Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Great Christmas Ornament Search of 2017

Every year I buy us ONE new personalized holiday ornament. It's a joy to see them all lined up on the tree (except we're missing a year - the year we lived in that terrible town when I broke my leg terribly and it was a no good, very bad holiday season where I was stoned most of the time). Most of the time the ornaments are pop culture themed (last years was Stranger Things-esque), but this year we have a milestone. I want a "Our New Home" ornament.

Here are my options.

1) Aluminum hand-stamped house shaped ornament: This one is available from The Silver Diva for the price of $22.95 plus $4.50 for shipping to the US. It looks like the seller guarantees a 30-day delivery, so I can get it before Christmas if I order it soon. I like the simplicity. I'm not crazy about the all lowercase or the heart, but I bet those can be changed.

2) Home sweet home ornament with personalized GPS coordinates: This one is from Mon Cherie Paperie and costs $17.95 plus $5.95 for shipping. The shop says 3 - 5 days until shipping and I don't see special holiday shipping notes, so this one could be purchased fairly late in the game if you're a procrastinator. You can pick your own ribbon color... I like this one, especially that it would include our GPS location,  but I wish the house looked a little bit like my actual house, you know?

3) Three-level hand-stamped nickel ornament: This one comes from WhiteLilieDesigns at the price of $20.92 plus $3.50 shipping. That's a very reasonable price to me. The promised processing time during the Christmas season is 2 to 4 business days, so procrastinators can also get this one late in the game.  I like it. It reminds me a lot of the types of necklaces mothers wear with their children's vital statistics on it, though. 
4) Custom hand painted ornament made from a photograph you send: This one is from Heirloom Art by Maria and is $39.99 plus $9.25 shipping.  This shop says it will take 3 - 4 weeks for custom orders, so if you want it, get it now. I think I might get this later on once the front porch is not torn into a million pieces and we've redone the landscaping in front, but right now it seems a bit ambitious and a bit braggy about a house that looks a little sad in the front.  Later!
5) A version of a personalized skeleton key: Lorelei Vella (left) has a two sided brass skeleton key for $24 plus $3.50 shipping and handling. It could be ready in 1-2 weeks, so if I order it now, it will be reading in plenty of time. Ancy Pants (which is an awesome store name - on the right) has a gold colored skeleton key with a brass tag attached for $28 plus $2.60 shipping. This also ships in 1-2 weeks. We have an old house that has skeleton keys that operate many of the doors and I like the symbolism of these keys.

I'm really leaning towards one of the skeleton keys, but only if we can get it in one font with correct capitalization.  I'm sort of undecided on which one I like better.  Any thoughts? Or maybe I should get the three-level hand-stamped one? Or maybe the house shaped hand-stamped one?  They're all great! I'm dithering.

Tell me what to do, Internet.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller tells the story of a grumpy octogenarian American who finds himself running for his freedom in the wilds of Norway while protecting a young boy.  It was our book club book for this month.

I really liked the grumpy protagonist, Sheldon. He was really fun. His family was sort of on the fence about whether or not he suffered from dementia and you get to kind of go back and forth on whether or not he was an unreliable narrator or not. He had a super interesting back story and I generally enjoyed hanging out with him.

It was the rest of the novel I didn't exactly love. I didn't love hanging out with Sheldon's granddaughter or the Norwegian police detective. I really didn't love hanging out with the evil villain from the Balkans. So are all people from the Balkans evil or is that just an easy stereotype?  I'll never know, I guess, but I didn't like that guy.

The last twenty pages or so seemed like they were written by another author and I didn't understand it the first time I read it. Or the second. After that, it seemed like maybe I just wasn't meant to get it.  It's ambiguous on purpose, I guess.

Anyway, this book was fine. It wasn't one I would recommend to everyone, but if you like a coming of age narrative or even a mystery, it might suit you. It's definitely good enough for a rainy Saturday afternoon, but it's not good enough to give up a sunny Saturday afternoon. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

CSA Holiday Share, Part I

This year, I decided at the last minute that I was going to sign us up for the Holiday Share CSA. It was spurred mostly by a conversation with our farmer who I saw at my yoga class (small town living, small town connections) about how the onions weren't curing particularly well, so the box would have fewer onions than normal.  We'll come back to that statement later, but I decided that we could probably use a lot of the winter vegetables. We've never done the Holiday Share before because, well, because it seemed a bit pricey to me.  But 2017 has been the Year of Hemorrhaging Money, so what's a little more, right?

So the Holiday Share comes in two large deliveries, one today and one in mid-December. The cost was $130 and we'll use this year as a metric for whether or not we'll buy the winter shares next year. We got two big boxes at the pickup site today.
Not the pickup site. Our kitchen.
This share included:
Sweet potatoes
Savoy cabbage
Honeynut squash (x7)
Butternut squash (x2)
Beauty heart radish (x3)
Green kale (x2 bunches)
Red and yellow onions
Romanescu (x2 heads)
Sweet peppers (x3)
Celeriac (x2)

Our fridge is bursting with all these delicious goodies.  I just went to the grocery store last night, too, so we have so much food in our house it's insane. I honestly have no idea if we've ever had this much food for just the two of us in our entire married lives.

