Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick post as I'm busy preparing for my favorite holiday of the year...

I've got rolls and pies to bake, and S needs to be picked up and brought home. (Yes, she decided she wanted to spend Thanksgiving here. :)

So I'm off to cook and I'll leave you with his photo....

It's me holding daughter B (now 30) with my Mom and my brother Loren, back in 1985. It's the first Thanksgiving dinner I cooked and I was so proud to pull out Grandma's china and host the meal.

Siblings... let's talk or skype sometime in the next few days, ok?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014




November 24, 2014

Outside my window... it's still dark with just a few lights twinkling on the horizon.

I am thinking... about my to-do list this week... it's a strange mix of medically related "tasks" (blood to draw, appointments to make) and holiday preparations... it's going to be a busy week.

I am thankful... for the turkey thawing in the frig. and a holiday devoted to thankfulness.

In the kitchen... I just found a recipe for white chicken enchiladas that sounds wonderful, I think it's on the menu for tonight.

I am going... to have to make yet another trip to the store today. I forgot to buy cheese when I did the month's shopping over the weekend. I have a craving for good Dubliner cheese, so I'll stop at Costco and pick some up... Yum!

I am wondering... if S will be here for Thanksgiving. She decided a few weeks ago to spend the day with her new foster family (now "host home providers" since she's transitioned into adult services) but as the holiday gets closer she seems to be changing her mind... Whatever she decides is fine with me, I don't blame her for wanting the spend the holiday someplace that feels a little more like "home", but I'll need to know soon so I can figure out how to get her here. (It was so much easier when she lived closer....) 

I am hoping... I can get M's CBC run through today. It's required, at least every 28 days (I usually do it every 14 days) for his main schizophrenia medication... His doc writes standing orders, good for a year, and I draw the blood for the CBC at home every two weeks. Because of a potentially fatal side effect, without a regular CBC the pharmacy can't fill his prescription. Unfortunately the standing orders expired 10 days ago, and despite my calls, emails, etc. the doc hasn't sent in new orders. I'm desperate enough (we're at day 26) that I'm going to draw the blood anyway, drop it at the hospital and hope they don't notice that the orders have expired. Keep your fingers crossed!

I am learning... a few tunes on the mando, I do love Turlough O'Carolan's tunes. 

Around the house... doing a little cleaning inside, and was happy it warmed up enough to get the chicken coop cleaned out too. 

One of my favorite things... the wood stove we recently had put in. I love the warmth it puts out, and how easy it is to use to keep the house warm... we should have done it years ago.

A few plans for the rest of the week... pin S down on her Thanksgiving plans, draw M's blood, hassle the doc (daily, at least...) about getting the standing orders sent in, make pies, make sure the turkey thaws, invite Mr G to Thanksgiving, squeeze in a uke lesson for R and a shift at the thrift store for M, make an appointment for M to see UCHSC spine doc he's been referred to; a surgeon.. shudder, shudder... (while waiting for his appointment at Comprehensive Spine Clinic), find out what E would like to bring to Thanksgiving.... 

A peek into my day...

This is my new friend, a fearless buck who's been hanging around eating the rotten pumpkins I tossed out by the pasture gate. He's so fearless I've walked within 6' of him (going from barn to house) and he doesn't even move... just looks at me and keeps eating. It's kind of cool and kind of scary... the antlers look really big and sharp from that close.



Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Friday, November 21, 2014

the endless quest...

The bitter cold temperatures we had for a week or so are gone, at least for now, but my endless quest (written about here, here and here) to find and seal the drafts in this creaky old house continues...

The master bedroom has always been the coldest room in the house. It connects to the sunroom, which is almost nothing but windows (and until I sealed it up last year, was very drafty...) and it has a loft area, which probably pulls the heat up and away from the part of the room where people actually spend time. It's too far from the wood stove to expect much heat, so the boiler has to do the main job of heating that room... and during the last cold spell it just couldn't keep up. There is a fireplace in that bedroom, but it's never used and really isn't practical anyway... it's too close to the bed, and hauling wood up the stairs to that room would be miserable.

