..And To All A Good Night!

Hello friends!

Happy Holidays!

We had a pretty wonderful, low key holiday. It was a much needed calm for the whole weekend.

Christmas Eve we hung around and finished up the last minute things before heading to a family potluck and cookie exchange. We had all kinds of cookies, but also five different versions of peanut butter bars. Not that it was a competition at all, all peanut butter bars are delicious and deserve love, but mine were unanimously voted the best. To Be fair, however, I’ve also made mine the longest, everyone else was trying out new recipes so it makes sense that I’ve honed mine a little. I also got mine from a genuine church lady, I don’t know where she got it, but little old church ladies generally either have the best or worst recipes, there’s no in between. So, what I’m saying is, my peanut butter bars are bomb. Not that it was a competition. But if it was, they’re pretty great. But it wasn’t. At all. 

We also had gingersnaps, fudge, a couple kinds of sugar cookies, I made my maternal grandmother’s almond butter cookies, and my cousin made these super cute reindeer out of Graham crackers and melting chocolate. 

My sweet mama stood and helped with every part of the cookie baking this year, her help was invaluable

We had a lovely time singing carols, eating yummy potluck, and watching my 16 year old cousin try to show off by sliding an icy donut in his little truck only to be chewed out by his girlfriend and my grandma. His girlfriend fit in perfectly by the way, which is a pretty terrific trick considering we are all crazy. She was in on the jokes, helping with the cookies, and playing with the kids. Pretty brave for a little 16 year old, I don’t think I’d have been that poised at that age. 

I ended up leaving before the church service this year, it was too snowy and icy and I didn’t feel comfortable driving on all that after dark. But it worked out because it gave me some time to be Santa’s elf. I had some last minute things to finish up.

We did our usual tradition of “something cozy for Christmas Eve”. It used to be “jammies on Christmas Eve” but we changed it because some of us stopped growing in the 6th grade and simply did not need more jammie sets. So I got a cute sweatshirt, my dad got socks (he requested them), got my mama a cute jammie set, and Christopher got a hoodie.

The tradition of finding the most ridiculous socks I possibly can for Christopher for Christmas continues

I once again proved that I have no spatial awareness and my stocking stuffers mostly didn’t fit, but I swear that’s becoming family tradition. Christopher tried to stay up and help me but he’s been working long shifts starting at 2 am so he was being super helpful, and then not so much, and when I looked over, he had fallen asleep mid stocking. But points for the effort. I got him to bed and Pat Saget kept me company via reruns. 

Christmas day we got up, I made some cinnamon rolls, and then we slowly started opening presents while snacking on a Hickory Farms box my grandma gave us. We were meant to have a roast but yours truly remembered she didn’t defrost it until 6 pm so… we had it today (I’m writing this on the 26th, for the record).

We had a lovely afternoon watching movies and eating far too many cookies, and all the critters got some kind of special treat. Then I started working on the kiddos gifts. They were at their moms for the weekend, but I knew they were coming home in the evening, so I set out their newly stuffed stockings, set out their gifts, and made sure they had some “Christmas Eve cozies” even though they were getting them a little later than expected. We had also set them up with a bunch of the cookies from the exchange, and a local charity had helped their dad get them some gifts from him. If squeals of delight were any indication, I think we attained at least a little Christmas magic. Mission accomplished. 

Overall the holidays were lovely. I’ve been lucky to have a boss that let me burn my PTO before it expired so it’s been calmer than usual and I’ve been able to catch up on some of the crazy that’s been going on. It was a much needed low key holiday after burst pipes, long term guests, a haywire heater, an ice storm, and a broken water trough. It’s been a December folks, but the holidays were bright and the new year is looking brighter. 

Until we chat again my friends!

Signed, Your Very Opinionated Blogger

Hello friends!

Its official. I’m over winter. I’m done, got no good vibes left for it. I gave it a good shot, drank the warm caffeinated stuff, crocheted the fluffy blankets (sorta, I’m slow, so it’s like a third of a blanket, but still). I lit the winter candles, and made the fancy soups and the snow angels, and tracked the animal prints. It was fun, I enjoyed it. 

