127 – mumblings from the mountains

Sitting looking at a smoke-hazed mountain outside my best friend’s back door. It’s beautiful, even in the fire-induced fog. The sun is trying to climb over it–she often doesn’t get actual sun on her house until upwards of 10 a.m. because it lies in the early morning shadow cast by that mountain.

Happy to be here, feeling a sense of accomplishment–a quilt that I worked on for almost a year has been given to the newlyweds, and the bride was my friend’s youngest daughter. The bride and groom are off now to Hawaii. Now a couple days just for us, the vacation we both sorely needed–and a quick visit with son John in Great Falls before we head back to super-heated but not-on-fire West Texas.

attic window quilt
attic window quilt

Got a nice, long visit with Kelsey and Brian and the kids the last week of July, got to know Miss Haley Leann a little bit better, and had tons of fun with Tyler.

Also took on a consulting job shortly before that, getting operations turned around at a restaurant in the 8000+ population town 45 minutes from the ranch. The same folks who own the ranch own the restaurant, and when their general manager asked if I’d take on the challenge, I couldn’t resist. That was July 17, and from there until we flew out to come up here for a week, I’ve been running with my ears laid back. It’s in much better shape now, with tons of help from Kels and Brian as well as Corey, who jumped in with the staff to do the massive cleaning that was the first step to getting the place back on track. It’s a 90-day contract, minus the time here in Montana, so as of October 16, I’ll be back to entrepreneuriality, if that’s a word. And November is NaNoWriMo.

Oh… and we bought a warehouse. 🙂


102 – autumn, and everything’s coming alive

I know a lot of people see autumn as the time of year when the plants start dying or begin shutting down for the winter to come, but I have always found it so energizing. Maybe because I’ve lived in warmer climes all my life, so fall temperatures are the first relief from the summer heat in months.

I may not be oriented on plants as keeping time because I can kill any plant ever… bought a beautiful calladium, and it’s down to five spindly little stalks with leaves and Corey may not even be able to keep the buggerty thing alive much longer.   He, on the other hand, sticks a few green onions straight out of the grocery store in some plantswater and they’ve not just lived but thrived for months; he hasn’t had to buy any since June, just keeps clipping them off the original bunch. And they’re putting on new sprouts as I speak.

The spider plant was once three spider plants – two died under my watch, but he rescued the third. The two large green leaves in the small red pot are an orchid that he has kept alive for more than two years and even coaxed into reblooming once. It was a birthday present from Johnny to me just before he went in the Air Force in July of 2012.

It’s probably a good thing Corey had the kids when he met me and they were big, strapping healthy specimens.

But, I love fall–the cool temperatures make me happy. I don’t like sweating unless it’s my idea.

Perhaps part of the reason for my happiness is that we’ve got so much going on right now, it feels as if life’s kicked into high gear. Signing papers for the new building this week. I’m finishing my first full proposal for my new job this week. We may be buying a van this week. All kinds of things going on–and they will inevitably interfere with each other.

That’s OK – that’s what balance is about. I feel as if I’ve been in a long, fallow period, something everything needs in order to rejuvenate, revive, grow again. Six days from now is one year since I left Cisco behind, and I feel as if I’ve finally healed from all that.

Happy autumn days people. Enjoy your pumpkin spice whatevers while they’re around… 😀

101 – life is an adventure

We’re doing the last walkthrough this morning before signing the contracts for a building in Sanderson, about a half hour south of where we live. The town doesn’t have any amenities, and the population is under a thousand people. There are a lot of reasons why it’s attractive to us as a place to buy, beginning with the fact that there is no zoning in a town this small.

And, when I say “building,” I mean it. We’re not looking at a house–but a building with three office suites, one of which is usable now, plus a 1300 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsquare foot space that would make a very nice apartment (and no zoning means we can if we choose). There’s also a 44 x 40 workshop, which you can’t see in the picture, as it’s directly behind the building. Guess which part Corey’s in love with? 🙂

So, basically we’re buying a strip mall with a garage. No tenants at the moment, or possibly ever.  We haven’t decided whether we want to try to turn it into an income property. There are good things and bad things about renting out space for anything.

