Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life Beyond Facebook

I've had time to work on projects, learn new skills, and spend time with my husband.  Instead of being glued to a computer screen all day and night, I've enjoyed finishing books one right after another.  I am not concerned with the goings-on of everyday life in the way of status updates, Tweets, or obnoxious trivial bits of data.  My life is so much more fulfilling without Facebook!

I won't say I was addicted, because obviously I gave it up cold turkey and haven't looked back.  The one thing I miss is pictures of my cousin's children.  I wish they'd switch to Flickr or Picasa and share with me that way, but I understand the draw of large social networking sites.  At least The Man's cousin posts pictures on her blog, so I get my cute kid fix. :)

I don't miss the games, the advertisements, the logging in and out, or the desire to check-check-check for updates.  It is almost like the feeling of graduating from college: I kept thinking I had to do something for weeks, constantly reminding myself, "no, it's over, there's no homework now."  There aren't any status updates to read, any events to join, or spawning jealousy over who is doing what, when, and where.  It's over.  YAY!

There are a few people from high school that I would love to stay in contact with outside of Facebook, but I'm not sure they're following my blog, so I don't know if we're still in touch.  Facebook was good for that, but if we can't remain friends without the use of a website, I don't think we're really friends in the first place.  Shared history is not good enough in my book to call someone a "friend."

I'm not bashing Facebook (not today anyway), and I respect other people who use the site, but I'm not headed back any time soon.  Life is so much better face-to-face, inside real paper books, stitching and crafting, sharing and laughing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sister's Engagement Photo Session

I had an adventure yesterday morning taking my sister's engagement photos.  The three of us found several neat spots to take pictures and have fun mocking crows, stand in tall grasses, and climb trees.  I was so pleased with how my new camera works, especially the seemingly endless battery life.  We took over 200 photos, and my general rule of 10 great shots out of 100 and 1 exceptionally fantastic shot out of those 10 rang true yesterday.  They got about 40 great shots and 5 or 6 terrific photographs.  I can't ask for more than that.

If anyone lives in the mid-Willamette Valley and needs inexpensive photography, I can help.  I'm not trying to break into the business by any means--and I don't do weddings--but I remember what that crunch felt like and hope to help others in a similar bind.  I don't have a studio, don't really have any special photo editing software, and I don't even have a payment idea figured out, but everybody deserves to have recent, good pictures of themselves and loved ones.  Photography shouldn't cost a fortune.  Then again, I'm not trying to make my living at it...

Friday, June 25, 2010

You're Cut Off

I've been watching VH1's You're Cut Off.  It's such a self-esteem booster to watch the show.  The premise is simple: nine super wealthy young women are cut off financially by their benefactors.  They are made to live in a regular house and have to cook their own food, clean their own living space, and budget for supplies, food, clothes, and any other necessity.  They get a life coach to help them become less spoiled and a little more appreciative of their posh lifestyles.
Let's just say the whole "making a bed" thing was hilariously beyond these women.  They're so self-absorbed and over the top, it's a riot.  They fight with catty statements, "You need more botox!" or "You're just mean because you're ugly!"  I have to laugh at the stupidity.  Granted, these women could shop me to death, but they'd starve before they figured out which side of the bread to put butter on.  When one of the obnoxious women explained that PB&J was "poor people food," I about cried laughing so hard. 

If PB&J is for poor people, take away my money and leave me the jam, fresh ground peanut butter, and homemade bread.  I haven't met a person yet who refuses to eat PB&J.  This show makes me feel soooooo much better about my own life.  It also makes me want a PB&J!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So Cool

We bought an air conditioner!  That might not seem like a big deal to most people, but living in a second-floor apartment through last year's 100-degree weather was not fun.  We price-shopped quite a bit and ended up getting one for half the price of what we anticipated buying.  Our apartment's maintenance crew installed it for us including a plexiglass insert so we're air- (and bug-) tight.  Now if only our power bill won't go through the roof (we don't need a skylight, too).

Yesterday wasn't great for me.  I was home sick with a nasty headache and ended up sleeping most of the day.  Feeling better today, but I wish I could have felt a little bit better at home and got a few things done while I was here.

We took my car into the shop just to see what a service tech recommends based on the symptoms my car has been showing.  He said it doesn't seem like anything to worry about.  We're supposed to keep checking the coolant levels and engine temperature.  As long as there isn't an obvious leak or odd sound, keep driving it.  Goes against my gut, but he's the expert.

