Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pulling it out of my... hat.

I have learned at least one important lesson this week: staying up until after midnight may be fun, but it makes the next morning is a bear. But with Christmas on the horizon, it's time to focus and work harder than ever.

Also, so far none of my growing efforts seem to be doing much except the millet, which is a grass. I'm thinking of seeding the whole yard with it. Then when my husband has to tend the lawn, it's not mowing, it's "harvesting."

I joined the women's land army.
Now I farm dirt.

The biggest news of the week is that I ordered new glasses through my insurance, so it only cost me $100 rather than $500. I love that the insurance covers so much and a yearly exam. I am proud of my eyes and their health. I am sad that I won't be able to get transitions this time, since I have had them since 2000, but as they say, groceries come first!

And these are completely covered by my insurance!

In other news Mr. Tardigrade had a little abdominal surgery. His middle seam split and had to be repaired. I used quilting thread which is lighter than what they used. To be honest, I don't even know how the split happened. But being a tardigrade, he made it through with little scarring and came out of recovery just fine. (Warning: Surgical pictures below. Those of you with weak stomachs may want to click through to cat pictures.)

The original split. 

Checking the sutures. 

In recovery.

Also, the Diva picked up Mr. Smith's cold and got a fever yesterday, but it's just a boring old cold, treated with snuggles, apple juice, and naps. But just this morning, I managed to fix the broken door of the Diva's play kitchen. I have tried superglue, tape, and everything else, so today I used a dowel rod. Getting it in place was a bear, which makes me wonder how in the name of St. Sneaky Pete (KoL) I got the other one in. Maybe I broke it before she finished it off.

American ingenuity meets Chinese toy.
I win.

But to top off the week, I got a christmas postcard from some great people who are putting the Love back into the Satellite of Love. #BroughtbackMST3K I'm so amazingly excited! Cambot, give me Rocket #9...


You'll find us in the credits... under BERT Lowe.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tumbling towards Christmas

So it's been a roller coaster of a week. Starting on Wednesday, I installed the brand new potty. Three hours of the grossest thing I've probably ever done, but it's all installed and ready to go.

I still reach for the handle to jiggle.

It's a push-button, dual-flush. So instead of using 7 gallons, it uses 1.1/1.6 which is an immense savings, even if we were to use the big button every time. Because of our leveled water bill, the 7 CCFs of water we used ever month is likely going to go down to 4 CCF. In a year, it will pay for itself. Not only that, we are saving water!

We're working on it.

In other news Mr. Smith and I ditched the kids at Granny's house and went to Blowing Rock, NC in search of his weather balloon.

My view on the way to the crash site wasn't so bad.

So I forgot to use my inhaler that morning, but dressed in five layers, aka Die Hard on a mountain, so I was quite toasty. We drove up into NC, down a winding graded road that was, frankly, terrifying. We searched and searched through laurel thickets and amid 80' tall oak trees until, halfway to an asthma attack, I reclined on the ground and saw:

Just 60' off the ground.

We're leaving it to the engineers to design a recovery system.

Probably a pole.

So we trudged back up the winding road. I picked up a little quartz mixed in with the quartzite, slate and limestone. Nothing outstanding about the geology, of course, it's not always what's under the surface that is cool.

Lovely isn't it? Oh, the mountains are nice, too.

We did the other thing that we love to do, we did the tourist thing and went to see THE blowing rock! In the picture you can see the bottom of Grandfather mountain just behind my sweetie, and to his left is Grandmother mountain. I'm not that familiar with the area. They gave us a pamphlet with a guide.

Sorry, ladies, this one is taken!

We didn't have to rekindle the old flame, ours burns stable and bright every day! But I did rekindle my love of National Geodetic Survey markers. There are a few around here to be checked out and I may start "hunting" them, which in my case is taking pics of them, but I popped up on the blowing rock to check out this well worn beauty.

Two pics for the price of one! 

