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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Things I should have bought

We've planned on buying a piece of antique furniture to use as a linen closet since we moved into our house over a year ago. I like antiques, if they're built well; they're interesting and unique. I'm not afraid of pieces of furniture that need to be refinished. Unfortunately, our budget in the last year hasn't really allowed us to drop $500 on anything... 

So I've been popping through antique stores every chance I get. I've found a few in and around Bozeman that have decent pieces at decent prices. I've also found a few that are way overpriced. Like, hello, the real estate bubble burst. No one is dropping $5,000 on a small armoire these days. 

My way of flying these pieces past DJ is to snap a photo of them with my phone and see if DJ likes it. If you scroll through my phone it's a collection of Harlow and old furniture photos. I thought I'd share the furniture photos. 

In regards to hallway furniture, the space we have in the hallway is pretty small. The biggest the piece can be is 18" deep and 36" wide, and even then, it's kind of pushing it. 

I should have bought this one the first time I saw it. It was under $200 and would have fit. No shelves inside, but that's an easy add. 

This one is still for sale at a place downtown... if you're willing to drop $576 on it! It's the right size, but I'm not thrilled with the color, or the price.

This one is still at an antique store down the road, for $275. If we don't find something by the first of February, we might settle on this. It's the right size, at the right price, although DJ wants something fancier (but not the fancier price).

At a certain point it occurred to me that we could use a dresser in the hallway as an alternative, if it was the right size. Unfortunately, none of these would work:

Too big, but I love the mirror.$300 maybe? 

Also too wide, but could be a really cool as an entryway dresser. Or maybe a media cabinet? I think it's $300 or so?

This piece is also too big, but I loved it! For like $169! Funky shape, large, sturdy. Sadly, I had no place to put it... and it sold pretty quickly too.

I also really want a sideboard in our dining room. A little extra storage, something cool, etc. Of course, it's the least practical of all purchases right now, so this one is a ways out. Here are the two I most liked:

I think this was like $400. Cool mirror shape, nicely curved surfaces, in decent shape. 

This one is still my favorite. I seriously thought about buying this, before coming to my senses. Its $570 or so, and in really nice shape. I think the Arts and Crafts feeling would do well in our dining room.

In terms of our dining room, our current table is fine, but I'd eventually like to replace it with a round table. Our Living Room/ Dining Room/ Kitchen is very square. Square space, square furniture, square furniture arrangements. Something like this:


I also saw a dresser that I should have just bought for our bedroom. It was $700, but HUGE and well built. I'm still kicking myself:

I have also been looking for a nightstand/ bedside table for myself. I'm not neurotic about having furniture be matchy matchy. I just want stuff that is interesting and works well together. But I came across this set at my favorite used furniture/ antique store in Great Falls, and wish I would have bought it. The dresser might have worked in the hallway and the night stands would have been perfect. The set was somewhere around $300, but I would have had a hard time fitting it in my car. 

These last two are just funky items that I came across. I like the idea of a trunk ($49!) as a coffee table or media stand. The table i($69) s just cool, although it probably wouldn't work as a nightstand. 


None of these items came home with me in 2010, unfortunately. I kick myself about the big dresser that would have been good for our bedroom, and the first armoire. Hopefully we'll have the expendable income in 2011 to make some cool purchases!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Neuroses

I think I have a slight sensory overload disorder. Or maybe I'm normal and all of you like too much stuff, sounds and lights cluttering up your life?

Our Living Room/ Dining Room/ Kitchen is all one big room. It's awesome for entertaining and generally a great layout, but man, if one area of those spaces is messy it ALL looks messy.

I come downstairs and get itchy and anxiety ridden when the mail on the end table, the dining room table and the kitchen bar. Shoes out. Dishes undone or not put away (I HATE a messy/ dirty kitchen. Grosses me out). Three days worth of newspapers strung throughout the space.The TV blaring and every light in the space on, all while we're trying to eat dinner. Not relaxing. Too much... everything!

So you can imagine my discomfort during Christmas when we added holiday clutter decorations. I'm the only one to blame; I put them out! But the dangly balls in the window, the Christmas tree that I always jostled walking by, the groups of Santa figurines in the windows, etc. really just did me in. And seriously; we're MINIMALISTS when it comes to holiday (or any kind of) decorating. We had like four items out and it was too much for me.

I've been itching to put the Christmas decorations away since the 26th.

AND I USED TO LOVE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!!! The more the better was my motto when I was 12!

The clutter has pushed me into serious cleaning, organizing and getting-rid-o-shit mode though. On Monday night I reorganized the guest bedroom closet and moved the linens into the dresser. On Wednesday night we put away the Christmas decorations. I also re-arranged the living room, vacuumed and organized the hall closet. On Thursday I organized and cleaned my office so I can start 2011 clean and tidy. And with less shit.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quiet week

Remind me next year that being in the office around the holidays is ridiculously boring. Sure, I could use the quiet time to get big projects done. To think ahead, and write reports that are due at the end of January. Instead I just cruise the internet and wish we had the expendable cash to buy furniture for our house.

At the very least, I should have taken one day off this week to be home by myself. I have an itch to sew, to clean and to organize our closets and paperwork files. And to hang out with Harlow. I mean seriously:
I'd like to snuggle with my blankie too!

Oh well. Hoarding vacation days for better weather. We're supposed to get some snow today before seeing a high of zero on Friday and a low of -19. Being gub'ment workers, we get Friday off for New Years, so I can do inside house things then.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Progress

I made an off hand comment to DJ last night which, upon reflection, made me realize something pretty amazing: three years ago at this time we hadn't even kissed yet.