But now I’m cold and my frost free spout to the trough froze again, and I saw two degrees on the thermometer again, and I’m bitter and I’m cold and I’m over it. Everything’s frozen and slick and I haven’t seen above freezing temps in a week and I wiped out in front of the neighbors and Instagram keeps showing me #vanlife #onthebeach posts and I know it’s an algorithm but I’m gonna lose it.

Bring on spring.

Okay, time for a bit of composure. No one should ever let me write posts right after being outside. I can’t be trusted. 

A little bit of a fun fact about this blog, when I first started I would set aside an hour or two every Friday to recap the week and write my posts. But I quickly found that leaving anything to Friday afternoon was a bad plan because I am usually running on fumes by Friday. I’m very much a push through, step up, you-can-sleep-in-on-Saturday kinda person about my weekly to-dos but Friday after work is generally when the wheels fall off and if it hasn’t been started, its not getting done. So I tried a few different systems and found just devoting a few minutes every morning or early afternoon is usually the most productive solution. Which is a very long winded way of saying the blog posts are most generally formulated in smaller chunks, which sometimes allows for refinement, sometimes leads to disjointed topics, and sometimes means the only thing I can think to write is “I’m cold I’m cold I’m cold” over and over. Its probably a good thing I don’t write for a living. 

In actual farm related news, in addition to the ongoing nonsense that is trying to keep my water supply flowing, we are needing to replace the dualies on the flatbed. Its been a pretty long time coming, they’re pretty worse for wear, but after we parked with the latest hay bale I got out and heard the telltale “tzssssssssss” of a punctured tire. Pretty sure I picked whatever did it up on the highway. Probably a blessing in disguise, didn’t really realize how bad they were until I investigated. Taking it to the mechanic so it’ll all be done right and I don’t need to worry about it. 

At least the tire was kind enough to wait for payday. That’s a win.

I’ve also got taxes to contend with this week, although it should be less stressful than last year because I’ve given up straight away and hired a lovely professional like I finally did last year. Turns out if you worked for a questionable company and then abroad briefly (remotely) your taxes get all sorts of screwed up eternally. Luckily 2021 was the last year of weird job situations for a while (I hope) and 2022 taxes next year will be a walk in the park. I still may just stick with the professional. The peace of mind was miles better when I stopped doing them myself.

I convinced my dad to come with me as well, hes hiring my sweet tax professional too, because last year the computer program he used (no names, but I’m sure some of you can relate) screwed up the filing so badly that they ended up declaring my mom deceased (shes very much alive) and they never did get their return (because dead people apparently don’t get returns). I’m sure you can see why I’m throwing in the towel. Some people do this as a choice, and I’d rather pay them to figure it out. Especially since I don’t think I’m shifty enough for tax evasion and even if I was, I don’t look great in stripes.

But, jumping on a soap box for just a minute, why don’t they teach paying taxes in school? At least the basics, that most everyone will have to handle at some point? Because my sweet mother got sick before she taught me, and shed done my parents joint filing for 28 years, so dad and I were hopeless! So much googling that first year when we filed ourselves. Luckily my younger brother was able to benefit from our mistakes, but I really do wonder why there isn’t a “here’s some real world nonsense you gotta learn” class in high school? My parents tried, and I’m very blessed for that, but I know some of my friends didn’t have as much support at home so if there’s real world nonsense I completely missed, I would bet they never even had a chance. And if you screw up your taxes there’s some very unforgiving consequences. I bet a class like that could be kinda fun too.

Anyways, rant over, although apparently ranting is the mood of the week. I will say that farm taxes are easier in that they demand a set amount and that’s it. The fact that they go up every year while the services they are meant to provide seem to deteriorate is another matter. Also why are property taxes and such due on Christmas? That’s some scrooge mcduck nonsense right there. 

Well, that went entirely off the rails. Never let me blog while both annoyed and cold. And somebody take this soapbox from me, its causing me a mess of problems! 

Until we chat again my friends! 

Cabin Fever

Hello friends!
Let’s talk cold. Like -2 degrees cold. Because over the holiday weekends that’s where we ended up. I know we talk about the weather a lot here, but like, I lived in a place where it rained about 70% of the time and was always grey and overcast! You know why the bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle?! Because you get so used to the grey you can’t fathom another color! I’m sure it shocks no one that at one point my little heart considered studying meteorology, but really it is fascinating.