We bought a new mug, which is going to look great on my mug display. Faces on trees were a thing, a little creepy, but a thing. So I bought a mug that had a tree-face on it. It is perfect for hot chocolate!

All the others had goofy teeth.

In other plant-related news, it's a mixed bag. Two of my sage seedlings died, leaving only one remaining. I have what is probably one peppermint seedling, and still have one parsley seedling. The millet is growing like grass, because, well, it's grass. The dwarf sunflower seeds have split but not put out roots, so I am not hopeful, but I'll plant them and see what happens.

I need a bigger window, and grow lights.

And Steve had three female blossoms in the rush of a dozen blooms, I accidentally picked one, but the other two were pollinated and little Steve now has five lemons. Of course, I'd be happy if he'd keep a few more of his leaves through winter. It's making me nervous.

Steve, noir.

And to wrap up the week, the boy got his magnetic laces in, which is both good, as it only takes a moment to get his shoes on and off, and better because I've figured out that I need to work on developing his dexterity and fine motor control. This is why he has trouble. I've been doing some reading from pros and parents for inspiration. I also managed to win at parenting while trimming the Diva's nails, and trimmed some dermis instead. I called the nurseline, but honestly, it's just fine. She's had her shots and the clippers were fairly new. But from now on, I'm going to file her nails.

Little monkey!

And, of course, the reason the post was late this week was because our previous internet provider decided not to TELL us that they forgot to bill us for three months. We have a lot going on, that's why the online bills are important! Well, we switched to their competitor to get faster, cheaper internet--which will still be cheaper than the previous provider once the special year-long promo ends.

And on Monday, I have an appointment for an eye exam. I'm looking forward to it, and to regular appointments from now on, because I'm a grown up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sunshine and Rain

It's Tuesday, and I'm back! Whoa!

So, first the fun:

Last weekend, I spent Sunday decluttering my only shelf under a window so I could attempt to grow things through the winter.

Steve, the Meyer Lemon is doing fine. Out of twelve blooms, I got three female blossoms, one of which I accidentally deadheaded but its sisters are still alive and pollinated. I transplanted the parsley into its own container. One plant survived. I could cry. BUT as the song says, life goes on!

From the seeds I planted and sprouted this weekend, the clover sprouted and was planted in a little green container which is not pictured above. The millet has sprouted from both sprouting containers and will be planted in another white pot. The sunflowers look like they'll sprout and I'll have yet another white pot waiting for them as well. The green pot above is still empty, but I have high hopes for the peppermint seeds which I'll plant there if they sprout. If they don't I might sneak off to the garden center and buy something else green. This is the beginnings of my victory garden, or as I have been referring to it, my Herb Moat.

I am still in need of lavender to replace the hated forsythia, my seeds were a no-go, but I am keeping the sachet stuff. I'm planning for the future.

I HAVE gotten some amazing help with Mr. Smith's Christmas present. I've been planning it for months, but after hours of trying, I couldn't get it right. I consulted a professional, and she fixed it better than I could have imagined. Thanks mom!

Stock image of a gift.
I'm crazy, not stupid.

So hours of work, but I know he'll like it. This is something he didn't even know he wanted.

I am in need of new glasses, which will be covered by insurance so, that's not even a problem, though finding time for a trip to the optometrist is as always difficult. While decluttering the shelf, I found an old pair that fit better than a new pair, and I'm going to see if the glasses people can't put new lenses in the old frames. They fit better, they suit me better, and really, they are better quality. And of course, reusing the old frames makes me happy in my 40's heart. I never liked the plastic ones.

I recycle every way I can.

To be fair, I probably should have put up a water conservation poster. As water is the name of the game this week. Not only have we had good soaking rains for the first time in ages, meaning we are reminded of all the leaks in our house, but at long last, our 5-gallon flush toilet, which started to spend an extra couple of gallons a day, gave up the ghost in a sitcom style comedic disaster.

