Sunday, January 26, 2014

Randomizer

- I got my waterline unfrozen and flowing again! Thank goodness... I was getting really, really frustrated, but it turns out the thermostat part of the heat tape was incorrectly placed. I defrosted the line with a combination of hot water and a hairdryer, repositioned the thermostat, and we've been good to go ever since. I'm hoping this is the last of my problems this year. :/

- I have a test day/working interview with a family this week and, get this, they have one year old triplets. :) I kind of laughed when I read this, as they said most other people ran screaming upon the news, but I'm willing to give it a shot. It'll be a long day - I have Abigail that morning, then I'll be working for them until I have to leave to go teach swim, which, by the way, has been extended another class! I'm excited about this. :)

- Allen and I made a pact; since I've seen most of Doctor Who seasons one, two, three, and four (albeit in different order, so I watched them again in order so the character development and storytelling would make sense), we both watched them at our own speed, and we'll watch seasons 5-7 together. I can't wait. We might have cheated a bit and watched the season opener to season 5, and now all the kids walk around saying randomly to each other, "Beans are evil. Bad, bad beans." "You're Scottish; fry something!" "And stay out!" But I really, really hope he finishes season four quickly so we can watch more!

- I'm really looking forward to celebrating the Chinese New Year on Friday. :) It's shaping up to be another crazy-busy week, and I'm looking forward to a relaxing evening with some friends, learning about another culture, and trying new foods.

- Spring fever has bit me hard. :( I found myself searching Pinterest for terms like "garden" and "outdoors" today; I added quite a few new pins to my "Outdoorsiness" board. I'm dying for the snow to melt and for the warm weather to return, to get my hands in some dirt, and to grow something. And to buy a birdfeeder - the birds on the bushes and field outside my trailer are crazy and I'd like a chance to get to see them up close. :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Icecapades!

Last week when Crisy and I were together, we were talking about places we could take the girls (aka Ruth and Dari) and the topic of the ice-skating rink came up.
 
I've always wanted to go to this skating rink; it's not too far away, and while a little on the pricey side ($10 for entrance and skate rental) it made a cheapish date. And really, I love to skate. I spent half my childhood zipping up and down my road and around my neighborhood on rollerblades, and some of the memories I share with my BFF are of the local rec center, where their indoor soccer/basketball court was transformed into a roller skating rink every Saturday night.

A couple of years ago, for Ruth's birthday, I took her up to Washington D.C., to the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink, and I was pleased to discover that I was still reasonable capable of ice-skating. I wasn't pushing my luck, though, in front of the thousands of tourists who were milling about around us, so I contented myself with gentle glides around the edge of the rink (at a very reasonable speed).
 
But this rink was filled with lots of people, some who were very good (Maggie saw someone nail a jump of some kind) and lots who were falling down, laughing, and picking themselves up. So I let loose. And I fell (once) and it wasn't a big deal, so I did some spinning, which was gloriously fun. And everyone had a great time. :)
 
Us, outside the rink, all smushed together. :)

Ruth and I; I had a terrible time getting the right skates so they required a couple of stops to "tinker" with the laces before I got a good fit.

Anna!
 
Dari and Ruth - so cute! (I tried to steal Dari's hat, but for some reason she wouldn't let me!
 
Maggie. This picture fails completely to capture how adorable Maggie looked; she looked like an ad in a cold-weather-gear magazine, all dolled up in her scarf and hat and gloves and darling leggings and little skirt and coat, and her hair in a braid. I wanted to kill her. ;)

 
Cris and Dari - gorgeous girls!
As soon as the five-minute warning bell sounded, Dari turned to me and said, "I'm hungry." I was too! So we headed over to Red Robin for a round of lettuce-wrapped burgers (one dieter, two gluten-freers and one just-because-I-like-it-that-way, lol).
 
At dinner, somehow the subject of shopping came up, and it turns out Crisy (whose mom has been gluten, dairy, egg, and sugar-free for a couple of months now, as well as being starch and soy avoidant) (and who's going dairy-free herself) had never heard of MOM's, so after dinner she and I piled into her car and headed there, while everyone else piled into Anna's car and headed to the new Christmas Tree Shop.
 
After buying way too much stuff at MOM's, Cris and I rejoined the others, and I was in awe of the Christmas Tree Shop. (If you're my friend, and you knew about this store and didn't tell me, you'd better not let it slip, because I might disown you.)
 
I only had time for a quick lap around the store, but I found two things I've been hunting for: a no-fuss mountable K-cup rack ($7!!!) and a (n ORANGE!) spoon rest ($2). :)
 
 
 Having had such a lovely day, we said goodbye and headed home to snuggle up out of the cold. :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Snowed In

So... snow. More snow.

So much snow that nobody went to school all week (kids might make it back tomorrow, but that's all, folks!) and I only made it out of the house today.

And you know, at first I was thinking, "Okay. This could be fun. Legit snowed in, no chance of getting out, I'm stocked on frozen pizza and hot chocolate and Doctor Who episodes, so... bring it on!"

And that worked really well for day one!

But then -

My waterline froze.

Grr.

A bit perplexed (because remember, we survived the stupid polar vortex just fine!), I went out and poured hot water on the faucet and the connector. This has always solved the problem before!

No dice. No water. Nothing.

I checked everything - the pipes leading to the faucet, the faucet, the hose, the connector - and I couldn't find the problem. Tried jiggling the waterline in case there was some ice buildup. Tried adding more foil tenting to the weak parts. Nothing.

I slept in the big house last night, feeling quite a bit defeated. In a bit I'm going to go out and disassemble, if necessary, my water system and thaw it completely, and then hope that solves whatever the problem was.

In the meantime, in between being stuck at home, trying to solve my H2O problems, and keeping the interior warm, I've been watching a lot of Doctor Who, so expect an update post soon.

My Favorite Things: The Blog Edition

I can't remember exactly when I discovered blogs - sometime before I myself started blogging around 2005 - but ever since then, personal blogs have been some of my favorite things to read. In fact, when I'm on Google trying to learn a new skill, get the skinny on a new topic, or get the "real" answer to a question, I automatically gravitate toward results from blogs. Simply put, reading a good blog feels like getting advice from a good friend!

I currently have over fifty (fifty! Egads!) blogs in my BlogLovin feed, but for this edition of MFT I've picked out a dozen of my favorites, covering everything from fashion, philosophy, nerdism, and inspiration. :) Enjoy!

Simply Scratch - I don't follow a lot of cooking blogs because a lot of times once a blogger becomes even mildly successful, the recipes become less and less tied to real life, and more and more showy. This is why I love Simply Scratch; her recipes are always things I'd actually want to eat (and make!), even if they're fancy, exotic, or outside the box. My favorite homemade oh-so-good-I-could-drink-it barbecue sauce is based on her Honey-Whiskey Barbecue Sauce, and her Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches are to die for. I'm really hungry now. ;)

Ben Heine Art Blog - I was first introduced to Ben Heine when his Pencil vs. Camera series was profiled in a news article, and I was kind of entranced.

I love anything that forces people to see the world around them differently, and this definitely fits the bill! :) I hope to get some of his prints to hang around my space someday, but in the meantime, I love perusing his work.

The New Lighter Life - I found this blog the same week I moved into the RV and I immediately became a follower. Tons of useful information on full-timing, including how to make your own heated hose, and their advice has saved me tons of time and headaches. Plus, it's fun to read! :)

Celebrating Life - I just love reading this blog. It's nothing fancy. Nothing too themed. Nothing preachy. Totally useful. Totally heartwarming. Totally convicting. (Whenever I read new posts, I usually walk away thinking, "I really don't love people enough.") Just a homeschool mom raising a big family (seven kids? eight? not really sure lol) and striving to share God through love. Someday I would love to meet this woman and thank her for playing a big part in restoring my faith in big families. :) (This is my favorite post - love the pictures and the big smiles!)

Finding Joy In The Little Things - I think somehow this blog and "Celebrating Life" are connected - maybe I found one through the other? or they're friends in real life? - but while the topics (homeschooling, kids, etc) are very similar, the writing styles are pretty different. I enjoyed following the oldest daughter's blog back when she updated regularly, and now I enjoy reading "the momma's" blog, too. :) It's just the slightest bit sarcastic, tongue in cheek, and hilarious, and I enjoy following all the escapades.

