Friday, December 30, 2011

A Merry Christmas

I know it's a little past-due, but, Happy Holidays!

Christmas seems to sneak up faster every year and this year seems like it was an exceptionally fast race from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  Between shopping, wrapping like a maniac, tearing down walls, cleaning wall plaster dust off every surface in the house, throwing an ugly sweater christmas party, mailing out cards, and racing to get back home for Christmas Eve, this holiday has officially wiped me out.  And yet, when Christmas is over I'm always a little sad.  My christmas tree is as dry as the Sahara, if you even look at it the wrong way the needles tumble to my floor, but I am hanging on to it until New Year's.

My dad always had the tree out the door and on the curb almost as soon as the shredded wrapping paper was picked up, so now that I am a grown-up (ha!) with a house and a tree of my very own, I am keeping that poor crispy thing up as long as I can before it spontaneously bursts into flames from a combination of dryness and the heat of hundreds of tiny christmas lights.

Last night, my best friend, Karyn, who lives very far away in the mountains of California, came for an overnight visit.  Since it was Thursday, Joey and I took her up to the bar with us for bowling league and introduced her to our friends.  Hopefully she wasn't too bored watching us bowl three games.  She may have been our good-luck charm because Joey bowled his personal best (almost a 200!) and I didn't do too shabby either: 130 (pretty good, for me.)

This morning she went with me to my dentist appointment (sorry Kar!) and then we went out to lunch before I had to go into work.  I was a short visit, but just what I needed in the midst of all this holiday madness.  We were roommates in college for 3 years, hiked the Inca Trail together, and she stood by my side as a bridesmaid when I married Joey almost a year ago.  Since we graduated college and moved thousands of miles apart, I miss having her in the room next to mine, talking late at night, and fighting over doing the dishes or replacing the toilet paper (now I have Joey for that).

Now I am back at work, she is on her way home, and I have a couple more hours until the weekend.  It is rainy and grey here and I think I'd like to curl up with Joey in our new Christmas sleeping bags (so toasty) and finish the last Lord of the Rings movie that we started earlier in the week.  I might even make my favorite: spaghetti.  New Year's Eve plans include enchiladas and bowling.  After all these holiday shenanigans, it sounds like a good plan to me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas came early

This is what my dining room table looks like right now...Christmas exploded on it.

Christmas came early this year...we bought the TV for ourselves around Thanksgiving.  And up until last night it was teetering on a tiny side table we had our 19-incher resting on.  Yes, our old tv was about the size of my laptop screen.  Even though we don't get TV service out here, we use the TV a lot, watching Friends on DVD and Netflix.  We love movies.  So we bought ourselves a Christmas present.  And Joey's parents bought us the tv stand.  It finally came in the mail yesterday, I was so excited to see a giant cardboard box on the front porch!  Joey put it together (and sent shredded bits of styrofoam everywhere) while I created the christmas present wrapping mess in the dining room.

I ran out of tape and wrapping paper.  Guess that means a trip to the dollar store!  Hope everyone is enjoying getting ready for Christmas...I feel so behind!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Virtual Christmas Party

After what seemed like days of cleaning and preparing for guests, the ugly christmas sweater party went off without a hitch.  Here's a little virtual tour, it's like you were there, only without all the calories of cookies, quesadillas, and meatballs.

Ugly sweater cake, spritz cookies, quesadillas and chips...yum

veggies and dip and meatballs (vegetarian and regular)

christmas cards and wine

My handsome husband

Me and our friend, Matt

Carrie and Brian, the bunny

Anna and Josh

That's all folks, did you have fun?  We're still playing catch-up.  Last night we baked spritz cookies, gingerbread men, and chocolate-covered pretzels to give to co-workers as gifts.  Tonight we can hopefully finish up our Christmas shopping: we'll have to see what we can scrounge up at Wal-Mart and Farm King... Thursday night is bowling with another gift exchange and then Christmas!  How did it sneak up so quickly?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tearing down walls

Sorry I've been absent lately, but my house looks like this...

and we are having a party on Saturday.