It started a couple of years ago when one of the tank bolts gave way. It had been there for 25+ years and was basically made of rust. I replaced it with a drink cap sealed with silicone. Then the flush valve started to stick. "Did you jiggle the handle?" became the daily nag. A couple of months ago, the flush valve started sticking a little, which caused a little drippy leak, so I just tapped it. Today, I came home to find it had bopped the top of the toilet tank up and was flooding through the overflow pipe, and had probably been going for over an hour while I had been dropping hubby off.

Goodbye old friend.

It sounds terrible, but it's been headed for disaster for a while now, so I just turned off the water, and we'll finally replace it in a couple of days when hubby gets paid. It might mean a couple more casserole based dishes this week, but heck, casseroles are a great convenience food when you have a busy life but not a lot of money.

In good news, my doused keyboard has been replaced and a silicone keyboard cover is now protecting it from most future disasters. It also needed replacing. If you'll pardon me, I need to get a new fridge.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016


I have been meaning to come back with a weekly regularity, but to be honest, I don't know how those mommy bloggers do it. They seem to always have their kids making cupcakes or homeschooling or what have you, while I turn my back for five minutes to find this.

Well, how do YOU get your feet clean?

Meanwhile I have been using spare moments to tat, which has taken up a lot of my spare brainpower. Seriously, I haven't had such fits over any piece of the tea cloth like I have this one.

This is the fourth time I've tatted this.

Worked it out last night that I have about 200 square feet in my "Garden Moat" plan. That's way more room than I need just for herbs, considering a few of the gardening websites tout "Grow enough to feed ten people every year in 300 square feet of space!"  Of course, I have ulterior motives for the Garden Moat, as most of the herbs I am looking at are pungent pest deterrents, which means we will send the kitchen ants and possibly even the rats packing.

The Diva is measuring off space for her
own plot of land.

Our house sits on half an acre, which means I have options. Of course I have to leave room for the dog, because we will always have a dog, we've proven that. We also have to contend with the two walnuts and the surviving oak tree, but that will be more of a problem 50 years from now, I suspect. Until then, I have some time to garden.

Or, I could always MAKE flowers.
Lace is hard to resist.

In the spring I would love to plant our apple and peach trees and blueberry bushes, Though I'm going to have to do some more reading on the subject. I must be doing something right, since Steve the Meyer Lemon still has his big lemon, two little ones, and is in bloom right now, and I found a third parsley seedling this morning just poking up. I'm going to have to prepare a second pot soon to separate my sage from my sleepy parsley which took over a month to sprout.

Apparently two years dormancy is a long time to parsley.
Up and at 'em, boys!

I plan on propagating it, so that it won't be lonely in my garden moat. Of course, the parsley, sage, oregano, and green onions--which I haven't decided whether they are an herb or a vegetable in spite of what others have said--will have to be right near the kitchen. And of course, I'll be planting Milkweed in the front of the house, because who doesn't love butterflies, and Monarchs to boot!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Going it alone... For a Week.

My husband packed his bags and is spending the week in St. Paul, MN, with his mistress, Science. To be fair, he's known her longer than he's known me, and she's very demanding of his time. Who am I to say no?

Friday was hard. Really hard. Saturday was easier, though the boy was off to spend the night at Grandma's, so it was just me and the Diva.

This is not today, but she's not any LESS
boogery, now that she's learning to climb on things.
Little monkey!

Today, though? Today was actually easy. I mean, I ran two loads of dishes, cleaned my living room, caught and released another lizard and tried to run a wash load until I realized that the lid switch broke, so I performed an interim fix on it and now I'm running another wash load.

Okay, it's not the BEST fix, but in lieu of the part I need, it will hold.

Oh yeah. I'm feelin' it!

It's not been all wine and roses, of course, but I have hope that this will not be the crippling disaster that I presaged. I have even found time to do some tatting, and look at me blogging in my usual seasonal cycle!

