Friday, December 24, 2010

Is it too early for a New Year’s Resolution?

Normally, I’m not a fan of the Resolution. The very idea that I should only make positive changes in my life on January 1 sets me off. I can change any day of the year. Just because I start a new calendar doesn’t mean anything else is actually new. Except the year I write on checks. That always gets me until at least February.

I’ve made resolutions in the past, but mainly to say that I’ve made them. I don’t care if I keep them or not. But this year I just feel like I need a push. A gentle reminder to get up and live. It’s possible that I have some mild depression after my grandfather’s death. I acknowledge that. But I don’t really know what to do about it. I can feel that I’m not myself – I feel disconnected from my life. It could also be that I’ve been fighting a cold since about the same time as his funeral. Or both. You know, now that I mention it, both seems right.

Allow me to talk to myself while I figure out my goals for 2011.

1. This one is most important to me right now. Rediscover creative mojo. I need to make something. To that end, I will post a creative project either completed or in progress every Friday in January (and maybe some other months). I need to sew, digiscrap, take photos, etc.

2. Get photog business going. Keep motivation. I’m not quite sure yet how I’ll accomplish this one. To begin with, though, I will post one photo a week (day to be determined).

3. Establish/maintain order in my home and upgrade decor. I’m getting there, but I still need a push. So I’m thinking of posting one before and after per week – of something small. I’m not a huge household project undertaker right now.

4. Tie up loose ends.

5. Finish what I start.

6. Believe in myself.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Baking…

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s been an eventful past month for me. My grandfather, who had been ill for over a year, died after a five-day bedside vigil/living wake (if you knew my family, you would interpret that in a very positive way). I have much to say about him and the last days of his life and his entire life, but I’m not there yet.

Where I am is preparing my list for Thanksgiving baking. With my grandfather’s death and subsequent activities, I haven’t been home much until today. So this morning I started gathering my list of things I’m baking. My father-in-law has ordered two pumpkin pies. My mother-in-law offered Mrs. Smith’s. He said he wants Mrs. C’s – meaning mine. I always make a pumpkin roll for each of the houses on my visiting list. And then this year I desperately want to try this: Cranberry Shortbread Bars.

I love to try new baked goods and Thanksgiving is one of those times I can experiment. My family is huge and if everyone just takes one small helping, it’s gone. And if it goes fast, I know it was good. If it’s still sitting there, it’s off the list. I’m also not a fan of pumpkin items or pies, so finding something seasonally appropriate that I might like is a challenge. So I’m hoping the Cranberry Bars make the list.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Well, I leapt…

I have been planning to start a photography business for years. Between baby #4, moving and adjusting to a new area and my total lack of confidence, I’ve put it off. But something a friend said clicked for me last week. Our budget is tight. Completely without wiggle room. It sucks. If I can do something I love to make it a little looser, I think I need to.

On Monday, my mother-in-law left me an urgent message on my answering machine. She needed to discuss something with me. I’m thinking…crap. What now? Turns out she has been looking for a job (I knew that part), but found one for me instead. So her plan became instead of her applying for a job, I could and she would stay home with the Viv. Tom and I have been in favor of this plan since we moved here, so we’re not really opposed to it. But it would impact our life in so many little ways. Like my not getting home from work until 6, having to run out to lead Cub Scouts or Girl Scouts at 6:30, go to arts council meetings at 7. I would have to organize like crazy.

So instead I put myself out there as a photographer. So far only a few family members have taken me up on it, but they’re still different faces for my portfolio, so it’s a start.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Requiem for a cat…

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We had to put our cat down on Tuesday. It was in some ways a difficult decision and in some ways the easiest decision of all. He was clearly suffering and yet it’s so hard to actually let go.

I was driving down the main road of our little town yesterday, watching the UPS truck stop at someone’s house, people walking to the only restaurant in town, cars being filled with gas. Our cat is no longer part of this world and yet it keeps going. How devastating and somehow hopeful that is.

How do you measure the life of a cat? He was a stray as a kitten, found wandering the streets of our college town. I went to the humane society to pick out a kitten. I picked a gray and white patched kitten for no other reason than he matched our other cat, a black and white patched cat. I took my then-boyfriend (now husband) to finalize the paperwork and this scrappy long-haired solid gray kitten wouldn’t leave him alone. Guess which cat we took home. We brought him home and he ate and ate and grew and grew.

We were two kids in love back then. Not married, not even engaged yet. One cat’s life later, we’re two adults approaching middle age, married for twelve years, parents of four. We’ve lived in four different homes in that time. What started as a dream with a cat to love has turned into a life.

We moved to the farm two years ago. Kitty didn’t like it. He’s been declining ever since. But in the past month, our once 20 pound cat dropped to 6 pounds. He could barely move or breathe. As heartwrenching as it was, we knew he was dying and there was nothing the vet could do about it.

The kids were initially very upset. I was a little surprised that my stoic son took it the hardest. He’s so much like me it’s kind of scary. I hate crying. My oldest daughter also took it very hard and is still getting upset at times. The five year old didn’t know what was going on, but knew that she should cry, so she cried louder and more hysterically than anyone.

Now they want a kitten. We told them we’ll discuss it in the spring. I’m not ready for a kitten. But it’s been a nice distraction for them to think about.

Unfortunately, all of this is making me think of how sick my grandfather is. How difficult it’s going to be to tell them when he dies. And how we can’t use talk of a new kitten to distract them from the fact that the world still exists without one of the most important men in my life in it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A new hobby…

Of sorts. I’m trying to stretch our budget by couponing and using the extra coupons at places like Walgreen’s and CVS. So far I’m struggling. I keep spending out of pocket and am getting some rewards money, but not enough to keep me from having to put up some money each time I go in. It probably doesn’t help that I refuse to buy crap I don’t need, don’t know anyone who needs and have no place to donate to.