That's all the news from me today... in this case, no news is good news.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Churning Butter

I thought it would be fun to make my own butter this weekend.  After nearly failing, smashing my finger, getting a serious arm workout, and being underwhelmed with the end product, I'm not sure it was all worth it.

Start off with a pint of heavy cream.  For those of you not familiar with imperial measurements, that's two cups.  A pint's a pound the world 'round, so it's one pound of liquid.  We good?  Good.

Put the nearly-room-temp heavy cream (aka "whipping cream") into a big plastic container with a tight lid.  I would have used a glass jar, but I didn't have one handy.  A four-cup capacity (or twice your original volume) should be adequate.  Apply lid.  Put determined look on face.

Then shake violently about one shake every second in a strong downward motion so the liquid hits a side of the container forcefully.  But don't throw the container.  And don't do this over the edge of a counter where you might get really violent and catch your finger between the container and the counter edge and smash your finger.  It hurts.  Trust me, I know.

I ended up doing this about five minutes before I had a delightful whipped cream.  Another five minutes of perfecting my technique resulted in butter!  The liquid remaining is buttermilk.  It can be chilled again and kept about a day (maybe two) and used for buttermilk biscuits or pancakes.  Run COLD water (not sorta cold like I mistakenly used the first time) over the butter, reapply lid, shake another two minutes to really firm up the butter. Discard the liquid from the butter carefully.  Then repeat the cold water rinse five or six times until the water drains clear.  Add a little salt and stir up the butter if you want.

Poof!  Butter!  That you not only spent more per ounce on than store-bought butter, but you had to work harder and longer to get it.  Yay!

My batch yielded a little over a cup of butter, about 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and somehow lost 1/4 cup of cream in the process.  Not that impressive.  It tasted like... butter.  Seeing as how I don't butter toast or muffins or anything like that, I used most of my butter in cookies.  They're okay.  Nothing fancy.

But I can make butter, gosh darnit.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Four Batch Day

The Man and I got up entirely too early for our liking today.  After a frantic (and fruitless, no pun intended) search for the correct size of Ball freezer jars, we made our way to "our" strawberry patch north of Lebanon.  You must understand, loyal reader, that there is only one place to get the perfect strawberries.  As a child of the "Strawberry City," I have been brainwashed into believing that Good & Miner berries are the best.  I've yet to taste any better berries, however.

With Mom, Dad, Sis, Future-Brother-in-Law, The Man, and myself picking into our own buckets, we were in and out in under half an hour.  Fourteen-plus pounds of strawberries for $20 (including tip) to pick our own berries... not bad!  And after the free-sugar incident, some pectin, Karo syrup, and a few new containers, I think we were out $40 combined.  That's $10 per batch, or about $1.50 per pint of homemade jam.  It'll be cheaper next year since I won't need new containers.  I figure that's about half the price of store-bought crap (you heard me), plus we know exactly what quality berries were used.

We wrapped up the jam making and had everything in the freezer by 1:00pm.  The Man and I swung... swinged... swang? by my sister's new apartment.  She's getting settled in her spacious new digs.  While the bathroom floor plans leave something to be desired, she has a pretty good location and is a straight shot into town and just five minutes from parents should she need a cup of flour.  Or cereal.  I'm voting on cereal.

The Man and I went out to lunch with Sis and her fiancé before heading home where we promptly crashed.  I cleaned up and froze some of the extra strawberries for us (slicing a few for an ice cream topping tonight), wrote a shopping list, and may or may not have fallen asleep standing up.  We went to Mass, went out to dinner with friends to Block 15 in Corvallis (ate too much), then went grocery shopping.  After lugging our loot back to our apartment, showering, and having a moment to relax, I'm ready for bed.

Four batches of strawberry jam is a LOT of work.  Glad it's over, and happy to reap the--literal--fruits of my labor.  On homemade biscuits.  With homemade butter.  Yeah.  :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Basting Guns are Not For Turkeys

I'm waffling again about whether or not to buy a basting gun to help stabilize my quilt project.  I don't like safety pins, and I absolutely do not want to use straight pins (something about bleeding on a project doesn't appeal to me).  But I'm not sure I need a basting gun.  Will I really use it that much?  Is there a better alternative?

I took a few of my sister's engagement pictures last weekend.  It was more of an adventure to test out some settings on my camera, but we got a few good pictures.  The silhouette option is really cool!  Too bad the location wasn't exactly a great backdrop.  We'll go out and take some more pictures soon.

