30 March 2012

Mimi's Piggy Bank

Mimi received a piggy bank for her birthday in September from her Grandma Glenda.  Over the past 6 months, she's been saving all of her money, which means that Austin and I have been putting all of our change in her bank.  We told her that when it got full, she could buy a toy with the money.  We took it to the bank, and they counted it....the total was $48. 

So off to Walmart, where I tried to interest her in a Lalaloopsy costume, Legos, and a Hungry Hungry Hippos game.  No luck.

This is what she picked out:

And that's why she's awesome.  Because she is totally unpredictable, and always surprises us. 

She thinks it's an adventure kit.  Of course, she had to try it on:

29 March 2012

The Most Awesome Person of the Week Ever

It's Mimi!

Interview with Mimi (actual answers)
Favorite food:  apples, Howard's pizza, salami, bread & butter, spinach, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate. 
Favorite colors:  Blue and red, because they make purple
Favorite animal:  All the animals of the world
Favorite movie:  Avatar and Toy Story 1,2 and 3
Favorite toys:  All of them
Favorite TV show:  Cartoons, especially on Cartoon Network
Best friends:  Sarah (from Georgia), Tucker & Trevor (neighbors), Maggie (cousin), and Kinley (cousin)

Mimi is awesome because not only does she have Big Ideas, but she also goes along with my Big Ideas.  Like the time I drove her across three states just so we could spend a weekend on an island off the coast in Florida that shared her name.  Or the time I wanted to dye her hair with red Kool-Aid and it ended up in a stiff, sticky mess. 

Or the time we moved cross-country just so she could live in a cabin in the forest.  And she's ended up to be a Real Mountain Girl.  She hauls firewood, helps to shovel, and helps us track the squirrels so we can shoot them.  She loves gross things, like the deer parts in our yard.  She likes to hike.  When she was 4, we dragged her to 2 different historical parks on back-to-back days, and both days, she did 2.5 mile hikes without complaining. 

Mimi at Ninety-Six Nat'l Historic Site
  She says the weirdest things.  Very frequently, she talks in the the Farmer's Insurance cadence (We are Farmers!  Bum ba bum bum bum bum bum!).  "I'm not hungry!  Bum ba bum bum bum bum bum!"  "Mom is insane! Bum ba bum bum bum bum bum!"  Stuff like that.  She wears multiple costumes a day.  Today she was a ballerina, a cat, and a ladybug.  She thinks she can control the weather with her magic wand. 

She has an incredible memory, asking us if we remember stuff that happened years ago, like when she was 2. She's an artist, too.  She specializes in colored pencil and marker.  We have to buy her a new notebook every week because she fills them up so fast.  She can build forts like nobody's business.  One time, I drifted off in the recliner, and when I woke up  about 15 minutes later, she had constructed a 3 foot high, multi-level fort, complete with separate rooms and toy residents, all at my feet. 

She's a mama's girl.

She's a daddy's girl. 

She is effortless to love, and she is loved.  Madly. 

A Tiny Instrument of Torture

We have a bird problem.  Specifically, one bird.  Mimi calls them "woodcrackers," but I believe what we actually have is a red-breasted nuthatch. 

In silhouette, the first, and only picture I've been able to get of it.

Still looks pretty harmless.  Let's look a little closer.

Right there.

That short, thick little beak is the source of approximately 98% of my agita.  I was sure the damn thing was pecking away at my house, but after doing some research on it, it seems that it is collecting nuts, wedging them in the cracks of the logs, and hammering away at it with his beak. 

My house doesn't technically have insulation in most of the walls.  It's a log cabin.  it's made out of real logs....like 8" logs, so you'd think that would be enough to block out the BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. 

It's not.  I want to take this time to claim that I am actually a better shot than Austin with the BB gun.  He'd probably differ.  But it's true.  But I can't shoot it.  It's protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, as is the American Crow.  Really?  I can't imagine protecting a crow.  A bald eagle?  Of course.  An owl?  Definitely. 

I've already hung plastic bags outside of the house where it's pecking, and strips of aluminum foil....the only suggestions I've found.  But the little shit just moves on to another section of the cabin.  I'm at a loss.  

I just might be a 500-millionaire

I bought a Mega-Million ticket tonight.  Actually, I bought 2.  I think that ups my chances significantly.   I've got a good feeling about this, so good a feeling, in fact, that I've been promising people that I'll buy them cars when I win.  Actually, I just promised the girl who works at the gas station where I bought my ticket.  And in fact, I told her that if she sold me the winning ticket, I'd buy her a car, but since she wasn't working when I bought the ticket, I really don't have to buy it for her.  But I probably would anyway. 

