Thursday, September 27, 2012

Inspiration Thursday

I like the themed and group activities that I see on the blogs.  Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real.  Friday Night Sew-In.  This Moment.  Weekend Reading.  Harvest Monday.  I've never really taken part in any of these, but I enjoy them every time I see them.  I used to really enjoy Rhonda's On My Mind Fridays which I did participate in as often as I could manage.  So, I've decided to try a themed post of my own.  Inspiration Thursday--a song, a quote, a book--something that inspired me recently that I think I should share with the world.  If you wish you could link back from your own blog or leave a comment telling me what inspiration you've found recently.

Better People - Xavier Rudd
People saving whales
And giving your thanks to our seas

My respect to the ones in the forest

Standing up for our old trees

Them giving food to the hungry
Hope to the needy

Giving life to a baby, giving care for free

'Cause there is freedom around us

We have everything we need and I will care for you
'Cause you care for me
And we all have opinions, some of them get through

But there's better people with more good to do, good to do
What I have could be a message

Or just some words from my heart

My respect to the ones making changes

For all the lives they'll give their all

Like giving food to the hungry
Hope to the needy

Giving life to a baby, giving care for free

'Cause there is freedom around us

We have everything we need and I will care for you
'Cause you cared for me
And we all have opinions, some of them get through

But there's better people with more good to do, good to do

When our world keeps spinning round and round it goes
Human Nature keeps spreading its disease

And our children keep growing up with
what they know
From what we teach and what they see

And so only a question of the time we have
And the lives that our children need

As they can only keep growing up with
what they know
through what we teach and what they see

Like giving food to the hungry
Giving hope to the needy

Giving life to a baby, giving care for free
'Cause there is freedom around us

We have everything we need and I will care for you
'Cause you care for me
We all have opinions, some of them get through

But there's better people with more good to do, good to do
Oh good to do

Make-Your-Own Postcards

My boss is a postcard nut.  He belongs to a postcard club where he receives and sends several cards a week to/from people all across the United States--people who, like him, love postcards, I guess.  He also has a collection of postcards at the front desk of the library.  They fill an entire wall from floor to ceiling.  Every student, staff, or faculty member that travels anywhere is told "Don't forget to send us a postcard!" 

So, when I started sending postcards (as part of a tremendously successful New Year's Resolution) I had someone to share my new found enthusiasm with.  I think postcards are swell.  You can find them just about everywhere for a reasonable price--even the ones at Yellowstone National Park were only $.50, I think.  They are short so you only have time to give the highlights of life or one good deep thought.  There is no "pressure" or time commitment to write a big, long letter, but people still know you care about them, are thinking of them, and maybe just a little snapshot of what you've been up to.  And postcard stamps are cheaper, too.

Bill recently gave me a few Make-Your-Own Postcards from the Kimac Company out of Connecticut.  They have preprinted the writing side of the cards, but they leave the photo side of the card blank for you to design to your liking.  It is one giant sticker which allows you to customize your own postcards.  You can stick photos from trips creating personal postcards of your vacations.  Bill cut out the image from a favored, but tattered t-shirt and used it to send as a card to an old friend.  I used a doodle to adorn my postcard.  Really, the options are endless. 
The doodle, with the postcard portion already cut out.
It was a really easy and simple craft, too.  I took a doodle that I'd made during a slow period at a craft show and traced the postcard around the part of the doodle I wanted to keep.  I then cut it out to the size of the card following the lines.  Then, peel the sticker backing off, align the doodle, and press it on to the sticker side of the postcard. 
That is my very special postcard on the bottom and the remaining scrap of doodle on the top!
I thought it turned out really cool.  Now the question is who to send it to!?!
The backside of the card, all ready for writing and adressing!
I am sure a craft person could make these without the preprinted cards.  The USPS has standard sizes for postcard and sticky paper does exist so it would be easy enough to create at home, I think.  But Bill has given me a number of these Kimac cards so I haven't yet had to experiment with that idea yet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Matt's 31st

