Friday, December 6, 2019

Another Catch Up Post

Frankie
I feel like I need to come up with more interesting names for all of the catch up posts I seem to be doing this year.  I guess that’s my blogging theme for 2019.  The year of the catch up posts.  It’s safe to say that it most definitely will not be the year of meeting blogging goals.

Speaking of goals, the ThredUp box is gone!  It’s not time for a goals post yet, but I’m thrilled that the box was finally shipped off.  Nick was actually the one who took it to the post office, but it’s gone now.  I’m calling it a success.

My biggest news is that I started a new job at the beginning of November.  That’s part of why I haven’t been blogging much.  I accepted the new job, we went on vacation, and I had to wrap things up at my old job.  Things got a little hectic in October!  They seem to be leveling off some now, as much as things can around the holidays anyway. 

I’m really, really happy in my new job.  It was a long time coming, and I really didn’t think it was going to happen.  It was basically a transfer, so I kept all of my retirement and accrued leave, which I was very happy about.  I’m almost ten years in, and I didn’t want to lose all of that.  The only negative was that it involved taking a pay cut.  So far it feels like the right decision.  I’m much happier.  No job is perfect of course, but I enjoy this work so much more than what I was doing before.  I had lunch with a friend from my old job a few weeks ago and she told me I looked happier than she’d ever seen me.  Nick says he has noticed a huge difference in my demeanor when I come home from work.  I think those are good signs. 

Starting a new job did not interfere with our Thanksgiving celebrations.  As those of you who’ve been reading for years know, I love Thanksgiving.  I got in touch with the local hospice house early in November to ask about bringing the meal, and they said yes.  We stuck to our usual tradition of taking the meal to them for lunch, and then having our celebration at home in the evening. 

I was still able to take the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off of work, and I made the desserts that day.  It’s not the best picture, but here are the desserts and one of the loaves of the sweet potato bread.  I made two more loaves of sweet potato bread after that, but never got around to taking any more pictures. 


Nick peeled and mashed twenty pounds of potatoes on Thanksgiving.  Things went very well with dropping off the food.  We took turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, macaroni & cheese, rolls, sweet potato bread, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, cherry crunch, banana pound cake, and brownies.  We even remembered to take butter and whipped cream.  Nick’s mom sent us lots of fall theme paper plates, napkins, and cutlery, so we took that as well.  Everyone was incredibly nice.  As usual, they made me cry.  I manage to keep it together until we get all of the food unloaded and set up, but once we leave I always start crying in the parking lot.  This year they told me that word has gotten around about it, and that people who work on Thanksgiving ask what time we’re coming.  I thought that was really sweet. 

Once we got home from hospice we finished making the food for our Thanksgiving celebration.  We didn’t have quite as many people as last year because a few of our friends were sick, but our neighbors still came.  Honestly, they’re more like family, and I love that we have some holiday traditions with them.  We all ate way too much, then broke out the games.  We played Stinky Pig and Taboo.  We finally went to bed around 1:00 in the morning.  I was exhausted, but I loved every minute of it. 

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I did nothing on Friday.  We ate leftovers and watched Miracle on 34th Street.  I like having the lazy day after all of the activity the day before. 

We did get the Christmas tree put up that weekend, but we haven’t put up the wreaths or the Christmas flag yet.  I’m planning to do that this weekend.  Frankie seems to have finally outgrown his habit of messing with the tree.  Charlie and Mortimer have not.  Caroline most definitely has not!  We seem to spend a lot of time pulling cats, mainly Caroline, out of the tree, and putting ornaments back on the tree.  It’s a good thing they’re cute. 

In somewhat random news, I finally planted an ornamental cabbage this year.  We went to Lowe’s in October, and of course I ended up leaving with plants.  I’ve been fascinated with the ornamental cabbages since I was a little kid.  Does anyone else remember always seeing them in planters at restaurants in the late 80s and early 90s?  It seems like we went to places with salad bars a lot back then, and I was convinced they grew their own cabbage and lettuce out front.  I didn’t realize at the time that they were ornamental.  Anyway, I’ve wanted an ornamental cabbage for a long time now, and finally got one this year.  It’s still in good shape, even though we’ve been at and below freezing several times.  I’m hoping this means it will last all winter. 


And since I always share random cat pictures in my catch up posts, here are a few more:

Mortimer

Charlie

Howard

So what about you?  How were October and November for you? 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Duke & Chuzoo Were Interviewed

Duke and Chuzoo have both been interviewed for Friends of Fur Kid Friday at Zigler News. 