Busy weekend ahead including having friends over Friday night and strawberry picking and jam making sometime Saturday or Sunday.  I am actually looking forward to most if it--even the dirty berry picking/eating/cleaning part.

Nothing else new to report.  Tired.  Wish it was Friday already.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I Hate Providence Insurance

Remember back a few weeks when I went to the doctor for no reason other than to get a refill prescription for Singulair?  And then the insurance company rejected the drug my doctor prescribed?  That's right, the company that pays for the drug disagrees with what my doctor is telling me to take.  Some insurance secretary is disagreeing with a medical doctor.  Grrrreat.

I've received a rejection letter in the mail and stayed in close contact with my doctor's office, but it doesn't look like Providence will budge.  They apparently believe shooting shit up my nose is a better solution than a simple pill.  Bottom line is money, I'm sure, but there has to be a better reason than that.  Singulair may be more expensive than, say, Zyrtec, but it's the only drug in it's class that does what it does.  It's a leukotriene receptor antagonist--fancy words for "keeps allergies under control"--unlike Zyrtec and Claritin which are essentially newer, non-drowsy forms of Benadryl (I love you).  Singulair and Zyrtec both do different things in the body, and they work together to create a better allergy drug.  Yay!  No other drug does that. Pfff.

So I got two more weeks of sample packs free from the nice allergist.  Apparently they understand my plight better than a lame insurance company.  And they're nice enough to give me free drugs.  :D

Hopefully grass will be done pollinating by the end of the month when I'm out of good drugs and can spend real time fighting this damn prescription battle.  It's not like I want barbiturates or oxycodone or some other fancy controlled substance... I just want to breathe clearly without having to look like a narc-ed out druggy using inhalant allergic meds.  The nasal spray... seriously? no.

Hand over the Singulair and nobody gets hurt.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Candy Sushi

I suppose they aren't "sushi" as much as "California rolls," but since I'm not into the whole seaweed, raw meat, sticky rice, avocado mess, we're going to go ahead and call it candy sushi, okay?  You can leave the lecture on Japanese cuisine at the door.  I don't care.

My sister wanted a Japanese-ish theme to her graduation party.  Aside from my candy sushi, it was an epic FAIL in the theme department.  Oh well.  We all ate waaay too much and had lots of fun.  But the candy sushi was a pretty big hit!

I started off with the Rice Krispie Treats.  That's not an endorsement for any particular brand, but I do buy name brand crisped rice cereal and real Jet-Puffed marshmallows.  You don't have to.  But yours just won't taste as good.  Plus the Rice Krispies have the recipe for the treats right on the box.  I made a half-batch of the box's recipe exactly as written.  Nothin' fancy.

Once it cooled for a few seconds in the pan, I rolled it out onto a Silpat.  The Silpat is a miracle of kitchen helpers that I use at least weekly.  I buttered my hands up and smoothed the treats out (being careful not to burn myself) into about a half-inch thick rectangle about a foot long and four or five inches wide.  Next, gummy worms!  You could use any gummy candy though.  I put two worms next to each other the whole length down, three groups of two worms to span the length of the soon-to-be roll.  Then I rolled it up the best I could being careful to match the ends and pack the treats down firmly as I went.  Once the logs--I made two of them from one half-batch of treats--cooled, I wrapped them in a single layer of green Fruit Roll-Ups.  Shrek 4287 had just premiered, so there was a promotional all-green series of mini roll-ups on the market.  Score!

Using a NON-serrated blade, I sawed through the logs making about 3/4" discs.  I plopped them on a paper plate and called it a day!  They tasted great, were easy to make, and caused me to have lots of leftovers.  I used the extra cereal, marshmallows, and butter to make a full batch of regular treats to go along with the candy sushi treats.  Yay for easy and cute desserts!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Patron Saint of Car Repair

We don't think it's the engine.  Yet.

My poor car huffed, puffed, smoked, and steamed this weekend, while I sweated, fretted, and paced knowing my wallet was about to be considerably lighter.  The only thing I hate worse than car repair bills are human repair bills (especially the dental kind).  Both The Man and I spoke with our fathers, the Eternal Wise Men of Car Issues, Specifically Camry Issues.  Thankfully their advice was very similar and practical.  My father was happy to hear that The Man's father was willing to do the dirty work.

