take. I came home with enough lettuce to have huge salads every day all week (and I have more in my garden!), a small bag of fresh snap peas (I munched a few while picking, I admit it!) and two bags of beets and beet greens. I haven't ever tried to work with beet greens, and I'll probably default to wilting them with spinach, and making them into salads unless someone has a better idea.

The beets I'm going to try to pickle! I think I got enough for a small jar, and that's all I want to try (as impractical as might seem to not do a whole bunch, my kitchen is not equipped for bulk preserving right now). I figure if I can do a simple pickled beet, I can do pickles this summer with the cucumbers I'm hoping to get, and maybe even attempt to can some tomatoes!

What are you preserving this summer?

Oh, and a Forward-Thinking Friday, since I've fallen off that wagon...
Since last time I've gotten my garden planned and put in, started some seeds and killed most of them (for all my supposed gardening experience I am a terrible gardener), tried to keep the house cleaner, etc. We managed to get new light fixtures cheap at one of the big box stores and replaced the old icky brass-and-wood chandelier-bulb fixtures in the kitchen and entry. The end result is much nicer!

So this week I will:
1. Finish patching the hole in the kitchen ceiling that was hidden by the big old light fixture.
2. Finally finally FINALLY pick a paint color for the entry!
3. Pickle some beets.
4. Finish my shelf/grow-light setup (ha!) and post some pictures.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

More food talk.

I've been talking about food a lot lately. Not that there's much else to talk about. Work at the new job is relatively steady and sane (this makes me paranoid because when I hit a nice steady sane rut, it usually means something huge and terrifying is going to happen soon).

The garden has been as lazily tended as ever. I bought a tomato plant a few weeks ago, and a cucumber plant yesterday. Nothing interesting happening there, though. No blossoms yet. The grass keeps growing and we keep ignoring it. Well, Rick keeps ignoring it. I keep thinking "What if I dig all this up and put a new raised bed in over there?", but I haven't gotten to it yet. Because I'm lazy efficient like that.

 Oh, and we got a new car after our old one was "totaled" (but the old car was a 2000 Saab convertible and was totaled not because it was insanely damaged but because the 16-year-old who backed into the front headlight damaged just enough stuff, and since Saab went under the parts are more expensive and the total replacement cost for headlight/bumper/etc was ridiculous). The new (used) car is a Subaru Forester, by the way. It's very nice. It's a manual transmission! I guess that's news.

But really, there's not much going on. So I share what I'm eating. Today for example, I had a lovely snack! It was a banana-berry smoothie with some yummy slices of swiss cheese and salami on the side.

I love smoothies. You can make them with almost anything. Basically a smoothie is the best way to get a million servings of fruit (and maybe some veggies) all at once in a tall cold glass. 'cause smoothies, for proper texture and flavor, have to include some ice. Or frozen fruit. I use frozen fruit because then even if the smoothie gets warm and liquidy and juice-y, it doesn't get watered down. Also because buying real fresh berries is expensive and we don't grow our own (yet) but we can get bulk frozen berry mix (with blackberries, raspberries and blueberries!) at our local big-box members-only store. We buy frozen pre-sliced strawberries, too. They're pretty good.

Anyway, smoothies are awesome. I almost always use banana in mine. Bananas blend really well and make the smoothie nice and creamy so you don't have to add a lot of milk or ice cream (if you add ice cream it's a milkshake anyway) or powdered thickening agents or 'smoothie mix' (ew). They also sweeten up any potentially tangy berries. Applesauce is good for that, too. And you haven't lived until you've tried a Peanut-butter Banana smoothie. One of these days I'm gonna try Nutella in there. Have I said I love smoothies yet?

The best part about smoothies (making them, anyway) is this: The Ninja Warrior! We have an older version, which we got on a "deals" site *coughwoot.comcough* for a really good price. We figured, why not? It sounds like one of those things you see on an infomercial at 2am. "It slices! It dices! It MAKES YOU SANDWICHES!" (Not really.) But it's actually a really solid tool and out of all the kitchen-y gadgets we've collected it's the only one that gets taken off the top of the fridge for regular use. Yeah. I swear it's magic. I'm pretty sure I've pimped it before, too. Forgive my unpaid pimping of this product. It's just that I actually think I love it. I've never loved a kitchen implement before! Don't judge me too harshly.

