What I See Happening Here Instead

The last few months have seen an upswing in gun violence, burglary, car chases and more.

And perhaps I’m more of an optimist (although I prefer Optimistic Realist, thank you very much) because while I see the crime (or rather hear about it), I also see…

Local Kids Participating in NaNoWriMo

I was invited by my daughter’s teacher to come by an after-school session of NaNoWriMo. For those of you not in the know, November is known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is empowering for writers and aspiring writers alike.

I walked around the room, stopping to talk with the kids, answer questions on spelling, and more. There were at least fifteen of them in the room – snacking on chips, typing away, and having a fun time.

It makes me wish that NaNoWriMo had been a thing when I was a kid. I don’t remember being encouraged to write – certainly shamed for not writing in the assigned journals we all had to complete – but not encouraged to write in any other fashion.

This changed in high school in San Francisco when I attended a small private school where we primarily learned out of books through independent study. It was there that I was allowed to escape from the torturous diagramming of sentences and instead jump headlong into the creative process.

I love that my daughter’s fifth-grade teacher was hosting this and encouraging the kids to just write, in whatever form it took.

When we moved here four and a half years ago, we had been homeschooling our daughter for a couple of years. I joked that we were half committed before to it, and fully committed to homeschooling now that we lived in the city itself.

Circumstances changed and when we enrolled the kiddo this year, I had a great deal of mixed feelings and trepidation. I am, however, incredibly impressed with the kindness, involvement, and dedication that each of my daughter’s teachers provide to her and to her classmates.

As homeschoolers, we encountered and tried to dispel many myths about what homeschool is or can do. On the flip side, however, I’ve learned that not all public school is the same, and that there are some phenomenal teachers out there.

After Ms. L. told the group, “Christine is our visiting author” the kids came up, looked at my books, and asked questions.

“How long does it take to write a book?” was the predominant question.

They seemed a little daunted by the answer – “It depends. For me, anywhere from six weeks to several years.”

I can’t help imagining one or more of these kids in a few years – cranking out a YA masterpiece that will change their lives and start them on a writing path.

Harmony Project KC

I can’t say enough good things about Harmony Project KC!

From the phenomenal teachers and their smiling faces, to the difference they make in so many children’s lives, our community is lucky to have them.

My daughter was in the very first class, nearly three years ago now, and plays the cello.

In case you are new to the area, Harmony Project KC provides FREE music education to youth living in the Northeast area. This includes singing in a choir, learning to read music, play the recorder and other basic instruments, and then transitioning to classical instruments (again, all provided at zero cost) such as the cello, viola and violin.

They recently added more instruments, but I’ve been out of the loop on what those are.

You can learn more about them by visiting their website and their Facebook page.

 

Our Neighborhood Associations

As silly as it might sound, I had never heard of neighborhood associations before moving here. And I questioned the need or worth of them until I had attended plenty of meetings.

Even after my husband joined our neighborhood association in Lykins and eventually ended up as president, I remained dubious. What was it really for? What could it accomplish?

And until this fall, an evening class for the kiddo had prevented me from attending our Lykins monthly meetings on the 2nd Monday. I went to November’s meeting, the first in a year or two that I was able to attend, and was bowled over.

There were speakers, so many of them, and they were talking about investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in rehabbing existing structures (currently abandoned), building new housing in vacant lots, and revitalizing an area that I have come to love.

We also were lucky to have a police officer, one of those tasked with community outreach, available to give us a “Crime and Grime” update, as well as someone from the CID and NEAT, asking for help with creating more safe and crime-free destinations for our youth to go to on Friday and Saturday nights.

I found myself volunteering, having come straight from NaNoWriMo at our local elementary school, to host a writing class for teens. In the up and coming Maker Space on 12th, which is where we hold the neighborhood association meetings, there are classrooms being built that could eventually accommodate that.

I left the meeting so excited about the future of our neighborhood. In my mind’s eye I could see cute bungalows rising in the empty lots, decrepit and boarded up homes sparkling with a fresh coat of paint and new windows – and all of them filled with families of all ethnicities and walks of life.

If you want to see the future of our community, you need to attend one of your neighborhood association meetings.

Northeast Kansas City Historical Society

I moved here to live in an old home. I adore old homes and consider it a banner day when I get to see the inside of one and explore the changes the years have wrought upon it.

Each year, the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society holds a walking tour of around 4-6 homes. We were lucky enough to be one of those homes on the 2016 tour. All of the years (all six) have been phenomenal and it is a joy to hang out with others who share my love of architecture and want to help preserve it.

If you love the older architecture here in Kansas City and would like to:

  • See and learn more about it
  • Attend a home tour (or serve as a docent – you get to see them for free when you do!)
  • Meet others (including a historian) who share your interests
  • Support a group dedicated to preserving our architectural history

Then I strongly recommend you consider a membership with NEKCHS. It’s just $20 per year and you will get reduced prices on tickets for the Homes Tour the second Saturday of October, as well as a discount on their books and merchandise.