The master bedroom fireplace is another 1970's zero clearance insert, like the one in the living room, which relies on outside air pulled through the insert to keep it cool enough not to set fire to the wood studs surrounding it... I couldn't help wondering how much that outside air intake system was adding to the coldness of that room, and guessed it was considerable... so I decided to close that fireplace off.

I'm not going to permanently close it off... maybe make it a seasonal thing... close it off during the winter, but open it up again in summer just because it's such a pretty fireplace.

So.... I've been working on my plan for sealing it up all week, and hoped to have it done today... but didn't quite make it.

I can show you what I've gotten done so far though...

Here's where I started.. I LOVE this fireplace... it's made of petrified wood, found here on our land. (The glass doors on the hearth are from the downstairs fireplace, the initial plan was to try to adapt them to fit the opening and use them to seal things off...)

I found some leftover OSB in the garage and figured out that I could fill the fireplace opening fairly easily with just one seam across the middle.

After the OSB was cut to size, and I was sure I had a good tight fit, I moved it back out of the way, took off the fireplace screen, taped everything off, and gave the outside of the fireplace a few coats of heat resistant paint. (That's soot in the fireplace, not over-spray. :)

Then I cleaned up the (horribly dusty) screen and painted it too.

Finally, I added foam board insulation to the back of the OSB, and put it all back together again with the opening sealed up.


Yeah, it's pretty ugly.

But that's where this fabric I bought at IKEA comes in...

I'm planning on covering the OSB with the fabric, to give it a look of stacked wood behind the fireplace screen (which also still needs a bit of work).

So it's gone from this...

... to this...

... so far. And the room does feel warmer this morning, not as drafty...

Next step is adding the fabric to the OSB and fixing up that screen a little. Hopefully I'll have some "finished" photos to share next week...

And totally unrelated... I heard back from the Spine Clinic I mentioned on Monday, and M has an appointment to be seen in early January. It might be a long couple of months, waiting for that appointment... but I'm hoping really good things come from it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Lemony Evening

The big news around here is the Evening With Lemony Snicket we went to on Monday... It was an event sponsored through the library, and featured... who else... but the elusive and mysterious author of the Lemony Snicket books.

Both kids love the books, both the "old" series (Series of Unfortunate Events) and the "new" series (Asking All the Wrong Questions), but M was beside himself with excitement... dressed and ready to leave for the event appropriately 4 hours before it was time to go.

Lemony (AKA Dan Handler) didn't disappoint... Although stating up front that the real author couldn't be there, and he was just an "official representative", he couldn't have been more Lemony-like... cruising mysteriously through the audience, talking about lessons one should take from the books... including "Run away quickly" which he did, abruptly, at the end of his talk.

Before he dashed off the stage he put on a wonderful show which included sharing the best advice given to him: "Turn around. Leave while there's still time." and his favorite advice for life: "Make sure you have your own mask on, before helping others with theirs."

Good advice Lemony...

There is a great Lemony Snicket website here full of cool things to read and do...

... and here's someone else's video of a Lemony author talk from about a year ago... it's very similar to the one he did here the other evening. If you have a minute (or 15), watch it.. he's wonderful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hmmm.... that looks familiar

I was in Home Goods yesterday, searching the clearance area (of course...) and was surprised to find a wood and iron firewood rack.  (Yes, the top of the rack is cut off in this picture, there were people around and I couldn't get a longer shot at it. ;)

It was very much like the one Joe and I built a few weeks ago, although it only has one iron bar coming up on either side and going across the top. (Would that be as stable for holding firewood?) The bottom was even stained dark like mine...

Here's a picture of the firewood holder we made for comparison...

The one at Home Goods is longer, and not as wide... but I like ours better... it was made to fit nicely in the space next to the fireplace.

I also like the price of ours better, it cost about $30. and used up some scrap wood that had been laying around for months being an eyesore...

Even on clearance I couldn't have afforded the Home Goods one... Yikes, that a lot of money for something to hold firewood!