Here's how to make a smoothie with an immersion blender: You just put your ingredients in the included (but not pictured) beaker (or your desired cup, if it's wide enough for the blender head). Pile it in any way you please. Don't cut up the softer stuff too much because this thing can handle big chunks. Then you stick the floppy silicone blending guard on top, insert the wand and push the really convenient button on the handle. And it goes whirr whirrrrr whirwhirwhir whirrrrrr and you wiggle it up and down and around a little bit and your smoothie is done. And you'll never go to a smoothie place again. Think of the savings! Think of your waistline! (Smoothies are healthy!)

Also cleanup is literally as easy as wiping it out with a soapy cloth and rinsing (the wand is stainless steel for easy clean-up and the handle with the motor detaches for still easier clean-up). It's terrific and I, the girl who never washes her dishes after she cooks, will wash this out after I use it every time because it's SO EASY. I think everyone should have one!

Or at least, everyone should have a smoothie. Come over. I'll make whatever you like!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Slow (Food) Progress

I've been reading the archives in the 100 Days of Real Food blog, and I really find the posts informative. There is a lot of information here, from links to the Environmental Watch Group's "Dirty Dozen" to notes on fast food ingredients and how hard it is to find a birthday cake without preservatives. It's a neat read. And while I've been reading this blog and thinking about all these whole foods/locavore/vegetarian/vegan/juicing movements springing up, I'm also comparing our little household to the big food bloggers to see what we're doing "right", what we're not doing, and what we can potentially change.

For background: I've always considered myself a "healthy" eater but until recently I didn't pay much attention to where my food was sourced. My parents didn't take us kids to fast-food restaurants and candy wasn't kept at home except for the major holidays (Easter, Halloween, and Christmas). We didn't buy or drink a lot of pop. Both mom and dad gardened, cooked, and preserved some of our food and encouraged us to eat our veggies. Dad was always into organic/local food so some of that rubbed off on me and I've been researching food since college when my vegan friends introduced me to the delights (not) of factory farming! Rick's family wasn't as into health choices but his grandmother still did a lot of home cooking, so he learned to cook too - although his meal of choice when we were in college and he was working full-time was minute rice and fried chicken! He gained a lot of weight in high school and college and is trying to drop it, which is a motivator for eating better.

So when we got serious and got a house and I started thinking about feeding us, and he started thinking about losing weight (again), we decided to make some changes. We picked up some cookbooks for new recipe ideas... and promptly allowed them to gather dust (oh well). He dropped his Mountain Dew habit and cut back (little by little) on coffee. I quit buying pop for us and started a tea habit. Last year I got serious about making whole wheat bread and rolls; last winter he started making pizza crusts. And I've always tried to garden, with varying degrees of success. Little by little we're moving away from packaged foods and toward real healthy foods.

So here's to progress, and to still having more (a lot more) to do. "Right" here means good for our health and (usually) our budgets... not perfect, but moving in a good direction.

Things we are doing right:

  • Not eating out, although I occasionally buy lunches at work instead of bringing.
  • Buying whole wheat sandwich bread (ever since that Girl Scout project in third grade where they had us make 'clay' beads out of white bread, glue, and food coloring, I've greatly preferred wheat)
  • Buying in bulk when we can (bulk organic baby spinach, anyone?)
  • Gardening! This is of course an ongoing project.
  • Looking for healthier snack options: veggie straws instead of chips, whole-wheat pretzels, fresh or frozen fruit instead of ice cream.
  • Eating slightly less meat. We'll always eat meat, but I've cut my usual serving size and am filling the space with veggies.
  • Starting these changes while we're still in our 20's, childless and not in a food rut. I see a lot of bloggers talking about making changes when they've already started a family and are relatively settled in their ways of preparing and eating meals. There's always time to improve and I applaud anyone trying, regardless of age, eating habits or family status, but I think doing it younger and without having children does make it easier!

