Friday, February 5, 2016

A Year in Books: 2015

My 2015 goal was to read 40 books and I ended up reading 56.  Granted more than one were short stories but, whatevs, I read 'em.

Tell me, how do you feel about audiobooks? I've had more than one person tell me that I "cheat" when I say that I've read X books because a good majority of my book intake is through my ears rather than my eyes.  Personally, I think that's a load of hooey.  Whether I use my eyes or my ears I am, I can't think of a better word, consuming these books.  I have an 80 mile a day commute and it makes my commute more tolerable. So, long live the audiobook!

Once again I'll give you my blurbby little insight to these books and what I rated them on Goodreads, which you should totally sign up for and become my friend so I get more book recommendations. Okay? Okay!

1.  I got this free from Amazon. It's a short story prequel to Lost Lake which I had read in 2014.  Way to read the description first, Poppy! I liked it, a lot. I wish I had actually read this before reading Lost Lake, I think it would've made reading Lost Lake make more sense in my mind.
4 Stars

2.  You know what I should do, take notes after I read a book so I can remember what I thought directly after reading, that'd be smart.  This is a children's book that I heard about on NPR and added to my list where it languished for three and a half years. I remember thinking that it was okay but it was gruesomeish and not in a Gaimenesque way. Capisce? 
3 Stars

3.  This book was a gift from a friend because I she knows that I enjoy the authors blog.  I don't often read "self-help" type books but, I'm working on that! I enjoyed the book and the fact that the author was very truthful about her own struggles and how she managed to help herself.  Some helpful gems are disbursed throughout that are a gentle prodding, my Beloved even read the spouse part.
4 Stars

4.  I've got three syllables for ya Fla-Vi-a.  I love this book.  No, the whole series.  I read it first when it was released then my Beloved and I listened to the audiobook while we were on our anniversary road trip. This one strayed from the previous books a bit which was to my Beloved a refreshing change and to me a bit rough because the old, much loved characters weren't in the story. But that's okay, we're expanding our world!
5 Stars (of course!)

5.  This book made me crazy.  I started it in 2011 and put it down. I thought that if I bought the audiobook it would actually make me finish it.  There were so many times while driving that I would  be shouting and pounding my steering wheel in sheer frustration. A few things that I do remember that were mind numbingly dumb were a description "his mouthless eyes" (WHAT IS THAT?!?!) and when the protagonist put on her lovers gloves it was erotic. Ugh.
1 Star


6.  Do you know what I love? Osprey. This book had been languishing on my Kindle forever and frankly I forgot about it.  It follows a birder who decides to follow an Ospreys migration. The writing was okay but the birds are amazing!
3 Stars


7.  Another magical Sarah Addison Allen book. This one is a follow-up to her first book Garden Spells.  I really enjoyed this one because you got to see the characters that you loved from the first book years later and more developed. Aaaaannnnd a mystery was solved! Excellent read.
5 Stars

8.  Do you love Temple Grandin? I do.  I've seen multiple documentaries featuring her, I've heard interviews with her and we've watched the biography, all fantastic, but I've never read any of her books.  The narrator did a fantastic job and I really enjoyed the book. Tons of information, a lot that makes you think about our relationship with all animals. Everyone should read Temple Grandin!
4 Stars

9.  I wanted to like this book much more than I did.  I had to delete my previous blurb because I was feeling some kind of way yesterday.  It was all angry and ranty and not at all blurbish. The only thing I can say is Madam Author not everyone can be an elitist foodie.
2 Stars

10.  My Beloved and I listened to this on our return road trip from Savannah in February. For some reason we decided to drive straight through, all 13+ hours... and this book definitely helped the commute pass quicker! This book is set in the present and begins at a funeral and the main character is remembering his childhood. You never do learn specifics about the present time, not even the name of the main character.If you love Gaiman you'll like this book. 
5 Stars



11.  I picked this book up at Kroger as I was standing in line because I don't know why. Maybe because it's set in England?  I seriously need to learn write down my thoughts directly after reading a book because I don't remember much about this book.  It's a kids book, do you think less of me for reading below my reading level?
4 Stars

12.  Why had I never read this book?! This book is a classic for a reason, it is amazing. I loved it so much that I listened to it twice (Sissy Spacek did a fantastic job!). What else is there to say other than I will probably reread this every year. 
5 Stars

13.  After the disappointment of the other homesteading on a shoestring budget book this one was what I needed. I thought it was funny and the you-can-do-it-too-edness was a good shot in the arm.
4 Stars

14. Depressing.  What a terrifying reminder of the horror that humanity can be.  I don't do well with torture. The historical aspect and the actual writing is what saved it from one star. Also, it's not really about the Hangman's Daughter.
2 Stars.

