A New Year of Happy

I didn’t really do resolutions last year.  I privately decided I would try to minimize the amount of trips I made to a certain Mart.  This worked in the sense that I only went there twice in the year.  This did not work in the sense that I sent my husband there instead (they are the only store in the area that carries our 100% recycled brand of toilet paper and paper towels, and the only one that consistently carries our type of cat litter) and also placed an online order for enough cat litter to get free shipping and have the FedEx guy hate me.

It also did not work because the 2nd trip was this past month when I had such a huge shopping to do and I was HAPPY to be shopping there.  I had CHOICES.  And some things were certainly cheaper.  It also is two blocks from my favorite grocery store for bargains (Aldi) and 1/4 mile from my favorite Whole-Foods-Like store (Golden Harvest) so going there to finish up a grocery list means I can be done in one big trip versus one big trip and several smaller trips to closer-to-home (but still chains and therefore not a “better” use of my money) stores.

So I guess what I’m saying is one of my (a little less) private 2016 resolutions will be to NOT minimize the amount of trips I make to WalMart.  I will continue to not plan out trips specifically around the store and possibly do more online ordering when we really, truly only need those 3 essentials so I am not tempted by bargains.  But I will also not walk out of Aldi missing 4 ingredients for a recipe and trying to figure out when I can squeeze in another grocery trip that week.

Other random things I have decided to call resolutions for 2016:

  1. Get my teeth whitened.  I will start with a home-whitening kit but if that fails and finances allow, I will pursue it further with my dentist.  My teeth have never been very white.  It’s a side effect of having those old-fashioned braces with full bands cemented onto my teeth.  But since moving here, it has Gotten Worse.  At first I blamed our well water.  Then I blamed my smoothie, which I had changed from breakfast to snack and therefore wasn’t brushing right after.  So my hygienist scraped and scraped and SCRAPED OUCH and I started brushing my teeth midday and things were OK for awhile.  But I moved my smoothie back to breakfast and stopped that midday brushing and things have gone a bit grey again.  So I guess either it is our well water or I really need that 3rd cleaning to keep stains at bay.  I don’t really care if my teeth are white as pearls (which, um, they are whiter than some pearls I’ve seen so…?) but there are a few spots that noticeably stain to the point you might be distracted by it when talking to me up close.
  2. Become a vegetarian and lean more towards vegan.  I’ve been a vegetarian before, and never ate a ton of meat anyway, but it definitely has been a staple in our lives since Tom and I met.  In the past I’ve thought that moving away from meat, at least chicken, would be bad for me because I tend to not feel good if I don’t eat A LOT of protein and I have concerns about eating soy.  But the reality is I haven’t felt great for over a year now anyway – soy free – so why not give it a try?  It’s been over two weeks since I made the switch and so far so good.  (Although I still haven’t eaten much soy.)
  3. Use my Bullet Journal consistently and effectively and messily.  By “consistently” I mean, “Take some time at least every morning and evening to update to-dos, calendars, and other lists.”  A Bullet Journal is very helpful for me when I use it.  When I slip away from daily use it is not because I’m using something else – it’s because I feel too busy to take the time to write stuff down.  Which is exactly the time I need to use it the most.  “Effectively” and “Messily” actually go together although I know that doesn’t make sense.  By “effectively” I mean that I need to tailor lists and pages to suit me better.  And by “messily” I mean that if to use it effectively I need to change format half way through a book, I should do that.  I also mean that I should have more fun with writing and doodling in general in my Bullet Journal and fight the urge to keep it some pristine, regimented style.  It is a place for my thoughts, and they are definitely not either.
  4. Go for a Hike.  Capitalized to emphasize a long hike.  Ideally, I will take 3 weeks and hike the Superior Hiking Trail.  I have been pseudo planing this for some time now and my job is aware and supportive of the idea.  But there are a lot of possible obstacles so I won’t beat myself up if this doesn’t happen AND I will also hold myself accountable to find some other, shorter but still multi-day, trip.  HIKING MUST HAPPEN.
  5. Care less about who reads here.  I wrote two posts recently that I marked “private” and can only be seen by me.  While I do think one of them should remain that way out of courtesy to someone else (my ex-husband), the other is private because my family, close friends, and in-laws have become semi-regularly readers since we blogged our Appalachian Trail hike in 2013.  I LIKE that they read (hello people who know me in real life!), but I DON’T LIKE how my readership has censored me to the point that when I wish to complain that my husband is being an asshole (it happens, people) I end up spending 4/5 of the post trying to explain 1) I know he’s not an asshole all the time 2) this doesn’t mean anything significant in our marriage – we’re not divorcing or In Trouble 3) I’m aware I can be an asshole to at times.  While all 3 of those concepts may be true, they detract from the purpose of the post – MY HUSBAND IS BEING AN ASSHOLE AND I MUST COMPLAIN MIGHTILY THIS IS WHY THE INTERWEBS WERE CREATED.  (I will also take an ironic moment here to point out my husband is not – currently – being an asshole.  He’s actually at home getting chores done and later on today we have plans for our first(!!) movie at a real theater in years.  He also wasn’t an asshole yesterday.  BUT THE DAY BEFORE THAT MAYBE AND I DON’T CARE HOW MANY WEIRD FAMILY TEXTS THIS SHOCKING REVELATION CAUSES.)
  6. Use caps lock less.