    Things we could improve:
  • Cut out white bread (still do a lot of white rolls for hot dogs and burgers)
  • Make most/all of our bread at home, learn to do pasta too!
  • Find local eggs
  • Buy more organic and local produce
  • Figure out if purchasing a whole, grass-fed locally-raised cow is an option! We can't afford to buy the "good" meat from the store and often default to the cheapest chicken breasts and pork roasts we find. I don't particularly love the idea of eating factory-farmed meat, but protein is protein and I'm not giving up bacon. I'm hoping that as our incomes rise, so will the percentage of healthier meat in our diets.
  • Start making our own 'processed' foods - things like applesauce, which is almost impossible to find without HFCS, and pretzels, which are a takeoff on the bread recipes I'm learning.

    Things that are at a stalemate (Either he or I don't want to give them up):
  • White-flour pasta. It's not going anywhere, although we've looked into making our own. The wheat pastas, aside from being more expensive, are also less appealing to Rick and harder for me to cook well (longer cooking times throw me off). We're probably going to stick to the convenience and speed of regular bulk pasta for a while.
  • Condiments (lots of yucky ingredients in the generic brands, but making them all at home is daunting and we tend to buy in bulk so they are very cheap!) If buying cheap condiments means we can afford better veggies or cuts of meat...
  • Cleaning and hygiene products. There are a lot of make-it-yourself recipes out there and we don't have much excuse not to switch (well, except for the recipes that encourage you to make your own soap... I'm not prepared to make my own soap yet), but I think I'd feel guiltier than I already do if I made my own cleaning products and still didn't clean the house!

    I think we're doing ok but there's a long way to go before I consider our diet really healthy. In the meantime, I'll be working on the garden and trying to remember how to preserve fruit.

    Any suggestions for things we could improve, or easy changes we could do this summer? I've considered doing a "real food" challenge - do you think it would teach us something new? What are your best healthy eating ideas?
  • Herbs and Veggies

    The other day I harvested a HUGE basket of oregano, including some delightful golden oregano. The basket looked so good I didn't want to disturb it. I felt like it belonged in some Better Homes & Gardens photo spread, not in my hands.

    There's more left on the plants because I couldn't fit it in the basket. My lemon balm has also quadrupled in size since I planted it two years ago, and it's spread across the walkway somehow and is coming up in the weedy space in front of the gas meter. Time to cut that back, too! Anybody want a clump of lemon balm? :D

    The chives are up (I planted them 2 years ago, and the first year I wasn't sure they'd even come up, and last year they were so tiny and fine and I was so bad at watering I was sure I'd killed them... this year they're bigger, and healthy - herbs never cease to amaze me!). So is the garlic (it came up pretty early, actually) and the lavender is still alive. The monarda (bee balm) came back, too. I'm impressed with that one. It all died back last fall and I was so sad! It hasn't flowered yet, but it looks healthy.

    The pill bugs (sow bugs? I know there's a difference but I can't tell!) have eaten away at the base of my bean stalks again and this is threatening to kill the beans, and the cat chewed the rest of the seedlings inside, and I have no more seeds. This summer is looking like a bush bean summer since I have loads of those seeds courtesy of my dad! This evening when it cools off I'm headed out to plant more tomatoes (I started some inside, and the seedlings barely sprouted and then wilted on a rather hot, dry day when I sadly didn't water them - I'm an awful gardener, really), some bush beans, cucumber, broccoli, and flowers of various kinds. I figure I might as well use some of my huge seed stash...

    Next week I'll start hardening off the few pepper seedlings that made it, and I hope this year we'll actually have peppers!

    What does your garden grow this summer?

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Harvest! (Already?)

    (Yes, already).

    So I think I told you guys that I planted radishes, and lettuce, and turnip greens. Did I? Tell you, that is. I definitely planted them, about a month ago when we had a few deceptively warm days and I thought "Oh, good! Spring is here!". Except it wasn't quite, and there was frost, and for a while I didn't know if anything was going to survive, but the seeds that had germinated (about half of the ones I planted, which was better than expected, given that I planted a rather old mix of seed packets) came up and grew. And now...

    I have radishes!
    German Giant 'Parat'

    And lettuce:

    And I'm right this moment eating a lovely salad of fresh lettuce and grated carrot, seasoned with thyme and garlic powder and a dash of pepper, and tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar, along with a nice cold plate of radishes, mozzarella, and sweet pickles. Yum!

    There's nothing as awesome (in the grand, amazing sense of the word) as being able to step right out your front door, snip off some greens and have them for dinner five minutes later. It is all the blessing I could ask: to be able to feed myself.