I love DIY...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

A little serendipity... and options.

After hounding M's spine doc for two weeks for the results of the spinal injection he did last month, and finally getting nothing more than a referral to a spine surgeon (does he not understand that spine surgery is the absolute LAST resort?!), I noticed a book E got me for Christmas last year sitting on the shelf.

I think she got it for me because it's a nice, feel-good, dog story.

She had no way of knowing that the author suffered through years of back pain (chronicled in the book) and gave the name of the spine clinic, and specific doctor who helped him when no one else could... a spine clinic that just happens to be in Denver.

Yes, serendipity is good....

I spent this morning filling out the intake form for the clinic, hoping to get M in for a second opinion. I know they might not take our insurance, and might not want to get involved because M has such a complicated mix of physical and psychiatric needs... but it is very good to have options. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

sharing a few favorites...

I blog for several reasons...  the main reason is probably as simple as I really like to write, to record our days. Another reason is hoping to help far away family feel more connected to what is going on here, in our lives.

I also love reading other's blogs. I enjoy all kinds of different blogs, but lately have especially been enjoying reading DIY blogs. I'm inspired by seeing what other people are doing... their creativity, resourcefulness, and sometimes fearlessness in getting things done around their home or farm. That's a big part of the reason I write about the projects I work on... because I love so much to read about other people's projects!

So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite blogs... some I've been reading for years, and some I've just discovered.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Five Acres and a Dream   ~ Leigh and her husband are homesteading... for reals... on their five acre dream. I love her honesty (sharing the good and the bad) and her resourcefulness. Want to learn how to make cheese or preserve eggs? Leigh can show you how. :)

Little Earthling Blog (AKA Baker's Dozen and Apollo XIV) ~ Renee has a busy life; 14 children, 5 of them adopted, plus her own photography business. I love her blog because she has such a wonderful attitude... I'm intimately acquainted with the challenges that can be come with children adopted from foster care, and prenatally exposed to who knows what... and I know that Renee and her husband have experienced some of those challenges. But Renee respects her children's privacy, always writes about them with respect and understanding, and her love for her family shines through every post. (And you can always count on her for gorgeous photos as well!)

Ana White ~ free plans for building everything from light furniture to chicken coops... need I say more?!

A Country Farmhouse (AKA In The Fields) ~ Catherine documents, with beautiful photos, the renovating and decorating of her home. The first house ended up drop dead gorgeous, and now she and her husband have begun work on their new (old) house. Did I mention her photos are absolutely beautiful?

One Project at a Time ~ Erin is fearless. She cuts holes in exterior walls for windows, and moves windows from one place to another... during nap time! (Yes, her kids are still small!) I like following along as she and her extended family fix up their vacation cabin, and I love that they are doing it on a budget! Erin's fearlessness is contagious, reading her blog makes me feel like tearing down a wall or something.  (But I won't ;)

DIY Diva ~ Don't you just love the name of Kit's blog? This is another fearless DIY'er. I haven't been reading Kit's blog long, but I look forward to every post. I love the fact that she pulls no punches, she isn't posting "everything is perfect" posts... and she shares the craziness of her life fixing up her old farmhouse by herself. I love that she has donkeys, and enjoy her sense of humor. I learn from her blog, but it also makes me smile. (Read her brief conversation with a local electrician in this post... it's priceless.)

I have other favorites as well, of course, but these are the ones that I keep up with regularly. So... enjoy... check out one of two of my favorites and tell me what you think...

And leave a comment sharing your favorite blogs, I'd love to find some new favorites to add to my list. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

meet Maxwell

Otherwise known as Max...

He's our daughter K's dog, and has been staying with a friend of K's since she left for the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, the friend can't keep him any longer, so he'll be with us until K comes home.

So we're back up to three dogs, which always feels like too many... but Max is K's baby, so what could I do? Turn him away?  (Not likely) 

Max has only been here a few days, but is starting to settle in and learn how to be more of a country dog. Cody has taught him how to chase deer (only through the fence, of course) and he's incredibly confused by the chickens (birds bigger than he is!). He does LOVE the woodstove though, this is his favorite spot in the house. 

