Sunday, December 09, 2018

Ice Crystal Beauty, dogs and chickens

The netted chicken yard is surviving the ice storm - the netting is pulled way down but the chickens are all there and there doesn't seem to be any holes in the enclosure.  They have food and water and fresh pine chip bedding under their shelter.  We will have to use a bungee cord on the door for a bit as the ice has warped the door out of the frame and the latch clasp will not shut now.

 I caught some ice crystal beauty on the tree next to the yard - I love the mathematical structures inside each frozen drop and the way they look like crystal baubles with the light shining through them.

And the dogs were playing out in the yard.  I asked them to 'say cheese'.. and I think they did (the second shot).  Kif is on the left, Rex in the middle and Spud on the right.  Lucy is standing off in the background.

The viburnum (snowball bush) was also frozen in ice.. caught a couple of pictures of it, too.

Esme was at a sleepover last night, and Lucy was so insistent that I needed to find her so she could have the bedtime routine.. such a nose!  She circled the room every half hour or so for hours until she finally settled down with Minerva.  (her blue eyes really reflect the light weird, but Mark says she has a pupil shape disorder as well that only would show up in a picture like this - her pupils are oval not round)

Esme and I also went to the Lee School art bazaar in Paris on Saturday morning.. we saw a lot but couldn't buy much.  Esme did buy a beautiful pastel drawing by a local artist which is now in a glass box in her room.  We also were given a small black fish pottery  spoon rest which I put by our sink for Esme to put her egg washing sponge on.  She said the fish had a 'gentle line' which she loved.  I really loved some art by Donna Revelee, and Esme wanted me to buy a fox painting she had made - but it was a bit higher than we could swing with Christmas spending already a bit over budget.  I got her card and will try to see if there is anything we can support in the future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Meet Kif, and Dinosaur Christmas Tree

We dug out our Christmas tree tonight and had fun making a Dinosaur Extravaganza of it... all of these little ornaments are things we have made or collected in the past few years, and of course, our collection of plastic and vinyl dinosaurs.  I bought a new one tonight and tied it to the top of the tree as a tree topper!

It was a Spinosaurus.. so I had to get it and couldn't call it a Christmas Present to anyone but myself, so up on the tree it went!

We have not found our dog Freckles.  But, somehow, this skinny dog was in our garden the other night and Mark left food out for him as he wouldn't come to us.  Then the next day Mark convinced him to come inside to the warmth and more food.. and now it has been a week or more and he has a name and is in the routine with the other dogs.  We've called him Kif... after the green space alien guy on Futurama.  For one reason, I said 'poor kid' when Mark told me he was having a hard time getting around the house and then had crashed solid on the couch for hours.. but my phone keyboard came out 'poor kif'... but also, the other reason - it fits him.. he is very polite and worried about things and slinks around most of the time until he is right next to you being very much in your personal space, and then again, he is slinking away to a corner again to make sure he doesn't offend.  He is looking much better than this, already - having gained enough weight back so his ribs don't show.  Rex is doing a good job as a 'big little brother', showing him the ropes, taking him outside (which he needed, as he would rather hunker down and not get up until he needs to, and doesn't really like the stairs, so the first couple of days he had accidents because he was afraid to barrel down the stairs with the other dogs and would rather 'just rest up here' until it was too late.. )  He 's gotten quite a bit better, now.. although he is still hesitant.

We did report him to the shelter as he had a stain of a collar around his neck, but no one has said they were missing him... so, he's staying with us as long as he continues to be a good kid.  We guess he is 1 to 2 years old, and the cats like him but he is getting a little pushy with them now - he must have had a cat at his previous home, because he thinks it is nothing to come up and push them with his nose and sniff them all over and then bark at them if they get hissy about it... and the cats are like 'Wait a Minute - WHO are YOU?'  What do you think you're doing with that Nose?'... That is another habit of his, he likes to put his nose ON you to sniff you.. and snuffle at things like our keyboards and chairs and shoes and etc... he and Rex have gotten in a little trouble pulling some cloth items down to lay and chew on.... taking liberties, but overall for a stray adult dog and one that was starved he is doing very well.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

11th birthday at Grandpa and Grandma's house in South Carolina

I've been very late at reporting this, but earlier this month Esme and I took a serious trip - out to South Carolina, to visit my father and stepmother, Grandpa Harvey and Grandma Gale.