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Learning about Lilies

    Today I learned about lilies!

    It's a gorgeous day. The breeze says 'spring', but the thermometer in the sun says 'summer'. The birds are singing, the grass is growing faster than we can mow, and I'm sitting inside researching plants.

    My new job is going well, but there's so much to learn! This morning I spent some time with a woman who was looking for new perennials for a flowerbed. She didn't know the difference between the asiatic lilies that we carried and the "daylilies" she used to have (what they were for sure, I couldn't say). I didn't know either so I figured I'd look.

    Turns out daylilies (hemerocallis) aren't lilies (lilium) at all. They're a different family of plants entirely, albeit with similar blooms to the traditional lily. Daylilies are the ones with thin, spear-like leaves that grow from the plant's crown. They spread through a root mat rather than bulbs, and they bear flowers on long leafless stems called scapes.

    Lilies come in a lot of different varieties, but the most commonly sold outside specialty stores are oriental and asiatic. Both have root bulbs (as do all true lilies) and spread by forming new bulbs. Asiatic lilies bloom earlier and spread faster, and they're more winter hardy. They are also brighter but with many have only one color in the blossom (although our big-box garden center has one variety with multicolored blooms). Asiatic lilies have smaller leaves and do not have a fragrance.

    Oriental lilies like the popular Stargazer pictured above are more likely to have multi-colored blossoms in pastel colors, spread more slowly and bloom later in the season. They have wider leaves and are the lilies that smell - apparently whether you enjoy the scent or not is genetic! Many oriental lilies have blossoms aimed downward while asiatics' blossoms face the sky.

    And then there's Easter Lilies, but they're a whole other story.

    I'm going to learn a LOT this summer. :)

    Friday, April 13, 2012


    March was a tease. The weather was so amazingly good and warm and sunny that I planted my entire raised bed in six kinds of lettuce and salad mix. Most of it didn't come up, because the week after I planted, it got COLD. I tried covering it, and then I gave up on covering it and let the frost happen, and then it rained/sleeted/hailed one night, and I'm just going to have to go out and re-plant. Oh, well.

    Serves me right for being overenthusiastic about spring.

    It's here for sure, now! I think.

    Oh, and I got hired at a big home improvement store. Working two jobs this month has been interesting, except for the bit where job #1 doesn't recognize my new limited availability and is still scheduling me all over the place, and changing a schedule there requires forms filled out in triplicate, signed, stamped, dated, and delivered to the Ravenous Rugblatter Beast of Traal, where they'll be eaten as dessert after somebody's grandmother.*

    I got a call from a nonprofit I applied to in December. It's not the world's greatest lead, but it's a callback...

    *actually it just involves asking the manager to speak to the office, which may be worse than the beast because at least you know what happens to your request when a beast eats it.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Opportunity Cost

    Today I have a company training from 12:15 to 1:15, with a free lunch (hooray) afterward. It's worth the gas cost to go to the training, because I know I'll learn something new and come away with a few ideas for work.

    I'm also scheduled to work tonight, 6-9:15. The 4-hour gap between when lunch will presumably end and when my work shift begins is a dead zone, and I'm debating the options. I could: stay at work, clock in early, and get paid to stand there for four extra hours; stay in the area but not at work, and get some window-shopping in; come home and have to drive right back out for work this evening.

    Staying and working is the most financially lucrative option, but it deprives me of countless opportunities at home (like getting the dishes done and doing some gardening), and it's bound to be too quiet for me to feel productive unless I start making up things to do. I -hate- feeling useless, it's a gorgeous day outside and the store is always overly cold.

    Staying and shopping might actually cost me money, but it will cost less in gas than driving all the way home and it will allow me to do some digging for things I've been meaning to find, without feeling pressured for time or having to do it after work some other day. If I get done with my shopping early enough I can still clock in early, too.

    Driving out, while it allows me to gain another 3 hours at home (minus the time spent getting ready to go back and eating dinner), also costs me a gallon of gas, or approximately 30 minutes of pay at my current rate. The commute time is short, but do I really want to use that much gas to avoid being at work earlier?

    I'll probably do some shopping. At least I'll get to see the sun that way!

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Shoppe Here!

