Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: You were ok in my book!

2016 was a phenomenal year for me.

I made a million fantastic new friends through projects at work and in my personal life. I can't believe that I didn't know some of these people this time last year.

My best friends got pregnant and had a healthy baby. This time last year they were just starting the process and I can't believe how quickly it all worked out. Although I wish Jessica had been more comfortable during the last stages of her pregnancy, I am so happy that they have a healthy baby!

I had the gift of another year with Sugarbear. This time last year I really didn't think that would be possible. I can't believe she's about to turn 17.

Blake made amazing progress on the house. The bathroom, the wood stove, the front deck, the death of the tarp tent...I can't believe it but it's really coming together!

Gavin was accepted to the engineering program at his top choice school and is loving every second of college. We're proud of how he's embraced college life and how hard he is working. He's made some great friends and is truly squeezing every drop out of every opportunity he's been given.

The word of my year ended up being "NASA." I sent two things to (near) space and had two exciting space-cations. All of the grants I wrote got funded. All of these projects are hectic and time consuming and stressful and wonderful and challenging me in all sorts of ways.

I'm interested to see what 2017 brings. If it wasn't for the new president I'd probably be more excited and optimistic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

No Date Stew

B loves when I make this stew. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart Living a few years back. She called it Golden Lentil Stew. B loves it so much, though, that supply can not keep up with demand so a few years ago I was like, "Dude. Go make this yourself. You can read." He went and made it and was very disappointed and as we ate the stew we went over what steps he took to make it and I laughed uncontrollably.

Here's the thing, I don't follow recipes. I automatically omit ingredients I don't like and skip steps that I don't want to deal with. For example the original version of this calls for dates and I have never added one date to this stew ever. Fruit + stew= wrong. (ETA: Added dates. They kinda melted into the thing. It was fine.)

So, as B sobbed silently into his orzo with dates and other crap I promised him I would make the stew again and write down the Julie version. Which, as it turns out, doesn't have a whole helluva lot in common with the original but it is delicious.

No-Date Stew;---sounds like my dad's college roommate....HAR HAR HAR.

1. Cut up an onion. Cut it in big chunks and save the middle part for last so you won't cry. Put it in the pot as fast as you can.
2. Sprinkle the onion with olive oil and turn the pot on to high.
3. Find the vegetable stock and add 4 cups of it, 4 cups of water, and a can of garbonzo beans to the pot.
4. Cut up some, about 4 stalks, of celery into big chunks. Get rid of the parts that look gross, which is most of it. Put it in the pot.
5. Grate 3 large cloves of garlic and mash it with 1 teaspoons of coarse salt. Scoop it into the pot.
6. Cut up 4 fresh tomatoes, 4 roma tomatoes or get a can of tomatoes and put it in the pot.
7. Add a cup of lentils and set the timer for 40 minutes. Turn the pot to "5." Yeah. That's right. FIVE.
8. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste but then think, "Hell. What am I going to use the rest of this for? This stuff doesn't grow on trees. Oh wait it kinda does." and put the whole can in the pot.
9. Add a cinnamon stick. Break it into a few pieces. Stir. (Or 1 t of cinnamon.) Add 1 T of lemon juice and 1/2 c of chopped dates if you're into that kind of nonsense.
10. Ignore most of the spices cause you don't like them. Add a 1/2 t of paprika, a 1/2 of ginger and 1 t of all spice powder. Stir.
11. When the timer goes off add 5 oz of orzo by looking at how much orzo is in the container and guessing what 5oz would look like. Cook the orzo until it squishes.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Chrismoose 2016

Chrismoose eve was, well, I hesitate to call it "unseasonably" warm because it seems like December in NC is generally a rollercoaster of seasonality...but it was warm.

It was so warm that I took off my leggings and used them for a scarf while we were hiking! We had a lazy-ish day and prepared for our festivities.

After the hike we ate way too much Indian food for dinner and it was marvelous. 

Chrismoose/Christmas 2016 was a good one! 

We were lucky enough to celebrate with this little elf and his parents. This time next year we'll look at this photo and marvel at how wee he was. He's a very good baby.

We made fish stew again this year and it didn't rain for once! We had bread, stew and Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings with ice cream. I made a double batch and we ate the entire pan! They are that good. We tried to decide how this recipe came into being, "Well, wrap an apple in a whomp biscuit and then soak the whole thing in sugar and butter....then...hmm...this needs something...cinnamon, vanilla...still needs just a kick of some...OH I KNOW... MOUNTAIN DEW."

One of my favorite presents is the rejuvenation of the front porch. Sugar and I are porch sittin' gals and we've braved the precarious dry rot and carnivorous skeeters for too long. The porch had so many secret holes that were covered with junk for "safety" that I would joke that we were trying to catch the UPS guy using the old tried and true Bugs Bunny rug over an open trap door technique. 