Last night, after a dinner we more than happily paid for, The Man's father replaced the radiator and thermostat in my car. He put in a few other new things and changed the fluids (mostly).  With The Man's help, they tidied things up and were done in less than two hours.  Daylight quickly fading, they went for a test drive and pronounced the job well done.

After the dramatic huffing and puffing this weekend, we've not had a single overheating incident since then.  The coolant levels seem to be holding.  The engine oil is still amber and beautiful (seriously, when expecting to find frothy chocolatey oil--a sign of a blown head gasket, amber oil is a beautiful thing!).  We think the engine has been spared, at least for now.  Pushing 200,000 miles within the next year, I'm terrified to know what will go next.

The Man's Camry has nearly 500,000 miles on it.  I wouldn't be surprised to see all four tires just fall off one day.  All four tires give up at the same time and walk off. We'll walk out of our apartment and see a car on the pavement, tires off by themselves having a tire party, celebrating freedom from The Car that Will Not Die. 

Then the Patron Saint of Car Repair will come back down and whip the car into shape.  I'm not sure how he can be living and be a Patron Saint, but it sure feels like it when he swoops in and fixes things right up.  Phew!

Praying that the new radiator is the end of repairs for a loooooong while.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

OSU Graduation, Take Three

I attended my third OSU graduation this weekend, the first one as a participant in 2006, the second as a proud fiancée in 2009, and this time as a proud sister.  Three times was enough.

My sister graduated from OSU with her bachelor's degree on Saturday.  Four-and-a-half years in the making, she got a shiny diploma with her name on it.  The end of school finally arrived for our family!  Well, unless someone decides to go back to school, but I have doubts about that.  I'm done.  Sister's done.  Now to paying off those student loans...

We had a great party with just the immediate family.  The six of us--my husband and sister's fiancé included--had a wonderful dinner, lots of yummy "healthy" desserts (it had fruit in it at one point, so that's healthy right?), and an UNO game that would. not. end.

Friday night was busy making dessert for the party Saturday, and Saturday was busy from 8:00am to 12:45am (yeah, the next morning!), so I didn't exactly have a chance to blog until now.

Sunday morning was quiet, the only reprieve I got in the whole weekend.  The Man and I decided to go price shop some air conditioners for our apartment.  We're determined to not swelter when we can afford a little extra electricity.  On our way to the last store, we saw the Check Engine light come on in my car, and then we saw the temperature gauge at it's highest point.  Not good.  Steam and smoke puffed out the hood cracks.  Really not good.  So we put water in the radiator after it cooled a bit.  I was really surprised to have that problem since we just filled up the coolant tank within the last few months.  Ugh.  We got the car back home okay, thankfully.  The Man's father is going to swoop down to our rescue.  He can fix cars.  We know the radiator is cracked, so The Man's dad got a new one--on a Sunday afternoon no less--and will replace it for us.  If the problem seems too big for him, we will take the car in tomorrow morning to where The Man works and get it looked at by professionals.

I'm oversocialized, got too much sun (which is like fifteen minutes in the real world, but I do not tolerate the sun at all), don't feel particularly great, and have a major car issue. 

As long as it's not the engine though... we keep praying it's anything but the engine.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

IcyHotMan

It all started with a soccer game.  The Man has joined a summer co-ed league and plays one night a week.  He grew up playing lots of soccer, and it's healthy and pretty safe, so I figure it's fine, right?  Except last night The Man comes dragging home after two games in a row on lungs full of pollen.  His asthma was going crazy, his mood not pleasant, and his body was aching.  He drew himself a bath--yes, bath--and soaked his tired achy bones.  The bath also cleaned his body and helped him relax.

Meanwhile, I'm out stitching away on my latest craft project.  Sewing machine was humming, iron sizzling, fingers getting stuck by pins right and left: all marks of a successful crafting adventure.  Just as I was wrapping up my work for the night, I thought I caught a whiff of a Vick's Vapor Inhaler, my most favorite nose candy when I have a cold (it clears the sinuses, lemme tell ya).  Nah, just my minty gum I tell myself.

Cleaned, refreshed, and ready for bed, my dear husband hobbled over to give me a hug.  I realized just as I opened my arms to greet him that the Vick's wasn't in my head.  And it wasn't Vick's.  My husband had slathered his entire body with IcyHot.  It's a wonder there wasn't any in his hair.  Anyone who says that stuff doesn't smell obviously never stood downwind of someone who covered their whole self.  Seriously, my nose burned.  I couldn't even sneeze my sinuses were so clear.  There was no deep breathing to get through it.  My eyes watered.  I lamented having to sleep next to IcyHotMan.

