Saturday, October 26, 2013

Come On, November, You Can Make It!

I love September. And I love November. October? Okay. Fine. It's not that I dislike October, because I don't. But September is the first month of Fall, and November is the start of the holidays, and October is just that awkward in-between month that brings all sorts of unavoidable Halloween nastiness (can you tell I'm not a fan at all?!). Especially during the last week of October, when it feels like every blog post and every store and every conversation is full of Halloween, I start to crave November

Things I love about November:

- Seeing Christmas decorations start to appear, and starting to hear Christmas music in stores
- Thanksgiving, and the spirit of gratefulness it brings with it
- Nanowrimo
- Colder weather and the chance to wear boots, sweaters, coats, mittens, and hats
- Seasonal drinks coming back to Starbucks - like the vanilla spice, eggnog, and gingerbread lattes!
- Starting to Christmas shop with a vengeance

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Everything Is Just Souper... Thanks For Asking! ;)

Last month when I was sick, and then last week when I was sick again, I really, really missed chicken noodle soup. For those who don't know, I have a chicken sensitivity/allergy/reaction/I-have-no-idea-but-it-isn't-pretty, so chicken noodle soup is off-limits. And while beef-vegetable soup soothes a sore throat and body just as well, it isn't quite the same. What's more, I've been unable to find premade turkey broth or stock to make my own!

I've been toying with the idea of roasting a turkey myself so I could enjoy some poultry and use the carcass to make broth, but the idea of roasting a whole turkey seemed a bit... daunting. For one thing, there's my oven, which is, ahem, challenging to say the least. For another, I'm not actually sure a roasting pan with a turkey in it would fit in my oven. And last, a whole turkey seems like an expensive undertaking for a lot of meat for one single person, even if I do love me some turkey. So I had kind of put the idea on the back burner.

Then last week, wonder of wonder and miracle of miracles, I stopped in at the local upscale grocery store (probably to get an Orangina - I'm so addicted right now!) and right next to the rotisserie chickens was rotisserie-style turkey breast!!!

I was really excited, but busy, so I left without one and prayed they'd be there the next time I stopped by - and they did!

On Monday, I picked up a roast turkey breast on the way home from work and stuck it in the fridge. On Tuesday morning, after I got home from dropping Abby off at school, I picked the turkey over, pulled off most of the white meat, and put the remaining bones, skin, and dark meat, as well as half a coarsely chopped onion, a couple chunks of carrot, some parsley flakes, black pepper, and salt in my trusty crockpot with enough water to cover most of it.

Just want to interject here and say that I recognize this is an imperfect combination for broth, but my pantry, freezer, and fridge are the least-stocked they've been since I first moved. Money's a little tight right now, I'm trying to put off filling my fridge and my propane tank til this weekend (cuz I have a weekend job! Yay!). Cut me some slack. :)

I diced the white meat, set aside most for the soup, and ate the rest for lunch in turkey-salad sliders - yum! :)

I let the crockpot simmer all day and night, adding and on Wednesday when I came home I scooped out all the solids, gave it a quick strain, and had lovely, lovely turkey broth. :) Success!

That was only half my mission, though, as I wanted a few bags of turkey noodle soup in the freezer for the next time I was under the weather and needed comfort.

So I put the broth back in the crockpot, added chopped carrots, celery, and some finely chopped onion, the rest of the chicken, and half a bag of medium egg noodles, as well as a little extra water.

I wish I'd waited a little longer to add the noodles - dumb mistake and I do know better - but they still turned out fine, and the soup was absolutely heavenly. It rained all day, and I could barely wait for the veggies to cook through before I filled a big bowl and devoured it.

I spent the day working on different crocheted items for the craft fair, snacking on soup, and watching some of my favorite-but-often-overlooked movies. And I took a little nap. And when I woke up late afternoon to go teach swim, it almost instantly cleared up and filled with brilliant autumn sunshine, so it ended well, too. :) I have half a bag of egg noodles left over, and I'm imagining either a yummy bowl of beef stroganoff or possibly trying to make turkey alfredo... Mmm.