What would I buy?    Wow.  First, I'd buy this cabin so I never have to move again.  I hate moving.  The owners want to wait to sell it until house prices rise again in the area, but I'm sure they'd sell it if I waved a bunch of money at them.  Then I'd live here until construction on our other house was complete.  Then I'd renovate this cabin so people could come and stay in it when they visit. 

Then, I'd get a bad ass Jeep Grand Wagoneer.  A cool old one, with the fake wood paneling on the outside.  Like this one:

File:Jeep Grand Wagoneer 001.JPG

I'm sure Austin would buy a big fancy truck.  We'd also get a couple of ATV's, just to drive around the block in.  I have a friend....I won't say who it is, but you know who you are, that bought a golf cart for his kids, for the sole purpose of getting around the neighborhood.  Wow.  I want separate vehicles for that.  In my day, we walked.  Like 10 miles.  But Mimi will need something to drive to the school bus stop, so maybe an ATV for her.  Or a pony.  She'd definitely want a pony. 

Maybe a couple of trips.  I want to take Mimi to Hawaii, and I want to spend a week digging at the Crater of Diamonds.  #1 on my bucket list is to walk the entire Appalachian Trail in a single season, all 2000-ish miles of it.  I'd totally quit my job, so I'd have time for that.  We want Mimi to see Alaska, so that too.  I read that there is a beach in Japan that has star-shaped sand.  You can see it here

Beyond that, I'm not sure what I'd buy.  All of the above is probably less than a million dollars. Of course, we'd all give a bunch of it away, but what would be the first thing you'd buy?

28 March 2012

A week later

Here is my front yard a few minutes ago:

The back yard:

We've had highs in the 50's the past week and everything is melting away.  Mimi and I had built a snowman after the big snowstorm we had in January, and all that is left is a tiny, tiny, baby fist-sized lump of snow with one of the charcoal briquette eyes balanced on it. 

And the best thing is that our driveway is completely clear.  I'd post pictures of that, but I've got some residual flu I'm trying to shake, and it's raining and it's all mud anyway.

22 March 2012

What a difference a day makes

Here was my yard yesterday:

Here we are, 24 hours later.  Getting better.  Spring can't come soon enough. 

Had to use all of that bacon grease for something: A recipe review

Did you know I have a sister?  It's true.  She's 6 years older than me, and we're quite different.  Did you know she has a blog, too?  Her blog is also quite different.  You can check it out  here.  Two things we do have in common is a passion for baking and the same Kitchen Aid mixer.  She's named hers after our grandmothers.  Mine doesn't have a name. 

She is having a problem with her neighbor dogs, and instead of killing them, our mother suggested she try to be friends instead.  So she made them some dog biscuits.  This is the recipe that she used:  Dog Treats

I don't have the same problem.  I actually really like our neighbors' dogs.  On one side, we have 2 elderly black labs, a brother and sister, that like to play with Blue and keep us humans company when we're outside.  On the other side, we have a grumpy Chesapeake that likes to bark at me through the fence as I go down the driveway.  His owners say he's just crabby with strangers, but because I think it's handy to have canine friends to protect you from bears and cougars, I am going to make him my buddy too.  Our around the corner neighbor, Cindy, has a sweet beagle named Hannah that Mimi and I adore.  So lots of dogs, and I decided to make treats for all of them. 

I changed the recipe a bit:

1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. bacon grease (I had to get rid of it somehow)
1 c. whole wheat flour (all I had)
3 c. white flour
1 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. peanut butter

I didn't add the vanilla from the OG recipe, because real bourbon vanilla doesn't come cheap, and because they are dog treats and dogs will eat anything even if it doesn't have vanilla in it. 

Mix it together and convince your 5 year old that rolling them out is something really fun to do. 

No free rides in this house.  She needs to start earning her keep, so I put her to work.  Actually, she really likes using the rolling pin.  She also likes hauling wood, shoveling, and watering the garden. 
 She also likes to put on her cat costume and crawl on the floor. 

Here is a recent conversation: 

Me, watching Mimi crawl on the floor:  "Mimi, what are you doing?" 
Mimi: "Looking for danger." 
Me:  "Okay." 

Next step is to cut the dough with a dog biscuit-shaped cookie cutter.