I’ve been trying Walgreen’s as my starter place. I’ve made five trips. Each trip cost me under $10 and I did get more stuff than that. But not enough to really keep my costs down so far. I have a great stash of body wash – considering I only use one every four months or so, the three sitting in my bathroom closet will last me through the school year. I paid $.99 for each.

Now I’m adding in CVS (both it and Walgreen’s are conveniently located for me, Rite Aid is not) to see if I can do better by shopping at both or if one works better for me.

I did have some success at the grocery store last week – my bill came to $113 and with my store card and coupons, I paid $68. I know a lot of couponers do better, but I feel like that was a good start.

My ultimate goal is to spend $300 biweekly for all my shopping trips. I tried it for the last two weeks and it did not work. But I had nothing in the freezer and really very little in the cabinet. Part of this is due to the change in seasons. In the summer, we grill and eat very light salads most of the time. Now that it’s a little cooler, I’m feeling like roast chicken and steamed veggies. So my pantry needed a change. Now that it’s made, I think everything will go better.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mr. Soccer...

Here he is, Mr. Soccer Player (and Ralph the Dog). IMG_4574

He's never been interested in playing before this year, so I've got a nine year old playing soccer for the very first time. Do you know what he did about 10 minutes into the game? He picked up the ball. He's not the goalie. Rule #1 in soccer - don't pick up the ball! Oh, well. It wasn't a big deal in the end. His team was outplayed. If for no other reason than that they had only one sub, so basically all the kids played the entire game. The other team had a complete first and second string.

But he played and tried his best and I’m not asking for anything more than that. He’s always been so non-aggressive that he didn’t even want to sign up for soccer, so I consider this a huge step.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Christy’s Kit of the Week

My oldest has started playing soccer, so that’s the theme of my kit of the week. I bought the Soccer set by Erica Zwart at MScraps. At first I was only going to buy the red one, because I like reds. But I realized most of my photos have grass in them, so I bought the bundle.

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I also have my eye on a new release kit at ScrapMatters called Kick It

by Chelle’s Creations. I’ll probably pick this up this week too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Garden Update: Week “will we ever get ripe tomatoes?”

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We have approached tomato jungle status. This picture is two weeks old – we’ve since pulled the zucchini plants up and the tomato plants are now officially taller than I am. And – best of all – they’re actually starting to ripen their fruit without birds eating it all. We planted super early so we’d have tomatoes in July and here it is the end of August and nothing. Well, close to nothing. I harvested a basketful this morning, though. I have grand plans for dinner tonight. BLT’s, baby.

And I started our fall crops – lettuces, kale, and a replant of some cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage starts. I planted the first round last week, but I think it was just too hot for them.

This year has been a learning experience for me. I now more about insects after this summer than I’d ever learned in my previous 30-some years (hello there, pretty white moth – corn earworm, what?). I know all kinds of vegetable diseases (early blight, powdery mildew) and what you can prevent and what you can’t.

We’ve also learned a bit more about what we want to plant next year and how to go about it. Tomatoes and squash need to be farther apart. We left three feet, but could have left five and still needed more room. We don’t like black beauty eggplant. I’m still going to try some fingerling eggplant varieties next year, though. No sense planting carrots – while fun to see them grow and pull them up from the dirt, no one here ate them, either.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We got to go back, back to school…again…

I’m singing the opening number from Grease 2, in case anyone missed that.

Wednesday, August 25 marks the first day of 4th grade,2nd grade and kindergarten for three of my four kids. Kindergarten in our state is all day, every day for everyone, so Miss S is gone just like the big kids. The Viv and I will not know what to do. Just me and her for the next three years. I’m scared.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

All good things…

must come to an end. Tomorrow is the first day of school. There’s still a little bit of summer to be had, but the carefree lazy days (I woke up at 7:30 this morning, but stayed in bed until 8:30 – just because I could) are more or less gone for another year.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Christy’s Kit of the Week: Little Rabblerouser

As previously noted, I’m a sucker for a kit that uses primary colors. Even more so for one that uses primary colors  in a boyish way. Girl kits are easy to find, but kits that I don’t have to work too hard to make work for my son are much harder to find. So when I saw this grab bag at the Digichick for only $3.00, I had to buy it.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

More mysteries:

I’ve been reading right along for the cozy mystery challenge on Goodreads. I’m at 8 out of 51 (you know, plus DC, which is actually one of the ones I’ve read)

Here’s my list with a quick review:

Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay (Arizona) – A cupcake store owner finds the body of her best friend’s fiancĂ©e and ends up a suspect in her murder. She investigates to save herself. This formula seems to be par for the course for most of the books I’ve read in the past week, but I supposed it makes sense since they’re all the first in a series so the author needs to give a strong motivation for her character to become an amateur sleuth.

I actually figured out whodunit before the book had to spell it all for me (normally, I miss every clue and have to wait for the book – and tv show’s reveal – I would make a crappy detective), but that didn’t detract from the book. I loved the characters (I’m a huge fan of Monk and Psych,which to me are less about the mysteries and more about the characters) and I love cupcakes and can’t wait for the next one in this series.

Dead In the Family by Charlaine Harris (Louisiana) – this is the latest in the series about Sookie Stackhouse and the basis for the True Blood series, which I’ve never seen. I’ve read all the other books, though and I’ve enjoyed them. This one fell kind of flat for me. I kind of hate Eric, so that might be why. Or maybe the whole thing has gotten a little stale or maybe it felt like this was written specifically to be on TV.

Wreath of Deception by Mary Ellen Hughes (Maryland) – A new craft store owner finds the body of a clown she hired and ends up a suspect in his murder. She investigates to save herself. This one was set in my home state, so it was fun to get a couple of real local references. I had an idea about the murderer in this one from very early on, which – as I mentioned above – doesn’t normally happen. But I wasn’t sure until it was actually spelled out, so it only partly counts. I would read the next one if I find it at the library, but I probably wouldn’t pay for it.

