Tag Archives: household

Dancing on the Budgetary Edge

Dancing on the Budgetary Edge

I’m buying a new car.

Not the actual car, but pretty darn close!

Okay, not a NEW car.  I’ll never buy a NEW car.  But this is pretty darn close.  It’s a 2013 Kia Soul, it only has 60K miles on it, and it even has some bells and whistles.  And it’s a manual transmission, which actually makes me happy.

I’d gotten pre-approved for the car loan from my credit union, but after some finagling and confusion, the dealership was able to finance me at a much better rate, so I’m going with that.  The only downside is that I have to pay the tax and title out of pocket.

Cue the financial panic.

I get paid on Friday, and wouldn’t be able to pick the car up before that anyway (punishment for losing the photo card on my license renewal).  But of course this week is mortgage week.  So between the two payments, that takes my ENTIRE paycheck, plus the last of my (admittedly small) emergency savings.

I went ahead with the commitment on the car.  Between the quality of the car and the improved financing, I can’t lose the opportunity.  And I’ve been in tighter financial situations before with less signs of light at the end.  I just have to make it to April 15 when I get paid again.  But I still am panicking and feeling out of control.

I have a couple of different coping strategies in these situations.  My favorite:  I bake.  And then I eat everything I baked.  I’d like to avoid that.  I already can’t fit into my size 12 jeans (thanks, Trump) and I’m committed to doing better on the diet front.  So now I’m cleaning.  Starting with the kitchen.  I’ve spent the morning scrubbing and sweeping, and it’s looking pretty good.

I also made planning and distraction lists in my bullet journal.  First I made an austerity menu.  This coming week is already covered (the joys of 2 week at a time menu planning), so it’s just the next two I have to sweat.  I did pretty well and ended up with only an 8 item shopping list, not counting milk and cereal.  We even only resort to pancakes once!  And that’s more because the kids like it than because I had to do it.  My well stocked freezer is paying off.

Then I made a list of jobs that need to get done.  What I had PLANNED to do for the next few weeks was work on the new garden beds, but the money for lumber and dirt all just went into the car, so that’s a no go.  Instead I’ve just made a list of all the other yard chores we need to get done in advance: Cleaning up the yard, finishing off the bike shed, turning the existing beds, that sort of thing.  Some indoor stuff, too.  All things that need to get done but don’t cost any money.  There’s probably enough there to keep me busy until next pay day.

I had hoped for that weekend to be an orgy of gardening, but RL continues to hold me back.  We’re going to Hershey Park with Rachel, Matt and Uly on the 15th, which will be fun since we’ve never been.  Then the 16th is Easter Sunday, and I’m worship associate at church that day, so there’s half that day, and I’m not sure what will be open anyway.  So I’m going to take Monday and Tuesday off as well.  By that point, I will have earned a couple of personal days, and the kids are still off on Monday for their spring break, so I can impress them into labor.

I can do this.  It will be worth it in the end.  The new car will make up half its monthly payment just in the gas I’m going to save.  And I’m hanging onto the van until I get all the dirt and lumber home that I need (I’m going to miss being able to haul anything I need or find curbside whenever I want!), but hopeful after that I can sell it and restock my emergency funds.

Life on the edge, baby.  Gotta know how to do that dance.

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Guilt

Guilt

In the spring of 2010, we adopted two kittens from the SPCA.

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Normally I prefer to adopt older cats, as it’s harder for them to find homes, but it had been almost 3 years since we’d had any cats, and the kids had never had a kitten, so this one time we made an exception.

We were lucky to find two littermates, who we promptly named Lewis and Clark.  They were so tiny and sweet, but incredibly independent.  As they grew, they developed their own personalities.  Clark was the hunter.  Our mouse problem disappeared as he got big enough to keep them intimidated, and we would occasionally find “gifts” on our back porch.  Lewis was the explorer, always wandering further and further afield.  They were indoor cats for the first year, but once they were old enough and knew where home was, we started to let them have outdoor time.  Lewis became more of an indoor/outdoor cat.  He would insist on going out every morning when we did, then would come home for a few hours before going back out to patrol the neighborhood again, only to come home for dinner and the night.

But time went on, and when they were about 3, the worst happened.  Clark was hit by a car.  I wasn’t home, so Morgan was the one who got the news.  He did a good job of collecting the body, but he was devastated. The kids all took it pretty hard.  We had our traditional pet burial, with everyone sharing a good memory of the pet and asking him to send us our next one.

Lewis took it hard, too.  He seemed….lost.  Like he couldn’t figure out where Clark had gone.  He moved in with Morgan and became pretty much exclusively his cat.  He spent more time outside, even during the winter, really only being in the house at night.

I could understand that, and I’m entirely about letting a cat be a cat.  I’m kind of a laissez faire pet owner.  For me, pets aren’t children.  They’re animals we share space with.  Cats are hunters and explorers, and I respect that.  We tried a couple of times to keep Lewis in, but he managed to escape every time, and it just became too frustrating for both sides, so we let him do what he wanted.

But I wanted a house cat.  Hence our trip this winter back to the SPCA and the adoption of Hudson.  Who has been a great addition to the house, except for one thing.

He and Lewis hate each other.