We’ve always trusted our instincts–possibly more than we should, but considering our lot in life continues to improve, I think we’re right a little more often than not. And, along the way, we’ve paid a little bit (OK, a fair amount… OK, quite a bit) of what I call “stupid tax.” Most of it was before we met–but we did get into a one-year lease when we went up to Oregon, and on reflection, that was a mistake.  And we paid for it.

But we learn–when I went to Alpine to take on the managing editor job, I only signed a three-month lease, which turned out to be a really, really good idea in the end. Who knew that, less than a month after I started, I was going to be offered a job that paid twice the money for half the hours and that I can work from home? I couldn’t even think about turning it down. It effectively doubled my salary, because one of my two editor paychecks a month was going to the rent and utilities. Here at home, of course, that doesn’t apply.

There are other things in the offing–am in discussions about starting my own business as a subsidiary of the business I’m working for now. Don’t know if it will work out in the end, but it’s something to think about really hard.


Also looking at a van much like the one in the picture. We had to get rid of the big F350 truck once we got to the ranch, for a number of reasons, but it basically bought the little Chevy Cruze I’m running around in now.

But with a building to renovate, plus some post-retirement plans to RV around the country with a bumper pull trailer someday, a vehicle that’s a tad bigger than the Cruze will be necessary.  We’ve been looking for one for months now, as we knew we’d need one. Not intensely, just looking. And we may have found one yesterday. Looks a lot like the one in the picture, but it’s a 2003 with a 7.3l diesel engine. The year model means no computers to futz with, which means that Corey can pretty much fix anything that goes wrong with it, which is very reassuring.

It will tow pretty much any trailer out there, albeit with gas mileage that is pretty sucky, but then they all are.  The key for us is that with that roof rack and the internal space, it gives us the ability to haul any construction materials we need right now… And the price is good.

Thinking about all this is much like standing on the diving board at Balmorhea. Scary, but a good scary. And the chance that we’re going to turn around and walk away from the building are approximately zero at this point unless we see something like a portal to hell behind one of the doors in this morning’s walkthrough. Corey will be able to look at the engine in the van and drive it this week Tuesday.  And becoming my own business again? Well, that will come when it comes. Or not.

Every one of these things could fall through–or they could all come true. Or any combination thereof.  You know, life’s an adventure, peoples… and we continue to live it at our pace and no one else’s.

85 – future speculations…

Ah… three-day weekend in hand.  Cor’s still asleep, and hopefully a good night’s sleep will help him shake the cold I gave him. Sorry, honey.  I tried to keep it to myself, but you did keep risking it by kissing me. Silly boy.

I’m listening to my stomach gurgle. Out of the last six days, 48 hours has been spent throwing up pretty much every hour on the hour. There are times when the gastric bypass surgery that I had nine years ago now seems as if it were a deal with the devil, and this is one of those weeks. I am still more than a hundred pounds lighter than I was the day of the surgery… and I cling to that reality with a death grip on mornings like this.  Ah, it will pass. Everything does. It would help if it weren’t pretty much completely my fault–I ate something without paying attention to how dense it was and chewing it thoroughly, and it stuck.  Same thing that happened yesterday morning, and three days ago. Time to start eating consciously again…

Now that the pity party is over (thanks for listening!), I can go back to speculating on a future with so many unknowns that it kind of boggles me. Doesn’t stress me, per se. In fact, other than the throwing up bit, I’m actually sleeping better than I have in the last decade. Leaving last night aside, the prior two nights I slept more than eight hours, getting up finally at 7 am.  Doesn’t sound late, probably, but for me, it’s two to three hours past my norm since 2005… I think I like it, but I feel oddly guilty at the same time, like I’m late for something.

