Still Alive, More Or Less

Some days more, some days less …

Right after my last post a few people got moved around to different departments at work; the result for me was that for the last six weeks I’ve been averaging 12+ hours of overtime every.single.week.  Exhausting!  Monday through Friday I get up, do my physio exercises, take a handful of pills with my breakfast and a gallon (or so it feels like) of water, go to work … work anywhere from 10 to 14 hours (instead of 8), come home, eat & take more pills & drink more water, and fall over in bed.  Weekends are spent pretty much entirely on housework and/or garden cleanup.  I can’t remember the last time I had time to pick up a book, never mind a knitting or sewing project.  That will (I hope) change next week, when my shift changes a bit.  I’ll be working from 2:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Which means that most nights I still won’t get home any earlier than the last six weeks, but I’ll have a little more time to get things done at home before I go to work.  Fingers crossed …

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My birthday was a non-event, because Phaedra and I both had the cold to end all colds.  Three weeks later, we’re both still sniffling and wheezing a fair bit, but feeling much more likely to survive.  I’m actually rather pleased that I managed not to give it to Murray!

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Thanksgiving was also a non-event.  I got tagged to work that day, and Jess & Jeff weren’t arriving for their visit until the following Saturday, so we had our turkey dinner last Saturday night.  Monday, Murray made a turkey/noodle/vegetable casserole,  today (Wednesday) he made a deep-dish turkey pie, and there’s still plenty left for sandwiches or whatever.  It’s a good thing I really love turkey!

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Murray’s EI ran out at the end of September, and I’m having a hard time convincing him not to whip out his credit card whenever he thinks he “needs” something.  Sigh.  The fridge is full, the freezer is full, the spare/garage fridge & freezer are full, the pantry is full.  We do not need to shop except for perishables  –  milk, fresh veggies/fruit, eggs  –  and consumables like laundry soap, dish soap, and toilet paper, all of which I just stocked up on at Costco.  We do not need to buy a whole lot of meat/fish/poultry we don’t even have freezer space for just because it’s “such a great price”.  At least he understands that he cannot ever go for groceries without a list  –  one that I look over before he goes.  And I’m still clipping coupons and rolling coins.  We’ve made it through some pretty lean times before, and I know we can do it again.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t be a whole lot of fun, but we will make it through.  And all that overtime pay doesn’t hurt!

Now, if only I can convince him that this Christmas should be “stockings only” …

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Hallowe’en will also be a little more low-key than our usual.  We’ll still decorate the front yard, carve pumpkins  –  only two this year  –  and hand out treats to the kiddies.  This time the treats will be a bit smaller/cheaper, but every child who comes to the door will still get something.  Let’s hear it for store loyalty points!  Without them, there wouldn’t be any treats to hand out.

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I really hope this computer can be nursed along for a few more months, since I can’t afford to replace it now that I’m the sole breadwinner.  I do have my netbook to fall back on, but it’s terribly slow and the screen is very small.  On the up side, at least I can plug my good keyboard and mouse into it.  And I already have everything essential saved on the external drive Murray gave me for Christmas last year … photos, music, medical records, bank & insurance info, address books, employment records, tax records … so when this computer does bite the dust I won’t lose anything important.  Except my temper, that is.

 

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Reboot

Sorry about that!  The computer died, all my money was earmarked elsewhere, and using the computer at work for personal things is strictly verboten.  The fix on this one is most likely only temporary, as the poor thing is feeling its age.  But I’ve started a savings plan to pay for the inevitable replacement.  I’ll probably get a laptop instead of another desktop; they’re far more power-efficient these days, they come with much bigger hard drives, and I can still plug my ergonomic keyboard into one.

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Where to begin?

Summer came charging in and the heat wave was record-breaking, both for high temperatures and for duration.  Most of the berries withered on the plants, the grass got brown and crispy almost overnight, the herbs and veggies got devoured by hungry squirrels … we never saw a hazelnut, and I got two (yes, just two) stalks of rhubarb.

