Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brick Dust: Don't Toss That; Motivation; Instagram

Don't pour that out!

My parents have always been "name brand" people.  Everything in their house is made by one of the Big Poisoners. While my partner is inclined to just throw everything out and start fresh with safer, less toxic options, and I'm inclined to take it in for toxic waste disposal, neither of those options is good or available to us.  While my previous county had a toxic waste collection option, where we are now does not.  Simply throwing these things into the garbage is not a good option, either, obviously.  We are in an area where most people are on wells, and it's mostly farmland out here.  My approach has been to simply try and use up what my parents have still lying around the house, and then replace things with better, greener options.

Recently, I finished up a tub of name brand wipes, but I found that there was about 1/2" of liquid left in the bottom.  (Luckily, I noticed before I put the tub into the recycling!) I definitely did not want to toss it with the liquid in it, and I did not want to pour it down the drain.  What I did instead was to get some of the smaller rags out of our rag basket and stuff them down in there to soak up the remaining liquid.  If they dry out, all I need to do is add water to revitalize them, and we're good to go.

This is always an option--both adding rags to a wipes tub with liquid left in it and adding water to dried out wipes to revitalize them and not waste them.  I have a dried up tub of cat wipes (hey--when you have senior pets, you learn not to be too proud to try whatever you can to keep their dignity intact!) They're a few years old.  They dried up only months after I got them.  Whenever I need one, I simply grab one of the dried out wipes and run some warm water over it.  They work perfectly fine, and I'm not wasting them or adding more toxins to the environment.

An added bonus is that these wipes are often strong enough that they can be washed and hung to dry and reused for quite a while.  I've added many to our rags stash. At the very least, they are good for the nastier, smellier messes.  At least if you just use them once for this and then toss them, you've given them one last use.  Every little bit helps!


I had told myself (and probably you, dear readers) that once we were settled in, I was going to get back into the habit of cooking wholesome meals at home, juicing, and refocusing on integrating raw foods into my diet. Well, we are settled, but I'm finding that my motivation has not returned yet.  I did get as far as to clip a couple of new recipes, which I will veganize, and even adding one of them to the monthly menu;  however, I have yet to buy the ingredients or decide when I will make this dish.  The last batch of fruits and veggies I bought for juicing ended up either getting eaten (not a bad outcome) or going bad. Ah, well.  Baby steps!


I'm aware that my posts have not been as exciting lately, but I've been telling the story of my new life in the country on Instagram! Give me a follow to get a peek into the simple life we are living here.  Granted, we have not completely unplugged; however, this is a whole different world from suburban Maryland, and I'm liking it!  All photos there so far have been taken with my phone.  I have not had time yet for shooting with my regular camera.

Here are a few recent shots.


As Autumn slows down to Winter, I hope that everyone is warm, safe, and happy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Brick Dust: November

This is my favorite office!

We're home and settled back in at Sage Alley.  The trip I took last month was much-needed, and even though I have my good and bad days, I'm focused, rested, and ready to get back to work!

I have settled on a date (which I have not shared with Mom) to bring Mom home, so I'm starting the preparations.  I'm waiting on some communication from the nursing home, but I have let them know what my goal date is.  Thursday, I will be making some phone calls to get things moving.  It's very scary, but so far, people have been nice and have given me fairly clear information.  I find that I can usually find someone to answer my questions.
We still need to move our large pieces of furniture down to our apartment before Mom gets home, so I will be seeking out a moving service to help with that.  These pieces are extraordinarily heavy, and we found that, even with friends helping us, it was very, very hard to get them moved.  We'll have better results with professionals.  It goes against my frugal nature to pay for something seemingly so simple, but we've tried everything else!
The weather has been erratic and, in the last few days, very wet and gray, so I'm having pain issues.  We've been having fires almost every evening, even though it's probably still a little too warm out.  I find it really helps with my pain, and I've stopped worrying about depleting our wood supply: We have so much dead fall on the property that, with one or two days of concentrated effort, we will be able to replenish our supply.  We've gone through almost half of our supply already! (Yikes!) As long as we stock up before we have our first snow, we'll be fine.  Our electric bill has come down substantially, though!