Last week, before I started my turkey-broth-making adventure, I made my first-ever batch of soup in the crockpot. It started with a really lovely cut of steak I'd bought and then become too busy to cook, and I was afraid it would go bad and I would have wasted it, which just wouldn't do. So I threw it in the crockpot with some beef broth, a bag of mixed veggies, a can of kidney beans, and some spices, and let it cook most of the day. That night I fished out my very tender meat, diced it up, and voila! Beef-vegetable soup. :) I ate it for dinner and portioned it into single-serving ziplocs for the freezer, and I can now say that while it was really good the first time, it's even better reheated. Especially over rice, which is how I ate it tonight. Just another nice thing to have in my freezer!

Monday, October 21, 2013


- It's Monday, and after I dropped Abby off at school and ran some quick errands, I came home to clean. Except that I forgot to turn on the hot water heater before I left, so as I was waiting for it to heat, I lay down on my couch with a book, and may have fallen asleep and taken a nap. Which probably means I won't fall asleep at a decent hour tonight, but it felt so good it might have been worth it.

- Funny/pathetic story: one of those errands was going to Wal-Mart to buy rat food (because I'm totally out). I went inside, remembered I was going to make beef vegetable soup in the crockpot, detoured through the grocery section to pick up mixed vegetables and beef stock, remembered I wanted to get my BFF a candle, and then thought I'd pick up a toy for Khy-bear, and basically $10 later I walked out of Wal-Mart... without rat foot. So now I have to go to swim class early so I can stop and buy some.

- But, I have a crockpot full of beef veggie soup simmering away waiting for dinner tonight! Nothing fancy - just a leftover hunk of steak I didn't end up cooking this weekend, some frozen veggies, and a couple of potatoes that were about to start a colony in my pantry - but it smells so good. I love the cold weather. :)

- This week Anna scored a free table at the flea market up the street, and I managed to stitch up a bunch of new cozies to send with her - this time lots of embellished ones (pumpkins, Christmas themed, etc). I had my best day so far and made enough money to refill my propane tank! Lol. :) We have a bit of a lull for the next couple of weeks until our next fair November 16th, and I'm hoping to have a ton more designs completed by then and maybe make some extra Christmas money. I'm also thinking about rebooting my Etsy gift shop and selling there, too. Anything to make a few extra dollars, people! :)

- This Saturday my friend Crisy and I took her niece and Ruth to the corn maze. I love the corn maze - it's one of my favorite Fall activities! - and I almost cried when we discovered it was closed because of the drizzly weather. !!! Luckily it reopened after a bit, so we were able to get lost (in both "legs" of the maze, lol), and in the meantime while we were waiting, we wandered around the humongous pumpkin patch. I swear that something in my brain is wired weirdly, because as soon as I see a big orange pumpkin, I become instantly, irresistibly happy. Like, I was skipping through the patch babbling like an idiot, "Look at these beautiful pumpkins! Look how orange they are! Isn't that one pretty? Oh, that one's my favorite! I WANT TO TAKE THEM ALL HOME WITH ME!" Yeah. I'm weird.
After we ran the maze, we took the kids for dinner, and then ducked in to get a cup of coffee at the little coffeeshop across the street. And noticed that they had crayons, colored pencils, paint and paintbrushes, and lots of coloring pages set out, so we might have sat down and each created a masterpiece before leaving. Good times. :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My 27 Feet: 4 Month Update

Yesterday was October 16th, which marks four months since I moved and made my 27-foot travel trailer "home."

I'd never owned an RV before - heck, I'd never stayed in an RV before (except, apparently, when I was two. Go figure) - so I joined an RVing forum. And another forum for full-time RVers. And filled my bookmarks with websites on how to deal with every conceivable repair, disaster, or dilemma I might someday find myself facing.

With under 200 square feet of living space, I became a member of the "tiny house" movement, and by neccesity started my journey to (hopefully!) becoming a more minimalist person (in which the purchase of a teapot is a months-long decision making process, not because of price, but because I'm carefully balancing the pros - they're cute, there's nothing like drinking a whole pot of tea, I can multi-purpose it as a watering can when I start my seedlings - and the cons - it has to sit somewhere. I still haven't made up my mind).

