Keeping busy

We had a nice weekend around here. Saturday was kind of busy. We had chiropractor adjustments up in Bluffton. From there, we went down to mid-town Savannah and I donated platelets at the Red Cross donation center.

It had been six months since my previous platelets donation! I don’t know how so much time passed! I know that for a streak there I wasn’t feeling well. And then the holidays hit and things got busy. And then I wasn’t feeling well again. And then they changed my schedule at work and I couldn’t schedule donations on Friday afternoons anymore. But a whole half a year?!

After donating, and getting some food, we went back home and I took a power nap for an hour or two because in the evening I went out to a friend’s birthday party. She was having her third or fourth annual 49th birthday and it’s always a lot of fun. She invites a handful of women and we sit around eating and drinking and playing games for prizes that she’s bought for her guests. This year I brought home a yoga mat and a lovely piece of wall art. I’m not sure yet where to hang it.

Sunday was relaxing after all the excitement of the day before. And that was needed because I was up very late on Saturday and this week has been busy and stressful. I’ve had a lot going on at work, trying to get caught up on a mess that’s gotten out of control and requires an insane amount of detailed research to clear up. And Justin had a test today, has a paper due on Friday, has another test next Wednesday, plus another paper due that same day. Plus his other class is starting and that’s going to add more work and reading. And it’ll extend his days so I’ll have to be responsible for making sure we eat dinner on those days.

On top of that, we’ve started training for the 5K race we have coming up in April. So we’re running up the street outside our apartment complex and back. It’s a nice place to run, with wide grassy strips, and we see a lot of people who are also out running or walking.

There’s this one guy I’ve seen several times who walks with his three dogs. I’m not sure what kind of dogs they are, but they’re biggish, like Labradors, but skinny with smooth coats. One of these days I might ask him what they are. Anyway, he walks them off leash and they are the most well behaved dogs I’ve seen. They stay right beside him all the time. And when someone approaches him from the other direction on the sidewalk, he’ll step off the sidewalk and tell his dogs all to sit. And they plunk their bottoms down and look up at him, not at the people who are walking past. And then once the sidewalk is clear again, he’ll give a command and they’ll all get back in heal with him walking.

I saw a Yorkshire Terrier try to pick a fight with his dogs and they all just sort of looked at it and kept on walking. I was worried the Yorkie would try to bite me, it was so badly behaved. But not these three big, muscular dogs who are just the best behaved things on the street. I’m very impressed.

Anyway, nothing terribly interesting from me today. But I’m trying to remember to write more often. So this is the babbling that happens.

Monday and Tuesday were not very productive at home

Not much to post today. It’s been a not very productive couple days at home. Work has been good and I’ve nearly got a big thing completed that’s been in the works for a while and I’m happy that it’s almost done.

But as far as home stuff? I stopped by yesterday at lunch and there was a maintenance guy emptying out my water heater so he could remove it. He told me there was a clog in the drain and it was causing water to pool and that was what was causing the mold. He’d know more after he could actually get back there. When I got home in the evening, the water heater was back in, a dehumidifier was sitting outside that closet, and the mold was washed off the walls in both closets. And the lights were on and the thermostat was set to 68* — I didn’t appreciate the implications to my electric bill. Anyway. I went to use the water and the toilet made really awful *glub* *glub* noises and then the hot water faucets started spitting air and hissing. Which freaked me right out and I called Mom and Dad to see what I should do. Turns out that there’s air in the pipes after they empty and refill a water heater and they really should have bled out all that air before they left, but they didn’t. Dad had me leave the tub running for a while until it was all just water instead of air and that took care of the problem.

And looking at the note from the maintenance guy, he says that the meter was leaking causing the problem. I wonder what my water bill is going to be . . . .

Anyway, after dealing with all of that and doing calming, stretching yoga for an hour and a half, there really wasn’t much left in my evening. I chatted with Justin online and then I went to bed.

Today, worked again. Had a lovely lunch with some of the ladies. And invited several ladies to the Pampered Chef party I’m hosting on Sunday (anybody need anything?) and kept working on this Excel worksheet I’m trying to get cleaned up. After work, came home, ate quickly, went to Bluffton for my chiropractor appointment, and then came back home. It’s currently about 8:30 and I’m going to see what cleaning I can get done before it’s time to get ready for bed.

