Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago today I missed a day of the third grade.  Why would I remember that grade school truancy?  Because it was the day my little sister was born.  The sibling I'd asked my parents for...and I always got what I wanted (I was an only child!)

Unlike today, with its 60 degree weather, January 31 1996 was freezing cold.  One of the coldest days of the year.  But after deciding that there was not going to be another February birthday in the family (me, my dad, and my grandpa are all February babies), my mom decided that today was the day...and started moving some furniture around to get things going.  And we spent the rest of the day at the hospital, awaiting the arrival of our baby boy...What?!  Yes, somehow during her pregnancy, charts got switched or misread and we were told my sister was going to be a boy.  We had a boy baby shower, we painted the nursery blue, and bought little boy onesies.  I bought her a Winnie-the-pooh outfit to wear on the way home from the hospital.  My parents picked out William Stephen for the name.

And at 4:30 in the afternoon, my aunt and I were waiting in the hall and heard that someone had just had a baby girl and then my dad came out of the delivery room and told me to come meet my baby sister.  She was bright-faced and had a beautiful head of dark brown hair.  For some reason, the doctor let me, an eight-year-old, cut her umbilical cord.  From that moment on, she was my baby too.

My dad and I went out for dinner and came up with the name Madeline Rose.  The next day was so cold I remember my dad driving up onto the sidewalk in front of the hospital so that the trip between the door and the car would be shorter.  I was talking about this with him last night and he said we went home and built a big fire in the fireplace and turned up the thermostat to 75 degrees.

Everyone likes to tease me that I "raised Madeline" because, as a child, I did like to believe that I did the majority of the diaper changing and bottle feeding.  And I really can't help being the bossy, older sister most of the time.

She probably doesn't think I'm as cool as she used to.  And she has almost an inch on my height.  And she's had more boyfriends than me (ok, I only had one, and I married him).  But she'll always be my little sister.  She stubbornly independent, extremely intelligent, artistic, and a beautiful young woman with a mind of her own.  Even when we're both grown-ups I'll always remember her running out of the elementary school to give me a hug when I picked her up and the way she called me Nitney when she couldn't say Whitney.

Happy Sweet Sixteen Moo!  Love always, Sissy.

Maddy on a canoe trip last fall.  warrior paint with mud...


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Speaking of Food...

I have 90 pounds of venison in my freezer.

What's a vegetarian do with 90 lbs. of deer meat?  Feed it to her meat-hungry husband of course!  Actually, I don't have much of anything to do with it.  Joey shot two does this hunting season, dropped them off at the meat market to be processed into steaks, burger, sausage, and sticks, and I just wrote the check .  I don't even really know how to cook it since I became a vegetarian when I was 14 and hadn't really learned how to cook yet.  About all I can do is brown the hamburger and add it to dishes I would otherwise add soy crumbles to.  For the first time in our married life (almost a year now!) Joey had tacos made out of actual meat in our house.

In keeping with my recent dialogue on food, and my goals for more fresh, local food, I am going to try to keep track of the amount of food that we grow or harvest ourselves, on our own land, or through hunting.  If I hadn't mentioned before, my husband is a hunter.  Every season is hunting season, he is out in all weather, in all extra free time.  Some men love fishing, golf, and fantasy football, Joey loves duck calls, chest waders, bows, broad-heads, shotguns, treestands, and camouflage.  My house is starting to look like the Smithsonian because of the collection of stuffed animals we are amassing.  And I don't mean Beanie Babies.

So anyway, Joey loves to shoot animals and hang them on the walls in our dining room, I'm a vegetarian and I eat a lot of soy products and blog about vegetable gardens and fluffy sheep.  Opposites attract.

Since it's winter, we have not produced much for the year 2012 besides a lot of venison and some brown eggs from our hens.  At least we've both got protein.  Last weekend we bought 4 more laying hens from our friends at $3 a pop, which I think is a pretty good investment for fresh eggs.  We now have 7 hens and one rooster that I named Ferdinand and Joey is convinced Ferdinand is a girl's name.  What girls out there are named Ferdinand?

 Soon I'll be starting lettuce inside to add a little green into the mix and come February and March I will be starting veggies inside for my garden and as well as my mom and dad's and my grandparent's gardens.  I've already circled everything I want in the seed catalog.  And I got some grow-lights for Christmas.

Last year, I started tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant inside for transplanting into the garden and after having good tomato crops my mom and grandma are requesting more this year.  Last summer, after our garden started producing, we mostly ate what was ready straight out of the garden and didn't preserve a lot.  I froze some green beans and sweet corn and made a bunch of strawberry jam when strawberries were in season.  All that's left is the jam.  Next winter, I'd like to be eating more of my own produce.  So back to the canning books, I go!  And maybe we'll buy a chest freezer for Joey's game.  I'm also looking into how to turn an old storage room in my basement into a root cellar.