I am a a list-maker, a forward-thinker, and always have an idea of the next project or steps I want to take. But sometimes I forget to recognize what I or we have accomplished. And realizing that three years ago we weren't even an item puts things into perspective.

Especially since I spent Monday afternoon working on a budget spreadsheet for the next three years.

Since January 1, 2008, I or we have made it through 13 pretty major events or milestones:

  1. Begun dating (January 1, 2008)
  2. Moved in together (August 2008)
  3. Started talking about getting married (fall 2008)
  4. Picked out an engagement ring (March 2009)
  5. Put DJ's condo on the market (June 2009)
  6. Sold DJ's condo (August 2009)
  7. Started building our house (August 2009)
  8. Got engaged (August 2009)
  9. Moved from the condo to a temporary apartment (September 2009)
  10. Moved from the apartment to the house (October 2009)
  11. I harassed DJ into getting a dog decided to get a dog (March 2010)
  12. Went hiking in Utah (April 2010)
  13. Got married (July 2010)
Really, that's a lot of things. A lot of changes. A lot of progress. 

Three years ago I'd moved back home after grad school. Now... well, there are  a LOT of things I want to do. A LOT that has to be budgeted for, saved for and picked out and done and traveled to and oh my, where is my list!?

But. But we've also gotten a lot done in three years. I need to be cognizant of the changes, for the better, that we've made, and have faith that things like buying paying off our wedding, buying new bedroom furniture, planning and traveling to Europe, and all those other things will happen. It just takes time.

Because, you know, I have patience. (right?)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas at Home

We're staying here for the holidays. It'll be just the two of us, plus the doggie. We have some lovely friends coming over to share Christmas Eve Dinner tomorrow night and plan on a weekend of cross country skiing around beautiful Bozeman.

We're working through building what will be "our family tradition". Thus far, it includes traditions from DJ's family such as:

  • Prime Rib dinner. Related, my husband has named our Christmas Eve Dinner "Optimus Prime Rib"; is this a Star Wars reference?
  • Opening one gift on Christmas Eve, and the rest the morning of Christmas Day. (I'm not sure how I feel about this. My family opens them on Christmas Eve... but then again we also have like 4 Christmases spread throughout the weekend, so?)
Traditions from my family will include:
  • Drinking whiskey
  • Drinking wine
  • Eating chocolate
Traditions I hope we can start this year:
  • Doing something active and "Montana-ey" on Christmas Day. This year it's XC skiing. 
  • Taking a dog for a walk to check out all of the Christmas decorations in a different part of town. We do the loop in our neighborhood at least three times a week. Maybe the historic district this year?
  • Turning off Football, even just for a little, and watching a movie together. With buttery popcorn an wine. 
It's tricky for both of us to be away from family for the holidays; especially for me with aging grandmothers that I'm close to. At the same time, we're both really relieved to not be doing the 1600 mile road trip on shitty roads at Christmas. Everyone understands, everyone was invited, and it'll just be the two of us. I think that's okay, as long as I stay busy. 

More tomorrow!

(Sidenote: remind me to never work the day before Christmas break begins. Nothing happened at work today.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Good things lately

I learned a few things this fall which have made life pretty darn awesome. They are small little tricks and free items that make life more convenient and enjoyable.

The first is free audiobooks from the Bozeman Public Library, who partners with libraries across the state to share audiobooks for download to library patrons. You go to their webpage, log in with your library card number, download the software, and can browse through over 5,000 audiobooks to download to a computer, ipod, or other handheld device. It looks like this:

I know I'm totally dorking out here. But FREE. EASY. Something to listen to on road trips and driving to the office and on long bike rides, walks and runs. Yes, I just said I will run listening to an audiobook! While it lacks a pump you up beat, it sure as hell keeps you from shuffling through your iPod to find just the right song.


Seriously. Use this free technology from the Bozeman Public Library. It rocks my face off.

The second thing that made life easier just yesterday was ordering photo prints online from Bozeman's F-11 camera shop. Some lucky family members are getting wedding photos as Christmas gifts. I've been procrastinating getting them printed until it was pretty much too late. I googled F-11 to see what the cost per print would be, and saw the "Print online" button. SCORE! I was able to upload photos, decide what size and quantity of prints, and order them in about 10 minutes. No walking to the store. No trying to find a parking space. The photos were done 3 hours later too! Super, duper, extra awesome.

The third awesome thing I found this fall was these containers, Rubbermaid take alongs:
Yes, I'm serious. These things are awesome. 

You may or may not know that I have a slight obsession with having single-serving soups in the freezer in the winter. I almost always eat lunch at work, and it makes life a LOT easier if I can just reach in the freezer and grab a frozen soup. About a month ago I realized that we didn't have 15978348375348918 enough containers, so I grabbed more at the grocery store while stocking up on supplies for crock-pot soup. 

The next day, while ladling out soup into freezable containers, I realized these containers have a measurement line on the side of them. GENIUS! Especially for those of us making the portion control effort. 

So there you have it. Three things I found this fall that make life awesome. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A growing appreciation

I have 12 friends and acquaintances having a baby between September and May; 10 of which are boys. A number of them are sorority sisters of mine, and we all joke about the AOII curse: you will have a boy first. Then maybe a girl. But most likely another boy.