But I did.  Because I love him.  And the older we get, the smellier we'll be.  Just wait until we break out the Bengay!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sticky Tape, Sticker Books, and Stickery Trees

I have few memories of the farm as vivid as the chest of drawers with the permanent markers inside and the tape on top.  Grandma encouraged my artistic side probably more than anyone else, always leveling my creations with a "pretty good" and the ever-so-rare "good."  Every time we'd go out to the farm, Grandma would have a new office product--usually new felt pens--that we'd be sure and test 'real good' for her.  She kept a stash of coloring books, sticker books, paper dolls, and other activity books in a drawer for us.  The biggest highlight of the chest of drawers, though, was the tape dispenser on top.  There were two, come to think of it, a brick-clay-reddish colored one and a greenish-grey one, both cast iron and heavy.  Mom wouldn't let us touch her plastic tape dispenser at home, so getting to use tape at Grandma's was a huge treat.  And you know what?  My sister and I taped everything.  We laminated paper.  We "waterproofed" paper cups.  We made tape masks.  I think we taped tape just for the hell of it.

I was thinking at work the other day about those old tape dispensers when I went to get tape and the whole dispenser moved across my desk.  Aside from cookery, there are some things that are just better when made of cast iron.  Maybe I'll have to troll antique stores and see if I can scrounge one up.

Grandma must have loved stickers, too.  She made the claim that she covered the pipe in the second bedroom with stickers, but I get a conflicting report from my father who indicated he was the sticker culprit in that instance.  The truth may never be known, but without a doubt, Grandma did decorate some things with stickers.  There was a puffy sticker over her sink, a butterfly sticker in the window over the sink, a frog sticker on the telephone jack, and a sticker on the mirror in the bathroom if I remember correctly.  

The stickery tree bit is rather unrelated to the tape and sticker memories, but they're all stick-ums and from the farm.  There was a tree out on the farm that released pods with hooks on them.  Some how I'd always wind up with those stickery pods stuck in my socks, on my pants, and in my hair.  Grandma called it a gum tree.  The sticky proof was in the name she called it!  In my older days, I've learned that it is a Liquidambar styraciflua, a Sweet Gum tree.  It's still there, standing tall and stickery as ever.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Of Front Doors and Back Doors

We never used the front door.  The front door at my grandparents' farm was the back door to me, and the back door the front.  The same goes for other family members' houses I figure, always going in the back door as family, never the front door which was saved for "company" and missionaries.  If we go visit Mom's mom, we often enter the house through the garage if Grandma knows we're coming.  To my aunt's, again through the garage.  Even at home, we entered through a back door when I was growing up, very rarely through the front.

Grandma and Grandpa had their doors mixed up.  The front door going into the living room was around to the side of the house from the driveway, and the back door was closer to parking.  The front was the back, and the back the front.  I remember two things about the doors so vividly:

One day, my parents deposited me, a child sick enough to not be able to go to grade school that day, with my grandparents.  Mom dumped me off on her way to work, and Dad retrieved me at the end of the work day when he got off.  While laying on the couch milking a cold for all it was worth, I heard a knock at the door just beyond my head.  "Go around!" I heard Grandma shout, "Go around!"  And the footfalls faded as the visitors rounded the house in search of the other door.  Finally, after circling the property, they found the back door--the front to me.  Grandma shooed the nice boys in white shirts and black pants away, telling them in no uncertain terms that they were not going to make a convert of her.  Grandpa barely lifted his eyes from his word search or crossword puzzles, a smile every so slight at the corners of his mouth.

The back door--the front to me--had a smooth round metal railing arcing from the house to the concrete step three risers low.  As a little girl, I hung from that railing, swung from that railing, and blistered my poor hands as I clung tightly swooshing under it and letting go to see how far I could swing off the steps into the grass beyond.  If I got really good footing just before I grabbed the railing, I could probably get a good eight or ten feet off the other side.  How many times did I bonk my head in this game? dozens.  How many times did Grandma ever yell at me for swooshing underneath that cold metal rail?  Never.  I think before I was born, that rail stuck tightly in the hole in the siding of the house.  Fifteen years later, the hole had slowly grown much larger.  I nearly worked it out of the wall.

