Thursday, October 28, 2010

So I have this crazy idea...

I've been thinking about this for a while now. I really want to go "off the grid" and start eating--and living--as naturally as possible. It's a shame that I haven't done this sooner, because I live on a farm and have the means to do the things I want to do. I can't wait until spring: because when Taxmas comes, so does The Big Change!

Here are my plans:

1. Raised bed gardening. I plan to build (or have the hubby build) six 8'x8' raised beds. One bed will be extra-deep for potatoes. The other beds will be planted by season, and will coordinate with what my father-in-law plants. There is no reason for both of us to plant zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers or green peppers, because he plants 10 times more than he actually uses. I'd love to plant one of the beds with strawberries, one with yellow beans (which my kids go nuts for), one with potatoes, one with cauliflower, brussels sprouts and broccoli, one with various lettuces, and one with...well, we'll leave one open for ideas. I'm looking into using composite materials for the beds instead of treated wood. The initial cost may be more, but I like the idea of not having toxic chemicals leaching into my topsoil. I'm also going to do some research into formaldehyde-free wood.

2. Chickens. We have nearly two acres of our own, plus access to the other 115 acres of my in-laws' farm. I'm planning to have Todd build a coop and fence in behind the house, using the house and the steep cliff-like part of the hillside as two sides of the boundary (hooray for Todd and his inability to know when to say "stop" with the backhoe!) along with some chain-link fence we've got lying around. I love the thought of gathering eggs from our very own chickens. I'm planning to feed them an organic diet . My FIL grows a ton of field corn for the cows, and I'm fairly certain we can grind it a bit and feed it to the chickens. The kids are really excited about having chickens, and I think it will be a wonderful learning experience for them. Jake and possibly Sam will be joining 4H next year, and chickens would make a great animal project for them.

3. Composting. I tried a compost bin last year, and I have to admit, it was a smelly, fly-ridden disaster. We've decided to fork out the money for a turning composting bin this time around. I hate the idea of wasting all of those nutrient-rich food scraps, and I can't wait to make my own compost to put on my garden. Maybe we'll throw in a few earthworms for good measure.

4. Rain barrels. Until someone comes and tells me that it's illegal to collect rainwater, (and I think it's INSANE that in some places that's true) I'm planning to have at least two rain barrels in operation for watering the garden and the lawn. Luckily for me, Todd's handy and can adapt the downspouts to accommodate a rain barrel. My water bill is high enough--I LOVE the idea of using the water that falls from the sky to water my garden.

5. Possibly raising our own steer for beef. The more I learn about what goes into the raising, handling and slaughtering of beef, the more interested I am in raising our own steer. It is very ironic that I live on a beef cattle farm, but buy my meat at the grocery store. I don't know that I could look at one of the cows outside of my window and later eat it for dinner (there is still a soft-hearted city girl living inside me) so we'll probably find a reputable farmer who raises antibiotic-and hormone-free cattle. I want to fill my freezer with enough meat and veggies to last me the entire year.

6. Staying away from the prepackaged, boxed foods at the store. While they're quick and easy, they're filled with so much garbage I feel guilty when I feed them to my family. I've already started cooking ahead on the weekends and freezing for later use. This weekend is breakfast weekend. I'm planning to make french toast sticks, waffles and pancakes for the boys' breakfasts. I'm going to implement my friend Carmin's menu planning system to keep things fresh and interesting but manageable. It's so easy to fall into a rut and make the same meals over and over, and I have a tendency to become a total idiot when I make my menu and get into the store. I'm going to make my own bread again so I can stop buying the over-processed, chemical- and preservative-laden garbage they try to pass off as bread in the store. I will not be a victim of the corn growers any longer. I will not allow my children to be pumped full of crap that they're trying to pass of as "healthy". We all know it's unhealthy, and as a stay-at-home-mom, I have no reason to not protect my kids from the trash in the grocery store because it's easier than making it myself and knowing exactly what's in it.