I've been "helping" with this project but B is truly hustling on it. We're going to screen it in and put a hammock out there! 

I've been reading! Books! For fun! Over break and Pommy has been making sure that stay warm while I read. I love how snuggly the kitties get in the winter. 

For my work Secret Santa this year I purchased a "redneck plunger" which is basically a plunger that makes gun noises and looks like a gun. It was a hit with everyone who did not receive it.

The gift I picked was in a huge box that had to be brought in on a dolly. I figured that I had a non-zero chance of getting a pony, so I went ahead and went for that one even though my co-workers were wary of the size of the package and the glee with which it was delivered. For my efforts I was awarded with Maxine:

I have no idea what she is or what her primary purpose was in her earlier life but she is simply fabulous.  LOOK AT HER. BEHOLD THE SASS. I don't know what I will do with her and for now she is guarding my lab from ne'er do wells. (When do well? Ne'er.)

In the win some/lose some column this year was our tree. We borrowed it from a nearby powerline cut and when we first brought it into the house it was dendritically frondiferferous in both girth and festivity. 

Sadly, over time, and with all of the pets enjoying cedar sangria from their new water bowl, it started to dry out and became a harbinger of splinters and swears. Each tiny verdant razor blade was enough to bring a tear to a grown man's eye. In order to take it down I armed myself with gloves and my winter coat and I still ended up getting involuntary acupuncture. (Heavy on the puncture and light on the accuracy.)

For all the faults of this tree it did have us invoking Christ's name and thus, remembering the reason for the season. Next year we will get our tree from the Food Dog.

B finnnnnaaaallllly installed the wood stove that we bought last year. After searching for, ordering and destroying a custom chimney pipe we made the decision to undo the slack work around that the previous owners installed and do it the right way. This involved B inside of the chimney with a hammer. We evicted the bats.

It is delightful and I'm so happy that we bought it! Things are actually starting to come together over here.

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Do you need some inspiration for that certain someone in your life? Do you want to get them the raddest gift available? Well, I have a bunch of things I'm procrastinating from doing so it was either do this or make a video, and I've chosen to make a holiday gift guide. I'm not sponsored by any of these people and feel free to buy me all of these things as a "thank you" for giving you such a comprehensive list.


The Oregon Trail Card Game- Yourmom can die of dysentery without electricity now.

A stuffed Marnie- If you don't follow Marnie on instagram you are missing one of the great joys in life.

An Authagraph accurate globe model- because geography is the gift that keeps on giving. 

"Thing Explainer" by Randall Munroe- Another book by the brilliant author of, "xkcd."

A Rough Linen pinafore- Being a person who makes things can be messy. It's good to stay stylish while you're creating a disaster.

An inflatable hammock/raft thingamajig- For when you're practicing what it's like to relax.

Hipster goth nerd custom perfume- This website is bonkers and I love it. 

Fancy notebooks- For keeping track of all of your evil schemes/NASA projects/capers.

An Instantpot!-It's like a slow cooker but instead of being slow it's more like a turbo cooker. 

A "Y'all Means Everyone" sticker or magnet- Let people know that it isn't Trump's America yet and it's never gonna be.

Bamboo socks- Two words that don't seem to go together but are actually incredibly comfy when combined.

Light leggings- For when it's hot outside but you know on some level that you should be wearing pants.

A moustash stash- For emergency situations.

Brontosaurus earrings- Yes, a brontosaurus is real, just like Santa. If the thing has a name and a shape it is real. 

A Bill Murray pillowcase- I don't know why but someone in your circle is going to love this.

These weird shoes- These look like they have octopus tentacles on the soles but they feel like heaven. People always compliment me on them. I guess they look ok from the top. 

Something awesome from Runaway clothing- Because one of my old students is a co-owner and everything they sell will make you logarithmically cooler than you already are. 

A round beach towel- For all of the big plans you have this summer.

A bunch of monster-trucking PYREX- My Kroger has a set on special for $19.99. Generally a bowl sized doo-dad with a lid will run you like, five bucks. Aw yeah girl, you can pack yourself a nice lunch, bring some casseroles to your BFF who just had a baby, or just enjoy some pudding out of the frilly little puddin' cups. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Gender in Stereo Types

Me: "If you're a boy at a baby shower and you win a game...what is an acceptable present?"

Blake, deadpan, instant: "Tampons."

Me: " maybe a container of barbecue sauce."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Three Years

Happy Houseaversary.

This blog, and house updates in general, have been pretty slow the last few months. I've been aggravated by how much is left to do on the house. It's helpful to see pictures like these to remind me of how far we've come.