I'd never lived on my own before, so I also became an independent single woman, responsible for my own dishes, meals, and laundry. Which wasn't actually saying much, but hey. :)

In doing something I'd never done, that I wasn't entirely sure would work, I became an adventurer. :) And if I got nothing out of the experience but this, it would have been worth it, because let me tell you - that "adventurer" label stuck good and hard to my soul. It changed the very essence of how I view life; I had no idea how often I thought to myself, "I could never do that... If only I knew how to... If only I could..." and I was delighted to discover, one day, that my first instincts had changed to "I could do that! ... I want to learn how... When I..."

And that's a powerful thing.

But now, on to a more practical update. :)

The Nitty-Gritty

Our homemade sewer/water hookup is doing well with no issues whatsoever. I leave the grey water tank open all the time and empty the black water tank about once a week. Now that the colder temperatures are setting in, I'm saving up for a heated hose to keep the water flowing.

Now that the weather has cooled, I've also been able to quit running my A/C constantly and have enjoyed the peace and quiet and the ability to use my microwave without blowing a circuit. :) Since I'll be running my heater on propane, and the A/C isn't draining my power, I've also been able to run my hot water heater on electricity, and it works so well - way faster than on propane. I love it.

I've only had to run my heater on a couple of nights, but so far I am very, very impressed. Unlike my A/C (which just runs continuously) it's thermostat-controlled, so I can turn it on before I sleep without having to worry about the temperature dipping or spiking. It normally only runs for less than ten minutes before everything is toasty again, and it stays warm for a long time.

Speaking of which - apparently it's going to be much easier to keep the trailer heated than it was to keep it cool. I ran my A/C pretty near maximum almost all the time this summer (except at night, when I turned it down a bit so I could hear myself sleep) and if I turned it off or down much at all, my "tin can" heated back up alarmingly quickly - badly enough that if I forgot to turn it back up, I called someone in a panic to fix it because I was afraid the girls would suffocate in their cage. But yesterday I came home and it was sixty-eight degrees; I washed a load of dishes, microwaved a burrito, and watched a DVD, and two hours later it was seventy-two degrees (without having turned on the heater). When I made apple butter during a little cold spell we had, the crockpot kept the kitchen heated for twenty-four hours. Don't even get me started on cooking or baking! Good to know. :)

On Space

I continue to be both blessed and befuddled by how much/little space I have, and where. I have a lot of storage - under the bed, under the kitchenette seats, under the living room sofa, and lots of cabinets - and most of the time, everything fits.

Here's the thing that I've learned, though: it's not necessarily how much space you have, but also how easily accessible the space is, that makes the difference between comfortable and going crazy. This is a good lesson to learn, and in some ways I wish it was one I'd known better before I moved in. For instance, I rarely feel like my kitchen storage is insufficient. Everything fits, albeit sometimes a bit snuggly (I do kind of wish my pantry were a bit bigger), and while I might occasionally have to climb a stool to put away groceries or rearrange my spice collection, most of it I can access just by opening up a cabinet door.

On the other hand, to access the big storage compartment under the couch (which holds extra bedding, some boxes full of mementos and keepsakes that I'm just not ready to part with, my tools and remodeling supplies, and basically everything that isn't needed on a day to day basis), I have to pull up the couch cushion, pull back the front of the couch, unpack the compartment enough to read whatever it is that I'm trying to retrieve, repack, put the front of the couch back in place (which is a little tricky), and replace the cushion (and any throw pillows, etc). Not impossible, but nowhere near as easy as opening a cabinet door. And the harder stuff is to access, the more likely it doesn't get put away right away, which means clutter and mess, which makes the space feel even smaller.

On the other hand, the small space means that it's easy to clean. Seriously, you start at one end, and in an hour you've deep-cleaned straight through to the other, dishes, new sheets, and all. I'd love to say that the smaller space also means less chance of misplacing things, but I've proven that to be untrue - I lost my cup of coffee yesterday and couldn't find it no matter how hard I looked! (Update: it was in the microwave, where I apparently stuck it for a reheat.)

Some other space-related aspects that I thought would be issues, just aren't. I was afraid my sleeping compartment would feel claustrophobic and suffocating after I installed my traditional mattress; instead, I love the cozy feeling, and I think I might have issues with sleeping "out in the open" should I ever move back into a stick-and-brick home.