There are other things I want to do, but I know it's crazy to try to implement them all at once. I've got a fair bit of stuff to do next year (and a fair bit of money will have to go into it), but I am SO EXCITED to start this journey! I think that once my family gets over the shock of not having the cabinets stocked with every imaginable type of junk food, they'll realize how delicious Mom's cooking can be, and how much fun it is to plant and grow their own food. I, I KNOW...this project will change our lives. And the change will be good.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My invisible friends

I used to think that couples who said they fell in love online were crazy. How in the world could you fall in love with someone you've never seen or met in person? How could you truly know that you had a real connection with them if you've never laid eyes upon them? It was a complete mystery, and I wasn't so sure I believed it.

Until it happened to me.

I fell in love over the internet. But not with a man. I fell in love with a group of women, or as my husband calls them, "your invisible friends".

I'd been connected to the world wide web for some time, but had never ventured into online forums. For some weird reason, the thought of going online and chatting with total strangers intimidated me. Then, one day in November 2006, I received an email from Clubmom inviting me to join their exciting new mommy website, CafeMom. I checked it out, and thought it would be cool to get in on the ground floor, so to speak. One of my concerns about joining online forums was that I would be a stranger and a newb and not know how things worked, and would embarrass myself. But if I joined CafeMom at the very beginning, I'd know how things worked. So I joined, and began to personalize my home page. And the friend requests started coming. I felt like Prom Queen! Total strangers wanted to be my friend! This was AWESOME. I began to spend more and more time online, reading journals, commenting, and writing my own. In the early days of Cafemom, it was small, and it seemed like everybody knew everybody. I felt like a rock star when I got comments on my journals. I started making more and more friends, and eventually, it expanded from just commenting on journals and sending private messages to instant messaging. Talking in "real time" was so cool! My friends hailed from all over the country. We'd stay up late at night and talk for hours and hours. I couldn't believe the way I was forming bonds with people I'd never met in person.

Over time, my friend list became streamlined. Gone were the days where the thrill of adding to my list was more important than the connection we shared. I realized that quality mattered more than quantity when it comes to friends. I had a circle of friends that couldn't have been more perfect for me. Brilliant, hilarious, kind, loving, witty, snarky women who were there to support me no matter what. And I was there for them in return. We come to each other in good times and bad. And in some ways, it's better to have them all to myself. They don't know Todd, they don't know my kids, they don't know my extended family--they only know me. They are my support system for those times when I can't turn to my husband or mom or even real-life friends.

When my dad died, the love and support I received from my friends was overwhelming. From phone calls to texts to cards to flowers...they were there for me in a way some of my oldest real-life friends were not. Even though I was going through one of the most devastating times of my life, I knew I always had a soft place to fall. I knew that I could go in to my groups, and cry, vent or rage, and they would be there to comfort me. And comfort me they did. I only hope that I am as good a friend to them as they are to me.

So now I know how people can fall in love online. There is a freedom online that you just don't feel in person. All artifice is stripped away. No one cares that I'm sitting here, in my pajamas, with major bedhead and stinky morning breath. No one cares about that zit on my chin. I don't have to worry about being self-conscious--I don't have to feel that feeling of anxiety when I walk into a room and think, "Oh my goodness...I'm the fattest person here." They know me--the real, true, honest ME. Of course, they've seen pictures of me. The closer we all got, the more of our lives we've shared, and that includes photos of ourselves. But nobody is judging me based on what I look like, because they've seen the inner me, and the outer me really isn't important.

The only drawback to having friends who live in the box on my desk is the lack of physical contact. For all the pluses of getting to know a person from the inside-out, the lack of physical contact can be depressing. When I lost my dad, I really wanted to feel all of the virtual hugs that were being sent my way. I've been lucky enough to meet two of my online friends, and it was so wonderful to finally make that face-to-face connection. I've always told my husband that if we ever win the lottery, one of the first things I'm going to do is arrange a HUGE, extravagant weekend for all of my girls. Oh, the fun we would have! Hmmm...maybe I should actually start playing the lottery so I can increase my chances of winning...

My friends may be invisible, but they are as real to me as the chair I'm sitting on or the person I see when I look in the mirror. They make me laugh, they comfort me when I cry, and they are the force that keeps me going when I think I can't possibly go on. They have blessed me and overwhelmed me with love and ask nothing in return but my love. I am one lucky woman!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ummm...I got nothin'.