Sunday I helped host a baby shower for my "little sister" in the sorority. I got really lucky with my "littles"; both are women that I admire, wish I could be a little like, and grow more fond of every year. I'm grateful to have them in my life.

Sunday evening I was telling an older woman on my Board,  who was also in a sorority in the 1940's, that I'm realizing more and more the value of being an AOII. Jane is in her 80's, but that woman is a firecracker who drives a number of initiatives in Bozeman. I want to be her when I grow up.

I told Jane that during the baby shower I recognized the incredible, diverse group of friends I can call on at any time for advice. Women who are professionals with terminal degrees, women who are successful business owners, girls who are already mothers or becoming mothers, and alumni who are older than I am, yet treat me as an equal to call when I have a question about grown up issues.

We're not planning on having a kid for a while yet. But after the death of a sorority sister in September from a baby-related item (postpartum psychosis), I recognized how important it is and will be for me to have a crew of local friends to call on for help, commiseration and advice. I'm grateful for them.

People in Montana make fun of sorority girls. Yeah, sometimes it isn't all fraternity parties and charitable events. It means living with 30-40 other women your age, one of which is guaranteed to be a flat-out biatch. But here's the secret: there will always be a biatch in your life; best to figure out how to deal with them now.

The long term benefits continue to amaze me: close friends who can pick up right where they left off, a small understanding of human tendencies, an appreciation for organization and the support of over 50 women who will help the moment I ask.

Jane understood exactly what I was saying; for her being a Greek woman meant that when she moved with her young family to Wisconsin, California, Washington DC and Bozeman, she could contact their alumnae group and have an instant connection to a place and people in that place. It means, for an elderly woman, having friends to lean on as others pass away, and a connection to who she was as a young woman unfettered by disappointment or burdened by an ailing body.

I'm grateful, too, that being in a sorority gave me the ground work to have such intimate conversations with women two generations older than me. Women who treat me as a friend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mornings

I've become a go-go-go-go person. I truly do get more done when I'm busy than when I have an entire day to myself. Something about having deadlines, or being motivated to go to the gym right now or else it won't happen because of this meeting. I thrive, really, under a moderate amount of pressure.

In the last two weeks I've been trying to find ways to actively relax. I don't mean zoning out in front of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, because while that show is mindless, I'm not relaxed afterwards. Not invigorated. Not calmed the fuck down. Instead, I'm wondering why in the love of god all of those women look like aliens? Have you noticed that? Seriously; they scare me.

But I digress.

I went to two yoga classes last week, and learned two important things: 1) I am not bendy; and 2) yoga is kind of hard! My triceps are sore this morning from Saturdays class.

Does it help me relax? hmmm. Kinda. Not in a "wow I see the world in a totally different way" kind of relaxation, but in a "well that was a n ice change of pace from my usual workout."

I've also tried to protect myself by putting limits on when I'll discuss work. My board's holiday party was last night, and two of the members tried to ask me about a business item. The same business item which cranked my shoulders into a knotted mess of frustration on Thursday. I was rude to the board members, throwing up my hands in the stop signal and saying "I'm sorry, I can't talk about this now," and "I spent four hours on this last week and I just can't now. We're having a nice social gathering. Would you like another beer?"

But one of the most important things I do for myself a couple of days a week is give myself some time at home alone with the dog in the morning. I'll spend 45 minutes after DJ leaves to drink my coffee, browse email and blogs, and pet the doggie, who never can have enough attention. Then I hit the gym, the shower and work. I'm lucky to work in an environment that allows flexible hours, so I can roll into the office at 10 am and work until 6 pm without reproach.

Mornings home alone seem to be the only time I get to myself. And I appreciate them more and more.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Days like this

I'm not sure if I ever posted about it, but we ended up dancing to Van Morrison's "Days Like This" at our wedding. It's always been a song that can make me smile, and seemed to fit the laid back attitude we wanted our wedding to have.

I came home last night fired up about work issues, and could feel another one of those nights coming on. I'm still struggling with things at work, frustrated by inability to get stuff done because one issue after another keeps popping up. And then when those issues arise, I can't seem to handle them in an efficient and effective manner that doesn't end up in 45 minute Very Serious conversations with my boss.

It's frustrating.

DJ could sens that I was just going to be pissed about a lot of things last night when I got home. He let me vent without telling me how to handle it. He gave me some space to cool of. He went for a walk in the 8 degrees temperatures with me. And by the time we went to bed I was giggling and laughing. And I slept through the night.

And this morning, I'm reminded that there will be days like this.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Learning to chill out

You might have noted the post time for yesterday's blog entry; 5:22 am Mountain Standard Time.

I'm not a morning person. I don't normally get up that early. I rarely wake up that early on purpose.

But it's the third or fourth time this fall that I've woken up sometime in the early hours of the morning and been unable to fall back asleep.

I don't know what wakes me up, but once my mind starts whirring it seems like there is no stopping it.

Anxiety about work: frustration with what seems like my inability to actually accomplish anything positive, annoyance at myself for not handling a situation properly, stress about finishing a project. Frustration with the interaction between myself and a coworker as we both try to figure out our changed roles in the office. I wonder if these are growing pains associated with maturing into my position?

Stress about finances: well, not really. This is a lame one. We're fine. We're both professionals with well-paying jobs. We have savings, paid-off cars, and a very, very simple (read: cheap) lifestyle. But. But dang I'd like to be putting more money away. I'd like to buy a new bed, new bed frame. I'd like to see something in an antique store and feel totally fine about snapping up a $700 dresser that would be perfect for us. I want to buy our next vehicle in cash. I wish we weren't still paying off the wedding and instead could afford a real honeymoon.