And I don't blame him. We're definitely in the deep freeze here... our high today was a record breaking 16 degrees! I'm sooooo glad we bought the wood stove... even with the bitter cold, it's keep the main part of the house at a comfortable 68-70 degrees. 

But I'm still tempted, like Max, to just curl up in front of the stove and wait for the cold spell to be over with!

Monday, November 10, 2014




November 10, 2014

Outside my window... right now, this minute; the sun is up, the sky is a gorgeous crystal blue, and the temperature is comfortable (high 30's)... that's supposed to change by lunchtime though, when our first deep freeze of the season settles in. 

I am thinking... about the last of the cold weather preparations I've been finishing up this morning at the barn... I can't think of anything I've forgotten. I hope there is nothing I've forgotten. (Everything is 100 times harder when the temperature is 10 degrees versus 40 degrees!)

I am thankful... for a barn full of hay, a pantry full of food, and a nice pile of firewood. 

In the kitchen... there is nothing exciting going on, although I did do a little baking yesterday. It's nice to have a full cookie jar. 

I am creating... a little music... and it's lovely. I badly cut the index finger of my left hand a few weeks ago, and it's almost impossible to play the mandolin with that fingertip steri-stripped together (yes, I tried) and it's almost as difficult to play without using my index finger (yes, I tried that too).... so I was forced to neglect my mando for a couple of weeks and I missed it terribly. My finger is all healed up now though, and I'm working on learning a couple of new/old Turlough O'Carolan tunes.

I am reading... The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts. I stumbled across her blog not long ago, and shortly after had to buy her book. It's not a light read, but I think her story deserves to be told...

I am learning... two O'Carolan tunes: Bumper Squire Jones, and Carolan's Welcome 

Around the house... I'm still getting used to the wood stove, and using it to keep the place warm. So far it's been wonderful, I love the warmth (our house tends to be cold) and the stove is super easy to keep burning. This week will be a good test though... I hope it can keep up with single digit temps. 

One of my favorite things... sunshine, streaming through the kitchen windows in the morning.

A few plans for the rest of the week... the blower is scheduled to be installed on the woodstove tomorrow, we'll be working at the thrift store on Thursday, and Friday I think M is planning a poker night with a few of his friends. 

A peek into my day...

My kitchen window.... appreciating the sun before the cold.


Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Sunday, November 9, 2014

chair repair

(This post was written on Friday, but couldn't be posted because of problems with my internet service.... better late than never, right?)

So... about six months ago one of my favorite ladder back chairs broke. These are the chairs my daughter E gave me and we use in our dining room, and I knew I wanted to try and fix it... rather than replace it. But I wasn't sure what the best way was to do that... so I put the chair in our storage room and waited for the chair repair elves to come work their magic.

You can see the broken part here...

See the ragged end of the top spindle on the right hand side? The end of it had broken off and was still pegged inside the leg.

Complicating the repair was the new rush seat I'd put on the chair just a year ago or so. I really didn't want to have to cut that seat off and redo it...

Unfortunately, the chair repair elves seem to be otherwise occupied, because... six months later... the broken chair was still sitting in my storage room.... and I had to figure out how to fix it myself.

My first thought was to just run a couple of screws in at an angle to hold the broken spindle in place.... not a great fix (my siblings will recognize this as the "Johnston Method" of repairing broken furniture) and not even possible unless I could pull the dowel back into alignment... which I couldn't because the tension of the rush seat was pulling it towards the middle of the chair and the broken ends no longer lined up.

So after trying every method I could think of, and even asking my carpenter neighbor for any tips to get the dowel back into alignment, I decided to take the chair apart... just a little... to see if that would give me enough flexibility in the rush to get things lined up again.  I also decided to not dust off the "Johnston Method" of furniture repair, but to fix the break the right way and drill out the broken pieces and reconnect them with a oak dowel.