All in the name of good food!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

That dog...

Jip cracks me up.

Jip took this out of the recycling bin...had to take a picture of baby's first beer

Thinks he's a cat.

Cat Patrol

Monday, January 23, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about food lately.  How much I should buy, what I should buy, what I should cook.  Local, organic, expensive, generic, whole, processed, homemade, frozen, vegetarian...

This weekend, Joey and I went to the grocery store while waiting to meet some friends for lunch in town.  Usually I do all the grocery shopping alone, so it was kind of fun to have Joey tag along for once.  I had a short list written on the back of a GRIT magazine envelope.  Lately, I have been trying to scale back on my grocery expenditures, stick to my list, and buy ingredients that will work for a few meals.  I've also been trying to buy less prepackaged food and more basic, fresh ingredients, something that seems harder to do in winter, especially since I can't just run to the grocery store without driving 25 minutes there.  I have to resist the feeling that I need to "stock up" and then overbuy.  The only thing I usually stock up on is organic milk since I can't get it at any of the convenience stores around me.

Joey laughed at me when I took one of the small-sized carts instead of the regular carts (they have two smaller baskets and are probably for seniors since they're easier to maneuver.)  But I told him its just one of my grocery store tactics: the smaller the cart, the less I can put in it, the less I buy.  I could swear that they recently made the carts at Wal-mart bigger just so people will buy more stuff....and they don't have the option of mini-carts so I am trying to avoid shopping there at all costs.  

I used to buy my produce and deli items at the grocery store since they have organics and better and fresher selection and then go to Wal-Mart for other groceries for the lower price, but I am tired of store-hopping, so I am trying to stick to just the grocery store.  Also, it seems that whenever I go to Wal-Mart, something extra almost always sneaks into my cart...those sneaky DVDs! 

The only problem I've run into so far is dog food.  When Joey and I looked at the price of the dogs' food at the grocery store it was a lot more that what I usually can get it for at Wal-Mart.  But, we were meeting our friends and Joey did not want to go to an extra store just for dog food, so we ended up spending almost $40 on dog food at the grocery store.  Which resulted in the purchase of generic macaroni and cheese for $.33 a box for us.  Jip is still eating puppy food until he is a year old (since it has nutrients for brain development, and needs as much of that as he can get) and Daisy needs food without chicken or soy products because she is allergic to them and has very itchy skin if she doesn't get special food.  So both dogs are eating premium food.    And sometimes we eat less than premium food.

So here are some of my food goals:

1. Spend less money on food, but do not sacrifice quality 
2. Buy more fresh fruits and vegetables, cook with more fresh ingredients
3. Try to buy more local, in-season food 
4. Grow more in our garden, learn how to preserve more through canning, freezing 
5. Eat more leftovers, waste less food, compost kitchen scraps
6. Share more meals with friends

Last night, we went over to our buddy Matt's house to watch football (well Joey watched the game, I paid more attention to my Mother Earth News Magazine than the game...)  I brought over a pot of vegetarian taco soup, Matt made chicken enchiladas, and Josh and Anna and their son Noah brought taco pie.  Somehow we all made mexican themed food without communicating what each of us were making.  Despite my lack of interest in football, I was happy to be there enjoying food with friends.  It was a very nice feeling to sit back on a friend's couch with a bowl of hot soup and spend a lazy Sunday evening with friends.  More than anything since moving away from home, I've craved familiarity in my new home.  It's one thing to see the same people at the bar every weekend, but it's a whole different thing to share a casual pot-luck dinner and watch TV.  I hope we can do it more often.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Making Progress

Remember before when Joey ripped down walls upstairs the week before our Christmas party?  And it looked like this:

Last weekend, my dad and sister came to visit and my dad finished tearing out everything and cleaned up the debris a bit...by throwing everything out the window.  So my yard is full of plaster and wood.  It's a mess.  But the upstairs is looking better.  It's easier to see now what we want to do with the space...and it is so much more light and open than it was before with a closed-in staircase and a small little room.  

Up next on the upstairs reno agenda:
- Moving the electrical switch across the hallway so it is not just dangling there on electrical wires.
- Building a bookcase along the longest part of the open stairway
- Building banisters along the stairway
- Drywall and insulation 
- Fixing parts of molding, painting molding and windows
- Painting walls
- Installing carpeting
-Painting stairs

Having fun with DIY home renovation, but can't wait for it to be more finished!

Monday, January 16, 2012

What day is it?