Esme's birthday was the fourth, and we went a little before that, to have time to visit the ocean at Myrtle Beach, something even I had never done before.  So, it was a pretty special occasion.

We flew on a plane to get to Columbia, South Carolina - changing over at Atlanta, one of the busiest airports in the United States.  It was an adventure there, too.  Esme was quite nervous about flying but she did really good (there still might be some fingerprint marks in the seat armrests on those planes, though!  kidding).

Esme got to see Mom at my 'most lost' when the rental car wouldn't start in the parking garage - but they gave us a different car and it was all good from there.  I also admit I lost the rental car in the parking lot of a Walmart we went to for groceries one time -- but we found it just as the parking lot police were about to come help us.  I also got lost a few times and had to work my way back with the Google Maps on my phone.  But I think she also saw that you don't have to panic and freak out - you can get out of these situations and learn something.

The day we went to Myrtle Beach Grandpa still wasn't feeling very well, and his oxygen tanks were low.. it was a Sunday, so I put on my brave face and Esme and I took the hour and a half drive to Myrtle Beach by ourselves, arriving just a bit after eleven in the morning.  We went to the boardwalk by the SkyWheel and then on to the ocean to gather shells.  I think we were out there up to our knees for a little over two hours ,then I made her come in, and eat something, and buy some souvenirs.. including a towel and a sweatshirt.  She really wanted a boogie board - and of course, to take it to the ocean and get completely submerged in the waves.  It was a 60 degree day at best.. with nice sunshine but a cold wind.  But armed with towel and sweatshirt I took her down to the beach again (after depositing like fifteen pounds of shells in the trunk of the car) and she rode waves for another 45 minutes.  Then it was quick put on the dry things and get to the car to make the drive home.

 on the beach near the Sky Wheel in Myrtle Beach, SC

 Collecting seashells

 Trying to push over the leaning tree at the Visitor's Center

  Boogie boarding at the beach 

 Boogie boarding at the beach

 At the Swan Lake Iris Park in Sumter, SC

 Grandpa and Grandma giggle at a toy hermit crab

on the plane with her birthday gifts
tired and headed home!

Esme and her Grandma Gale made cupcakes together and Esme and I decorated them, and then they watched the Garfield movies.  The next day, we went to the Swan Lake Iris Gardens park and Grandpa came with us to see the swans.  Esme did get a headache halfway through there - but enjoyed seeing the swans and some turtles.  We grabbed some chicken and went home, and then Esme and I got a few more things at a craft store.  Later that night she opened her 11th birthday Owl, Harry Potter books and a sand dollar silver necklace I had gotten for her to commemorate the beach.  Grandma Gale gave her a souvenir net with shells that says 'Myrtle Beach' across the top which now hangs in her bedroom on the wall.

We had a great stay at Grandpa and Grandma's house.  Esme wishes she could have gone back for another day on the beach.. but she is happy with the shells and the boogie board and souvenirs and maybe a chance to go back in a few years (during a warmer time of the year!).  Grandpa said we probably got as good of a haul of shells as we did because it was the off-season for beachcombers.  When I finally asked Esme to come get in her towel to leave a six inch long blue conch shell (almost complete) washed up right by her elbow and I told her it was the Ocean telling her to listen to her Mother and it was time to go ;)  heh.

We made all the connecting flights back (although I got off at one wrong exit on the way back to the airport, backtracked and got back on) and Daddy picked us up at the Nashville Airport for a long drive home in the pouring rain.  We were so glad to be home and to have everyone together again.

One bad thing happened while we were gone - our dog Freckles ran out into the woods, maybe looking for us because we were gone, and she has not come back.  We have to expect the worst.  She was an excellent little dog, and we miss her.  Her sister Lucy, especially, misses her.  I got a sinus infection after getting home, as well, and that took up all the rest of my vacation time trying to get human again.


I'm putting together a 16 by 20 poster frame of some of the pictures and ephemera we collected on our trip.  I'm going to hang it in the hallway beside the crayon drawing of the beach (and oddly, a plane overhead!) that Esme had made years ago 'in case we ever went to the beach it would be like this..'