I’m used to cats not getting along when they first move in together.  In all my past experiences, after a couple of weeks they adjust and, maybe not become good friends, but at least learn to cohabitate.  Not these two.  Lewis would hiss and yowl every time he saw Hudson, and Hudson would sit and stare at him daring him to try anything, or else stalk him, never initiating contact, just always being in Lewis’ space in a “Mom, he’s touching me!” kind of way.

By the time spring came, Lewis had had enough.  He moved out.  Permanently.

For a while he would still come home, but would never come in the house, just camp out on the front porch.  Morgan and Eric set him up a shelter with food and water there, and would go out and give him attention whenever he’d come around.  By mid summer, though, even that had stopped.

We still see him around the neighborhood.  This is a relief in some ways, to know he hasn’t been hit by a car or anything.  He’s neutered, so he’s not adding to the neighborhood population.  But he won’t come near us.  This hurts Morgan the most, to have this cat who was HIS cat run away from him whenever he sees him, especially when Morgan has seen strangers able to approach him.  I also feel bad because we’re responsible for him, even if he won’t let us take care of him.  If we could, I’d like to catch him and try to re-integrate him into the house, but he won’t let us close enough to try.

It’s hard, mourning a cat who’s not dead.  He’s not yours any more, but you can’t mourn him and move on, either.  You just wait.  And think about how you let him down.

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Jack of All

Jack of All

One thing I’ve heard a LOT in the week since coming home from Rhinebeck: “You knit/spin?  Wow, that’s a dying art!”

Well, 6 million knitters might argue with that.  But I get what they’re saying.

But honestly, it’s hardly the only dying art.  So many things that our grandparents took for granted are forgotten skills now. Car repairs, home repairs, small appliance repairs, all these little things we just don’t know how to do in our disposable age.  I don’t remember ever seeing my parents change their car oil or fix a toaster.  Not that they didn’t, I just never saw it, and it wasn’t something they taught me or my siblings.

Today I ran up against one of those things.

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As the weather gets colder, the kids have been nagging me about turning on the heat.  But I refuse to do it until I get all the windows sealed for the winter.  Living in an old house as we do, there are a lot of drafts, especially out all the original windows.  Replacing the windows would be ideal, but totally out of my budget.  Instead I put shrink plastic on them all every fall and hope for the best.  Xander has a tendency to take a sharp edge to the one in his room every year, despite my threats.  The worst offenders are the windows in our back laundry room, though.  I hate these windows, and one of my long term goals has always been to replace them.  One of the windows won’t stay shut properly, and two of the panes have had chunks broken out of them for years now, which have been patched as best as possible with packing or duct tape.  And the frames are so old and peeling so that the tape for the plastic won’t stick to them.  In a “Give a Mouse a Cookie” moment, I decided repainting the frames would at least fix that problem, so I dug out the oil primer, dusted off the frames, pried off some old hardware, and handed Morgan the paintbrush.  As always, a lick of paint made such a difference!  But it made the broken panes stand out even more.  I was going to just seal them up with silicone, or replace them with plexiglass.  Except one pane of plexi that size (12″ by 24″) was $15!!!  So no.  In a fit of “I can do it myself”, I got glass cut the right size, picked up glazing points and window compound and took a stab at it.

Remember, I have never seen anyone do this outside of a home improvement show.

First off I had to get the glass out.  Seemed like the easiest way to do so was to break them and pull the pieces out.  I put on gloves, got a hammer and a dish towel, and gave the first one a whack.  It didn’t break.  WTF?  Tried again.  Bounce.  FIVE TIMES I tried to break it before it actually went.  Who can’t break a window with a hammer?  This girl, apparently.  Because the second one took me 8 goes!!  Ridiculous.  Finally got it all out and pried out the glazing points and most of the dead glazing compound.  Then I painted all the exposed edges with the oil primer and went to make bread.

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Once that had dried, it was time for the scary stuff!  The two windows face opposite directions, so one I could do from the inside, but the other I had to go out on a step stool to place the glass.  I had Morgan come out with me to hold the glass in place while I set the glazing points.  No dropsies!  It was hard to smooth out the glazing compound properly just because of angles and that stupid top window that wouldn’t stay shut, and I’d left just enough of the old compound in that the glass didn’t sit quite flush.  Grumble.  But it was in place and sealed, although I did have to back fill a little from the inside.  The other pane went in easier, as I wasn’t teetering on the top of a step stool.

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Neither were a perfect job, but it’s still better than it was.  I can already feel a difference in there!

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It’s hard sometimes to get the confidence to try to do these things yourself.  They’ve built up such a lot of baggage as being too hard to do yourself.  But don’t be scared.  Just like knitting skills are being preserved on YouTube, so too are repair skills.  Check out a couple of videos and then bravely go forth.

After all, glass is cheap.

Spring is here! Spring is here!

Spring is here! Spring is here!

Like a good pagan, I spent the first weekend of spring fixated on my gardens.  I ordered my seeds weeks ago, but was determined not to plant them until they’d been blessed at Oestara.  This had the added benefit of keeping me from planting stuff too early. I did start my onions indoors in February, and miracle of miracles I haven’t killed them!  The bunching onions especially are looking good. I tried a couple of times to sit down and lay out planting plans, but nothing’s sticking.  So I’m just starting stuff, and we’ll see where it ends up.