 

Merry Cheesecake!

Merry Christmas!

For Christmas so far I have:

  1. Emptied, cleaned, replaced the cat litters.
  2. Washed dishes.  Thrice.
  3. Washed my “delicates”.  (I’m thinking once you get to a certain band size and  a certain cup size, they are no longer “delicate”.  Check and double check.)

But it’s not all fun and games here.  I DID open Christmas packages, go on a very long walk in snow-covered majestic-ness, and cook all sorts of tempting goodies which meant my very long walk should have been a very, very long walk but whatever.  It’s Christmas.

One item I made for myself for this holiday season was a cheesecake.  It came out wonderfully.  I’ve had three pieces now (breakfast, lunch, dinner…what?) and each time I marvel at how genius it was to make the crust out of  spekulatius (German spice cookies) because nothing says “awesome dessert” the way step 1 of a recipe calls for, “Take a complete dessert in its own right (cookies) and mash it with 6 tablespoons of melted butter.”

 

Thanksgiving Menu Addition – Brought to you by Merlot

I meant to surf somewhere else, but google decided to auto-complete with my WordPress admin page so here we are.

I have a pie crust blind baking in the oven.  And I’m going to go ahead and guess that 5 minutes into the oven is the wrong time to realize you didn’t fork-prick that crust to death.

I am using Deb’s All Butter Pie Crust (follow the link at the end for rolling instructions.  First time I followed them and first time in forever I haven’t had to piece-meal a crust back together in the pie tin!) and blind baking it to make a French Silk Pie (following Martha Stewart’s recommendation which seems very similar to Pioneer Woman’s version just less volume).

Tom is in charge of the turkey.

I will make Paul Deen’s Corn Casserole (less butter, more cheese possibly) and back to SmittenKitchen for Green Bean Casserole (although I’m using pre-fried onions.  Ingredient list is basically the same and maybe ONE pot will remain clean tomorrow).

There will be some willy-nilly sweet potatoes, possibly roasted in disks or just plain baked.

And I made Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread from Betty Rocker’s latest email because I had some pumpkin puree left over from oatmeal and what’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin?

TBD if tomorrow will include Merlot.  Depends a lot on the blind baking outcome.

A very happy to you and yours.

Giving Thanks A Little Early This Year

After over a month of negotiation (which really just meant we were never in the same city long enough to sit down and hash things out after my initial request), I have received both a raise and an hour increase at my part-time job.

First off, I am thankful for a job period.  Then I am also thankful for a job that I like.  Lastly, I am thankful for a job where I am valued and that translates into things like more money.  I did not request the increase in hours; that was brought up by my bosses.  After trying to budget our spending based on our income (instead of dipping into our savings), it was clear I should agree to any and all options that boosted my paycheck.

It will a be a little weird at first.  There will be some growing pains at the shop.  The increase in amount of hours I work for them means a decrease in hours I can work for myself.  I am sad over the idea of not being a part of the day-to-day at our store.  The dream was (and still is) for us to run the shop as our sole source of revenue.  But it’s just not there yet.  Changing my priority from the shop to this “full-time”* position gives us some breathing room in our budget to grow the shop without worrying (quite so much) about where the next meal is coming from.

*I still won’t be working 40 hours/week so it is not like I will 100% step away from our business.  But as it stood before, we both worked for our store almost every day and pretty much wore every hat together, working on any part of the business as needed that day.  Now I foresee a more divide and conquer with each of us having set tasks dependent upon our availability.

I do have many other things to be thankful for this year.  Our (relative) good health.  Finding ways to connect with friends even though we are far apart.  A renter for the condo who pays rent and a property manager who ensures that payment arrive consistently.  Many agreed upon Values and Important Things with my husband that make tough times not so tough.  Friends and family who respect and support our decision to move a million miles away from them.