They also have an amazing book out that highlights so many of our historic properties and a second one coming out in February 2018!

These Are Only a Few

I’ve listed a small handful of organizations and activities that are occurring. Half a dozen more have occurred to me while writing about these!

There are so many good things happening in our area. And I hope to continue to focus on the positive, not the negative, even as we take steps to stop the negative from occurring.

I count myself as lucky to live here and I hope that you do as well.

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I write about everything from gardening and community, to education, the writing process, DIY, and more. I maintain four blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books, and I am a community educator.

Click here to join the email list and receive ONE monthly newsletter that will provide you will all of the links to my blogs, updates on my writing projects as well as book promotions and special pricing.

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Posted in Advocacy, Community | Comments Off on What I See Happening Here Instead

Reinforced Shelving and Pesto Bread

I used to hate winter. Now I love it – well, I don’t love the cold but I do love the time inside for projects and especially love whipping up some comfort food.

Reinforced Shelving

A couple of months ago, one of the big shelves from IKEA was wrenched out of the wall by the weight of the books on it. CRASH! We came home to a kitchen splashed in purple, littered with glass shards, and reeking of spilled wine.

It was impossible to get back up on the wall and my dear husband’s patience was put to the test. With nothing but lath and plaster walls – we couldn’t find a stud, and the anchors the first hardware store sold us were easily bent and broken.

We needed something with a little more oomph to stop these shelves from coming down again.

After diligent research, my hubs found just the tool and we took down and reinstalled ALL of the shelves so that we would no longer have to worry about them capsizing on us.

Pesto Bread and Leftover Soup for Dinner – YUM!

Thanks to no central a/c and only window units during the hot summer months, my attitude towards fall and winter has changed dramatically. I used to HATE the onset of winter, but now, instead of just shivering in the cold, I smile and turn on the oven. It is the perfect time for baking bread and dishing up some hearty soups.

The minute it gets cold, and I do mean the minute, I am in the kitchen and whipping up yummies to fill our stomachs and chase away the cold.

And as I put the finishing touches on organizing my pantry and my open kitchen shelves I suddenly envisioned fresh-baked bread with pesto and parmesan.

Now I had never made it before, so I paged through a couple of possible recipes online and finally just prepped it like I would my Chile Cheese Bread recipe, except I substituted parmesan for the cheddar and pesto for the chiles. I wish I had some pine nuts, that would have been a lovely addition!

Next time, for sure!

Here is the recipe for the Pesto Bread. Enjoy!

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp pesto
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 6 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts

Mix the water, yeast, salt, sugar, pesto, and cheese together. Add the flour and pine nuts and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is mixed and resembles a “shaggy” consistency. Cover and let rise for two hours.

Cut off 1/4 of the dough, dusting your hands thoroughly with flour and shape it into a ball. Place on a baking pan with a non-stick surface, liberally dusted with cornmeal. Let it rise again for 20 minutes or longer if you have refrigerated the dough.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, add a baking pan to the bottom shelf of the oven. When the oven has come to temperature, place the dough (baking sheet and all) in the oven and add one cup of water to the baking pan below and shut the door. Bake for 25 minutes, more or less may be needed for bigger or smaller loaves.

Loaves should be a golden brown on the outside.

This batch turned out rather well. The husband was quite happy, as was I.

The strong flavor of the pesto turned off the “kids” – my 11-year-old and the 71-year-old overgrown kid of the house, but hey, the “adults” liked it!

Organized Pantry

After running to the grocery store on Saturday morning and somehow losing a freshly bought jar of pickles to the chaos of a disorganized pantry – I realized it was time to reorganize it.

And this time I was going to label it!

It didn’t take long. It was mostly organized already, but enough things had been moved or set into place in random areas to make it confusing.

Canned chiles for example – we had them scattered in three different spots. So now I have eight cans of chiles. Which should last me through spring, possibly longer.

It sure is nice to have it all organized and labeled!

Monthly Newsletter

I will be adding an “organizing tip of the month” to my monthly newsletter. The newsletter also keeps readers updated on a number of things:

  • Book promotions and special pricing
  • Requests for interested beta readers to critique and review my books for free
  • Current writing projects and plans
  • Links to all of my monthly blog posts – I post in four different blogs, so it can be easy to miss one.
  • Upcoming classes or events

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I Miss Sleeping

The hot flashes have subsided. In fact, I haven’t had one in weeks. But sleeping the whole night through? I wish!

I seem to manage about 5-6 hours a night, where before I was a strict eight hours a night kind of gal.

I hate the idea of taking sleep aids, but I’m telling something has got to give if I keep waking up so early in the morning!