I Scream, You Scream by Wendy Lyn Watson (Texas) – An ice cream shop owner ends up accused of murdering her ex-husband’s new girlfriend and ends up investigating the crime to save herself. I loved the Southern accent in writing. I don’t always enjoy reading accents – this can be over the top at times. But it was well done in this book. I could hear the characters’ accents without being distracted. The story was good – and I had no idea who did it until the end. I’ll probably read the next one.

Cooking Up Murder by Miranda Bliss (Virginia) – Two girls who can’t cook take cooking lessons and witness a murder. Contrary to the formula established in other books, neither is accused of the murder. I guess they’re just nosy. The story wasn’t my favorite, although I like the concept. I probably wont’ seek out the next in the series.

State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy (DC) – A White House chef is the only person who can ID a hitman. She doesn’t seem to be able to stop herself from investigating a little, although she doesn’t do as much active detecting as some of the other “detectives” in the books I’ve been reading. I liked it. I’ll try to find the next one at the library.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It’s come to this…

My house is in desperate need of some style, organization and decluttering. We live in my husband’s grandparents former home (they now reside at the Junior Order cemetery). We’ve been here for two years. And in that time, we’ve sort of existed. There is no mark of us on this house at all. I think we’ve been sort of terrified of making a change that won’t be accepted due to the emotional nature of us living in the childhood home of my father-in-law and his brothers, except that all the major changes have already been made.

I think we’ve moved beyond that and I want to make some (minor and non-permanent) changes. Like a new rug in the living room instead of two mismatched cheapo Wal-Mart area rugs. I lost my initiative to decorate when we moved here and the notion of painting walls was a no-go. Without paint, how could I go on? Yeah, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl.

So I’m trying to find a style that I like and can afford. I have a love of all things vintage, so I really want to work that in, but I’m not sure I can on my extremely limited budget. Hopefully the old blog here will feature lovely photographs of a beautiful new space. Or at least some crappy snapshots of something different.

Monday, August 2, 2010

August and Everything after…

My birthday was Friday. It was a day well spent. I canned zucchini relish and made more zucchini bread (because we seem to only be able to grown monster zukes now and bread seems to be the best use for them).

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Then I made marinara sauce from scratch from tomatoes I picked out of my very own garden. Never has a meal tasted better. I used this simple recipe The Best Marinara Sauce. I sauteed some of our smaller zucchini and tossed them together over pasta. Fabulous. The only better birthday meal is crabcakes, fresh corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes. That’s the menu at my mom’s.

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I baked myself my favorite raspberry cake, a redux of last year’s cake, with a few modifications. I dropped the raspberry buttercream in favor of cream cheese frosting, to cut the sweetness a bit. I used a new cake recipe that I really enjoyed. Tom said it tasted like wedding cake, which is basically the only reason I attend weddings (plus the opportunity to dress up), so that was awesome.

The night before my birthday, I made Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, which has also been deemed one of my best efforts in the cheesecake category.

Now Birthday Week has given way to Shark Week and I have a problem. Lots of leftover cream cheese frosting that I need to use sooner rather than later. I don’t know how long this stuff stays good. If it will make it two weeks, then I’ll somehow use it for the church’s peach festival. If not, I’ll come up with something. The scale may hate me, but I’m not letting cream cheese frosting go to waste.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Sham Rock, A Mystery Set at the University of Notre Dame

My first book read specifically for the Fifty States mystery challenge. I read Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny. Only once I’d finished the book did I realize that he was the creator of Father Dowling and that he’d died, evidently before this book was published, which made me sad, although he was 80 and lived my dream (you know, actually finishing the books I have great ideas for).

As for the book, I picked it up because – little known fact here (if you know me, however, this is sarcasm) – I am a crazy Notre Dame football fan. I spend my Saturdays in the fall glued to the television or the radio when life permits (because although I love college football, I have four kids with activities and a very close-knit family that I visit frequently). Also, I can’t wait to try out my XM radio this season. I’m in love with it in the off-season, so I might just drive around one Saturday to see how awesome it is to be able to listen to so many games on the radio.

The mystery itself was intriguing (seriously – I read this book in one night). The main story involves three former students, one who is a financial advisor who’s hit hard times and has angry clients, one who is a Trappist monk and one who disappeared when they were in college. The monk sends a journal to the ND archives that seems to imply that the financial guy killed the one who went missing. This sparks investigations and secrets are unveiled. Naturally.

I was surprised (not knowing before I began reading who the author was other than a random name) at the heavy Catholicism in the book. It wasn’t just a novel set at Notre Dame. It was steeped in the Catholic culture. The characters were mainly religious. This wasn’t a bad thing (I was raised Catholic and would probably attend a Catholic church if our practically Bible Belt rural area had one closer than an hour away), it wasn’t over the top or anything. It was just not what I was expecting.

I would recommend it to Catholics, though not necessarily Notre Dame fans. My brother might not enjoy it, but I bet my grandmother would.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reading Challenge…

I’ve been looking for some new books to read. I generally read historic fiction (think The Other Boleyn Girl) but it’s summer, my brain is tired. Besides which, I tend to not have long evenings to read. During the school year the kids go to bed at 8 (which means they’re actually in bed around 8:15) and I stay up until 10-10:30. That’s two hours of solid reading time. I can knock out a lightweight book in one night, but more to the point, I can read a heavier, chock-full-of-facts historic novel in just a few nights.

I normally default to historic romance novels for fluff reading, but I’m bored and my standards are too high – meaning I’ve read most of the really quality ones and won’t finish the ones that aren’t high quality. Plus, my library doesn’t order any new romance novels so that leaves me buying them. At $6+ a pop times one-half per night, I’d be way over my budget for the summer.