The apple and plum trees did very well, though.  We were all set to spend last weekend picking apples, when a windstorm like we’d never seen before roared through.  Trees were down across most streets, two-thirds of the city lost power  –  some folks for three days!  –  and every single apple ended up smashed on the ground, many of them across the street.  We were one of the few blocks that didn’t lose power at all.

The plum tree, being much more sheltered, came through unscathed.  Earlier today I finished picking, washing, pitting & quartering, and freezing thirty-two pounds of plums; and only filled one soup bowl with discarded pieces, stems, and pits.  A very fine crop, and destined (when I track down my recipes) to become jam and sweet&sour sauce.

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Mom was home for about a week after her open-heart surgery when she developed blood clots in her lungs and went back to the hospital for two more weeks.  She’s home again now and recovering slowly; a nurse comes by every couple of days to draw blood, as Mom is on blood thinners and needs close monitoring for the next few months.  We’re all keeping pretty close tabs on her these days!

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Sasquan/Worldcon was SO MUCH FUN!  I haven’t got around to downloading my pics from the camera yet, since I don’t want to lose them if/when the computer dies.  I will eventually post at least few of them, I promise.

Here’s Greebo helping me with one of my costumes (these were taken with my phone):

Photo0084 Photo0085

I got to meet a couple of my favourite authors, found two first-edition Edgar Rice Burroughs books I didn’t already have, found out that wigs make my head itch (but kept them on anyway), and discovered some interesting parts of Spokane.

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Through everything else that’s been going on, through all the ups and downs and unexpected sideways shifts, my job continues to be one of the few things I really look forward to every day.  The work is still interesting and challenging, my coworkers are still delightful to work with, the pay is good and the hours suit me perfectly (1:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.), and the seven-minute commute is a breeze.

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Yesterday Phaedra (daughter P) and I took a carload of donations over to Value Village.  It feels good getting that much clutter out of the house, and it feels good knowing it all will end up with someone who will use it instead of going to the landfill.  There’s still an awful lot of stuff to be weeded, but I can finally actually see progress happening.

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All in all, though an awful lot has happened in the last couple of months, most of it is either not mine to go into detail about, or things I’m not ready to talk about yet (and may never be).  Let’s just say I’m getting my life back and my house in order and leave it at that.

 

 

 

 

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Desperately Seeking Sanity

Or at least a semblance of normality …

I must have started this post twenty times or more since my last post.  Every time I stopped to proofread what I’d written, it was all so damned negative I just deleted everything and waited for another day.

But last night I had a mini-epiphany of a sort:

Yes, for the last couple of months life around here has been full of stress, pain, and upsets of many kinds.  Yes, there are still unresolved health issues, money issues, family issues.  Yes, neither the garden nor the house are what I’d like them to be.  Yes, I still struggle physically most of the time.

But  –  and it’s a big “but”  –  life is not all bad.  And it’s time to focus more on the good things in my life.

I have a house, and a garden.  I have family and friends.  I have a job that I look forward to going to every day, doing work I like with people I like.  I have enough to eat,enough to wear, enough to read, enough things I can still enjoy doing.  I have access to good health care and the medications I hope will eventually take effect.  I can afford to do what needs to be done, and some of the things I just want to do.

Oh, and from now on I’ll be using people’s names, not just initials; since nobody I know personally even knows I have a blog, I think it’s fairly safe.

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We ended up planting things outdoors later than we’d planned, because the weather stayed cold and wet so long.   Then spring happened so suddenly we were caught off guard, and now we seem to be heading into an early summer.  So here are some shots of our progress to date.