I also get asked a lot if I go crazy living in such a small space - get "cabin fever" and just need to get out of the house. I can honestly say that I've only felt this twice; the first time, what I thought was restlessness was really loneliness, and evaporated as soon as I got a pet (more on this later). The second time was after being sick in bed for almost a week, and I think this had more to do with the fact that I was tired of being in bed, but didn't have the energy to do much else. Other than those two times, I've been strangely free of cabin fever, which is odd considering that when I lived in The Big House (aka my parents' house) I regularly "needed to get out of the house."

Your perception of big, small, and what you "need" changes so drastically if you let it; I was talking to my best friend recently about how we view our parents' houses. She's living in a nice apartment with her husband and son, and recently she went to her parents house and found herself walking around, marveling at how much room they had. She said she actually thought, "My whole pantry would fit in one of my mom's cupboards." :)  I recently stayed overnight in The Big House to watch the dog while my family was out of town, and I caught myself doing the same thing. So much space (especially in the bathrooms!)! And yet, while I can still tell that other people's houses are "big," I seem to be unable to tell that my own place is "small..." it just feels like "home."

I've also found that, ironically perhaps, I feel safer in my trailer than I ever did in my parents' huge house. It was nothing unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night having heard a noise, and fearfully crawl out of bed to investigate before I could go back to bed. Don't even get me started on staying in the house alone  - there are seven doors, and I was always afraid I'd forget to lock one. I was always trying to figure out whether that noise I heard was the A/C or refrigerator or someone trying to break in.

In the trailer, I have one door, and one lock. The heater kicks on and off. I someone were to mess with the door or step inside, the trailer would rock (as I've learned from personal experience). There are no closets to check, and I can see one end of the place from the other. Maybe it's being closer to nature? But it feels safe. ;)


Being in the RV for just four months has fundamentally changed the way I view things. Similar to what I said about space, things that I thought were really important in the past just... aren't. You learn really quickly that everything has a cost; it has to have somewhere to live, has to be cleaned, has to be taken care of. And if it's not giving you much pleasure, then it's taking up space for something else that might.

A good example of this is my mug collection: I have four mismatched mugs - a small fox mug, a large Star Wars mug, an oversized mug with a lid, and a black and white mug. I thought about getting rid of them when I moved because they were mismatched, and I had a perfectly good set of mugs that matched all the other dishes my grandparents had given me. Now, I'm so glad I didn't. My big mugs double as bowls most of the time, and my fox mug makes me smile every time I see it. The pleasure and use I get out of them is well worth the space in my cabinet.

On the other hand, I moved in, prepared with a collection of different cleaning fluids for each surface, and I've already whittled down my collection to the bare bones. A broom (with an attached dustpan), a mop, a spray bottle (for vinegar cleaner), vinegar, baking soda, and one bleach cleaner for "serious" mess (and I haven't used it yet, so it'll probably be the next to go).

In one sense of the term, materialism is the privilege of those who can afford lots of space, but on the other hand it's true that your things own you as much as you own them. Like a marriage. :) You better be sure you like the things you're married to!


I always dreamed that when I got my own place, I'd fill it with people I loved, hanging out, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. Eating good food. Loving on each other. I also never dreamed I'd be living in an RV, so I was reluctant at first to invite people over. After having done it a few times, I can say that this is easily one of the things I like best about having my own space - filling it with people. :)

I love the times when my family comes over for dinner and sits together afterwards while I mix up mugs of coffee and tea and hot cocoa. I love when we have game night and my siblings and friends sit as we play cards while Zinnia gleefully hops from shoulder to shoulder. Is is cramped? Yes, sometimes. Do we sometimes have to choreograph getting from one end of the kitchen to the other? Mm, hmm. Do we laugh as we bump into one another? Yup. Are we happy to be together? Oh, definitely.

Which leads me to my next point...

What's Really Important

You know what's really important? I have a place to live. It's safe from predators, both animal and human. It's safe in the sense that it's not going to fall on my head. I have heat. I have safe running water. I have electricity. In the summer, I have - hallelujah! - the exquisite privilege of having air conditioning.

My pantry, freezer, and fridge all have food in them. I'm nowhere near starving.