I drilled out the broken seat spindle and dug the broken end out of the hole it was stuck in, drilled it out, inserted the oak dowel and glued and clamped them together again. But once the repair was made the rush wouldn't give me enough flexibility to even just put the leg I'd removed back on.


This is probably how the "Johnston Method" got started... getting a nail and hammering the chair together was looking like a really good alternative at that point!

But instead, I grabbed the cutters and, before I could change my mind, cut the new rush seat off.

It just about killed me.

But now I had a newly repaired chair that could be put back together and just needed a new rush seat... (rather than being stuck with pieces of a chair that couldn't be reassembled, but had a really nice rush seat).

Here's the newly repaired top seat spindle, with the oak dowel holding things together showing as the light circle in the middle.

As long as the chair was apart, I took another leg off so I could glue the loose joints on that side....

It was looking kind of scary at that point...

But, finally, I was able to put the chair back together, and firmly wrapped it up to hold all the joints tight until the glue dried.

The repair is completely hidden, and the chair should be good as new when it's done...

I started weaving the new seat as soon as the glue was good and dry, and I only have a little bit left to do.

I am so ready for the end of this project... I learned something new (how to drill and peg something together) but it was definitely not an easy fix. I'm soooooo glad it's almost done!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

scenes of a morning...

Quiet week here... The calendar is (very deliberately) empty and the days seem to have a better flow to them... not as frenetic as some of the busy weeks lately have seemed.

I took the camera with me as I headed out this morning to do the barn work so I could catch a little of the wonderful ordinariness of the day.

Out the door... sun isn't quite up yet... I love the silhouettes of the trees on the horizon.

Tucker, waiting patiently at the gate... wondering why I'm standing there with a shiny, beeping, scary thing instead of feeding him.

Murphy, who has no patience for photos before breakfast, gets his breakfast before photos... because he doesn't have the patience of a donkey.... and will paw the ground obsessively until he's fed!

Yes, he has me trained.

Pumpkin patch, half tilled, looking ahead to next spring's planting... the old holey water troughs are going to be repurposed as "raised beds" among the lower growing pumpkins.

A nest in the smoke tree, hidden by leaves until now...

The first chicken out of the coop in the morning... it's Lili, of course... the hen who's always sure (comically sure) she's starving and the other hens are getting more than she is.

Then back inside to the blazing woodstove (blazing to burn off the creosote from having the fire banked through the night)....

...and today's project. The dining room chair that broke a few months ago. I've put off fixing it because I was hoping (and still hope) to be able to fix it without tearing off the rush seat I put on just a year ago or so...

I've taken it apart and hope to use wood glue, and a little of that oak dowel, to repair it so I can put it back together.

Wishing you a wonderfully ordinary day to enjoy the beauty of the season...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

If idle hands...

... are the devil's workshop,

the devil is getting nothing done around here these days.

Because my hands have been anything but idle...

Every time I have a few extra minutes I've been working on weaving new rush seats for E's kitchen chairs.

They are the same chairs I found for her at a thrift store almost a year ago, knowing the seats would need to be redone before too long.

Remember back in 2011 when I said weaving rush seats was definitely NOT my new hobby?

Well, I lied... or indulged in a little wishful thinking, because I'm working on rush seat #14 since then.

It's still not fun... it's a lot of work (each chair takes between 4-5 hours) but it's so nice to bring life back to these great old ladder back chairs.

I wrote up a full description of how I do it back in 2011 but, in a nutshell, this is what I've been up to lately...

Stripping off the old rush...

Starting to weave...

Pulling the rush tight...

... and then pulling some more!  (Basically the whole job amounts to weave a little, pull a lot, weave a little, pull a lot...)

Making progress.... it's so cool to watch the seat take shape.

And the finished product (almost... the rush still needs to be treated, either with a traditional shellac/denatured alcohol mixture or with polyurethane).

Hand weaving doesn't turn out as perfect as factory done rush seats... but it's sturdy, and comfy, and not hard or expensive to do.

This chair is the last of E's chairs that needed new seats... next up is a new seat for one of my dining room chairs and then I'm done again...

At least for awhile.