Now the doors have peeling paint, and the railing, while still standing, has rusted.  I made sure to give it a good squeeze, the only thing I touched out on the farm last weekend.  The front door--the back to me--has a beautiful porch, but the wooden platform is rotten and ready to collapse.  The back door, my front door, opens into a small vestibule with paint peeling on the ceiling like fur.  The concrete steps are almost completely covered in a variety of moss I like to call "Lush Oregon Green Goo" and bindweed.

I forgot to check and see if Grandma's Hens 'n' Chicks are still growing there by the back door.  I doubt it, but those are low-maintenance plants, so it's possible.  Nor did I notice any Bleeding Hearts by the front door, arguably a more delicate plant.  Front doors and back doors and so many memories...

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Clothesline

One of the first things we could see when pulling into the driveway at my grandparents' house was the clothesline.  Grandma used it exclusively, having both an outdoor line and an indoor line.  I don't think she ever owned a dryer.  The outdoor clothesline paralleled the driveway a distance of maybe thirty feet, four sagging green lines strung between two rusty T-poles.  I never did figure out why the clothesline was green instead of white, and I've never seen a green clothesline besides hers.

There was an indoor clothesline in the guffy house, a stretch of six or eight feet behind the washing machine, an old cranker machine that worked its magic decades after the rest had been put out of commission.  Grandma never owned a washing machine besides that one, but she did share her washboard with me once... a cheese grater without holes it looked like.  Too much work for this city kid.

And more than the clothesline, I remember Grandma having oodles of clothespins.  Every room had clothespins in it.  For me, they were toys.  Simple clamps, levers, art supplies.  I never grew tired of pinching my fingertips, ears, nose, lips, and sister with them.  We rounded them up when Grandma needed to hang laundry, handing them to her one by one as she hung "britches," "stockings," and "bedclothes."  Pants, socks, and sheets as I knew them (and still call them).  She didn't have any of the friction pins, the one-piece clothespins that look like dolls.

As I've grown, moved to bigger cities, and forgotten much of what life was like visiting the farm, I've lost connections to the rural life.  Not that Corvallis is particularly urban, but compared to the wide-open space of the farm, it's claustrophobic.  Seeing the T-poles of the old clothesline this weekend made me realize how important living "close to the land" is and how I want to incorporate some of those ways of life into my world.

I want to be a mom with clothespins.  Of course, I also want to save money by hanging laundry instead of drying it with electricity... but there's a "cool" factor in there somewhere--a homey, thrifty, sensible cool.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Since purchasing my new camera, I've had this crazy idea to go take pictures of abandoned places. I have not, however, had visions of being arrested for trespassing. What's a girl to do? There was one place I could go. Without divulging the exact location, I'll tell you what I did.

My family comes from farms, both Mom and Dad growing up among trees and fields. Mom's family has since moved to towns for the most part. Dad's family still owns land. On that land, there is an old house and some outbuildings that are owned by my grandmother. Before going out to the farm, I called Grandma to get permission, and I called the nearest neighbor--another relative--to tell him I'd be around (and not to shoot at the pretty girl in the red shirt (not that he'd shoot anyone, but it's not exactly populated out there)).

Since the buildings have been abandoned, or at least uninhabited, for nearly a decade, I didn't want to chance upon squatters or meth-heads or crazy people all by myself. My husband was a willing participant in my quest for photographs, as was another friend who looks kinda tough and can do some damage to the bad guys (in reality he's a really nice guy that I just like spending time with). Safety in numbers, right?

So we sent off on our quest to the farm's secret location. We arrived after a little traffic delay in a nearby town. The sun was out and shining bright, the non-grassy-but-overgrown yard mowed not too long ago was baking and offering a gentle summery smell.  We parked near the road (obvious to let our relative see we were there) and walked around the place a bit to let our presence be known.  If anyone was inside, we thought best to give them a clean getaway.  Everything seemed pretty opened up, as if we were definitely not the first to explore the buildings.

First, the barn.  The door was missing, so it wasn't exactly hard to get inside.  We were surprised to see very little weathering of the inside structure.  The concrete floor cracked long ago, even before Grandpa passed away, so I wasn't surprised to see things growing up in the cracks.  A workbench left at the back of the barn held a few items, perhaps a water jug and some other barn things.  Dad's old football was still there.  The loft held an old bed frame and not much else from what we could see on the ground.

A short distance away was the guffy house.  I don't know why it was called a "guffy" house, but it was a sort of storage building for household goods.  Grandma kept her washing machine--the kind with crank rollers--out there, and she had shelves and shelves of antique stuff, not antique to her but useful and necessary stuff.  All that remained was a small bookcase of no value, an old clothesline with clothespins still attached, and an art deco wall sconce the likes of which I've never seen (or perhaps just don't remember).  Again, the building was structurally sound for the most part.