I took one last night and only woke up to the chaos of three dogs jumping off of the bed at 6:30 in the morning. It is a daily race to the the bottom of the stairs, down the hall, through the kitchen and utility room to jump over each other trying to get outside when one of us opens the door. I refer to it as “the running of the dogs.”

It was fantastic to get a full night’s sleep. In fact, I think I managed over NINE hours of snoozing.

So wonderful!

Melatonin seems to wear off after about six hours and Tylenol PM is what I took last night, but I would really like to find something natural that will keep me asleep for my needed eight hours.

Email Newsletter

I write about everything from gardening and community, to education, the writing process, DIY, and more. I maintain four blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books, and I am a community educator.

Click here to join the email list and receive ONE monthly newsletter that will provide you will all of the links to my blogs, updates on my writing projects as well as book promotions and special pricing.

Your email will NEVER be sold or shared and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Posted in Challenges, DIY, Organized Living (and cleaning), Recipes | Comments Off on Reinforced Shelving and Pesto Bread

Rest In Peace Porch Cat

My dad has described his parents as folks who “always brought home strays.” I think in their case it was of the human variety, but I tend to find the furred variety on my doorstep and invite it in.

About a year and a half, nearly two years ago – my husband noticed a gray tabby. He had a hurt leg and was limping. He was also scared to death of humans and bolted (as quick as you can on three legs) whenever one of us came near.

At the time we had one inside/outside cat – Einstein – who is now in his twelfth year – and they seemed to tolerate each other pretty well. Einstein did his best to ignore Porch Cat and Porch Cat was pretty laid back (except for running like the devil himself was in pursuit anytime we showed our faces).

We began to set the food bowl outside for Einstein and Porch Cat – something the local neighborhood possum appreciated as well [sigh].

And after over a year, even longer, Porch Cat began to be less and less nervous, and even allowed us to pet him occasionally. Just a touch of fingers, then a light rub, and finally, finally, a good scratch behind the ears.

He grew to be a fixture on our front porch, lolling on a chair cushion or the carpet – and finally even came to like visitors and their attention.

About a month ago, my husband walked out of the house early in the morning to find the most incongruous scene before him – a possum and Porch Cat – spooning on a chair on the front porch! The possum ran away, but Porch Cat didn’t, he knew he was safe.

On Monday, shortly after my daughter Em returned home from school. I let out the dogs into the backyard and as Em and I were talking we heard a strange sound. Em walked over to a window to look to see what the sound was and began screaming incoherently and running for the back door.

Our three dogs, unfamiliar with Porch Cat, were attacking him in the dog yard. Em stopped the attack and Porch Cat limped away to a windowsill. It was chaos – our neighbors came running after hearing the screaming, Em was crying and hysterical, my heart was pounding so hard I thought it would burst, and the cat was terrified and growling at my attempts to coax him into a kennel and take him to the animal hospital.

There he was treated for shock, including IV fluids and pain meds, and he was also tested for FLV (Feline Leukemia Virus a.k.a. Feline AIDS). We learned today that he tested positive. This was heartbreaking.

As an outdoor cat – he represented an infectious danger to every cat in the neighborhood. Most were, I am sure, without FLV vaccine protection. As an indoor cat, if he even COULD be an indoor cat, he represented an infectious danger to our indoor cat.

And so we made the hard decision to put him down. I will be having our indoor/outdoor cat checked tomorrow, and put down if he has it, because he has already shown a proclivity for outdoor living (i.e. he craps on the floor if he’s kept inside).

The indoor-only cat will be tested as well, but we will keep her regardless of results. She will always be an indoor cat and there will simply be no other cats in the house while she is here.

The kiddo has cried buckets on every day this week. She sobbed as we got into the car at the vet’s office without Porch Cat and said, “I know we are doing the right thing, but it sure doesn’t FEEL right.”

It’s a punch in the gut, to be sure.

Animals come into our lives, and we do the best that we can for them. We love them, care for them, feed them – and all I can think is that we did the best we could for Porch Cat. His last nine months on earth were good ones. He will be remembered with fondness.

Rest in peace, Porch Cat.

Posted in Critters, Pets | Comments Off on Rest In Peace Porch Cat

Plateaus and Planetesimals

Plateaus…

You remember how I mentioned (at least once or twice) my weight loss goals?

Well, I hit a plateau. One that saw a weight gain of three pounds before slowly creeping back down.

I have no one to blame but myself and my obsession/love affair with food. I remain fully convinced that if food didn’t taste so damned good I’d be a skinny little minx by now.

But food is wonderful, full of yummy, tantalizing goodness. It says “I have chocolate right here” in that sexy, come hither voice. And I stop thinking about the scales and instead focus on eating every bit of chocolate, or whatever other scrumptious bit of home-cooking or pizza or eating out has to offer.

And the weight stays on me, or worse, GROWS.