Both of my clients have offered me more work.  In one case, it's simply an extension of my contract, but in the other, they have offered me more hours.  The down side is they want me to work all of my hours on-site.  I'm waiting until my mom comes home before I make a final decision.  The alternative offer was a higher hourly rate. The extended hours would mean more money, but I may be needed at home and may not be able to spare two days a week to work on-site.  I'll know more in a few weeks.  I'm just very glad that both clients are happy with my work.  Maybe they'll spread the word!

The dog pen still isn't completed, and we did not manage to get the ground turned for our garden.  The garden will happen in the Spring.  The dog pen will be completed as soon as we can do it.  Between the weather and my partner and my various health issues, it's been hard to get much done.  The dogs are very good sports, though.  They both do really well  on a leash, and we take them on an extra-long walk once or twice a day.  Everyone is adjusting, but life sure will be easier once we can make use of the pen!

I hope the upcoming holidays treat you well!  Remember to count your blessings every day, not just once a year.  If you look hard enough, you will see blessings everywhere.  ;)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

On the Road

"Lines" (c) Jennifer L. Moore.  Prints are available for sale.
We're on the road!  Finally, we have gotten a well-earned break and are on our way to visit my partner's family in Vermont. All of my responsibilities have been delegated, we have hired sitters for our pets, and off we go!

I admit I have a hard time relaxing, but I'll get there.  I feel pretty good this morning. It's a crisp, sunny morning in New Jersey, and I'm well rested.  I did bring some of my work with me, but that's because I enjoy what I do, and both clients are very flexible.

My guy's family is very laid back.  No one changes their schedule to be with us, but we coordinate so that we visit when people have the most time off lined up.  They show us all of the really cool things around where they are living, we visit and hang out, and we just generally  unwind.  Sadly, we only get to do this once a year, but I'll take it!


We're using a new pet sitting service for the cats, since we have moved.  I was very, very nervous about this, but once we met the three people who will be taking turns looking in on them, I felt fine about it. They are very nice people, and the company has been around for a good while. It was cinched when one of them called me as we got to the hotel last night and told me that she had just sat on the floor and talked to them, and most of them had wandered up to talk to her, and that she was able to medicate one of them with no problem at all.  I think we've found our sitters-for-life!


Even though we are on the road, we "Alleyans" ("Sagers?") are still trying to be frugal and minimize our footprint.  We pack our own food into a cooler to avoid eating out and to make it easier for us to remain vegan and to not have to compromise (more on that in another post.) It also keeps our costs down.  For washing dishes--because we bring our own on the road--I brought an Earth-friendly camping soap, and we always carry Dr. Bronner's with us. Even though hotel soaps always smell really nice, I'd rather try and stop polluting.

Though our family currently has three cars (two of them are Mom's) and two of them are gas-efficient, we always bring the Mini.  We got from WV to NJ on about 1/3 tank of gas.  We will fill up once, and that gas will probably last us for most of our visit to the family. 


My job situation has not changed.  I am still freelancing, we now have renters, and I just got a referral check from my realtor (a nice surprise!)  I do still draw unemployment, but I will probably drop it in November, once the renters are settled in. I have no desire to look for a conventional job.  Not only that, but one of my mom's care agencies will pay me to take shifts caring for her (non-medical.)  It does not pay a lot, but with all of my income sources, even though they will be choppy at times, I think I will be OK.  Later on down the road, I may try to pick up part time temp work, but the agencies don't seem to keep much part time work on their books. All I know is I do not want a boss or coworkers any more.  Been there, done that, and it stunk!  I never say "never," though.