Not sure for what… as I’m not even pressuring myself to finish the latest projects I’ve been working on…but one thing I did finish was taking the hand drawing Corey made of the house we are thinking of building some day, and make it into a “blueprint” using Excel. Same way we design furniture, pretty much…



This is the morning’s iteration – it’s a monster house, honestly, and don’t know if we’d ever need this much room… but basically, it’s just a big rectangle under one peaked roof running right down the center, covering the garage, the patio and the porch.  Two master suites, a workroom, office, and shaded room for outdoor living in a warm climate… a walk-through pantry to make grocery put away easy-sneezy, and a front porch that runs the whole length of the front of the house. A powder room in the office area, as well… I hate people using my bathroom.

So… this is the dream.  Or perhaps it’s A dream.  Two weeks ago, the dream was to find a place in East Texas–but reality smacks you around about dreams, and you have to adjust your thinking. So, for now, at least, the thought is that we look for four or five acres somewhere halfway between here and East Texas, no more than four hours away from here, so it’s an easy drive to spend the weekend. Eventually. We pay for the land in cash, and then we start socking serious money away to put a house together one major piece at a time, paying cash up front. No mortgage, no building loan, no nothing. One thing at a time.

Reality does tend to intrude… just as a for instance, research shows that, supposedly, if your house is more than 32 feet wide, roof trusses have to be specially created, as 32 feet is the largest standard truss.  The house we’ve designed ends up being 51 or 52′ deep and 78′ long the way we have it designed now.  I could probably shrink it to 32… but can we not build our own roof trusses? People just don’t question this stuff, you know… It’s like us building our own furniture.  Seriously, we probably spent ten cents on the dollar you would spend if you bought these pieces from a store. If that much. People spend so much money because they don’t question the basic premise.  And I think we’re in the “question everything” mode that is really healthy for us.

Off to go make another cup of tea… and get some coffee going for the man whose hard work is allowing me to have the time and energy to think about all this stuff. On that note… do you remember the old Monday’s Child rhyme about the day you were born?  Corey was born on Friday, and I was born on a Sunday. Just a thought (squirrel!)

There’s a perpetual calendar here if you don’t know what day of the week you were born on (skip the explanation, go down to the bottom of the page and put in the month and year you were born, and it will show you the calendar for that month).

Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for a living
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.[1]

82 – nearly home

Lots of design work built and completed… I’m trying to use my powers for good, these days, or at least to be of benefit to our daily lives. Corey and I put our heads together and designed, built and stained a coffee table, and then this weekend, I sewed a pillow for it–basically stuffed it with four of the cheap WalMart pillows to make us a long coffeetable-bothhassock. It’s a little lumpy and bumpy looking, but quite functional, which is all I was looking for. Took me only like an hour or two to put it together. Like everything I’m making these days, it’s washable–made it like a really long pillow sham, so the pillows can actually be removed, washed separately, and the cover can be washed.  Was going to add straps to tie it on to the top of the table, but the table grain actually snags the material enough that it doesn’t slide around easily, so for the time being, I’m leaving it as is.

Also decided to make me some tank tops that fit–the rant, of course, being that the ones that are the right size have spaghetti straps, which I hate, because my bras don’t, and that just looks stupid.  tankAdd to that the fact that for some reason women’s tank tops are made in straight lines–so from the underarms down, there is no give in the dang things–and I do not have a single straight line on my body.  It’s frustrating and annoying when you sit down and your shirt rolls up like an old window blind.  And, if you buy a men’s tank top, the armholes gape down to your waist.  For that matter, if I buy a tank top actually large enough to go around my butt, the top’s too big.  Being shaped like an hour glass with lots more sand in the bottom than the top has its hazards.

So, I bought four men’s t-shirts, as the price was actually cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of material, and bought some double-fold bias tape for the edges–please note, I’ll make my own next time.  The photo shows the before and after. Took one of my old t-shirts and sketched out the shapes as I wanted them to be on the big shirt, cut off the excess, then bound the neck, arms, and the slits in the sides at the bottom to accommodate my adiposity. Will be using the one I built as a template to make the next ones.

stainedglasspurse-flipsideTook the next purse I designed–the one I’m calling the stained glass purse–sold it to Corey’s boss (well, technically, his bosses bosses boss), then used the proceeds to buy me a real quilting machine.  The purse is shown here–and like the first one I built, it is reversible and washable.  I actually loved the way it turned out–and it gave me a lot of great ideas for the next thing, which is probably going to be a washable diaper bag.  I know people have to be getting tired of the plasticized ones, so I just need to think this out and keep talking to the friends of mine who’ve actually carried one, which I never have.  As far as the quilt design of the purse body–I don’t think I’ll try to work with quilt squares that small again.  Even using strip quilting techniques, which I did, there are more than 500 little 1.25″ squares in that thing.