The walls are a beautiful, serene shade of gray, the same shade as river rocks and the sky at dusk and rabbit's fur. All around there are pictures of people that I love. Everywhere I turn there are things those people have given me as gifts, reminding me of their presence in my life. And those people? That's what's really important. Not whether or not to own a teapot. Not living in a house or apartment or RV or tent. Not having a guest bedroom (although, in all fairness, that kind of ties in with having people around, so it would be kinda nice to have). Being deeply, gloriously happy with the blessings God has given me, and being used by Him to bless others? That's it.

What I've Learned About Myself

I am so much stronger than I gave myself credit for (I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me, Phil 4:13) and God is so, so much greater than I ever gave Him credit for (if God is for us, who can be against us? Rom 8:31). And that knowledge - not knowing how to plumb a hookup or balance electricity or remodel or paint or downsize - that's what I've learned about God, and that's what I've learned about myself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


- I got sick again this weekend. :( Caught the cold that's been going around and basically wanted to cry tears of frustration and beat my head against a wall until the universe realized how unfair this was and relented. Then (a cup of hot soup, a dose of Nyquil, and a nap later) I realized what a privileged outlook that it, to see healthy as the norm. How many people struggle every day with chronic illness or other physical impediments that might not (or won't!) go away? I'm blessed. (Most of the time, I'm also thankful. I'm just really, really not good at being sick. Seriously, I hope if I ever get married that my husband isn't one of those guys who becomes a big baby when he gets sick, because, um, that role is already taken *wink*)

- One good thing to come out of this weekend, though: I now have the bestest ever, almost-a-miracle cure for a cough. Which is good, because it seems like I've been super-susceptible ever since last year, when I was felled by that awful bout of flu/cold/virus/gleck, which left me coughing for months (literally - I was still coughing when I went to Alabama in February  for my BFF's bridal shower). And regular store-bought cough syrup? Doesn't help. A bit. In fact, I'm not 100% sure it doesn't actually make things worse (weird, I know).
So on Monday night, after spending a weekend with this awful dry cough, and feeling like I was going to hack up my lungs, I googled "best cures for a cough" and discovered a recipe for homemade "cough syrup tea." I can't find the recipe now for the life of me - I'll keep trying, because it was totally brilliant and props to whomever invented it! - but before I forget and accidentally delete the recipe off my phone, here it is: brew a cup of herbal (I used decaf black) tea with a spoonful each of black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, honey, and lemon slices. Let it steep, and drink up! I didn't have ginger in any form, nor honey, and I had to use a squeeze from my little plastic lemon instead of fresh, and despite these deficiencies, it still worked amazingly! It soothed my cough right away, and my chest felt lighter. I went to bed, and in the morning the cough was back, but it wasn't the dry hack it had been. I coughed up a bunch of gunk :(, felt amazingly better, and from that point on, I've been on the mend. (I am, however, stocking up on ginger and honey for next time.)

- Anna and Maggie had a table each at a local craft market this past weekend. I was going to go along and sell also, but as I was laid up at home being sick, she very generously let me send my cozies with her instead. I sold four (out of the six I sent), Maggie sold quite a few things, and Anna made out very well, so we were all pleased. Maggie said the seasonal stuff was obviously in demand, so I'm hunting down patterns for easy Christmas stuff for our table next month.

- This past Monday, I started teaching a swimming/swimming readiness class for preschoolers (or, as they've been affectionately nicknamed, "my littles"). Since the SwimAmerica program doesn't accept kids til the age of four, and we had several parents who wanted their students' younger siblings to be able to start, I got to write my own lesson plans and create my own little program. And I love it. Loveitloveitloveitloveit. I cannot express how much I love it. Three little tiny kiddos, aged 3 and under, and me.
I based all the activities around sea animals, picked up some ADORBS floating plastic animal-shaped squirties at the dollar store, and just had the time of my life on Monday night. We practice making the animals "breath in" on top of the water and "blow bubbles" underneath (introducing them to the idea of breath control for later on when they join the SwimAmerica program), "being fishies" (putting their faces in the water and blowing bubbles, or for the more reluctant, blowing a toy across the surface of the water), "listening for sharks" (putting their ears in the water), "taking a nap like an otter" (floating), "being a turtle" (moving arms and legs in the water), and "being a dolphin" (kicking). I am having so much fun. :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Heart Fall!

