Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Flowers

For my Birthday, JP got me a pair of Bogs.  I have perfectly functional, ugly black mud boots from WalMart that I have been wearing to tramp out to the chicken enclosure for the past couple of years, and so had resisted the purchase previously.  With the below freezing temperatures this winter, my toes have been pretty chilly in the WalMart boots, and JP finally broke down and gifted me with the Bogs.

They are cute.  And warm.  And they work equally well slogging through mud and puddles as they do sliding through snow and ice.  Lovely.

My girl friends got me new garden clogs, as my old ones sprung a leak last Fall.  I'm looking forward to wearing them all Spring and Summer to straighten out my flower garden that got destroyed last September and grow my veggies in the raised beds.  Fun!

I believe it was February or early March last year, that my Hellebores started blooming.  My Dad was just pondering about tapping the Maples again, since we missed last year.  Could this winter really be nearing the end?

Nah...the temperatures are dropping again, and they are calling for snow flurries over night.  I mustn't get my hopes up yet for Spring - I've still got FEBRUARY to contend with!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Feeding the Birds

The schools closed 2 hours early yesterday afternoon, because of forecasted snow.  I don't believe it ended up being as severe as they thought, but it was probably best to get everyone home anyway.  I had to scramble to figure a way to get J home...she came to my office, and we drove home together through the falling snow.

It is still coming down, and we have about 6 inches of fine, light snow.  The temperatures have risen to just below freezing today, so the water in the chicken run is still in liquid form several hours later.  JP just informed me that the forecast for Tuesday predicts a high temp of 61*!

I have been enjoying watching the winter birds at our feeders lately.  The cardinals look gorgeous against the snow.  We have lovely blue-grey juncos with creamy breasts, and the tiny chickadees with their black caps.  There have also been many woodpeckers hanging upside down on the suet feeder.  I filled the feeders today, and the birds waited patiently, high in the trees, until I finished.  The snow falling on the lid of the feed bucket was so amazing that I had to snap a pic.

Lately, the chickens have been getting up at the crack of dawn, and heading down the slope to a small shelter that JP built last summer for the pullets.  It is probably 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep, but the roof slopes from 2 feet high at the front, to the ground at the back.  All 20 of them cram themselves in there and hang out...all day.  At dusk, they march back into the chicken barge and arrange themselves on the roosts for the night.  Crazy birds.

I enticed them out with some corn this morning.  The snow came all the way up to their bellies.  They gobbled and purred in a chicken-y way, while Miney the rooster kept a wary eye on me.

Happy snow day everyone...keep warm and dry!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Another 2 hour delay for J this morning because of frigid, below freezing temps.  We don't mind in the least the chance to sleep in a bit.  The girls learned the metric system in cyber school, and when it comes to temperatures, they prefer dealing in Celsius.  It certainly makes more sense than the Fahrenheit system...32* is freezing?  Whaaaaaa?  Consequently we have many of our thermometers set to Celsius up here on the Ridge, and have been seeing numbers of   -9* and below.

All this chilliness, means that I am taking fresh water out to the chickens every couple of hours.  JP has plans to build a chicken water-er that holds 5 gallons, and can also hold an electric de-icer.  We finally got electricity out to the chicken house, but now need to figure out how to support 40 lbs of water in a safe and effective manner.  By the time we come up with something, this deep freeze will likely be a thing of the past.

This morning, the 2 hour delay caused a bit of conflict:  J's classes started at 10 AM, as did L's testing 40 minutes North of here.  I had arranged to shuttle J about 2 miles up the road to catch the bus with a friend this morning, but when we were most of the way down the driveway, she remembered her backpack back up at the house.  By the time we retrieved the backpack, and returned to the bottom of the driveway, the school bus was just coming up the road.  J hopped out of the van, quickly boarded the bus, and saved me several minutes of driving.  Unfortunately, she arrived very early to school, and spent quite a lot of time sitting in the school cafeteria before she was even allowed to go to her classroom.  I'm quite thankful, however, that our timing was impeccable this morning, AND that we don't catch the bus on a regular basis!

L and I made the trip North without any problems.  We are listening to a book on tape called "The Trolls", by Polly Horvath.  It is quite a humorous story about Aunt Sally from Canada, and it makes the trip seem that much shorter.  Since the Outlet Mall was basically across the street from where she was testing, L and I ventured over after she finished up.  She and I seem to share a common dislike for shopping (hooray!), and she asked "Can we go home and finish up my school now?" after the second store.  She also informed me that I was "just wasting your money!"