Last week marked Matt's 31st birthday. 
Possibly the neatest homemade birthday card I've seen, crafted by the lovely Michelle.  The inside message was "I hope you don't get so excited you wet your plants!" as well as "Sorry the worms can't spell." 
This card from my dad made us appropriate for such outdoorsy folk!
I like this happy look on his face.
We have two mounts for flags at our house so Matt had been wanting a flag for some time.  Our friends, Scott and Kris, have an Earth flag that we'd always admired and now we have one of our own.  It looks real nice flapping in the breeze, too.
I bought Matt a pair of alpaca socks, raised, sheared, spun, and knit right here in Montana.  He wore them 7 days in a row and they still never developed a smell.  He said they are far and away the most comfortable socks he's ever had.  Alpaca fiber is amazing stuff, if you ask me.  We learned quite a bit about it from another craft vendor, which  is where I got the socks as well.  They even have little alpacas knit into the bottoms of the socks. 
Matt insists on making his own birthday dinner every year.  I don't know if this is a statement on my cooking skills or not.  He says it isn't, that he just likes to cook.  I say, its his birthday so whatever makes him happy.  He make enchiladas every year, I swear. 
Dave and JoJean came over for dinner to celebrate with us.  It was kind of funny actually.  We made dinner plans with them before realizing it was Matt's birthday.  So it turned into a birthday dinner party!   The more the merrier!
After dinner Josh and a few other friends came over for cupcakes and making music!
And playing games!  Michelle was pretty excited I owned Guess Who?
This is your captain speaking.....
The next morning I smiled at the "aftermath" of our celebration.  Kitchen chairs pulled out into the living room at every angle.  Cupcake wrappers discarded in stacks on the end tables.  Guess Who? still spread out in the middle of floor.  Empty beer bottles in a line on the kitchen counter.  Guitars, a flute, and sheet music taking over the coffee table. 

It was fun.  Matt must have commented on how much fun he'd had a half dozen times the next day.  I guess I can be confident it was a birthday success story.

DIY Ice Blocks

Matt and I do a good amount of traveling in a year.  We camp out and sell tie-dye on the road.  We travel to see family and friends.  We enjoy attending concerts around the region.

So we pack a cooler quite a bit.  Being both vegan-esque and quite frugal we always bring our own foods when we hit the road, something I intend to blog about here soon.  But, even the best of travel foods will not be so great if all the ice in the cooler melts and the food spends the weekend swimming in lukewarm water.  Thus, ice is critical for eating on the road.

Block ice lasts way, way, way longer than the pebbles of ice that are sold much more widely.  In fact, Matt and I were just discussing how it is getting hard to buy block ice.  Grocery stores have it occasionally, but gas stations never do any more, it seems.  We theorize that the ice makers realized what a good deal the block ice was and so stopped offering it in favor of selling the rather quick-melting ice cubes.  Maybe we're too cynical, but whatever the reason block ice is no longer readily for sale in my neck of the woods.

Ice is one of those things that seems like such a small investment as to not really matter.  You can find 5-10 lbs of ice for $1.29-$4.99 depending on the location.  But, even the small amounts really add up over time.  A five day road trip could mean restocking the cooler with ice a few times. Taking dozens of road trips a year this really adds up.

So what is a thrifty traveler to do?  We make our own blocks of ice.  (Ha!  Take THAT ice companies!)

DIY Ice Blocks
Thoroughly clean old plastic butter, margarine, tofu, or shortening tubs.
Fill 1/2-3/4 full of water.
Place in freezer (if you use a baking tray as a "shelf" you can probably do multiple layers)
Allow to freeze solid.
Squeeze the plastic container until the ice slides out (some may crack if filled too full)
Ta Da!  Ice blocks!

We take our homemade ice blocks and line the bottom of the cooler.  We then place the food on top of the blocks and fill in the remaining are with the ice cubes from our freezer.  We've found these ice blocks to last for nearly a week, especially if you take the time to drain off the water that accumulates inside the cooler as the ice melts.  The water only make it melt faster. 