I picked up a mystery last time I was at the library and decided that was the perfect summer reading genre (for this summer, this week, at least). Then I found a challenge on GoodReads that involves reading a cozy mystery from each state and DC. I have a few books on the way already thanks to Paperbackswap, which is a very valuable resource to a fast reader like me whose local library doesn’t stock my favorite books.

I’m debating if I should allow myself to count everything I’ve read this summer or not. Which would really only gain me one state. I think I’ll go ahead and count it. So right now, I’m at 1/51. Go me!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baking bites…

I love baking. I love to eat baked goods. Seems like a perfect combination, right? Well, my waist (because every extra ounce gained goes to my waist first and every ounce lost comes off my waist last) doesn’t really appreciate this. Between my weight loss goals and my husband’s pre-diabetic condition, the baked goods have been taking a back burner. But I still read baking blogs and boy, am I tempted.

Here’s what’s on my to-be-baked list:

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Red Velvet Cake (my favorite)

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake (possibly my birthday cake this year)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

So my game plan now is to find events to bake these things and take them to so that we won’t eat them all. I don’t really  have my usual round of cook-outs, but there’s at least one potluck coming up that’s getting something from this list.

Tomorrow I’m making a Black Forest Trifle. That’s what Tom has requested for his birthday and even though no one else will eat it, that’s what I’m making him. Actually, he wants a Black Forest Cake, but I told him this would be lighter and he agreed that was a better plan.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Christy’s Kit of the Week

I haven’t actually been scrapping that much this summer, but I’ve been shopping for digiscrap supplies (breaking my typical self-imposed crafting rule of only buying new supplies if I’m actively involved in the craft).

I am always on the lookout for kits using primary colors with simple graphic elements. Simple ribbons, flowers, geometric shapes are what I tend to use if I use elements at all (I’m a true simple scrapper). These kits are hard to come by. But I’ve found several this month that I had no current use for, but had to have for my stash. I love the July color play at Elemental Scraps and the free Blog Train Blog kit, Picnic at the Park.

This week’s favorite is At the Dropoff by Bella Gypsy available at Scrap Matters.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Recipe Review: Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake

I asked my now 5 year old what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday. Her answer? An Olivia cake made of ice cream cake, shaped like a pig and wearing a yellow dress. Um, okay. How about what color cake do you want? And then what color frosting? And should it be cake or cupcakes? With that very specific guidance, I ended up baking chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting.

 


I've been testing out cake recipes to find ones that will become my real stand-bys. I'm not there yet. This chocolate cake would have been fine for regular cake, but it was too runny to make cupcakes without my kitchen looking like a chocolate murder scene. It was a lovely texture and taste, however, so it will definitely be attempted again. Plus, no creaming of butter and alternating flour and milk step, which meant super easy.

Miss S's family birthday party is tomorrow, Tom's birthday is Monday and mine is Friday, so the recipe testing will continue this week. My cake might be less a traditional cake and more cheesecake-y, but I haven't decided yet. It will not be shaped like a pig, I promise you that.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Garden 2010: Week…crap, I’ve lost count…

I don’t know. Eight, maybe? Whatever it is, we’re harvesting stuff almost every day. Mainly just squash and cucumbers, but still, it’s fun to pick food from my backyard (sort of – it’s not really in my backyard, more like my sideyard, but even then I have to walk past a field of corn to get to it).

Here’s the view of the whole thing this week:

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It’s gotten a little wild and unruly, but hey, that’s me. I like organized chaos.

IMG_4033A Jack-Be-Little pumpkin. Tom thought it was supposed to be a full sized pumpkin and wondered what the hell was wrong with it. If I held my hand up, that would still be smaller than my palm. When I explained that it was an ornamental tiny pumpkin, he was much relieved.

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This is a tromboncino squash, which we’re growing for two reasons. One – it is supposedly resistant to the bugs that killed my pumpkins last year (and could easily kill my squash this year). And two – Tom is a musician and his main instrument is the trombone. How could we not grow it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baby, I was born to run…

Actually, I wasn’t. I spent the majority of my life up to this point professing my deep and abiding hatred of running and sweating. The numbers on the scale were proof (well, proof of that AND my love of baked goods and sugary treats).

When I began the Couch to 5K program in September, I thought it might lead me to lose weight, yes. I never expected it to lead me to a healthy habit. I didn’t realize what a habit it had become until last Thursday. I’ve been suffering from shin splints for the past couple of weeks. This isn’t entirely new for me, but it had been quite a while since I’ve had them. Finally, last Tuesday during my run, when I noticed that just putting on my running shoes hurt, I decided to take a break until I could get new shoes. I was heading to civilization for the weekend, so I would shop then. I just walked on Thursday. I wanted to run. Wow. I actually missed running.

Civilization (more like circumstances) didn’t yield new shoes – but it did lead to some knowledge about what I wanted. I found several pairs I liked, but they didn’t have in my size. So I’ve been scouring the web for new shoes. I finally chose a pair. These:

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I am as excited for the UPS man to bring my new shoes as I was for him to bring my new camera. Almost.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Christy’s Kit of the Week

The latest collab from one of my favorite design teams. It’s called Lazy Summer Days and I can’t wait to use it on my summer pics of my girls (maybe my boy too if I pick the right papers).

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It’s available at M Scraps, Two Little Pixels and Zig Zag Scrap.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garden 2010: Week Six, The Photo Edition

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Hey, we picked something! Two cucumbers and a zucchini. It’s not much, but I’m thrilled. After losing a row of squash to an as yet unidentified problem, picking a few things that we can actually eat from our very own garden is a major thing for us.