One of the reasons we went to the Outlets, was because J has been dropping comments recently about Justice.  Not the sense of moral rightness, mind you, but the trendy girls' clothing store.  I was forewarned that the store was "very sparkly", but stepped into Willy Wonka World at Easter time.  Absolutely everything was pastel and sequined or glittery, some clothing even included pastel and sparkly fake fur or feathers.  We found a couple of not too heinous shirts on the sale rack, and received an additional 40% off, so I suppose it was worth the trip.  It made Miss J extremely excited, so yes, it WAS worth the trip for the deeply discounted pastel and lightly sequined shirts.

I have had my fill, after an hour this morning, of Outlet Mall shopping.  I think I'm good for at least the next 2 years.  J may think differently, but L and I will set her straight.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Windy Saturday

It is a quiet morning up on the hill.  JP is off on a mission in Ole Bessie, yogurt is incubating in the kitchen, the dogs are dozing in a sunbeam, and the girls are in the tree house, plotting who knows what.  The wind is howling through the bare trees at times, but the sun is shining brightly, and the sky is clear and blue.

The sheets are whipping around wildly out on the clothesline.  While I struggled to get them pinned securely to the line, the dogs were out and running about in a manic manner.  They haven't had a good romp since last week, when they took off after deer while I was bringing fresh water to the chickens.  They loped back 30 minutes later, quite pleased with themselves, and smelling of 2 month old deer parts that they rolled in while in the woods.

Although the night temperatures have dipped below freezing the last couple of nights, it has been cozy and warm in our house...even in the bedrooms, where the heat from the wood stoves does not typically penetrate.  We bundled up and went out last night to look at the moon with our Christmas telescope.  It was a bit breezy, which made the telescope (and therefore the image) sway, but it was impressive, none the less.

The new wood burner is truly making all the nooks and crannies of our home warm!  For the past 24 hours,  I have not built a fire or carried wood.  The wood stack on the veranda is low, but we will not haul wood to fill it this weekend.  All the hot water we are currently using is being heated outside.  There are some down sides though:  1) The unit itself lacks any charming curb appeal.  Let's face it...the thing is Ugly (with a capital U)  2)  Although it only needs to be stoked with wood (or coal) every 12 hours or so, the stoker inevitably gets a snoot-full of smoke, and comes back in smelling that way.  These are things we will have to experiment with, in order to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.

This is the view from my kitchen window now
As I mentioned previously, JP is off in Ole Bessie to the next county to buy coal.  Ironically, although the coal mine is the largest employer in our little town, there is no place to buy the stuff locally.  Since our burner is built to burn either wood or coal, we thought we'd try the coal option to see if the benefits are overwhelming.

I am currently procrastinating.  It is time to put away the rest of the Christmas decorations this weekend, I guess.  It always seems to take longer to stash all the things back away than to take them out each season.  Sigh...I need to get going if I am to accomplish anything today.  Tonight, my girlfriends and I are going out for dinner and a movie, I am SO looking forward to it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well

It has been an incredibly chaotic day!

Some how the Sears repair man got rescheduled on the same day that the folks from Somerset decided to come and install the outdoor wood burner.  It is also the day that L and I don't have other pressing matters, such as work or Speech Therapy or errands, so sometimes we get together with friends.  I invited people out to Poplar Ridge today, since I had to be here to let repair men and installers in.

Everyone arrived one after the other this morning.  The men got stuck in the mud out past the barn while trying to unload the wood burner.  Dad and I cleared out everything from under the barn lean-to, so they could off load from that un-muddy direction.  They finally finished up around 8 PM tonight, so I suppose I will now have to learn how to build fires out there now!

I put a path of rugs from the french doors downstairs, leading into the storage area where they were working.  These are still brown from mud, although I've vacuumed them several times...I'm just glad they were down, so I will not have to steam clean the light carpets down there!

My washer is finally repaired.  I tried the dreaded "Rinse and Spin" cycle this evening, to rinse out towels that I used to sop up puddles around the water heater down stairs.  This is the cycle, the ONLY cycle, that had been leaking.  No puddles under the washer afterward, so it is really and truly fixed!  Dad helped me re-stack the dryer, which has been sitting in the craft room for the past 3 weeks.

I really needed to get out of the house this evening, so as the sun began to go down, I checked the tree house (which had been a bit wet after the rain storm earlier in the week).  It is nice and dry now.  I filled the bird feeders and gave the cats food and water.  As I was finally coming in, with a load of firewood, the sunset was gorgeous.