We used homemade ice blocks on our trip to Colorado this past weekend.  Since we were staying over at a friend's house we even brought along a couple shortening containers to make ice blocks in for the journey home.  It worked like a charm. 

I sure admire the inexpensive, low-tech solution, especially one that involves things I already have.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A New Journal

I started a new journal this week.  I am always excited by the prospect of starting out fresh again in a new one--blank pages to fill with the scribbled notes that are the odds and ends of my life.  I also always feel just the slightest pressure to make that first page a good one.  Its the first page after all.  Its not to be wasted! 

I don't keep a dairy in, what I consider, the tradtional sense.  I don't write every day.  I don't write what I did during the day.  Its much more random and piecemeal than that.  I like the idea of the traditional daily log, but I have just never managed to keep it up long term.  Spontaneous, as-needed journaling suits my personality much better.

I jot down passages I like from books. 
Or figures and stats I find interesting or astonishing. 
Or quotes and funny things Matt says that I want to remember.  
There are lists of things to be done--that frequently pops up in my journals.
And poems that I write--though I am not so prolific a poet as I was at one time. 
I tape in bits of this or that that I want to keep as a memento--things such as handwritten notes from my dad or drawings from my niece or particularly beautiful, red, autumn leaves.
I scribble in phone numbers and birthdays and other important events and numbers.
I compose essays on my thoughts--most frequently on the simple joy and pleasures of life found all around me, especially in nature.

Whenever I finish a journal I spend time reading back through it, usually reading the highlights aloud to Matt.  Much like the Year-In-Photos project this revisiting of the past months is quite enjoyable for me.  It reminds me of all the fun I've had, the various books read, the subjects researched, the hikes taken, the sunsets watched, the joy of my days.

Its is always such a delightful mixed bag of things that it makes me smile to re-read....this last journal contained everything from statistics on botulism in the US (the topic came up because of canning) to a 50-Things-To-Do-Before-I-Die list (which was actually made back in college) to birdwatching lists (I used to keep a separate journal for that, but it fell by the wayside) to random statement like "Watching 100+ crows slowly trickling across the sky is both amazing and creepy.  One of these days I am going to follow them and learn where they go," or "I love:  Matt, badgers, mountains, the smell of damp pine, fields of sagebrush, birds, sunshine, misty mornings." 

Its a good lot of mixed ideas, lists, and happenings and creates a great picture of all the small and large things that fill my days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Universal Dance

I think I've made my feelings on dancing pretty clear.  It is one of my most dear past times and thrills in me the recreational, the creative, and the spiritual.

So with that said, check out this superb video of dancing around the world which was sent to me by my great-aunt Mary Ann.
I liked the line from the song that goes, "We are all glowing embers of a distant fire."

 Smiles, Music, Laughter, Dancing.  These things are universal

Monday, September 17, 2012

First Strawberries

 We've been having our first taste of our very own homegrown strawberries.
 Matt says "How are you ever supposed to buy a strawberry at the store after that?!"

Eat a Peach (Tomato)

We are very, very happy with our tomato patch.  The cages we made have even exceeded our expectations.  The varieties we are growing are delightful and productive.  We already have a freezer full of tomatoes waiting for us to find a spare moment to transform them into pint jars of tomato juice and sauce.  The salsas and sauces we've made have been of outstanding flavor.  We're just all around happy about it.
Peach tomatoes.

One of the more delightful varieties we grew this year are called Peach tomatoes.  They are rather small and the most lovely pale yellow color.  They have just the slightest layer of fuzz on them, just like a peach.  They are so neat-o.
Matt says "Eat a peach!"
We're also growing Mountain Boys, Earliest Paste, Old German, Roma, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, and Tangerine. 
Matt admiring a Black Krim.
A couple handfuls of Peach tomatoes.
So far the only variety that we've not gotten to sample this year is the Cherokee Purple.  They are taking their sweet time to ripen.  Boy is that plant LOADED when in finally does start to ripen though! 
Left, Peach tomato.  Right, Tangerine tomato.
The Tangerine tomatoes are another really neat variety.  They are so golden as to not look at all like a tomato to me.  They remind me more of a persimmon.  They taste like a tomato though!
Last week we made a pasta sauce that had five different varieties in it!  How fun is that!?  This week we're going to make an all yellow tomato sauce.  I bet that is neat, too!  There are so many cool varieties out there it is hard to choose what to grow.  Thus it seems every year we end up with something new and fuzzy peach tomatoes. 