The biggest thing for me, right now, is escaping Siberia. Not physically, but mentally. In the nearly ten years since I left the 'Boro, I've had one person my age that I could talk to, and she got sent back to India because I talked to her like an equal. I know I could go to Meetup.com or Facebook or somewhere and start a meet-up in my area of quirky, sci-fi loving thread crafters who don't have cable, don't like Game of Thrones, and can't be around smokers, but that's hard for someone who is normally an introvert. (Really, if you make a reference to GoT, I will stare at you like someone who has never watched Life of Bryan when you say "People who are like Rome go towards the house?!")

And lately I've started forgetting how to People. I'm pretty sure that it does NOT involve screaming really aggressively and throwing socks at each other until our wicker baskets are empty and then picking up all the socks, but I'm not 100% sure, and I don't want to be the only one without socks if I go out. I mean, no body wants to be that guy, and of course, if I take the precaution of going out with a wicker basket full of socks, everyone's gonna be looking at me funny, and that's not exactly helping my "I just want to stay in my house" feeling.

I'm ready though.
Just in case.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cold Coffee

It also has a fly in it. I wish I were joking.

Well, it's no Ester Williams

To be fair, it was cold before the fly landed in it. I was distracted by cleaning my living room. Maybe it's a manic phase, maybe it's just spring and this is my time for cleaning. The flowers are blooming, the frogs are singing, it's just a great time to refresh my living space.

Elegance without peer!

So far this week has been spent cleaning. Not just throwing some dishes into the dishwasher and wiping down the surfaces, but really DEEP cleaning. I have a goal this summer of not falling back on routine and pre-packaged foods. In order to do more actual cooking, I have to have clean surfaces and an efficient kitchen. Of course, the pressure cooker has become an amazing kitchen thing, and has sent our crockpot into semi retirement. It's really amazing.

 I call it Big Bertha.

Today was the living room. The Diva seems to have other ideas rather than cleanliness in the house, so I have to accept "sanitary chaos" as my current standard of clean. The dog has also been clingy, and I think that the rush of cleaning is not doing well for him, either because of his nose and he smells all the stuff disturbed, or because the upset and everything. Whatever it is, he's very frustrating right now and probably will be until things settle down again.

Here he is NOT being a pill for five minutes.

I'm even wearing my aprons while I clean again, because I have hope. Of course, there's still work to be done, but having a place that feels more productive, can actually make me more productive. Instead of my desk feeling like a hostage situation, it feels as though we've put our guns down and I've taken my finger off the button. It's no longer a place where I've piled everything Ruth doesn't need to have or has gotten somehow or another, its a relaxed space where I can do things... like blog.

I've changed aprons twice.

I'm actually still 5 lbs under where I was when I got pregnant. I was down eight pounds, but the end of the month got a little unhealthy. This is probably also what has led to my manic need to clean my house. There's a track by my house, but walking around and around doesn't appeal to me, on top of having to get the baby secured in some method of conveyance. I'd rather just spend time walking in my climate controlled house getting something done, and she would rather be free to take a few steps (which is a thing that is also happening)!

This is not her.
This is Steve, my lemon tree.
He has three potential lemons.

In the world of crafting, I had some stuff hubby wanted done for his class: an Alpaca, a mobius scarf, and something that might have been a scarf but turned into a ridiculously fringed keyboard cosy. (They are programming students. All projects were loved.) I am just now almost done with the fifth of the final ten motifs that make a triangle. I've done four of these in all, and I'm really ready to move on to the next thing. It feels good to be tatting again.

Showin' off the new tats!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Breaking rations

I took last week off, which was necessary because with the boys home, I had extra work to do. They don't think they make extra work, but BOY HOWDY! they make extra work. I do love them very much...

But I am really, really tired.

So I went back to the doctor last week to sing the praises of Flovent. All those years, and I could have--well, actually, I haven't really missed anything, and I still wouldn't qualify for certain jobs that I think would be cool to have.

I will never be a soldier of fortune, for instance.