Did you notice me saying us? It’s gone from my garden to our garden. Tom and I work in it together. He’s just as obsessed as I am. It’s really become a bonding thing for us. We talk about how various plants are doing, what we might do to help them, what we might plant next year, even some long term plans to grow enough to sell the extras. We weed together, we just walk around and check out the progress. We share our research – he shares his prior knowledge (farm boy to city girl). No one gets my excitement over  a female pumpkin flower like he does.

Pumpkin, just waiting to be pollinated:IMG_3647

Row of Giant Pumpkins:

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Tromboncino Squash:

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Sweet Corn:

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Black Beauty Eggplant:

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Red Bell Pepper, with baby pepper growing:

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Roma Tomatoes:

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Zucchini:

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The Big Picture:

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two years of Trouble…

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Well, she hasn’t been Trouble that whole time. Just most of it.

I present Exhibit A:

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I didn’t take a picture, but ten minutes after this happened (about two minutes after her time-out was over), she also dumped the box of graham cracker crumbs you can see near her head all over the floor too. This was cornstarch.

Happy birthday, Trouble. It’s been a fun two years. I have a feeling we’re the ones in trouble in the future. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Farm living is the life for me…

They cut my front lawn yesterday:

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Growing up I always was charmed by the idea of living in a small town, the kind where everyone really does know everyone. I married a man from such a town. We spent years in other towns, mostly suburbia, before circumstances brought us to his small town two years ago. It’s a small rural town. Farms are everywhere. We live on one (it belongs to my father-in-law).

After two years of living here, it’s official. I love living in a rural, farming small town. I don’t actually mind that I have to drive 15 minutes to the nearest grocery store and 45 minutes to anything better than Target (although, really, what is better than Target?). I love having a huge garden. I love not having a neighbor closer than 1/2 a mile away.

The only thing I would change right now is how long it takes to get to my family. My parents live 100 miles away. Which I know is relatively close for a lot of people. But for 7 years, we lived two miles away from them. My grandfather is not doing well at all and I wish I lived closer so I could, theoretically, at least, do something more for him and my grandmother. With four kids under 10, though, I know that that’s not realistic. And I also know that there’s not much I CAN do, even if circumstances were such that I could do something.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden 2010: Week Two (and a half)

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So far, so good in the massive undertaking. Our only major loss is the lima beans (which I don’t eat and Tom does, so he’s taking this one harder than me). Not sure why, although I suspect bugs – actually I saw bugs eating the seeds, but I don’t think Tom believes me. We’ve hit it with a round of insecticide, and some are coming along now. Not sure we’ll ever see any beans, but that’s okay by me.

We actually have a baby tomato. I checked my records last year and our first tomato was picked on August 14. That’s a little late. This one might be early, but that will be nice, actually.

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Last week I added a few new varieties to the garden: an heirloom squash called tromboncino that’s supposed to be resistant to whatever bitch ate my pumpkins last year and an early-bearing canteloupe, so that we might see canteloupe before September.

In a photography-related note to this gardening post. I shot all of these outdoors (on a very bright, sunny day, no less) at ISO 32-Freaking-00. And didn’t notice that my shutter speed couldn’t get below 8000 (actually, I did notice, but thought it was just so sunny out that my low aperture – I tend to shoot wide open – was the problem). I usually do snapshots on Aperture priority. Miss S graduated from nursery school on Friday night in a fairly dark church and I forgot my flash, so the ISO went way up. Since I never put it up that high, I totally forgot about having changed it. And I was too lazy to walk back to the garden and reshoot at the correct ISO, so these are probably noisy as hell. Oh, well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lightning crashes…

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On my front porch.

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I had a meeting in town last night and my kids were at my in-laws house (which is across a field of wheat from us). While we were all out, lightning seems to have struck our front porch. Our televisions and phone line took the worst of the blow. Thankfully our computers all appear fine. Hopefully repairing the damage to the phone line won’t be too difficult and/or costly.

Now we get to debate if we want to try to have our 6 year old tv repaired or put out money we don’t really want to put out to buy a new one. Or borrow my mom and dad’s old tv that’s sitting upstairs in their house unplugged.

The worst part of the whole experience is that we have no internet access. We have DSL, which comes in through the phone line. No phone line, so… Besides, the modem got fried just as bad. It actually blew apart. So once our phone gets up and running, we still won’t have Internet access. Luckily my in-laws live next door and have wireless Internet.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

For the love of shoes…

IMG_3429 This shoe is one half of the perfect pair of shoes. It’s a bold statement, I know. But they are. For starters, they are – and this is foremost in my decidely non-fashionista opinion – they are comfortable enough to wear all night. I know, right? That’s the most important thing. But it doesn’t stop there. No, these shoes continue in their perfection. They match EVERYTHING. Seriously. I’ve worn them with a royal blue dress, a hot pink dress, a red dress, a black dress, jeans and a tank top. They just work.  Plus? They’re totally cute. That little bow gets me every time.

The problem, though, is that, despite being involved in a long-term relationship with the perfect shoes (I mean, it’s been THREE years, here), I admit that my eyes have wandered recently. And I have a crush on what is the shoe equivalent of The Bad Boy. They’re impractical. They match nothing I own. The heel is too high and like most bad boys, will end up hurting me. But I. Want. Them. I’ve managed to convince myself that I can pull them off (I can’t) and that I’ll wear them all the time (I won’t). I’m so close to buying them and wearing them with a dress that Stacey and Clinton might say they go with, but my mom would not.

562030_Turquoise (Oh, dear God, they come in red, too. I need two pairs of shoes I’ll never wear, right?)

