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    Monday, November 30, 2015

    Thanksgiving Photo Update

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    We enjoyed the first Thanksgiving at SilverMoon with a feast, games, movies, a concert, and walks to burn off some of those calories!

    It was pretty relaxing. 4 days of friends and family, cooking, some cleaning and organizing, and we even went out into the crowds - not to buy, but just to observe the chaos and enjoy the decorations.

    Early on Wednesday morning, very early, we woke to screaming and gunshots coming from outside. We couldn't see anything but it was just to the other side of our neighbor's house. Generally our street is pretty calm (yes, just our street) so this was very unexpected and upsetting.

    I was not a happy camper at work on Wednesday. Thank you to my bosses and co-workers for being awesome. Wednesday was rough.

    Thankfully, after work I was able to focus on preparing the menu - getting the veggies chopped, fruits washed, and sides made took my mind off the violence. I searched for the police report just to see what the story was - but they don't publish reports on open investigations so I let it go.

    I assumed no one died as there were no news stories or news vans in the area. I made a pie and cranberry sauce since those things taste better after 24 hours and they took all of my attention.

    Thursday I made the ham - Alton Brown style - finished the potatoes and the sides and we enjoyed a feast with friends and games and so-bad-it's-good TV.

    The Menu -

    ::Main & Sides::
    Glazed Ham
    Maple Syrup baked Sweet Potatoes 
    Braised Carrots and Parsnips
    Cranberry Sauce
    Mashed Potatoes
    Carrot sticks and Garlic Humus
    Little Oranges
    Chocolate Truffles
    Apple Pie
    Pumpkin Bread with home made Whipped Cream
    Ginger Ale
    Apple Cider
    Mulled Cider

    When we finally got restless and dared to venture outside - the weather was lovely...cold, but lovely. We walked around Greenlake and into the stores to enjoy the throng and excitement and energy without feeling the need to buy anything.

    Also, my scarf matches the Japanese Maples in Waterfall Park - who knew?!
    On Sunday we found out what the shooting was about. Apparently someone was walking their dog in the early morning hours and another dog, a dog known in the neighborhood as being very aggressive, jumped the fence and attacked the dog walker and their dog. The screaming was the woman being attacked and the gun shots were someone shooting the attacking dog.

    Lessons learned -
    My neighborhood is interesting.
    Keep an eye out when walking you dog.
    In my neighborhood folks pack poop bags AND loaded guns when they go out in the morning.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hello Musty!

During the Halloween Holidays, while T, D, and I were visiting my family and friends along the East Coast, my grandfather gifted me his 1966 Mustang.

Thank you grandpa!!!

I call her Musty...well, for obvious olfactory reasons. The goal is to make her Lusty over the summer :-)

She runs, which is wonderful, but she hasn't been water-tight for quite some time. There's a laundry list of things to do with her, firstly, installing the cowl covers and cleaning the drain getting her thoroughly detailed to remove the musty from Musty.

Hello Weekend!

Musty, just off the shipping truck

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Enter BattleMouse!!

I spent Veterans' Day doing another deep clean of the house, scrubbing the countertops and resetting the laundry. This started after I followed a little trail of pasta sauce from the prior evening's lasagna as it went across the counter, leapt from the counter to the stools, and leapt again from the stools to the top of the dresser. Then the trail of sauce went behind my plants, behind the picture of the dog, and squeezed on the dresser and the wall where the mouse brought the noodle to rest on my white jacket. I've never been so mad at a rodent. Brazen little devil!

This time I wrapped all my clothes in brown shipping paper so the mouse will (hopefully) make noise and will (hopefully) stay out of my drawers. We also reset the live traps and moved them closer to the trail the mouse made with the rogue noodle.

The ultrasonic plug-ins are fired. The mouse would have been standing next to two of them - one on the counter and one in the socket behind my drawer. Didn't seem to bother it at all.

The dog is also fired. He can obviously smell the mouse, but has yet to catch it or bark at it or anything. He did find my sauce stained jacket very interesting and sniffed all around my dresser and tried to get under the cabinet (which I cleaned and re-cleaned) which was futile but hilarious to watch.

Next step - borrow a friend's cat.

Live trap or a cat
Life, or death if you choose
MouseBattle is on!
-mouse haiku

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mouse in the House

Oh Crumbs! There's a mouse in the house!

Last weekend, while putting some laundry away, Mr T found mouse droppings on top of the clothes already in the clothing drawer. YUCK.

Upon closer investigation, it seems a mouse had been hiding in the clothes for only a few days at most - not many droppings, no chew marks in any furniture or to any clothes, no nibbled drywall, and no issues with the dog's chew toys.

Still, it was a major sanitation project over the weekend and we have yet to capture our unwelcome little guest.