I have four 4’x4′ raised beds on one side of my yard, but the best sun is on the other side of the yard, where I’ve had nothing but weeds.  So this year I decided to put a deep bed in there.  to that end, I put out a call on Freecycle for cinder blocks.  Before you say, I know there is a risk with cinder blocks.  But I have a black walnut tree in my yard, which prevents me from being able to plant directly in my soil. (For those who don’t know, black walnut has a compound in their roots and leaves that is deadly to most garden type fruits and veggies.)  My existing beds I build out of 6″ wide boards, but they really only lasted about 4 seasons well before decomposing, and they aren’t deep enough to grow anything like carrots or beets well. Plus it was boku bucks to buy the lumber.  So I balanced the risk of the cinder blocks versus the certain death of the walnut and came down on the side of carrots.  But, surprisingly, free cinderblocks are hard to come by.  I put a call out on Freecycle and kept an eye on Craigslist, but nothing.  Then on Wednesday someone else put up an offer post.  My fingers flew on the keyboard!  Turns out the community garden in Phoenixville is removing all their cinder block beds for the above reasons, so anyone who wanted any could come and take whatever we wanted!  Yay!  Saturday the boys and I took all the seats out of the van and headed over.  It’s a sweet little garden, and if you’re in Phoenixville and need a bit of dirt, I can recommend this.  I kind of felt guilty dismantling the beds, especially since we were lazy and just took the top ones, but we weren’t the only ones there.  There were another couple of guys there with the same plan and a trailer!  I envied that trailer…  We loaded up 24 before I started getting worried about the van’s suspension, but we set aside the remaining 8 I needed to pick up the next day.  I also scored a really healthy thyme plant that was growing out of one of the blocks.  Yay!  This year I’ll have an herb garden for SURE!

The finished bed will be about 9’x4′, and about 10″ deep.  That’s a LOT of dirt.  Fortunately, our compost overfloweth (quite literally).  We stopped on our way up at the Agway and got two big bags of vermiculite, which I’ll mix with the rabbit litter and some peat moss to make up a nice, light mix.  The other benefit of getting the blocks from existing gardens is the hope that if they were of questionable quality, the worst of it will already have leached out!  Between that and the yummy new soil, I have high hopes for this bed.  I’m planning to put my winter squash in there, as well as the root veg.

Once that bed is built and filled, I’ll be able to fix the compost bins.  I have a two stall bin made out of salvaged pallets, which have worked really well for us so far.  However, last year I didn’t take much out, so instead of turning one into the other and starting new, it started overflowing both.  And the back on one fell in, so it’s hard to dig out.  So this year I’ll replace the ones in poor condition, wire them together better, and start anew.  The rabbits will keep filling them up, I’m sure!

The other thing that’s been tempting me has been fruit trees.  I’ve always wanted to have a micro-orchard, ever since I found out about dwarf fruit trees.  I did try blueberries, but they were a little to delicate for me to manage.  But Hero and I were at Depot the other week for something, and they had a bajillion dwarf trees in all different varieties!  Usually by the time I’m there, they’re down to 3-4 peach trees, which none of us like, so I don’t bother.  But these… and they were only $20 each.  With a 1 year guarantee.  So after thinking and planning and researching, on Sunday after I got the remaining cinder blocks (by myself, mind you!) I dragged Hero back after our bi-weekly Costco run.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), they had already sold out of a lot of the varieties.  I was able to get three different kinds of apple (you have to have at least two or you won’t get any fruit) and two cherries.

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I also got some other random things I need (a hose, a rake, some potting soil), but they didn’t have the peat moss I needed.  We had to pass Lowe’s on the way home, so we stopped there to see if they did.  They did, and guess what else they had?

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A dwarf nectarine tree!  Those we will eat, and they self-pollinate, so I only needed one!  Woot!  I had to put it straight in the ground, though, as it was already close to blooming.  You can’t prune them after they bloom.  The rest I’ll put in over the course of the week.  The cherries will go along the fence with the nectarines.  The apples will all go in one big hole together.  Before you squawk about the spacing, those 10′ recommendations are for commercial growers who have equipment to tend their orchards and who are usually growing full sized trees.  Well pruned dwarf trees actually do very well in close confines.  I have two spots I’m trying to decide on.  One is close to the house, which would be nice to look at, but might be a bit in the way.  The other is at the end of the new bed where I currently have a compost bin.  Once I empty it, it would be easy enough to move and put the apple trees in there.  I have to poke at that.

As though it had been waiting for me, I got my bi-weekly email from Mother Earth News with my planting schedule for the next two weeks on Saturday.  So Sunday afternoon, I sorted my seed packets out and figured out what I could direct seed now (lettuce, spinach, peas) and what I could start indoors (broccoli, cauliflower and white sage).  Planting out was going to require raking, but no turning as they’re going in the garlic bed.  But I didn’t feel up to that, so I concentrated on the starters instead.  The white sage went into a 12-cell “greenhouse” I got at the dollar store.  That will make them easier to transplant to gift out to my pagan circle friends at Beltane.  Two kinds of broccoli went into a disposable 9×13 pan with a dome lid, about 48 of each.  The cauliflower went into a disposable bread pan, about 16 starts there.  Yes, I’m going to have WAY too many starts.  I’d rather overdo than under, and I know several gardeners around I can pass the extras on to.  Now they’re all tucked up in plastic bags on top of the fridge, just waiting to pop their little heads up!