Just wanted to check in.  There will be more later, I have no doubt!  For now, I'm going to get back to this thing they call R&R!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Getting Settled In

It's been a little over a month since my last post, and I'm happy to say that our apartment is finished, and we are moving in!  We've been moved in since August, but neither of us has changed our residency yet.  We've been too busy running back and forth, cleaning out the house in MD, etc.  I'm purposely keeping my MD license and car registration until October, because we have a bunch of stuff that will need to go to the county dump in MD.  You can't even get in there without a MD license plate.  I hope to make that run in the next couple of weeks.  We have tenants moving in the 2nd week of October!

The laundry rack my partner made has been put to the test, and we use it every day!  I find that I can hang laundry out as late in the day as mid-afternoon, and the clothes still get dry, for the most part, by just after dark.  Anything that's not dry gets hung on the screened porch.  If there's a lot, I concede and throw it in the dryer on the "air" setting.  We have not had to do that yet, though.  I have learned that, when using a rack or drying system that has multiple strings or wires, you get better results if you hang stuff on every other string.  This allows more air to pass between the items.  Also, when I'm drying blankets or towels, I will hang them across multiple strings, for the same reason.

We thought the dog pen was complete, so we brought my mom's dogs home from the sitter's.  Turns out they can both escape it, so we have a little more work to do.  2x4s are being put across the bottom of the pen, all the way to the ground, with fencing stapled on the inside of the pen.  At the top, my partner's going to add 2ft pieces at a 90 degree angle to each post.  We'll then put fencing across from post to post, so that even if the dogs climb, they'll be stuck.  Our friends told us this would happen, but we were sure it would not, because the sitter insisted that the dogs were well behaved and don't climb or dig.  (WRONG-O!) For now, we are walking them, which seems dumb, us being in the country, but they're both runners, and our neighbors don't appreciate that.  It works out OK, but I'll be happy when we can get them to use the pen without misbehaving.  I told my partner that the next dog(s) we get will be better trained from the word, "go." My parents never made much effort on that front, and it's been a sore spot.  That said, we are happy to have the dogs home.  The family feels more complete now.

This past Sunday, we brought our own cats over from MD and put them  in our apartment.  They're adjusting OK.  Once we start to get our furniture in down there, I think they will feel better.  I'm also doing things differently this time.  Instead of using Scat-Mats to keep them off of the furniture, I've bought special covers, so that they can make themselves more at home and sit on the furniture with us.  We even plan to leave the bedroom open during the day, so they can lounge on the bed (with the special covers, of course!) They only have two casement windows to look out of here, so I want them to have more free range and be allowed to do more.  Their closet's not quite done yet, but it's close.  We've done most of the tiling.  I just have a few more pieces to place, and then we need to grout.  Once that is all done, quarter round will go in place at floor level, and then we'll be good to go. Once we're more moved in, I will be sharing photos here on the blog.  

We are upsizing and downsizing at the same time.  While we have moved out of a house that belonged to me and had its own yard and into a one-bedroom apartment, that apartment is in the basement of a much bigger house, which sits on five acres.  About 1/3 of the property is wooded.  The rest is open lawn.  We have full use of the house and property, but the house belongs to my mom.  She asked us to move in with her.  We have had full reign to build the dog pen, and (eventually) put in what will be a very large food garden.  I am also allowed to make certain decisions about care of the house, repairs, etc.  I just run everything by Mom.  This will make her life a lot easier, and it will enable her to stay at home, which is something we are very big on.

We still don't know when my mom will be coming home, but I have started to gather the information we need to make that happen.  Mom has had the opportunity to have more speech therapy, but that will extend her stay.  We're not ecstatic with that, but Mom thinks it would be a good thing to go through with it.  That gives us more time to get the house ready for her to come home.

Living in a bigger house does mean we will be leaving a bigger footprint; however, it also gives us more opportunities to simplify and live green.  We will be cutting our own wood (with a battery-powered chainsaw).  We will be growing as much of our own food as we can.  We are reusing a lot of the old furniture that my mom had kept from my grandparents. The only challenge to living here is that, being in a rural area, recycling things beyond paper and co mingled will be a real challenge.  I'm researching ways to do that, though, and I think that eventually our particular area will catch up to the DC area, chiefly because there are a lot of DC area transplants out here.  I'm being patient, I'm being careful what I bring home, and I'm doing my homework.