Talkin' Softball

I played softball for the first time in roughly a decade last Friday.  I was sort of nervous that I'd be terrible as I am so out of practice, but I wasn't so nervous I was going to let it stop me.  I used to just love to play softball.  I played on a team every summer of my youth.  It was always so much fun.  So when it was announced that we were having a faculty/staff vs. students softball match I was eager to sign up.  Turns out I was nervous for nothing.  It was just like riding a bicycle.  It all came right back.  I guess even a decade off can't untrain that kind of muscle memory. 

I got up to bat four times and made a nice hit three of the four.  I also made it on base three of the four at-bats.  I never considered batting my strong suit--I was much better at defense--so I was supremely pleased with my record for the day. 

I also caught a foul pop up at home plate (I've always played catcher) and so made an out for my team.  That was always my favorite part of softball.  I got a rush out of jumping up, flipping off my mask, and catching the ball as it came back down from directly overhead.  It was always super exciting. 

I even tried to charge home plate in a moment of excitement at the urging of my 3rd base coach.  That may not have been the most brilliant moment as the catcher for the other team was a large football player who probably had 100 pounds on me.  I sort of bounced off of him, sending myself and dirt flying everywhere.  I didn't even get the run.  I did get a large scrape on my knee and a surprisingly deep cut on my hand.  I should have slid.  I would have ended up dirty and battered still and maybe I could have scored.  Oh well.  When I was playing a decade ago I knocked down my fair share of girls (smaller than me) running to home plate.  Its only fair that what goes around comes around.  That football player felt SO bad.  I mean, think about it, he totally bowled over the librarian!  (Even if it was my fault, which I am willing to accept that it was.)  I hugged him after picking myself up from the dirt to show there were no hard feelings.

So, that glowing review now said I will also add that I am so incredibly, ridiculously, unbelievably sore from the waist down that it is just unreal.  Unreal.  My legs feel wooden and barely under my control.  The only time they don't feel wooden is when I try to bend them.  Then they feel like fire....or like someone is stabbing me mid-thigh.  I have to pick them up with my hands to cross my legs or get in the car because I can't bear to lift them.

I guess doing several hundred squats in one day (as you do when playing catcher) was a bit more than I am used to.  And I thought my legs were in pretty good shape with all the walking and cycling I do!

It was still totally worth it to have that much fun with my colleagues and our students.   It was so enjoyable that I was just about bursting.

Oh, and the students whipped us.  I think it was 8-1.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Photo Randomness

A little photo randomness for Friday!
Matt has discovered a new favorite bread recipe.  The French Style Loaf from Beard on Bread.  This book is very useful for us and we've enjoyed just about every loaf we've tried.  The banana bread being the one exception.  This French Style bread has only one raising which make it quick and easy to make.  It is SO tasty.

One of my delightfully grateful library users brought be flowers for helping him track down some books.  It is so nice when people are grateful and appreciative of what you do.  It IS my job after all, but it is so nice to be so kindly thanked.  These white flowers were dyed rather day-glow colored.  One of the blue flowers still had one single white petal.  I thought that was kind of neat.  I wonder why that one petal didn't take up the dye.  I love having bicycle baskets to carry all my belongings, including a vase of flowers!

We bought 15 pounds of cucumbers at the farmer's market for pickling. We decided we couldn't let our move further west deter us from cycling downtown for the market and so off we went on our bicycles.  The ride there was easy-peasy....the ride home with the cucumbers, tortillas, garlic, dill, corn, and spicy peppers was a bit tougher!  I am still so glad that everything in Billings is reachable by bicycle.  It really is the best mode of transportation, in my humble opinion.
I really like my backyard.  Sometimes I wake up in the morning and just spend a few moments gazing out the bedroom window into the quiet, green space with the rustling aspen leaves and calling chickadees.  Its also a great place to have dinner... 