Geraniums on the steps Murray (aka Big Guy) built, and a new pot of purple (my favourite!) petunias:

flowers

Hard to tell when they’re still small and green, but I think we’ll get plenty of apples:

apples

And plums:

plums

Maybe this year we’ll get some of the hazelnuts before the local wildlife takes them all:

hazelnuts

The peas, beans,  and cucumbers got a late start, but they’ll catch up:

peas & beans

The raspberries are small but oh so sweet:

berries

And I’ll be picking strawberries this evening:

strawberries

No pears or cherries this year as the trees aren’t quite old enough yet, and I think next spring I’ll move the rhubarb to a sunnier spot; it really isn’t doing well now that the hazelnut trees are shading it all day:

rhubarb

The tomato and pepper plants will perk up as soon as they’re watered:

DSCN2460

And of course there are pot of herbs scattered throughout the yard; parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, spearmint, lemon balm, chives, oregano, and sage.

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Here’s what Jess and Jeff (J & J) did in April:

DSCF0342

They did it all themselves, on a teeny-tiny budget, and it was a lovely wedding and a great party!  They spent the next couple of weeks doing all the final paperwork with the immigration lawyer (Jeff is American) and then loaded up a U-Haul trailer and headed off into the Rockies for Jess’s new job  –  executive sous-chef at a year-round resort.

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Most of my projects are still on hold at the moment.  I’m just waiting for my costume patterns to arrive  –  apparently nobody in the Greater Vancouver area sells Simplicity patterns anymore (?!?) so I had to order them on-line.  As soon as they’re here I can go get fabrics and start my Worldcon/Sasquan costumes.

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Today is Fathers’ Day, and since none of the girls are here (Jess is up in Rockies, Tina is in Halifax, and who knows where Phaedra went today?) I’ll be taking Murray out to dinner later.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there, and all the moms who had to be the dads as well!

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Surfacing

Yes, I know how long it’s been.

No, I don’t want to talk about it.  In fact, almost all of it isn’t mine to talk about.

So … onward and upward, as the saying goes.

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Spring is really truly here, and the weather is amazingly nice.  Warm sunshine, gentle breezes, cool nights … it’s almost time for Miss Rogers (guinea pig) to go into the outdoor hutch.

The fruit trees all blossomed well, and I’m looking forward to lots of apples, plums, rhubarb, raspberries … maybe even some pears and/or cherries this year!  And hazelnuts, and strawberries, and blackberries from the park.

What with one thing and another, the veggies and herbs haven’t been planted yet.  We’ll see how that goes in the next couple of weeks.

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May being a three-paycheque month for me, next Friday’s cheque is earmarked for conversion into US$ for WorldCon/Sasquan in August.  I picked up my finished green leather corset today; Gord at Hostile Makeover did an awesome job on it!  Once I have the rest of the costume finished, I’ll post pics on the Finished Projects page.

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Nothing new to see on that page yet  –  all my spare time goes into housework, or the yard & garden, or mending.  A lot of things got put on hold since my last post, and I’m only now starting to get back into a regular routine.  I’ll update soon, but for now, just think of the weeks since my last post as having pushed the “pause” button.

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It’s Been A While

The Monday after my last post, the third person in my new department was moved, leaving just two of us.  K is awesome to work with, a marvelous teacher, and very good at giving me encouraging feedback on what I still need to learn or improve on.  But there being only two of us means I’ve been putting in a lot of overtime, and hardly have enough energy left by the weekend to get through the basic housework, never mind anything else!

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The weather has been continuously rainy for the last three weeks, so none of the trees got any serious pruning.  In the few short breaks between downpours, Big Guy did manage to get almost all the moss off the house and garage roofs, and if tomorrow isn’t too wet he’ll be up there again finishing off the last bits.  Meanwhile, I try to muster up enough energy and enthusiasm to tackle at least one non-daily cleaning job every day.  Today it’s my desk  –  paying bills, filing, tossing, and household accounting.  Tonight I’ll tackle some mending, and the plan for tomorrow is the entire bathroom, including the walls/ceiling.