Annoyance about the scar tissue in my cornea. I mean, how the hell does a person develop 10 different pockets of scar tissue IN THEIR EYEBALL and not have a clue about it? Frustration that the timing probably works out so that it'll be five years before we can afford a $4,000 optional surgery. Five years of wearing contacts and glasses...

I try to calm myself down through deep breathing, envisioning being on the dock at the lake and any other relaxation technique I know. More often than not, after about 20 minutes I just get out of bed and work on something in the office. My mom mentioned once that she figured it was better to just get up and address whatever is stressing you out, rather than rolling around and keeping your bedmate awake.

I waited an hour Thursday morning. It just didn't seem right to get out of bed at 3:45 am. I rolled over. I mentally planned my 2011 garden. I listened to the dog snore and twitch on her bed at the end of ours. I tried not to wake Dusty up. All to no avail.

I exercise regularly. I eat pretty well, although stress leads to candy for me, which doesn't help. But apparently my coping strategies of exercise, delicious food, and throwing the ball for the dog aren't working lately. I need to develop new stress-management coping mechanisms. Cheap ones, preferably.

I took a yoga class in college. I hated it. But maybe I should give it another try? I'm not sure what else...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vision update

The eye surgeon (optical surgeon?) in Great Falls called me yesterday afternoon to follow up, unfortunately with frustrating news. 

They will only operate on a "stable" eye, meaning one that has stopped changing. My vision prescription has been stable enough over the last two to three years to make me a good candidate for LASIK. The scar tissue found last month, however, negates my current eligibility for corrective surgery. 

The cornea specialists that he works with seemed to think it was caused by a virus, which he said "got your eye pretty good." Since I have no recollection of an eye infection, he thinks it was a passing virus, and the tissue will eventually heal on its own.Additional steroid treatment might help. 

On the off chance the virus that caused the scar tissue was something in my system, like the same virus that causes cold sores, the virus will just be in my system. The kicker? A steroid treatment would make the virus worse. 

There isn't a lab test they can do to figure out which kind of a virus this is, so the diagnosis is to wait out a recovery period of at least a year, monitor every three months with cornea mapping, and anticipate having a stable eyeball in a year to 18 months. If after that time period the scar tissue has cleared up, they'll do LASIK in both eyes. If the scar tissue hasn't cleared up, but remains the same as it is today, PRK in the left eye and LASIK in the right.

Yeah. A year. 

The crummy thing is that dropping $4,000 on LASIK is pretty far outside of the realm of our financial resources. FLEXing it, as a medical expense, significantly improves our ability to afford the procedure. Ironically, our FLEX withholding is currently on a January-December rotation, which would have meant I could have FLEXed out the money necessary beginning in January, combined it with the leftovers from the 2010 year and had the procedure anytime before March 1. But the City is changing our flex withholding next year to match the fiscal year of July 1- June 30. 

That means that if a year from now my cornea is stable enough to have surgery, I have to wait until July of 2012 to FLEX out the money for the procedure. 

Have I mentioned that patience is a virtue that I really, really don't have?

But I do now have $500 in 2010's FLEX to spend. New glasses, I suppose?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Seeing the sights

Last night I drove to Helena after dinner, to stay the night with Ali before driving to Great Falls for a consultation with an optic surgeon. 


I've beer wearing contact lenses to correct my vision since I was 12. I have glasses that I'll change into before bed or wear occasionally, but I much prefer my contacts. Especially when it's sunny out and I want to wear sun glasses. 


I've considered corrective laser eye surgery for a number of years now. I figure that the $3-4k I spend now will even out in contact solution, optometrist appointments, etc. over time. A few friends of mine have had it and RAVE about being able to see the clock when they wake up.


This fall my health insurance notified me of $500 in unused FLEX for 2010. I overestimated some things last fall when I signed up, and now had a pile o'money to use. My insurance let's me use 2010's flex in the first 2 months of 2011 in conjunction with my 2011 flex money. So after discussing what it means to our budget for me to flex out $3,000 in 2011 with DJ, I made an appointment with my optometrist in early November. 


During that appointment he found scar tissue in my left cornea. Unexplained, spontaneous scar tissue. I can't remember a big impact to my left side that would have cause it. Or an infection, or anything worse than a two ibuprofen headache.


So I wore my glasses for a week and used a steroid drop to try to get it to clear up. No dice. 


At the follow up appointment my optometrist suggested that although the scar tissue disqualifies me for Lasik surgery, I would still be a candidate for PRK corrective surgery because the surgeon could laser off the scar tissue during the procedure. 

My optometrist in Bozeman, who by the way played football for my dad at MSU in the 80's, referred me to an eye surgeon in Great Falls. 

I should footnote this next part by saying that I was already annoyed with the surgeon's office. They sent me an informational packet on November 17. I never received it. I called on Tuesday to ask them to resend it. I still haven't received it. I called on Friday to have them email it to me. Guess what I still haven't received!? 

Then when I arrived in Great Falls today, they realized that although I was in Great Falls, my appointment was in Spokane. 450 miles away. Really inspiring confidence here guys. 

Thankfully they were able to get me in to see the surgeon anyway. But before hand they did all of the same exam procedures I'd already done (and paid for once, already) in Bozeman. And the technician couldn't get their new fangled machine (circa 1987, I swear) to focus in and I kept getting dizzy. 