Enjoying The Small Things - This is the power of Kelle Hampton's writing: when her book Bloom was published, I went to Target the same day to buy it. And as I was standing in line at the cash register with my dad, I began to flip through it and narrate. "Oh, this is her best friend. This was taken the first night at the hospital. This is Lainey as a baby." Etc, etc, etc. And finally my dad broke in and asked, "How do you know this woman, again?"
Reading ETST feels like being invited in to take part in life. I credit Kelle with teaching me to see the incredible beauty of moments, and the importance of making every one special.

Mara Wilson Writes Stuff - Do you remember Mara Wilson from Matilda? (Maybe from Mrs. Doubtfire or the remake of Miracle on 34th Street?) Well, she also writes. Stuff. And it's funny. :) The point of view of a self-deprecating formerly-sort-of-famous child actor, Mara covers a myriad of topics with insight and dry wit.

Master Yoda's Blog - No longer updated but hysterical, if you're a Star Wars fan, you'll love Master Yoda's Blog. This is one of those blogs I read when I really, really need to laugh. I mean really laugh, with tears rolling down my cheeks, and gasping for air, and thinking I might die, but it would be worth it.

Tell Them I Sing - Kellie is the sister of a friend of mine, and I've enjoyed being nurtured and challenged through her blog. Voraciously hungry for Christ, Kellie challenges the placidity of the modern church and offers a compassionate (and often unorthodox!) viewpoint on various topics.

Wardrobe Oxygen - Allie over at Wardrobe Oxygen posts fashion advice, daily outfit pictures, and good shopping leads; since she wears a lot of skirts and dresses, her blog is one of the places I get my best outfit ideas!

Ruffles And Stuff - I loved reading R&S back when it was mostly about crafting, but I've enjoyed watching Disney expand, with posts on her beautiful daughter, Paige, her foster sons, and her general all-around sunniness. :)

Unpublished For A Reason - My friend Hannah has always been another source of "When I need a laugh" material, but now her quirky, slightly snarky sense of humor can be found on her blog! Check out the "Quest For Skye" posts for a laugh, and make sure to read her posts about living with depression if you or someone in your life suffers from this

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Randomizer

- I got a smartphone for Christmas, and so did my mom, and now we're both obsessed with beating each other on Words With Friends. I'm pretty sure my dad is regretting the decision to get her a new phone by now. As of right now, I've won three games and she's won three games, and we've managed to get up to four games going at once. :) Last night we were both up way too late playing, my from my trailer and she from the house, until I finally just had to fall asleep. If you're a wordsmith (or highly competitive, whatever) I highly encourage you to check it out. Then look me up and we can play. I'll beat you, though! ;)

- Also mom-related: she's back to blogging after a little hiatus, which means no one is safe anymore. Seriously. I walked in this week to say good morning and she instantly pointed a camera at me. I kind of ducked and covered, cause my hair was dirty and I had no makeup on, but turns out she only wanted a picture of my scarf. Go figure.

- I got the case for my new phone this week in the mail and I love it. Makes me happy every time I see orange. :) I realized I had an orange addiction yesterday when I took this picture (while wearing my favorite orange sweater and orange/blue/green scarf):

My orange crockpot, orange Keurig Mini, orange dishes in the sink, and orange dishcloth (crocheted by me!)
- Over the past couple of days I've been reading/devouring 5 of USA's Best Trips, and dreaming of hitting the road (specifically, the first trip in the book). I'm pretty sure I'll be adding their "Best Cross-Country Road Trips" to my reading list pretty soon! In the meantime... who's up for a weekend road trip? Crisy, my usual partner-in-crime, is preparing to head off to Ireland in a couple of months, so I'm down a travel buddy.

- One of my friends from church borrowed my hard drive and loaded it up with all seven seasons of Doctor Who. I. Am. In. Heaven. :) If I disappear from blogging for, oh, a week or so, you'll know where to find me!

- January 31st is the Chinese New Year, and the restaurant Allen works at is having a big celebration for which reservations, apparently, are strongly encouraged. ;) Since it sounded like fun... and since the rest of my family is going to be off at some hunting expo thing... I scored a table to celebrate with Cris! Of course, if you're local and would like to come, please drop me an email or text message or whatever, and we'd be glad to have you join us. :)

Friday, January 17, 2014

My 27 Feet: Six Month Update (And Finally... Pictures!)

Today marks six months since I moved into my trailer full-time. Six months! Where did the time go? :) In some ways (all the good ways!) it feels like much less time; it definitely feels comfortable, feels like home. In other ways, it feels like a lot more time has passed - it sometimes feels, for instance, that it's been "winter in the trailer" f-o-r-e-v-e-r and that it was eons ago that I had those blissful days when I never had to worry about pipes freezing or water running or keeping the interior heated to a liveable temperature (and sometimes it feels like it will never be that way again). But I've now made it through the most extreme weather I'm likely to ever face in my current climate - the dog days of August and the record-setting lows of the polar vortex - so I also feel like I have a bit more perspective than I did four months ago.

So here it is, my six month update/advice repository/virtual tour. Yes, I said virtual tour, because I just realized while tagging posts that I never posted true "after remodel" pictures. I'm so sorry, y'all. But today is the day!

First, the six month update:

Cold. By far the biggest challenge/learning experience in the past two months has been dealing with the cold: figuring out how to effectively heat the interior, how to keep the water flowing, dealing with long periods of below-freezing temps, etc. I covered this in passing in various posts, but here are the Cliff Notes:
  • After a couple weeks of coldish weather, when I realized I was going through propane to run the heating system like crazy, I did some research, discovered that at best I was losing about 30% efficiency due to the ducts, and switched to using an electric space heater as my primary heat source, with the propane heat turned on but set low, so that it would only kick on if the temperature dropped severely. While I did end up running the heating system almost constantly during the polar vortex (when temps didn't come above 25F for a couple of days at a time), for the rest of the time, the space heater keeps the place liveable and runs much less often than the propane system does. It also provides much more steady heat, where the propane system tended to fluctuate - it would heat the trailer very warm, very fast, but then let it drop pretty low before kicking in. Also: my heater is a small one, and says it can heat 100-300 feet (and it does... just barely), but next year I'm looking to upgrade to a medium/large model (I've got my eye on this one).
  • I didn't get around to installing heat tape and insulation on the water hose until Thanksgiving this year, and I waited too long, and it was a huge stressful fiasco. I basically followed the example of Julie over at The New Lighter Life, and the actual install part was easy, but because I misremembered how long my water hose was, and then misjudged the distance between the porch and the trailer, and then (because I had been counting on these measurements to budget out money for the supplies) I ran out of money in the middle. There were a lot of tears shed, and a couple of mornings waking up with no water, and some self-berating, and if you were to ask me what the hardest/darkest moment of the past six months has been, I will easily point to that week. But eventually I got it all done, and it worked great.. until the temperatures dipped into the single digits during the polar vortex, and I needed to add a couple of work lights at the faucet and connector, which completely solved the problem.
  • Also around Thanksgiving, I gave up trying to treat the trailer like a house and bought warmer clothes. And I'm not the only one - it seems like a lot of fellow full-timers had that "aha!" moment where they realized that you can spend lots of money trying to keep it toasty, or you can put on a cozy sweater and slippers and still be comfortable. Changing your mindset is an amazing thing.
  • I got an electric blanket for Christmas, and I love it, and it makes me nervous. I have a love/hate relationship with it; on the one hand, I lovelovelove crawling into a warm toasty bed without waiting for it to warm up (or smothering in blankets!), but on the other hand I liked knowing that if someone happened in the middle of the night - the breaker tripped, or the propane ran out, etc - I would be woken up pretty fast by the cold. I compromise by keeping the electric blanket turned low, so that it does take the chill off but can't compensate for huge temperature drops.
  • One thing I didn't do: I never did install skirting on the trailer, mostly because when I was winterizing I couldn't afford it, and I worried like crazy that I'd regret this decision, but now that the worst is behind us I'm actually kind of glad. Next winter I might try it, but I'm extremely nervous about critters taking up residence under me, and since all my pipes/etc are insulated and survived the cold just fine, I'm less worried.
Stuff. If I could sum up my feelings on this topic in six words, "Only what I need and love." Seriously, that's it. Before moving into the trailer, I would read all these articles about preparing for full-timing and every single one said the same thing: only take what you really need or truly love. And I guess I'm a little materialistic, because I would panic and instead go think about how to cram more stuff in my smaller space. Six months later, my whole attitude has changed.
  • I need less stuff. (You probably do, too, but you also probably have more space to store it, so you don't notice as much.) And to that end, I've been whittling away at my "stuff" collection for awhile, and hope to continue that trend in this new year. I'm still keeping a tight hold on all things sentimental, mementos, etc, but everything else has to prove its worth or go.
  • To that end, I'm trying to make small swaps as I go. For instance, I realized recently that I've never used any of the five cooking utensils I bought at the dollar store when I moved. Apparently a giant spoon, ladle, slotted spoon, spatula, and wide spatula aren't really as necessary as I thought they were. But the orange silicon "spoonula" I bought on clearance for $4 a few weeks later? I could easily use two more - I'm constantly washing it or wishing I had another. The huge cheese grater with three grating options I bought I'm hoping to replace with a much smaller grater that has one. Swapping out stuff that almost never gets used for stuff that I use on a daily basis.
  • Ugh, I hate to even mention this one, because I'm not good at this at all, but... I am trying very hard to get everything/keep everything clean and organized. Because honestly, 27 feet feels a whole lot smaller when cluttered. :( No fun, but true.