You can read Chuzoo’s interview here


You can read Duke’s interview here

And you should definitely check out the other Friends of Fur Kid Friday posts as well.  It’s always fun to read about other pets. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Glimpses Of Fall

It hasn’t felt much fall here until very recently.  We started October with record breaking high temperatures.  It finally cooled off on Saturday.  Our high was only 70 degrees.  On Sunday morning the temperature in the house was lower than what we had the thermostat set for.  It felt like fall.

We started the week off cooler.  Today was overcast and gray.  It felt chilly.  We warm back up to the mid 70s tomorrow, and have a chance of hitting 80 degrees in the next week.  Summer definitely doesn’t seem to be over yet.

Still, there are some glimpses of fall, especially today with the gray skies. 


The mums have come back.  It still surprises me a little bit whenever something I’ve planted comes back for another year.  And I had no idea how big they would get! 


Here's a closer view of the flowers.


The yellow ones aren't quite as big.  I may have gotten a little too enthusiastic when I tried to deadhead them.


They’re still pretty, though.  Here’s a closer view of the flowers. 


It’s not all fall plants, though.  One of the snapdragons from this spring is still blooming.  It’s dwarfed between the purple and yellow mums, but still going strong.  We also still have cherry tomatoes (even though we haven't planted them for a few years), but I didn't get a picture of them today.


My favorite mums are the ones next to the carport.  I think this burgundy is the perfect fall color.


Here’s a closer view of the flowers.  Don’t they just look like fall?


One of the bushes in our front yard is just starting to turn.


Here’s a slightly closer view of the changing leaves. 


And an even closer view of the changing leaves. 


So what about you?  Are you seeing some glimpses of fall where you are?  Or more than a glimpse? 

Monday, October 7, 2019

All About Our Composting

When I posted about how I did (and in some cases, didn’t) do with reaching my goals for last quarter, one of the things I was happy with was how we’ve been composting.  Bijoux asked for more details about it, so here’s more than you probably ever wanted to know.

We’re relatively new to composting.  Nick’s grandmother composted, so he had some experience with it.  I had none.  To be honest, I was initially pretty opposed to the idea of composting.  I was afraid it would smell bad, and I thought it would be a lot of trouble. 

Then I read several articles right around Earth Day last year, and I decided that composting was probably worthwhile.  We need to take care of our home, right?  I did a lot of internet searching about various methods of composting, and read a lot of articles and blog posts. 

It appears that composting is really one of those things you can make as easy or as complicated as you want.  There’s also a huge range in start up costs. 

One of the popular methods is using a large plastic storage bin with some holes drilled in the bottom, and stirring it periodically with a shovel.  I really didn’t like that idea because I was afraid it would smell, I was concerned about it leaking, I don’t like how it looks, and realistically, I wasn’t sure how diligent we’d be about stirring.  I wanted to make composting as easy as possible. 

We decided on a two-bin composter because it takes time for the material you’re composting to break down.  We couldn’t figure out a good way to get ready to go compost from a bin we were still adding material to.  And taking a break from composting anything new in order to use what we already had just seemed counterproductive.


So we went with this Miracle Grow Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler.  It seemed sturdy and easy to use.  Nick put it together, and said it was easy to assemble.  


We composted fairly diligently at first, during the warmer weather, and while it was still light wen I was cooking dinner.  Once the colder weather came, and it started getting dark at 5:00, composting just didn’t happen.

That’s when we decided to get a counter top compost bin.  Before the bin, we would just put compost material in a bowl, and take it out after we cooked.  That meant it needed to go out right away.  If we didn’t take it out right away we ended up just putting it in the trash.  The bin has been hugely helpful in making sure we actually do compost what we can.  

We chose this bin because it had good reviews, and it seemed like a good size.  We have a small kitchen, so we have to be careful about what we give up counter space to.


Here it is with a coffee cup to give you an idea of scale. 


Typically we dump it about once a day, or at least every other day.  We’ve accidentally let it go for two or more days before, and it gets pretty gross.  Most of the time we have scraps to put in it in the evening when I cook dinner, or in the morning if I put dinner in the Crock Pot.  If Nick dumps it he usually does it in the evening, and if I dump it I usually do it in the afternoon when I come home for lunch.

Bijoux specifically asked about animal issues with it.  We haven’t had any animal issues.  We live just outside the city limits, so we don’t have a lot of trouble with animals, anyway.  The other side of this field, kind of down the hill, is in the city limits, to give you an idea.



We do have Duke, though, and we were worried that he might try to break into the compost to eat scraps.  Fortunately, that hasn’t been an issue.  It’s sturdy, and seals up well, so I don’t think he can necessarily smell what’s in it.  