The plan is relatively simple, I think. I can take the carrots, radishes, peppers, and romanescu with me as part of my lunch raw.  That's actually enough carrot to get me through until the next share, I think, so I'm quite pleased with this outcome. The cabbage, celeriac (which is like uber condensed celery in bulb form), and leftover rutabaga from our regular season CSA will be turned into a slaw that I'm bring to Thanksgiving dinner next week because no one ever brings green things. The leeks we use when other people use onions.  I might also take it upon myself to make some potato leek soup in the next couple of weeks.

I'm going to be honest about it, we threw out the spinach. There's a lot of research that demonstrates is really hard to clean spinach and the threat of E. coli is real. I know I complain about Dr. BB's food issues here, but it has been recommended to him by doctors that he just not attempt spinach because food poisoning is such a big risk for him, so our new rule is that it is out. It is wasteful on our part, but there you have it.
I'm going to make sweet potato casserole for a book club I'm hosting this weekend AND I might take some with me to Thanksgiving as well.  If they aren't all used in these casseroles, sweet potatoes are always good sides for dinner.  The honey nut squash is a hard sell for us - we just don't like them as much as we like butternut - but we'll make them for sides at dinner, too. 
But this! This is the problem. WTF am I supposed to do with all that garlic?  And those onions that didn't "cure well"?  Ha!

I'm going to try to give them away to the ladies at my book club this weekend, to family members over Thanksgiving, and if that doesn't work, I may have to resort to freezing some. I'm mostly worried that I'm going to get similar numbers of garlic and onion bulbs in a month's time and I just can't deal with that, although I guess it will be close enough to Christmas that I can pawn more off on family members at that time, too.

Anyway, despite the onion and garlic overload, I think this share is full of very usable items and I'm excited to get baking and cooking. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz

Do you ever read a book and know that it's not for you, but that it's for somebody?  Lizard Radio was that book for me. In a future world that seems kind of crappy, gender roles are super important. You're tested early and if your gender doesn't align with your biological sex, you are strongly encouraged to transition. But there are some people who are in the middle, like our heroine.

This tells her story.

And I wish I cared. I felt like she was flat as a character and that the author was trying to world build so hard that I just wasn't invested in what happened to our character (whose name I can't even remember despite the fact that I finished this book only three days ago - I think that says something). And YET! Yet! I still don't think the world is even that well developed. Schmatz tried to do too much and sort of ended up doing everything poorly.

But, I could see how if someone is genderfluid/genderqueer, this book could really resonate with them.  There aren't a ton of popular press books that delve into these sorts of topics in any great detail and I could see someone latching on to this as a way to show that they have a place.

So there you have it. I don't know exactly what I'm trying to say here. I don't love this book, but I bet there are people out there who do.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Spoiling for a Fight

Our town had its holiday parade on chilly, chilly Saturday night. They were doing the staging in front of our house (the road was closed!) and I spent a good hour beforehand wandering around and watching people test music, lights, and sort through their candy. We met up with some friends and cheered and yelled and enjoyed the floats and horses, cows, goats, and dogs dressed up with lights. Our friends have a little one and it was fun to watch her get pumped for the candy thrown her way. It was great fun.
And then we went home.

We are going to be at Dr. BB's father's house for Thanksgiving.  Dr. BB's cousin is getting married on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so it doesn't make sense for us to do otherwise.

But the Christmas holiday is looming. We haven't made a decision yet about where we will be. I desperately want to stay home with our cat. I know that is not actually an option, but if I'm 100% honest, and why shouldn't I be, that's what I want.

My sister sent me a text message with a pointed note that I haven't spent a Christmas in Michigan since I got married. My husband has sent me pointed messages that he wants to be there to support his father in the first Christmas since his mom died.  This is not a NEW topic of dispute about the holidays (this post is from FIVE YEARS AGO complaining about the same thing), but I honestly don't want to have it out again in an argument when I'm left crying at the end. I KNOW that I'm going to say something along the lines of we didn't go see my mom the first year after my dad died and it's wrong and it's mean and the circumstances are so different, but part of me is incredibly resentful of all of the time we've spent with his side of the family this year. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it, but damn it, I would like to see MY side of the family, too.

I think we might actually split of up for the holidays.

It's SO hard for Dr. BB to eat when we visit my family. The kitchens cannot be trusted, so he ends up eating yogurt and sandwiches with lunch meat the whole time we're there. This food thing is actually the main reason we so rarely go anywhere and I'm sympathetic about it, I really am. I just wish that it wasn't so hard.

I don't want to be away from the most important person in my life on Christmas. I really don't. But I also really don't want to have to deal with screaming children and emotionally volatile adults on Christmas either. So here we are. Deadlocked. Again.