Next, we ventured carefully inside the house.  The old farmhouse was closed up tight, but the door was unlocked.  All of the windows are intact, shades carefully drawn, curtains still hanging.  Of course, there is no electricity, and the wiring was stripped by thieves looooong ago, but the house was just as I remembered it architecturally.  Upon entering, we were greeted by the most incredible peeling paint.  It looked almost like yellow fur on the ceiling.  The small bedroom where Dad grew up was empty save for a pipe covered in stickers, some beautifully delicate lace curtains covering a window that looked out on bushes taller than the house, and a set of saloon doors.  Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom was, likewise, untouched by vandals.  The wire hangers were still hanging on the short closet rod, stuck in position by acres of cobwebs.  The kitchen and dining room were grimy with dust, but the wash basin still had one of Grandma's old wash rags and a hand soap dispenser ready to go.  The floor has been littered making footing somewhat treacherous, but the multicolored flooring shows through in a few places.  And there were still sewing pins stuck in the window sashes, an empty cork board by the door, and a phone jack with emergency numbers stuck to it.  I noticed Grandma's old cutting board and some unused Kerr canning lids in a drawer--one that hadn't been pulled from the cabinets and tossed on the floor.  Sadly, the front room has seen the most vandalism and weather/age damage.  The ceiling tiles are falling in one by one on the once-green carpet.  An old orange couch leans upended where the rockers used to be.  Trash is thrown about.  A blue stripe of paint runs up one side of the wall where an old furnace once stood.  It's eerie and quiet and an odd calm that comes with familiarity all at once.

We took our leave of the house and closed it up just as we found it.  We walked around to get a better view of the bee house, largely overcome by blackberry bushes.  After picking our way past the hive on the back side, we nudged the door a bit.  When it didn't give easily, we didn't force the issue.  No sense finding ourselves swarmed by bees or crazy people or who knows what.

We left without many words, taking note of the maple tree in the front yard far too large for its own good.  A quick wave to our relative who was out in his yard as we drove by, and then we were back on the road home.  I can't quite describe the emotion of being there, seeing what was once a happy place for me turning into a ruin.  I'm not sad or happy or gloomy or satisfied or anything like that.  I feel some of those things, but there's more and less at the same time.  Perhaps a really deep "oh" and surface "ho-hum" together.


I'll be posting pictures and memories throughout the week.  Perhaps by then I'll have sorted out my odd feelings of it all.

Friday, June 04, 2010

I Went to the Doctor, and All I Got was A Bill

Remember that post from a few days ago where I said I didn't want to go to the doctor just to get a Singulair prescription?  Remember when I said I wasn't sick and didn't feel like the doctor would actually do anything?

I called Monday morning to make an appointment to see my doctor, an internist, in order to get glorious, wonderful Singulair.  She was able to fit me in that day.  Perfect, I thought, I'll be drugged in no time!  So I got off work, picked up The Man from home since he was already home from work, and drove to the clinic.  We checked in and waited just a minute before the nurse called my name.  There was a perfunctory weighing and checking of the blood pressure, and then the nurse left us alone in the little white room.  For half an hour.  The Man and I chatted, mused, and otherwise entertained ourselves without touching every one of the tongue depressors.  Almost breathlessly the doctor rushed in the room.

"Hi, how are you, what are you here for."  Not a question, but a statement.

"I need some Singulair for my allergies."

"Okay, you can call us in a year, and we'll give you maybe six extra months worth.  Come back in eighteen months."

And aside from about ten seconds of small talk, that was it.  She didn't examine so much as a hangnail.  She didn't ask me if I've been tested for allergies (which I haven't--but working in the grass industry and having grass allergies is test enough!).  She didn't ask if I have a family history of allergies (I do).  She didn't even listen to me breathe or cough or sneeze or look up my nose or poke me or anything.  I could have been lying!  Not that I imagine many people lie about wanting Singulair, but still.

So she sent my prescription off to my pharmacy with a couple clicks of the mouse, shook my hand, and left in a hurry, obviously running behind schedule.  Sheesh!  And when I went to the pharmacy later to get my prescription, the pharmacy tech told me they won't fill the prescription without a prior authorization form from my doctor being sent to the insurance company.  Because the insurance company doesn't want to let people have Singulair.