In the end, I’m practical. Or  a coward, depending on where you’re sitting. Could I pair these lovely turquoise shoes with the heel that I could probably handle with the gorgeous red dress I bought to wear to summer weddings? In my head, yes. In reality, my (boring) adorable little tan ones will make me more comfortable.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Garden 2010: Week One

Week one was actually two and a half weeks ago. We planted my seedlings and some store-bought larger plants in the ground on May 16. Since then we’ve planted a few seeds and some more flowers. Here’s what it looked like on planting day:

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It’s really not very impressive at this point. I’m going out in few minutes to take an updated photo. There’s been a lot of growth in the past two weeks – sadly a lot of that growth has also been in weeds, but we’re trying to stay on top of that. Tom is better about it than I am. I like to hand-pick between plants, which means my back can only take so much. He whacks at what’s not near many plants with a hoe. Probably his way makes more sense, but I don’t want to lose any of my plants. I’ll stick with the hard way. I usually do.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Changes…

My boy. My oldest. My non-aggressive, perfectionist child. I just signed him up for soccer for the first time in his life (he’s 9). I think I’m more terrified than he is. He has been playing goalie at recess and is so good and really loves it. I think this could be really good for him, especially in that position, where it’s a little less kid-to-kid competition and more against oneself competition. He can be aggressive against the ball and not other kids. I will be rather anxious once the fall comes, but I hope this can become something really good for him.

My oldest girl. She starts karate next week. It was a toss-up between ballet and karate (since they’re both already in scouts, any more than one more activity would put me in the overscheduled category – for me, at least – and I’m anti-overscheduling kids. And their moms). My oh-so-girly girl chose karate. Naturally. I would love to see her develop some assertiveness. She’s been having some trouble with kids on the bus that is minor enough that she should be able to solve it without adult intervention, if she can stand up for herself. I hate to think that she might grow into someone who can’t (um, not like me, no, of course not. I thrive on confrontation. Crap. Yeah, that’s a lie).

Number three. She’s graduating from nursery school tomorrow night. I send her away to all-day kindergarten (no other options here) in the fall. I don’t think I can handle. It’s harder than sending the older two, who were quickly followed up by another child who was entering school. There’s only two years between each of the older three. There’s three years between #3 and #4 (we knew we wanted four kids, but it took a little longer to dive in). Somehow that has made a huge difference. Miss S has been my main companion for the past two years, since Miss V is really still a baby (okay, okay, an almost-two-year-old isn’t really a baby, but the interaction is different). I have a glimpse of how hard it’s going to be to send Miss V off in three years.

The Baby. This kid is hell on wheels. You know how people say “If this one had been born first, we wouldn’t have had any other kids”? Yeah, that. Actually, as I told Tom, we would have had one more, but not as close together and probably only one more. I’ve often said that our oldest (the most easygoing, happy baby there was) was a trick to get us to have more kids. I didn’t know how true that was. She seems like she can be in five places at once, destroying things. And then grin so big I can hardly keep a straight face while sending her to time-out. She’s actually very good for me as a mother. I’ve been sort of smug about my parenting skills, with my three easy kids. Ha, says Fate. Try this.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hopefully swinging up…

I’ve really let myself get into a funk. A massive funk. The kind where every little thing just sent me deeper into my funk. Lately everything has felt like a struggle – everything. Not even rushing my baby to the hospital brought me out of it like I thought it might. I felt like the whole "what if” worst case imaginings that turned out to be a normal childhood ailment should have made me grateful and aware of what a baby I was being. But no, the funk lived (lives?) on.

Tom and I went out Saturday night and had a nice evening with just the two of us. We talked about all of this and I’m starting to get over it. The main thing is I worked up the courage to tell him that I’m not anywhere near ready to go into business as a photographer. He and I agreed that I would get this semi-pro camera with the idea that within a year I would be earning money from it. And that’s put pressure on me. Which I need, honestly, but it was too much. I’ve been taking picture after picture and editing like crazy trying to get to a point where I produce consistent in camera and post processed images. I am going to go forward working on one aspect of my photography at a time rather than all at once. But I think to do this I actually need to take on some sessions with people other than my kids. So I need some courage to offer sessions to people I know. Big step for me.

Tom and I began planting my seedlings into our newly enormous vegetable garden (living on a farm does have some advantages – especially since farm owner – my FIL – enjoyed the fruits of my tiny garden last year and gave me a huge section of land this year). Miss V just played in the dirt while we planted rows of lima beans, squash, zucchini, watermelons, canteloupes and tomatoes. Oh, and my mystery plant. I ordered a bunch of seeds and planted them in a little greenhouse thing. I planted them in a certain order so I would know what was where. Most of them died (just one facet of my funk) but one plant thrived. All of them lived and look fabulous. But I can’t remember what they are. By process of elimination, they’re either eggplant or bell peppers. I *think* they’re peppers. But I can’t be sure until I see some fruit.

My garden is so me. Tom insisted that we have rows (last year it was sort of a jumble, but it was tiny and I didn’t have room to leave spaces for silly things like rows). So it’s slightly neat. But I have tomatoes here and more tomatoes a few rows over. I have a row that is eggplants, red bell peppers and roma tomatoes. Another row is carrots and cayenne peppers. I did draw a map. Now let’s hope I don’t lose it, like I did the notes on what I planted in my mini-greenhouse.

Yesterday was my Mother’s Day. And realizing it made me kind of unhappy. I had the day I truly wanted yesterday.  We worked in the garden, we drove around playing sweet car games that I played as a kid, we wandered around Lowe’s for hours picking plants and garden tools. When we got home, the kids and I worked in the garden more while Tom helped his dad with the farming. I made an easy dinner for the kids while I dined on freshly made salsa. I finished off the bottle of wine Tom bought for me last week and then read a bit of a book.