    There's a billboard on a road I drive every day. There are actually several billboards, but only one for this particular retailer. It caught my eye first because during Christmas it had some stupid Santa-gets-fit crap on it. After the holiday, they changed the ad and for a while it confused me greatly. It's one of those moving billboards, that switch ads every few seconds by flipping their entire surface to a new one (Those things are magic. The guy who designed them deserves a massive bonus from the ad industry). On all 3 sides, the post-holiday shop ads said things like "Your One Stoppe" and "Shoppe Local." with the name of the health retailer at the bottom. It took me a good week or two of driving past that curious billboard, wondering why they spelled Shoppe the olde English way and then crossed it off, to realize that the billboard was placed behind a squat beige building that holds... a Health Supplements "Shoppe".

    I've been wanting to share that for weeks. A picture would've said it more succinctly but I don't take photos while driving so you'll have to do without.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Day #9: Spring Fever

    I actually planned on blogging all 10 days that I worked, just to shake things up a bit. Silly me! That's ok though, because aside from telling silly stories about customers and management, I didn't have much to say. When I work long stretches without breaks, my life becomes work, and 'not-work', which in my case means a lot of flopping on the couch and pretending like I just had the most exhausting day in the world and that I haven't got the energy to do anything else. The dishes have been sadly neglected as proof of my supposed overworkedness. So much for this blog motivating me :( You guys need to like, drop by my house and sing girl scout songs with me. My husband won't, but I swear I've been -trained- to sing while I work. Thanks, scout camp!

    The worst part about my neglect of house duties is that I haven't really been working that hard by an outsider's standards, and it's embarrassing to say 'yeah, I stood around all day at work and now I don't have the energy left to wash the dishes'.

    But you know how exhausting it is to wait for an appointment in a crowded office, or an overdue flight, or an ER doctor when you're in triage and you're not spurting blood from your neck so they overlook you and take everyone else first, which means you spend literally hours waiting? That's what I experience at work every day between customers. Don't get me wrong - sometimes, it feels good to do nothing... but not when it's 8 hours of standing and doing nothing punctuated by 4 customers and a lunch break. When I get home, I'm sick and tired of standing and all my motivation to be productive is gone!

    Spring is coming, though, and my hours are decreasing (eek!) and I'm on the hunt for new opportunities, so maybe more house stuff will be done in the interim? :D

    ...we can only hope! I'm off on Friday, so I'll try to remember to post a forward-thinking friday list with some new things to work on. It's almost gardening season and I can't wait!

    Also, since I forgot to mention this earlier in the week: Rick did up a massive batch (ten servings!) of stir fried chicken and veggies with rice earlier in the week, and split it all into serving-size containers in the fridge. It's been SUCH a life-saver! I've had 'microwave dinners' all week, cheaper and healthier than store-bought and with a little extra love thrown in. ;) This bulk cooking has saved us at least $30 in the last week and a half, since if I didn't have instant meals to pack I'd have bought lunch at the food court. I love my man!

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Ten-day Stretch

    Happy Valentine's Day. I hope it was good for everyone! For me, it was just another terrible Tuesday! Or at least, it felt like it. I stayed up too late making a loaf of whole wheat herb and garlic bread and nearly 2 dozen small rolls (with my own home-grown dried oregano from last summer's garden, no less!), and the cat decided that 8am was breakfast time, an hour and a half before my alarm went off for my first day on a ten-day stretch at work. Needless to say, I'm exhausted right now and there's still laundry and dishes to finish. Ugh.

    Work was sloooooow today (I would much rather have stayed home and finished the laundry!), but I managed to read an entire book at lunch ("The Kid Who Ran for President", an old kids' book my husband found when we were reworking the library on Saturday). It's the first day of the library's Read-a-Thon, and they're aiming for 20,012 pages read (in honor of the year). I'm well on my way, and tomorrow am going to start Catcher in the Rye. I figure that should get me through most of my loooooooooong work week, right?

    One of the girls at work, J, said that she had a really weird experience today in the mall. Some lady ("The most normal looking person ever", J said) walked up to her while she was playing with her phone, and said cheerily: "Jesus loves you! Have a nice day!" I guess she felt like J needed a valentine from Jesus. I suppose it's better than having some creepy-looking guy come up and sniff you and go "You smell good..." (this has happened to someone here)!