Jip ran away into the woods across the street.  I hurt my back somehow in the minutes after waking up.  After finally getting the dog back in the house, he ate a dress sock out of the basket of laundry I was trying to fold, spread dirty laundry throughout the living room, and ate my breakfast off the table.

And when I got outside to leave for work, I had a flat tire.

It's Monday.

Can somebody please teach me how to change my spare tire?  I hate the fact that I have to rely on someone else to get me out of trouble.  At least I was still at home, and not on the side of a country road.  Joey had to leave work and bring an air compressor to inflate my tire.  I took his truck to work and he took my car to the repair shop to get the tire worked on and then dropped my car off at the library and took his truck back to work.  I was an hour and a half late.

I hate that I don't know anyone who's around during the day who can help me out if I can't get a hold of Joey.  My few friends and neighbors that I know well enough to ask all work during the day.  I hate that the nearest gas station is ten miles away.  Sometimes moving away from everyone you know to live in the middle of nowhere has its disadvantages.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Dentist at 7:30 am

So this is what it feels like to be a grown-up...driving 25 minutes through drifting snow to get to the dentist at 7:30 am, to get your tooth drilled for two hours, and then go straight to work.  Waaaah.

Actually the dentist wasn't all that bad.  I fractured my tooth around Christmas and the dentist told me by the time they filled it in it would be more filling than tooth, so I would also need a crown put on.  But first, he had to dig an old filling out, fill a new cavity that was forming, re-fill my tooth, and then ground all the way around it so a crown could be fitted on and then fill my mouth with goop to form a mold for the new crown.  Twice.  The first mold had a bubble in it.  I usually don't like to get Novocaine because I don't like how it makes my face feel numb for hours after the procedure, so I usually get fillings done without it.  To me, it is about 5-10 minutes of severe pain rather than hours of pain and numbness to my whole face from the Novocaine.  Ok, I'm weird, but I asked for the smallest dose possible.  And it just started to wear off at the end of the two hours, so it worked out.

The dentist said I was a very good patient, besides the fact that it was such a long procedure and the very last tooth in the back and hard to reach.  The dentist and his assistant kept saying things like, "it could have been much harder, you could have had a small mouth or tight cheeks." ...So you're saying I have a big mouth and flabby cheeks?!

And since I don't have to open the library until 10 am I figured a 7:30 am appointment would be fine.  I didn't know I'd be there for two hours.  So with the combination of drifting snow, a 30-40 minute drive, and stopping at my house really quick to let the dogs out, I didn't open the library until 10:35 am.  And here's what it feels like to live in a small town...my morning regulars at the library thought I had driven off the road, or gotten lost in the snow.  One guy even told me he was waiting outside the library praying that I made it to the library alright.

But I made it in.  Even if I am still wearing my old grey Augustana sweatshirt that I drooled on all morning since I didn't have time to change after my appointment.  Oh well.  It's not like I'm trying to make any fashion statements on this snowy day in small town Illinois...or any day, really.  Unless you call muddy livestock boots a fashion statement.  I guess I am just starting to fit in with all the farmers around here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Whole lot of Mark Twain

Last weekend, my mom and sister took the train out to visit me for a little roadtrip before my sister had to go back to high school.  We were in the mood for a mini adventure and so we decided to drive to Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.  It was about an hour and a half drive through the countryside and a long bridge over the mighty Mississippi and then we arrived in a small, riverside town that revolves around Mark Twain.

They had really good root beer here.
And the smallest sink I have ever seen in the bathroom.

Our first stop, of course, was the Mark Twain Cave, where Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher got lost and ran into the illustrious Injun' Joe.  Our experience was a little less exciting, but pretty fun nevertheless.  Since January is kind of a random time to go sight-seeing, we were the only ones there and had our own private tour with a young guy named Logan.  Logan knew all of his corny lines like the back of his hand, and luckily, the way out of the cave.  The cave was pretty amazing and had some amazing history as well, fictional and historical.  The weird thing was that we kept hearing so much about Tom Sawyer that I almost forgot he was a fictional character, created by Mark Twain...The town even chooses two grade school students every year to represent Tom and Becky.  

I knew that I had been to the cave when I was younger, but the only thing I could remember about the experience is that they turn off the lights and you can't see.  The tour guide told us that if you stayed in the pitch blackness you would go blind in 6-8 weeks because your eyes would be searching for light that wasn't there.  Although we saw some old evidence of bats, we didn't encounter any until we sat down on the cave "sofa" and a small brown bat came out and zoomed around our heads.  We held really still and watched as the little guy flew closer and closer around us.  We thought it was pretty cool, and then we thought we were pretty special when the tour guide told us that he had never seen a bat get that close in the cave before.  I named him Huckleberry.