So, when I posted on Facebook three weeks ago – “205.5!” – it did not last It was a flash in the pan, because it soared up to 208 before I got a handle on it and slowly maneuvered it back to a new low this morning of 205.

[sigh]

Rule #1 – I weigh myself every day under the same circumstances at approximately the same time of day. This allows me to keep on top of weight changes and fluctuations.

Rule #2 – I do not starve myself, deny myself any treats, or eat weird foods in order to lose weight.

Rule #3 – I set five-pound-at-a-time goals – “get my weight below 205” is my current goal.

Rule #4 – It isn’t enough to make the goal, it has to hold steady for three weeks before it is considered “accomplished”

On September 26th, I hit my last goal of “below 210” for three or more weeks and called it good. And over a month later, I am now once again approaching my new goal “below 205” which I will need to hold steady through most of November before it is fully “accomplished.”

I am determined, however. Even though the next two months will be a parade of food – I can do this and get my weight closer to 200 by the end of next month.

Below 200…that’s something I haven’t been in nearly ten years.

Planetesimals

When I was choosing a title for this post, “plateaus and planetesimals” kept reverberating in my head.

But honestly, I’ve got nothing on planetesimals. Sorry.

Instead, I’ve to images of black holes of time sucking, non-productive minutiae running about in my gray folds. Facebook, for one, there is a time suck I’m doing my best to avoid. I’ll drop in for ten minutes or so each day, but that’s it. I need to focus on getting a book (or books) written in the next few months.

Why?

Well, for several reasons:

  1. It’s cold out, so no more gardening or fence building or other outdoor activities.
  2. I really need to get these stories written while I have some free time – the kiddo is in school and my days are relatively free for a couple of hours per day.

Yep, time to write.

Wait, you said SEVERAL reasons – you only listed two. That makes a couple of reasons, not several.

My, my, aren’t you observant?

I’m not ready to tell you reason #3. [wink]

All in good time.

Posted in Goals/Dreams, Health | Comments Off on Plateaus and Planetesimals

Bring On the Roses!

After losing my shirt…well, $140…on plants from USA Nursery (NEVER EVER USE THEM!!!!), I’ve been a little more cautious about where I spend my money.

I wanted quality plants, but for a reasonable price. And my problems with folks walking through our yard, while massively reduced from when we first moved here four years ago, is still a problem.

The border, and my desire for more plants, are intrinsically connected.

I just received my favorite plant catalog. It isn’t fancy, it doesn’t even have color photos, but what it does have is decent prices, heirloom plants, and a good reputation.

I have bought all of the fruit trees I have planted in the last eight years from Fedco Trees. But they don’t just sell trees, they also have roses, strawberries, and more.

Today, the roses caught my eye and I realized immediately that they were the perfect answer to my woes. For one, they are beautiful and smell great. For two, when planted at the base of say a window, or along the border of a yard you want folks to stop walking into, they are kind of perfect.

Guaranteed to scratch the crap out of intruders, they are a pretty, nice-smelling way of keeping folks out of places they should not be.

And I’m a fan of being nice, when possible, yet firm.

So I’m perusing the list of offerings from Fedco and I am picking out all of the rosebushes that grow tall and wide – Rosa Rugosa is at the top of the list for thorny wonderfulness, and at $16.50 for a bundle of five, it will be the basis of our living fence.

Rosa Rugosa grows four feet high and spreads to six feet wide. For maximum coverage, I think I will plant these just four feet apart along the back of the Cottage West. That should provide an excellent wall of blooms that deters folks from entering the backyard within the next year or two.

I’ll probably purchase two bundles, so that I can alternate Rosa Rugosa with other cultivars, since Fedco has eight more varieties to choose from:

  • Maiden’s Blush
  • Maxima (also known as Jacobite Rose)
  • Baiset Sunrise Sunset
  • Cinnamon Rose (smells faintly of cinnamon and cloves)
  • Alain Blanchard
  • Tuscany
  • Dart’s Dash (an old-fashioned rose)
  • Linda Campbell (an old-fashioned rose)

Of that list, only the Baiset Sunrise Sunset and Tuscany are roses that I would not plant along a wall or property border. They are both a mere two feet by three feet – and I want the big ‘uns that grow to four or five feet tall by six to eight feet in width.

So, one of each the big cultivars plus two bundles of Rosa Rugosa for just under $140 before shipping.

Bring on the roses!

Posted in Garden Planning | Comments Off on Bring On the Roses!

More Brick-Laying

Sweeping sand into the cracks between the brick pavers – this path leads around our big maple tree and to our side gate into the dog yard

Soon it will be more than just nippy in the morning. Then winter will descend upon us and I’ll be focused on the inside projects.

Until then…

This is the west side pathway. This picture was from a couple of weeks ago. The pile of bricks is now gone!

Brick Moving = Brick Laying

I have nearly moved all of the brick from the sides of Cottage East!

The paths on both sides are clear, with a few bricks scattered here and there, and several large stacks.