The rest of the week will be focused on taking bites out of the yard work.  It helps that it’s going to be in the 60s tomorrow and up to 70 on Thursday!  Gonna focus on the new bed first.  I have to move the blocks aside to lay down a cardboard base and then rebuild the bed and water down the cardboard.  Then tomorrow I can start filling it.  Which will be messy, but fun!  I also have some extra bricks, so I may build a separate herb bed on the front of the new bed.  That will give it some protection and extra warmth.

So many ideas.  I just need to start doing things and see what happens!

The Word Made Manifest

The Word Made Manifest

(I may get struck by lightning for that title…)

Something I tend to forget is the power of sympathetic magic.  How like attracts like, and naming something, whether it be something material or something more ephemeral, helps make it manifest.  But I’m starting to see it in my life right now.

I started going to church in a search for community.  What I wanted out of that was kind of vague.  I think at the heart of it was I wanted a place where, if something were to happen to me, there would be people who would help me beyond my two best friends and a handful of people at work.  A place for my kids to have adults to look up to.  And a place where I could contribute to other people’s well-being.

This started paying off in unexpected ways a few weeks ago.  I took the kids to game night, and for the first time they were exposed to kids significantly younger than them.  Young kids see teenagers are basically superheroes, and my kids had never experienced that before, really from either end.  They were both a little overwhelmed by it, but they rose to the challenge.  Hero did so well with one overly exuberant little girl that the mom spoke to the director of religious ed (basically the Sunday school director) about hiring her on as a regular babysitter.  So Hero now has a job, and one that actually pays!  She can pick and choose which opportunities to work fit her schedule (for example, she’s babysitting during the Wednesday class I’m going to), but she doesn’t have to work every Sunday, for example, or every special event.  I’m hoping after a couple more events, we might be able to get Xander on that list, too.  Once he’s not so overwhelmed by the attention!  He did seem to have a good time playing with the younger kids.

And I scored a hat!

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Back in December when I first started, I think it was my second Sunday there, they had a craft fair after service.  So many creative people in that church!  One of the women did hand-decorated felt hats.  I love hats.  I had a real Indiana Jones fedora I wore so much in college until one day I left it under my seat in class and someone swiped it.  She had one that I fell instantly and completely in love with.  It was teal green with a rounded crown and a brim with a lip on it, and she had decorated it with peacock feathers.  It was gorgeous, I loved it, and I was broke.  I put it down sadly and walked away.  I ran into her again at church last week.  She was wearing a dramatic straw hat with purple flowers all over it.  I took a chance and asked her if she still had that hat.  She said she wasn’t sure, but she’d check.  Middle of the week, I got an email that she’d found it!  Hooray!  She brought it to church on Sunday, and it was awesome!  Hero’s jealous of it.  Maybe I’ll get her one next craft fair…

But opening myself up to community is helping in ways I hadn’t expected.

I walk with a former co-worker at lunch most days, and we talk as we walk (obviously).  The other day I got complaining about my basement, and how it’s always flooding and I wish I could  dig out a hole to sink a sump pump, but I can’t break the concrete.  Out of nowhere Friday night she texts me to ask if she could bring her husband over to take a look at it.  Well, he’s a union plumber, so of course I said hell yeah!  They came over last night to have a look at it, and he agreed with my assessment, that the stand pipe there was probably a drain and that the concrete wasn’t so thick that he couldn’t hammer through it easily enough and sink either a bucket or a deep pvc pipe with rock at the bottom.  The benefit of the later is it would allow ground water to seep directly into it instead of having to rise to the surface and then run in.  I already have the pump, so Joe is going to check around his job site to see if he can find something to use for the insert, so yay!  I also mentioned wanting to permanently pipe the outside spigot and that I need to replace the water heater, and he immediately started making suggestions on that, too, so double yay!

I have to think that some of this comes from the service we had last Sunday.  It was an extended joys and sorrows ritual, where instead of being a small part of the service, the majority of the service was encouraging people to name their sorrows, their joys and their hopes.  Since there was more time allotted, I took the opportunity to stand up during the joys part and celebrate the fact that I fixed my own washing machine all by my own self.

Wait.  I don’t think I told you this story!

Three weeks ago, about two weeks after I paid $200 to get my 18 year old washing machine fixed, Morgan woke me up to tell me that the washer was flooding again.  I was barely conscious, he’d dealt with it, and there wasn’t anything more I could do about it at the time, so I went back to sleep.  The next day, I spun the last of the water out of my clothes, threw them in the dryer and promptly went into denial.  I just didn’t have the money to pay for another repair, let alone a new washer.  But eventually people start running out of underwear, so I had to deal with it.  I did some research based on what Morgan had told me happened, and decided that it was probably one of the internal water supply hoses that had given out.  That didn’t seem too hard to fix, if I could figure out how to get the housing off the machine.  But I needed to confirm that was the problem and get the hose off so I could drive around and try to find someone who carried the right part (all the appliance repair supply shops in our area have closed.  No one fixes things any more!)  So I pulled it out as far as I could, climbed over to detach the supply hoses…

And found that the drain hose had come off.