The thing that makes me unhappy is that I didn’t enjoy the actual day of Mother’s Day. Everyone in my family visits my grandmother and basically we have a big cookout at her house every year. But we now live two hours away. So I spent four hours in the car. I hate to think that I don’t want to go there, though. My family is hugely important to me and I’ll continue to go, because I kind of liked having my unofficial Mother’s Day yesterday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Too much…

I’m trying to change a lot of things in my life right now. I’m working on losing weight, getting fit and healthy and eating better. Some days this is easier than others. Some days I feel like nothing I’m doing is making a difference, so why shouldn’t I eat the entire bag of Hershey’s kisses we got for Easter?

I’m trying to step up my photography with an eye towards taking things professional. I want to get to a place where I have consistent focus, consistently well-processed images and confidence to direct my subjects at a shoot. I’m up to the last one now. And I think the only way to do it is to get in, at least up to my toes. But I’m just not confident enough to put myself out there, which begs the question – will I ever be? Will there ever come a time when I’m comfortable saying “I’m a photographer.” And better still “I’m a photographer. Here are my prices. Yes, I’m worth it.”

I’m trying to stay on top of keeping my house clean – by which I really mean clutter-free. Some days I do this better than others. Some days I feel no guilt about sitting back and taking pictures of the kids (see previous paragraph). But some days I feel like a lazy cow. No one’s complaining except me, but that’s bad enough.

I’m getting frustrated with it all and it’s not a good thing. Usually my response to frustration is to shut down totally. I’m trying not to do that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear Spring…

I love you. I think you are the most beautiful season I’ve ever met. I mean that.

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But your beauty has come at a cost this season. I know that we had a super wet/snowy winter followed by a sudden burst of warm spring air. I know you aren’t entirely to blame for the pollen levels. That bitch Winter has some answering to do for it too.

And yet, I find myself more disenchanted with you every day. Possibly because I’ve had a sinus headache since last Tuesday. I could cry. Actually, I have cried. I’m really stuck here, Spring. If I take allergy meds, I’m in a zombie fog with a minor headache. If I skip them, I’m in a zombie fog with a massive headache. I mean, I guess the obvious answer is B, but not being able to concentrate on anything. At all. Seriously frustrating.

Plus, my gorgeous new car that is the prettiest shade of red is now practically yellow. I hate the color yellow.

That is all.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Christy’s Kit of the Week

I love all of these designers individually, so when they have collaborated (this is the second time) I didn’t hesitate to buy the kits. This one is so spring-y – the colors are fresh and fun. Loads of papers and elements. I don’t have a preview for this kit, but here is a page I made last night of my oldest daughter, my second born, who turns 7 tomorrow.

Spring Magic by SAS Designz, available at Digital Scrap Cafe, Two Little Pixels and M Scraps.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Digiscrap Printing: Take Two

Despite my disappointment with my first printing experience, I’ve been chomping at the bit lately to have my pages in albums, like regular scrapbook pages. My kids have been looking at the pages on the computer with me, but there’s just no substitute for leafing through an album. Plus, every day I delay means that much more chance for a computer failure like I had over the summer that cost me two months worth of pages. (I now back up to excess, but there’s always the chance that something will get overlooked).

My first experience was with scrapbooksplease.com. It was so-so. My pages all had a border (which is my own fault for not reading closely enough) and were on little better than regular paper. Basically, they seem like someone printed them on a color laser. Also my fault for picking the cheapest option ($.99). If I were to go back to scrapbooksplease.com, I would shell out for the nicer option ($1.99).

This time, I took advantage of a sale at scrappingsimply.com. 12 x 12 pages are regularly $1.99, but on sale for $1.49 each. Sounded  good to me. I picked a certain number of pages I wanted to have printed (based on my budget for this printing) and decided to print everything for my three older kids (I only did the baby’s in my previous printing since her book was actually empty) through this past Halloween. Since I haven’t been digital that long, it was 50 pages.

They warned that processing/shipping might be longer due to the sale. I was okay with that, since I’ve waited this long, I could wait another week. I placed my order on March 13. They arrived today, the 22nd. I wasn’t actually expecting them. If I got a shipping notice, it must have gone straight to my junk email box.

First off, everything about the packaging is lovely. Plain cardboard box, but a very pretty label. Open it up to find my pages in cellophane and taped to the box so they can’t curl up or bump around. I had two cellophane packs – each closed with a cute sticker.

The pages themselves are perfect. Exactly what I was hoping for. Which is good, since I ordered so many. The colors are vibrant, the paper is real photo paper. I’m in love. I can’t wait to put these in my albums.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Halfway there…

In September I began a weight loss journey. It was then 15 months since my youngest (and probably last) child had been born. I weighed the same as I did the day I went in to DELIVER her. Yes. Fifteen months later, I weighed the same as I did nine months pregnant. This didn’t shock me. Some women lose weight while breastfeeding. I was never one of them. I tended to gain weight actually. As soon as I stopped nursing, ten pounds just fell right off me.

Except not this time. Maybe it was because my body was sick of the up and down weight. Possibly it was because my previous three children were all born when I was under 30.

When my older kids went back to school, I began exercising in earnest. My goal was to be at my pre-pregnancy weight (about 30 pounds less) by my baby’s 2nd birthday. Through the wonders of the Internet, I came across the Couch to 5K program. Yeah, I’m kind of a couch potato, I thought. Maybe this will be good for me.

I tried it. I didn’t hate it. In fact, I found I sort of like running. I lost 15 pounds in about 6 weeks.

But I tried to do too much too fast and kept injuring myself. I took a few weeks off. Then it was Christmas and I love to bake and….yeah, this story ends with me gaining over 5 of those pounds back. So I was back at needing to lose 20 pounds to reach my goal. By June 16. I half-assed for two months. Lost nothing. Started getting VERY frustrated.

Then I remembered that I need to exercise consistently AND eat right – meals, not just picking at junk food. So I began doing just that two weeks ago. Lo and behold that scale is moving again. I’m back where I left off when I first stopped.