And finally, one last thing I just have to mention... I (think) I have mastered baking in my oven! Fulltimers know this is no mean feat. I think it means I've arrived. ;) My top three tricks are:
  • Preheat, preheat, preheat. I'll generally turn my oven on about 10 minutes early and it's made a huge difference in how well it works.
  • Prebake or divide if possible. This is an odd one, but let me explain: if you're baking anything with layers (pizza is my favorite, but also anything with a crust such as pie, or anything thick like a cake) pop the crust in for a few minutes before adding toppings. If you're baking something like a cake, two thinner layers will bake a whole lot better than one thick layer.
  • Reduce the temp. I've generally found that reducing the heat by five or ten degrees is the trick to even cooking.
So, that's my update and advice bit! Now... wanna see inside? ;)


Just to recap... this is a Jayco Jayflight 27ft Bunkhouse model without any slides or popouts. This translates out to about 190 square feet, so while much smaller than most houses, it's pretty big by "tiny house" standards. :)

I've tried to "match" photos as much as possible so you can see the before/after effect. I'm still working on different aspects (slipcovers, curtains, etc) so this is by no means a "finished" tour, but just an "as it is now." :) Come on in!




Before (taken the day the trailer was delivered)

After - I installed a small patio (hoping to make it a lil bigger this summer!), some décor (obviously haven't taken down the Christmas holly and bow lol) and got it all hooked up to water, electricity, and sewer.
 
Before


After - the boot tray is from Ollies (a steal at $4!) and is one of the reasons why I miss summer. In the summer, I just drop my flip-flops into a mesh storage panel on the back of the dinette booth as I come in. But in the winter my boots and shoes are too bulky and heavy to fit, and it's a pain getting them up and down into the closet.
 
Before - my kitchenette


After - cabinets were painted with darker gray, while the walls got a pale-gray coat. I also ripped out all the sconces. Someday (probably this summer, when I have a little more money) I'm going to tile my backsplash. I adore black and white kitchen towels and those in the picture are my latest find.
 
Before
 


After - more paint, and the upholstery got new slipcovers. There's storage under each dinette bench; one I use to store seasonal items, and the other is my crafting, sewing, and crochet storage. (Since I make money off of what I make, and I keep my profit margin high by buying on sale and storing for later, I don't feel bad about giving up this much room.) Pots and pans get stored under the oven, silverware, towels, and "handies" in the three little drawers, and cooking tools under the fridge.


I recently rearranged everything to fit better, and I'm really loving the new arrangements. Here's my "cookbook nook" (mostly cooking magazines, lol) and Ziploc/trash bag storage. The owl was a gift from Crisy. :)



My pantry! And believe it or not, this is cleaned out and organized. :) I think I finally have a good idea of space, and I'm going to start picking up wire/ mesh baskets, boxes, etc to further organize everything.


My knife set was a gift from my grandparents (as is 99% of everything in my kitchen) and all my bakeware was donated or gifted from my mom. :) In keeping with my "Only what I need and love" motto, I have 2 nonstick cookie sheets, a pizza pan, an 8X8 baking pan, and a gorgeous orange-scalloped "fancy" pan my BFF gave me as a housewarming gift. :)

 

My cabinets over the sink house plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, my crockpot, and everything else cooking-related that doesn't have a home. :)


I would really love to rip out the futon and replace it with more counterspace and maybe a small bench, but I don't have any place to store the futon and I'm too chicken to get rid of it. Mostly it becomes my catch-all for junk. :/


My dinette; one of the projects on my to-do list is to make new slipcovers and some pillows.
 
Before - this was the "master bedroom"

 After - now my living room. Sometimes if feels like I fall asleep on the couch more often than I fall asleep in my bed lol! The box on the left is my "charging station" for my computer, tablet, and phone. Under the couch and side tables is all open storage. On the left (accessible through the exterior side door) I store all my paint, brushes, painters tape, etc; on the right (accessible through the opposite exterior door) I store gift-wrap and all hardware, parts, tools, etc associated with the RV. And in the center (accessible from the interior by lifting up the center panel on the couch) I store bedding and my crochet box.


The girls. I rotate between putting their cage across from the couch and under the window; if it's across from the couch they scamper up the sides and try to sneak into the kitchen, and if I stick them under the window it partially obstructs the walkway. Can't win. :)

 
I look forward to someday getting a flatscreen TV with a build-in DVD player that I could mount on the wall (and eliminate the TV stand).
 
Before
 
Before - double bunks


After - my sleeping compartment on the bottom, and the top bunk was converted into a closet.


My cozy sleeping space! I was afraid it would feel claustrophobic, but instead I discovered I love it! (I need to make a new curtain for the window, though - hate the beige!)
  
 
My closet is giving me fits this winter. Winter clothes are bulkier and it feels like it all never fits. I'm working on a plan for a makeover involving a wall-mounted shoe rack and smaller, but deeper bins for clothes (or possible some build-in drawers!) but right now... yeah.

That's pretty much my place!
 
If you have any questions or anything you'd be interested in knowing about my fulltiming experience, please feel free to leave me a comment or drop me an email. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Celebrating Six Months

 So y'all, today is my six-month anniversary of moving into the RV. I have a whole long "six month update/recap" post written out, but I didn't get the pictures for it taken today for two reasons: one, I've been reorganizing and purging and cleaning over the last few days, and it just wasn't clean enough yet to photograph... ;) and also because Crisy and Dari came over for a playdate!
 
I made lunch - sloppy joes and chips - and Allen joined us to eat and chat for a bit. Then the girls headed over to the house to play, and Crisy and I made tea, washed and dried dishes, talked about hanging picture frames, read road-trip travel books, and generally enjoyed each other's company.
 
Maggie joined us a few hours later, reporting that the girls were making donuts and seemed very happy, and a little later the girls returned, announced by the sound of giggles. :)
 
Isn't Zinnia being so meek and obedient, posing for a picture? NOT! Dari has leftover sugar on her fingers from donut-making and my Z-girl is busy rectifying the situation ;)
 Dari loved on Zinnia for awhile, who was super-glad for the attention. :) Unfortunately, Cris and Dar had to leave so Dari could make her chemistry class.
 
After everyone left, I played around with some yarn (working on new designs for my etsy shop!) and then I might have taken a nap. :)
 
I'm hoping to get the pictures taken tomorrow, so look for my post in the afternoon. In the meantime, I hope you're having a great day - I am totally looking forward to the long weekend, and looking forward to filling it up with fun!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Favorite Things: The Keurig Edition

Anyone who knows me knows I lovelovelove coffee. Seriously - is there anything better than a well-brewed cup? I used to really shy away from making coffee myself; it seemed like I could never get it just right! It was always too dark or too light or too bitter and there were so many variables with temperature, and I couldn't find a good ratio of grounds and water, and usually it was just worth it to buy a good cup.

Then Chris and Natalie got a Keurig one day, and I fell totally in love! I could get the same results each and every time, and I very quickly became an addict. And when I saw that the mini was offered in orange, I started saving up to buy myself one.

Except that before I did, Reb and Joe got it for me for Christmas last year!!! :) They're totally awesome. ;)

It's been a year since I began trying different brands and roasts, and I thought I'd fill you in on my favs!

First off, if I want to use my own ground coffee, I use the "As Seen On TV" Café Cup coffee pods and I love them; just fill up the pod, snap the lid down (it's attached, so you can't lose it - bonus!) and drop into the Keurig as you would a regular K-cup - you don't have to pull out parts like you would with the "My K-Cup". They're dishwasher safe, BPA free, and work like a charm (I love filling them with grounds from the Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company!).