Long story short, he looked at me, we chatted, and he felt comfortable saying they'd do Lasik on my right eye. But he'd need to consult with the other six cornea specialists in his clinic network before agreeing to to do PRK surgery on my left eye. He's concerned that the spontaneous scar tissue could form again; that my cornea isn't stable. 

So it's a mixed bag. Lasik on my right eye means a 48 hour recovery and not being nearly blind for a week. PRK on my left eye means they can laser through the scar tissue and remove it. And maybe my vision insurance will cover my left eye. 

But. But I still drove 3 hours/ 220 miles to do essentially the same tests and have the same conversation that I had with a guy I've known 20+ years less than a mile from my house.

No wonder health insurance is so expensive. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Adult financial decisions


The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I arrived home from a late work meeting in tears. I'd slid through three intersections on the slick, snow packed roads, and then couldn't get enough traction to get across another intersection before the light changed. Thankfully the other car coming saw my predicament and waited.  

Monday night I had to be pushed out of my parking spot on the street next to AOII. 

Tuesday night I got stuck in the street 100 yards from our house. The City hadn't plowed yet, and last week's snow had been made into mushy white stuff the consistency of cookie dough. Dusty and a kind neighbor pushed me out. 

Yesterday we spent $380 on new all-weather tires for my car. I know what you're thinking; "Courtney you live in one of the snowiest places in the US, why not purchase snow tires?"

For the same reason we haven't, and won't repair the $5,500 worth of hail damage to my car last June. Its 6 years old, has 68,000 miles and it's worth $6,000, not deducting for hail damage. I'm not putting $5,500 (hail damage)+ $700 (snow tires & rims)+ $1,000 (new brakes at 80,000 miles) on a vehicle worth less than that. Doing so commits us to owning my car for at least 5 more years. 

My car is front wheel drive, it doesn't have Anti Lock Brakes. It's 6 years old. I want something I feel comfortable and safe driving to Pocatello to see my parents in, or driving to Colton to see my extended family in. It would be nice to not ALWAYS take Dustys truck when traveling in the winter. Simply put, reinvesting in it is a poor financial decision.  

I bought my car brand new in the fall of 2004. I drove it through my senior year of college. I drove it to and from Kentucky for grad school. Its fine for getting around Bozeman when needed, great for summer road trips. It's been a great car; my family is loyal to Nissan for a reason.  

Which makes what I'm about to type even more shocking; I think I want either a new Subaru Outback (which I've made fun of for at least 10 years now!) Or a new Chevy Equinox (me! The educated liberal elite buying domestic!). Both have all-wheel drive, ABS and really great consumer reviews. Not to mention price points below $30,000.  

But for the next year or 18 months I will enjoy my new all-weather tires. And enjoy a paid off car. And be a grown up about acknowledging that purchasing a brand new car might now be in our financial future.  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Harlanita!


Harlow came with us to Eastern Washington for Thanksgiving. She's a good road trip dog, although she looks a little dubious of the upcoming adventure in this photo:


She's decided that laying across the bench in the back of the truck isn't close enough to us. Instead, laying with the front end on the center console between our front seats.


The best part though is seeing her interact with my parents. My mom has never been a dog person; she wasn't around one as a kid and so is awkward and uncertain around them. That, of course, only makes Harlow want to greet Sandi more insistently, with a case of the wiggles nearly 180 degrees, hard leaning into her, and a lake of excited pee. Once the pee gets cleaned up, there is a game of chase with a tennis ball. 

The best tennis ball thrower, though, is my dad, who spent half his Saturday tossing a tennis ball around their condo. Mike, who "doesn't like dogs", is smitten. 

And of course, there is Gretchen. Harlow likes to be a Helper Dog! when around Gretchen:




There are so many things I love about her. The morning wiggles, the expressive face, the smell of the top of her head, the way she falls asleep curled at my feet and her enthusiasm for playing in the snow, to name a few. She's pretty much a ball of awesome wrapped in a LOT of fur!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh it's lovely weather

For a 500 mile road trip.




Dusty has been talking up the "grand snow adventure" to Harlow. I'm starting to wonder if this is a terrible idea? But I wanna see my mommy, my family, my grandmas...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vinyl Windows

I work in historic preservation, yet own a new house. I want an old house, but even in a recession we couldn't afford one.

People come into my office every day trying to find information about replacing their historic wood windows with vinyl. They talk about the tax credits, energy savings, etc. Here's the deal: vinyl windows are more efficicent and better for weather savings is BS. The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers excellent information about the pros and cons of replacing old windows. The most interesting for me? Replacing windows has a 40 YEAR PAYBACK PERIOD. Thats right, with all the energy you'll save it'll take you 40 years to recoup your "investment" on new windows.

I had to berate my mom into keeping the old windows at the shack this fall. Instead of tearing them out, I finally convinced them to restore the windows and build storm windows for additional insulation and protection. A well fitting storm actually can be more efficient than a new window.

If you read yesterday's post about drapes, you know I utilize curtains, blinds and drapes to further insulate our home in the winter. Our "energy efficient" vinyl windows still get ice on the inside of them in the winter. Let me show you how we try to keep our north-facing bedroom warm in the winter:

First, insulated drapes, again.

Then, our double-cell blinds:
Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to rotate the photo!

Here's what our "energy efficient" vinyl windows look like on the back of the blinds:

Huh. Ice. And this is on the top rail. The ice on the bottom goes up half of the window.