Seriously.  That was it.  Shoved it back on, clamped it back in place, and it was fixed.  No fuss, no cost.  I was stupidly chuffed.

Back to church.  So I stood up in front of the congregation and told this story, ending with something along the lines of, it wasn’t the actual act of fixing that I was so proud of, it was the fact that I was brave enough to look.  That kind of bravery, the “Maybe I can do it myself” feeling, I think gets harder and harder as our world gets more and more complicated.  So yes, I think taking the chance is an act of bravery.  Especially for me, who has no childhood experience of watching a parent fix things, and who hasn’t been educated in any of this stuff as an adult.  I think that bike repair class helped in more ways than I expected!

But more important was the naming of it.  By saying aloud in sacred space, “This I can do and this I am willing to do,” it put it out into the Universe that this is who I am, and has started bringing those things to me.  While I can’t do some of the stuff myself, I think Joe will explain what he’s doing and give me a chance to learn some simple things that I can do.  I’ll learn.  I’ll grow.  I’ll connect.

Hrm.  This post didn’t go where I thought it would.  But I’ll leave you this.  Name your fears aloud.  Name your triumphs aloud.  Speak your hopes, your sadness, your curiosity aloud.

Someone is listening.  Believe me.

Mini(van) Victories

Mini(van) Victories

I fixed my car last night.

This wasn’t a check the fluids/change the windshield wipers kind of repair, either.  This was ELECTRICAL.  Scary, scary stuff, right?

Well, not really.  But scary enough for this newbie.

Last week, the heater in the van stopped working.  Mostly.  I could still get heat out of it, but only if I had the fan on high.  So either I was freezing or melting.  Not good when it’s only February and you’re expecting at least two good storms over the next few months.  But I really didn’t have the money to get it fixed.  As usual when I’m desperate, I turned to the internet.  A search of “Grand Caravan heat only on high” turned up a bunch of YouTube videos and a post on the Car Talk website.  “It’ll cost $600 to get it fixed” was the first thing I saw.  Bleah.  But the responses were all opposed to this.  Everyone else in the discussion said this was a common problem with Grand Caravans and that it was the heater blower regulator, a $12 part and an easy self-fix.  Well, easy for them, think I, but for $12, it’s worth taking the chance on, right?  At least I’ll already have the part when I have to take the car in for the repair.

Found the part on Amazon for $11.95.  Once again my Prime membership pays for itself.  Ordered it on Friday (along with a tart pan, three springform pans and The Force Awakens soundtrack), and it came on Saturday.  I was running around too much over the weekend to do the repair then, so when I got home from work last night, I went back to those YouTube videos and started watching.  Once I got past all the scary testing instructions (I don’t have a multimeter.  Not sure I want one.  Seems like a good way to get myself electrocuted.), I found out that yes, it is easy.  There are two sets of wires going into the unit, both in clips like what you clip the ethernet cable into your computer with, and then two hex screws.  One of the videos even told me the size of the hex, 8 mm.  Now, I don’t have metric hexes in my tool bag.  The ones I have are all imperial.  But you know where I do have hex heads?  In my mini bike repair kit.  Sure enough, there was the 8 mm, so out I went with that, the replacement part and a headlamp so I could see what I was doing.

And you know what?  It WAS easy!

Took me five minutes.  If that.  The hardest part was getting the motor power cord out without pulling the wires out.  That sucker did not want to come out, but after 10 years, who could blame it?  Other than that, it was easy out, easy in, plugged everything back in, turned the key and voila!  And it was so satisfying to have fixed it myself!  Especially since I saved myself so much money.  Even if it was only $150, it was still more than I had to spend, and really, considering how easy this was?  It would have been a little embarrassing.

I think maybe the bike repair class helped me with more than just learning how to fix bikes.  I think it gave me a bit more confidence at fixing anything.  I still don’t regret the $200 I spent to get the washer professionally fixed, because they were able to get the housing back on properly which I haven’t been able to do for 3 years, but I did have the confidence to look it up, find out what the problem probably was and decide no, I couldn’t do it, rather than go into it ignorant and vulnerable.  You don’t have to know how to fix everything, but knowing how to fix anything makes you a little braver in taking a stab at other things.

I did get new windshield wipers this weekend, too.  But I let the clerk at the auto parts store put them on for me.  Because I’m lazy and it was free.

I got the title for the van in the mail last week.  I guess it’s all mine now.  Which yay!  But also eek.  Small voice is saying, “You could get financing to get a new, smaller car now…”  Not yet, brain.  Not yet.

The rear windshield wiper has stopped working.  I should go look that up.  Maybe it’s just a fuse…

Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air
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Random cat picture. I don’t talk about him in the post, but isn’t he handsome?