I woke up this morning and decided I would re-do the brick paths in my side yard. Originally laid directly on the ground with no weed blocking landscape fabric, often the wrong kind of bricks (ones with holes in them), and far too narrow of a path – it all needed to be re-done.

Herb garden to the right and maple tree to the left

So I pulled up a few rows of bricks, laid down the landscape fabric, and got to work on the new (and wider) path.

Later I nagged Dave into running to the store and buying some sand and together we put down around 180 pounds of sand and swept it into the cracks between the bricks.

I’ll probably need around three more 60-pound bags, but the path looks GREAT!

From the other side (Cottage East in the distance) – I think I will wrap the path around the maple tree. And here is where I ran out of sand!

Plans Change

My plan for laying all of the bricks we collected off of the sides of Cottage East in the backyard as an English garden has changed.

View from the other side. This took hours, but it is going to look awesome and be very functional for us.

For one, the yard is very uneven and will need leveling. For two, I’ve laid a majority of the brick down on both sides of the Cottage as walkways, and I really like the look of it. I would have to give up having the paved walkways on each side in order to have enough bricks for the backyard.

I’ve planted the sides of this path with plenty of iris and daylilies. They will grow in strong in the spring!

So the bricks that are in stacks will go to widen pathways and make new ones – all done properly, with an underlayment of landscape fabric and paver sand to help hold the loose bricks in place.

The base of the maple tree is planted with lamb’s ear, hosta, daylilies and some herbs. I think I will wrap the path around it to further accentuate the plantings.

Eventually, I’ll landscape the backyard of Cottage East and lay in a path of bricks from one corner of the yard to the other to get guests from the off-street parking to the back steps of the Cottage.

This new path is twice as wide as the old one. Which is good, because the plants really tend to fill in and block the walkway. I will eventually take this path all the way to the front walkway. I still need to “curve” it a little more.

Posted in DIY, Garden Planning | Comments Off on More Brick-Laying

Weight Goals and Upcoming Event

I considered adding these topics to my last post, but it was already long enough, so here you go – a brand new post!

Weight Loss Goals and Accomplishments

I’ve mentioned before that, since rescuing my dad from Panama late last year – I’ve had a couple of fires lit under my butt.

#1 – Lose weight and avoid the onset of Type 2 diabetes

#2 – Get a plan for retirement in place because planning on living with my kid when I am old and decrepit is NOT a retirement plan

So by mid-May, I had figured out this whole “diabetic-friendly diet” and began in earnest. I started weighing myself daily, eating sensibly while cutting down on carbs, sweets, and portion sizes.

Goal #1 – Get my weight below 220

I accomplished this on 6/28 and immediately set a new goal:

Goal #2 – Get my weight below 215

This was accomplished on 8/5, which led to my third goal:

Goal #3 – Get my weight below 210

And on Tuesday, after having been below 210 for a full 20 days, I considered that goal accomplished as well.

Because my weight can fluctuate 1-3 pounds on a daily basis, even though I weigh myself at the same time and under the same circumstances, I figure that a time span of three weeks at the target weight is appropriate for considering a goal “accomplished.”

I hit 209.5 on 9/6, which started the clock. I got down to 207 last week.

I don’t need huge weight loss all at once – what I need is a healthy decline in weight over time that STAYS off.

So now I’m on Goal #4 – get my weight below 205.

My long-term goal is to get my weight down to 170 pounds. I haven’t been that weight in more than two decades, but I know it can be done. If I average six weeks for each five pound goal, then we are looking at me arriving at my long-term goal of 170 by mid July 2018. That really is not long at all when you consider how long it took me to get to the weight I am now!

But that is assuming that I just continue to lose weight through sensible eating. I imagine my weight loss will slow and I will need to begin exercising more by then. So we shall see.

Another way to look at it? If I continue on this current path – I will have lost ALL of the weight gained over the past 20 years in just over ONE YEAR. When you look at it that way, I think it sounds pretty frickin’ awesome!

Meanwhile, I went in on Tuesday to see Dr. Edwards, who heads Kansas City Direct Primary Care and get the A1C blood test, a test that looks specifically at your blood sugar levels over the past 90 days. The A1C test indicates whether you are normal, at risk for developing diabetes or already have the disease. Here is the breakdown:

Normal below 5.7 percent
Diabetes 6.5 percent or above
Prediabetes 5.7 to 6.4 percent

Thanks to my diligence, my dad, who has been a type 2 diabetic for 20+ years, scored 5.6 on the test recently! I have tested at around 6.2 percent, which is prediabetic, both four years ago and again around four months ago. My test results now? 6.0 percent!

My doc wrote, “Even a change of .2% in the right direction is a HUGE change since most of the time I’m seeing people who are moving in the other direction…but full percentage points. Keep up the good work!”