The girls went right to sleep tonight.  All the messes are cleaned up as much as possible for the time being, and I am ready to collapse on the sofa with a cuppa tea and some shortbread to watch Downton Abbey.  I feel very deserving of that tonight, after this day that passed in a flurry.  Some how, this week is nearly over.  I'm not sure how it happened, but thankfully it sped through gracefully and not as clumsily as it has been known to in the past.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Party Time!

Yesterday we celebrated L's 7th Birthday with our friends.  All together, there were 19 of us up on Poplar Ridge. It was such a beautiful day yesterday, that we couldn't keep the kids inside, so they went out to play in the mud.

L chose a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling and chocolate icing.  I absolutely LOVE this recipe for chocolate is easy, delicious, and always turns out nicely.  It also makes a LOT, and I've been known to eat the left overs straight from the refrigerator...chocolaty, and melts in my mouth!

Quick Chocolate Frosting
From Cook's Country...makes about 4 cups

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
2 3/4 c confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 c semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
2 T milk
2 t vanilla
1/8 t salt

Using electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy, about 30 seconds.  Turn mixer to low and add sugar 1 cup at a time, and cocoa, mix to combine.  Beat in melted chocolate and increase speed to high, beating until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to med-lo and add milk, vanilla, and salt.  Increase speed to high and beat until fluffy, 30 sec. more.

L had a wonderful time, as did the rest of us.  It has been entirely too long since we got together with our friends...holidays and sick kids and life in general has kept us apart for a while.  Thanks so much for coming out, everyone!  We hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as we did!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Close Enough

Well,we did it! Dad and I got all of the trim up in the tree house this afternoon!  Every door, window and corner has been trimmed.

The girls and I brought the rugs up this evening to see how they look.  This is a view from the entrance door toward the door that leads to the deck.

JP managed to find these bunk bed cots, and the girls wanted to get them set up and try them out as well.  This view is from the deck looking toward the entrance.

The really nifty thing about the bunk cots is that they fold down to become a sofa when not in use as a bed!  It isn't a very comfortable couch, so I plan to make some cushions out of memory foam to make it a bit comfier.

I actually have plenty of sewing to do for up there.  We'll need some cute little curtains for each of the 4 windows if there is to be any sleeping going on.

JP still wants to build a fold down table hinged to the wall below the peach colored window (you can see it in the top photo), and I need to touch up some paint.  We should hang a few pictures too, of course.  On the whole, however, I think it's close enough to being finished to call it DONE.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Girl Power

I've been at it again...yes, painting...but it's all done now, though a bit of touch-up may be needed when all is said and done.  I've actually been using tools and FIXING things...and they are actually working!  I'm not saying that my skills are up there with my friend, T, who has renovated homes - how many times now? - but I'm whittling down those little jobs around here that need to GET DONE.

So, the kitchen sink has been leaking for a couple of months.  Nothing terrible, but if water gets left in the sink with the stopper closed, a puddle will accumulate in the cabinet underneath.  This doesn't happen frequently, thus it hasn't been fixed yet.  Finally, after cleaning up below the sink again, I had it, and decided it would only get done if I took care of I did.

Later, as I was showing JP that everything was fixed, I found another puddle under the sink!  My fix-it job was fine, but the OTHER side was now causing a problem!  I bought a new drain yesterday, and installed it last night.  TA DA!  Dry as a bone down there today.

It's pretty empowering, I must say, to try new projects and have them actually WORK!  Now, what else needs fixed around here?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Plan Q

I decided against attempting the laminate flooring in the tree house on my own, despite the success with the van a few days ago.  I'm glad I made that choice.  We had a lot of difficulty with it.  I appears that the Big Lots flooring is of inferior quality (surprised?) and couple that with the fact that the floor of the tree house is not quite completely flat, it was not lying flat, nor locking together.  After laying a whole box with it not improving, we gave up and returned the remaining unopened boxes to Big Lots, with the plan to buy a remnant of linoleum to put up there.

While at Big Lots, however, we found some bright rugs, and made the snap decision to paint the existing floor, and add a couple of large throw rugs that can be easily removed to shake clean.  They should add some much needed color to the space.  I think we are up to about Plan Q now in our tree house interior decorating.

So...I went up to the tree house to do some MORE painting this morning.  The existing floor is chip board, which I discovered is not easy to paint.  I employed a painting method that some of my West Coast friends stumbled upon (quite literally) to paint their basement stairs a couple of years back.  I call it the W.T.H. (What The Heck) technique, and it involves pouring the paint out on the floor, and swiping it around to fill in all the nooks and crannies.