 I'd hate to spend $6,000 in new windows for that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter started in Bozeman on Friday. I went into my hair appointment on a blustery late fall day and came out in the middle of a blizzard. Snow blown from the east snaking across the icy streets into finger drifts, three degrees on the bank sign and the requisite freezing of nostril hairs.

By Saturday afternoon I knew I had to deal with the kitchen doors ASAP. I hung the biggest blanket we had in the bottom half of the door over night in an effort to keep the two degree weather outside and the floor in the middle of the kitchen warm.

Sunday morning I hit the fabric store in search of a bargain. All their decorating fabrics were 50% off, but I still found this great red silk material for $6/ yard. It's usually $25. They had just enough. I also picked up some thick inter-lining (think a thin layer of fleece) and some back lining for $54. These curtains are $70 at Target, since I needed the 96" length.

By late last night I had this:

Ignore the saggy curtain rod. We're addressing it later this week. Sorry for the blurry photo too; Harlow wanted to say hello!

They came out really, really well. I had absolutely no waste, which means I purchased just as much as I needed and not more. 

They seem to have made a difference in last night's 0-degree weather. There was ice on the inside of the door and on the metal threshold. 


The only problem? I want to be able to pull the curtains all the way to the right when we want the doors open. This means there can't be a central support point on the curtain rod. And my cheap-ass purchased the flimsy curtain rod instead of the $50 beefy one. So now we have to decide if we can live with cheap, but hoopty looking curtains, or drop more money on a nicer rod.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Making a difference

I can't exactly figure out when the shift was, but in the last month or so, I seem to be finding a groove at work. After months of discontent, it feels good to be in a place where I'm busy, and happy and excited to be working on the projects on my desk.

My role at work has been seen for the last 10 years as regulatory. The last hurdle someone has to get past to develop their project. Needless to say, if I, or the rules I work under, don't agree with the developer's planned project, things get sticky in  a hurry.

I can't remember now if I was given an official "go-ahead", or just took the initiative on my own, but sometime this fall I ended up on the "putting projects together" end of things. This is, of course, the much more successful end to be on.

Right now I'm writing a handful of grant applications, while also managing another and working to redevlop and redefine my program. I think I have the opportunity to create the job I want out of the job I have. The sense of enthusiasm and interest and engagement I have in my position right now is refreshing.

I want to be known as a woman who gets things done. I don't want to be a hurdle; I want to be a resource. I don't need the credit for it, I just want to make things like redeveloping a historic building happen.

It seems like I'm in the right place, professionally, for now. Add that to being in a good place personally, financially, emotionally, etc. and well, things are pretty damn good now.

So a week out from Thanksgiving, I can tell you I'm thankful to be exactly where I am right now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitchen door... Curtains?

I love the French doors in our kitchen. They let in so much light. They make grocery-hauling in super easy. They are a huge energy loss in the winter... Wait, what?



 Yeah. Remember last winter when I used a tension rod and a doubled-over quilt to insulate these doors? It worked well; as noted the time or two that I pulled the curtain back and found frost on the inside of the door.

We've added some weatherstripping to the bottom, so hopefully that helps. But I'm also a big believer in curtains as insulation. I LOVE our double cell, top-down/ bottom-up, cordless shades. They make such a difference in the energy loss around a window area. Believe me, if we could have afforded triple cell, I would have done those. I rave about them to everyone I know.  It's astonishing to have the top down halfway on the window, and look down and see a layer of frost in the little pocket between the window and the backside of the shade below you.

So of course, with this door, I'd love to have a a giant top-down/ bottom-up shade installed. In my mind we'd keep the top down halfway, essentially blocking the bottom half of the entire doorway from the trim to trim. We're supposed to only come in on the tile doorway in the winter, wet shoes and all, so this shouldn't be an access problem. It'd be a solution that saves us energy, while still providing great light into the space.

That would only cost us... let's see, carry the one... an arm and a leg. So the next alternative would be insulating drapes that we can at least pull shut to block the doorway on the coldest of nights. Kind of like the curtains my mother in law sewed from post-holiday sales tablecloths at Target for the dining room.

But that begs the question. Should the curtains for the kitchen match those in the dining room? Should they be hung at the same height (probably)? Should the curtain rods match (probably, again). Would it be okay to put curtains up in the kitchen only in the winter, but leave the curtain rods bare in the summer? Could I put up curtains that are mostly red with a gold stripe?


AND, for extra credit on this quiz: Can you spot Harlow in the photo below? Helper Dog!!!!

Tell me internets, what should I do?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A selfish conundrum...

DJ and I are both home today, on a Thursday, since it's Veteran's Day. Harlow is beside herself; her people are home on a weekday!!!

I realized the other day that since we're headed to Colton for Thanksgiving and staying in Bozeman for Christmas, I should probably get the Christmas shopping for my family done. I've got ideas... I just need to shop!

My mom asked me the other day what I need for Christmas. It's kind of a weird question to answer when the things I most need right now are waaay out of the ballpark for our families. We really need a new bed and bedroom furniature. Mattress Mill, in Bozeman, makes awesome beds. They're a local company, they have a one-year, no questions asked, return policy. And gaurantee construction for 10 years. We want to purchase a bed from them... it's about $1,000 (ouch).

We also really a new bedframe. In terms of bedroom furniture, my style is well-built classics, but more mix and match than matchy-matchy. My current obsession is this bed from, where else, Pottery Barn. I don't like footboards. I always hip-check myself on them.