The dehumidifier that the maintenance people left behind yesterday was moved into the bedroom closet when I got home today. And they left a light on again.

Justin’s not feeling well the last couple days. He has about 150 ant bites all over and he is, of course, allergic. So he’s been run down the last couple days. It’s a good time for it, actually, because his grandpa had to head out of town for a few days. They’ve been working together on stuff, since Dennis has the know-how and Justin has the strength. They’d been roofing up until yesterday. Justin is starting to feel better, I think, so hopefully he’ll be fully recovered by the end of the week when his grandpa returns.

And that’s it from me!

Part Five: April 26 – 27. Georgia Renaissance Festival and HOME!

Saturday morning, April 26, Justin and I set off from Chattanooga heading to Atlanta. We got a later start than we’d hoped, so we got to Atlanta after the opening at the Renaissance Festival. We tried to check into the hotel we’d be staying at that night, but they were totally booked and weren’t able to give us access to our room until later in the day. So we went to the faire.

Missing the beginning meant we missed the few lines that our friends, Becky and Julie, give during that portion of the faire, but we did manage to search them down later on. They decided a while back that working/performing at the Ren Faire was on their “Bucket List” so they tried out to be musicians this year. They somehow managed to end up as Cast instead, meaning they’re part of the crew of people who do different skits during different parts of the day. Becky and Julie spend all day, all weekend, in character, dressed up as peasants who pretend to clean different areas in the faire while singing folk songs to the people around them. It’s hard and it’s hot and they had to do a lot of hard work before hand, like learning the King’s English, to do what they’re doing. But as far as I can tell, they are having an absolute blast doing it. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t trade it for anything. They were also able to score a bunch of tickets for their friends and family, so Justin and I were able to get into the faire for free!

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Becky, by the way, is our friend who’s traveling around the States in her Casida camper trailer. If you’re ever interested in hearing about what that’s like, she keeps a blog over at Interstellar Orchard. Julie is going to be joining her later this year when they head out to Nevada to work on the Amazon Camper-Force this fall.

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But for now, back to the Ren Fest. As always we had a lot of fun. We tracked Becky and Julie down a couple of times to see them in action. The rest of the day, we wandered around and saw shows and browsed shops and had fun.

We saw one of Justin’s favorites, “Cirque du Todd“, juggling and doing other feats of humorous silliness.

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He was followed by one of my favorites, “Hey Nunnie Nunnie,” a couple of singing nuns. (Heads up, that link will automatically start playing music.)

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We caught “The Washing Well Wenches” with their usual good-natured inappropriateness.

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I made my traditional necklace purchase. I have a weakness for pendant necklaces and they have so many of them there. This year I got a little glass leaf.

Justin still wasn’t feeling well, so he left as soon as we were able to check into the hotel. He went back to rest and recoup a little bit. I stayed and caught a “Barely Balanced” show, a group of acrobat comedians.

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I’m really not sure if you can see it in that photo, but that’s one guy laying on his back, propping up the gals thighs, while the other guy stands on top of her thighs, while she’s doing a really impressive split, and the two guys are juggling flaming clubs.

And then I stayed for the last “Tortuga Twins” show of the day, which is always the most rowdy one of the day. They were having a blast and ended up going longer than their time-slot.

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After that, I went to listen to the Pub Sing, where the musicians and cast tend to end up at the end of the day, where I got to catch up with Becky and Julie again. After the singing was over, I had to leave the premises along with the rest of the guests, and the girls went backstage to Becky’s camper to change. I waited for them at the staff parking exit, because I had no other way of getting back to the hotel, and then we went to pick up Justin for dinner.

We went out for the traditional after-faire Mellow Mushroom dinner, which was as delicious as always. And then we went back to the hotel, where we pretty much just sat around chatting while the girls each took advantage of our shower. The shower at their campground is about the size of a very small closet, with inconsistent water temperature. Julie is driving back and forth to the faire from home each week, so she has nice showers at home during the week. But Becky is living at the faire campgrounds full-time, so she jumped at the opportunity to take a nice, hot shower.