Rising to the surface briefly to report that I am not dead.  Yay!  By way of summary:
  1. I started actually training on the new job last week.  Hurrah!  I think once I master it, it will be good, but right now it’s terribly frustrating.  I’m slow and stumbling and I hate not being good at things.  But everyone on the new team is really nice (and young!  ZOMG, so young…), and there’s lots of room for me to develop once I get the basics down, so I just have to be gentle with myself for the next few months.
  2. The washing machine is fixed.  To the tune of $210 dollars.  Ouch.  But worth it.  The technician was worried about my water supply (it leaks a few drops an hour) and my hoses.  I can replace the hoses myself easily enough.  The water supply…well, that will keep for now.  But I realized that this washing machine is the one we bought when we moved into the house 18 years ago.  It’s done very well by us!
  3. Speaking of fixing things, I finished my bike repair class last night.  What a great class!  I can now change tires, replace brake and derailleur cables, and even disassemble and rebuild wheel hubs!  If you have a bike in the Delaware Valley, I highly recommend taking this class and/or checking out Bike Church at the Neighborhood Bike Works.  What a great resource!
  4. I broke my toe.  Yes, on the same foot.  I think it’s cursed.  Not much to do about this one, though, except wait it out.  Which means no running.  Considering the state of the roads, that isn’t as much of a hardship as it was this summer.
  5. I’ve been watching way too much Great British Bake Off.  This is a bad thing.  I’ve put on an additional 3 pounds.  There may be eclairs in the near future.  There will definitely be a blog post.
  6. The payment deadline for Hero’s trip is getting closer.  GAH!!!  In a fit of panic, I started a fundraising campaign on RallyUp to help raise money for those last payments.  If you’re one of the few people who I haven’t force-fed this campaign, please go and check it out, and donate if you can or just share it on social media if you can’t.  We’re about a third of the way to our goal with 6 weeks until the final payments.  In the meantime, she’s selling frozen pizzas and will be working the next few months on making and selling hoagies at school.  She’s had to give up art club for the foreseeable future to do it, but I think/hope this drives home that you need to sacrifice sometimes to get the things you want.  Growing up is hard, yo.
  7. We’re getting ready for a houseguest from Germany next week.  Morgan’s boyfriend is coming over so the two of them can go to a convention in NYC next weekend.  Not only will it be the first time we’ve met him, it will be the first time he and Morgan will meet in person.  I’m both nervous and excited for Morgan, and want to do what I can to help make a good impression on his behalf.  So this week we are cleaning the house within an inch of its life.  And trying not to think about what young men in love are thinking about.  Having your kids grow up is hard, yo.
  8. I have the beginnings of a new book poking at me.  Shh, we don’t want to scare it.
I think that’s it for now.  Updates as they arise!

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

This was my first weekend out of the boot, and much to my surprise, it ended up being brilliant.

My first stop Saturday morning was physical therapy.  This was my first time ever doing PT, so I really had no idea what to expect.  But it’s a really nice center, and the team there was great.  I’m working with Mike.  He did all my baselines and tested my function, which he said was actually really good.  I credit it to cheating and doing stretches while still in the boot.  He did say both my feet are hypermobile, so we’re working on strengthening both of them.  Well, in the office we’re working on strengthening the broken one, but at home I’m doing the same exercises on the other side as well.  It actually didn’t hurt much, and it’s not as big a set of exercises as I’d expected.  Mike doesn’t think I’ll have to do more than an couple of weeks, which is good because it costs me $20 a pop even with my insurance.  I did find out they do gait analysis there as well, so once I get approved for running (and save up the $250), I’ll do that 6 week program to keep this from happening again.

Hero was sleeping over at a friend’s house, so I stopped off to pick her up.  Since we were out already, I took her with me to Horsham to see about getting my phone fixed.  About 3 weeks ago, the camera quit on me.  I just kept getting “Camera failed” messages.  I’d had that before and had been able to fix it, but this time no go.  Which is part of why I haven’t been blogging much the last few weeks.  Blog posts without pictures are kind of dull!  And then the charger stopped working.  It hadn’t been working well for a while, occasionally not connecting unless I jiggered it just so.  But then it started shifting into car mode, which no one could give me a good explanation of what that was.  Something to do with docking it, but since a) I didn’t have a dock and 2) it was doing this randomly and sometimes constantly in and out, it was making the phone pretty much unusable.  I’d taken it to a guy in town, who hemmed and hawed and wanted $75/hour while sounding very unsure of what the problem was.  Yeah, nope.  This place in Horsham is part of a chain, so I thought I’d at least give them a try.  Totally worth it.  He knew exactly what the problem was (apparently it was pretty common for these phones) and he thought he could fix it without replacing the port.  $55 if he did, $35 if he didn’t.  Sold!  And he said he’d diagnose the camera at the same time.  I couldn’t afford to get it fixed that day, but at least then we could plan.  3 hours later, it was fixed.  Not only did they not need to replace the port, they’d also fixed the camera!  Apparently there was water damage in it, which confused me, as I hadn’t spilled anything on it.  In the end we both think it was sweat from carrying it running.  Which I can believe.  So I’ll have to find a different way to rig that.

On our way back from dropping off the phone, we noticed one of the churches up the street from us was having a rummage sale, and some of their neighbors were taking advantage of it to have a yard sale of their own.  I hadn’t gotten to go yard saling all summer, plus I love poking around in churches (a hold over from my childhood), so we stopped to check it out.