The next three book posts are going to have to wait.  We're leaving on vacation tomorrow! We're taking our Harry Potter crazed niece to Universal Studios! And, once again, my fabulous mother and aunt are going to house/cat/chicken sit for us.  We are so lucky that they do this for us and they swear it's a vacation for them.  Liars.



Friday, January 29, 2016

What's up for 2016

There's nothing like being ahead of the game!

We did our annual TYOSNYDRT (Tour Your Own State New Years Day Road Trip) up around the thumb of Michigan.  I didn't worry about taking pictures, we didn't listen to the radio once we lost the NPR station we just enjoyed each others company and talked.

We went over a plethora of "What If's" - "What if we...", "What if I...", "What if you..." and we came up with some truly amazing ideas.  We realigned ourselves to what it is we are both looking to do with a fresh new year stretching before us and how we can support each other in reaching our goals.

I am so excited to move forward and work on achieving our dreams, it feels good and right.

Right around New Years there are a million articles clogging up everyone's feeds on resolutions. I do everything I can  to avoid them.  Short of not getting on the internet or reading magazines it's kind of hopeless.  I am a sucker though and being a Potterite I couldn't resist this one: 12 New Year's Resolutions Inspired by HP Characters.  And you know what? I love it.  I love it because it's not about losing weight or remembering to floss your teeth every. single. night.  It struck a cord with me so I am committing to do all of these things. Watch your snail-mailboxes!

The next article that caught my eye and I actually read was this one from The Kitchn, What Pushing the Resent Button Looks Like for Me After a Hard Year.  I had a rough start to 2015 at my job due to office politics and staffing shake-ups, moving to HQ from the comfort of the hospital that I had worked in since 2003 and finding my way at HQ, even though I have worked for the company since 2010. I didn't have any major catastrophes happen in 2015, it just wasn't a good year, it's hard to explain and I'm going to sound fruity but it just didn't fit.  Does that make sense? It felt like a wrong sized dress I was trying on in a too hot, tiny dressing room.  I've hit the reset and am looking forward to 2016!

Last year my word was patience and I feel like I have made great strides.  I still sometimes struggle with it by internally tapping my toe at who/whatever is I'm feeling impatient with but, I don't snap or verbalize my impatience.  Instead I tell myself to shut up and be patient.  It works!

Also in 2015 I said that I would try to:
1.  Say "I love you" more - Success!
2.  Knit more - Fail! I knit exactly one thing which I didn't even FINISH until a few weeks ago
3.  Find something, anything, at least one tiny morsel of happiness in every situation - Success, mostly!
4.  Read more - Success!
5.  Smile more - Partial success, it's hard to judge 'cause are we counting forced smiles?
6.  Blog more - Fail! Overwhelming failure at that.
7.  Be more patient - Success and I will continue to work on my patience!

This years word is: Calm.  It came to me out of the blue, I wasn't looking for a new word, just one day it popped into my head and it's stuck.  So a hundred times a day I say, both out loud and in my head "calm".

Hey wait!
Here's a picture so that when my post pops up there's a picture associated with it and not some weirdo squiggle or just nothing at all. I've been meaning to share this but didn't have a reason to.  Also, it's winter and flowers are a beautiful reminder that summer is right around the corner!
A picture I took in Greece of Bougainvillea.
Isn't it pretty?
It grows everywhere!
Last years motto for our little family of two was: You always, always, always have something to be thankful for.

This years motto is: There are so many beautiful reasons to be happy.

For 2016 I'll continue to say I love you more, read a lot, smile more and persist in trying to be patient. I'll work on actually getting my crafty on and knitting more, I'll solemnly do my best to be a better blogger and I'll add calm.

Viva 2016!

Blurbing: From Scratch Magazine

Meet the Newest Members of the From Scratch Team





Some super awesomeness happened back in the fall.  The fine folks over at From Scratch magazine decided that I was worthy enough to talk to for their blogger profile!

I know, crazy, right?

If you didn't know already I am the Empress of Exclamation Points.  Forgive my early morning eager beaver answers and over use of exclamation points. I should've had my lovely friend Cari, with her awesome editorial skillz proofread/edit my answers!

Here's a link to the the issue and my silliness: My Big Fat Green Life

You should totally sign up for their e-magazine because it's plain old awesome with tons of information (my interview notwithstanding)!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It Just Gets Away From Ya

Thursday, December 3, 2016
5:19 p.m.

I started this blog post 8ish hours ago.  And all that I came up with was a title.
Proof. Pudding.

Prediction: This is going to take me many more hours to write.  'Cause you know, I have to bake 6 dozen cookies for a cookie exchange at work tomorrow, roast the rooster (we'll get that) for dinner, finish laundry, vacuum the living room and decide how best to get the OhHolyGoodness sized tote of summer clothes downstairs, finally.

HI! How y'all been? It's been typically craaaazzzy around here.  My Beloved and I have been going at breakneck speed since August.