As for money, I am doing freelance/virtual work.  Once Mom comes home and we get care established, I may or may not seek out regular, part time work.  I'm seeing this as an opportunity to build my own business and try to stay out of the corporate world.  I've been through a lot where work is concerned, and I think I'd prefer to be on my own at this point.  If we are lucky, renting out my house in MD will allow for me to do this.  (Eventually, I would like to sell the Little Stone House, though.)

One day at a time, yeah?

Photo credit:  Jennifer L. Moore

Monday, August 3, 2015


Future cat bathroom

This space is much father along now.  It was previously storage.  Now, it's going to be a cat bathroom.  The back of the room is drywall now--under about the fifth step, and there is a bulkhead around the vent you see on the left.  This will protect the ventilation system from the cats.  At this point, the room has been drywalled and painted, and there is a door on it.  There are also four cat doors along the right had side, so the cats can get in and out easily.  It's a large enough space to contain all of our cat boxes, and we are switching to all underbed storage boxes for the cat boxes, so they will have plenty of space.  The wall on the left will be tiled up about 2 feet, using our leftover tiles from the Little Stone House.  We will also tile the sides and bottoms of the four cat doors. The floor will also be durable and infinitely cleanable.  We are putting in either LVT or having the concrete floor stained and sealed.  (We are awaiting quotes before we decide.  We'd like to opt for the former and laminate, but we're financially constrained.)

Having all of the boxes in once space will keep the smell down, and at the same time, it will make cleaning up easier. Since it's still open to the rest of the space via the cat doors, it will not be a neglected space.  I think they'll be happy with it!


Dog Pen Panel

Another project we (mostly my boyfriend) are working on is building a dog pen for my mom's dogs.  The county where we will be living has passed and is now enforcing a leash law.  After a lot of Internet research, my guy designed the structure this will become.

As I am writing this, the pen is much farther along.  It's about halfway done, and it is huge.  The pen is 24 x 64'!  It's just the boards with coated wire tacked to the inside.  It stands 8' high.  We are hoping we'll be able to bring the dogs home soon, but we can't until the pen is completed.


Laundry Rack

The last project we (he) have going is a laundry rack.  I asked if he'd put up a clothesline for me, but he suggested and designed this instead.  Instead of being a permanent structure, it will hook onto a railing of our porch and hang out over the side of the porch.  It can be moved to catch the best sunlight, or it can be removed altogether and put away.  Unfortunately, it does not fold away, and it's pretty large.  We'll have to keep it on the enclosed porch or in the garage.  At this point, it's just awaiting a clear coat and the actual lines.  I'm hoping it will be finished soon.

The basement is being done by contractors, so I can't claim that as one of our projects, but we designed it, from the layout down to the placement of the lighting.  It's looking really good, but unfortunately, it's NOT as frugal or as green as I normally would like.  That said, my contractor and his crew have been great about recycling.  We had a bunch of unused building materials down there, and they are using it.  They have even been using the grey water our of our dehumidifier! Unfortunately, construction is not generally green, unless you pay a LOT of money to someone who is LEED certified.  We just don't have that kind of money, so we do the best we can.

If we are lucky, we will be able to move in in two or three weeks and hopefully bring Mom home shortly after that.  The main thing holding us up right now is the flooring.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Brick Dust: Ceiling Prep, How I Am Holding Up

Holy chaos, Batman!

This is the inside of our new ceiling.  It looks kind of crazy, because electrical is just roughed in right now, but the fact is that our lighting is going to be kind of involved.  (Recessed lights.  Lots and lots of recessed lights!)
Since most of our ceilings will be drywall ceiling and we will have drop ceiling in only a few places, I thought it would be a good idea to take photos of everything before the ceilings go in.  Hopefully, when I go to catalog the photos, I will remember which ones were taken where.
It's a good idea to do this when you're building, because  when something goes wrong, it'll be easier to tell  your service techs what part of your ceiling they need to destroy.  Replacing drywall is pretty easy, but it's not something you want to do more than once, if it can be helped.