So, while I am still considered pre-diabetic, I’m making changes to see that A1C fall to normal ranges.

I was talking to my chiropractor yesterday about this and he said, “Imagine an A1C of 14%.” It turns out he had that, plus blood sugars in the 500 range. He made changes to his lifestyle, his eating habits in particular, and is now back out of diabetes and in the normal range.

A good calorie calculator I just found is my next step in dialing in my weight loss goals. You can play around with it to determine short-term and long-term weight loss goals. If, for example, I want to weigh 150 pounds and know my lifestyle will be sedentary, according to my height and age, I should limit my caloric intake to 1600 calories per day. OR I can make changes in my activity level, and “earn” myself the right to more calories per day if I think that 1600 calories are too little.

I don’t plan on obsessively counting calories – after all, I already weigh myself daily and consider that rather extreme – but it is a nice tool to use.

Northeast Kansas City Historical Society Sixth Annual Homes Tour

It’s that time again!

I have to admit that I look forward to this homes tour every year. I really do! Last year, having our neighborhood as the tour destination was phenomenal, and this year, I’m excited to see TWO of my cleaning clients as destinations on the tour!

I will be a docent at one of them, probably in the morning, at the house on the top left in the photo above. I can’t wait, I love to look at the rooms and get decorating ideas each time I am there to clean it. The owners have impeccable taste and have done so much work to improve the home over the years.

I hope you will set aside some time in your schedule to visit each of the houses on Saturday, October 14th. The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Allocate plenty of time, you won’t want to miss lingering over the carved wood, antiques, fireplaces, and stenciled ceilings. And so much more!

Posted in Events/Tours, Health | Comments Off on Weight Goals and Upcoming Event

Bricks So Many Bricks

The stairs at their proper width (we widened them last year)

Truly Backbreaking Work

My love of bricks began when we moved here over four and a half years ago. A beautiful old brick house needs brick pathways.

And with five lots, I had plenty of room to lay down a few pathways. In the first year, a long-abandoned house down the street burned and I knew the city would be coming in with bulldozers to level the lot. In the back of the house was a brick patio.

We made several trips back and forth with the wheelbarrow and I assembled a small pile of bricks. The next spring, I laid them on top of the concrete path, leading to the steps at the front of our house.

Just a plain little sidewalk back in 2014

And with that small act, I caught the brick bug bad. (Say that ten times fast)

Over the years I have scoured Craig’s List ads for free bricks, worn out the shocks in my van hauling them back, and made quite a few paths (most of which need to be re-done…it’s a learning curve, after all).

The first brick path, laid directly over the cement walkway

My friends and family have made many jokes about it. “We saw a pile of bricks and thought of you, Christine!”

circa 2015

Well, let me tell you, with my most recent purchase, the little wood frame house to our east that sported a crumbling brick facade, I can attest that I have won the brick jackpot.

Along the way, words I never thought I would utter have been spilling out of my mouth…

Early 2016 before we expanded the stairs

“Where are we going to put all of these bricks?”

“I move them until I can’t move and there are still so many of them!”

The brick path to the property line on the east side of Cottage East

“Will we ever be able to get all of these bricks moved?!”

Well, folks, the end is in sight…mostly. Here are the most recent pictures.

The view of the entire east side of Cottage East

As you can see, we have laid down a pathway on one side. It needs a little fixing, but it’s close. And the other side needs a weekend of work and it should be done as well.

The west side of Cottage East. The pathway extends to around the halfway mark.

And this is a good thing, because we have a couple of guys coming in after next weekend to work on removing the windows, framing them out for new ones, fixing some foundation issues, and removing the rotting boards, replacing them with plywood/OSB and wrapping it all with Tyvek.

The front walkway of Cottage East. I guess I need to learn how to shape brick now so I can cut them into triangles and give it a finished look.

Revitalizing My Classes – Just a Handful, Though

I’m going to teach a few classes next year. Right now I have two on the books:

June 7th, 2018 6:30-8:00 p.m. Make Your Own Vinaigrettes and Dressings

October 11th, 2018 6:30-8:00 p.m. Homemade Breads and MYO Butter Spreads

These classes are free to attend and will be held at North Kansas City Public Library but pre-registration is required. Contact NKCPL for details.

There will be one more class, one on DIY Coffee Creamers, set for a Saturday morning in either March or April. I’ll let you know when we have a specific date on that.

That’s a crapload of grass growing in my former/future crop garden.

A Garden Next Year?

The irony that I originally started this blog to talk about my garden and what I was growing in it has not escaped me. For the past two years, I have had little or no garden and even less time to think about gardening.

I hope that will change next year, but I’m not sure. So for now, I’m tentatively planning a garden. Just a very basic one. I would love to grow:

  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Watermelon
  • Pumpkins
  • Swiss Chard

Low key.

A line of bricks here at the front of Cottage East side yard keeps the dirt/mud from coating the sidewalk and making it a slippery mess for passersby. You can see the remnants of the last rain still on the concrete.