...and play Yahtzee.

Matt's brother has golden raspberries.  We planted some this year, but they will not fruit until next year.  Ryan let us sample what we have in store for us.  Yummy!

I am super impressed with Ryan's garden.  He makes such good use of space, especially by growing in containers.  He has a pepper plant that is nearly as tall as I am!  Matt, as I believe I have mentioned, is over the moon to have his brother to talk gardening with. 

I finally managed to break Matt out of his Yahtzee-Only game playing rut.  And I stomped him.  More important than that though was the we used a bunch of words we'd never played before such as condor, pacify, doilies, and reggae.  That always pleases me.

All the smoke from the wildfires has made for some pretty amazing sunsets/rises.  This one was taken near Lewistown, MT on our recent tie-dye vending trip.

Matt picked me a four leaf clover and basically blew my mind.  I'd never seen one before.  He then dashed the mind blowing by saying they're really not as rare as you might think.  And then he promptly found a second one for me.  It was still cool.  We figured out that they are just much easier to find in very small patches of clover, but the instinct is to start looking for them in the big patches.  In the big patches the leaves all run together and its much harder to tell what is what.

Homegrown fingerling potatoes roasted with olive oil and some fresh homegrown herbs.  We need to get better at using herb fresh.  We just don't have as much experience with them as we do with dry herbs.  It is uncharted cooking territory for me.  In the store they are so ridiculously expensive, but with my homegrown herbs I have no reason not to experiment.  There were quite good, but we definitely needed more herbs, especially chives!

Don't I look happy with my cucumbers?!  This photo makes me laugh

Busy, Busy

Mountaineer squash.
I keep waiting to get back into the groove of this new semester, but so far I feel I've been barely keeping up. Oh well, next week is the fourth week of the semester maybe things will be finally settled down a bit by then.  Of course, that is what I thought might be the case this week. 
Hungarian wax peppers.
But things are looking up.  My desk is now pretty much cleared off for a change.  A cluttered desk makes me feel cluttered inside and like I didn't accomplish all I should have.  I have a reputation for having the cleanest desk in the library and I like that.   A clean desk has decidedly not been the case so far this semester and it'd been contributing to my feeling overwhelmed. 
Nardello peppers.
Yeah, next week has got to be the one where I start feeling back on top of things.  It will.  And I guess even if it doesn't this madhouse feeling has sure been making my work day absolutely fly by!
 Its been quite busy at home, too. I think when you are fully engaged in living that is to be expected.
Cayenne peppers.
We took our tie-dye on the road selling at three shows in seven days which is the most we've ever done.  Consequently, we've been busy tie-dying.  We're just about done putting up apple products for the year.   We still would like a few more jars of apple pie filling, but who knows if we'll find the time before all the apples are gone again.   We might be resigned to a few fewer crisps this winter. 
Banana peppers.
We're picking grapes tonight after the faculty vs. students softball game (I haven't played in years and am both excited and nervous) and processing them into juice over the weekend.  We recently sampled one of the few remaining jars from last year as a reminder as to why we needed to get on it and get those grapes picked and soon! 
Jalapeno peppers.
The weather is cooling off.  We even had to close the windows a few nights.  We're hoping and praying the seasons don't change too quick.  We have lots of tomatoes and peppers and things on the plant that are just not quite ready for frosts to come.  We've been stockpiling the skinned, cored tomatoes in the deep freeze until we have enough for a big batch of tomato sauce/juice to can. 
Football season has started again so Matt will be enjoying spending more time with his guy friends.  They don't see much of each other during the camping/vending/gardening/canning season so football season gives them all a reason to congregate at least once a week.  Matt isn't a huge fan, but he does enjoy it and he really enjoys the time with his brother and his friends.
It's Matt's birthday next week.  There are yellow leaves on the grass in the backyard.  I've had to take out the silken long johns to wear under my skirts on the morning bicycle ride to the library.  Where did summer go?  Is it really the middle of September already?!  Wild.