If we’re not diligent about taking the counter top bin outside to be dumped into the composter we do get some fruit flies, but that’s not an issue as long as we’re diligent about dumping the counter top bin.  I think it does help that the counter top bin seals, and that it has a filter.  We’ve noticed a few fruit flies around the composter outside, but really not any major infestations.  I probably wouldn’t set a composter up right next to a picnic table, but bugs really haven’t been an issue for us.  Honestly, I think buying an actual composter, designed for that, and that seals up well probably contributes to that.  

I have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that it doesn’t smell.  We put it as far away from the house as possible, against the back fence, but I think it would have been fine closer to the house.  We are very careful about what we put in the compost, though.  Most of what I read basically said not to put any meat, dairy, or fat into the compost bin.  That’s apparently what will smell bad, and can also contribute to attracting animals, which makes sense.

Remember when I said composting seems to be one of those things you can make as easy or complicated as you want?  I think we go kind of middle of the road there.  We’re careful not to put anything we’re not supposed to in the bin, but we don’t get into trying to get the perfect ratio  of brown and green matter.  Apparently there’s some thought that you need a certain mixture of fruit/vegetable material and cardboard/paper material.  That seems unnecessary to me.  

So what do we compost?  Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, coffee filters, and plain brown paper.  There’s some thought that paper with ink isn’t a good idea for the compost bin,so we stick to putting things like toilet paper rolls and plain brown packing paper in the compost bin.  I have no idea what our ratio of paper to produce to tea to coffee to eggshells is.  

Our system is to put everything we compost into one side for a while.  We only put things in one side for about a month when we first got the composter.  Then we stopped adding new material to that side, only adding new material to the other side.  It takes about four to six months from when we stop adding things for what’s in the bin to be ready to use.  We turn both sides a few times whenever we dump the bin, but other than that we just leave it alone.   

Here’s what the ready to use (or at least what we deem ready to use) compost looks like.  


And here’s what it looks like when we’re still adding new material.  


And here’s the gardenia bush we planted recently, and added some our compost to.  


Obviously composting isn’t the only answer to all of the environmental problems we’re facing, but I do think it makes a difference.  We do seem to have less trash now that we’re composting, and we’re not buying plastic bags of compost for the yard.  So I do think it’s worth it, and it seems like a fairly high payoff for not much effort.  

So what about you?  Do you compost?  What are your composting tips? 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Quarterly Goals - Last Quarter of 2019

I think tracking my goals by quarter has been helpful, so I’m doing it again this quarter.   It’s weird that this year is almost over!  It’s also the last chance to meet yearly goals, so there’s some pressure to aim high.

Charlie
I don’t really have any pictures to go with this post, and as you know by now, that means I share some random cat pictures.  I always have cat pictures! 

Here are my fourth quarter, or October - December, 2019 goals:

Home:

Actually take the ThredUp box to the post office!  It has been sitting in the living room for entirely too long.  I’m definitely not aiming high with this one.  The box really needs to go.

I need to go through my clothes again, and get rid of things I don’t wear, which probably means another ThredUp box.  I think some of my sweaters will be too big to wear this year, and I have at least one summer dress that was too big when I tried to wear it last week. 

In continuing with the theme of boxing things up (and hopefully taking said boxes to the post office!), I’d like to get another box of books/movies/CDs shipped off to Decluttr.  We seem to constantly acquire new books, which isn’t a problem as long as we also part with some. 

Mortimer
My night stand tends to stay somewhat cluttered, so I’d like to tame that clutter this quarter.  At the moment, one wrong move sends the leaning tower of books, magazines, and notebooks toppling.  I’d like to eliminate that problem.

We’re still working on general organizing, getting rid of clutter, and implementing better storage systems, but I’m not setting any other specific goals for this quarter. 

Health:

I still need to lose more weight.  I stayed at the same weight last quarter which makes me nervous for how I’ll do this quarter with the holidays, and all of the holiday treats, coming up.  Last quarter I didn’t set any specific weight loss goals, so I am going to set a specific goal this quarter to see if that helps.  My weight goal for this quarter is to lose nine pounds.  That would put me at a certain threshold I’d be really happy to reach.