Sunday, October 28, 2018

October 28th

We're getting almost entirely done with the new chicken yard.  There is just a little finishing up around the entryway to do.  Mark and Esme got most of the netting up today over the top of the cables. 

Esme and I did a test-pack for South Carolina, and I've looked at maps and tried to see what our best routes are when we get there.  I asked if Dad was ready to have an eleven year old in the house this week.. and Grandma Gale said she isn't sure.  They have confirmed that the packages arrived.. and Esme is really looking forward to the beach, but not the plane.  She asks me every day morning and night if I think the plane will be okay.. that she now thinks the plane will be okay,.. that she's thought about it and maybe the plane will be okay. etc etc.  My more realistic fear is getting separated or jostled around in the big airports.

Our washer bit the dust last night - and we had to go into Lowe's today to buy a new one.  We'll be setting it up in the morning.  I bought the one the specialist said he would have bought for his wife - and I know the guy, so I know he likes his wife ;)  It has a stainless steel drum, which Mark is amazed by.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

October twenty first

We're getting closer on our chicken yard upgrade.  It is going to be an actual 'aviary' with an enclosed top.  Here is Mark looking like a sea captain checking the lines and smoking his pipe.

And I made some sour cream donuts today, they could have been better - but it was worth a try.
I used the recipe here at  Baking a Moment Glazed Donuts

The dragon's breath pink celosia was on fire tonight with the light of the setting sun.  I had to go catch a picture of it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

carvng pumpkins


We each carved a pumpkin yesterday, Mark's on the left, Esme's is the little one!

photographic evidence that we both smile the exact same way when we're not sure we want our picture taken *heh*

Thursday, October 04, 2018

chicken condos

These are the chicken condos for nesting boxes in the new coop.  Mark made the gate and is working on putting it up on the posts Esme and I dug holes for last week.  We have eight chickens so someone has to share, but it will be so much more space than they have now.  Hopefully they can learn to lay their eggs in these instead of just on the floor in front of them.  We will put them in the rebuilt chicken house in the next few days.

I bought a set of donut pans for baked donuts to try the recipe for egg bread in - since it was basically a donut recipe with alterations to begin with.  The pans get here next Tuesday!  Weird to buy such a specific item but they were actually not expensive and I plan to use them like muffin tins.   I also began knitting my pair of winter gloves - and got one thumb done so far, working on the hand up to the fingers.

Watched two episodes of Welsh-only tv today, and talked a bit on a Welsh chat board.  I'm understanding enough that the lack of subtitles on the tv player (new site) is not a terrible loss - I can understand so much of what is going on without them.  The chat board helps me see what people actually say to each other in short conversational Welsh.

Got to go finish up some laundry.. long day starting early tomorrow.

Esme had finished her book and we took her to the library to stack up a few more.  I tried out my smartphone and tried to get a picture.. and it worked.

Rex is getting bigger.  Spud wishes the puppy would grow dignity instead of just bigger.  Rex is also growing into his 'spectacles' markings around his eyes.. but his feet are still huge.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

egg bread recipe experiments

I'm trying to use up our chicken eggs.

This makes a sweet egg bread pancake cookie that will go well with cheddar cheese, sausage or even mixed berries.  We ate a lot at first like they were cookies, and I'm going to save some to reheat with cheese and veggies later.  Our dogs highly approved of them, as well - so they won't make bad treats to give out when we are done with the batch and want to try another go at it.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.


1/2 cup of butter + some for brushing pans
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 small sized chicken eggs (maybe even more... will try more)
1.5 tsp baking powder
.25 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2.75 cups of flour
1 cup whole milk

Whip eggs and sugars together.  Add vanilla.
Add butter cold and whisk until small pieces remain in batter.
Mix baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger and salt together into a small bowl.
Put these dry ingredients above into the batter a bit at a time, whisking constantly.
Add 1 cup of flour.  Combine
Add 1/2 cup of milk. Combine
Add 1 cup of flour.  Combine
Add other 1/2 cup of milk.  Combine
Add remaining flour (.75 cup)

Using a basting brush, coat two baking sheets with melted butter.
Drop large tablespoons of batter cookie-style onto sheets.
Cover remaining batter and set aside.
Bake in 425 degree oven until outer edges are browned but not blackened, about 10 minutes.
egg 'cookies' will resemble pancakes and will harden as they are taken out of the heat.
Use a metal spatula to immediately remove from baking sheet onto aluminum foil or rack.
Brush pans again with melted butter and use remaining batter.

