10 February 2018

Oops! We're almost halfway thru February!

January's trip was a quickie up to Crater Lake, then out to the coast, and back home.

 February's trip was a bit longer - 5 days in Chico while Jack helped a friend put siding up, then 3 days to the Bay Area to visit with family and do a little site-seeing (shopping). We got sushi in Japantown at a place where you grabbed whatever plate of sushi looked good off a revolving track and when you were done they counted up your empty plates and charged you for what you ate. It was pretty awesome.

Now that we're home for the rest of the month, we've both jumped headfirst into projects, and housecleaning. I am pleased to announce that after two months, I am still doing dishes regularly in the mornings. I don't do them every single day, but I probably average 5 out of 7, and it's really improved the kitchen cleanliness.

Today we spent some time tackling laundry together, Jack cleaned "his" bathroom, and we both tidied up the living room and kitchen a bit. Then it was project time. Jack beeswaxed the stitching on his new boots (supposed to help with longevity, we'll see if it bears out) and made a batch of 'stache wax (for keeping his whiskers in check). I baked granola and made soap. This was my second time making soap, but I think it turned out again, and I played around with scents some more, which I think will be nice. The bulk of the batch is ginger-lemon-orange, and then to one mold I also added peppermint, and to another mold I also added cassia cinnamon. I'm anticipating about 8 or 9 bars of soap when all is said and done. I've been wanting to make soap again ever since I gave it my first go last year. Although it's a bit time-consuming and mildly labor-intensive, it's a very satisfying experience, and this time all the soap is for us (before I split it with 6-ish people as part of a soap-making party at our house), so hopefully it'll last awhile. I think that one of things I like most about soap is that there's endless variations in the types of oils you use and the scents you add, so that you're really never making the same thing twice and you can always experiment. I've already got some ideas about what I might do for the next batch to change it up even more. We'll see!
This month my goal is to finish off as many projects on my list as possible. I've already gotten off to a pretty good start with the soap today, and finally doing the finishing work for my toilet stool just before our trip. I just got a belt blank that I'd like to tool and dye brown so that I can wear it for work this summer - still thinking up what designs I might want to do... I've got a quilt that needs to be bound (then it's done!), several projects on the knitting needles, and a handful of writing and painting ideas as well. I've been toying around with the idea of doing a podcast on California history for quite some time now, and I've taken a lot of steps to set up the framework for it, so now I just have to start researching, writing, and recording episodes. My goal for that is to release the episodes next winter and see if I can get any momentum going with them.

And next to all of these creative efforts? I'm knee-deep in homework for school! The African American Civil Rights Movement course is proving to be both a challenge and an eye-opener. There is so much more to this story than King and his "I have a dream" speech, and I'm loving learning about the people on the ground in the local communities struggling for change. It's at once inspiring and demoralizing to see how people have persevered both for and against racial equality. While I'm plugging away at my actual homework, I'm also taking tentative steps towards my thesis research. I've gotten over 30 responses to a survey I sent out for Bodie employees/volunteers of many capacities, trying to get information on what route I might want to go with my hardcore research, and who I might be able to contact for interviews. For now, I'm reading some general articles that others have written on Bodie, State Parks, and staff-visitor-park administration interactions. I am strongly considering buying a Kindle (tablet ebook reader) to help me keep all my research contained, especially with us moving and the fact that this research is going to go on for over a year. Ebooks are often cheaper than paperback editions of texts I need for my classes too (and can sometimes be borrowed from the library online), so the sooner I take the plunge, the more my investment is bound to pay off. It's just so hard to part with real paper. But I think that for our budget and the sanity of not losing books in transit, or having them be in the wrong place when I need them, it might be better to just go for it.

All of this is to say, that I'm procrastinating writing a discussion post for my class right now... and I suppose this means that I ought to go do my homework now!

Until next time!

20 December 2017

Habits, Rhythms, & Routines

After a whirlwind trip to Michigan, I'm back home with Jack again, and glad to be settling in. The winter season is always a bit of an overwhelming beast for me to tame: so many projects, so much time, so many ideas and plans... and so much to waste. This year I wrote up a weekly rhythm for myself - a guideline of time chunks for each day and ideas of how to use them. It's only meant to be followed loosely, and more as an inspiration when I find myself wondering what to do. I've looked at it a few times this winter, but not too often. So far, I've managed to keep myself pretty busy on my own. But I'm sure that as winter wears on I will find myself at a loss more frequently, as is usually the case.