We've also talked a lot about being more environmentally/ socially/ health concious about the meat we eat. I love a good steak. Costco rocks my face off. But considering that this beef probably came from Argentina instead of across the back fence? Well... we could do better. I'd like to split a beef or something with someone, but we don't have a deep-freeze to do so. Something like this, maybe? I want something with a high Energy Star rating...

Working on the garage is our winter project right now. We'd like to install a heater (since it's detached, it doesn't get warmth from the house), insulate, sheetrock and organize the garage. We need a storage system. We need a workbench. In short, I'm trying to convince my dad that they should come over for Christmas and help work on the Garage. Mike is a good garage-organizer...

We need an electronic fence for Harlow. We need an armoire for a linnen closet in the hallway. We need... well, major house things, you know? And it seems so rude to be all, "mommy! drop a crapload of money on a new freezer for me!".

But in the meantime, Harlow is helping me decide what to get Dusty for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Insulation

We live in Zone 4, per the USDA climate zone maps. It means that plants suitable for our climate need to be hardy to -40.

Hydrangeas are notoriously impossible to grow here. My Mother-In-Law gave me an "Endless Summer" hydrangea last spring, and I'd like to keep it growing.* To that end, I insulated it for winter last week by staking around the plant, wrapping burlap around the stakes, and filling in around the plant and in the burlap with leaves from the Aspen trees.


* The hydrangea didn't exactly do well this summer. I never got the big puffy balls of flowers. I'm blaming this on two things: I didn't fertilize it enough and the neighbor's dog lifts his leg and pees on it every time he walks out their door. Clearly Trigger the dog and I will be having a conversation next spring...

Monday, November 8, 2010

The heart

Harlow has a way of laying that shows us how much she loves us:

See the heart she makes with her front paws and chest?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hunkering down

We had an absolutely glorious fall here. mid-70's, sunny, bright blue skies, very little wind; perfect bike riding weather. My tomatoes were prolific in September and early October. I pulled my sweet peas out of the ground while they were still growing, only because I wanted to plant garlic before November. My spring bulbs even started to pop up.

Any idea what I do with those daffodils now?

Anyway, I use past tense because winter started yesterday. Low cloud cover blanketing the surrounding moutain ranges. The full expectation that we'll wake up to snow in the morning. The dread of driving on snowy roads. The turning on of the furnace for the first time (we made it to October 25!).

In many ways I've been waiting for the crummy days of fall/ winter to start. I have all of these little projects around the house to finish up. Some small, some major. Nothing pressing. I'm looking forward to reading a lot this winter, in preparation for a trip to Europe we have sketched out for September 2011.

But.... but. That means it's going to be cold weather for the next six months. Maybe seven.

I've said efore that fall and early winter in Montana can be a haunting time. And I don't just mean that because of the whole Halloween thing. I'm haunted by the hikes we didn't get in. Haunted by the way the light is lower. The way the sun comes up late, and goes down early. Mourning the tub of summer clothes and flip flops in my closet.

So what do I/ we do in the winter? Ski, occassionally. We're going to try out cross-country skiing this winter as a new thing to do. Read. Sew. Plan my 2011 garden. Write wedding thank yous. Plan travel. Bake (and then give it away so I don't gain weight). Finish decorating/ organizing/ setting up the house. I look around and see all of these things we "need": a new bed. Bedroom furniature. the last of the insulated blings for the guest bedroom and office. To insulate, sheetrock and organize the garage. Maybe new living room furniature. A beaurau to put linnens in.

So much to do, yet with so many nights of crummy weather ahead of me, I'm in no hurry.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My own weirdness at night

I've mentioned before that DJ does weird shit at night. Peering out the window, jumping out of bed, walking around the room, etc. It's usually totally unprovoked, sudden, and very intense for him. He's strange like that.

And last night I did something strange too, but only as a reaction to something he did.*

We're in bed, nice and cozy and asleep. And I'm dreaming about driving down the road in a very specific location about five miles from our house. When out of nowhere comes this
screeeeeeeeeeeeeecccchhhhhh.

I hear the noise and bolt awake, thinking in my dream state that we've blown a tire or something.

Me: "Dusty, Dusty what was that!!??"

DJ: "mohphf mmmhopmf."

Me: "DUSTY WHAT WAS THAT, SERIOUSLY?"

DJ: "My ass!"

My beloved husband had screeched out a fart so loud, high-pitched and abrupt that I jumped.

Me: "I'm going to punch you in the face."

*You'll note that my weird shit at night is a reaction to something he did... not something I dreampt on my own. Dusty, your farting, night-terrors ass is way weirder than mine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mixing it up

I'm annoyed with myself for not doing a very good job documenting my gardening for the past 6 months; I think looking back at the "archives" would have taught me a lot. I fell off of that wagon for a couple of reasons, first and foremost being that my veggie garden sucked, big time, this year.

You might remember that last year my container gardening feel off because of when we moved and a pooly timed vacation. This year I had a 16 x 20' gardening plot with irrigation to utilize... and I still have only eaten one pepper off of the three plants I put into the ground.

I believe part of the reasons my plants failed in the ground this year was because of the ground I had to work with. Our lot is mostly very dense clay. Seriously; I could throw some wicked pots. Unfortunately, this clay seems to be best suited to Canadian thistles, sunflowers and not much else. My veggie plot couldn't retain enough moisture, didn't have the light fluffy dirt needed to allow carrots or onions to grow, and generally was lacking in neutrients.