Let cool and then package in a covered container.

Monday, September 24, 2018


It rained for like three days straight... hope it is over for a bit now.  We've nailed down the dates for going to South Carolina to see my dad.  I sent a few birthday presents on to them so they will be t here and we won't have to take them on the plane.  Esme had a great weekend with the J family to celebrate G's birthday.  They went to St.Louis Zoo and had a blast. 

The car has a name - it is Lydia.  I'll just not go into explaining but it has stuck and that is its name.  I've ordered some special bumper stickers that will make 'reference' to the name as an in-joke between Mark and I.  Let's just say she was the topic of a song on the Muppets, and the words chosen are from that song, although that song is not why I named her Lydia in the first place.

Rex is growing, and growing, and growing.  He broke his little bucket and I bought him a bigger one at work but he hasn't taken quite as much to it yet.

Other bits.
I've kept going with my Welsh, and can almost understand the children's book third chapter I was working through without going to Google translate. 

Did a little crocheting - a hat with two colors of yarn and a metallic thread intertwined.

We really need to get the chicken yard finished - they were so miserable during this rainstorm, but really just because being wet they didn't want to huddle with other wet chickens in the only dry place and the dry chickens kept kicking the wet ones out or something to the effect....

Monday, September 17, 2018


We drove a couple of hours each way to look at this Honda Insight, and came home with it.  It is in very good shape, and we hope to keep it that way.  It is a hybrid, meaning it has a gasoline engine and an electric battery that combine for really good gas mileage.  It is also about sixteen years old... but it is really hard to tell that because it was kept so well.

It is a two seater.. with a hatchback.  We had told ourselves we were looking for a four door... but this was a good deal and the specifics of the car really interested Mark more and more as he looked deeper and deeper into it.

Esme got some extra allowance today giving the new car a good wash down.

Friday, September 14, 2018


I've been a bit absent.  We got the home loan and have begun lots of projects.  The tractor went into the shop  - we worried briefly that the pole garden would get torn up bringing it out of its storage place but the man who came to get it was some sort of genius and made a very complicated maneuver look easy.

So, tractor fixed and we can get gravel and fix the road.  Have to call the insulation guys, they said they would be out here Wednesday to estimate and they did not call.  Mark has been looking at used cars.  I ordered the panel for the bathtub to fix the disintegrating wall.  We plan on remaking the chicken pen for winter this weekend.  I've been looking into airfare and such for the trip to South Carolina we want to do in November.  So, very busy.

I've been doing my Welsh every morning, since I close every night at work.  I've been putting a podcast on my to-do list every day so that I will actually take some time out for it.  I've done a little Japanese and some Spanish, too.  I really dislike Spanish - how it rolls through my brain.. but I'm trying with a new app that has good reviews.  It feels weird that even Japanese can find root in my memory quickly and the Spanish rolls around instead.. and it is quite a bit like French so why can I listen to French and it comes back out correctly but not Spanish?  Probably just a wall I need to break down.  I secretly think it is because of the different versions of Spanish between learning apps and my brain knows they are not the same 'slot' but can't sort between them without lots and lots of input..and I don't do enough ever to get that sorted so Spanish just feels 'hard' when in fact it is two or three languages.

And I've been listening to the audio book Willa of the Wood... audiobooks take up so much time.. I couldn't get my hands on the paper copy and I really wanted to read this story after liking the Serafina series so much.

There is a drawing I want to make - a couple, but haven't gotten myself the photographs that I should in order to make progress there.

Esme's friend wants to take her to a zoo and museum next weekend.
The weekend after that we have a birthday party to go to that I already promised.

I feel a little bit of overwhelm on some of that coming .. but baby steps and don't let the full calendar loom at me I guess.

I've given away what.. ten pumpkins now?  And we still have about ten on the table.  One of them weighs in at forty pounds.