By the time showers were done, we were all starting to fall asleep sitting in our chairs. It’s a long, hot, tiring day wandering around the faire, so we said our good-nights and everyone set off for bed.

The next morning, the girls went back to work at the faire and offered us another set of free tickets, but Justin and I were tired and decided to head home instead. We had planned to stop at a Costco on our way out of Atlanta, but it ended up being closed, so we went straight home. It was an uneventful drive and we got home before 4:00 that afternoon. Thankfully, the house was still there and everything was in order. We dragged in our luggage, worked on unpacking, and relaxed a little before heading to bed. I had to get up to work in the morning, so I made sure to get unpacked and prepared so I could jump right back into being at work.

The following morning, by the way, was awful. My boss made me cry at the 7:00 meeting. It was embarrassing and frustrating, but he apologized by giving me an orchid.

And that was our whirlwind trip! To quickly recap:

4/16: Justin flew out to California, I worked
4/17: Justin spent time in San Diego, I worked
4/18: I flew out to San Diego
4/19: We went to Desert Hot Springs
4/20: Spent the day in Desert Hot Springs
4/21: Went back to San Diego
4/22: Spent the day in San Diego
4/23: Flew to Atlanta, drove to Chattanooga
4/24: Spent the evening at Nathan’s house
4/25: Spent the day in Chattanooga
4/26: Drove to Atlanta, spent the day at the GA Ren Fest
4/27: Drove back home

And that’s the end of Part Five and the last post about that trip. Now I’ll get back to posting about other things that are happening around here. :)

1Q14 Update on the Smoky Mountain Planning

It’s been a while since I mentioned our plans to move to the mountains and start a life of living off the land with mud in our toes and the wind in our hair . . . or something like that. I figured I’d try to give quarterly updates if only just to keep me on track of what needs to get done and how we’re working on those things. And maybe you’ll all find it interesting as well.

Grab some popcorn – this is a LONG post.

So the 4-fold path that we’re working on was as follows:

  1. How are we going to afford it?
  2. Where do we want to live?
  3. What do we want to do as a career?
  4. How physically fit can we get before then?

We set a tentative 2-year plan, originally based on the fact that Jess is going to be in Savannah at least that long and we’d like to keep as close to her as we can until she figures out what she’s doing after she’s done with school. That 2-year limit is extremely tentative and at this point will actually have more to do with something that Justin is working on that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. Sorry! Once he gives me permission to talk about it, I will. But the timeline is probably closer to 3 or 4 years at this point.

That’s not a problem, though, mostly because our financial situation isn’t getting cleaned up very swiftly. We’ve been doing pretty well on our budgeting, though! It’s astonishing how much money we save just by setting a menu for the week and shopping to that menu. Instead of going in to the grocery with no idea about what we’re eating each week, we have a plan and we stick to it – unless we see deals on things that we know we’ll use and then we take advantage of those. But for the most part, we stay under our grocery budget.

We just haven’t quite figured out how to hammer down these credit card bills as quickly as we’d like. They’re going, just not fast. And now and then we find ways to throw a lot of money at them all at once and that helps, but it’s going to take a while before we’re out.

For the sake of transparency, we have 5 credit accounts and a car loan (and I actually have an additional 2 credit cards for work, but those don’t count here – I just have to keep an eye on them). And then we have 3 school loans that we’re not concerned about just yet because the interest rates are very low.

Starting at the beginning of September, three of those credit lines were at a $0 balance and we’ve maintained that $0 balance – we might use the cards, but we pay them off. On the other three accounts (2 credit cards and the car loan), we’ve managed to pay off a total of $3,399.14 in 4 months. We’ll have the car paid off in July, which is going to free up a bunch more money each month right there and we’re excited about that!

But, like I said, it’s going to take a while before we’re out of this hole we dug for ourselves.

Once we’re out of debt, then we’ve got to start throwing everything that we can into saving up for a down on some property. I’m especially looking forward to that part! I’m tired of seeing my money sucked away into the septic system of credit card debt.