I don't have dog biscuit-shaped cookie cutters.  I have these. My mom sent them to me a few months ago. 

But I do have these.  I picked them up at Walmart on a post-Valentine's Day sale for A DIME.  For the set.

Lay them on parchment, and bake at 400'F for 20 minutes.*

Consider eating one because they smell just like peanut butter cookies, but decide against it because you are actually not a dog.

Following the baking instructions above, my cookies did not get crunchy.  I made 3 baking sheets' worth of them, in different sizes, and after cooking each for 20 minutes, I let them cool, then lowered the temperature down to 250'F and baked them again for 15-20 minutes, to dry them out and get them crunchy.  It might have been the bacon grease that I used instead of the oil, or the added dry ingredients....not sure, but I definitely  needed to continue cooking to dry them out.  A soft dog biscuit is gross.

I needed someone with a discriminating palate to test them out, so I took a few outside and yelled for Blue, who had wandered over to the neighbor's yard.

Here he comes.  He's such an idiot. 
He runs really weird.  He shakes his butt.

Results?  Well, he's a dog. He'll eat anything.  So he ate like 6 of these.
 I'll test them out on a bear next.

21 March 2012

Spring is here!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, spring started yesterday, and I'm so glad.  There will be no more snowstorms this year, the driveway luge track will melt, and the grass will start to green up.  Look!  It's already happening:

Yep.  We're having a snowstorm.  The next 10 days, including today, are going to have highs in the 50's, but it hasn't started yet.  The weather channel reports that we've gotten 1.3 inches of snow.

But it's actually more like 3 or 4 inches up here.  I use this deck railing as my snow gauge.  I can see it through the sliding glass door as I sit in my recliner.  Yesterday, there was no snow on the railing. 

This *could* be our last snowstorm of the year, and I was worried that in the middle of the summer, I might feel nostalgic for shivering, so I got us dressed and we went outside to enjoy the day.

I took my glasses off for the picture, because they were spotted with snow.  Mimi told me I look like a monster without them.  Uh, okay.  Isn't she sweet? Just loves her mommy.

Stay warm!

19 March 2012

I'm a Fraidy-Cat

Earlier this winter, a family in western Montana went to their cabin, and found that it had been broken into.  This is not a fairy tale.  We are not this family.  They suspected a burglar, but realized that the only items missing were all of the pillows and blankets.  Upon further investigation, they found a bear wintering in the crawlspace, along with all of the bedding.  They decided to leave it alone until it leaves in the spring.

Our dog Blue has been on high alert lately.  He is extremely protective of our family, but it's been heightened lately.  He's been prowling around, sniffing out spots around the yard with a weird intensity, and has been running from the sun room to the living room to look out the windows.  So today I told Austin that I was worried that we had a bear hibernating under the cabin.  He asked why, and I told him the above story.  And he basically said, "so there's actually no reason to think that there is?"  So maybe it's an irrational fear, but it got me thinking about all of the things I'm scared of, rational, and irrational.  Here they are:

1.  Recordings of old-timey singing.  Anything 80 years or older freaks me out.  Even the soundtrack to Snow White gives me the creeps.  It's not that the people singing are dead, it's that their voices were different then.
2.  Old men crying.  It breaks my heart into tiny little pieces.
3.  Answering my phone.  Calling someone on the phone.  Basically talking on the phone.  Text or email me, please.  Except ordering a pizza; I can totally handle that.
4.  The dark.  Monsters under my bed.  Ghosts.  Seriously.
5.  All of my teeth falling out, Radium Girls-style.  I have nightmares about this.
6.  Any situation where my ability to keep my daughter safe is compromised....war, apocalyptic event, etc.
7.  My daughter finding out that I'm not as smart or cool or funny as she thinks I am now.
8.  Losing my locker combination and/or class schedule.  I haven't been in high school in way over a decade, but I have frequent nightmares about this.
9.  Swerving to avoid hitting a deer and driving off the edge into the draw near my house.
10.  My car not starting when I really, really need it to.
11.  Snakes.  This comes from a threadsnake infestation that we had in our house in Texas.
12.  2012.
13.  Creepy kids in horror movies (the Ring, the Shining, the Grudge)
14. The Amityville Horror.  I know it was a hoax, but after I read the book over a decade ago, I actually buried it outside.
15.  Plane crashes and train derailments
16.  Zombies

The list goes on...

What are you afraid of?