    Tomorrow is day 2 of 10. Here's hoping it's busy... even if it's just valentine gift returns! Next Friday, I am going to sit on my butt and play games and try at all costs to do nothing of importance... except maybe blog. I haven't done a Forward-Thinking Friday in a while, have I?

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Bread and Circuses!

    ...or at least bread.

    I've been making Rosemary Flatbread again! Rick can't get enough of it, although he's been bothering me to make some nice whole wheat rolls too... we'll see, but chances are he'll have his rolls this week. I rather enjoy puttering around in front of a hot oven on a cold winter day, don't you?

    Tomorrow starts a ten-day stretch of work, which is likely to be terribly slow and boring and tiring in that kind of soul-weary way that standing around waiting for something to happen is tiring. I'd rather work myself to the bone for ten days straight! I've been putting in a few job applications but I'm torn between thinking "I'm perfect for the position, how could they turn me down?" and "With all the applicants they're getting and my lack of social graces, how can I even have a chance?". I'm trying to stay positive, because I could really use a better job. Tomorrow I need to get some follow-up calls going.

    This week I'm still working on the house and keeping up with the chores. Nothing complicated, just the basics. I'm hoping to get some better habits going with regard to keeping things tidy! If so, maybe I can even start supplementing this blog with pictures!

    Tuesday, January 31, 2012

    One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

    No post last Friday. Last week went all roller-coaster on me. I felt good at the beginning of it and did actually make some progress on both the laundry and the dishes, cleaned the litterboxes two days in a row (!) and managed to be at work on time and without forgetting anything. I even got some work done on the rag rug, albeit very little. I didn't manage to get 'round to plastering, but I was feelin' proud... and then my motivation left entirely and I started waking up congested and thought I was getting sick again! Thankfully thus far it seems to be just a reaction to the weather (which has also been roller-coaster-y).

    Rick's without hours for a while because his company's client severed the contract without warning, which is really really annoying and a little disheartening. We were just starting to get ahead and now we're going to have to work to keep afloat again. We can't live on just my income! So that's now a worry, and my focus on the house and garden is out the window. He won't be out for long, I hope!

    On the other hand, I did manage to work out a settlement payment on a longstanding overdue debt, which means there's one less credit card in my portfolio and one more "PAID IN FULL" being sent to the credit reporting agencies. I'm excited about this and grateful for my sister whose generosity is matched by her intelligence and beauty (ok, I'm sucking up a little, but she did send me the last bit I needed to pay the debt before the settlement offer expired, and I can't say "thank you" enough!

    So anyway, after all the progress I made at the beginning of last week, by Sunday nothing was done again and I felt awful about it. I've been avoiding posting for two days now so that I can catch up again. I'm still not really caught up, but at least there's a load of laundry in the dryer and I managed to clear one side of the sink (the other side and the counter are still piled with cooking utensils and cutting boards and bowls, oh dear...).

    Today was beautifully mild and very warm, but the wind is roaring out there tonight, and I think we're due for some more rain/snow. I can't wait for spring!

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Forward-Thinking Friday #2: One Small Step...

    Hush, I know it's Saturday. I was miserably sick with a sinus infection on Thursday and Friday (I'm still sick, but - to quote the infamous Monty Python skit - I'm not dead yet! Actually, I'm getting better!)

    Quick recap from last week: I've managed to keep a pretty good attitude despite being miserable due to this awful infection, which is nowhere near gone yet - I'm just grateful that I can breathe again! Picking out paint colors and working on a garden plan really helped this week, as did nabbing some sparkly pins from the clearance rack at work that will make my favorite black shawl a little more colorful! Getting things done is a good antidote for bad moods, and having color around the house is nice when it's grey outside. I'm looking forward to warmer weather, so we can open the windows and paint!

    The garden planning is also working toward big goal #1: Enlarge the Garden!. I'm planning a second raised bed to match the first, and figuring out what I'll need for trellis and compost to put the pea bed up front this year. One step at a time, the front lawn is getting more productive and less ugly!

    So here's the FTF for the upcoming week: Smaller goals to be finished by next Friday (hopefully!). I have Monday and Thursday off work plus a shorter shift on Sunday, so I'll have lots of time to get things done!