All-time Favorite: Starbucks Veranda Blend. It's the perfect roast, not too bold and not too weak and strong without being bitter or overwhelming. I stock up when Starbucks has their "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" sale, or when Target marks all their K-cup boxes down to around $6.

Best Decaf: Maxwell House Decaf House Blend - If I'm looking for a cheap brand of coffee, I'm frequently tempted to buy Folgers because it's usually on some ridiculously cheap sale, but whenever I do, I regret it. Instead, I've started reaching for Maxwell House because it's not usually that much more expensive and the quality is so much better. This is my (and Maggie's!) favorite plain decaf - nothing fancy, just perfect for when you want the taste and comfort of coffee without the caffeine.

Green Mountain Wild Mountain Blueberry Coffee - Ahh, the joys of blueberry coffee! (If you think I'm nuts, you clearly haven't had a good cup yet lol.) I don't tend to like Green Mountain coffee all that much, but I tried it when I was on the hunt for a blueberry coffee similar to Dunkin Donuts blueberry coffee, and I liked it. Not at all like Dunkin - a hint of blueberry with a twist of cinnamon, and a slightly weaker brew - but good enough to pass muster.

Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Herbal Tea - I'll confess, although I love a good cup of tea, I don't usually make tea in the Keurig unless I'm sick. Otherwise, I enjoy the ritual of heating water, steeping a tea bag, and adding lemon and sugar to taste. And I'm a total black tea lover. However, on the (rareish) occasions that I want a cup of herbal, this is my go-to. It's soothing and not chamomile-y as other "relaxing" blends - more earthy, I guess?

Twinings Of London Earl Grey Tea - When I do want a cup of tea fast, no muss no fuss, I adore Twinings of London Early Grey, whether in K-cup form or in a tea bag. This brews pretty dark (which is how I like it - most K-cups brew weak tea, in my humble opinion) and I love the amazingly notes of bergamot.

IKEA Milk Frother - This isn't coffee, per se, but if you invest in only one tool other than a Keurig, make it this one! For super-foamy frothed milk, pour the milk into a mug, microwave until warm, and froth, then brew the coffee right into the mug. For less froth, you can just add the cold milk to the hot beverage and froth it all together. Either way, this totally elevates the at-home coffee experience to the level of your favorite coffeehouse! :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brother Date

Allen's been wanting me to go see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug since before it came out, but since I so did not love the first Hobbit movie (and since it came out right in the middle of a mind-blowingly crazy holiday season), I made no promises. I wasn't keep on giving up $12 and three hours of my life to go sit through a movie that I probably wasn't going to like.

But life is a little calmer now, and my budget isn't quite so tight... and Chris and Natalie went to see it over the weekend and Chris raved about it... plus, the ticket price had come down to $6 for a matinee showing at the really nice theater up the road - the one with the big plush oversized armchairs with electronic recliners - so I told Allen last night that if he still wanted to go see it, I'd go with him today after I dropped Abigail off.

It was a nice brother date. :) He was all stoked about paying for his own ticket now that he has a job, and we also discovered that the chicken tenders were milk and egg free, so we were both able to have a late breakfast/early lunch while watching the movie in total chill mode. And then after the movie we decided to drive around to the Target and Wal-Mart in that town to see if we could find any early seasons of Dr. Who (we couldn't. But I found season 3 of Warehouse 13 on sale for $12, and this adorable mug for $1.50, except in orange (I recently discovered I don't have as many mugs as I thought I did, which makes serving hot chocolate to everyone at a party difficult. Also, I discovered when I put this one away that I didn't have a single orange mug. Not. A. One. Which obviously needed to be rectified immediately!), and I needed a new candle, and had my eye on one, and when I took it to checkout it was clearances at $1.48. So, score. Good shopping trip.

What wasn't so great? Um... the movie. ;) I mean, I kind of liked it better than the first, but only because the first one broke my heart over how awful it was, and by the time I saw the second, I was mostly resigned to it being awful. I'm not someone who feels like a movie has to always exactly follow the book (because translating one medium into another doesn't always work that way) but I do think that if you didn't want to translate the book in the first place, why did you choose to make a movie out of it?! It's puzzling to me. Like Maggie said, it would have taken less effort to write a new script about a band of dwarves reclaiming their lost home and treasure than it would have to butcher the Hobbit. And quite frankly, the pace of the movie felt to me as though Peter Jackson were saying to himself, "Let's hurry up and get through what's actually written so we can put in some stuff that I think would be more fun!" Disappointing, especially because I was so, so impressed with his work on Lord of the Rings.

(And that's another one of my problems with the movie - instead of starting fresh, it's like Jackson's so afraid we'll forget he directed the wildly-successful LOTR movies that he feels the need to remind us every couple of minutes. The Hobbit is so much more than a prequel to the LOTR, and yet it sort of feels like he's just using this as a vehicle to get to play with this work and characters again. :(  )

It was fun seeing Evangeline Lilly on the screen, though; I loved her character in Lost! And, confession, I love watching elves fight. I mean, I love watching it like some people like watching dancers. They make killing look beautiful. ;)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Randomizer

- Warm weather at last! I'll take it! And next week is all in the forties or above - hallelujah! I had my windows open for a little while today to air everything out and Zinnia was fascinated by all the new smells; she kept running up and sniffing the breeze that was coming through! So adorable. :) I love my girls!

 
- I have become a Doctor Who fanatic. If I could get my hands on them, I would lock myself away with every season ever made and take a hiatus to binge-watch. Unfortunately, it's like pulling teeth to try to get some of the earlier seasons on DVD for less than an arm and a leg and your firstborn. Seriously, I tried WalMart, Target, Best Buy, and they all wanted upwards of $60 per season. !!! The answer, apparently, is Ebay. ;)
 
- I got to go down to the college this morning and do swim placements/assessments for some new students! I think we added about eight new kids this morning, and they all seemed like fun, well-behaved kids. :) I especially enjoyed getting back in the pool, as I've been missing the water and the kids. Can't wait for our new session to start - only two more weeks!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's So Crazy-Cold!

People, it's so so so cold outside. Bitingly cold. Colder than it's been in years. Stupid Polar Vortex.

And yet, despite this, my pipes are unfrozen and the water is running in my trailer (albeit at a temperature that leaves you with no feeling at all left in your hands by the time you're done washing them).

Forgive me if I'm feeling a little victorious in a primal mastering-the-elements kind of way. Or if, during the last two nights, as I was getting up each hour or so, it might have crossed my mind a couple of times that I was essentially living in the Swan station. Either way, now that the worst is behind us and we're heading into a weekend filled with temperatures in the 50's and 60's - yay! - I'm looking forward to a full, uninterrupted night's sleep, getting back in the pool (though my swim school is still on winter break, I get to do assessments on Saturday, and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it - I miss teaching so badly!), hanging out with Abigail (!!!), and maybe knocking a few things off of my to-do list. Or not. :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Favorite Things: The App Edition

I've always been a little behind-the-times when it comes to cell phones; I tend to use them until they die and can't be resuscitated, and since I've always used prepaid phone plans (first Tracfone, for the first couple of years, and then Straight Talk, for the last four years to the present), phone selection tends to be a bit limited, too.

This last phone I had may have won the award for the longest-lasting phone I've ever owned, which would be four years (I know, that's actually not that long, but I'm pretty hard on my phones lol!). But for the last couple of months, it was clearly on its last legs - wouldn't hold a charge for more than a few hours, was doing a bunch of glitchy things like turning itself on and off, freezing up in the middle of calls, etc, - so I began thinking about my next phone. I wanted a smartphone! So I did some research, asked a friend who worked for AT&T, and for Christmas, Maggie gave me an awesome Samsung Galaxy Proclaim which I love, love, love!

Of course, as soon as I got it up and running, I loaded it up with some apps - some of which I already loved using on my tablet, and some I'd only read about!

So here it is - my list of favorite free apps:

1) Facebook - I love staying connected to my family and friends in far-off places, and even though it gets a lot of negative attention, FB is by far the best way we've all found to keep in touch. I love getting notifications so I don't have to keep checking threads and posts... and I love seeing photos of my loved ones! :)

2) Bloglovin' - I was a latecomer to Bloglovin', and honestly, I couldn't imagine what all the fuss was about, but now that I've used it I'm a convert. I love seeing the newest posts from my favorite blogs without having to check all of them.

3) RetailMeNot - I loved RetailMeNot.com, and my love has only increased since it became an app. :) Now, whenever I'm walking into a store, I pull up this app and check to see any available coupons to save money instantly. I especially love not having to remember/carry the paper 40% off coupons that Joanns and Michaels send me!