I know. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. ;)

- Crockpots that are like women, flirty and alluring all day, before giving way to full, rich goodness

- Rainy days that are drippy without being dreary

- Vanilla-pumpkin spice lattes (I finally figured out how to make a PSL at Starbucks that I actually like: two pumps vanilla, one pump PS. Now I get what all the fuss is about)

- Homemade crocheted hats that it's finally cold enough to wear

- That cozy, secure feeling when the heater kicks in

- Hot chocolate in my favorite oversized mug, with whipped cream on top

- Before-school hugs and kisses

- Socks and boots

- A feeling of thankfulness so strong and sudden it knocks you on your back and brings tears to your eyes

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Mishmash

- I just got an email from the director of the swim program I teach through; he forwarded me an email that one of my students' parents had sent him. I admit that my first reaction was "Oi," (because, parents, you know it's true - you totally let us know when you think we've screwed up, but you're not always so quick on the draw to praise when we get it right :) ) but instead, it was an amazing email letting him know that she was renewing her daughter's enrollment in the program because she was so pleased with the way I was teaching, and how much her daughter loved me, and how much she'd learned, etc, etc, etc. It totally made my day. (Made me look great in front of the boss, too, right? That never hurts lol!)

- Speaking of swimming... you wanna know what my biggest pet peeve is? When moms with little boys bring them into the women's locker room. And I'm not talking about toddlers - I mean kids as old as 6, 7, or 8! Especially when the moms don't keep tabs on them and let them misbehave, like pulling back shower curtains or peeking into bathroom stalls or be otherwise inconsiderate. I understand being protective, but seriously, people? Bathe your children at home then!!! #grumpy

- Allen's been spending a bunch of time over at my house recently, watching Stargate and playing with the girls and just hanging out. I swear it's true - Zinnia adores him. She thinks playing with Uncle Allen is just the collest thing ever. The problem is that sometimes Uncle Allen needs a break, and Zinnia doesn't. This hasn't really been a problem before, since she hasn't been able to access the top of the couch, but with her recent growth spurt, it's been almost impossible to keep her off it. Well, Allen got tired of playing and laid down on the couch; Zinnia bounced up to join him, and Allen picked her up, told her "No," and kinda-sorta-not-really-but-maybe-a-little (gently) "tossed" her onto the floor. (I say tossed because I'm not really sure what you'd call it - it wasn't malicious, and she was in no danger; it was more like when we play rat catapault, which Zin loves (let the rat climb up on your foot, then give them a gentle bounce).) Rats are kind of like cats, they always land on their feet. And my floor is carpeted. So, Zinnia landed, paused for half a second, and immediately bounces back up on the couch, where Allen repeats "No" and gives her another toss. After he'd done this about five times, I pointed out that I was pretty sure Zinnia thought they'd just invented the best. game. ever. Sure enough, Zinnia would run up on the couch and stand there, quivering with excitement, waiting to fly again. #Fail.

- Speaking of #fail - so yesterday I was at church, and I walked up to my family's pew, behind my brother, and I was thinking what a nice sweater he was wearing, and how tall he's gotten, and feeling kind of sentimental, and I went to give him a big hug...
... and then he turned around, and it was my friend's fiance. O.o

- Christmas cantata practice is going great. I'm having fun, I think the actors are having fun, and I lovelovelove the themes we're developing. All these lovely facets of redemption and forgiveness, restoration and brokenness, and the way God's love pursues us even when we turn our back on Him. It's pretty beautiful.
This is not so different from directing the comedies I've done in the past, except, it is. Yesterday kind of drove that home for me - we were rehearsing a scene with "Mary," the mom of the wayward son, and it's really a point in the drama where God is shutting a lot of doors as she searches for him, and I asked her to give me that sense of despair and isolation. And she did. And it was hard to watch. I felt kind of guilty, actually, cuz I remember how, in previous dramas, when I opened myself up to showing that kind of deep emotion, even though it wasn't "real," I was kind of raw afterwards and needed some space and time. I'm praying for my actors, who are working so hard and doing so well. :)