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We found another set of steel “baker’s rack” shelving for half price, for the new sewing/guest room, so the sorting and organizing in there is paused until we get the unit put together.  More storage space is always good!  Especially since I’m now gathering ideas, patterns, and materials for my planned Worldcon costumes.  Found two great wigs at Value Village, dirt cheap post-Hallowe’en.  My Fabricland membership will give me 40% or more off fabrics, patterns, and notions.  And whenever I’m near a thrift store I go in and scour the racks for costume pieces, or things I can remake into costume pieces or steampunk accessories.

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It took me a few days to figure out why I wasn’t really looking forward to this weekend … yesterday was the anniversary of my Dad’s death.  And while we weren’t close the last thirty years of his life, he was the world’s most awesome Dad when I was a child, and that’s the Dad I really miss.

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Now I’m going to whine a little.

I’m tired of feeling like crap all the time.  I’m tired of taking umpteen pills every day and giving myself shots and still aching all the time.  I’m tired of trying to eat right and get enough exercise and never seeing the numbers on the scale change because most of the pills have to be taken with a meal, and they can’t all be taken with the same meal.  I’m tired of never sleeping more than two hours at a time and bruising from harsh language.  I’m tired of seeing people stay home from work every time they have a runny nose or a hangnail.  I mean, seriously?  If I stayed home every time I “didn’t feel well” they’d have fired me a year ago!  Most of all I think I’m tired of people who refuse to believe I have an illness that requires long-term treatment because “you don’t look sick”.

Okay, whine over.

I have so many good things in my life.  I have not just a house but a home, with a man who loves me and who I love.  I have awesome, amazing daughters who I adore.  I have Mom and my sisters.  I have good friends who understand me and who I enjoy spending time with.  I have enough to eat every day and clean clothes to wear.  I have Greebo and Miss Rogers to welcome me home every night.  I have books and music and sewing and knitting and gardening and time to do things I like doing.  I have a job I enjoy, and that I’m good at, with people I like a lot.  I have indoor plumbing that works.  And I’m grateful for all of it.  Even the pills and the shots and the monthly blood tests, because I have access to good medical care.

I have more than most of the people on this planet.  That’s why I do my best to take care of my little part of the world  –  because it’s my way of thanking the universe and the Goddess for giving me all the wonderful things I have.

 

 

 

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Water, Water Everywhere

But none in the basement!  The sump pump has really earned its keep the last couple of days … it’s monsoon season here, but thanks to the pump the basement is still bone dry.  A very nice change from this time last year!

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We’re finally canning the salmon that’s been in the freezer since August.  Some of it, alas, got freezer-burned, but most of it looks to be okay.  So I’m washing jars and rings while the fish is defrosting, and Big Guy found both pressure canners and got new gaskets for them.  With both canners going we’ll be able to process 14 pint jars at once  –  a real time saver when each batch has to stay in the canner under pressure for an hour and forty minutes.  We run a sort of production line  –  into each jar I put one teaspoon of coarse pickling salt and one tablespoon of condensed tomato soup right out of the can.  (This method was given to us by a native friend whose family has used it for generations, and the salmon comes out firm and delicious and not tasting of tomato in the slightest.)  Then I pass him the jar, he packs salmon into it, and passes it back to me to put on the lid and screwband and place it in the canner.

Because of the time each batch takes in the canner, we won’t be finished until tomorrow night, but I’ll be sure to post a picture of the final results on the “Finished Projects” page.

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That was yesterday … we now have 42 pints of canned salmon, plus five nice fillets and fifteen salmon steaks in the freezer.  Not bad for two afternoons’ work!  Even the freezer-burned pieces we had to toss will do wonders for the compost.  The picture in the “Finished Projects” gallery doesn’t show what’s in the freezer, or the full cases already in the pantry rack in the basement.