We did ALL the laundry, washing all the clothing and bedding in the house. Pulled out ALL the ground-level storage and found new homes for it throughout the house. This included Mr T's guitar cases, the board games we generally store under the dresser, and the cookie sheets I was storing under the kitchen cabinets. Everything was lifted up. I did a deep cleaning on all floors mopping with Dr Bronner's Peppermint Soap and crawled around inspecting the floorboards and hunting for any cracks or gaps where a mouse might hide. I also inspected along the ceiling thinking perhaps a mouse might run along the cables and pipes through the ceiling.

I noted some gaps and that the seal at the bottom of the door had broken - so those things will be fixed.

We bought ultrasonic deterrents and live traps that I baited with a mix of maple syrup and peanut butter...which Fams had to have in his treat ball too in order for him to leave the traps alone. Poor dog thinks I'm stashing toys and treats on him!

Mr T also spent some time in the yard hacking down the tall grass and wild sunflowers that we'd been letting grow free. Mr D took the cardboard pile we'd been saving for the yard and tossed it all into his truck for a dump run.

So, I feel we've done some serious mouse-deterrence over the weekend. Hopefully he or she was just house-watching while we were all away over Halloween and won't come back now that we've all returned. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Winter in the PNW

It has been a wonderful fall at SilverMoon and we are now starting to get excited about the winter and winter holidays. Winter in the Pacific NorthWest generally means rain, long dark nights, short grey days, continual scarf-wearing, and galoshes. Unfortunately, for a lot of folks this is also the start of SAD season, it is a horrible season to be homeless in (if ever there is a "good" season), and it is a time of great consumerism. Perhaps it is related to folks choosing indoor spaces like the mall to walk around in because it is warmer than the park, but people will often spend more money in winter than in summer seasons. Some folks even get into debt over the holidays with the intention of paying it off after the New Year. Talk about New Year's Resolution! :-(

So, in thinking about this winter season, my first winter in my very own home, I wanted to set some ground rules to establish our very own set of traditions and celebrations that felt true to us.
_______ ... _______ 

Rule 1. Go Outside.
Yes, it is grey and chilly and wet for most of the winter in the Pacific Northwest. No, that doesn't give you an excuse to hibernate inside all season.
Get outdoors, work up a sweat, take in the view from the top of a mountain. Get some sunshine even if it is only brief.

Thankfully, folks in the Pacific Northwest are great outdoors enthusiasts. There's plenty of camping, hiking, kayaking, and neighborhood events to go to even in the winter.

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." - Sir Rannulph Fiennes

Rule 2. Plan for Spring.
What's worse than day after day of grey skies? Thinking it will never end.

Instead of being sad that there is no garden at the moment, I'm actively using this time to plan out the garden in spring. Thinking about those clear blue skies and looking online at all the flowers and veggies we could set out in the yard really makes me smile. If you have a garden, then right now is the time to think about what plants have worked well for you in the past, what seeds you have stored, what plants you'd like to grow in the spring and set your schedule so you know when to start sprouting those tiny green wonders!

Another great aspect of this climate is that it actually allows for winter gardening if you are so inclined. Winter pansies, primrose, hellebore, and camellias are great flowers to keep the winter blues at bay. I even brought an amaryllis and primrose indoors to brighten up my other indoor plants that are currently wintering-over.

If you don't have a garden, think about what events or things you can look forward to in the spring. Is there a place you'd like to visit? Someone you are hoping to see? Make those plans over the winter to pull yourself out of the grey winter mindset.

Rule 3. Eat well.
Winter is the season of Yum! Mashed potatoes, collard greens, beans, fresh baked breads and other goodies - the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, all that baking, butter, and  curling up with good books can attribute to the New Year's Resolution Syndrome of body shaming and sadness.

But eating well doesn't mean eating just whatever, it means eating what's good for you - both for your body and your mind.

I could write a whole post on great winter meals and ingredients, and maybe I will, but for now here's a list of some of my favorite winter-friendly veggies and fruits that keep the blues (an the pounds) at bay.
  • Pomegranates
  • Oranges, lemons, tangelos, and other citrus
  • Winter Squash - acorn and butternut are my favorites
  • Dark Greens like kale, collards, and mustard greens
  • Beans and lentils
  • The three C's - cabbage, cauliflower, and carrots
  • Oatmeal
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts - macadamia, walnut, pecan, and hazel roasted over a campfire (YUM!)
  • Mushrooms
  • Persimmons - check your ethnic grocery store
  • Edamame - steamed with a little bit of salt this is a great movie-at-home snack
Rule 4. Do good.

Choose something that's important to you and work on it. Doing good is about engaging those things that feed your soul or sense of self and feeding the spirit of others as well

For me, its homelessness. America and Seattle in particular have a huge homelessness problem. Seattle ranks 4th in the nation for homeless population.* There are lots of reasons for it, and each person (yes, these are people not just statistics and that's an important thing to remember) has a story of how they ended up on the streets. The city has lots of reasons for why their 10-years to 0-homeless plan fell through, but the fact remains that there are so many homeless people in Seattle that the city just announced a state of emergency. You can't walk two blocks in this city without coming across a homeless person, a tent, a tarp, a cardboard box that someone has been using to try and get shelter in.