    I've decided on two goals:
    1. Fixing up the downstairs,
    2. Keeping up on the chores! (Which is really a key component of getting anything else done around here, although it wasn't on the big list).

    I'm going to keep up on the dishes, laundry, AND litterboxes this week (I can often manage to get one or two done every day, but not all three). This is really important, since not only am I trying to feel better about my homemaking skills but I'm really eager to get some actual WORK done on this house, and it'll be so much easier if we're not shuffling dishes around!

    For the 'fixing up the downstairs' bit, I'm going to do two things. One is to continue work on a braided rag rug that I started the summer we moved in. The other is to get out the patching compound and patch some of the uneven and broken spots in the entry and living room walls. Doesn't that sound easy? It sounds easy to me. I'm so excited to get started!

    I'm off to do the dishes - any suggestions for crops I should add to the garden this year? Leave 'em in the comments!

    Friday, January 06, 2012

    Forward-Thinking Friday #1: To Infinity, and Beyond!

    Happy New Year!

    I figure it's about time this blog had some alliterative titling going for it. Lots of other bloggers I know do Wifey Wednesdays and Thankful/Thoughtful Thursdays and I'm sure someone somewhere does Mournful Mondays! Since this blog is mostly about my hopes and dreams of homesteading (and occasionally the progress I make in that area), I figured Forward-Thinking Fridays would be a good place to set out goals both large and small, and look to what's coming instead of reflecting on the past. I reflect way too much on what's been done and not enough on what needs doing!

    (Which reminds me, I need to wash the dishes!)

    Anyway, it's January and the weather's milder than January in Pittsburgh has a right to be. It's bringing to mind sweet spring breezes and planting layouts even though I know we're going to have a real nasty February ahead of us, and probably March too! Still, gardening is on my mind, and painting, and all the million and one warm-weather tasks that I'd love to get done this year (and probably won't because let's be honest - it's way more fun to plan them than to finish them all!). Therefore this first FF is going to be a nice tidy list of goals for the year. I didn't do New Years' resolutions, but I can do goals!

    Goals for Dawn's Homestead:
    1. Enlarge the garden!
    Pretty self-explanatory, really. Last year's garden did ok, but I want bigger and better this year! And I need to find somewhere to put the peas, because the kitchen garden isn't cutting it. I think it'd work better as a pond, with all the water it collects anyway! (Shhh... don't encourage that idea!)

    2. Finish fixing up the downstairs!
    This is a HUGE multi-part project and isn't realistically going to be "done" until we can afford to rip out the entire kitchen and re-finish it, but I'd at least like to get the living room, entry, and dining room cleaned up, patched up, sanded, primed, painted, and trimmed out, and if not refinish the floors then have a solid plan of action for them and a budget so we can save up to do it next year.

    3. Learn to preserve my harvest!
    I have some of the knowhow already, but I've never bothered with it before because we never grew enough to be worth the trouble. This year I'm not only planning to grow more, I'm planning ahead for preserving!

    4. Find a volunteer position (or better yet, a job) in community planning/development/urban ag.
    There are a few nonprofits in the city doing some really great things, and I want to get in with them. I've been having a tough time with my current retail job and the ugly side of humanity it exposes (shopping never was my favorite activity, unless it was for garden supplies!), and the argument to go back to school and get a Master's degree is losing interest. It's time to quit -thinking- about finding a job and either find one, or make one. (Making my own path in life scares the bejeezus out of me, quite frankly, but I'm NOT happy where I am, and I figure it's about time I quit waiting for happiness!)

    5. Be "happier" in general.
    This is probably the hardest goal of all. I don't need to be cheerful 24/7 but I'm prone to mild depressive episodes and self-loathing which not only keep me from working on the things that are important to me, they make me feel like that work isn't worth doing. That's awful! So my goal for the year is to spend more time reflecting on the good things about myself (and how much I've done!) rather than imperfections and unfinished projects. Because I AM good, and I AM productive, and I AM a halfway decent gardener and homemaker, and I AM going to get BETTER!

    I'm going to keep re-visiting these goals on Fridays (assuming I remember, because blogging isn't one of my main goals this year!). Next week I'll try to break down some of the bigger goals into smaller goals! This year is going to be a good one for the homestead. I can feel it!

    Are you ready for the new year? Let me hear some of your resolutions/goals in the comments!