No, a tornado did not strike our house.  We are not filming a World War II epic bombing scene in our upstairs.  And Joey was only joking about finding out once and for all where the mice were getting in as he swung his hammer.

We've been talking for the last few months about tearing out the thin, flimsy wall that divided the stairs, making them dark, cramped and unbelievably tight.  A few weeks ago, my dad put the idea out that we could tear down a few more walls and open up a small room into a large landing and sitting area, opening the upstairs hallway to two windows and making it feel bigger.  The small room was really more of an over-sized closet that I had been calling my "sewing room" since we moved in and I stuck my sewing machine and boxes of fabric in there.  Not once have I sewed in that room.  I always bring my sewing machine down to the dining room so I can spread out on the table.

I loved the idea of a more open upstairs, maybe even building a sitting area with built-in book shelves and a window seat.  Joey loved the idea of smashing down walls.  He loved the idea so much he couldn't wait to borrow a friend's saw and start cutting away at it.  Even though we are having about 12 people over on Saturday.  And three people are supposed to be able to sleep upstairs without the risk of major splinters, contracting tetanus, and inhaling drywall dust...

Let's just say we've got a deadline.  Obviously everything won't be cleared out, with a new stair railing built by Saturday evening.  But we've gotta clean up some of that debris.  Joey thinks it will be a conversation starter at the party.  And an excuse for our house being a mess...please excuse our mess, we are currently remodeling.  You don't mind sleeping on an air mattress on top of this pile of rubble do you?

On top of tearing through the upstairs, we've also been trying to finish our downstairs bathroom remodel.  It all started a few months ago when Joey was at work and I decided to rip out the gross, old, sliding glass shower doors that had probably been in the bath since the sixties.  Along with the orange shag carpet on both floors of the house.  And the yellow and orange flowered wallpaper.  Then I decided I wanted a new toilet.  And new flooring.  And wainscoting.

Over the last few months, Joey and I have been laying new flooring, my dad installed wainscoting, and Joey and I finally got to painting, re-installing the new toilet and laying the last of the tiles this week in anticipation of our guests.  Eventually we want to get new light fixtures and a new sink and vanity, but for now, it is looking much better.

Our bathroom, when we bought the house April 2010

Note the old shower doors, yellow molding, really old, giant toilet that if you look closely, you will see that they cut a piece out of the wall so the lid would fit, the hideous wallpaper, the grimy, grey linoleum, and last-but-not least, the toilet-paper holder built into the wall at your feet.  Lovely.

Here it was last night...looking a lot better, at least I think so.

Please excuse the coloring in this photo, I took it at night, and I don't really know how to take good inside/nighttime photos.  The wall color looks closer to this:

It's called "Creamed Coffee."  And it looks a lot better than the toothpaste color we had in the interim between the yellow daisies and the current color.  Joey remarked the other night, paint roller in hand, that it was interesting that we were painting a bathroom the color of poop.  24-year-old boys...

So anyway, that is the chaos that is happening in my house right now.  I am happy that progress is being made towards a more finished house.  And we're having an ugly Christmas Sweater party on Saturday, debris or no!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When they were good...

Remember that nursery rhyme:

There once was a girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

No? Just me? My parents were the only ones who recited that one...

Well anyway, it applies to my dogs.

For when they are good...

They are very, very good.

But when they are bad...

they are horrid.

Flouring the kitchen is about the only bad behavior I've caught with my camera, mostly because I was trying to delay having to clean up that mess.  And I'm not singling out Jip as the only naughty puppy, because Daisy's name is on that list as well.  I just don't take photos of her when she rolls in stinky stuff outside, usually I am holding my breath and wondering why Joey isn't around to give her a bath.

Everyday the list of naughty puppy behavior grows, as the two of them get more creative with their naughtiness.  Sometimes, I think they get together and discuss the things they are going to do to drive me nuts.  Jip discovered a new culinary treat today: chicken poop.  Yum.  Add that to their list of favorite treats alongside sheep poop, rabbit poop, and garbage.  

Disgusting as they are, I love them anyway.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Let it snow

I peeled my body away from my warm duvet, rolled out of bed, stumbled through the dark living room and dining room, opened my eyes in the kitchen, looked past Jip's waggling stump-tail, out the window, and saw: it's snowing!