Here's what things look like now.  Once I get a second coat of paint on the floor, my Dad can install the trim around the windows and door (which is already painted and ready to go.)  Then we can start the REAL decorating.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Just Call Me "Ms. Fix-it"

Ha!  I read the instructions, and managed to replace one of the lifts on the back hatch of the van today.  It successfully fixed the problem, so I won't replace the other right now.  I also replaced both of the front windshield wipers.  I'm feeling pretty good about my capabilities at the moment!

We just received a free issue of "Cuisine at Home" magazine a few days ago.  I decided to try a couple of recipes from it tonight:  Mac n 'Cheese Soup, and Buffalo Chicken "Fries".  The soup wasn't a big hit, although it was good, it wasn't "cheesy" enough for my crew.  The Buffalo Chicken "Fries" were a hit though...not too spicy, but enough to warm you on these frigid days.  I'll share the recipe, with a couple of tweaks:

Makes 4 servings (1 lb)

1/3 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
6 T butter, melted
1 T honey
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
1/3 c flour
1/4 c vegetable oil

Whisk together hot sauce, butter, and honey in a large bowl.

Pat chicken strips dry and season with salt and pepper, then add meat and flour to zip top back and shake to coat.

Heat 2 T oil in a 12 in. nonstick skillet over med hi.  Brown half of the chicken strips for 2 min/side, then transfer to sauce mixture and toss to coat.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

Tomorrow I head back to work for the first time since the holiday.  I'm a little bit sad about it...I've enjoyed being home.  It should be nice, however, to actually talk to another adult.

It's chilly in here.  I let the fire go out earlier.  I think I'll go dive under a pile of blankets on my bed instead of trying to re-start it.  Stay warm everyone!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Back on the Treadmill

Well, back to the Elliptical Machine anyway!

After nearly 2 weeks of sleeping until 9:00, eating cookies and chocolates, it's time this morning to head back to the exercise and to school.  When the alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, it was a rude awakening!  J and JP got off to school and work ok, and I actually spent 20 minutes or so on the Elliptical.  When I checked the scale later, I found that I only put on 2 1/2 pounds in the past 2 weeks, fewer than I expected.  Those couple pounds will take a couple of months to come back off though, I reckon.

The slogging through the snow to bring unfrozen water to the chickens was a repeat of every day lately, although I brought it to them a few hours earlier...lucky birds!  I have to change it several times a day when the temps stay below freezing.  What was I thinking?  Why did I want chickens again, remind me?

I did manage to finish the scrap booking by Dec 31st.  Now my desk looks like this:

I'm sure it won't stay like that for long, as it tends to be the dumping zone for anyone coming in through either our front door or from the garage.  However, I will really try to keep it more tidy.

I also gave the girls each a journal for New Year's Day.  I read (in my Family Fun magazine, of course) about a mother who wrote notes back and forth in journals with her daughters, and it became a really special tradition.  I'm merely hoping it will give us a chance to say some things to each other that may be otherwise hard to vocalize.  I'm not sure if this will last either or not, when life gets busy, it seems like it's the newer things that fall first.

While I made a big dent in my list of projects, there are a few things that I did not accomplish in 2012, or even over the Holiday Break:

- I did not yet replace my cell phone after running it through the washing machine, so I'm still not getting texts.  *SIGH*  We are thinking of ditching Verizon altogether and going with Track Phones or something...still trying to get more information.

- I did not get the back hatch of my van fixed, so the door keeps falling down on my head when I'm trying to put bags of groceries in.  We did buy the new lifts, and I did read the instructions, but I haven't decided yet whether or not this is a project that I can tackle myself.  In the meantime, the van now needs a new catalytic converter to the tune of about $1000.  *MORE SIGHING*

- I did not eat all of the Christmas cookies yet, or even make much of a dent in the chocolate...still working on that one!

- I did not have the girls practice their instruments every day during vacation, although I did find that buying Jenna a new violin book made a big difference in her willingness to practice!  I found her a book of Christmas music, and we even played a couple of songs together - she on the violin, and me on the keyboard.

- The tree house is still not finished.  JP and I need to get the flooring put in, and then Dad says he will install the trim, which I have already painted.  It snowed or rained almost every day of the holiday, and JP was reluctant to run extension cords out there for power tools in the wet weather.  I need to read the instructions for installation for that as well, my dad feels that it is something that I could do myself!

There are more things, I'm sure there are, I am just tired of dwelling on my failings.  One more look at that clean desk:

Ahhhh...that's more like it, success and accomplishment!

Here's hoping that you all are off to a splendid start yourselves in 2013!