So right now the things I’m doing right are eating lunch (peanut butter on double fiber bread – keeps me full until dinner usually), drinking lots of water, running regularly, not just when I feel like it, eliminating sugar again (I didn’t mean to, but in the fall, I completely gave up sugar. I was just trying to get my cravings under control. At first, I craved it constantly. All the time. And really sugary sugar – like SweetTarts. I got over it by having a LifeSavers Wint-o-green every time I felt the urge for sugar – it has enough sugar to satisfy my urge but not create the insulin imbalance that will make me crave more sugar. After a while, I didn’t want anything sweet – at all. Which is completely bizarre for me).

I feel healthier, my legs are so lean (which is awesome, except that I carry extra weight in my belly, so you know, it’s great having slim muscular legs, but it just makes finding pants that much harder), and my skin! Oh, my goodness. I can’t get over how smooth and clear my skin is. Tom guesses it’s from sweating so much. 

So I still have 15 pounds to lose before June 16. But I THINK I’m finally past the plateau I’d hit and I’m working back to good habits. I’m trying not to think of how many pounds per week that is because I’ll probably just get discouraged.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A little project…

About a month ago, I noticed the curtains I stare at every day in the bathroom were falling apart (which didn’t happen a month ago – probably they’d been that way for a while. It’s just that I noticed them rather than seeing them but not really paying attention). So what does a crafty mama do? Well, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t going to make a curtain. I just couldn’t find one that was the right size and matched and that I liked. So I headed for the fabric store with a kid or two in tow. I carefully perused every upholstery fabric in the store (which is tiny, so this didn’t really take long). I settled on a green floral toile like fabric. The wallpaper in the bathroom (it’s a long story, but taking it down isn’t even a discussion, unfortunately) is patterned and not my style at all. But I had to work with it and I think it’s okay.

But….But! My sewing machine was broken. I was sure I’d be able to work with it long enough to make four straight hems (when I make curtains, I make simple panels usually. I leave the fancy stuff to my sister). Nope. I couldn’t even get it to sew at all. Now I know it could probably have been repaired. But the thing didn’t cost $100 fifteen years ago when I got it. The cost to have a repairman look at it was $60. I was pretty sure an insurance company would have totaled it like they did my lovely old Dodge Aries. The cost of a new axel was more than the car was worth. That was a good car.

So I got a new sewing machine. A Janome. But not a super expensive one, despite the name. I couldn’t really justify more than $150 for a machine that I use for the odd curtain and Halloween costumes. I’m in love. Funny how using something nice and new that works makes you realize how crappy the old thing was. This was true of all of our new appliances (crap, does this count as a broken appliance? That takes over our limit of three. I’m going to say no since I know it’s been going for at least a year now)

BEFORE:

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(I know you can't see it in this picture, but the bottom has a trim that was half on and half off, not to mention water stained)

AFTER:

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(I know the right side is higher than the left. I'm trying not to let it bug me so much that I rip it out and resew it. I still might, though)

(SIDE NOTE: I started using Windows Live Writer for blog posts and I must compliment it. These pictures were not saved in portrait orientation and it just rotated them on its own for me.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

I love RAW, I love RAW not…

I can’t decide. While taking a few test shots in RAW, I thought absolutely not. This isn’t for me. I think it was my gut reaction to seeing my 8GB card that could hold over 1000 large jpg images get knocked down to 250 or so RAW images (well, RAW + JPG, since I wasn’t willing to leave the safety net of jpg completely behind).  I uploaded the files to my computer. Still not sold. A few hours later, I got around to editing one. I chose the worst off of the bunch (exposure wise) to start with. This is the straight out of camera JPG:

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Underexposed, a little blue-ish (probably forgot to set my white balance at all – that’s one thing I don’t like so far about my Canon. It’s sort of a pain to custom white balance).

I opened it in Photoshop Elements Camera Raw. This is the adjusted RAW file:

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It’s not perfect, but it is so much better than the SOOC. I just don’t think I would have been able to get from there to here with Elements alone, as I would have to have done if I’d only shot jpg.

And a little black and white play with the B&W Splendor Action from Coffeeshop Actions (my favorite b&w conversion):

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Despited the totally pouty and/or stuffed with fruit snack bribe mouth, I think I might print this one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Laundry, meet Camera…

My wayward camera finally arrived yesterday after a snowy detour at our local UPS hub for FIVE days. I was in agony, knowing my camera was sitting 15 miles away, but I couldn’t get to it. The lens, memory card and memory card reader arrived on Friday, but the camera itself was sitting in a box on the back of a UPS trailer. This was serious torture.

And in seemingly unrelated news, we got a new washing machine today. For anyone keeping count, this is our third appliance to go up in as many months. We are keeping a cautious watch on our stove, refrigerator and chest freezer – just in case these things don’t come in threes. We made the switch to a front loader. I wasn’t sure this was what I wanted, but I couldn’t find a top-loader that had the capacity and features I wanted. Plus, it matches the new dryer. Tom is very big into our appliances matching. Me? I’m more about the features (you know, important stuff – like will my pizza pan fit in the new dishwasher and can I stuff the washer completely full of towels and not destroy it?).

Here it is – the horrible first picture I took with my Canon 50D:

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Mount Laundry. AKA – please, Mr. Lowe’s Delivery Man, arrive at the earlier part of your 9-1 window tomorrow so I can begin to conquer this mountain (actually, this is more like the highest peak in a chain of mountains – there are more in the laundry room). And I would like to thank the lovely Lowe’s delivery men who did, in fact, arrive at the earliest part of their 9-1 window.

I have a load of laundry in right now. We’re all fascinated by the window in the front of our washing machine. In fact, the next series of pictures I took with my new camera are of the washing machine doing its thing.