Jip was born in May, so he has never seen snow before.  I can't wait until we get a really deep snow to see what he thinks of it.

Yes, we have christmas lights on our our front yard.

I think it's time to give the pumpkins to the chickens...

Getting ready for Christmas

Anybody else out there having the first snowfall of the year?

Monday, December 5, 2011


Such a Monday.

Joey got his truck back from the truck repair this weekend, only to find out his headlights aren't working and they didn't work on the brakes, so we dropped the truck off again this morning before Joey had to go to work.  Which means I drove him to the farm, in the dark, in my pajamas, an hour before I usually wake up in the morning.  When I got home, Jip had left some surprises for me on the kitchen floor.  I held my breath, cleaned it up, and went back to bed.  I never really fell back asleep but my flannel duvet was so warm, and the dogs were sleeping, so I stayed curled up 20 minutes past my usual wake-up time.  Which usually throws off the rest of my day...

At work today I realized I am missing both spare keys to the library and someone needs one to get in after we close tonight to hold a meeting...finally just got a call from the girl scout leaders: they have both of them.  Still doesn't help me tonight, though, since I close the library at 6, drive home 15 minutes and then have to be back at 6:45 to let someone in for a meeting.  So frustrating.  I've gotta think of a better system for the spare keys.

I also had to figure out why the toilet in the women's bathroom stopped working today.  Luckily, I was able to jiggle the cord inside and lift the flappy-thing (technical term) a few times and the water started filling up the tank again.  I felt a few minutes despair that I was going to have to use the men's bathroom...

And so, now I have to figure out when I'm supposed to pick up Joey from work and drive back to the library to open it up again.  This post is all over the place, but so are my thoughts of those days.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


My winter workout has officially begun.  I spent my morning lugging leaky buckets of water out to the sheep, sloshing water down my pajama pants and covering my boots with mud (and other unmentionables).  The ground, as well as the woolly backs of the sheep, was covered in a glittering layer of frost.  The hose and the water in the chickens' and rabbit's water bottles was frozen.  The only good bucket we have was, for some reason, in the middle of the pasture that Dodge, the ram, is in.  And there was no way I walking out there in the open, exposing my pajama-clad backside to the bombardment of Dodge's rock-hard skull.  Joey can risk his butt for the bucket.  So my only other choice, since all the other plastic buckets seem to have cracks in them, was an old metal bucket.  And it it dripped water in a path from my bathtub to my backdoor because I couldn't get the hose off the spigot on the side of the house.

While I was sweating and carrying buckets, Jip got up on the kitchen table and knocked down two drinking glasses, shattering glass on the floor.  Later, as I was trying to make a pb&j to take for lunch at work, I let Daisy out to go to the bathroom.  She came back in smelling like a dead, rotting animal.  She had rolled in something atrocious.  Since she is too heavy for me to haul into the bathtub, I cornered her in the bathroom and scrubbed at her with a wet washcloth and soap, gagging at the smell the whole time.  She's probably still covered in all the soap I slathered on her back so Joey will have to give her a real bath after work.  And then clean out the bathtub.

Out here, the bathtub has many uses, from watering sheep and chickens, bathing dogs, and giving ducklings a place to swim.

Muscovy ducklings

Four Dogs, Two Hunters

Two nights ago my house became a hunting lodge for Joey's friends who needed a place to crash so they could get up early to get spots for duck hunting at a preserve near us.  They had their two yellow labs with them: Lily and Millie.  Which means there were 2 yellow labs, 1 black lab, and 1 australian shepherd in my tiny kitchen at one point.  But they were very well behaved.  The hunters and hunting dogs squeezed into a bedroom upstairs with two twin beds, slept for a few hours, and were out of the house by 4:30 am.  I never even heard them get up and leave in the morning.  And now Joey is 30 cans of beer richer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I know it's a little late, but here are the things I am thankful for, this season and every season...

My education



Marrying my high school sweetheart



Newborn Lambs

Lazy dogs


My garden

Steam Engines

Madeline Island

Sunny days and laundry on the line

Owning my own home


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What can I do?