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Once the rain stops, it’s time to prune the fruit trees.  Then on to garden planning!  I want to try something a little different this year  –  all the herbs will be in small planters hung on the fence, where the slugs and snails can’t get into them, nor can (I hope) the raccoons.  The squirrels, on the other hand, are adept at climbing chain-link fencing, but not as interested in the herbs.  They’re after veggies and fruit, so further research / planning of chicken-wire cages (for the plants, not the animals) is needed.

My tentative roster of what to plant so far includes dill, chives, parsley, sage, oregano, thyme, basil, tarragon, mint, spearmint, lemon balm, peas, green beans, zucchini, pumpkins, and possibly tomatoes and brussels sprouts.  And as always there will be plums, apples, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, and (if the wildlife leaves any) hazelnuts.  Perhaps this year we’ll even get a few pears, now that we have two Bartlett trees.  Oh, and let’s not forget the blackberries in the park.

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My new room is slowly coming together.  The big shelves are in, the small shelves and steamer trunk are in, and progress is being made on sorting the yarn stash.  Some time this week I’ll put up the big work table and finally get going on the basket of half-finished knitting projects.  The mending pile, for a wonder, is steadily diminishing at last … I think J & J moving out has something to do with that!

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No food waste this week, apart from the freezer-burned salmon bits.  I’m pleased, and hoping this means Big Guy is paying more attention to what’s already in the fridge needing to be used up.

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I’ve started a money-tracking notebook.  It doesn’t include recurring items such as mortgage payments, car payments, insurance, taxes, household bills (gas, hydro, etc)   –  but will show every cent I spend other than that  –  snacks, groceries, gas, you name it.  At the end of each month I’ll add up the totals in each category to see if / where I can cut back or stop spending entirely.  Could be interesting … I try not to spend money anywhere I don’t need to, but we all know how easily things can slip in under the radar …

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The Best-Laid Plans …

… are the ones that seem to come unglued most often.

A combination of a severe head cold and week-long sinus headache, ridiculously icy weather (for here anyway), family issues, and a sooner-than-planned switch to a new department and new hours kept me from doing anything but the basics.  Shopping  did get done, all on the weekend before Christmas.  Baking and decorating  just didn’t happen.  The tree did get decorated, but far more sparsely than usual  –  partly because of Greebo, and partly because I just couldn’t make myself get up off the couch and do it.  Big Guy never got the outside lights done because it was too rainy and windy.  The stockings were found and then mysteriously disappeared again, so everyone had a gift bag hanging from the fireplace mantel instead; I suppose that’s something we’ll all laugh about next Christmas …

And the rheumatologist added yet more pills to the regimen; a combination antibiotic/anti-inflammatory to be taken twice a day, two big pills each time, and gallons of water must be drunk with each one.  So far I’m not noticing any effects at all other than having to run to the bathroom every half hour because of all that extra water (I couldn’t retain water if I were paid to!), and some loud and uncomfortable intestinal issues.  So instead of deriving any benefits at all from all the medications, all I’m getting is side effects.  I am not a happy camper and when I see her again mid-February I am going to let her know that I.  Have.  Had.  Enough.  A year of misery, expense, and weight gain, with no relief whatsoever from the original complaint?  Nope, not doing any more of it.

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Christmas itself was really nice.  J ended up finding a black duvet cover for P’s comforter, everyone liked their gifts, and I got some awesome presents!  Big Guy had a photo of Greebo put on a coffee mug for me and managed to find the set of Babylon 5 movies I’ve been wanting forever, J got me a lovely plain black Coach wallet to replace my ancient falling-apart fabric wallet, and her fiance J got me a gorgeous set of vintage sci-fi movie posters.  J&J together also gave me a full-sized, very authentic-looking Klingon bat’leth made by a local blacksmith.  P gave me a gift card to the local bookstore, and Mom gave me one for Best Buy … I’m thinking of picking up the season of The Mentalist I’m missing, and perhaps all three The Hobbit movies as soon as the third one is out on DVD.  Big Guy also got me a lovely piece of dark forest green leather, enough for … well, for a project / event I’ll get to later.