This may be a well known tip already, but I came to this conclusion without anyone else telling me, so I figured I'd pass the tip along, in case there is someone else out there who wouldn't have thought of it.

As for me, I'm stressed and elated at the same time.  I have a lot of balls in the air right now, so I have made the decision not to even try to go back to work until August 1 or so.  I have signed up with several temp agencies, but they have all told me that they don't get much part time work.  One never knows, though, and once we are settled and once we get my mom home and settled, I'll be able to seek out part time work on my own and not through an agency.

I really don't see full time work in my near future.  It would be unsustainable, from a health perspective.  Though we will be hiring care for Mom, I will still be largely responsible.  Plus, I will be managing this household and our Little Stone House back in Maryland.  There needs to be time built in for me to just sit and stare into space for a while now and then.  I am also hoping to build up my own business, and I want to do some writing.

Despite all that I have to manage right now, I'm happy, deep down inside.  I know that this is the right thing to do, and though I have enjoyed being in close to DC, I think living in the country will be much healthier for me.  DC is not that far, and I should be able to plan for my trips in.

Happy Summer!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brick Dust: Spring Brings Changes

Our beautiful sage bush.

Spring brings change, and around here, there's a lot of change happening!  First off, you've likely noticed that I've changed the name of this blog.  There are a lot of reasons for this change, but I don't quite have the words.  The new name came to me just this evening, as we were coming in from dinner.  Sage has been a special plant to me for a very long time, and the fact that this old girl has been with us for so long and has stayed so healthy has been an inspiration to me.  She feeds us, and she also helps me to stay connected to Spirit. Plus, she's just so darn gorgeous!

While we don't live on an alley, we are in the suburbs, surrounded by concrete and asphalt and apathy.  Our yard is tiny (though we do get a lot out of it!) and traffic sounds are a constant.  I also just like the way "Sage Alley" sounds as a writer.

The content of the blog is not going to change.  The new name actually feels closer to the intended spirit of the blog, too, and it's casual.  We're casual people around here.

Just another afternoon at home.

The garden is in for the year, but it is decidedly scaled back.  (I'll get to why in a moment.)  What you see here is our collards.  My boyfriend is letting the collards and kale go to seed, so we can collect seeds.  We'll still probably eat some of the plant, after we've harvested seed pods (if the leaves are hearty enough for us to do so,) but the main goal is to collect seeds.

We also are collecting seeds from our carrots.  There aren't many planted, and my understanding is that they are strictly seed plants, so I'm not expecting to harvest any roots.  We did find a few "surprise carrots" early in the season, and they were juiced.  (Yummy!)

Also in are kohlrabi and beets. No tomatoes or peppers this year.  

It's been unseasonably cold here in Maryland.  We had a few very hot, humid days, but now, we are back down in the 40s and 50s! (Brrr!)  Considering the weather patterns, we really didn't see the sense in planting certain things.  Only the most hearty plants.

Another reason we are not planting much is that We are moving this summer! We are taking Sage Alley to the country!   While we will still be within about an hour's drive of Washington, DC and Baltimore, we will be living in quite a different world.  Most of our neighbors where we are moving are farmers!  We are going to have more land, which means we will have a larger garden!  We're both excited about this.  I'm particularly excited, because it means there will be room for two of us in the garden, so I will be able to get my hands into the dirt!  I have a couple of additional things I want to grow, too, that I never could have grown here.

We are moving, because of my mother.  At this time, we are managing renovations to her house in WV. This is beyond our DIY skills, and our timetable is too tight for us to be able to futz around and learn as we go.

As for the Little Stone House here in Maryland, I will be keeping it and renting it out.  While I am hoping to get renters in who share our philosophy about simple, green living, right living, and treading lightly upon the Earth, unfortunately, you can't really hand pick who rents your house.  You can carefully screen applicants, but you get what you get.  I'm hoping that knowing the yard here was used to grow food will encourage green types, but mainly, I want the house to be a happy home for someone else.  It certainly has made us happy, so why not share that?