A job isn’t everything.  But it is something, especially having one you like.  And I do.  So I am thankful.

Something To Show For It

I don’t know what that title means.  But WordPress has already made the Permalink so…

We’re back!

Technically, we’ve been home since Thursday evening! And I’ve been busy with random chores such as grocery shopping and all-day canning extravaganzas!

Anyone remember that I can? Anyone? Bueller?* I have a feeling I haven’t written about it much since the first few times I broke out the supplies here in 2013.

Last year, the first year the shop was open during peak produce harvests, I ended up freezing things when I could and then live tweeted a day of canning that included two jams, a conserve, a salsa, and bruchetta in a jar. I could barely move afterwards and anytime I thought of canning for the next few months I sort of shivered then had to lay down to recuperate.

This year I managed to do three small one-batch canning sessions during the summer, then blasted out three more recipes yesterday with my mother’s help.  It was so much more relaxing to be able to take shifts at standing at the stove and stirring.

The hike was great, by the way.  I will try to write about it more later.  (I WILL write about it more later, but the first priority when it comes to hiking writing is not here anymore.)  But I did not get sick, I did not get a skin infection, we made the miles we wanted including a 20-mile-day, we tested some great food and OK equipment, and I packed the car with a great “after hike bag” that included more fresh water, extreme peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, oat bran sesame sticks (my personal weakness), and fresh clothes to change into.

So we got home, I did some chores on Friday, and then we heard about the attacks in Paris.  I don’t have anything to say about it, really.  I’m not a political blogger or a social justice blogger.  But I also feel like I need to SAY it.  I need to mention it happened.  I’m not sure why I feel that way; many other things have happened (other happened in past 48 hours in other countries) that I haven’t said.  But here I am.  Mentioning Paris.  Because to not mention Paris feels wrong.

Saturday my mother and I canned.  And today I am the store by myself and it is marvelous.  Not marvelous that I have (almost) no customers, but marvelous that I can putter around the store without need for rhyme or reason and get 6 things done in my weird 1-step-forward-2-steps-towards-the-recycling-4-skips-to-reorganizing-the-front-display-shelf-3-parkours-into-the-billing.  It’s not multi-tasking, exactly.  But there is a joy I get in the freedom of letting my mind, feet, and hands all wander in sync to the tune of “Let’s Get Stuff Done.”

Blog?  Check!

*I wrote this and then went back through the site to link to a canning post.  The second one I found also had a Bueller? reference.  Good to know I stay relevant in my un-funniness.

 

Warning: Thoughts Ahead

It’s 11:20am on Saturday as I type this.  I technically already wrote something today.  I emailed my brother, SIL, and SIL’s sister some pictures and updates to the cabin.  I would share them here except I have no before photos.  Only the afters.  I am counting on those three to have the befores etched into their brains from the 57 years the cabin has been in the family.

Side note: For about 5-10 years or so there was a stretch where I did not visit the cabin very much and they did.  I was working, volunteering, and first-marriaging in Florida.  (The first marriage mention fits because his family was in FL, giving me even less reason to leave the state.)  My grandparents were also in Florida, with the rest of my family in Chicago.  George, Francesca, her family and lots of their friends would take advantage of the cabin several weekends out of the summer.  They made minor changes, mostly linen and small appliance additions, during that time.  I’m sure my brother wished to do more, but I have always been a little…sensitive…about things around the cabin changing too much.  And when I say “around”, I mean I was upset for over a week about a new traffic light on our drive into town.  God forbid someone move the sofa.  Now I have moved here (with his blessing) and there are many things about living here full-time as two adults with cats that is very different from being a summer residence of grandparents and grandchildren.  So I have changed a great many things.  Even thrown out a few things.  And I sometimes wonder at what his emotional response over these changes.  Is he a little sad to see the yellow curtain that separated his childhood summer bed from the dining area finally be removed?  In some way did he not like change but did not have to be quite so vocal about it since I was more than willing to pick up his slack?  Or is he in New Mexico frustrated thinking,  “NOW she makes all these changes when I am a bazillion miles away and working and cannot enjoy them?!”

Anyway, the latest changes are to accommodate another living arrangement – three adults with cats.  My mother is coming to stay for a few weeks.  I think at least two but you never know with her these days.  (HI MOM!)  She has very much embraced the fluidity of retirement.  I have asked her to stay for Thanksgiving but she thinks a friend might visit.  Who knows.  Maybe that will fall through or maybe a more enticing offer than a re-organized bedroom without a ginormous TV lurking in the corner will come up in 3 days and she’ll be on her way.