We had three “orphans” for Christmas dinner this year; my friend D, a friend of J&J’s, and a friend of P’s.  Dinner itself was not only awesome but eaten before 8 p.m. (for once).  Of course, afterward I got to play Fridge Tetris, and spent most of Boxing Day doing dishes, but that was okay too.  I’d much rather do that than cook!

New Year’s Eve was very quiet and peaceful.  Watched some television, did some reading, wished Big Guy  a happy new year at midnight, and went to bed.

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I’ve been moved from the Northbound to the Southbound team at work, and my hours are 1:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  which actually suits me just fine.  I’ve never been a real morning person, especially since the medications started messing up my sleep, and it’s really nice to be able to get up at 5:30 a.m., feed Greebo The Amazing Alarm Cat, and then … go back to bed!  Every day!!  For the first time in about a year I finally feel like I’m getting enough sleep.  And if I have appointments or errands to run, I can take care of them before work instead of having to miss work or wait for the weekend.  So far, it’s all good.  I’m enjoying the work, learning all kinds of new things, and my new team mates are delightful to work with and excellent teachers.

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I’m still moving things slowly from this little office into my big new room.  I’m taking my time, sorting and purging as I go.  Yesterday I went out and picked up  –  on sale, of course!  –  four big new clear plastic bins for storing yarn, fabric, and projects-in-progress.  Almost all of the fabrics have now been matched up with patterns, and the yarn is being sorted by colour, how much of it I have, and what kind of project it’s best suited for.

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Speaking of projects …

I have three big events coming up this spring / summer.

The first and biggest is J&J’s wedding in April.  I really need something to wear that’s both dressy and comfortable, which means I will probably have to sew it myself.

Next comes the Renaissance Fair in July.  I didn’t get all the changes made to my costume that I had planned, but I’ve promised myself they will be done this year.

Third, and a once-in-a-lifetime event, is WorldCon in August.  Five days of sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, Hugo and Nebula awards, costumes, art, like-minded nerds, and pure fun!  It’s being held in Spokane this year, and will most likely be the only time in my life a WorldCon is held close enough for me to travel to.  Fingers crossed I can get enough vacation days approved for it … perhaps if I mention that my convention membership and hotel room are already booked and paid for?

Best Friend J, friend A, and I have been planning costumes since last fall.  The leather from Big Guy is for part of one of the ones I’m making  –  it’s for a steampunk corset.  The dark green will be perfect next to the shades of rust and brown I have in mind for the rest of the outfit, and will show off the brass hardware nicely; the only really tricky part will be finding the right footwear at the right price.  Our other planned costumes are a “Three Little Crones” version of a scene from The Mikado, and Victorian-era low(ish)-class ladies-of-the-evening suffragettes.

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It’s almost time for P and I to start planning this year’s garden in detail.  We already know that we want to expand the raspberry and strawberry plantings, and more herbs, and we’d like to find a way to keep the local wildlife out of the peas, beans, and zucchini.  Big Guy is talking about building at least one more big raised bed for us, so if we can keep the critters out we may get a pretty decent harvest.  And since I now have two pear trees, we might even see some pears on the bigger tree this year.

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I’m very happy to report almost no food waste since my last post!  By the time we were done with the Christmas turkey there was nothing left for the green bin but bare bones, and apart from that I’ve only had to toss one orange, a spoonful of stale turkey stuffing, and a wilted green onion.  Big Guy cooked up a big ham last weekend, and we finished the last of the ham-and-vegetable stew yesterday.

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I brought my Christmas shopping in well under budget due to finding some killer sales, so what I didn’t spend after all went straight into the WorldCon fund.  I have almost $400 in it already, and by the time August rolls around I should have plenty to have fun with plus a generous cushion in case of emergency.

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