Believe it or not, these were warm estimates, although it has slowly started warming up a little. I am sitting under a comforter next to a space heater though, so not fast enough.

Or, in the case of -2 degrees where its normally not that cold: its terrifying. Sobering. Punched a big ole hole in my “we’re prepared” mindset.
For one main issue: it turns out my heating system stops working at about 20°. This is normally fine because while we regularly get down into the teens, it’s usually only for a few hours overnight. It’s a big problem when 11° is the high for the day. Its been ridiculously cold in the house. I’ve had two comforters on my bed and basically don’t go anywhere without some form of blanket. My little space heater has been working hard because most tech devices don’t appreciate the uncharacteristically cold temperatures either.
It also caused the heaters to my outdoor water supply to quit. Which means literally everything froze up and I had split hoses turning my property into a lovely ice rink the minute we got a little thaw going. Not ideal.
I finally snuck out to get some hay, i was kinda worried about it because we haven’t really had the flatbed out in the snow yet, and due to the temperatures and such neither county had bothered with plowing the roads. In their defense, its been scary cold and dumping lots of snow, plus this time last year they accidentally parked a plow in my neighbors field, which I’d imagine is quite the deterrent. It was very odd to walk into my room look out on a pretty white snow patch (I wasn’t completely over it last year like I am already this year) and just seeing one poor gentleman and my neighbors standing out staring at a plow sitting askew down an embankment into my neighbors field. I’d imagine that was a very scary ride.

Poor dad took a fall in the snow this year, which has not helped his love of the snow, but he’s doing okay now. Jammed his back for a while, the poor thing. He’s already fighting a bad back so I’m trying to help keep him off the slick stuff as much as possible.
The upside to cold temperatures is it’s made staying inside a little easier. I’m less tempted to spend a whole day puttering around outside, which works out since we’ve been crazy swamped at work the last few weeks. My boss made sure we all got lovely holiday weekends, which I am so grateful for, but we are in a highly time sensitive space so there’s always a million things to be done and we are now playing a little more catchup than I think we had realized. I’m simultaneously glad and a little bit regretful I didn’t take any extra PTO for the holidays, because I was able to keep most of my plates spinning, but also, I’m kinda missing the usual new year refreshed feeling.
But it’s also cool because for the first time ever in my actual career I might be able to take a few days off this summer. I always got magically called in on days off in previous roles (except for the last one, to be fair, I just wasn’t there long enough to try a vacation). My first “grown up” role I worked 365 days a year because my boss always forgot they needed something on the weekend or on the rare holiday and I didn’t meet the priority standards for using any time off. We were not in any sort of hurry either, so I never understood. Oh well, each chapter of life is a learning experience. Some lessons blow but whatever.
In any case the crazy hours at work have meant less time to properly focus on the blog, or the farm, or laundry (its getting a little dire, not gonna lie) so I’m hoping to figure out a way of better juggling it all. Especially come springtime because I have plans! I have so many farm related plans. Some may be cost and time prohibitive, most involve me not breaking myself midsummer and needing to drastically scale back everything, and all of them require a good work life balance.
Also, in a completely unrelated realm of topic: I totally selfishly want credit for recording two 45 second snippets showing off some of the snow and my plans were dashed! Dashed I tell you! By the fact that they simply will. Not. Transfer. Off my phone. Help!

Imagine this, but in video form.

(This may be a sign this blog needs a companion YouTube channel so I could upload off my phone… but that sounds really, really scary). Anyways, if I figure this out, I’ll tack them on to the next post, or maybe just put them in their own little mid-week thing? But that’s putting a lot of confidence in my abilities to make my phone talk to my computer, and they simply won’t! Hatfield’s and McCoys dressed up as windows and android.
Welp, this went entirely off the rails, didn’t it? This is what happens when I can’t be outside. I need spring!
Until we chat again my friends 

The Ho-Ho-Holidays

Hello friends!

(Happy New Years! I am admittedly writing this on the 29th, because I won’t be around the internet much this weekend, but I hope your New Years Weekend is everything you wished, and that 2022 is amazing!)