Those Airbnb Dreams

We have a LOT of work in front of us for Cottage East. The work to get it safe from the elements is paramount and will be completed before the end of the year.

We won’t be installing siding or new windows until spring, however, but the plywood/OSB and Tyvek wrap should be enough to hold it until then.

I’m busy adding this pathway in our side yard. It connects with another pathway already there. The brick edging will help define the yard from the sidewalk and prevent mud from seeping onto the sidewalk and furthering shallow rooted plant growth onto the actual sidewalk areas.

Cottage West is in a holding pattern for now for a couple of reasons.

#1 – We need to get one project completed fully and completely.

#2 – The neighbor next to it is mentally unbalanced.

#2 doesn’t necessarily interfere with #1 – but once work is done on either cottage we want it making money. And frankly? Having an unbalanced guy living directly next door to a property that has folks coming and going constantly is not going to work.

So we wait. We fix up Cottage East, get it performing on Airbnb and producing income. Use that income to fix up Cottage West, and then possibly do a long-term rental instead. I doubt the neighbor will behave any better, but I have no problem with pushing forward harassment charges and a lawsuit against him if he is behaving poorly. Having one person/family there to provide testimony would certainly be easier to move forward in a court of law.

And considering the neighbor has a laundry list of problems to address with his own home, I can only hope he will focus on them, instead of making trouble with us. Honestly, as it stands the house he is in probably needs to be condemned.

Posted in AirBnB, Classes, DIY, Garden Planning | Comments Off on Bricks So Many Bricks

Each Step Moves Us Forward

The balancing act continues, dear readers. Each week we balance caring for my dad, the typical house/home stuff, tending to the acre of land we are now responsible for, and tackling the projects that will move forward our renovation projects.

Now That Was Dumb

This past Wednesday I returned home from a cleaning to see that roof supplies were being delivered to Cottage West. However, they were placing everything on the ground of the front yard.

I went up and asked what was going on and the guy said, “Well, the roofer was worried because you had pulled the brick walls off that if we put the material on the roof the house might collapse.”

“Um, those bricks are a facade, the frame is intact.”

The guy shrugged.

“So when is the roofer coming?”

He shrugged again, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

I went inside and called Champion, who we are contracting with for the roof, siding and windows – because I was quite concerned. No matter what neighborhood you live in, delivering construction material without any kind of security in place is not a good idea. And certainly not in our area! I explained to the folks at Champion that I was not going to be held responsible for the theft and that they needed to get someone out here pronto to secure the supplies.

No one ever showed up.

My husband made sure to put the small stuff inside the house, but the tar paper and roofing materials were far too heavy. That night, it appears someone tried to move the tar paper and couldn’t, but the next night? They made sure to take every last bit of tar paper and shingles. The only thing left was a piece of plastic that wrapped around the tar paper!

Everyone over at Champion is rather embarrassed and they promised we would not be held responsible for the loss.

Still, I really was ticked. I don’t want the house becoming a target for additional thefts!

A few hundred neatly stacked bricks behind Cottage East – and only a couple thousand to go!

Just 120 Bricks a Day

Just in case you haven’t already guessed, I’m a goal-oriented person. And while the massive piles of bricks surrounding Cottage East are rather overwhelming, I have come up with a plan that works for me.

On Saturday, I grabbed our wheelbarrow and slid it up to the bricks on the east side of the cottage, as close as I could. I only took the whole bricks, of which there are plenty. I can move about 24 bricks at a time. Keep in mind, these are older bricks, which weight a sight more than new bricks do. Modern bricks weigh in at three pounds, but old bricks are heavier and weigh around five pounds.

So many bricks to go!

This adds up believe me!

I try and move five loads of 24 bricks each, for a total of 120 bricks. If I try to move more than that, I end up being very, very sorry in the hours and day that follow.

So far, I’ve managed to move five loads on Saturday and five on Sunday.

All of the broken brick gets shoved to the sides and I just keep moving the wheelbarrow in – I’ve managed to clear about six feet of the pile on the east side so far!

And then there is the east side of the house. I worked on this today and cleared about four feet in.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of the broken brick, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

This week I plan on moving 120 bricks per day, for at least Monday through Thursday. I think I can get at least half, possibly 2/3 of the brick on the west side of the house moved and stacked that way.

Now that it is nice and clear, it is time for me to plant Althea and mint. I’ve already started with the Althea.

Tree Stumps, Begone!

When we first took possession of Cottage West, we had a bunch of trees growing along the east wall of it. They bent over the roof and were damaging the already “past its prime” roof.

The side of Cottage West in July 2014

We cut them down, but it was one of the first times Dave had used a chainsaw, and the brush was thick, so it seems that some of it grew back.

With the chainsaw, hand snips and lopper we managed to clear the wall.