It has, yet again, been months since I last wrote anything on this blog. And here I sit, fingers poised above the keyboard, and nothing to write about. Oh, there are things I could blather on about. The fact that our AC died just one day after a week of record-breaking temperatures, and my fear that we will melt like popsicles the next time the temp hits 85*. I could write about the weird smell coming through the windows that I am pretty sure is a dead thing-most likely a cow-in the field above us. I could write about the fact that my dad died a month ago and how lost I still feel without him here. But nothing feels interesting to me. Nothing is sparking my imagination.

I feel completely blah. I wish I could be the sort of person who's perky 24/7. I wish I could be the sort of person who is always able to find the silver lining/sunny side/bright spot, but unfortunately, I am not. I feel dark and moody and emo right now. Move over, Debbie Downer, because Jen is here!

Hmmm...maybe I'll go drink one (or two, or three or all six) of the Mike's Hard Pink Lemonades in my fridge and do some drunk blogging. That sounds like fun. Better hurry and tuck the kids in before I hit the sauce. They don't need to see Mama dancing around in her underwear, only stopping occasionally to write some sort of drunken nonsense on the Interwebs for the whole world (or the three people who read this) to see. I'll save that image for when they're older...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jumping the gun

I received a notice in the mail today imploring me to HURRY UP! and renew my magazine subscription immediately so there would be no lapse in delivery. I get quite a few magazines, so I usually have no idea when my subscriptions are up. I looked closely at the letter, and noticed that right above my name was "Jan 11", which I know is the expiration date of my current subscription. I went through my stack of magazines and realized that I've only received THREE copies of a THIRTEEN copy subscription. And they're already hounding me to renew? Really? I've got 75% of my subscription left to be delivered. I'm not even sure I like this magazine all that much! And if they're gonna hound me to renew more than eight months before my subscription is over, I might not renew just to be annoying. 'Cause that's totally how I roll. Don't pester me. I've got more important things to do!

But on a brighter note, the kids' homework is all finished, supper is in the oven (stuffed shells...mmm) and I had enough to make a second pan to freeze. I washed away my grays today, and I'm feelin' pretty spiffy. Not too shabby for Hump Day, if I do say so myself!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Four hours

That's how long I spent in Panera Bread today. It's a testament to how seldom I actually get out of the house that I was able to spend four entire hours in a restaurant. At least I wasn't alone! I had a "date" with my favorite aunt and cousin. It was so relaxing to sit there and solve all the world's problems without any interruptions. We chose to solve everyone else's problems because as everybody knows, our own lives are perfect. *eye roll*

We vowed to get together more often, but I think one thing I'm going to have to change is the location. It does me no good to spend hour after hour in such close proximity to delicious, high-fat baked goods. Because really, am I EVER going to pick an apple over the cheese danish if I have the option? The Magic 8 Ball says, "Definitely Not". Best to stay away from the temptation! After all, it's more about getting together with friends and family than it is about stuffing my gob.

Gob...isn't that a cream-filled chocolate cake-y cookie thing? Mmmm...that sounds kind of good right now...

NO! Be strong, Jen. Pick the apple. It's the right thing to do. The cheese danish is NOT your friend!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The origins of Frankenleg

I do a lot of things very well. I'm an excellent cook. I bake a mean loaf of homemade bread. I can craft like nobody's business. And the parties I plan rock. However, one thing I am most definitely not skilled at is walking.

Yes, walking.

You'd think after 38 years, 37 of which have been spent in a (mostly) upright position, I'd have gotten this whole walking thing under control. Well, you'd be wrong. For some odd reason, I can't seem to make it from Point A to Point B without injuring myself on a regular basis.

Some examples of my possibly-world-record-breaking-klutziness:

Four years ago, I was sitting on the side of the bathtub, running water for a bath. There was a rubber duck in there, and as I reached behind me to get it out, I somehow managed to fall into the tub and break my tailbone. That took over a year to finally heal completely. Nothing like not being able to sit without being in excruciating pain to put you in a cheerful mood.