Well.  Did we ever score.

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At the rummage sale, Hero found this great floor seat that is on rockers and reclines for $4.  I found gold cut lace valences that match the new dining room paint and a dozen black napkins, all for $2.  And best of all, I found a hand cranked meat grinder with 3 grind plates and the original package insert from the 40’s for $5.  Homemade sausage, here I come!

The yard sale across the street was even better.  They had antiques.  Real, genuine antiques.  Not high end stuff, but still.  Just my favorite kind of stuff, old and sturdy.  One of the pieces was what must have been the seat to a vanity.  Just a simple bench with rolled arms.  It was missing the crossbrace and desperately needed reupholstering, but my mind instantly shouted, “Spinning stool!”  I braced myself as I asked how much they wanted for it.  When she said a dollar, I think I threw the money at her trying to pay her so fast.  And we found a running hydration belt.  It was a really good Nathan belt, still with the tags on it.  I’ve been researching these, so I knew these went for $55-65.  They were selling it for $1.50.  Again with the money throwing.

So I ended Saturday dead chuffed.  I made pancakes for the kids for dinner and ribs for me and started planning how I would recover the bench.

There’s a Joann’s about a mile and a half from our house, so the Sunday morning plan was to go get fabric and foam.  But I wanted to ride my bike.  Mike had told me I could ride as much as I wanted, and I’d taken Galadriel out for a warm up ride around the parking lot across from the house, just to get used to everything, so I figured a bike shop would be perfect.  Hero decided to go with me, as Joann’s is right next to 2nd Avenue, our favorite place for used clothes, so off we went.  The ride was not bad.  I was able to get up the Insurmountable Hill (my initial motivator for getting a lighter bike) with only a little huffing and puffing.  At that point the main road made me nervous, so we decided to risk the sidewalk.  Except the sidewalk through there was TERRIBLE.  I just about jarred my teeth loose.  First cross street we came to, I bailed and went the long way around.  But she rode sweet, and I didn’t have any problems with the gears or shifting.

At Joann’s, I found a great upholstery fabric that echoed the original fabric the stool had had, which ended up being 40% off, and the dense cell foam I got was half off as well.  Woot!  I also got buttons I need to finish up a knitting project (which I should get back to knitting on, actually).  I managed to keep it together in 2nd Ave.  Got another pair of running capris and an awesome pair of Clarks shoes, all for under $20, while Hero got some costume pieces for about the same.  Just for grins we stopped in the dollar store as well, and I scored the best trick or treat handouts ever.  Glow in the dark vampire teeth.  I bought 4 dozen.  No candy at our house this year, but I don’t think the kids will mind!

The best part?  It all strapped to the back of my bike.

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The ride home was a little more problematic.  I took the chance of riding in the street on the main road, which meant going up the back side of the Insurmountable Hill, which is even worse than the first side.  I made it to the top on my last gear (barely), and in celebration, I slammed the shifter all the way up…and threw my chain in the middle of traffic.  Lesson learned.

I’ll save the refinishing tale for its own post, but needless to say it was an incredibly satisfying weekend.  The hunter-gatherer in my soul was much pleased!

The Other Weekend Project

The Other Weekend Project

I got a new pantry.

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Well, technically, no.  I didn’t add on to the house or anything.  But moving the rabbits out gave me a shelf back, and thanks to the wonders of Freecycle, I got a new freezer.

A big freezer.

A semi-orgasmic big freezer. (Yes, I’m weird.)

You guys probably remember my old chest freezer from my freezer cooking post a couple of weeks ago.

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Seriously not of the large.  I think it was about 7 cubic feet, most of that downwards.  So it wouldn’t hold a lot, but it also was really hard to use.  If I wanted something on the bottom, I had to empty everything out of it onto the washer and dryer, get what I needed, and then load it all back in again.  I lost a pound and a half of Italian sausage last week because I missed them on reloading and they sat out for three days.  Ew.

Frustrated by that loss, I decided to take a chance and put a request out on Freecycle.  For those of you not familiar with this, Freecycle is a local group-based exchange community where people who need something or people have something to get rid of post their items and see if anyone else needs or has them.  The only catch is it has to be free.  No fees, no bartering, FREE.  In the past, I found a new family for my old piano and got a full brewing kit for Nikki.  I haven’t had as much luck recently trying to get things people had posted, to the point where I was wondering if my account was messed up.  But I took a chance and put out a request for an upright freezer, minimum 13 sq. ft.

A week later, I got a response.

Of course, it was right in the middle of the 4H chaos, but I didn’t want to risk losing it, so I said of course we would come Friday night.  I ran home after work, the boys took the seats out of the van, and off we all went.  It was only about 20 minutes from the house.  The lady was waiting for us when we got there.  She was so nice.  Apparently her husband had worked in the meat industry and was a big carnivore, so the freezer was his.  But he’d passed away recently, and she didn’t need it, so my post was incentive for her.  And OMG, this thing was BEAUTIFUL.  Big enough to put a couple of bodies in!  And pristine.  Only 5 years old, so definitely more efficient than my old beast.  She had a dolly, so we got it in the van lickety split.  She even gave us a big bag of meat as well.  She said she was just feeding it to her dogs, which was a waste, so of course I took it!