A few days after my last blog post (forever ago in September) I went to San Francisco to scope out and do some training for a new scheduling software. Let me tell you something, those hills ain't no joke! For serious.  You can see them on TV or in pictures but until your Uber driver drops you off six blocks DOWN HILL from your hotel in Union Square and you are wearing dress and super cute wedges and you have to hike up those blasted hills, it's not real.

Then at the beginning of October my Beloved and I took a road trip! We drove to Montreal to visit my dad's side of the family - Instagram pictures for the winny-win!

- 9:26 p.m.
Update: Dinner has been eaten, cookies have been baked and packaged, dishes done and laundry complete.  Side note: Jam Thumbprints - a Christmastime favorite 'round here, impossible to package- let alone cutely.

Tuesday, December 8
- 6:18 p.m.
What in the what is going on around here? Oh yeah, life.  Folks, I can only promise to keep trying; to write this post, to be a better blogger, to carve time out.

Where was I? Oh, yes.  Vacation! My beloved had only been to Montreal once before and that was for my cousins wedding.  He's never done the touristy stuff.  So we went to Notre Dame Basilica, took a horse drawn carriage tour of Old Montreal and would you believe if I told you that our carriage driver is from SE Michigan, only roughly 30 miles away? It is a small, small world! We also went to Mont Royal to the look out and saw all of Montreal sprawling out before us. Beautiful, beautiful.  The rest of the time was spent with family eating food, making food, eating food, catching up and eating.

Looking out over Montreal
Notre Dame Basilica 
Then we wended our way down to Connecticut via New York and Massachusetts.  We had meant to go through Vermont but we took the wrong exit after crossing the bridge.  We were doing it the old fashioned way, using our eyeballs and hastily scribbled directions from the internet because we didn't have internet in Canada so we used the free WiFi at a Tim Horton's.

Guess who lives in Connecticut? My friends from waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the day, Cari & Ken Donaldson of Ghost Fawn HomesteadClan Donaldson fame! We got to hang out with them and their six lovely children for a few days.  They were such great hosts! Ken ground coffee each morning and used his fancy french press to make us coffee, Cari cooked for us- yaay more food!, she took us to Boston to go to the Museum of Science, I went on my very first subway ride, and I'm still alive to talk about it.  Although there was a moment when it pulled up with people jammed in there like sardines, faces smashed against the glass and eyeballs bulging, that I had a wee bit of a "WTF did I let her talk me into?" moment.  But it was fine 'cause all those folks got off the train and made plenty of room for the nine of us.  On our last day there, Cari took us to a fancy New England apple orchard!

I think we all got caught up in the heat of it and even though my Beloved and I had at least two bushels at home from our own orchard, we picked a bushel of Macoun's.  Which is nothing in comparison to Cari's 140 pounds of apples!

Belltown Hill Orchards - South Glastonbury, CT
Apples from our orchard
(and Greek cookies from my aunts!)
Macouns from Connecticut
Apple pie filling ready for the freezer!


Friday, December 11
- 10:37 a.m.

By some miracle I talked my Beloved into taking me to Sleepy Hollow, New York! He was really, really keen on getting home because we had so much to do around the house/outbuildings and really, he wanted to cancel our trip all together.  But seeing as it was was only a few hours from Cari & Ken's house, it was October and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is my best most favoritest spooky story and my Beloved is awesome like that, we went! We had some (more) awesome Greek Food at Lefteris and stayed at a fancy hotel, Tarrytown House Estate that was hosting a Maserati convention that night, soooo fancy schmoopsy!

Awesome, right? Do you think they're to keep out the Headless Horseman or Zombies?

We took a lantern-lit walking tour of the cemetery! YaaaAyyY!
** I am going to interrupt this blog post**

Dear Y'all -

It is now January 17th.  It's time to kill this blog post, there is no hope of resurrecting this bad boy. I've got other posts to write! So here I will leave it with a photo dump.

Walnuts!
So. So. Many. Black. Walnuts.
After de-hulling them, this is our makeshift drying station,
an old screen door on saw horses in the pole barn
The weather was still in the 50's this November
So we delayed full winterization.
We checked on everyone before putting a quilt-box on
It looks like Matilda is doing her job!
November 21st -
The weatherman said we'd get a "few" inches of snow-
My Beloved dragged the snow blower out of the big barn
when the snow reached 6"
I stayed inside and made chili & cornbread for dinner
I stopped measuring at 13" -
We ended up with 16.8 inches!!!
The next morning I huffed it out to the hive to check on the girls
The hive faces ESE
We used straw bales as wind-blocks
After clearing the front of the hive
this little lady flew out and fell in the deep, deep snow.
I scooped her up, breathed on her until she started moving again,
became oriented and then I put her at the entrance where
she toddled inside.
This guy, Darth Vader, was SUCH a jerk.
Like his namesake.
And, like his father, Mercy
he was downright cruel to the hens - then
he started to come after me.
Sayonara, dude.
Padfoot and Darth Vader
I actually cried when I caught Darth Vader
and carried him upside down to the crate.
It didn't matter that he was a jerk.
But I did it.
I cannot and will not put up with horrible roosters.
And I just have to remember:
they had an awesome life and just one bad day.
Okay, now that that's over I feel like maybe I can move on to other posts! I have, no lie, eight drafts!