I went to the doctor for absolutely no reason other than to get her to click and magically make the prescription exist, and all I have to show for it is a damn bill.  ...and drugs, eventually.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Sewing Machine Cover

I'd never used interfacing before, so the project was truly an adventure.  Last weekend, JoAnn's had awesome sales on storage stuff, so I may have purchased a little fabric with the "leftover" money.  I really like my sewing machine, and I strongly dislike the silly vinyl cover that came with it, so I figured a cover couldn't be too hard to sew.  It should be quite like my KitchenAid cover, right?  Right?!

Wrong.  It's nothing like a KitchenAid cover.  The two machines have very different shapes and sizes.  The KitchenAid cover is loose and puffy.  I wanted something sleek and form-fitting for the sewing machine.  A yard of pretty fabric, a yard of fusible interfacing, a package of piping, and a package of bias tape later... so much for "leftovers."  But I got a beautiful light blue and lime fabric with brown lines on it with lime piping and lime bias tape, so it's fun without being obnoxious.  Very much unlike my black and white "quilted" KitchenAid cover.

I decided against a 4-sided box corner slip-cover-type and went instead for a sort of drape with ties on either side.  Easier to sew, but not as form-fitting.  I cut my fabric into two large rectangles, one for the inside lining and one for the outside (it's basically reversible).  I also cut the interfacing the same size and then fused it to one sheet of fabric.  After pinning the piping in on the long edges, I sewed them up being careful to remember to stitch (and double-stitch) the bias-tape-ties in for later.  I'm no better at sewing piping now than I was before I ever got the sewing machine, but I'm learning.  I turned the fabric right-side-out and ironed it flat again.  Next, I sewed on the bias tape--which, miraculously, I'm not half-bad at stitching.

Project nearly complete, I fitted it over the machine and tied the ties as tight as I could.  Then I folded down the top edges and pinned them so the cover fit a bit more snugly to the shape of the machine.  I left the pins, but eventually I plan to sew cute buttons in this spot to keep the shape (using more "leftover" money, haha!).

Total project time: 2 hours.
Total cost: about $10 after coupons for fabric, interfacing, bias tape, and piping used
Cuteness factor after completing the job... you tell me!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This Film is Not Yet Rated

The Man and I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called This Film is Not Yet Rated.  The documentary highlights the history of the MPAA, the Hollywood-based ratings board that gives films the traditional G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 (formerly X) ratings.  If you've ever wondered why a film got a rating, you must see this documentary!

The people rating movies are not publicly identified.  They work in secret meetings.  Their neighbors don't even know what they do for a living.  The building the ratings people work in is guarded by armed security guards and fences with electronic doorbells.  The MPAA works in secret to protect the raters from outside pressure or bribes to get certain ratings.  Supposedly all of the raters are parents of school-aged children, but after investigation, the documentary revealed otherwise.

I was stunned that there are no rubrics or standards or even written instructions for how to review and rate a movie.  There is no standard saying that the "F-word" automatically gets a PG-13 versus an R rating.  There is no standard saying that children's movies are free of realistic violence or nudity.  Movie ratings are totally subjective.

The documentary makes the point that in Europe, sexual situations are not as closely scrutinized as much as violence.  In the U.S., violence has nearly a free reign and sexual situations are highly regulated.  Here, a scene where a woman is touching herself above her clothing as an act of foreplay is rated NC-17, but a scene where a man points a gun at another man's head and shoots him at point-blank range out of vengeance is PG-13 stuff.  Seriously?

I have lost all respect for the MPAA.  Until there are standards for film ratings, I no longer hold any movie rating with credibility.

I wonder what incredible movies didn't make the R-rated cut due to stupid, stupid things like foreplay or full-frontal nudity.  Oh the horror, anatomy!  Gimme a break.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Maple Deliciousness

I must not forget to tell you about our pitstop on our way to Woodburn this weekend!  The Man and I both grew up near a Roth's IGA.  We were literally raised on Roth's fresh doughnuts.  And with no Roth's to be found in Corvallis-Albany-Lebanon area anymore, we've been sorely missing our favorite morning treats.  Seriously, I've had dreams about maple bars.  "Cravings" doesn't even come close.

We stopped at the Hayesville Roth's and both selected our favorites: a maple bar and a tiger tail for me and two round doughnuts with sprinkles for The Man.  We gorged.  We inhaled.  And we reveled in the goodness.

I am satisfied in a way only a maple bar can.  *sigh*