4) Pinterest - What could be better than a cup of coffee and a little instant Pinterest? Um, NOTHING! :)

5) Amazon Kindle - I love having my whole library at my fingertips, whether I'm curled up in bed or stuck waiting somewhere. Plus, there's so much free literature on the Kindle Store that I'm never at a loss for something new to read!

6) Brightest Flashlight - This has got to be one of the most useful apps ever! I use it all the time - walking to or from my car early in the morning or late at night, working outside in the dark, in place of my bulky flashlight, etc. I even turned it on once when I was at church and we lost electricity. :)

7) Words With Friends - I love Scrabble, so naturally I love Words With Friends. Unfortunately, my mom got a smartphone this Christmas, too, so we've been a little - um, competitive - with each other ever since. ;)

8) Instagram - I feel pretty much the same way as Disney - I love seeing everyone's cool pictures! And of course I love sharing my own, whether it's the new paint on my nails or my adorable girls or the tomato and artichoke galette I made for dinner last night. :)

9) Blogger - I'll be honest, I still prefer to use a real keyboard to blog, but when I want to jot down an idea for a future post, or upload photos from my phone for editing later, this app gets the job done. I especially like that I can just speak and have it convert my words into print. :)

10) Groupon - I love Groupon.com. In fact, I think almost everyone in my family bought a gift off of Groupon this year, ranging from zip-lining trips to scuba diving lessons to gift cards for favorite restaurants/shops. Anytime you can save 50-90+% off of anything, I'm in!

11) King James Bible FREE - I pretty much only use my bound Bible at home (they tend to get scrunched/bent/dirty/left in the truck when I carry them around in my purse) and this is my favorite app. It' bare bones basic - the text of the Bible, and that's it. Some members of my family prefer apps with note taking, commentaries, concordances, etc, but this one is my personal favorite.

12) TuneIn Radio - I love getting to listen to my favorite radio stations while fixing dinner, hanging out, etc, as the radio reception in my area STINKS. This is easy to use, doesn't drain my battery, and gets the job done.

13) WNYZ - So, I'm a total NPR fangirl. I love The Splendid Table, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Car Talk, etc, and I love being able to stream them all on my cell phone while I'm cooking dinner or falling asleep (or, on Saturday mornings, waking up! :)).

That's my list of favorite apps. Now, you could help me out by helping me find a couple new favorites! Specifically, I'm looking for:

1) A good running app. Ideally, this would let me track my runs and give me my times and distance. Nothing fancy.

2) A good picture-editing app. I see all these cool picts on the web, people - what are y'all using to make them?!

3) Some good (free) games. I would love a couple of strategy- or logic-based games that I could play while waiting for my opponent to move on WWF. :)

4) An audio Bible app. Such a thing must exist, right? So far, the only ones I've been able to find are designed for Jehovah's Witness. :(

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We Survived!

I am happy to report that my trailer and I survived last night (with a low tempt of 5F :0) unscathed, though I'm a little fried this morning from being up so much last night. I was so terrified something would fail and I'd either 1) burst a pipe in my trailer or 2) burst the pipe running from the house to the faucet, so every hour and a half to two hours I'd get up, run water until the temperature changed from "finger numbing" to "tepid" (meaning that I was pulling water from the house), check to make sure that both my heat lamps were functioning and still properly placed (since the wind was cra-a-a-zy last night!) and then fall into bed until the next hour. And voila! When the sun finally dawned, I still had flowing water and an intact plumbing system! :)

Tonight's going to be another cold one (though not quite as cold - low of 13F instead of 7F - whoopee! *insert sarcasm here*), and tomorrow isn't that much better, but by Thursday it should start to warm up and - get this - the weekend should be in the 50's. I cannot wait! I'm hoping to start working on some Valentine's Day décor. ;)

Hope you're surviving the cold wherever you are! Be safe!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snuggling Through The Cold

It's been raining all night and all morning. My trailer is surrounded by a couple of inches of water, which will no doubt be a layer of ice pretty soon, as the temperature has already begun dropping and the rain just turned to snow. Can't say I'm exactly looking forward to the cold, but for once, I do feel like I'm pretty prepared. I have my pantry, fridge, and freezer stocked; I'm pretty sure I'll continue to have water no matter how cold it gets (although I have extra lamps and extension cords on hand, just in case I discover more susceptible spots); I have one full tank of propane and I'm still running off the other tank; my electric blanket and space heater are all ready to go; and, perhaps most importantly, I have a to-do list of things to do that are just perfect for this weather - stuff like washing a small mountain of dishes, cleaning out my microwave, crocheting up more stuff for my soon-to-launch Etsy shop, letting the girls out for a good scamper, catching up on my Bible reading, starting my 2014 reading list... and taking a nap. Cause it was almost 4 AM before I was able to fall asleep last night! Insane!

I'm thinking crockpot barbecued lentil sliders for dinner; it'll keep the kitchen warm and smell good all day. :)

2014 Reading List

I know a lot of people make their booklists at the start of summer, but for me, January is the time. :) The rush of the holidays is over and my soul craves something quieter, some private reflection after a season of public celebration, and the fresh start of the new year just seems to need a new booklist and reading journal. :)

So here it is - my 2014 reading list! (I'll be adding to it throughout the year,

1. Storyline (and pretty much anything else written) by Donald Miller

2. Love Does by Bob Goff

3. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeff Steingarten

4. White Hat Required by Jena Weber

5. Hyperbole And A Half by Allie Brosh

6. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

7. The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

8. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

9. Road Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

10. 5 of USA's Best Trips by Lonely Planet

The following have been on my reading list for awhile, and my parents gave me then in Kindle format for Christmas! :)

11. The Small House Book by Jay Schafer

12.  Trailersteading by Ann Hess

13. 120 Ideas For Tiny Living by Laura M. LaVoie

14. The Tiny House Revolution by Michael Holtby

15. A Tiny Home To Call Your Own by Patricia Foreman and Andrew Lee 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter In The Trailer

Winter in the trailer is so, so different than summer was. I may have complained a little bit about my "tin can" being a bit warm when under the glare of the summer sun, and now I feel like a complete heel for complaining, because the challenge of 1) keeping the trailer heated and 2) the water flowing has been a months-long learning experience which I've only just gotten the hang of. So, in case I forget everything I've learned over the summerm or in the unlikely event that someone else reading this finds themselves in the same situation and wants some advice... here's what I've learned.
 
First off, staying warm: the most important lesson I learned this year by far was that it's easier and more economical to keep the trailer warm than to heat it up. I made the mistake of trying to "conserve" propane/electricity early on this winter by keeping the thermostat low and set on what I wanted the temperature to be. The problem is, the thermostat doesn't kick on immediately when the temperature dips below - there's a 6-8 degree "lag" - so by the time it did kick on, the trailer was frigid and the heater couldn't compensate. (Plus, the thermostat is located in the kitchen right beside the stove/oven - ??? - so if I did any cooking or baking or even washed dishes with hot water, it threw the whole system off.) Now I keep the thermostat higher and the heater runs a few minutes every hour (as opposed to hours at a time when trying to heat it up) and in general we all stay comfortable.
 
I also stopped relying on my propane heating system to be my primary source of heat after doing some research and discovering that, at best, my heating system was losing 30% efficiency, and stole borrowed an electric space heater from my family. The good part about living in a trailer is that even a small space heater is usually good up to 300 square feet, and the trailer only has 216. Although I started out using the space heater just to keep the girls warm, I now use it as my primary heat source and run the propane only when the space heater is unable to keep up. (I also learned later that running an electric heater vs. a propane heater helps keep the moisture under control - who knew?)
 
I've learned that winter in an RV requires a different mindset, and I bought warmer clothes. For someone who was used to lounging around the stick-and-brick home in cotton sleep pants and a tank, even in winter, this was a bit of an adjustment. :) But a good pair of slippers or fuzzy socks, a comfy sweater (I bought one for $20 earlier this year that has become my go-to comfy/warm piece), and fleece pants goes a long way.
 
And finally, after thinking about buying one, and weighing the pros and cons, and asking other people (all of whom said "do it!") I won an electric blanket at our family's gift exchange game on Christmas. And I joined the ranks of all the folks who love their electric blankets. It's worth it. :)
 
Now on to the slightly trickier part - keeping the waterlines unfrozen!
 