But the assumption is two weeks.  Maybe longer.  So we moved our computers out of the room she likes to stay in and put the TV in the living room where it covers up almost half of the main windows and I can’t stand it but we’re hardly home when it is light out anymore so who cares?  The TV, by the way, is only ginormous to me.  I also have never had cable except when living with roommates or husbands.  An in-home entertainment center to me is built-in bookshelves.

I have also taken a week off from my part-time job, and while my mother is here to cat-sit (we have a terribly emotional Maine Coon who needs daily meds, sometimes AM and PM, and constant consoling anytime Tom is out of his sight) Tom and I will go backpacking.  Imagine that!  People who run a hiking store going to hike!

This is very exciting but also nerve wracking.  It will be our first multi-day trip since we left the Appalachian Trail in 2013.  I still have not reached a point where I don’t get skin infections, but I do have some better understanding of how to prevent and treat them.  And it is only three days so I am not too concerned except that it might be uncomfortable.  But it is only three days and we plan to hike over 15 miles a day to cover the trail we chose.  I am optimistic given how the weather has held and how much walking I do on a regular sit-at-the-computer day (about 5 miles) and the fact that it won’t be up and down mountains.  But I do want to have fun and being on a tight mileage schedule can sometimes not be fun.

So!  I will probably not be writing much this next week!  Because my mother is scheduled to get here….now?  It’s now 12:47pm.  It has not taken me over an hour to put together such a jumble of words.  I also showered and made nachos.

Film at 11

Most of the things sold in The Hiker Box are items Tom or I have either used personally or seen in use.  Some other things are based on best-sellers in the field or what’s the newest from a great, reputable company.

And then there are the customer requests.  Things customers have asked for time and time again to one of us and it becomes our mission to obtain that product and have it on the shelf.  If only for the other one of us to ask, “Why in the heck are we carrying a pedometer?” and some day be able to taunt back, “See!  I sold a pedometer!  Thank goodness I ordered them!  WE WOULD BE BANKRUPT OTHERWISE.”

(Note: sometimes this does not go as planned.  Sometimes you hear 4,510 requests for an item but as soon as you have one, no one else ever wants one ever again.  And sometimes you will order one, people will ask for one, then look it at on the shelf, shrug, and leave without purchasing.  This may or may not have happened with pedometers.)

Many of these product requests fall outside of the range of “Hiking, Camping, Backpacking” and more into the range of, “You are a convenient store for tourists to pop into and ask for random items they forgot to pack.”  I will say that at least 65% of these requests are items you might sometimes eventually use outdoors.  Or carry outdoors from the car to the house.

We get a lot of general sports-type requests.  We get a lot of specific-there-are-three-outfitters-in-a-5-mile-range-catering-to-that-activity requests. (We usually do not act on those but give referrals.  And it has so far worked nicely in that other stores refer customers to us as well.)

But come summer, this is tourist town.  And I have lucked out on choosing some products that have nothing to do with hiking.  We sell out of swimming floats and collapsible umbrellas.  We did rather well with critter nets and citronella candles.

Where we have completely flopped is batteries.  Even when we sell an item that REQUIRES batteries.  They are just not the type of thing we can purchase in enough bulk to be well-priced and while someone might wonder if the grocery store carries collapsible umbrellas (it does, but you did not hear that from me), they are fairly sure they can find batteries there.

So imagine my excitement when I had the cutest girl come ask me, “Do you have the stuff that goes in here?” pointing to an opening in a camera.  I started to show her the batteries, all excited that I was definitely going to make a sale because I have been a cute little girl once and I remember having terrible price-comparison skills.

Then it dawned on me.  She was asking for FILM.

(No, we don’t carry film.  And it will take many more cute little girls to ask for it before I make it a mission of mine.)

 

It wouldn’t be Prudent

I’m not doing NaBloPoMo, in case you were wondering.

It is sad I have neglected this space so long that two posts in a row might make someone wonder what sort of streak I am on.

So, yeah. But no. Not gonna do it.

Currently my shoulders are permanently glued to my ears and my right jaw has been clicking for two weeks. That’s stress, folks. Capital S. And the last thing I need is to pile another commitment on top.

But…writing helps me with stress. Even though it’s unlikely I’m going to unload here about the specifics that have me shrugging and clicking, (Hello! You may be my mother or a shop customer! Man I miss when no one but strangers read me and I shared every embarrassing and rude detail of a date. The sharing part, I miss. Not the dating. So much) writing in general makes me feel good. It’s also an invisible to-do I can check off and feel like I accomplished something for the day even if all my other tasks went down the toilet or are on hold or require me to get back to someone in X days.**

I plan to try write something every day. Some days I may not. Some days I may write something and it goes elsewhere. But I want to get back to writing more in general and here is a good, no pressure place to start.