Go through your closet - as you get ready to store those summer tanks, take a look at your sock drawer as well. Homeless people spend a lot of time on their feet and a pair of clean socks in good condition is one of the easiest and greatest gifts you can give.

Say Hi. Acknowledge that they exist just as you would anyone else on the street. Pretending you don't see them doesn't make them go away. If you can't or don't feel comfortable talking to strangers - a smile would be nice. :-)

Your time - volunteer if you can, donate to an organization you believe in if you can't. If you can't volunteer know, no worries, lots of people try to volunteer in the winter months and some organizations have a hard time managing all of the well-meaning volunteers, consider signing up to volunteer in the summer months when it is often harder for those organizations to find the volunteers they need.

Study by US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Rule 5. Celebrate.
Fight off those long dark nights with merriment and reflection. If you are religious, then celebrate your gods and traditions. If you aren't religious or don't have traditions - find what calls to you and make your own path.
I fall into the 'make your own path' category and making these 5 rules for winter is part of forging my own way through the season. There are some upcoming things I'm looking forward to -
November 11th - Veterans Day is also Free State and National Park Day (see Rule #1)
November 11th - 15th - HUMP!
November 26th - Thanksgiving - Seattle Turkey Trot
November 27th - Parade and Star Lighting
November 27th - Jan 3rd - Wildlights at the Woodland Park Zoo
November 27th - Dec 28th - The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall
November 28th - Magic in the Market at Pike Place
November 28th - Jan 2nd - Garden d'Lights in Bellevue

Want to go for a walk but it's rainy and cold outside? Not interested in fighting holiday crowds and consumerism at the mall? Check out the museums! Many even offer free-visit days so you can just go and enjoy yourself without the signs, hawkers, and crazy crowds. Check out freemuseumday.org for your local listing.
_______ ... _______

These are the rules that work for me in making the winter a holiday rather than a horror. What works for you? What are some things you look forward to as the temperature drops? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Easy-Peasy Meal Planning

Does this ever happen to you?
You go to the grocery store, walk around for way too long, find a bunch of deals and things that look yummy, pile everything into your cart, pay way too much money, then get home to unpack everything only to discover that you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner. To top it off, you've spent so much time in the shopping center that you feel rushed to try to make anything moderately edible!

...this has happened to me more than once...

So - to change things up, I made a grocery list, started planning meals, and it has been wonderful!

When you go to the store knowing what you are planning to eat for the week and knowing what items you need to buy - you get into the store, shop, and leave. It saves time by letting you skip unneeded browsing, and it saves money but making sure that the food you are buying wont be wasted.

In a tiny house with a small fridge - everything needs a place. I don't have acreage of refrigerator shelves for left overs or random groceries. I don't have extra money for bread to go moldy or veggies to go limp from want of eating. I don't have extra time to stroll casually from aisle to aisle browsing cereals and pondering what to make for the evening.

If you have and excess of these three things, well, enjoy (or come over to my house and I'll put you to work) but if you don't have an abundance of space/money/time, you may find this helpful:

You'll notice that my list is vegetarian but you can edit it for your own use. If you absolutely never eat peas, then having peas on your grocery list is just a waste of ink. Remove it and add parsnips or something else you love.

How I use it -

1.) Make a meal plan.
I give myself 10-15 minutes to think of or find recipes for meals for the week ahead.
I'm a big fan of: Post Punk Kitchen, The First Mess, and The Food Network for ideas and resources.

Things I look for in a recipe - one pan / one pot recipes, crock pot options, and things I can grill.
They also need to have easy to understand directions, simple lists of ingredients, and bonus points for nutritional breakdowns.

Of course, I love trying new cakes and fancy stews with 25+ ingredients, but I save those for the weekend and focus instead on healthy, simple, and fast meals for the week.

Print or write these out and attach them to the list so that everything stays together.

2.) Analyze the meal plan for ingredients.
Have two recipes that call for half an onion each? Great! Chop up the whole onion and save yourself having to chop again the next day.
Mark down the ingredients you need and take stock of what things you already have in your cupboard.

3.) Take the thing to the store with you! Remember the reusable bags! :-)
Of course while you are at the store you can keep an eye out for discounts and those fancy special ingredients, but try to limit the cursory shopping to a minute or two and no more than two items. Even if there is a great sale on frozen sliced carrots - do you really have room to store all ten boxes? Instead grab one or two and start your meal planning for next week by looking up a carrot soup, carrot cake, and carrot and lemongrass curry.

4.) Save your work!
All that planning and shopping won't do you any good if you look in the fridge on Wednesday and can't remember what you were going to make. So, save yourself the stress and smack the list and recipes to your fridge with a magnet. That will keep it handy and visible for the Wednesday you had to work late and can't even remember your own name by the time you got home.

So - good luck darlings and happy cooking!