I installed the heat tape on my water hose in November, with technical advice from Dad and practical help from Allen; first we laid the heat tape and hose out together, and then wrapped both in heavy-duty industrial-strength aluminum foil, which did a surprisingly good job of keeping the two together. Then we popped sections of 1-inch self-sealing foam insulation onto the hose and sealed it up.
 
The heat taped/foiled/insulated water hose

 
On the trailer end, I purchased a foam elbow to cover the connection, which I was told would do the trick, and totally didn't. It seemed to keep up fine until the temperature reached the 20's, and then froze solid.
 
 
After numerous times thawing it with a pitcher of hot water, I got desperate and wrapped it in a towel, and amazingly, that seems to have done the trick..
 
Kitchen towel = water.
When I get some extra time, I'm going to make a DIY connector-cover out of a cool whip container, and hopefully that will solve the problem a little more gracefully LOL!
 
Since the water lines run from my trailer to the faucet, which then runs exposed under the porch (ten feet) to the house, we actually used two strips of heat tape, one for the trailer to the faucet, and one for the faucet. They meet in the middle and attach to an extension cord running from the house (I can't WAIT until we get the permanent electric hookup installed. Just sayin'.) In the meantime, I covered the connections with a Rubbermaid I wasn't using, because apparently Rubbermaids are what RV'ers use to cover everything from sewer hookups to water connections. Again... why knew? :)
 
It really does do a great job of keeping everything dry, though - even after an incredible rainstorm and a few days of snow, whenever I check, it's dry underneath.
 
 
After I wrapped the trailer-end connection with a towel, the waterline froze again, so naturally I assumed my towel-fix had failed. Except when I unwrapped it, the connector was tepid, not frozen, so I rewrapped it and went down the line trying to figure out where the problem was. And this time it was the house faucet. We'd wrapped a couple of loops of heat tape around it when we were insulating, and figured that would take care of the problem - and it did, till the temps dropped into the 20's and below. So a new solution had to be found. I tried wrapping it in a towel (hey, it worked the first time! :)) but that didn't work, so in exasperation I pulled up some of my fav RV resources and began reading. After only a few minutes, I was reminded of something I'd known, but forgotten - work lights produce heat, making them an easy solution for frozen bits. Duh! (I'd actually written this down on my winter plan, but somehow overlooked it.) My dad had a work light with a metal shield, which made it perfect for heating the faucet.
 
 
I placed it, turned it on, and fifteen minutes later I had water. It managed to keep up all night (even though the temperature dipped at least into the teens and possible into single-digits) so I declared the problem solved.

From the faucet to the house - everything is heat taped/foiled/insulated.
 
I guess we'll see how well everything holds up; I get a break tonight and tomorrow morning, and then look at the forecast:
 
 
Eep! Needless to say, I am looking forward to the weekend. And to springtime. :)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Randomizer

First randomizer post of the new year! :)

- It snowed last night - I don't know, maybe three to five inches? - and while my heat tape is working fine, the faucet on the house and the connection to the trailer itself keep freezing. Which means I have to trek into the big house, fill a pitcher with warm water and douse the frozen bits to get everything going again. And then I keep readjusting the insulation, adding more, etc, but nothing seems to be able to keep up with these low temps. Makes for an annoying day. I'll keep working on it - I'm thinking maybe a couple of work lights would do the trick?

- Speaking of the trailer... my six-month anniversary of moving in is coming up, and I'm working on a post to update about everything I've learned. Is there's anything you've ever wondered about, now's the time to ask!

- Speaking of the Bible, my friend Crisy and I are determining to read the Bible through this year! We're using the "Old and New" reading plan from BibleYear.com and Crisy is doing a great job of pestering holding me accountable! ;) (In all seriousness, I asked her to and am glad she does!)

- Maggie and I had coupons to a local place (lovelovelove Mission BBQ!) so last night we went out to use them. We had a lovely dinner (brisket sammies, hand-cut fries for Maggie and mac-n-cheese for me, plus my fav glass-bottled vanilla root beer) and then went on an epic grocery shopping trip. Okay, not too epic, because it wasn't a complete pantry/freezer/fridge stock up, but it was a bigger than usual list because I've basically been living over at the big house since Christmas Eve. Aaand I took the time to go to both Wal-Mart and Giant so I got the absolute best deals on everything. :) Some of the meals I have planned for the next two weeks are: homemade pizza (cuz I made pizza crust from scratch for the first time a few weeks ago and it was amazing!), barbecue lentil sloppy joes, steak and salad, and creamed turkey with peas.

- It's the season for resolution-making, so here's my take - I didn't make any formal resolutions for this year, but I did set some goals, including: be a better housekeeper and take the time to tidy frequently, put things back as soon as I'm done with them, and wash those pesky dishes more often (*sigh*); take (and share) more photos - this should be easier since I have a brand-new smartphone with a very nice camera :); read through the Bible this year; manage my money as wisely and prudently as possible. That's it. :)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Rapid Recap

Welcome, 2014!
 
In a way, I can't believe 2013 is over. It sometimes felt like it would last f-o-r-e-v-e-r... and then sometimes it felt like time was slipping right through my fingers. It was a year of growth. A hard year. A good year. I'm a little sorry to see it go; on the other hand, I'm pretty excited about what 2014 will bring me!
 
So, before we move on to making memories in this new year, it's time for a quick recap! Ready? :)
 
My Favorite Posts & Pictures
 
Tickets to see Les Miserable with Maggie made a fun date (if terrifying drive!)
January - "Full"
 
We saw several double rainbows from Abby's front porch this year - always special!
 
 
I purchased my 27-foot Jayco trailer in March and spent the next eight weeks remodeling it before taking the plunge and becoming a full-time RVer
 
March - "New Digs" & "On New Life"
 
In April, my BFF walked down the aisle to become a Mrs!
 
 
Maggie and I took the twins on their first roller coasters this spring :)
 
May - "In Memoriam"
 
Our VBS drama this year may have been the best yet; the chain mail that Sam (second from the left) is wearing was handmade and the links would reach over 1/2 mile if laid out!
 
 
Abby was as happy that I got pets as I was!
 
 
Abigail started Kindergarten this fall - a painful experience for both of us LOL!
 
 
I spent a lot of time being tired this year lol
 
September - "On Not Being Alone"
 
My crochet skills really got honed this year as I paid my heating bill by selling handmade crocheted items at local craft fairs. I also made the hat I'm wearing!
 
 
Crisy and I enjoyed a whirlwind trip to Alabama this fall and hit the scenic overlook just as the sun was coming up!
 
 
My and my Z-girls, ready for Christmas!
 
December - "Loves of Lately"
 
 
My Favorite Status Updates
 
January
 (19) Today in Lowes an old lady ran up to me and wished me "Happy New Year!" I had the sudden irrational thought that, since my year so far has not been a good one, maybe she was fairy godmother who had come to magically "reboot" it...
 
(2) Abby saw a nature special over the holidays about Venus Fly Traps, and this morning she was telling me, in graphic detail, all about how they eat insects. When she started to mention seals being eaten, I gently pointed out that Venus Fly Traps cannot eat seals. Abby looked at me like I was crazy and replied, ''Sarah, we're talking about KILLER WHALES now. Try to pay attention...''
 
February
 
(21) I was working on a story, thought the word "gruff," and instead wrote "grough."  ???  It's times like these that I wonder - did I REALLY study English in college?!
 
(24) On the road again! (We passed a sign that I swore was advertising a forklift museum, but it ended up being a folklife sign in need of repainting.)
 
(27) Abby laid down for her nap; a few minutes later I heard her talking on the baby monitor so I turned it up to listen. Turns out she was praying. She thanked God that Lilly was feeling better, that she got to have fun at school, that it wasn't raining anymore, for her mommy and daddy, and asked Him to keep her mommy and daddy safe, to watch over her kitty, to keep her dog from running away, to help her be a good friend to Lilly, and to help her be good and make mommy and daddy happy. These are the moments wherein I am amazed that this is my life...
 
March
(4) Awkward: going to see a potential trailor, walking into the back bedroom, and finding it plastered in "objectionable pictures". Somehow, I feel that deserved more of a warning than "needs new wallpaper."
 
(7) (Abigail, ''reading'' the Christmas story)
Joseph: Mary, you can not have Baby Jesus in a STABLE! There are ANIMALS all around!
Mary: I know, Joseph, but Jesus MADE all the animals... so... I think it will be okay.
 
(15) ... and the words, repeating over and over again; this loop is all I've ever known.
Suddenly, from afar off I hear a different tune, and a Voice whispers, "Come, child, here's a new song..."
 