I haven't even talked to him about it this year because I know what he's going to say. And I know what I'm going to say. The only thing I don't know is what we'll actually do.

Friday, November 10, 2017

It's Not Pink Anymore

I have lost the memory card that actually holds most of the "before" photos of the house, so this post is going to be super anticlimactic. I spent almost an hour looking for the card yesterday to no avail, so you're getting a before and after post with no before. C'est la vie, I guess.

Our guest room used to be pink. Not quite Pepto Bismol pink, but not lovely baby nursery pink, either. The other rooms in the house were tastefully painted when we moved in, so I was dumbfounded by this room and it quickly became a priority of mine to get it painted. No guest was ever going to come visit us when the room was pink!
So we went with this blue because it is in the same family as the other colors in the rest of the upstairs. I learned some things about my husband while painting this room. First off, he's a terrible painter. Second, he's not concerned about what a terrible painter he is. Lastly, I can't paint rooms with him.

So we did one coat and you could still see pink shining through and he was all "good enough," so I waited until he was at work one day and I was home alone and I did a second coat. And then, because I'm a lunatic/perfectionist, I went ahead and repainted the ceiling, too.  It's not perfect, but it's so much better than it used to be.
So our little guest room is actually looking like a grown up room now.

You can see in the above photo that the ceiling actually isn't straight across and has a slant to it on the one side. This caused us me a great deal of angst while painting.
My goal is to sew a quilt for this bed (white with blue, red, and yellow accents, I think), but in the meantime, it's got blankets on it that are just a smidge too small. Don't judge me.

I think it's possible those plants are going to die if I don't water them soon. Ha ha. No, they won't. They're invincible and I've forgotten to water them for months and months in the past. They'll bounce back.
Besides the bed, the only furniture in this room is a bookshelf that I assembled with TJC when she came to visit. It's kind of a small room, but guests can use the bookshelf as a place to put their belongings. TJC tells me we also need a trash can in the room. Anything else in a smallish room that is essential for guest rooms?
And that's it. I'll update this post with before photos if I ever find that memory card.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Four Pieces of Furniture, Part II

I know you've been waiting on the edge of your seats. What happened with your furniture shopping? Weren't there four pieces of furniture you wanted to buy?

Well, it turns out it was really FIVE pieces of furniture we purchased over the last month. Making good use of a borrowed SUV and local antique shops, we managed to get this done. Here's the rundown.

First up. We got a desk for our front room, along with an bookshelf my husband was adamant about because WHERE ELSE WOULD WE PUT THE SOUND SYSTEM?  He's responsible for the all caps, not me.
We got the desk at an antique store about an hour away. It was tagged at $225 and I bargained it down to $175, so we paid $183.93 with tax. It's a rolltop which is even better than the secretary I thought we'd have to settle for. The bookshelf came from a different antique shop and was quite pricey, I thought. It was marked at $375, but we told them we'd only pay f$300, so the total was $316.50 when all was said and done.  We still need a rug for this room, but it solves a number of our logistical problems (where to put mail and the sound system) and storage problems (so much book overflow is going to go in that bookshelf).

You might recall that we wanted two trunks, one for mud room and one for the main room right when you walk inside. We obtained these trunks at yet another antique store. I learned that cedar chests in good shape are incredibly easy to find antique stores in southeastern Wisconsin. If we hadn't purchased these, there were honestly lots more out there. We found these at the same store and they were each marked at $175, so we offered $300 for both.
This one stores our my workout gear. Yes, we have tools next to it because OH MY GOD THE FRONT PORCH but that's a saga for later on in the week.
I'm still super confused about what to do with the giant wall space above this trunk, but I am not made of money, so that giant empty wall is going to stay empty for a while, I think. A friend suggested a tapestry and I do think it's a good idea. I might make a quilt and put it up there.
This one is in our mud room and holds bicycling supplies - I thought it would be plenty big enough, but I thought wrong. We still have approximately a million more bicycling accessories that need a home. We also sit on it to take our shoes on and off. And Zelda uses it to stalk rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels.
And, finally, the stupid hall tree. We went to SO MANY PLACES looking for hall trees. We found some at the place we had our bedroom furniture made, but it was so expensive that I couldn't justify it. So we went someplace really close. They managed to have two hall trees, neither of which we loved and neither of which was moveable on price, but we really wanted something before we had to return the borrowed SUV, so we bought one.
On the bright side, there is no mirror, which is great. It will store winter things, I think. I do like that we have a designated place for our bike helmets because neither one of us was going to put our helmets in the trunk. This way we can just hang them and go. It was $606.63, which I personally found a little unreasonable, but I do like its rustic charm.

So that's the tale of the furniture. $1423.56 and approximately a dozen antique stores later and we have these five pieces of wooden furniture. Since I originally spitballed $2000 as a budget for this, I'm actually quite pleased. Also, if anyone wants to know the best antique stores in this corner of Wisconsin, hit me up. I have opinions.
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