Another struggle I have in winter is, in the midst of endless projects and homework (from which I currently have a welcome reprieve until mid-January), keeping myself active, and in good posture. They say that sitting for more than an hour at a time is problematic for your health if you don't get up and move around periodically. I also struggle with maintaining good posture while I'm sitting, and it's gotten particularly bad since I started my masters program. I have friends with watches that will buzz every hour and remind them to stand, and so I thought I should be able to find something similar. After a couple failed attempts, I think I've stumbled on a winner: Cycles - A Habit Creator is an application that I downloaded for my phone, and you can program it to give you a certain number of reminders every day for different actions. At the moment, mine is set to remind me to stand up periodically, to sit up or stand up straight often, to remind me to drink my water, and to exercise daily. Today was the first trial run and I think it went pretty well. It certainly helped to have that gentle reminder to drink or to get up and move about for a few minutes to keep me from being totally absorbed in my project. The trouble is that in order for it to work, I have to have my phone nearby throughout the day. Not something I'm particularly fond of. But I didn't find myself staring at it any more than usual, and the reminders can be responded to without opening up the phone, so it doesn't allow me to get sucked in. We'll see how long I keep using it, but so far I think it might be just the ticket!

Then there's the dishes. Long have I struggled to do them, long have they kept my desires at bay! Whatever that means... Anyhow, I've never been a fan of doing the dishes, and I've always struggled with bringing myself to do them. "Take care of them immediately, so they don't sit!" I've been told. "At least get them done before bed!" people say. "Definitely do not leave them for morning, what a terrible way to start the day!" I've heard. But I think I stumbled upon something incredibly contrary this week. I actually like doing the dishes in the morning! Honestly, standing over a hot sink is the last thing I want to do at the end of a busy day, and it often makes my back feel that much worse if it's been a sore day too. Quite by accident, I started this week by doing the dishes in the morning and listening to the news. I rather enjoyed it, so the next morning I did it on purpose. And the next. For a few days now I've gotten up in the morning and washed the dishes first thing, before even having breakfast. I turn on the news, open the curtains, and bask in the morning sunshine while I achieve my first accomplishment of the day. It feels good, and I think it will be my routine for the winter. We'll see how well it works with my life in the summertime, but for now at least it is quite pleasant.

And so we're settling in for the winter. We just had our propane refilled, and hopefully the monitor oil tank will be refilled soon as well. Not that we use much of either. So far we've kept the thermostats at 62. In the morning we turn on the two heaters (one in front and one in back), and I open all the curtains to let in the warmth of the sunshine. By ten or eleven, we turn the heaters off, and don't usually turn them on again until four o'clock or so in the early evening. Anytime I get cold, I move about, or go outside for a spell, or cover up in a blanket. And with the first real snow last night, I was able to spread out my shoveling to keep me feeling warm all day.

Here's to home, habit, and healthy routines!

Until next time!

15 November 2017

Home sweet home

What a season it's been!

I got home last Thursday after a long, rainy, traffic-filled drive. Friday saw me unloading (but not unpacking), and helping Jack tidy up before his folks arrived Friday afternoon for the weekend. We spent Saturday driving them around to see Lassen National Park, Susanville, and other sites in between. All the while, 2 bushels and a peck of pomegranates were waiting in the spare room...

Once the in-laws headed out on Sunday it was time to get busy. First, we were cutting pomegranates and sorting good from bad, then soaking the good and separating the pith from the seeds, then came the juicing! We used the food mill for about 30 minutes before I asked why we weren't just using the juicer? It made for cloudier juice, as it tends to grind a lot of the seeds as well as the flesh, but it tasted just fine! Exhausted, we called it a night.

Monday was canning day. We dug around for all my canning equipment, and I got busy processing 2 gallons of juice, making and canning a quart of grenadine, freezing the foamiest parts of the juice into a pint of sorbet and 6 popsicles, while Jack helped to separate the remaining seeds so that I could dehydrate them.

Tuesday was cleaning day. So many messes needed to be cleaned up after all of this, and there's still plenty. I also got a wild hair (perhaps from the smell of woodsmoke in the chill air?) for marshmallows. Well, I figured, I'll just make them myself! Turns out I've had a couple packs of gelatin in the drawer for a long time... finally put some of it to use! I've now decided that marshmallows are easy enough to never have to buy at the store again, and I've also figured out how to make a small batch so that my biggest beef with marshmallows (buying a bag of them and never being able to finish them until long after they're rock solid) won't have to happen again. Of course, I didn't figure out how to make the small batch until after I made this one, so I'm stuck with lots of marshmallows now... which I have every intention of sharing with friends and neighbors! 'Tis the season, after all!

Now that it's Wednesday, I'm finally taking the time to focus on my homework again. I'm about 4 days behind where I wanted to be, but I'm still ahead of schedule overall, and I have every intention of making more headway over the next few days now that I'm more settled.

Of course, settled is a relative term. A week from now we'll be heading to my cousin's for Thanksgiving, and afterwards we plan to drive down to Jack's aunt and uncle in SoCal, from where I'll be boarding a plane to Michigan for a couple weeks, then a train back to NorCal. So really it'll be mid-December before I really get to catch a break and get into a winter groove. But no matter, I'm excited for the off-season, and we're happy to be home together after the summer.

And today?

We've gotten our first bit of snow!!!!!!!

Until next time!