On the exercise front, I’m a little lost.  Here’s my dilemma:

Mortimer
I love, love, love swimming.  The gym we go to has an indoor pool, so in theory, swimming is an option year round.  The gym also has a 100 Mile Swim Club.  You track your laps/miles, and when you reach 100 miles, you get a 100 Mile Swim Club t-shirt.  I want that t-shirt!  There’s no time limit, and they say it takes most people over a year.   I have a very long way to go.  My trouble in setting a swimming goal this quarter is that during the colder weather I’ll have to take the time to dry my hair after I swim.  I know that sounds really dumb, but during the week swimming for 45 minutes to an hour, then getting a shower and drying my hair can put us getting home kind of late for a weeknight.  It’s easier during the warmer weather because I just leave with wet hair and let it dry on its own.  Going outside with dripping wet hair when it’s 30 degrees does not sound at all pleasant!  The gym closes at 4:00 on Friday, which means I can’t go because of work.  It’s also closed on Saturday, so Sunday is the only weekend day available.
Charlie

My other exercise of choice is the treadmill.  I’ve been trying, off and on, to do a Couch to 5K program.  I’m much, much closer to couch than 5K!  On treadmill days I also have the goal of using the arm weight machines.  I’d like to increase my weights on the machines.  I’m still at the lowest weight on one of them, so I’d to at least move up a weight on that one by the end of the quarter. 

I don’t think it’s realistic to set a big swimming goal and a 5K goal, but I’m not sure how to split it up either.  Any suggestions? 

This is new for me since we just joined the gym in March.  The goals I’m leaning toward at the moment are to consistently go to the gym at least three days a week, hopefully four days a week, but a minimum of three.  I think Sunday may end up being my only regular swimming day.  If that’s the case, my goal is to get up to a mile and a half at a time, which would be 54 laps.  The Couch to 5K program is a six week program, at three days a week, so if I do only swim one day a week that means I should be able to complete the program. 

Honestly, this feels very daunting, and not as focused as it probably should be, but it’s something I’m figuring out as I go.  I’d love any suggestions anyone has for narrowing it down, or how you manage your exercise goals. 

My much more straightforward exercise goal is to get my daily step average up to 10,000.  According to my tracker my daily average as of today is 9,827 steps.  I think I should be able to get that up to 10,000 by the end of the year. 

Environment:

One goal is to definitely keep being diligent about composting, and not getting lazy and tossing compostable things in the trash.  It’s a little more of a challenge for me during the colder weather since it does involve going out into the cold. 

Caroline
Additionally on the compost front, I have the goal of not composting things that should have been used in the first place.  The compost bin is for things like veggie scraps and tea bags, not bunches of celery that I neglected to use in a timely manner.  Obviously composting spoiled produce is a little better than just throwing it in the trash, but it’s far from ideal.  My goal this quarter is to get better about using up food before it goes bad, weather that means freezing it, changing up what I may have planned to cook, or getting a little more creative in the kitchen. 

The other, bigger, goal is to reduce the amount of plastic waste we generate.  My goal for this quarter is to stop using the plastic produce bags.  I bought reusable produce bags, and I’ve used them twice in three months.  I almost never remember to bring them with me.  So my goal for this quarter is to switch exclusively to them for produce, and not to use any of the plastic produce bags the stores provide. 

Personal/Miscellaneous:

I still feel like the human version of a fixer upper house! 

My goodreads goal for the year is 52 books, and I’m currently six books behind schedule.  I would love to actually meet that goal.  I think it’s possible, especially if I watch less TV. 

I’m also setting the goal of reading more non-fiction.  I think fiction will always be my favorite, but I think I would definitely benefit from reading some non-fiction.  My non-fiction goal for this quarter is to read three non-fiction books, basically one per month. 

Since this quarter includes November, there’s also the question of participating in NaNoWriMo.  I’ve signed up off and on over the past six years, and never even come close to the 50,000 word goal.  Earlier this year, I had no intention of even going through the motions of signing up this year.  Lately, though, I’ve had an idea that I want to try out. 

Realistically, I know the chances of writing 50,000 words in November are extremely low.  Basically nonexistent.  But, there’s something about the sense of hope and optimism at the beginning of November with that goal in place.  So my goal is to sign up, and get as many words written as I can.  I know it’s not the most ambitious, or even specific, goal, but it’s one that makes me happy.  Something is better than nothing, right?

I’m hoping to make much better crochet progress this quarter since I’ve finally been shown some things in person.  Aunt Diana suggested granny squares as a good way to learn.  I’ve also read that dish cloths are a good place to start.  My plan is to practice the stitches some more, then look at patterns for granny squares and dish cloths to figure out which one seems more doable.  My goal is to complete at least one this quarter. 
Howard

Blogging:

This year has been my worst blogging year ever.  I don’t think that’s likely to change in just three months, but I would like to improve it.  I love blogging, and I really don’t know why it’s one of the first things I let go when things get busy.  My goal this quarter is to post at least twice a week. 

I’d also like to post at least one video this quarter.  It’s something I’ve never done, but have wanted to try for a while. 

So what about you?  Are you working on any specific goals this quarter?  Are you really pushing yourself to accomplish something by the end of the year?  How do you determine which goals to really focus on?