16 March 2012

Person of the Week: My Dog Blue

Introducing the second Person of the Week:

In greener, warmer times

Blue (Blueberry, Buddy, Blue Boy) is our sweet but idiotic dog.  If you remember, we got him last summer to be a working dog.  Specifically, a bear dog.  We wanted a dog in the yard and pee all over the place and keep the bears away.  And it worked.  We also thought it would be fun to teach him to wear a harness and pull Mimi around in the snow, but that hasn't happened yet.  

Blue is, theoretically, a mix of German Shorthair Pointer, Border Collie, and Australian Shepherd, and weighs maybe 40 lbs.  He is without a doubt, the fastest dog I've ever seen.  He can run for miles and check this out:  he can catch a frisbee in his mouth.  I always thought it would be cool to have a dog that would do that. He's also an excellent watch dog, barking and going completely batshit crazy at any car or person that comes on our property, 

Until recently, Blue has enjoyed a happy life, roaming around our 5 acres freely, or so we thought.  He was placed on probation last month when we discovered from a neighbor around the corner that she's seen him roaming around with the 2 labs from next door.  Oh, and he may or may not have bitten her beagle.  I was there, she was there, neither of us saw or heard the bite, but my dog bumped into her dog and minutes later, we noticed her dog had a little spot of blood on his cheek.  Flashes of appearing before Judge Millian appeared before me, and I was horrified, apologizing profusely, and asking her to bring me the vet bill.  She was really nice about it, saying the dog was fine, and inviting us to visit her anytime.  (Mimi and I walked over to her house last week, to visit her and the dog, and he's ok.  And the neighbor, who is around 65 and a retired radiology technician, is totally going to be my new best friend.  She doesn't know it yet.)

So Blue is now kept inside and is not allowed to run around.  As long as I am outside with him, he listens and stays close to me, and the few times a day I don't go outside with him, he is on a 50 foot tether for about 15 minutes a day.  In the meantime, I'm investigating fence-less electronic collars.  

When he's inside, he's Mimi's best friend.  He's sweet and patient with her, allowing himself to be dressed in costumes and covered with stuffed animals. 

Today, they actually played hide and seek.  Don't ask me how.  

Back at it

My good friends GM and CK will probably be happy that I'm back in school again.  I'm less than 40 credits away from finishing my bachelor's degree.  In the program that I am doing, all classes are completely online, and you take 2 classes every eight weeks.  Plus, the GI Bill (Post 9/11) is paying for everything.

Class started on the 14th, and my books arrived on the 15th.  It wasn't easy.  Our driveway is iced up, and I was concerned that the UPS driver would get stuck.  So last week, I did the UPS live chat, and told them of the issue.  They said that I should contact them again the day of delivery, as they couldn't get in touch with the driver, or leave a message until that day.  So yesterday morning, when I woke up, I went back on UPS chat.  The first step is to give your name, email address, and the topic of discussion.  Here's the chat log:

*        Initial Question: Contacting driver prior to delivery
*      Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: Hi, this is Alejandro L.. I'll be happy to assist you.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: Just a moment while I look into that for you.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: Hi, I am expecting a package to be delivered today.  We live on a mountain, and our 500 foot long driveway is covered in ice.  I'd like it if the driver could call when he is on his way, so I could meet him on the road.  This way he won't get stuck on the driveway.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: My system is showing that the package is out for delivery today 03/15/2012 will be deliver today by the end of the day, Unfortunately, we cannot provide an approximate delivery time for your shipment. We usually deliver to residences by 7:00 p.m. Commercial addresses are delivered within posted business hours.
Unfortunately, our delivery drivers are unable to contact receivers or other parties prior to a delivery attempt. Due to day-to-day variations in package volume, driver delivery routes, driver pickup routes, and your location on these routes; UPS is unable to provide or schedule a specific delivery time.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: I don't need to know a delivery time.  I asked this same question last week, and I was told to contact the company on the day of delivery, and they would get a message to the driver.  Again, I don't need to know WHEN it will be delivered at all.  I just need a message to get to the driver so your delivery trucks don't get stuck in my driveway.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: Ok give me one moment please.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: I need to forward your information to the local package center for resolution. Please provide me with the following information:  * Your last name * The best telephone number to reach you
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: <provides that information>
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: Thanks.  It will take me just a few minutes to put this through.  I will be right with you.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: ok
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: Thank you.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: I have forwarded your concern to the appropriate package center for further assistance. You can expect a call by the end of the business day on **DATE**.  Do you have any other questions?
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: Does that mean they will call before the package is delivered?  your message says "DATE"
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: I apologize for this you will be getting this call within an hour our main facility will call you to give you different options for this delivery.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: I don't need different options for delivery.  I just want to be called when the driver is on his way.  I can meet him on the road.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: In this case please expect this call within an hour to address this with our main facility.
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_enduser_message.png Erin: Thank you
Description: https://ups6.custhelp.com/euf/rightnow/optimized/1331757385/themes/ups/images/chat_agent.png Alejandro L.: Youre welcome.