Viva 2016!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How You Bee-n?

Eh, get it? Huh? Funny, right? Okay, fine, not really.

I spent entirely too long trying to think of a clever title that included information about this post (bees) and to ease my back into blogging.

Like everyone else summer time is our busiest time.

The garden performed beautifully, lots and lots of beans, tomatoes, zucchini, corn (corn! we grew heirloom corn!), peas, cukes and dill.  We have lots of pie pumpkins but they got stupid powdery mildew so they didn't get very big before the vines started dying.  We had two watermelons, one on each vine. but they started rotting on the vine where they were in contact with the ground?? No Stars and Moon watermelon for us.  Le sigh.

Our June Garden
Corn, it grows over night.
All of the chickens are doing well, the middle-girls haven't started laying yet so my Beloved is planning a movie night and showing Chicken Run.


Mercy's legacy is two little roosters, Padfoot and Darth Vader

Padfoot in front and Darth Vader in back
Padfoot was named by our 13 year old niece, who is a HUGE Harry Potter fan (uh, who isn't?), she named him thusly because he was born on the anniversary of the day that Sirius Black died.  Who even knows this stuff?? Darth Vader was born a day later and was named by our then five year old nephew who is obsessed (like, who isn't?) with Star Wars.  Thanks for picking BOYS names guys!

That's Padfoot in front, you can definitely tell his daddy was a Silver Laced Wyandotte.  He has a small rose comb- I don't know squat about genetics and can't even guess who his biological Momma is but Esmeralda the wonderfully mothering Buff Orpington raised him up. Darth Vader is quite obviously Emily the Barred Rock's offspring and Prudence the Jersey Giant was his surrogate mother.  Pru decided rather early that she was done being a mom so Es stepped up and took both rowdy boys on.

About a week after she gave up on the whole mothering bit Pru tried to go broody again but I disabused her of that notion rather quickly.

Now onto the bee-f (get it? Bee ... bee -f... meat... no? I'll stop) of the post!

We have had some trouble in the hive.

My Beloved and I had gone to a tractor show (it's a new favorite past-time, so much fun!) and spoke to a beekeeper who told me that visiting my hive every few weeks was too much.  So, instead of following my gut instinct we didn't check the hive for a few more weeks.  Therefore we didn't know that they had gotten crowded and the queen decided to fly the coop.  I am so not blaming the beekeeper I spoke to, she was just giving me her opinion. One thing they said over and over at the bee conferences is that if you ask four beekeepers a question you'll get five answers.  It's all trial and error for even the most "experienced" beek (that's insider lingo for beekeeper, it's kinda like geek - you're welcome.)

When we did check the hive there were lots of swarm cells, we couldn't find the queen and there were no eggs. We did find capped brood though and saw a few bees emerging and they created a supersede cell (they were making an emergency queen).

We checked back and the emergency queen had hatched but was nowhere to be found, there were no eggs still, less brood and bees.  We had to step in. We purchased a mated queen from the beekeeper who we bought the original bees from.  I installed her on Thursday and we'll check tomorrow to see if she's out of her cage and going about her queenly business.


Ready for some pictures of our bee-scapades? Behold!

A bee hiding under a milkweed leaf in the front garden

Our Beehive!

When we took of the the first honey super we saw this; the first sign of trouble; swarm cells

The emergency queen (or supersede) cell


Burr comb with honey and larvae between the supers
I feel soooo bad! That's a bee in the burr comb that isn't fully developed.
We basically killed it when we lifted the super that was above it off.

An open swarm cell and some caped brood

Dang swam cells were everywhere!

A drone (boy) bee, some larvae and capped brood.
Do you see him there? Big, goobery and hairy-butted.
Here's a close-up of a drone.  See his massive eyes and hairy butt?
The girls are going to kick him and their other brothers out of the hive soon.
Unfortunately there are no eggs in this picture (it sort of looks like it but that is the sunlight glinting off the water & honey)
There is however some pollen and capped brood!
We closed up the hive and a found a couple of workers coming back with big ol' pollen pants!

This picture makes me so happy and I am in such awe.
It is a beautiful world we live in.
I am half convinced our last queen left because she was unnamed.
Therefore, without further ado, I present to you Matilda, Queen of Hollow Orchard Farm
Long live the queen!

And that my friends, is the end of the hive tour.  I'll take some pictures when we go out to check on Matilda and her brood!