But, it got me the sewing machine I wanted, and the bells and whistles on the Brother SQ9185 machine are just amazing, the biggest and best of which is that I can completely operate it by hand with a few push buttons. It also has a large work area, but still has the free arm, which is totally necessary when you’re working with purses where you may be continuing to sew even after they’re constructed. LOVE it so far… used one of it’s 130 decorative stitches to put a Greek key design around the t-shirt binding–was going to add a picture of that, but I’m wearing it. 😀

We’re taking off Friday for East Texas to look for that forever home… looking both at land and at older homes that need a fair amount of work but that are basically livable.  We’ll see… Can’t wait for ten days with my hubby, but trying not to get my hopes up about finding that place that’s right for us. We’re goal-oriented people–and this is that something we can work toward.  Doesn’t have to be perfect from the outset, and if it’s not right, then it just won’t happen.  Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. 😀

73 – making it

Just ordered some minor quilting equipment from Amazon – a specific plate to make my sewing machine able to do something more than sew straight lines, and a free-motion foot.  Because I actually have time to think about all this stuff, I’ve realized that I’m reluctant to write–all I really want to do is make things.  I know it sounds silly, since you’re reading this blog, which means of course that I’m writing.  But, if you do read the blog, you’ve seen many of them goKels-MakingBread5-risenonce by here:  making bread, making crackers, making quilts, making afghans, making furniture. Creating things that I’ve been buying for years. I take great satisfaction in the fact that I’ve incorporated breadmaking into our daily lives.  It’s become easy for me.  Shocks me as much as anyone else.

Would I be doing this if I was working?  No, absolutely not.  One of the things I’ve found over the years is that I’m actually NOT a multi-tasker. If you read the research, you’ll find that humans (or at least, humans of my generation and prior) actually are not capable of doing more than one task at once and doing both of them well. I am really good at what I do when I work–but a large part of that is the focus I bring to bear, and that focus demands that I conserve my energy elsewhere.

Since I have the freedom to do so (and since I have to wait on the quilting stuff to be shipped in), I went out and gathered up yucca yesterday, getting more than one puncture for my pains. I want to make a basket or two–I learned how years ago, but never followed it up.  It was a very structured thing – bleached reeds, flat, oval, round, half-round, round.  All the same, all… sterile. While I was intrigued by the idea of it, there was just no time, no energy. And, bluntly, no budget at the time for the materials.  But I want to know if I’m good at it.  I want to know if that “flow” space that I get into when I’m creating other things is possible with making baskets.  I want to find out the same thing with free motion quilting–I want to know if I’m good at it.quilt-van

It’s so different to be able to follow the pigtrails of my thought process past the “I have to,” and on to “I want to.” I cannot even express how grateful I am for the chance I’ve been given to do so. Few of the things I’m doing are actually saving us money, I can promise you.  Most of what I’ve tried to make are things which are honestly cheaper, if in nothing but time, to buy. The amount it costs me to make bread, to make crackers, etc., these are pretty much a wash. When a one-pound loaf of bread is 99 cents, it’s hard to beat, pricewise, at least. But, in moving to convenience, to the manufacture of the food and other things that make up the warp and weft of our daily lives, we may have lost more than we know.  We’ve certainly lost a lot in terms of taste, as my husband pointed out the only time I’ve actually purchased bread in the last few months. 😀

halltreepictureThe exception, of course, is the furniture.  The massive hall tree we constructed probably would have cost in the thousands of dollars, seriously.  The biggest one we found was up in the $1200 range, and was less than half the size.  The entertainment center, bed frame, and closet organizer were probably a couple thousand in savings, as well. Plus, of course, the dining table cost us $30 and the chairs were free.

The other thing all this making has brought back to my life is music. I’ve never been able to listen to music and write. Anything with words affects the words that are coming through my fingers.  And yes, I’ve tried classical music.  Puts me to sleep.  When you look at what you’ve just typed, and it’s: lakkafaehf we’aq3=s lsl.kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk, you know you went to sleep mid-sentence.  Unless you have a cat, and then it’s the cat’s fault.

All things considered, even with the savings through the furniture building, I’m not allowed to be smug.  I have found that there are things that I’m not good at as I wander through each of these “I want to learn how to” processes. Such as the fact that I’m not good at cooking.  Oh, I’m very good at baking.  Just the whole cooking dinner thing is mind-numbing and annoying. Fortunately, Corey’s quite good at it. So, whenever possible, I just leave it to him. I’ll do the prep work, potatoes and such, and leave the dinner itself to him. Makes us both happy…

Now to get the man off to work, and to start figuring out how to turn green spiky stuff into a basket…

40 – bed building

We’ve got a few more pieces to make, and the hall tree was actually larger than the bed, as it was 96″ long and 72″ tall – 8 ft x 6 ft, and the bed is about 84×64.  The bed went together fast, and was done to the design in Corey’s head, so no drawings for this one. I helped out verbally, and by handing things and standing on things and bracing other things, but this one was pretty much his from start to finish. Well, except for sanding. I did a lot of sanding. Oh, and staining, I did all the staining. So apparently I wasn’t completely useless. 😀

The frame for the bed was built pretty much like a short wall - the space for the mattress needed to be 80 x 60, and since everything is going to go around this frame and attach to it, that's the size Corey made for it. Here, he's putting one of the legs on.
The frame for the bed was built pretty much like a short wall – the space for the mattress needed to be 80 x 60, and since everything is going to go around this frame and attach to it, that’s the size of the frame. He’s putting one of the legs on in this picture.
Closer view here of one of the legs – they’re just one 2×4 set edge on to another, easy and very sturdy. To decide on the heighth, we measured a comfortable chair height for me, which is about 20 inches.  We decided to make it a bit higher than that, at 22 inches. The mattress is ten inches high, and would be sitting one inch above the legs, due to the slats that are holding it up.  That put the legs at 11 inches high.
Finished frame, with all four legs installed – they should just be balanced from one end to another – all the short sides should face one way, etc.
The headboard is almost finished here. – 2x4s on the left side, right side, and at the top give something to fasten the tongue and groove boards to with finish nails. After the boards were fit together and nailed to the frame he built for them, he used finishing nails to add a 1×6 on the top–it extends about three inches over each side 2×4, and is flush with the back of the top 2×4 of the frame.  This gives the headboard some depth and interest, so it’s not just a bunch of boards thrown together. 🙂
Here, you can see the best sanding job ever (jk!) and the rear view of the headboard, There are bracing pieces fastened securely to the frame at the bottom (the right one has some yellow paint on it, as you can see. These are just scrap lumber from other cuts . They are used to secure the side boards securely to the bed frame. Then, each side is also covered with 1×6 pieces to match the top 1×6. Finishing nails are used on the outside board, to make them less obvious once it’s stained.  You’ll note the side 1x6s are not touching the ground.  This won’t be obvious on carpet, but will keep the weight of the bed on the legs, as they are attached to the frame much more strongly than the side 1×6.
Here you can see the finished piece of furniture, with all rails, slats, headboard and built-in end tables.  Because it was built in pieces, it was pretty easy to take apart and then put back together in the bedroom.  The slats in center aren’t stained, and don’t need to be fastened down. The reason there are so many more, and they’re so much wider is because this frame is going to accommodate a mattress only, no box spring necessary.  Everything is made out of white pine, and the stain is Special Walnut – found one can at Wal-Mart and one can at McCoy’s lumber.
The complete bed! It is only 22-23 inches off the floor at the top of the bed, so is one of the few that I’ve ever been able to sit down on, rather than climb up on. Love it!