Six months after the destruction of my coccyx, I severely sprained my right ankle. I was getting a box out of the attic, and as I backed down the attic steps (those horrible, narrow, ridiculously steep, evil things), I mistakenly thought I was on the bottom step and stepped down, only to find that I was TWO steps up. So instead of the six-inch gap between the step and the floor, there was an eighteen-inch gap. Of course, I lost my balance, came down hard on my ankle, and heard a loud crunching noise as my poor foot finally hit the floor. That one bought me an aircast, crutches, and the inability to wear closed-back shoes for nearly two months. I also now have a weird lump on my Achilles tendon and my foot makes a cool creaking/crunching noise when I move it side to side.

More recently, I sprained my left ankle and scraped the dickens out of my right knee and both hands when I stepped on a large piece of gravel and lost my balance, wiping out right in the middle of Main Street on the way into my daughter's preschool. The ankle swelled to three times its normal size, and turned into a lovely palette of black, blue, purple and green. I've still got scars from the scrapes on my other knee. Oh, and let's not forget the never-ending humiliation of walking into the school, limping, bloody and bruised, all because I STEPPED ON A ROCK.

See? Walking is definitely NOT my strong suit.

I'm sure you're wondering what in the world "Frankenleg" refers to. If you guessed that I have somehow managed to injure myself yet again, you win a Kewpie doll! Four weeks ago, I went to perform the mundane (and normally safe) task of sitting down on my desk chair. For some reason (and I'm still not quite convinced that my darling daughter didn't push the chair for poops and giggles) the chair slid away from my butt and I went crashing to the floor, with my right leg splayed out to the side. No pain in the leg at first, but about four days later, WOWZA! Welcome to Painville, population: Me. I let it go, thinking that it would eventually start to heal. That's been how it worked in the past. Ahhh, not so this time! After more than three weeks of excruciating pain, the inability to walk up steps quicker than a Galapagos tortoise, and no sleep for several nights in a row, I finally went to the doctor. Several x-rays and an orthopedist referral later, I was told that I probably knocked my patella (kneecap) out of place and it's been bouncing around in there like a marble, bruising and causing me pain ever since. My souvenir from what I can only imagine will be an exorbitant set of bills was a ridiculously fancy-and complicated--knee brace. My husband has dubbed it "Frankenleg", because I definitely have a monster-like gait now when I'm wearing it. Sometimes it hurts more when I'm wearing it, but I just keep telling myself that if it didn't hurt, then it wouldn't be working. Sometimes I even believe myself.

Oh well. At least it came in black, which is always slimming, right? Maybe I can get a matching one for the left leg so they'll both look slim and svelte. Or maybe I should shut up now before I jinx myself and end up on the x-ray table yet again...

Poor, painful Frankenleg. I really hope to get rid of it soon!

Inspiration...I could sure use some!

I watched the movie "Julie & Julia" yesterday and felt inspired, yet oddly disappointed in myself. I've had this blog for three years now and have barely posted on it, and I'm fairly certain that (almost) nobody reads it. I wish I could come up with an idea for an innovative theme to this blog so I could take it in a whole new direction. You know--one where I actually post entries and people actually read them. So far, it's been nothing more than a collection of random thoughts that pass through my head, but I really wish I could hit on that great idea and begin a blogging sensation.

I think it's time for a brainstorming session...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Get off my tail, would ya?

When I go shopping, I always try to park as far away from the store as possible. This serves two purposes: I can pull through and not have to deal with that annoying backing-up thing, and the further away I park means the further I have to walk, which, for my hefty hiney, is a good thing. So why is it that no matter how far away I park, some eejit in a humongus truck parks right on my tail end? If you're so close that I can't get the back hatch on my van open, then you're waaaaay too close. It's really a pain in the tush to have to leave my full cart, load the kids in, move the van forward, and then unload just because some dingdong can't calculate the distance between his ginormous grill and the back end of my van. There are hundreds of other spots in the parking lot--why are they drawn to me??? Is there a magnet in my van that sucks them to me? Yeah, I know...boohoo, wahhhhhh, poor me, right? It's just one of those little things that annoys the spit out of me. Aren't you glad I shared it with you?