After surviving the cave without going blind, falling into a deep underground hole, or having a bat nest in our hair, as well as surviving the corny dialogue and Tom Sawyer jokes, we had to take the obligatory "Tom and Becky" photoshoot.  

Then we decided not to jump from "Lovers Leap."  I took a picture of Hannibal and the Mississippi River instead.

Even the taxis have Mark Twain's face on them.  And the coffee shops, gas stations, hotels, and antique stores do too.  Of course, being with my mom, we had to investigate every last inch of every last antique store we happened upon.  Except for the one filled with mannequins and dolls.  I got out of that one as quick as I could.  My mom said it got creepier as she went farther back into the store.  She turned around to say how creepy they were to my sister and me...and we had disappeared.  More like abandoned her in that twilight zone.  Sorry Mom.

After making our way from one overly potpourri-ed store to the next, we settled into our hotel (across from the giant rotating root beer mug (our room had an excellent view) and watched some cable television (yes, I am a nine-year old girl and find i-Carly hilarious) and then went out for pizza and ice cream.  After pigging out, we squeezed into our swimsuits and scalded ourselves in the hot tub, doggy paddled around the pool and capped off the night with some House-Hunters International (in Paris!)  I love that show.

All in all, it was a good little weekend with my mom and sis.  Now my sister is back to the dredges of public high school and I'm back at the li-berry (<- how a surprisingly high percentage of people pronounce "library" around here.)

P.S. Joey and I discovered the tv show Portlandia last night on Netflix...absolutely hilarious.  Earlier in the week we immersed ourselves in the entire season of The Walking Dead.  Yes, it is about zombies, and yes, it is awesome.  Mom, I would not recommend it to you.  Stick with Downton Abbey.  

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Here are my 2012 resolutions, written on January 1, in the midst of my pajama-thon.  There are exactly as I wrote them in my new owl journal (thank you Karyn!)...I'm not sure if they have any kind of priority, I just wrote them down as they popped into my head.

- do more yoga
- grow a bigger garden
- can/preserve more produce
- buy less (junk) food, buy more fresh, basic ingredients
- cook more whole food
- eat homemade lunches more often
- save more $
- buy less plastic, phthalates 
- be more creative: draw more, craft more
- learn to wash, card, and spin wool
- create etsy site, sell art and wool
- write more, blog more, submit to magazines
- relax about messy house
- appreciate time alone -> be more creative
- buy less, buy more used/quality goods
- spend more time on sheep, chickens, rabbit, and dogs
- finish upstairs of house
- be more self-sufficient
and last, but not least: floss!

Now you all have to hold me responsible for all these things.  I'm really hoping this will be a year of creativity, art, writing, and finding more ways to support myself than just my 10-6 at the library.  I want to reduce debt, save more, live more simply, and stress less about things like a messy, unfinished house.  I want to get off the couch (but not out of my pajamas!) and do more.  You know I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Starting a New Year

New Year's Eve consisted of homemade enchiladas (beloved family recipe), a "Scotch Doubles" bowling tournament, two shots of bailey's and something that made me very sleepy, and cheap champagne in plastic glasses.  Then I spent the first two days of the new year in my pajamas.  Joey spent most of the weekend hunting and I was a homebody.  I read a lot, tried to figure out how to wash all the wool we sheared off our sheep, and cooked.  And watched movies in a tent.

Yes, we are childless adults that set up tents in their living room.  Yes, we have a mortgage, two car payments, and dogs and livestock under our care, but we're not really grown-ups.  Even when we do become grown-up (when is that anyway?)  I hope we will still set up 4-person tents inside the house, play chinese checkers and disney princess UNO, wear our pajamas for two days, and watch TV shows that make us laugh (we watched Spongebob Squarepants while we ate our frozen pizza last night...I told you we weren't adults yet.)

And somehow, after two restful days of never leaving the house, I woke up to go back to work on Tuesday with a cold.  My throat hurts, my head hurts, I'm cold and my body aches (once again, I'm a big baby.)  But I've been sticking it out at work since I had two days off for the holidays and a half-day off when Karyn came to visit, so my paycheck this week is going to stink.

On the upside, Jip has been quiet in the mornings, stopped running across the street into the woods, left everything on the counters and stove-top alone, and has stopped annoying Daisy.  Just kidding.  But a dog can make New Year's resolutions too, can't he?  This week, it seems like his resolution has been to poop next to Daisy's bed more.  And eat a bunch of feathers outside.

Hope everyone's 2012 is going swimmingly so far, hopefully with fewer cold germs and dog poo than mine. :)