So, we’ll keep on living under our means, throwing as much money as we can toward our debts, looking for more ways to bring in money, and looking forward to the day when we’ve got a big chunk of change that we’ll take and exchange for a slice of the world that we can claim as our very own. Put up a sign on it and everything.

Meanwhile, we’re still looking around for where that little slice of the world could be located. Justin and I are planning a trip up to Chattanooga later this month. Justin is actually planning it, as it’s going to be sometime near my birthday, and I have no idea what we’re doing since he’s trying to make it all a surprise. But we’ll head up that way toward the end of February and check out the city and see what it’s like up there and get an idea about whether that’s a place where we’d be interested in moving.

In a post talking about this earlier, I mentioned that our friend Julie might also move to the mountains when we move, but she’s since changed her mind on that. She’s not going to stay where she is currently, but she’s thinking about moving back to Wisconsin to be closer to her family. Her sister is expecting a baby at the end of May / beginning of June and Julie would like to be nearby while the kid is small. She’s also considering joining our other friend Becky, the one who travels around the country in her camper trailer, and spending a year traveling. So she’s got some options she’s considering. She’s completely free at this point – she’s got a cat and very few expenses and a job that’s applicable pretty much anywhere (vet technician) as long as she passes the certification testing for the state. We’ll miss her, but we completely understand.

And the last two points (career planning and physical fitness) are still so far from being done that I’d be worried if it wasn’t going to be such a long time before we actually move. I’m still not sure what I’d like to do as a career and I might just find a similar job to what I’m doing right now, just in another town. I’m versatile, so I’m hirable. There’s a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga that would work just fine if that’s where we end up. And Justin is still exploring his options and isn’t that much further than me on this whole thing.

And as for fitness, we both lost motivation over the holidays and then fell into the slump of January. We’re getting back into it and I’m very pleased that my legs seem to be doing much better and I’m not experiencing the significant calf pain that I was back in the fall. Unfortunately, Justin is having some troubles with his foot and ankle that we haven’t gotten resolved yet. I finally weighed myself this morning for the first time since before Christmas and while I did gain some, I was pleased that I didn’t gain as much as I suspected that I had. And for me, the weight isn’t really the goal anyway. It’s the fitness – I want to be able to run again. And not just a little 2 or 3 mile jog; I want to run a half-marathon. Competitively. The weight will come off as I start training regularly and start consistently eating food that makes my body function better than sugar and fat does. And this isn’t something I’m putting a deadline on, so it’s not like I have to run the half-marathon before we move to the mountains. But the time off over the last couple months definitely cut my fitness level down and I’ve got a lot of ground to make up. My stamina is way down, my flexibility is terrible, as well as my balance, and I’ve got a lot of work to do.

And I think that covers it for the first quarter of 2014 update! I realized that last year disappeared on me without much of an impact and I’m trying very hard to make this year feel like it counts for something. I’ve got all these plans for things I’d like to be able to do in the future, but I’ve done badly at finding ways to accomplish those things by starting now on the small parts. I’m working on pulling together my short and long-term goals so I can start working on figuring out those steps that will eventually get me to the larger goals. I’m sure you’ll see a post about those things very soon. If there’s one thing that I did learn last year it’s that if I don’t set small goals for myself, then I’ll never make any progress anywhere. This year is going to be different. And I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before, but I don’t care if I failed last time. I’m going to try for it again.

And the house is empty again

Well, Justin and I have the house back to ourselves again, so I figured I’d take a few minutes to write about what’s happened over the last couple weeks.

Is it already the 14th of January? Dang.

Okay, Justin’s grandma (Rose) got into town late in the evening on December 18th. We spent the days leading up to that getting the house all ready for her visit, which included cleaning and decorating, but also included making bookshelves and a bed and actually setting up a guest bedroom (another post about that yet to come — with pictures!) for her to use while she visited.

Justin’s mom (Wendy) and his sister (Jess) flew into town the next day. Jess had gone home for a few weeks after her classes let out for the holiday. And since Jess has her own apartment in Savannah and her roommate was out of town for the holiday, Wendy spent her time down there mostly — which worked out really well because everybody got a bed! Well, until Jess’  roommate came back, but for most of the time, anyway.