 Rex is growing, he is twice as big as when we found him.
Freckles and Lucy were the last to really warm up to him - they were the puppies before he came along .. and now they are playing with him in the yard and rubbing him in the dirt.  Also, since he is bigger, they aren't as likely to make him squeak, which they were probably worried about.

 a little bit of the wildflower 'material' photos I need to collect in order to make a nice drawing


 Freckles and Rex in the classic 'your whole nose still fits inside my mouth so there puppy' pose we have seen time and time before...

Wednesday, September 05, 2018


My soba noodles came in on the special order.

Take about one to two fingers-width of noodles and put them in boiling water for a minute to two minutes, drain, splash with cold water, drain again.  Toss with soy sauce and extra virgin olive oil until well mixed (about a tablespoon of oil and a little less of soy sauce).  Grind black pepper on top, mix, grind again, mix. 

I used to eat this combination nearly daily in college, because it required so little to put together - you could even use soy sauce packets instead of the refrigerated bottle.

This is one of my favorite meals, along with a few sesame crackers or other dark grain.
Carrots and/or green onions or broccoli go really well with this.
The pulled pork was from Mark's roast the other day - and it goes really well, too.

Monday, September 03, 2018


We've had Rex for a week now, he's a very good puppy - has the idea of going outside with people every time he gets up for a nap ingrained in him (although sometimes it is hard to get all the way to the door quick enough if we don't have our shoes on)...

I've been studying the Japanese and the Welsh together.. interesting parallels there especially in the time area. 

Reading a series of books found from a book review.. waiting on my soba noodles to arrive.  We're going to the bank tomorrow to secure our loan for doing the insulation and the barn.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Finding Rex

On Monday morning we got a surprise - our dogs were making a commotion and we thought they had a turtle by the fence, like the last time.  But instead, they showed us there was a puppy outside our fence in a thicket in the woods.  We coaxed him along the fence until we could get him near the gate, and Mark went around and got him.  We estimated his age to be about 5 weeks old, based on his teeth.  He looks like a shepherd mix, and he will likely be a dog at least as big as ours.  He was covered in seed ticks - Mark got the worst off his eyelids and from in between his toes and armpits etc.. we're still combing and washing them off of him, three days later. 

We have no idea how he got out here in the middle of nowhere so young - we probably don't want to know - but it is good we found him when we did.  Esme had just gotten on the school bus, and Mark and I were out looking at the garden after watering chickens etc..

 some of our 'superhero' dogs who ended up being rescuers
from left, Sweetie, Freckles, Spud, Nova and Lucy

 Freckles, Lucy and Sweetie

Minerva was trying to help us wash him up today, and he kept nipping at her ears.  We gave him another soak and another comb down.  Minerva is very mothering - being Freckles and Lucy's mom... she is happy to have a 'baby' around again, you can tell by her expressions and how she tolerates him attempting to pounce on her tail.. she lets him have some leeway but not as much as if he was truly her own.

He is an extremely good puppy - knows how to go outside with us and comes back in (except when he wanted to eat the chicken's food, then he was hardheaded).. and our dogs are tolerating him but not quite to the point of wanting to be chewed on yet.  He was a bit afraid of us (and of Esme when he first saw her) but then he became overjoyed that we were nice to him and helped him find food and water and etc etc... 

He found an abandoned tennis ball under our couch and drug it up the stairs to put in Mark's slipper.  He also greeted our cats with a very familiar jump and play stance - so wherever he was before, he knew food and water dishes, tennis balls and other dogs and cats.  It makes it even more mysterious that he ended up here, ten miles from anywhere, and got lucky enough to find a house with dogs who would go and tell their people to help him.  If our dogs hadn't done their 'alert bark'.. we definitely wouldn't have looked that hard by the fence - and he is all brown and black, so it would have been hard to see him in the forest shadows unless he was right by the fence making noise.  It truly is a subtropical jungle out there on that side of the fence.

So, this is Rex.  And it looks like he is staying for good.  We did call two shelters and ask, but neither had any reports of anyone losing a young puppy - all adults.  So, he was likely dropped off / abandoned on the county road, but I guess we will never really know.

Welcome to your new home Rex.