But that's okay, like Bilbo at the beginning of the Hobbit, which I am now reading to the girl, I have brought adventure into my own home. Cooking things in the pressure cooker has become an adventure. Like running to your house and scrabbling for your key in the lock while pretending a murderer is after you, or picking a car and "losing them" as though you were a supercool spy, hubby and I like to treat the giant thing as though it were a bomb. Oh sure, there are fail-safes, but I have to have something to keep me interested in the walls sometimes.

This rarely happens.

So I've also looked to some other things to cook or make for the family. The current, er, flavor of the day is Tiramisu. My local supermarket is--not surprisingly--short on marscapone cheese, but no worries, because it's apparently a beginning cheesemaker's first project, sorta like the programmer's "Hello World!" or the tinkerer's broken clock. I did find it at Walmart, in the fancy cheese section of the deli for $3/8oz. Not a bad price, and since I couldn't actually find heavy cream that was not ultra-pasteurized, I decided to skip this step. I still included it for posterity.

I'm also experimenting with making a coffee free version for the kids and using a "sponge slab" rather than lady fingers which are stupidly expensive and not readily available where I am. So I'll include a recipe for everything, which I call "Super Experimental Coffee, egg, and alcohol-free Sponge Tiramisu." Oh and when I say that it's a "Quick recipe," I mean you'll start the night before you actually want to eat it.

Just chillin'.

And no, this is not even remotely ration friendly. It was invented in the 70s. I'll save those recipes for weeks when I am working on the garden and trying to get the kids (and me) to eat more veggies.

Sponge (sometime the day before, making it in two batches might be best):
6 oz self rising flour (sifted and left on a plate)
6 eggs
8 oz sugar
(2 tsp vanilla, optional)

Put eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat until mixture thickens. Fold flour into mix and pour half the mixture into parchment lined jelly roll pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes at , remove from oven and cool while baking second sponge with other half of batter.

Marscapone Cheese (the night before, if you don't buy it):
3 c heavy cream (NOT ultra-pasturized)
1.5 tsp lemon juice

Heat cream over medium high heat until candy thermometer reads 190 deg. Milk should be lightly simmering. Add lemon juice and stir until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Place sieve lined with fine cheesecloth or coffee filters over a bowl and pour mixture in, leaving overnight.

Tiramisu (make in the morning for nighttime enjoyment!):
2 c heavy cream, chilled
16 oz marscapone cheese
1 c confectioners sugar
1 1/2 c coffee (or chocolate milk?)
1/2 tsp vanilla
16 oz lady fingers or sponges from earlier
Cocoa powder for dusting.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip cream until stiff peaks form.

In a separate bowl, whip marscapone cheese until smooth. Add sugar, 1 c coffee (milk?) and vanilla fold whipped cream in carefully. Do not over mix.

Soak ladyfingers (sponge?) in remaining espresso (or milk?), layer into 13x9" baking dish and cover with half of creamy mix. Layer more lady fingers, then more creamy mix and chill for 4-8 hours. Dust with cocoa before serving. (Note: the sponge is super thirsty. You might want more than this. Honestly, I just poured the coffee over the sponge layer.)

I will try to post pictures later, because it will be eaten.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The fight at home.

So, as reported earlier, I have been working on conquering my house from the post-pregnancy and new infant destruction. This is harder to do when the house seems to actively fight back. Of late, I've gotten my entry clean when a month later it looks like my hours of work were hours playing Candy Crush or Facebook Cross-stitch.

I would rather spend my craft money on crafts.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, I've cleaned the stove enough that it is not only sanitary, but it's nice as well. I even replaced the drip pans with porcelain ones which should wipe clean rather than rust through like the aluminum ones. Of course, like any proper homemaker what I really want is a new stove, possibly one of those beautiful glass top ones.

Or, you know...