Eventually, we will sell the house, but this year, the market is not conducive, so we'll wait and check in next year.

There is going to be nothing simple about this move, but we are working hard to keep it as green and frugal as we can.  We've already located some materials at the house that can be reused in the renovations to keep costs down and to keep things out of the waste stream, but with a job like this, we can only do our best.

More on this as it develops.

Musashi.  He likes to be held like a baby,

This is Musashi.  An ex and I found him and his brother, Sam, who also lives with us, when they were teeny, tiny kittens.  Mu has always been the more nervous and the more frail of the two.  Recently, part of my morning routine has been "cuddles". I sit down on the top step to put on my shoes, and he comes up and asks to get on my lap. Then, he curls up in my arms like a baby and drools.  This is how I treat my cats.  I give them love and affection, and they know to seek it out.  Some people think that animals can't feel or don't have emotions, but my experience has been that that is nowhere near accurate.

Mu and Sam are about 12 years old, which is very old in human terms.  To me, they will always be my babies, though!

Until next time, enjoy your Spring, and remember to appreciate the little things in life.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recycling: Bathroom Tiles

Tiles soaking.  Ew!

As with everything at the Little Stone House, I kept the tiles that my boyfriend ripped out of our upstairs tub surround.  Many of them had to be tossed, but we ended up with close to 200 tiles that can be reused.  First, I had to clean them!

In order to do this, I found it was easiest to soak them in non-chlorine bleach for a couple of days and then scrub them with a paste made from water and the same non-chlorine bleach. (Wear gloves!)  I did this using an old toothbrush--another item we recycle and repurpose around the house.  It's important, finally, to make sure that you completely clean out the sink you use when you are finished.  It's nasty work, and non-chlorine bleach can be just as hazardous as chlorine bleach, even though it is easier on the environment! 

Cleaned tiles, set out to dry

When cleaning them, you want to scrub off as much of the paper backing, mastic, etc. as you can, and you can't forget to scrub the edges of the tiles, where adhesive might still be stuck on. I found that most of the mastic and such came off with a little elbow grease. Most of what is still stuck to these tiles is just the paper from the drywall backing. (The person who put in the tub surround used regular, old green board, which did not hold up to moisture very well!) 

The fact that not all of the mastic came off means that they can't be reused for a job like a tub surround, but we are finding other uses for them. The first thing my partner did was he used some in the cubbyhole where our new dishwasher went in.  He did not stick them down.  He simply lined the cubby floor with them, which brought the dishwasher up to the height it needed to be.  While it's not a perfect fit, it now fits as well as we need it to! 

There are tons of potential uses for these.  We will keep them on hand, as long as we can store them without cluttering up our space.  We might use them as plant coasters or under furniture to keep from scratching up the floor or raise the height of the furniture.  We may use them to line shelves we make.  The important thing is we have kept them out of the waste stream, which is always a huge goal in our world!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Caring for a Pet Remotely

Mama Kitty

I have alluded to the fact that we are caring for my mom's  cat while Mom is recovering from her surgery, which happened in 2014. Mom's dogs are with a sitter, as caring for a dog remotely is just not possible. By "remotely", I don't mean I'm using any funky tech to spy on the cat from a distance and operate computers that feed her and let her out.  What I mean is that I care from her from a distance.  We travel to my mom's once a week--which Mom said she wanted, whether the cat was there or not--to check on the cat, give her company, and of course replenish her food and water.

When the pet sitter first suggested this, I was kind of horrified, to be honest.  I could not imagine leaving an animal by him/herself for days at a time.  There is so much that can go wrong.  We talked about it at length, though, and she told me the story of a cat her family had had when she was younger.  The cat lived at a second home, which they visited once a week, and she said the cat was fine.  She also told me that she felt Mama would be happier at home, stating that when she takes Mama to stay with her, Mama hides a lot.  This is someone we've trusted with Mom's pets for years, so I took what she said to heart.  It has worked out fine.