(20) Dear God -
THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU for creating sunshine.
Of all the ways your grace is manifested in my life, this might be my favorite! :)
 
(26) This time of year I'm pretty sure it's actually possible to get drunk on the heady perfume of daffodils and hyacinths.

April
(5) Chicken-fried steak for breakfast. Only when I'm down South.
 
(6) "That makes me laugh. In a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, slightly hysterical kinda way." ;)
 
(8) I just wrote a long, angsty ranty status about why I'm so ticked off at certain people right now, then took the higher road and didn't post it.
 
(11) Sooo... I had to redye my hair, and since the last couple of times it's turned out a bit lighter I decided to go one shade darker. First mistake..
I may also have bought the cheap hairdye figuring how different could it be? Second mistake.
Suffice to say, while I've always admired Abby from NCIS, I've NEVER coveted her haircolor.
Cue late-night drive to get new (expensive) box of hairdye...
 
(13) It's probably part nostalgia, part spring fever, but I REALLY want to make a midnight run for a "Moons Over My Hammy" sandwich at Dennys.
 
(24) In the fifteen minutes that Abby and I have been at the park, I have been crawled on by two caterpillars, a spider, and a beetle of some kind. O.o
 
(25) Three years as a nanny, and you know what? I'm rarely as angered by the behavior of children as much as by the behavior of their caretakers. >:(
 
(29) Legendarium. Excellent word of the day.
 
(30) Ruth wandered into my room, saw "Journey To The Center of The Earth," and excitedly exclaimed, "This is a REAL book? I thought it was just a movie!" *sigh*

May
(5) Dear man sitting by himself at Cracker Barrel, enjoying a leisurely breakfast while reading Faust:
I love you. You epitomize all that is right in the world. :)
 
(6) The bright side to a 4yo who thinks that ketchup goes on anything: when the plate tilts and the strawberries slide into the ketchup, she doesn't really care.
 
(7) In an alternate reality, Rebekah Patterson and I have an apartment together, and are spending this dreary, rainy, glecky day watching a Back To The Future marathon and eating mac-n-cheese. :)
 
(8) When my seedlings got too big for their peat pods, I moved them to larger pots. At the time, they were still too small (for my admittedly amateur eye) to see any differences between them, but now that they've grown a bit one of them is clearly different. The problem is, is doesn't look like ANY of my other seedlings. I strongly suspect I've been lavishing my care and attention on a weed. O.o
 
(9) I woke in the middle of the night to hear thumping downstairs. As I'm turning on the light and contemplating investigating myself versus waking my dad, I knock my tablet off the nightstand, which wakes my father. I relay the thumping, and he goes downstairs to investigate. When he doesn't return, I get worried and go after him. Turns out he got hungry investigating and decided to fix something to eat. I get a glass of water. He hands me another glass of water and asks me to take it to my mom on my way up. I go to do this and frighten my mom, who thought I was a burglar, come to burgle clutching two glasses of water.
We're thinking the original bump in the night was our neighbor's cat on the front porch.
  I am going back to bed now...

(17) So... Aerosol sunscreen melts nail polish. True story.

(21) Coaxing a four year old to eat dinner is sort of like I imagine putting mittens on a set of octopus triplets feels like. :)

(22) Abby's cousin Lilly is spending the afternoon with us; I realized I had "arrived" as a nanny when I caught myself digging around in the box of dinosaur nuggets for a brontosaurus, so that the girls' plates would be exactly. identical.

(24) I'm having bok choy and brussell sprouts for dinner. Apparently today is "eat foods starting with B" day.

(30) Abigail is so sad whenever a sock loses its "friend" in the wash. Oh, the heartache of being an empathetic child... ;)

 June
(3) Summertime: a time when snakes masquerade as sticks, and sticks masquerade as snakes. O.O
 
(4) The upside to living in St. Mary's County? Chatting with the friendly cashier at the grocery store. The downside? Skinned frog's legs in the deli case. Hmm. :/
 
(5) Oh, don't worry, person-who-almost-hit-me, I totally get it. Attempting to back into a parking space WHILE ON YOUR CELLQHONE is legit hard.
Sheesh...
 
(5) As we were cleaning up from dinner tonight, my mother sadly commented that the salad had been the worst thing she'd ever made. Some of my younger siblings assured her that was not true... then proceeded to recount all the things she's made that were much, much worse. Fail, guys. EPIC fail.
 
(12) Can't decide what I want more - a double espresso or a Red Bull. Maybe both? (What's the emoticon for reallyreallyreally tired?)
 
(12) Went to turn my propane on and found a wasp's nest on my tank. Dad was all excited to show me how to kill them. Silly men. (I'm watching from the window)
 
(12) When playing Hearts using Star Wars cards, you just HAVE to hum the Imperial March ominously when you dump the queen of spades on someone.
 
(17) Stuck in traffic, in someone else's vehicle that THEY didn't fill with gas, with a peanut gallery criticizing in the backyard. I'm going to kill someone. :/
 
(19) My bank just sent me an alert, informing me that they will no longer allow transactions of amounts greater than $100,000, and that in the future, I will have to split my transactions into multiple transactions of $99,000 or less.
Oh, to have such problems...
 
(20) "Sarah, I have to tell you the WORSTEST THING EVER - I have a HOLE IN MY SOCK!!!" - Abby  :)
 
(22) When you have bread, but no toaster... Pancake mix but no syrup... Milk but no cereal... You have strawberry yogurt for breakfast. :)
 
(24) It's hot and sticky and about to be violently stormy outside... but inside, it's cool and dry and I'm about to make pad thai for dinner. :)
 
(25) My 12 year old sister, Ruth, pointing to the 20-something goalie at Maggie and Liz's soccer game: "Isn't he HOT?"
Me (shocked and disturbed): ''WHAT?!''
Ruth: ''The goalie. He's wearing sweatpants AND a jersey AND a goalkeeper jersey. Won't he get hot?''
Me (relieved): ''OH! Oh. Oooh. Um... Maybe?''
 
(28) The trampoline is literally steaming in the rain. That's how hot it is. I'm moving to Antarctica.
 
(30) What an awesome, fun, fulfilling, crazy-busy week. I'm glad it happened. I'm equally glad it's OVER! I need a nap.
 
July
(5) Dear guys - whatever happened to ma'am? THAT is the proper way to address a female you don't know. Not lady, girlie, honey, sweetie, etc.
 
(8) Dear God:
I really wish you'd just have decided to keep my radiator intact for awhile, but if you HAD to let it die, it WAS pretty funny, making the replacement radiator cost EXACTLY as much as I had in my checking account. #eyeroll
 
(12) So, I'm now the proud "mommy" to two ADORABLE rat babies. Zhiva's a little shy and not quite sure about this whole "pet" business - she executed a clever bit of acrobatery when I tried to hold her earlier (although she didn't try to bite me, which encouraged me). And Zinnia is my adventure girl - she's happily snuggled with me, Maggie, Liz, Ruth, and Allen (who proclaimed that there's no such thing as a cute rat, then spent the next hour snuggling and cooing to her ;))
 
(15) Rats do not like being held when the holder has the hiccups. True story.
 
(18) Oh, summer! I know we have an on again, off again relationship, but today. you. rock.
 
(18) "[A thing is] only impossible until it's not." - Jean-Luc Picard
 
(19) I pulled up to a stop sign behind an SUV being driven by a teenager barely old enough to drive. Traffic on the road ahead of us was heavy with no break in sight, so, figuring we'd be waiting awhile, I twisted in my seat to reach something on the other side of the cabin. As I did, I accidentally bumped the horn with my elbow, and before I had a chance to react, the kid lunged forward into traffic, narrowly missing (and being missed by) cars before finally, safely, merging into traffic. I. FEEL. SO. BAD.
 
(19) Me: Oh, Maggie, I have money for you.
Maggie: (Excitedly) Oh! ... Oh. (Sadly) I thought you said you had a bunny for me.
 
(21) I'm watching Star Trek TNG, and Picard stops the transporter mid-way to have a private talk with Dr. Fletcher. Wonder if the NCIS writers are trekkies...
 
(23) Watching Star Trek TNG, listening to my girls play on their new wheel, and cooking turkey tenderloin and saffron rice (using the new spice mix my BFF gave me for my birthday :)). Earlier, I put in about a gazillion applications for different positions. Already got back several optimistic replies. When I think of all the various possible directions my life might take in the next six weeks, my head spins... and I'm glad I rest in the arms of Someone with whom there is no shadow of turning.
 