We drove home, Xander getting only a little squished in the back.  But when we got there, I realized we DON’T have a dolly.  So getting it into the house became trickier.  We slid it out of the van, which worked great until the cardboard I was using as a skid slid out, exposing the trunk latch, which gouged the hell out of the side of the freezer.  So much for pristine.  We managed to get it up on the porch, but then I was stymied.  It just wasn’t going to fit through the door.  But I had to leave in 45 minutes to get Hero from the fair, so I sent a desperation text to Eric.  I got lucky, and he came over fairly quickly, took the door off the freezer (I have to learn how to do that) and he and Xander moved it in while I emptied the old one.  The new one wasn’t going to fit in the old space, though, so I cleared some of the stuff off the pantry shelves and swept up all the rabbit poo, and we did a quick rearrange.  Then they put the freezer in, I slammed all the frozen stuff into the new freezer, and ran off to get the girl.

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Look at that.  That is everything you saw in the picture of the old freezer AND half the stuff from the fridge freezer.  And it’s still not even half full! I’m absolutely giddy.

Saturday was spent at the fair, so I didn’t get to do much, so Sunday was cleaning day.  I did a bunch of laundry to clear the decks, and had Hero shopvac up the rest of the rabbit litter (Taffy is a slob).  Then I reorganized the shelves, as the back end isn’t as convenient as the front end now.  But that’s okay.  I’ve put the long term storage items on that end and the things I use all the time on the end closer to the kitchen door.  I also got a couple of 5 gallon buckets.

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Two of these are filled as labeled (I’ll get the sugar the next time I get paid).  These will go on the bottom shelf, along with new bins for potatoes and onions as soon as I get them.  I feel a little like a prepper, but it really does feel good to have this stuff on hand.

The weirdest think I’m happy about?  I have ice cubes.  I have never had room in my freezers to keep ice cubes on hand.  Whenever I’ve needed them for a party or anything, I’ve had to go out and buy a bag.  But now I have a bin in the door of the big freezer, and I just keep making up trays and dumping them in the box.  Xander’s already gotten in the habit of adding them to his drinks.  It’s such a little thing, but it just feels so good.  And we realized we can actually keep ice cream on hand (assuming I can keep the boys from stealing it all).  We never could because again, just no room.  I’m just… No words.

So my next project:  Making and freezing half a dozen pizzas.  I have room for them now, and it will give me a no cook night!

Yardage

Yardage

Spring is here at long giddy last, and after spending the last few weeks sick as a dog (yes, again), it’s a joy to actually be getting excited about getting a handle on things again.

Stage 1 is the yard and gardens.  This actually started at the end of February when I rigged up my grow system in the basement from a metal shelf on the back porch.

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Two shop lights, 4 natural light bulbs, a timer and two S hooks and I was in business for seed starting.  I started lettuce, onions and 3 kinds of tomatoes.

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Then I got sick and couldn’t remember to water them.  So yeah, another year of crappy starting under my belt.  I’m still going to start Brussels sprouts and try again with the tomatoes and peppers.  At this point the rest can just go straight into the garden.

Getting the shelf off the back porch, though, meant opening up a lot of space back there.  Okay, well, first it meant a big mess.  That shelf had been stuffed full of all kinds of junk: broken toys, half used building supplies, stuff the kids had scrounged, just junk.  Morgan and I filled 3 contractor bags just clearing that off, but we left a lot of stuff on the floor.  And too much of that junk had migrated into the yard as well.  So last Sunday, we all took about an hour and a half and just cleaned up the STUFF in the yard.  Put the wagons away, junked all the freeze-shattered plastic, raked all the wind-blown trash out of the rose bed, put tools away, folded up the tarp.  We filled the dumpster again (at this point our trash guys must hate us).  Got all the junk off the back porch as well and gave it a good sweeping.  No more having to squeeze out the back door to get into the yard.  Once again, just cleaning a space makes it feel that much more inviting.  I also scrubbed out the front flower bed, getting out all the old mulch and trash and weeds to reveal the daffodil and iris leaves starting to push up for the new season.  There’s still quite a bit of clay in the grass from when we dug up the front walk, so I’ll throw some grass seed (and maybe some ground thyme) to cover that over.  So we aren’t entirely the shame of the neighborhood anymore!

This weekend, I need to start rebuilding the garden beds for the season.  I think I’m going to cheat and buy soilless mix for the grow boxes, but I need to make the Mel’s Mix for the raised beds by hand.  I need too much fill!  I’m also going to recruit the kids to start cleaning and repairing the shed.  The main doors are falling off, so we’ll replace the hinges on those, pack up a bunch more trash and donate a couple of bikes, organize the tools and hopefully just make everything more accessible.  Once that’s done, I want to paint it, although I need rubberized paint because it’s currently got a very crumbly coat of lead paint on it.  Once that’s done, I need to design a bike shed addition for the house side, something that we can get in and out of easily but that we can lock the bikes up in AND lock the door of.  My architect skills aren’t great, though, so this could be an adventure.  Expect pictures!