I also believe that our drip line system didn't deliver the 1"/ week of water the veggies need in July, August and September to thrive. Next year I'll supplement the watering.

We spent about three hours yesterday preparing for more success next summer. On Friday a local nursery delivered two yards of compost and three cubic yards of peat moss. The compost adds neutrients and organic material, while the peat moss amends the clay soil to hold more water. We rented a roto-tiller and went to work.


After a pass or two with the tiller, it became obvious that I needed to shovel up the clay first so that Dusty could get into the rock-like surface effectively. So I went to work shoveling over chunks of clay, and Dusty followed up by trying to till it into smaller pieces. We kicked out some pretty large rocks!


We spread about half of the compost onto the clay, then added a layer of peat moss, and tilled it all together.



Rinse, and repeat, for about an hour. By the time we quit it was raining, and we'd gone through all the peat moss and about 2/3 of the compost. The other 1/3 we used to start a compost pile that we can add to all winter, then throw onto the garden in the spring and till in again.

I'm hopeful that this effort will increase create a yeild next summer while reducing the amount of water that runs off of the garden area.

*You'll note we pulled all the rocks out that terraced the garden plot. Clearly we couldn't till around them. But we're also contemplating how to put in permanent/ annual terracing next spring. We've got to think about frost heaves...


Thursday, October 14, 2010

October

So I've fallen off of the blogging wagon, haven't I?

Rather than apologize and blather on about how busy I've been, the craziness at work, the craziness of travel, the craziness of people visiting, and basically everything I didn't document, I'm going to just move on and tell you what's going on with us.

Gardening:
Is first and foremost on my mind today. I just ordered 2 yards of compost (she wanted to sell me 3) and 3 yards of peat moss (she wanted to sell me 5) to till into our veggie garden this weekend. Doesn't that seem like an incredible amount of dirt for a 20 X 16' garden plot?! The nursery reccomended a layer 3" deep of compost and 2" deep of peat moss. So we're adding 5" of stuff to our garden bed!

Since it slopes away from the house, should I be worried about all of this amendment to my clay soil running off under the barbed wire fence?

Why am I adding so much "stuff" to my garden? Well... because it was a spectacular failure this year. I even failed at growing zucchinni. I didn't know that was possible! About the only thing that thrived were the tomatoes I planted in cointainers in the front yard. And even those weren't exactly a wild success.

I'm blaming this on a number of things:
  • Clay soil with few nutrients. I applied Miracle Grow occassionally, but not with many real results.
  • Poor watering/ moisture retention. This is primarily caused by me planting in north-south rows when my drip lines run east west. I also need to do a better job of mulching the garden with grass clippings to prevent moisture loss.
  • Crappy-ass weather in June and early July. We live in a cold climate, I know that. But I don't know that we hit 80 degrees until after July 15th this year. Bad weather for peppers, tomatoes and other such items.
  • I did a crappy-ass job of weeding the garden. See also: clay soil is really hard to weed in.
So yeah, now you know what we'll be doing this weekend. I need to start by pulling everything that died from our first freeze on Monday October 11th. It's funny, we didn't really have a frost, but raher a 22 degree freeze.

... I'm thinking about starting a specific gardening blog. Are y'all bored to tears about this stuff?

House:

It's amazing to me that nearly a year later we're still getting settled into the hosue. I bought fabric to recover the chair in our bedroom to match the comforter.
 I did hang curtains in the guest room and office before the DD girls visited over Labor Day. We moved my loveseat up there a few weekends ago too. Funny that the Office and Guest Room/ Guest Bath are the most "complete" rooms in our house, isn't it!? ! I also sewed a new dog bed since Harlow was destroying the other one.

We still need a linen closet, and haven't cashed in our wedding gift cards for new towels because we'll have no where to put them. I may have found a viable linen closet, but need to drag Dusty out to see it. I'd really rather have a wardrobe with a mirror on the front door, since we don't have a full length mirror in the house.

We still need to insulate and reoganize the garage. This might require the assistance of a professional organizer like my dad.

A new bed/ maste bedroom set is also needed, although I'm not sure i'm ready to spend the $2,000+ that'll require. I'd prefer to collect interesting items, you know?

Friends/ Family:
We've had a solid 8 week stretch now of taking trips and having people come see us! It's been a lot of fun to catch up with everyone. Alli was here this weekend, and Harlow helped her bake Bobcat cookies for Homecoming. My sister also turns 21 next week!
 

Work:
Subtle changes are happening, and it seems I have the opportunity to shape the job I want within the position I already have. I'm grateful for the opportunity for growth and change. More on that later.

Dusty:
Continues to brew beer like we're never going to have the opportunity to purchase it this winter :) He's got quite the system down now! It's a good hobby for him, and he's enjoying thinking about what beers we'll want to drink as the weather gets worse.

Oh, and Harlow is going to be a ballerina for Halloween. I have tulle left over from El Weddingo to get rid of. I'll sew more on this weekend!

 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eight Months

The dogaroonie is nearly eight months old, and I can't tell you how much we love her. From the funny good morning wiggles, a silly dance of paw-paw-butt shake-butt shake-head nod/snort, to the dragging around of the blankie, to the scramble to get a toy when asked "Harlow where's your wubba?".

She's got "sit" down, and we're working on "down". We've got "stay", kinda. And "kennel" is coming along. "Come", the most important of all dog tricks, isn't exactly an accomplishment yet.

But how could you not love this: