Category Archives: food

Time Flies And It Is Not Always Because It Is Fun

And The One Where We Set Out On A Gaming Adventure

I was astounded when I checked the date on my previous post! So much has happened, and, as usual, that’s my weak excuse for not writing sooner.

Let’s start with the bad news, or at least, the things that were not so fun.

First thing, a few months ago we gave the dogs a nice bath in our new elevated dog bath (it works SO well, and takes a huge strain off our backs and allows the dogs to lie down if they want to, without getting covered in grass/dirt) and I noticed a lump between the toes of Gina’s front left paw. It had not been there a couple of weeks earlier, I was reasonably sure of that, and it was pretty large. We took her to the vet and the lump was biopsied – mast cell tumor, grade 2. It was terrifying news… these are aggressive and often reappear in the same spot after they are removed. We were given some options – surgery to remove it, or very expensive chemotherapy that is no longer sold in the US, only in the UK, that we would have to import, may not work, and would cause massively nasty side effects. Gina already has delicate kidneys and liver, and has a very sensitive GI tract, and these were the main things affected by the therapy. On the surgery side, Gina is 13 years old now, and a Bernese (so very sensitive to anesthetic) and surgery was a frightening thought. We discussed it at length, with both the vet and each other, and we decided to go through with the surgery and hope for the best. Thankfully, our tough cookie came through with flying colours. There was also good news – the tumor was grade 2, not grade 3, and they found no evidence of metastasis or lymph node inclusion. These were massive wins. However, we now have to keep a VERY close eye on her paw and look for any signs of recurrence. I have also started researching natural/alternative options to chemotherapy to prevent any recurrence of this nasty lump.

The nasty tumor
Postop “monkey paw”

Other bad news were the struggles that my cousin has been going through with cancer. She is such a fighter, and she has been through so much… but the punches just keep coming. Every time something positive happens… something negative comes along and derails the hope… but she continues to fight, and her family (and mine!) continue to hope for the best. I love you, cuzz, and even though I am far away, I think of you often, and I wish I could do more.

Now, some good things.

Firstly, after a wait of over 10 months, my new passport finally arrived from back home. Thank you, Home Affairs, for allowing me to continue my dream of learning to fly! I also (Very recently!) made the final payments and filled in all the final document requirements with the TSA and FAA, coordinating with my flight school, and now I wait, again, to see if everything has been approved and I can resume my lessons. Unsure if I need to do another background check and fingerprints… but we will see. And if I have to, I am happy to do it! No excuses here!

We added 2 more birds to our Budgie Cohort – Gaius, and Aulus (Bros for life!). They are delightful, sassy little spitfires, and we love them dearly. There were some hierarchical battles a few months after we got them as they all sorted out the pecking order (literally!) and the babies grew older. Their personalities have really blossomed, and the flock is now wonderfully loud and obnoxiously cute. Brutus and Commodus are tentatively rekindling their OG friendship (before Gaius came along and Brutus lost himself a little bit, completely spurning Commodus in the process) and Gaius and Aulus are living up to their ancient Roman graffiti and becoming very close buddies!

From L to R – Commodus (our first birb child), Brutus (second and most birb-like birb child), Aulus (youngest and our 4th birb child), and Gaius (our chunky 3rd birb child).

After a terribly boring period in a culinary rut, we decided to try a meal kit service (and yes, we were incredibly wary after the Blue Apron kale saga) called Every Plate – it’s made by HelloFresh, but far more reasonably priced, with simpler, more accessible recipes, simple steps, and NO KALE! We have had some great times with these recipes so far – and we’ve even made a few of the recipes on our own on the side! Once you get the hang of it, you can easily figure out what the steps will be and prep becomes a breeze. We’ve also learned some handy tricks and taste combinations that we will definitely be using in the future. Before Every Plate, we were using a service called Butcher Box (disclaimer – that’s a referral link where you can get some money off your first box, as well as New York strip steaks free for a year, and I get a small bonus) where you pick some select cuts (all hormone free, pasture raised, humanely kept and slaughtered) from small farms (and they often use local farmers where possible, which makes it even better) for a set rate, and it gets shipped to your door. We loved the service, but I put it on pause while we try out Every Plate for a few months. We will definitely go back to it when we have enough recipes from Every Plate to allow for a nice variety of meals every week. Each week, EP has some NEW recipes, as well as customer favourites, and you pick the meals you want for the week.

It was also recommended I try a subscription box with Japanese snacks, which comes FROM Japan and contains items from local and small mom- & pop-owned bakers and confectioners. You get a little booklet in each box with information about each treat and who made it and where it comes from in Japan. Each box is also themed – sometimes the seasons, other times the festivals, etc. It’s fascinating and delicious stuff! It’s called “Bokksu” (literally, “box” in Japanese) and I encourage you to try it out! (That is linked to a referral for Bokksu where you get $15 off your first box, and I get $15 off my next box.)

Our first Bokksu – Sakura celebration

Right, and now the cryptic “Gaming Adventures” reference…

I looked at my game list in GOG Galaxy (Which has all my various gaming accounts/launchers linked in one place) and I saw that I have over 600 games (643 to be exact) and I have never played or INSTALLED about 90% of them! Virgin games, so to speak! I felt bad for these games… scrolling through them all… games ranging from old beloved games like Baldur’s Gate (1 and 2) and Age of Mythology or Dungeon Keeper (1 and 2!), to brand new games like Icarus and Microsoft Flight Sim 2020, and indie games like Among Trees and Ashwalkers, or the Bad Dream series, and Deliver Us the Moon. The list goes on…

So, I was thinking of starting a Gaming Adventure where I load up GOG and start from the top (alphabetically and alphanumerically) and install each game, on its own, and play it. I will ATTEMPT to finish each game before moving on, but this may not always be possible. For MMO/MMPORG games, I may start by creating a character and playing for a week, just to say I played it. Yes, there are a few MMO’s that I have not played, like Black Desert Online, and games like that. These can obviously not be “finished” really, and I don’t think trying to complete any “main quests” would be viable if I want to keep a semi-regular schedule and not get lost in the abyss of the game.

Additionally, I will keep a few games permanently installed such as Microsoft Flight Sim 2020, because it will now be an install of over 300 GB with all the updates and addons, and I don’t have time or energy to go through that again, or to set up my flight gear, plus, I need it for flight training. I will also keep ESO installed to play with my friends, as we play this quite regularly, as well as American Truck Sim, to play with my husband. I will also skip certain games as I have played them extensively already and need to keep ticking off the list – games like Icarus, for example. It will actually be quite exciting to reinstall Icarus later on after a bunch of new updates have come through. I may also skip Skyrim, as I have played a vast number of hours in that game. I will consider each game as it appears in the list and decide whether it will be installed and played, and for how long, or whether it will be skipped.

Wish me luck!

My first game, according to the GOG launcher, will be 35 MM – I briefly played the game a few years ago (2018!) but something else came along that required my attention, and I uninstalled it after only a few hours of gameplay.

I will try and remember to post each time I start a new game with a few details about the game. I may save these posts when I am finished playing, before I start another game next in the list. That way, I can do a little synopsis and write down my feelings/impressions of the game.

Birthdays and memorials

Yesterday was Gina’s 12th birthday, and tomorrow is Odin’s 8th or 9th birthday, so we decided to celebrate both at the same time yesterday. They both got a little cake with a candle, and lots of freshly grilled steak. They were super stoked. This morning I took Odin for a “birthday” 2-mile walk. He is a happy, tired little Boog.

We will celebrate Azzie’s 9th birthday in April, with more cake, ice cream, and steak!

In memory of our sweet Hazel, and also to commemorate Gina’s 12th birthday (a HUGE milestone for a Bernese Mountain Dog) we planted our live “Christmas” tree. We called him Pepe the Pinon Pine. Long may he thrive and provide shelter to birds and shade to the humans and cats.

Body, eat thyself

I have been intermittent fasting for a few years now, off and on. I would fall off the wagon, gain weight, and get back on for a while. I tried, with reasonable success, to be strict, but I have to admit I would slack off a bit – I blame my husband! – and when my weight plateaued, despite my more rigorous and disciplined efforts, I went in search of other ways to kick my body back into fat loss.

I tried the ketogenic lifestyle while my husband was deployed and did very well on it. However, it was expensive, and when my husband returned he tried it but had great difficulty, and I slowly slid out of the processes and routines that I had worked out. I gained weight. Again.

Once again, my husband was away for a few months and I got into some great eating cycles and routines, but when he returned I fell out of them yet again. I lost a lot of weight while he was away, and I gained it all back – plus extra – when he returned. Not his fault, simply the way I approach life when he is there, as opposed to when I am on my own.

I went searching again for new answers; answers that didn’t require terrible caloric deficit, or strange omissions of various foods or macro nutrients.

A few weeks ago, I discovered OMAD – One Meal A Day – and I dived into research. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that I am someone who likes to make my own decisions and form my own opinions. In the case of OMAD, I really had to do this as there are articles and studies saying it’s the BEST THING EVER, and others that say it’s a TERRIBLE idea.

I’ve since discovered Dr. Jason Fung who explains everything scientifically AND in layman’s terms. His video talks and interviews are easy to understand and clear – he states the pros and cons of every level of intermittent fasting and fasting in general. He explains all the hormonal levels and what gets burned and what doesn’t and how it all works. It’s incredibly helpful. He is a bit of a maverick in the scientific/nutritional world, but his results speak for themselves. He’s a nephrologist, and he declares he was a heavy sceptic when it came to fasting and insulin levels before he really got into the research.

Dr. Fung fasts during the week when he is working, and not even every day – 2 to 3 days a week – and does OMAD, which is what I have begun. It saves him time, money, and is so simple. Like him, I don’t generally eat breakfast anyway, even when I wasn’t doing IF. Now, I just have to build the initial willpower to skip lunch as well and eat within a 4-hour window, around the same time every night.

To begin, I will be fasting 20 hours a day, and eating within a 4-hour window. It doesn’t mean I EAT for 4 hours! It just means I can only eat WITHIN that window. As I become adjusted to this (and most IF takes approximately 5 days to 2 weeks to really kick in – it all depends on your metabolic rate, your previous diet, your current weight) I will narrow the window and eventually, I will only eat within a 1-hour window. This doesn’t mean I cut my caloric intake needs for the day – I still eat 1500 calories, if I can – and I will avoid high sugar foods, and high carbohydrate foods as well.

They do also talk about doing fasting for 5 days to 21 days, but I don’t think I can do that. But who knows, I might become one of those people who do this!

On the Road – Part One

Georgia

I’m finally settled in one place long enough to get an update in, with chores and errands and repairs done.

I’ll catch you up on the day we left Georgia, and the travel and driving and the places we’ve seen since then. I decided to break it up into sections as one post on the whole thing was not only making me feel very overwhelmed, I think it would have been too much writing in one go.

An unseasonably warm and humid October in Georgia had us parking Irma (as named after the Hurricane of epic proportions that we went to fetch her during, and the subsequent heartache and financial craziness she had us going through after that) outside our home on post during the day, and taking her back to the temporary storage at night. The first couple of days we ripped out, tore down, extracted, unscrewed, unbolted, removed and replaced a whole BUNCH of things from Irma’s interior and exterior.

We took stock of what remained, what we could upgrade, what we could live without and what we definitely needed to get.

 

The extra swivel chair by the door got removed; to be replaced with Odin and Gina’s favourite round, soft bed – Azzie sleeps just about anywhere, and we felt Odin would probably sleep on our bed most of the time anyway, but he does love that bed. (It has seen a lot of use since we started travelling, so we know it was a good decision to keep it)

The old microwave (“It totally works!” said the RV dealership… sure it does… but the door doesn’t open… so what’s the point, you conniving arsehats?) was removed, along with the various venting and stabilising bits. We would look for a replacement microwave at some point but could live without it at that point.

 

 

 

The built-in coffee maker was removed. RV dealer swore it worked, but by that stage, we believed nothing they had promised, and we didn’t need it anyway as the husband is a coffee purist and doesn’t drink “filter” coffee.

 

We also removed the hideous, frilly curtains and sidings, and the dangerous (for clumsy people such as myself) hooks and metal tie-backs. I created simple, black-out curtains from our old curtains from Germany, made ribbon tie-ups and velcro fastenings for easy cleaning and removal. It looked quite nice and pretty much matched the rest of the interior (pale blues, beige, and pinks – sounds worse than it is) and matched our aesthetic, so we were happy with them. Plus, they didn’t cost much to make; just some velcro, some hemming tape, and some ribbon. I only had time to replace the bedroom curtains at that stage – the long side windows came next, in New Mexico.

 

 

We went through all our clothes, our gear, the dogs’ gear, our kitchen, and bathroom stuff, and downsized dramatically. The rest got taken away by the military movers and put into storage for 3 months until we could get a storage place at our “end point’ of Oregon; donated what wasn’t going into storage. We tried to sell some larger items (the dining room table, mountain bike, etc) but I was a bit late putting up the adverts, unfortunately, so those items got packed up with the storage stuff.

 

We only got Irma back from the RV repair place in Augusta, in mid-October; because everything that the RV dealership said was working, wasn’t; plus there were so many OTHER issues that we had to get it all fixed to make her livable and up for long distance travel with us.

While Irma was being restored and repaired (which cost a hell of a lot of money) we got a small stash of “South African goodies” from the South African Store in Atlanta; we had a few final hikes in the forests as best we could with Azzie recovering from her ACL tear and getting used to her brace; we spent a lovely weekend early morning at a beautiful pond with our friend and her dogs. We had coffee with friends and a small farewell dinner with only a select chosen few of people that TJ knew from work. The few friends that I had made had left Georgia already, so it was just a gathering for him, really.

We basically spent the last few weeks of being in Georgia, trying to enjoy Georgia. It was warm, humid, and there were still loads of bugs and mozzies – very odd for that time of year – but we made the best of it.

The items we ordered from Amazon, to make our travels in the RV easier, started arriving so we had the fun of unpacking those and waiting for Irma to arrive to pack those away. We also tried out a few meals in the Instant Pot and we LOVED it! So quick and easy and the meat was tender and falling apart, no matter the type or whether it had been frozen or not.

Our housing final inspection day arrived and we were all sorted – house was spotless and Irma was packed in a flat parking lot just down the road so we could start the fridge up (we got so many warnings about operating the fridge on a flat surface that we took it very seriously) and get it cold enough to put our few items from the fridge and freezer in it. The fridge was one of the things fixed by the Augusta RV place, so we at least knew THAT worked.

The generator ran well, kept the AC nice and cool.

The dogs and I walked from the house to the RV; a final walk on the post and in Georgia.

It was bittersweet – I will miss the forests and trails and lakes and ponds, but I won’t miss the bugs and mozzies and humidity.

I let the dogs sniff and piddle wherever they wanted on the way to Irma and we climbed in and waited for husband to get done with the inspector at the house.

Around 13:30 he came back with the Jeep and we had a small, simple lunch and then we hitched up the Jeep for the first time (it was a learning experience, but we’d watched many videos so we had a good idea what to do) checked each other’s work and then got On The Road for real.

Odin was terrified of the movement and the generator noise, but he found his “safe place” in the passenger side footwell with me. He slept there for that first trip and has done so for all trips after that one.

 

The girls got up onto the folded down beds – we put both of them down for extra space and Gina liked the couch and Azzie liked the dinette bed. So we were all comfy and happy.

We waved a sad goodbye to Fort Gordon.

As Augusta, and Georgia, slowly slipped by, we remembered our time there; but we also looked ahead with nervous anticipation to the next chapter in our journey!

The Vees Big Adventure began on October 20th, 2017!

 

My favourite colour is October

Living in the Northern Hemisphere, I’ve come to appreciate the changing of the seasons in this Northerly way – October is the start of my favourite part of the year, this cooler part of the Wheel of Seasons. October is Autumn (I still call it that, and I don’t think I will ever call it “Fall” despite only hearing that from everyone here.) and it means turning leaves, quieting forests, crisp cold mornings and evenings, gathering animals, the last harvests. and the feeling that the veil is thinning.

Zoom

Soon, the rain will come, the dark skies and icy wind, muddy paths and wet shoes. The feeling of needing to be silent, thoughtful, ponderous, solitary. Warm clothes, warm drinks, hearty food. I know I will be baking more bread, making more soups and stews, and adding my home-grown dried herbs and spices to it all.

If last year here was anything to go by, it will not even be a pale cousin of what this time of year is like in Germany, but I’m happy just to be able to wear a jersey or coat outside. And boots. I can’t wait to wear my boots and thick socks and take the dogs into the deep forests, where it’s dark and quiet and you feel like you are being watched: Because you are!20150319_090516

On more mundane things, I have a few updates:

I’ve completed Part I of my school and now wait for them to unlock Part II. Not much more to do now – but thankfully, I get time added for this Part II, or I’d never get it done by the deadline from the previous Sections.

Sitting here at my desk without anything to do butwait, I find a kind of peace. A quiet before the storm. The gathering of strength and resolve before the last stretch. A day where I can do what I feel like, at my own pace, on my own time. No demands on me today. My time is my own. So I’m listening to some awesome music to get me in the October mood, and I think I might just go and bake a cake or some bread or something. Or maybe just a brew of oranges and cinnamon to make the house smell like magic.

Another update: We’ve been here for 1 year and 6 days, as of today. My birthday passed quietly. A weekday with the same old routine. It was perfect. Dogs and I discovered a new set of trails, and we’ve been enjoying the cooler mornings – which means longer walks for them. Beginning of November means I’ll have been away from home for 5 years now. December will mean 6 years married to this unique, interesting, adventurous, kind, keen, caring and comfortable man of mine.

DSCN2424

I miss home. When decisions are made and we settle somewhere, I will definitely be going home for a holiday on my own. My blood sings for my home turf, my home earth, my home hearth, my home heart. More lost beloved fur family, and more lost human family while I have been gone. I just hope my Mardi girl can hold out until I can see her again. I still ache when I think of not saying goodbye to my wee Macky boy. Knowing he, and the ones who went before, all lived long, happy lives, loved and spoiled and cared for, doesn’t make it any easier on my heart.

Macky
Macky

My beautiful Mardi Gras
My beautiful Mardi Gras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other, little updates: Odin and Azzie and Gina have made some friends – most importantly is Maximus. He’s a 7 year old Husky mix and he’s absolutely beautiful and gentle and my dogs adore him. Odin also adores his owner, Ellie, and seems to be quite besotted with her. He gives her a full body waggle when he sees her – which is rare for people outside his “pack”, and he did this right from the first time he met her and Max at the dog park.  We also met 2 youngsters (today, actually) called Zeus and Athena, and they seem to get along well too.

20160823_092938

 

 

Don’t believe the hype

Generally, I don’t believe the hype when it comes to “miracle pills” that will change your life and you don’t have to do ANYTHING. I feel that you have to work at everything – especially when it comes to weight loss and your health.

sweat is fat crying

Through my blogging connections, I got offered a “chance” to try the latest “miracle” weight loss tablet taking the world by storm. According to the ever-commercial Dr. Oz, this new plant is the BEST EVER and he is “thrilled” to endorse it “to the max” and all that usual hype.

I thought, why not. Who knows,
this time it might actually do something. It was supposedly all “natural” and the tablets I have also had added chromium to support blood sugar levels as well. Not that I have an issue with that, but it couldn’t hurt. I have tried a few types of plant based weight loss products before, and in every single case I had zero positive results. Mostly, nothing negative, but definitely nothing positive and definitely NO results as hyped in the commercials. I go into everything like this with a healthy dose of skepticism.

forskolin plus+
Don’t believe the hype! Forskolin Plus + with chromium from Naturewise

So, I received my bottle of Naturewise Forskolin Plus+ with added Chromium with a little bit of trepidation, but with a small measure of hopeful anticipation. I didn’t need to lose much weight – just a few pounds to get to my goal – so I thought perhaps this could help me overcome that last little plateau that I had been fighting with for months, as it was hyped to the point of “You could lose up to 30 lbs in one month!” and other wild claims backed up with before and after photos.  As per usual, right?

So I measured myself, and took my initial weight and the next day I began with a half dosage – I tend to be very wary when I begin a regimen like this. Yes, half dose probably wasn’t going to do much, but I’d read of people who dropped to a half dose after initially doing the full dose, and they had majorly good results. I tried this for a week. Nothing happened. I fluctuated as per normal… 1 pound up, 2 pounds down, 1 pound up again, 2 pounds up. Same old, same old. I did, if I think about it, notice that I wasn’t as “snacky” as I was before. There was some measure of control of my appetite and cravings. After a week of nothing happening, I decided to try the full dosage.

Bad move. Not only did I GAIN weight (and I changed NOTHING – my diet, my portions, my exercise levels) I also became heavily bloated, and had a terribly upset stomach for the 5 days that I have been on the full dose. I tried to match these symptoms with other variables… but nothing was as constant in my daily diet as these tablets that I was now taking “as suggested” by the manufacturers.

I’ve gained over 5 pounds and I am now as heavy as I was 2 months ago, before I even started fighting with these “last few pounds” that I was so hopeful the forskolin would help me to get rid of.

So, I’ve stopped taking it. This morning I awoke with such painful stomach cramps that I knew that it was just not working for me. I have a tough-as-nails system, generally, and I can get away with just about anything, but clearly this little plant (related to mint – which doesn’t normally upset my innards in any way) is way too much for me.

I am disappointed, to say the least – BUT, not surprised, being the pessimist that I am.

Lesson learned. Don’t believe the hype.

Back to hard work and portion control and a little bit of will power. If the Georgia weather would just play along, I will even start running again.

 

And wow, just had some major deja vu typing this post!

Time for another update

Time for another update

I thought it was well passed time for another update, as things have happened, and changed and other things are still ticking along.

Dogs are doing well – I’ve now taken all of them to St Francis Animal Hospital at one point or another in the last few weeks and I have to say I have been very happy with the service and the people there. Odin had an ongoing issue with his tummy, and I finally gave up on trying to fix it myself (it was a losing battle!) and the vet found he had multiple types of worms (not eradicated by their usual monthly dose of heartworm tablets, which does kill some types, but not these, clearly!) and she said that after moving from lovely cold Washington, she’d found from experience that Georgia is a “cesspool of bugs, parasites and protozoa of all kinds” – her words, not mine. She says that you have to be vigilant and most DEFINITELY keep up the heartworm medication, as they are rife here.

Gina got her Previcox, finally, and she is doing SUPER well on it. She’s full of bounce and energy again and comes with on 99% of the walks. She sometimes decides to stay home if it’s late evening, she’s already been to the loo on the previous walk and most importantly, daddy is home.

Azzie’s hotspot cleared up very nicely and I’m keeping an eye on her for any others that might appear.

With this hot, humid weather (Georgia is rolling out the spring/summer carpet already) there are ticks and fleas, but I’m finding the BravEcto is working very well. I’m the only one who gets bitten, now!

We also clipped down Azzie and Gina a few weeks ago – it was just starting to get SO hot that we couldn’t leave it any longer. All the groomers we tried were booked up, so we just got some good clippers and we did it ourselves. We made a few mess-ups (especially with Azzie, as she WRIGGLES like mad and it’s hard to keep her still enough to work on certain parts of her body!) but it came out looking pretty good and the girls were feeling much lighter and cooler. We didn’t shave them down, just clipped their very long fur down to about an inch or so. Probably more, as we didn’t want to go too close, just yet. We’ll try again in a few weeks, armed with this experience!

 

An update on my school work: I wrote my theory exam 2 weeks ago and I did VERY well. Much better than I thought I would! That was also with minimal “working off page” and I felt pretty proud of myself! Now the theory is done, I’m starting into actual practical work – actual transcription! It’s very exciting, to me. Sometimes the accents and the Americanising…. ZING… of the words gets on my nerves a bit, but it just makes it more of a challenge, and will help me when I step out into the REAL world to begin working.  I’d really like to work with psychology reports and things, but I don’t think you get much choice. I just want to get working, so I can start earning and contributing.

I also want to get my school work done so I can start responding to all the people who have asked for my help with their dogs! A few evening ago, while walking the chickens, a lady came up to me and starting talking to me about the dogs, her dogs, my dogs, etc, and asked what my website was for my training. I explained that i only do it for myself and I’ve done it that way – I don’t have any professional accreditation. I do have a partial degree in animal behaviour, but it’s more aimed toward horses! I didn’t mention that though. But she was determined, this lady, and said that she’s seen me walking my dogs and how wonderfully well behaved (I laughed, but let her carry on) they were and all that, and wanted my help with her dogs. My first question was how much exercise they got and she gave me the usual American answer “Well, they have a back yard to play in, so I don’t walk them.” So me, being the polite person I am, simply said “Well, that’s a start.” And she took my name said she would look me up on Facebook. I won’t hold my breath, but I will certainly go walking that way again when I am done with school, and see if she still wants my help. I will have time then, and her dogs don’t suffer in the heat like mine do, so I will have during the day to work on them, after walking mine.

Our Bird Bar, as we call it, is in full swing. We’re getting all sorts of new kinds of birds every day, including a hummingbird!! We bought a feeder for them, and I made some “nectar” syrup from scratch. No colourants etc. We had a couple of them coming by quite often for a few days, but then the HUGE ants found the feeder and I keep having to clean it out because they keep DROWNING in it! And I’m sure the hummingbirds don’t want to drink dead ants. Very annoying! I’ve tried moving the feeder further along the branch, but they keep finding it!

There’s also a family of SIX squirrels who come down to the yard from the tree in the front. I call one of them Blinky, as she initially had a very closed up, swollen eye and I thought she might lose it. But she’s bounced back and it’s just a little bit odd looking now and her little ear is a bit wonky, but that’s it. She’s still recognisable though.

I’ve seen loads more fauna around here (foxes, deer, and even a RABBIT the other morning!) and I am slowly starting to recognise local plants and trees. I still have to work out what kind of tree we have in the back yard here, and clarify what the huge one in the front is too. When I finish my school, I will start with the proper Herbology and crafting of salves and lotions and potions and tinctures. I just don’t have the time right now to focus too heavily on that side of my life. I am looking forward to it though!

My good friend from South Africa – an amazing photographer – has launched a project called Running With Dogs and even though I am far away, he wanted to include me in it! I was thrilled, and honoured, and SO flattered! I’m the only guest photographer, as far as I know. I sent him quite a few photos, after a lovely shoot with my husband and our pooches in the forest. He selected his favourites and he will include one of them in the calendar! I’m so excited!

What else? Oh, I made some peach crumble from scratch (Except for the peaches – they had no fresh ones at the commissary when we went, unfortunately) and bread too. I’ve made my chocolate cake a few times as well now. I’m trying to get out of my lazy rut and get my baking skills in gear, but my brain is usually so tired/burned out from school work that I can barely concentrate for more than 10 minutes sometimes! But I shall persevere! It’s getting easier now, with just the practicum modules, but still mind-intensive.

Our garden is doing WELL! We harvested our first batch of Arugula the other day! It’s so delicious! It just tastes so good, knowing we grew it ourselves! Now just waiting for the other herbs and plants to catch up and give me a harvest. Hopefully it will only be once I’m done with school! I’ve got Sage, Chives, Chamomile, Echinacea, and all sorts of wonderful things coming up! Our garlic is doing nicely too. The mint plants in the front are flourishing! We use them to make Mojitos 😀 I am trying to find things to make with the Chocolate Mint, as it is spreading all over the place! I might have to replant her into a pot by herself if she keeps this up!

 

Otherwise, we are doing well. Things are settling into a routine and we’re finding our way.

 

I Have Plans For The New Year

I Have Plans For The New Year!

 

 

I have plans for the new year

I don’t have resolutions, but I definitely have plans, and maybe a few goals too. Resolutions are for people who don’t really want to expend too much effort, because they know that resolutions made for new year are not normally expected to be kept beyond February, March latest. Nobody will hold it against you if you give up 3 months in to the year! My plans are for the whole year, and even beyond if they work out the way I am hoping they will!

I have set my mind on the Octopus method of contributing to my awesome family: multiple streams of varying levels of income, which adds up to something viable and useful. Yes, it will be hard work – all of it will. Everything I am choosing to shove my finger into will require a great deal of time and effort, but in the end, it will be worth it. Pieces of the pie will add up to deliciousness.

A lot of my ventures will depend on some small steps and things to occur before I can continue, but they aren’t deal breakers, just conveniences.

In no particular order, my plans for the new year include:

  1. Writing for a science fiction anthology that I was invited to pitch a story for.
  2. Setting up my vintage inspired apparel shop again and getting to work on some clothes for clients!
  3. Keep on trucking with my jewelry line via my online boutique – even if it’s a small passive income, that’s absolutely fine with me!
  4. Keep adding my photography to stock image sites and Twenty20 (via Instagram) and work on my social media marketing (for my jewelry and vintage clothing as well)
  5. Begin a dog walking service on the post! Once we get our fencing up, I will be able to take my dogs for a set 3 walks a day, instead of 6 or 7, as they won’t require bathroom breaks to be included as we will have a little back yard for them for that! Once my dogs are set in a good routine (I would never neglect them for anything, especially money, or other dogs!) I will offer my services to the neighbourhood. I’ve already been approached by a few people, asking if all three were mine and if I walked for other people, so I know there’s a market for my skills. I will also brush up on my first aid skills, and get my CPR/BLS certificate for dogs (I have the course ready to roll, just need to make the time to complete it) so that I can set people’s minds at ease about that. I will have a few stipulations of course, for the dogs I will walk, but I really think it will work. Even if it’s just a few dogs a day, Monday to Friday. Will have to rethink things when summer rolls around, as the humidity is killer here in Georgia.
  6. Work on my website – on my own and also with my awesome friend Vanessa of VMCA.

There’s so much to do, I’m pretty excited! I will be busy, and tired, but I will finally make some sort of contribution to our family and feel good about myself and my worth. I feel good though, knowing that I definitely have plans for the new year!

Capsule Wardrobe Update

Here’s a little update on my Capsule Wardrobe experience so far!

  • My capsule wardrobe, it works! It’s made my life a lot easier. I know exactly what I have to wear and I waste no time choosing it in the morning.
  • Even when I include my workout and dog walking clothes, my capsule item count is lower than I thought it would be.
  • If I do my best to keep everything in the same place after it’s washed and folded, my cupboard is so neat and tidy it’s so awesome.
  • I have barely anything to do when it comes to laundry time! I have so few items and I wear them through the week (I have enough capsule items for that) that I only have to do one load on the weekend. That’s pretty cool, and energy efficient.
  • My new outlook on my wardrobe has even encouraged my husband to tidy his side of the cupboard! He hasn’t gotten rid of anything, but his wardrobe is pretty minimal already, being an army man. He has a lot of tshirts, but that’s it really.

I still haven’t taken the boxes to the thrift store – I need to check when I’m allowed to bring in items for consignment. I want to make SOMETHING out of this. Even if it’s just a little bit. 

We took all the extra dog stuff (ended up being a large cardboard box full) to the nearest local animal shelter and they were grateful, but I was expecting a LITTLE bit more excitement, I have to admit. I mean I didn’t want a parade or streamers or anything! But a “Thanks, this will make the dogs happy!” would have been nice. We got a nod, a “yes, that’s nice” when I showed them some of the cool stuff in the box and then they wandered off. I know they’re busy but if you rely on public donations etc… a little bit more… public interaction would work, is what I guess I’m trying to say. ENTHUSIASM. That’s the word I’m looking for. They were grateful, but not particularly enthusiastic. I think that’s what kinda got to me a little bit. HOWEVER, I do understand the sad realities of animal shelters and working there. The sad truth behind the daily grind – finding food, cleaning cages, watching dogs and cats pine for owners who abandoned them, or shut down from years of abuse, or being overlooked because they’re quiet and shy. And the golden oldies being ignored for the cute little puppies or kittens. It gets to your heart after a while. I do understand this. I did a lot of work with shelters, I know what it’s like. So while I understand the jaded numbness, perhaps taking the enthusiasm from the person offering things and feeling a LITTLE brighter about it all, just in that moment.. that might work?  I greatly respect and admire people who volunteer and work for places like that. I know it’s hard. I wish I could win the lottery and give them all a HUGE donation. Or buy a huge farm with a big warm house and lots of land and high fences so I could adopt ALL the animals (goats, chickens, sheep and everything else too) and let them live out their lives in a sanctuary with freedom. It’s a big dream.

 

In other news:

Blue Apron

We got our first Blue Apron delivery on Saturday morning! We’ve prepared two of the three meals already and tonight we will make the final dish I think. We made the first meal together, and I made the second meal (pasta) for his lunch on Monday. It was definitely outside our comfort zone, but we stuck to the recipe instructions exactly and it all turned out great. If you ever get the chance and/or inclination – give Blue Apron a try… It’s exciting (and a little terrifying!) diving in like that, but the recipes are pretty easy to follow and they give you ALL the ingredients already measured out perfectly.

 

A house becomes a home

While my husband went to drop his mother off at the truck stop, and made sure she got off safely in her Peterbilt, I took the dogs for our first long morning walk without daddy. Long leads + squirrels + early morning cool == CRAZY ODIN. Thankfully Gina and Azzie behaved, because Odin drove me NUTS with is behaviour. My arms were so weak by the time we got home I could barely lift them! If we walk on the streets again, I am using the short leads – LONG WALK OR NOT! *shakes fist*

After that, when we were all home again, we had breakfast (leftovers from last night) and then got stuck in to some of the little things left to do in our home. We sorted the dog toys (donate/throw out) and all their leads and harnesses. Tomorrow I will sort out all their medications and tablets and wipes and that kind of thing. We also put up our photos and pictures and posters and metal posters. Rosie is back in her proper spot above my “office” area. We even got to hang BOTH the soccer frames up, because we have so much space! The dog photos are on the wall next to the back windows and we put the metal posters and license plates and things up the stairs and on the landing. It looks pretty cool! We tried putting up the Firefly (yes, Serenity) wall vinyl up, but it slowly peeled off, so we will do as the instructions say and wash it first and let it dry. We didn’t read the instructions the first time around… *hangs head*

Our photos that we took of our travels are up on the wall in the dining room area and there’s LOTS of space for more. We have a working printer now, so we can even print our own if we get the right paper. I did it back home – as long as you get the quality stuff and proper ink, it’s just the same as the shops do it.

Hmm. What else? Oh yes, I made my first sale! My mother in law fell in love with the Jardins du Midi perfume and also a few of the bracelets and earrings. She couldn’t afford to buy EVERYTHING she wanted, so she just got the perfume and a bracelet for herself (the Sunset on the Seine, leather wrap bracelet) and one for her sister this time. But she says that whenever she pops in, she will definitely buy something as she really likes the selection. She’s kind of a Chloe-Bel – she likes the classic stuff, but also some of the more trendy stuff. I was so thrilled to make my first sale. Just wish I could make some more before October is over – you get some pretty cool incentives if you do. I’ve just got to work out how to market it better – in a friendlier and more relaxed way. I don’t want to SELL SELL SELL to everyone. I want the products to speak for themselves – they really ARE gorgeous and worth it. So I now need to sort my OWN image out and get it out there that way.

home comforts - tea and shiny jewelry - chloe and isabel

I discovered Smore.com too! Wow it makes things SO easy! You can create flyers and brochures and they are SO easy to make but so professional and sharp looking at the same time. I made one for all the October goodies that are up for grabs – you can send them to pretty much ALL social media, including LinkedIn and Google+, which works for me, as I don’t have Facebook. I’ve had a good think about creating another Facebook account, but I really just cannot be bothered. I just really need to work on the social media I already have. Instagram, twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest. I’m sure I’m forgetting one… but I can’t think of it right now.

My business cards arrived from VistaPrint!! They look so professional and cool! I’m glad I took their recommendations (they do it as you create things – and you can make SO MANY branded things, from tshirts to business cards to tote bags to cups!) I gave some to my mother in law and she will hand them out when she heads home (only in November, but that’s ok – it’s still a huge help to me!) and husband says he will take some to work eventually – just not straight away as he’s not even started yet and it would be bad form I think, to start handing out things when you’ve just arrived!

home based - Chloe and Isabel jewelry

I’ll just have to look AWESOME when I come visit him or come fetch him from work 🙂 I shall BE Shiny, and they shall WANT Shiny. I might even work that into my tag line… Be Shiny and they will Want Shiny.  Or something. It’s a work in progress!

Pretty sure that despite all the good food (and bad food) we’ve been eating recently (before our HHG arrived and I could cook properly) I’ve actually lost weight… can’t check though as our poor scale seems to have shuffled off this mortal coil. *sigh* We’ll have to get ANOTHER one. This will be our FOURTH scale. They don’t make them like they used to, that’s for sure. Back home, we have the SAME scale we’ve had for about 20 years. Works great.

Husband begins in-processing tomorrow… he’s a little nervous, and a bit sad to be ending this lovely long holiday we’ve had together! We’re lucky in that: we can be “on holiday” anywhere, as long as we are together, with the dogs. Oh and he got a SUPER COOL haircut yesterday at a PROPER barber shop! It’s called Dapper and Company Men’s Grooming Lounge, and he loved the whole authentic barber shop experience. He was there for 2 hours and got a haircut (an undercut) and a great shave.

While he was out, I went through my clothes again and my mother in law had a look through what I was donating and grabbed a few things for herself as well.

I think that’s it for an update for now!

I’ll be back with more!

Thanks for reading and STAY SHINY!