It was a pleasant visit with people. Wendy and Jess came up to Bluffton a couple times, and Rose, Justin and I went down to Savannah a few times. Wendy spent a lot of time helping Jess with her apartment — repainting the treads on the stairs, revarnishing the kitchen table, weeding the yard — so we got to keep Jasper, Wendy’s Bichon, so he’d stay out of the way.

Everybody came up here for Christmas day, and I already wrote about that. I did another spatchcocked turkey and it was once again delicious. It’s not a super-easy thing to cut the backbone out of a turkey, but our 10 pound turkey cooked in about 2 hours and was amazingly tender. Can’t say anything bad about that!

And, honestly, the rest of my vacation (2 whole weeks!) was a bit of a blur.

New Years Eve was tame — Justin played video games and I roasted marshmallows over a fire in the backyard.

Our friend Becky stopped into town on her way from Kansas to Florida, where she’s spending this half of the winter and start of the spring. So we spent some time with her. Girl’s day out shopping at the thrift stores! Yea!

Rose hemmed the pants that Justin got for Christmas that were too long and adjusted a pair of his pajama pants. We chatted about sewing projects and things. We had hopes to work on other sewing projects, but never managed to find the time.

There was a lot of baking. I ended up making 4 batches of banana bread with bananas that kept going overripe before they could get eaten. Rose made a small mountain of chocolate chip cookies. Justin is a very happy man.

Justin helped Rose with her iPad, making it more accessible and fixing some problems that were going on with it, which made her very happy.

I saw several movies — Walking with Dinosaurs and Frozen with Julie at the drive-in, the Hobbit in the theatre with Becky and Julie, Frozen and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Becky and Julie again at the drive-in, Silver Linings Playbook with Rose and Justin here at home. (Justin and I actually went to the drive-in together this past weekend so he could see Frozen and the Hobbit, since he hadn’t seen either one yet. I do, in fact, have huge amounts of that delightful little cartoon memorized now.) I like movies.

And Wendy fought with the weather and the airlines to get back up to Vermont. It turned out to be really good that she brought the dog because Tony (Jess’ dad) got stuck near work for 3 days when the arctic vortex came through — work actually put a bunch of people up in hotels so they wouldn’t have to drive. But the dog would have been stuck at home alone. This way, he got to spend time in the warm southern weather with all of us. And for a 15-pound dog that pooch is an impressive bed-hog.

So Wendy was supposed to fly out on the 31st, but called to put that back a few days so she could finish up work on Jess’ apartment . . . or actually take a few days to relax, I’m really not sure which. Her new flight was supposed to be on the 4th but then there was trouble with the dog getting onto the flight and because of flights being grounded with the cold. She finally managed to get on a flight on the 7th, after trying unsuccessfully every day after the 4th. (Just in case you’re wondering, that’s 19 days, but originally was going be 12 days.)

I had to go back to work on the 6th. It’s always a little brutal getting back into the 5:00 A.M. wake-up schedule again after spending many days staying up late and sleeping in. Rose is actually a night-owl like us, so there were nights spent sitting at the dining room table, just talking, until we realized it was after 1:00 in the morning. So we’d all go to bed and not get back out of bed until after 10:00. It was great!

5:00 A.M. is not so great after that.

Rose flew back home on the 10th (that’s 24 days). And suddenly, after more than 3 weeks, we are alone in the house again. Which means it’s not nearly as tidy, for one thing. But it’s also really quiet. I enjoyed Rose’s company. We chatted a lot about her family growing up and about Justin’s growing up and other bits of news and ramblings. There was a lot of time spent not talking, too, just sitting and reading or working on little projects. It was very nice.

But now it’s back to two of us. And I’m back at work — starting out the year with long hours and frustrating problems already.

We’ll take down the Christmas tree this coming weekend. We stopped watering it after the new year and it’s getting more and more odoriferous as it dries up. There’s this curtain of PINE!! smell as you walk into the house. It’s kind of impressive, actually.

And sometime soon, I guess, we’ll figure out what 2014 is going to be all about! Justin and I have several trips we’d like to make this year and plans and projects to map out. I think it’s going to be a good year!