Though Mama is overweight, the only way we can keep her fed throughout the week is with dry food.  She recently went to the vet--I take her fairly regularly--and her blood work is fine.  We'd like her to lose weight, but we'll be able to manage that more easily when someone is back living at the house with her.   In the meantime, I make sure she has toys and room to run around.  (It's a big house.  There is plenty of room !)

When we get there, the first thing I do is take up her food.  Most of the time, we just stay over one night, so the food gets put away until we leave.  She gets a small amount of wet food that night and then when we leave, as a treat.  Since the house is in the country and Mama never ventures far, when we get there, we let her out.  Depending on the weather, she sometimes stays out for hours.  There's not much more we can do for her, since we don't live there.  I just watch her weight and check her for any signs of illness or distress when we get there each week.

Her water is changed and the bowls washed every visit.  The bowls for both her food and her water are all large enough that there's no danger of her running out.  I've been talking with a neighbor about leaving her one of the garage door openers in case we can't get there on time, too.  We are still trying to work that out.

We have had very few problems with her.  Lately, she has started soiling, so I'm going to monitor that and take her back to the vet if needed.  I suspect it's just because we can only clean her boxes when we visit, so she probably does not like that they are not clean all the time.  I'm hoping that's all it is.

We are hoping that this situation will be remedied soon.  I'm working with the nursing home to find out when Mom can go home, so we can get Mama on a more stable schedule with more company and more activity in her day.

Overall, she is a happy cat, and I always make sure the house is safe for her before we leave.  When you have a situation like this, it's really the best you can do.  I absolutely do not recommend leaving a cat for more than a week at a time!  Most times, we're only gone 5-6 days, really.

Before leaving an animal, always talk to your vet and a trusted pet sitter, if you have one.  How successful this arrangement will be depends heavily on the health and personality of the animal in question, and like I said before, you really can't leave a dog for more than a day or two.  If you decide to do this, have the animal thoroughly checked out by your vet first, and always have a backup plan/a neighbor with an extra key or something.  My own preference is to hire a sitter to come in once or twice a day, but in this case, we were unable to do so.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Beet Ravioli

My version of the beet ravioli

This was my second attempt at raw cuisine,and let me tell you what:  These blew the stuffed peppers away!   This delicious recipe came from the book,  Raw Food Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. The filling and sauce provide tons of protein and good fats from nuts:  cashews, pine nuts, and pistachios.  This is the best cashew "cheese" I've tasted yet!

Even though the recipes in this book are a bit involved and sometimes call for ingredients that are a bit esoteric, I found it fairly easy to adjust this one based on the foods I could get and had on hand.  One thing I did learn, however, is that these recipes take a long time to pull together.  Raw cuisine is more involved than it looks, but the results are so amazing, if you have the right recipes.

If you are interested in raw foods and are an intermediate to advanced cook (meaning complex recipes and odd ingredients don't intimidate you), I recommend this book.  The instructions are very clear, and the book is visually very beautiful.  Though your presentation may rarely or never look like theirs, it will look fantastic!

I have a personal goal of making 1/3 of my diet raw by May 1st of this year.  We'll see if I can do it!

As for my partner, his raw month didn't pan out.  He got sick a day or two in and had to stop for now.  He may or may not try it again.  I'm still planning to try mine in the summer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Brick Dust: Winter Update

First snow of 2015

Just some bits and scraps from the past few months.  Life has definitely not been boring for us at the Little Stone House!

-Ultimately, our garden did not fare all that well this year.  As I've said many times, I attribute it to the weather.  That said, my partner has decided that we will not continue to grow tomatoes at our current location. The yield was down in 2013 and absolutely abysmal in 2014.  We ultimately harvested less than a dozen of them.  He thinks it's because our yard does not get enough direct sunlight.  We only have it for half or less of the day.  If it hadn't been for the fantastic yield we had back in 2011 or 2012, I'd agree with him. I still say it's due to the weather we've had.  In any case, that patch will be used for something else.  Since our yard is so small, we'll stick to foods we know we will eat. Greens and root veggies do well for us, as do some herbs. He's looking at laying some brick pathways through the yard this Spring, as well.