But I keep fighting the good fight. Without me, this family would be living like raccoons inside two weeks, and even though sometimes it can be daunting, I have to keep working. Of course, that being said in the course of online political discourse, someone told me that, because I am a housewife, I have no ambition and desire only to mooch off of others. I had to write my response three times before I could stem my anger. I'm not gonna lie, I also called them a Nazi for their xenophobia, so I really can't claim the high road here. Weirdly, though, it wasn't a Godwin, as their "solution" for the country's troubles smacked of someone else who had a "Solution."

Yes, ma'am!

I admit it, he pressed a button I've had for a LONG time. That being said, though I do have plans for the summer. The frustrating part is that Mr. Smith is working on his dissertation over spring break, and when the Boys are home it just means more work for me. I haven't had four hours to myself since the baby was born. I've barely had time for tatting, so I've only worked thirty of the forty medallions, the centers of which I did during doctor appointments and non-stress tests.

I felt like this, only I was tatting.

Of course, now I have a Diva to chase which is why this post has taken two days to write. I had to stop in the middle of the previous sentence because I had to chase her again, this time, she was exploring the toilet, so I wiped her down with baby wipes. I guess I need to get her a water table to play with outside... or inside.

Which ought to keep her occupied for all of five minutes.

Well I guess its time to get more coffee, wash some clothes, and change out the toys again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The best laid plans of moms...

I've tried and failed a couple of times since January to start blogging again. Unfortunately, it's been countered by a few things going on from a sort of general malaise to what might be latent nesting, to just chasing after a now nine month old baby.

I wrote a whole... word...... zzzzzzzzz.......

On top of everything, Mr. Smith's scooter threw a rod, or a bearing, or a camshaft--well, something technical and machine-sounding, so it's not working at the moment. This means that he has to take the truck to work, and that makes my very small world seem a little smaller.

I can see my house from... everywhere.

In other news, the world of "breathing" continues. Twice daily, I breathe in a powdery substance that tastes like dry spaghetti, and it keeps my lungs in the working order they never really were. I may never run a five minute mile, but at least I can walk a 35 minute mile without coughing up a malfunctioning lung.

I blame the groundhog.

And finally the Home Front. As mentioned at the top, I've been doing some latent nesting. I've organized drawers, arranged sweaters in the closet, and even handled a couple of the bills that were once in the flower and now in the filing cabinet. Of course the entryway I spent HOURS organizing is a wreck again, but I'll fix it again, and above all, the kitchen? It's not just clean, it's SANITARY! I mean it may not be spotless, strictly speaking, but it's clean enough to cook out of, most of the dishes are done, and the ants are forced to go for the borax trap rather than food.

You know where this is going.

In addition, my amazing sister and I have been looking at food preservation, solar power, and other things that are becoming associated with "doomsday preppers." I started this blog because I wanted to move my family to a simpler life. So far I've botched that. What I have done is start to cook more, and try to rely less on the modern, imported, brand new, and all that. We only have one television, and no cable. We have game systems, more computers than I can count, and high speed wifi, but we come to the table for a homemade, whole food meal. I still need to get into making after school snacks and after dinner treats. That's a lot of cooking though, so I may need to come up with a different solution, and this different solution might involve the freezer.

It may be clean, but I'd like to leave the kitchen occasionally.

However, I am doing one thing that is not on the ration list, strictly speaking, though without cooking lots of cakes, it might be. You see, in the interests of tradition, Friday has become "Treat Friday," where we go and get a treat to celebrate the end of another week--just an Icee and a candy bar at the Pilot station--and Saturday night has become "Pizza Saturday" where we watch Super Sci-fi Saturday night on MeTV and have pizza and sodas. Friday morning, since the boys were gone ALSO became "Coffee and Doughnut" Friday. Well, a very sneaky Mr. Sm--er, Mr. Santa--brought me a new George Foreman grill with changeable plates. It came with new ceramic grill plates, and the thing I wanted most, WAFFLE plates! I read and actually STUDIED how to make the perfect waffles, adapted a recipe I already had, and so Saturday mornings, I make waffles.

You'd think I'd get tired of waffles on Saturday mornings?

Uncle Sam needs waffles!