Alejandro disconnected immediately.  He must have been sick of me.  I got a call from our "local" package center...in Wisconsin.  She was very confused, as the message mentioned a mountain road, and well....there are no mountains in Wisconsin.  So she put a call through to our actual Montana local package center.

30 minutes later, the driver called me, thanked me for the info, and left the packages sealed in plastic at the end of the driveway.  Was that so hard?

09 March 2012

First Deer of 2012, and Why is the Snow only Melting There?

Yesterday, we had some visitors:

A doe and her two yearlings.  Probably the same ones that came by last year, but all deer look the same to me.

I didn't want them to leave, so I grabbed some apples and tossed them to them.  A few days ago, my sweet grandmother-in-law had given me about 20 lbs of apples that she had in cold storage over the winter, so I grabbed the mushy ones for the deer.

Here's a question.  This patch of grass is just feet away from our house.  It's always bare....snow melts there really quickly.  Why?  We do have a well, and also a septic tank.  Could this be from one of them?


That's how warm it was today.  Can you believe it?  I haven't seen temps like this since October.  It was nice enough to take a walk, so Mimi and I skidded down the driveway and I took this picture:

I took it at waist-height as I was walking behind her, so I couldn't actually see what it looked like until I downloaded it.  The picture is kind of slanted, and she's walking gingerly so she doesn't slip.  Of course, she refused to hold my hand.

Our driveway, as you can see, is still a mess.  Slick ice with little rivers running down it to the street.  We're forecasted for well-above freezing temps for the next 10 days, so I'm hoping it clears soon, or we might be sledding down.

08 March 2012

Some people are a**holes. Oh, and karma's a b****

So, now we know that I work the closing shift at ********.  The other night, we had a group of 4 teenagers come in shortly before close.  As I handed them their order, I informed them that we would be closing in 10 minutes.  Some time later, I began to pull down the gates.  I walked over and reminded them that we were closing in 2 minutes, and as per ********** policy, only employees are allowed in the store after close.  I was pretty friendly about it too, even jokingly told them we had some spare uniforms in the back if they wanted to join the team and help us out.  They laughed, and I walked away to the back office.  Ten minutes later, they were still there, preventing us from closing the store.  Another manager asked them to leave, and they initially refused, but left a minute later, leaving all of their trash on the table and swearing and calling two employees insulting names.

I'm a manager now, so I'm in the back, counting tills and doing other manager-y things, and one employee comes back to tell me that the group must still be in the area, because while he was in another area of the store, someone had thrown their drinks and the rest of their food on our floor, through the gates.  It was a freshly cleaned floor.

But in an awesome, incredible moment of poetic justice, we realized that one of the girls in the group had accidentally left her purse behind in the restaurant.  Per policy, we locked it in the safe.

And then we left for the night.

p.s. I do think it's important to say that between finding the purse, and leaving, an hour passed, and one employee did look outside of the store for the owner with no luck.  But the story sounds better without saying that.

06 March 2012

Starring Mimi: Sleeping Beauty

I have a confession to make:  

I think my daughter is a star.  

I know all moms probably think this.  I think I'm actually taking great risk posting these videos.  It's quite likely that a Hollywood agent will see one, swoop in, promise her fame and fortune and all of the Disney characters as her best friends, and she will leave Montana and her family behind, star in a bunch of big movies, forget about us, go wild, and eventually end up like Taylor Momsen.  

But this video cracks me up, so I'll share it anyway. 

Sleeping Beauty by Hen7975

05 March 2012

The Big Thaw

Since yesterday, we've been treated to temperatures above 50'F.  This is great, because we are using less wood to heat the house, but also because the snow and ice are melting and revealing what's been buried below.

Like Mimi's ice block form, for making snow forts:

The long-forgotten gravel in our driveway:

Carnage from the deer carcass the dogs dragged here:

Grass that is oddly still green(ish):

And a disconcerting amount of dogshit landmines, just waiting to be stepped in.

You didn't think I was going to post a picture of those, did you?

Happy pre-Spring!