-I'm still working part time and still as a temporary employee, but I'm happy.  I don't know when a decision will be made regarding my status, but I do know that I'm doing well in my current position and that they want to hire me.  This makes me happy. If hired, I intend to stay part time, though. Between my recent refinance and our frugal ways, we are making this work.  We splurged a little over the Holidays, but we had extra money with which to do so.

-I'm learning a lot about elder care and about coordinating doctors' appointments for someone with a complicated medical situation. My mom is still at the sub-acute rehab, and we don't know yet when she will be discharged or what the plan is for afterward.  I know she wants to return to her home, but we don't know for sure if that will happen.  We just have to wait and see.  in the meantime, I am managing her home, keeping up with repairs and maintenance, and looking after her cat.  (She is at the house, and we set her up for a week at a time.  I'll do another post on that kind of thing later.)  Her two dogs are with a sitter.  We have not been able to visit them yet, but I understand they are doing well.  I'm hoping to do more than just an overnight visit to the house, so that we can go see them soon.  It's pricey, but the sitter gives my mom a discount, which helps. Despite all of the amazing technology at hand, I'm finding that with a complicated situation like this, a good, paper planner is still my best friend!  I have one with a pocket, which I carry with me everywhere.  Important reminders still get programmed into my phone, but being able to look at things on paper really, really helps me to map out my plans for whatever projects come along.

-We are ramping up the raw.  Well, my partner is, for sure! He announced yesterday that he is doing a totally raw month in January!  I was not prepared, so he did not pick me up any regular food--except for the couple of items I asked for. After looking around the pantry and fridge, though, I realize I may be able to get by without spending much this month. I may go to the store once or twice, but I have plenty of dried beans, leftovers, and canned foods.  Plus, I will be sharing in most of his suppers.  As for me, I'm going to wait until Summer, but I am doing my twice-a-year raw cleanse this month, starting this Sunday.  Our eating habits really backslid during the Holidays (don't everyone's?) so I'm ready to cleanse and move on.

That's all I have for now.  I have some ideas for more in-depth posts.  Hopefully, I can get some of them up soon.  My previous post was one I'd had waiting for a while.

Stay warm!  Stay safe!

Photo credit:  (c) 2015 Jennifer L Moore. Do not duplicate.

A Surprising Color Choice

Once upon a time, in a relationship far, far away, I had a room in my home that was painted black.  When my ex first suggested it, I worried.  It's not that I have any issue with the color, black.  Indeed, I love black!  I wear and use it frequently (but not at the Little Stone House. It wouldn't fit with our current design.)

Rather, I worried that the room would look dingy and dirty--that dirt would show up too much.  I worried that the room would feel too small.  (We used it in a large room, which was a smart move.)  I worried, also about its effect on both our moods and on any visitors we had.

Still, us both being artists, another part of me thought it was a really cool idea, so we went ahead with it, and you know what? It was really, really cool!  The art we hung on the walls really popped.  The room did not seem smaller at all, despite the fact that it did not get a lot of direct sunlight.  In fact, it gave the room a very pleasant, calming feel.  It became our "cave".  (It was the master bedroom.) 

I felt like a queen whenever I spent time in that room, and I slept deeply.

What I would say from my own experience with using the color, black, in my home is to use it wisely.  Make sure the room gets outdoor light, because without some light coming in from outside, it can feel oppressive and depressing.  Use it in larger rooms.  Furnishings should coordinate, if not completely match, because a black room can feel messy or weird without something to give it cohesion.  Even using art pieces that complement one another will help.

Where we are now, and possibly in the next house, I don't see us using black, but it was fun to have a black room.  It certainly led to a lot of interesting conversations, but it also inspired a lot of writing and art on my and my ex's part.  If you feel like you have a home that could accommodate black, go for it!

Photo credit:  / 123RF Stock Photo