We did it! Another lovely Christmas in the books! It’s kinda funny though, this year, because I was so careful about spreading the joy out in small doses throughout the month, I think this is the first year where the relief is fairly small, since there simply was not a lot of stress to start. A wonderful Christmas miracle.

We had such fun at the family secret Santa on Christmas eve, got to see some family members who are usually working odd hours or generally don’t make it to as many events, obviously spent a lot of time holding the newest family members, and I think my person liked their gift.

I was randomly assigned my cousin’s fiancé as my secret Santa giftee this year, and since I know family is very important to him and he has a brand new little daughter, I opted to give him a family photoshoot opportunity with all the bells and whistles, prints, a big old frame, the works. A couple people have asked if that was a cheat since I take photos as a hobby and have done shoots for the family before, but to me, saying yes to a photoshoot, whether as a gift (which I’ve done before) or not, guarantees a minimum of about 25-40 hours dedicated work to a project (my cousins wedding was actually closer to 60), and it’s usually kinda expensive for me too, so it’s definitely not a “well I’ll just do this because I have nothing better” gift. At least, I certainly don’t see it that way.

My cousin hosted Christmas since she has such a lovely little home, she’s so proud of. She should be, its adorable and she and her husband have put such time and effort into making it a cozy place to be. They’ve really made it a lovely place to raise kiddos and take on the world together. It’s got lots of little old home quirks but is also updated to show off their personalities.

She made a wonderful dinner, and we all potlucked the side dishes, which worked out amazingly as usual. There was so much good food that I need to run about 40 miles to work off that meal, I ate so much. 

I made green bean casserole with bacon and sauteed mushrooms, as well as no bake peanut butter bars. I know the casserole was delicious, I got to try some, and it was gone before seconds could be had, and I’m hoping the peanut butter bars were good, they were gone before i could try them myself. I assume that’s a good sign. I think it’s also a sign to make some more for new years. I’m also going to make some for my neighbors as a thank you for always scraping my driveway with their snow blade, I’ve never asked but he’s so big hearted that my driveway is almost always cleared day of. I want to make sure he knows he’s appreciated.

I remember as a child someone told me, I wish I remembered who, that calories don’t count over the holidays. Obviously, that’s not true, but I think the sentiment behind it is “don’t make yourself miserable over the holidays, just be prepared to put in the work before and after” and I think that’s fair. For what it’s worth, I also joke that they don’t count because you do so much running around on the holidays you’ve pre burnt them off. Also, I just love watching my brother short out when I say that. I always call it girl math.

Christmas day was lovely and calm, we got up late, and I started the day by baking some cinnamon rolls (that were preassembled, so they were very easy to get in the oven). While they baked, we did our stockings and enjoyed watching the valley slowly wake up. 

I definitely always push the idea that the holiday is not about gifts, as a Christian I think it’s important to consider beyond the platitudes the “reason for the season” and give some thanks and consideration for the overarching importance of the Christmas holiday, but there is something to be said for realizing how much love and effort went into the gifts you received. From my shy little cousin picking out some lovely spice blends for my secret Santa gift, to my dad’s choice of a wonderful light bar for the front of my car (something I’ve been talking about for eons) it was clear to me that a lot of consideration went into my gift choices, and I felt so loved and seen. If similar sentiments are to be believed, Christmas morning had similar vibes for my immediate family members too. My dad got a lovely desk upgrade (which has been riding around in my car under a blanket for over a month because it outweighed me by a decent amount and was both taller and wider than I so I simply could not move it by myself) and I finally (finally!) after many tries in recent years, surprised my brother with a video game he wasn’t expecting but totally loved. My mom’s surprise gift was a hair straightener that is built to work a little better with her disabilities, so now she can do almost anything shed like with her hair independently, and independence is in vogue in our house lately.

I, uh, clearly don’t have a gift for arranging gifts in a decorative way. Also, I couldn’t get the stocking to hang on the stove after I fill them, so they sat in each person’s preferred sitting spot instead

All in all, three days of relaxing, feeling very loved (and very full of food) were much needed, we watched the snow fall, caught a MythBusters marathon, and generally slowed down. Going back to work was a little more of a chore than expected, sure wish I had taken the week off haha.

Until we chat again my friends.