**It was actually an email back and forth with a sales rep that made me realize how much I need to communicate with the outside world more (and yes, I include writing here as “communication”). I’ve never been the best at business relationships. Introverts are not good at small talk or on-demand answers. I have always hated cold-calling people and have an amazing super power to leave the most incomprehensible voice mail messages. EVEN IF I WRITE DOWN A SCRIPT BEFOREHAND.

But when the sales rep didn’t respond to my initial email, I was physically depressed at the idea of figuring out the appropriate professional delay before I re-iterated my request. I put off the second email and had day-mares (like day dreams, but negative) about how this would play out where we could not order from the company he represented anymore and our business was doomed.

When I finally pushed “send” the second time and he got back to me within 5 minutes, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then immediately recognized no one should get that het up over a damn email and maybe I needed to take it down a few and put more words out there for other people so I don’t end up a complete hermit.

So hi. I’m here. Hopefully with some regularity. Maybe some hilarity. Just don’t ask me to phone you.

UnHandy

Once upon a time, I was a fairly functional adult. I had good credit (still do, actually), showed up for work mostly on time (ditto), and could handle basic home & car maintenance (um….).

I installed a programmable thermostat by myself once! And a chandelier! AND figured out how to operate the chandelier and the microwave at the same time for seven whole minutes!

Then I met Tom.

Before he ever saw me undressed, he completely dismantled my old dryer and put it back together. More to the point, it did not work when he started that endeavor and it did when he was finished.

Ladies and gentleman, if you do not enjoy being Miss/Mr Fix-it, find yourself a farm hand. (Notice the feeble attempt to not assign stereotypes here.)

Years of working on his father’s and grandfather’s land has left Tom with a vast knowledge of the mechanical and a patience to work through even the most complicated repair. And so we somewhat settled into roles of What We Do Best with my handling 99% of the cooking and him handling 99% of the wrenches.

There was that stretch of time where he traveled for work and I only worked part-time. I think I kept up vague notions of handiness and oh yes, I have a physics degree – two actually – so let me check the breaker box.

But since we’ve been living at the cabin and he installed an entire hydronic radiant floor heating system by himself? Forget it. Maybe, MAYBE I will wield a hammer to hang a picture. Because where Tom excels at mechanical know-how and patience, he sort of trails off in the urgency department and I only have to ask 73 times before I realize I too have opposable thumbs.

(What I am sometimes lacking is an actual hammer. Tom likes to squirrel tools away and/or leave them exactly where he used them last. That heating system means there are roughly 13 screwdrivers, 2 headlamps, and 1 PEX tubing stapler hidden somewhere in our crawlspace.)

So yes, I have come to rely on Tom for much of our general repair and maintenance. Not only do I pile his honey-do list with things like “Make the plumbing stop vibrating”, but I also request his opinion before asking a 3rd party to get involved.  I will not request anything more than the most basic oil change from our mechanic without Tom’s say-so. And forget suggesting we “call a plumber”. He looks at me like I have suggested the wrong kind of threesome. Which, I guess in a way, I have.

All of this to tell you that I was overdo for an oil change when one evening my dashboard would not light up and I had to drive home not knowing if I was going 5 or 35mph.

I dutifully told Tom about the situation, which caused some confusion because my “Check Engine” dashboard light HAS been coming on and he has been diagnosing that himself. When I said my dashboard didn’t light up he kept saying, “Well, that’s good!” thinking he’d gotten to the bottom of my error codes.

“I’m going to get an oil change this week. Should I ask Mike to fix my light?”

“Fix your…? No. That’s silly. I’ll do it.”

“OK, but if that’s the case I need you to do it tonight or tomorrow. It’s unnerving to drive home in the dark with no dashboard light.”

“OH! Your LIGHT! Yes, have Mike fix that.”

Mike did indeed fix it. He moved the nifty little dial for brightness from “in the dark” to “let it shine, dumbass” and didn’t even charge me.

We figure that Tom’s shoulder knocked the dial when he was using his code reader thingy. But why, WHY did it not even occur to me that the dial existed? A dial I’ve used before in a past life of competent human? Because I have grown soft and unaccustomed to fending for myself in the land of fix-it. Tom’s plans to trap me in this marriage via home repair and car maintenance have succeeded.