(28) Maggie came over for afternoon playtime with the girls. WZinnia ran around like a crazy rat, played tag and tug-of-war, and climbed al over her. Zhiva snuggled in her lap and gave a "manicure" to the hand that wasn't playing with Zinnia. When playtime was over, Zhiva went back in inside their cage with no fuss, while Zinnia stood on her hind legs and "scolded" Maggie for putting her back. This pretty much sums up my girls - I've got a snuggler and a spitfire. them both!
 
(30) For Bean, per our recent conversation : Abby is getting dressed and we're talking and everything is fine... until suddenly, Abby - fully dressed - throws herself down on the floor sobbing. I scoop her up, extremely concerned, and ask, "What's wrong? Did you get hurt? ARE YOU OKAY?!" To which she hysterically cries, "MY LEGGINGS. ARE. TOO. SMALL."
It's not just you.
And Chris... I'm banning leggings.
 
(30) Potential employers call as I'm fixing dinner and my hands are full of raw turkey. I frantically rush to rinse off my fingers, fumble to turn my music down, and reach for my phone. Except, in doing so, I knock it off the table, so it bounces from table to bench to chair before the battery pops out, disconnecting us. These people are NEVER going to hire me! #epicfail #facepalm
 
August
(2) That awkward moment when you're done showering and you reach for a towel, only to remember that you did a massive load of laundry today, including all the towels... and haven't run it through the dryer yet. (This is only eclipsed by the realization that all your clean underwear is in there, too.) #awkward #hmmnowwhat?
 
(3) I'm so sick of hearing "Happy, happy, happy"... Can you say "Stupid, stupid, stupid"?
 
(5) The weather today is glorious - cool and breezy and sunny and vaguely autumnal. I would be perfectly happy if we had an early arriving, long lasting Fall.
 
(7) Lately I have become altogether too chummy with my snooze button...
 
(7) Me: I love you!
Abigail: I KNOW. Cuz you tell me OVER and OVER and OVER and I get TIRED OF HEARING IT!
  You know what kiddo? I'm perfectly ok with that.
 
(10) Or COURSE I didn't rent Certain Prey JUST because Mark Harmon was in it. I did it for the... original storyline... and... stellar storytelling... *guilty look*
 
(12) About halfway through a mega-deep-clean of my place... I'm hungry and I want to stop for dinner, but cooking is impossible until I move my cleaning supplies off the table and counter. But at that point it seems a waste to put them away only to get them out again later, so... I guess I should finish cleaning.
 
(16) Quote of the night: "Why are people always naked when they fall into a cactus?"
 
(18) The girls have gotten into my DVDs and are having the absolute time of their lives cracking open each case and removing the disks inside. I think they think they're the biggest nuts they've ever seen. I'd stop them but I'm having way too much fun watching.
 
(24) I NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" show. Except for the fact that when I listen to it while driving, I almost have an accident cuz I'm laughing. so hard.
 
(27) A faint but persistent rainbow
  stretches its arc across the sky
  and I marvel
at how both rain and sunshine
are required
to create this phenomenon of beauty.
An apt reminder.
 
September
(2) When I tried to get into the pool area tonight, I discovered all the doors were locked. I went around to the front desk and explained that I was one of the swim instructors, and the guy said no problem, he'd give me a temp key. He then handed me a board about 2 feet by 6 inches with an embedded access chip. Apparently key means something different than I thought...
 
(9) Last night I had a dream that there was a rift in the time-space continuum and Zhivas and Zinnias from parallel universes kept showing up. Knowing how sad I'D be if MY Z-girls slipped through a space-time continuum rift, I was doing my best to round them all up so they could be returned to their respective me's, while also trying to track down a theoretical astrophysicist to fix the rift and send the girls back home. I woke up feeling exhausted; time to take a break from scifi shows.
 
(25) This morning, Abby tried to recruit me into a complicated scheme involving me kidnapping her from school, spending the day together, and then returning her just before the closing bell so mommy and daddy would be none the wiser. The sad part is, I ALMOST agreed.
 
October
(3) I was about to post about how amazing and awesome thrift-shopping is. Then I got to the checkout, and they refused to sell me the pair of goblets I was so excited over, because they only sell them in sets of 4, and they insisted that SOMEWHERE in the store there were 2 more (even though I'm positive that if there were, I would have found them - I loved them!). To say I was peeved would be a major understatement.
 
(4) Dear Zinnia -
You know I love you DEARLY, and I really don't mind that you like to run around under/behind the TV (because, unlike your sister Zhiva, all I have to do to get you to come out is shake a bag of Cheerios )... but if you continue to amuse yourself by unplugging all the connections between my TV and DVD player, just watch how fast that will change. This is your last warning, ma'am.
 
(15) Is Zinnia perfectly capable of carrying a whole saltine cracker back to her house? Of course. Is it tons more fun to break the cracker into a dozen pieces and watch her try to carry them all at once? Oh my gosh, YES! (Think that scene in Cinderella where Gus-gus is trying to carry the corn. Except 100 times funnier.)
 
November
(3) I was going to post something I was thankful for each day in November, but in between traveling I've missed the first two days! It occurs to me however, that I could have posted the same thing these past two days and it would be just as true: I am so, so grateful for the 'created family' that God has given me, those special people whose lives at one point became tangled with mine, and who decided to leave them that way. Our friendship has become a sort of web, drawing in others and holding us all secure.. Family isn't just a blood thing - sometimes it's a soul thing, too, and I'm thankful to be a part of this one.
 
(12) A minute ago, a bunch of snowflakes started falling. But then I freaked out and they all ran away, so it's all good again.
 
(12) Long, long, long day. I came home to be informed by my brother (on his way out the driveway) that Mom had fallen and was lying on the basement floor, unable to get up. (Lest anyone think Allen is completely insensitive, Mom INSISTED that Allen take Ruth to her doctor's appointment (for a rash... only my mother O.o)). Long story short... one ambulance ride, three hours in the ER, and a splint later, Mom has only one broken arm (not two, as we originally thought!) and is home now, resting more or less comfortably. What a day.
 
(14) I don't usually post about politics, but here'S the thing: the more everyone on both sides talk, the more Ayn Rand-ian they sound... and there's no John Galt in sight. #whoisjohngalt
 
(16) Although I'm practically comatose with exhaustion tonight, I'm keenly aware of God's gifts of grace in my life. Maybe especially so, when my attitude and behavior have not been particularly worthy of merit lately. Truly, I am His child. feeling loved.
 
(23) I bought candy canes to crochet covers for as gifts, and then somehow... I ate them.
 
(24) On especially chilly nights, I contemplate how absurd it is that my sleeping compartment is the coolest place in my trailer because I'm ridiculously worried that two small rats might get cold...
 
(25) Struggling tonight. My heart wants to protest, to say "This is not enough." He gently responds, "It IS. My grace is sufficient." The problem with being human isn't that God doesn't send the manna, but that we so quickly tire of angel's food.feeling defeated.
 
December
(4) Took Mom shopping today (her arms are still healing from her fall) and as we walked into BJ's, Bing Crosby's "I've Got Plenty To Be Thankful For" began playing over the sound system. Such an upbeat song and one I REALLY needed to hear today, a day when I'm feeling a bit unthankful. Thanks, Bing.
 
(11) Update on my Whovian conversion: So far I've seen about a dozen episodes, all featuring David Tenant (the eleventh doctor?) and I can't imagine liking a different doctor more. Of the two companions I've seen, Rose and Donna, I ADORE Donna! So far my fav episode is the one with the adipose babies.
 
(18) I'm too busy loving the ones who love me to worry about the ones who don't.
 
(21) People. I have a smartphone.
Thus armed, I might just take over the world...
 
(21) I'm at a job; in the interview, my client specifically showed me the twin trashcans and said one was for trash, the other recycleables. So I go to throw something out tonight: one has a paper napkin, a plastic wrapper, and shreds.of what might be cucumber. The other has a tin can, a glass bottle, and a loaf of moldy bread. Help me out here, folks - WHICH ONE IS RECYCLEABLES?!
 
(27) It's been an incredibly busy and full holiday season, and PLEASE don't think I haven't enjoyed every activity, gathering, and ministry... but my soul is craving some downtime. I've been blessed to have been able to book child-care jobs for various clients almost every day for the last couple of weeks, but today is my last workday of the week - small sigh of relief; I'm EXHAUSTED - then I'm making a conscious effort to make the next week a time of spiritual, physical, and mental rest. feeling EXHAUSTED.