That said, I'd still love to live in a "normal" and "done" house. Three years is a long time to live in a construction zone.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Night's Alright for Gaffling

About a week ago I was talking to my neighbor and writing buddy, Jo, and she dropped the tantalizing nugget of information that a huge historic area and park that was opening up nearby actually connects to the Green Mountain 'hood along a little sliver of woods. All you have to do is juke through the woods and cross the train tracks, and you're right in the thick of it. Soon the park will have miles of trails, a pond, and other attractions.

B was super psyched to hear this information and immediately looked it up on Google maps. He was itching to go out and explore but we had a busy week and temperatures were hovering around 100 degrees so we kept putting it off.

Tonight he couldn't wait any longer and begged me to go explore with him. 
"It's so hot," I whined. 
"It's not that bad," he said as his glasses steamed up.
"Muruuggggggghhhhhhh," I replied as I delicately melted into a puddle of goo.
"The website says they have some old house foundations...."
"I'm in."

Awwww yeah. I'm all about some ruins. Old crumbling chimneys, remnant foundations, mossy walls, mill dams....YES. 

Trespassing? BONUS.

It was so stupefyingly hot, and we had just eaten waffles, and I smelled a lot like bug spray, so I had some flashbacks.  Things were vaguely reminiscent but luckily not as arduous. I swannee, I have spent this entire summer either stumbling through the woods or typing words in this chair. 

After a fair amount of tromping randomly through the undergrowth we found something tremendous! AN OLD SPRING HOUSE!


And when we peeked inside you could still see the spring bubbling up and spilling out the way it was supposed to. It was evident that layers had been added to the house, and it had been retrofitted for power with a pump at some point!

Our path intersected an old road and then we started seeing some orange flags that looked like a trail! It made things a lot simpler and we were even more excited to confirm on our GPS that we were headed in the right direction. I was really sweaty and thirsty but B said something about an old staircase and some columns and I felt the metaphorical wind in my sails. (The actual wind was stagnant.)

We knew we were getting close when we saw some sweet vintage trash.


But then I looked up and saw this majestic clearing!

The pictures don't do it justice. I felt like I'd stumbled into the secret garden. You're looking at the remnants of an entire house, and a really enchanting one at that. The sun was going down and extant crepe myrtles were blooming. The scene was ethereal and smelled like lilacs and pine.

Old places like this, where everything is gorgeously haunted, make my imagination go wild. I love mentally filling in the missing pieces and envisioning what it would've been like in the glory days. It's probably the only trait I have that is even slightly goth. Well, that and my love of sitting in graveyards and staring into the middle distance longingly. 


It is amazing how quickly nature can reclaim a place. Let that humble you.

But then a deer stand nearby brings you back to the present.

It's ok, purple is a good color on me. Did I mention it was really hot?

I was enchanted by this teeny bulb I found in the dirt.

And even though I didn't find the kitchen sink, I did find a strainer. 

Oooh....historic strainer. 
Brain: Take. Me: Why? Brain: You gotta.
(I didn't. I took a picture. It'll last longer...well maybe not...this is a pretty darn old strainer.)

Imagine the parties on the veranda. 

B was enamored with this fused glass.

We found where my bulb goes! I don't know why this made me so happy but it did!

I left it in situ

It's appropriate that I was wearing my new balloon recovery t-shirt. It was a good trial for it. I had a quite fetching sweat/boob outline on it at the end of this excursion. 

It was starting to get dim, and we had a long hike out, so we found our way back to the trail and then looped around past where we'd come in. At one point we were surprised by a huge, as yet unidentified, bird of prey who flew off in front of us...landed...and disappeared....around this creeeeeeeppppppy thing.

PS Air conditioning is the best. 

"If we will have the wisdom to survive, To stand like slow-growing trees on a ruined place, Renewing, enriching it, If we will make our seasons welcome here, Asking not too much of earth or heaven, Then a long time after we are dead, The lives our lives prepare will live here, Their houses strongly placed upon the valley's sides, Fields and gardens rich in the windows. The river will run clear, as we will never know it, And over it, bird song like a canopy. On the levels of the hills will be green meadows, Stalk bells in noon shade. On the steeps where greed and ignorance Cut down the old forest An old forest will stand, Its rich leaf fall drifting on its roots. The veins of forgotten springs will have opened. Families will be singing in the fields. In their voices they will hear a music Risen out of the ground. They will take nothing from the ground they will not return, Whatever the grief at parting. Memory native to this valley Will spread over it like a grove, And memory will grow into legend, Legend into song, Song into sacrament. The abundance of this place, The songs of its people and its birds Will be health and wisdom and in-dwelling light. This is no paradisal dream. Its hardship is its possibility."- Wendell Berry