Counting the hours until I can close the library tonight and begin our trek home for Thanksgiving.  For a three-day week, it seems to have dragged on for eternity.  The library hasn't been too busy, except for a bunch of kids after school.  I feel more like a babysitter than a librarian, watching YouTube videos over their shoulders from the circulation desk, making sure the videos are appropriate...for the public library as well as their age.  I asked a kid once to turn off a video of Spongebob dubbed with swear-words and questioned whether a kid who looked to be around 12 should be watching LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I know it" music video.  But what is my responsibility here?  I'm not their teacher, I don't know who their parents are, but should I tell an 8-year old kid he can't watch WWF wrestling videos because they are too violent?  The poor kid isn't even wearing a coat in this 40 degree weather, and his nose is running.

Maybe it's just small-town life, but to me, it seems that a lot of children roam around town freely after school.  Maybe my parents were overly protective, but I get the feeling around here that a lot of parents don't really know where their kids are or what they are doing.  Most of the children that come in after school are alone.  Should I be glad that the library is a warm and safe place where they can hang out?  Maybe I don't know the whole situation, but I sometimes feel like there is a lot of neglect.

I know I was raised in an upper-middle class environment where most kids went to preschool and baby gymboree, and our parents drove us around to a different lesson or sports game every night of the week.  We got brand-new clothes when we wanted them and we always had an after-school snack.  I know it's naive to believe everyone was raised with ballet and horseback riding lessons, violin, and piano, and vacations every year.  I know that people aren't good parents just because they have money.  I don't have any kids, so I know my opinion doesn't count for much.  But it makes me sad when kids spend 3 hours alone after school at the library watching YouTube videos.

What more can I do as a librarian?  What more can I do for this community?  How can I use my loving and supportive upbringing, my education, and my gifts to help others?  Or am I being too judgmental?  Am I out-of-line, have I misunderstood?

Monday, November 21, 2011


Nine months and some odd days later, I have finally completed and ordered my book of wedding photos.  Now, I just have to get a new social security card with my married name...sometime before taxes come around again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From the Earth, Back to the Earth

I'm sitting here with a mug of hot cocoa for breakfast, listening to our flannel duvet cover rotating in the dryer.  Winter is on its way.  This weekend is one of our last chances to settle this little farm in for the cold and snowy season ahead.

Yesterday, Joey was off of work because it was the opening day of shotgun deer season.  Yes, this is the country folks, opening day of shotgun season is a holiday around here.  This backcountry was crawling with guys in cammo yesterday.  There is an outfitter down the street from us, and our small town Illinois street is clogged with trucks with Pennsylvania license plates.  I can't imagine driving that far just to shoot something, but at least it brings some extra revenue to our two local drinking establishments and our tiny convenience store.  They are pretty much the only places you can put your out-of-state money in this town.  They're the only places you can put your in-town money, for that matter.  Unless you count buying stamps at the little post office.

With the day off, Joey hunted for a few hours in the morning and then came home to work on our 2 acre cornfield.  He borrowed our neighbor's manure spreader and hooked it up to his 1944 John Deere A.  He also borrowed some of our neighbor's manure, which I am sure he was happy to give away.  He spent the whole day going back and forth from our neighbor's to our field.

Farmer Joe

Since I didn't have work until 2 pm yesterday, I joined Joey outside.  I worked on my garden, putting away tomato cages and picking the rest of the carrots and beets that have been waiting patiently in the earth since spring.  

purple dragon carrots

chioggia beets

After spreading manure yesterday, Joey woke up this morning and got out in the field to plow with his two-bottom plow.  It's slow-going with vintage equipment but the sound of the old tractor feels like it could transport you back to better times.  When farms were still small, and family-run.  The John Deere A looks like a toy compared to the tractors Joey runs at work.  

Next on our list of weekend to-do's is to check all of our windows, make sure they are ready for cold weather and insulate some with plastic if necessary.  Owning a house and 4 acres is a lot of work, but I am glad to have the work.  We are learning so much with every season that we own this house.