Althea, also known as Rose of Sharon. It grows easily and self-propagates whether you want it to or not!

I want to plant the entire length with Althea (also known as Rose of Sharon) and mint, I think it will make it far easier to manage if we just have to mow right up to the mint. The Althea will grow in thick and self-propagate, so in a few years, it should be a solid wall of flowering green bushes growing up to about 8-10 feet in height. Mix that with lovely mint at its feet and we will have quite the groundcover in a few years.

It occurred to me as I was planting some of the altheas starts that once the mint takes hold, two awesome things will happen.

This spot under the Cottage West front porch needs a nice screen of Althea and mint.

  1. Ants will avoid invading the house – they detest the smell of mint (as do cockroaches and mice)
  2. The mint could actually act as an early alarm system if anyone were to be walking around outside. The smell of crushed mint can be smelled up to 100 feet away. Back in Belton, Dave mowed mint over 100 feet away from where I was standing, pulling weeds. I was convinced I was somehow standing on mint because it was SO strong!

My very healthy horseradish plant

I keep adding plants and pulling weeds. Eventually it will look better!

Move a Plant Here, Move a Plant There

As the rain fell lightly on Sunday, I took advantage of the moist ground and dug in deep, moving plants from other sections of the yard and trying to work with plant heights to create a more organized garden in the front of Cottage East.

My painted rose is blooming.

Huh, who am I kidding – tall plants, short plants, I just want to fill it with plants!

I also weeded Cottage West and gently pulled about 15 Althea plants out of the ground and relocated them now that the east wall of Cottage West is clear of trees.

Yes, I weighed over 220 and yes, I’m currently working on the “less than 210” goal. Slow but steady wins the race!

Pains and Pounds

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had a ton of body pain in the past few months. Specifically, my lower back muscles and also my right foot has been showing signs of plantar fasciitis.

One of the huge “Here’s your sign” moments from my dad coming to live with me was the reminder that I am pre-diabetic and overweight. Two huge strikes against me.

And eight months after flying to Panama to pick him up, I am reminded daily of a couple big life lessons:

  1. Take care of your body because you only get one – no replacement parts exist
  2. Prepare for the future financially – it is unrealistic to expect your children to care for you when you are old, suffering from dementia, AND also happen to be destitute. Uh uh, that is NOT going to happen if I can help it. Besides, I’ve only got the one to depend on!

So very quickly, the goal of losing a lot of weight was pushed high on my list. I have never been a “dieter” in my life and I have also never been interested in any quick weight loss schemes. So I went about weight loss in this order:

  • Slow down – eat slower
  • Be aware of portions and eat a more balanced meal
  • Slowly decrease portions
  • Exercise as often as I can
  • Make reasonable goals for weight loss (i.e. Set a goal of losing five pounds, achieve that goal for a full 3-4 weeks, then make a new five pound weight goal.

Exercising was a doozy because as soon as my weight loss and exercise became a priority, my body rebelled with massive pain in my back, legs, knees and feet.

At this point I STILL can’t get on the treadmill, but things are improving with regular visits to a chiropractor, deep tissue massage and now my daily stretching exercises. In the past week my pain has gone down and overall in the past three months I have lost around nine pounds.

I still have a long way to go, but those nine pounds are hard-won, let me tell you!

A little spot in my “new” office.

Next Weekend – Moving a Ton of Brush?

I think that next weekend we will rent a truck again and move a ton of brush off the property and possibly one load of paint cans to the paint recycling place nearby.

We have at least 200 cans of paint that we inherited with our purchase of Cottage East in various places – the west side of the house, upstairs in the front room, and stacks and stacks in the basement.

But the brush – aiee! We have a HUGE stack in the backyard of Cottage East, a smaller stack at the end of the alley, and plenty of bigger pieces of wood that we are considering just cutting into smaller pieces and keeping for campfires.

I will probably spend some time this week, cutting down more treelings and adding them to the piles

Furniture is always moving around my house. I inherited the obsessive rearranging gene from my mother. My cool estate sale find – a manual typewriter – sits on a small table in the hall at the top of the stairs and is accompanied by an Eastlake needlepoint chair.

Each Step Moves Us Forward

I’ll admit it, at times it is overwhelming. There is so much to do!

To that end, I’ve suggested to my husband a few changes in how we handle projects.

I’m hoping that 2-3 evenings per week, we can work on little projects – moving stuff up, down or around – installing the security cameras we bought (that sure would have come in handy on Thursday night) or motion detector floodlights – finishing the wiring projects – et cetera.

Waiting until the weekend to tackle ALL OF THIS STUFF is rather overwhelming.

It’s hard. I know we need down time, but we also need to finish some of these projects. If we don’t, then the money is just flowing out, and NOT flowing in.

Luckily, we work together well. Never underestimate the value of hard work and a partner willing to work by your side towards a common goal!

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And She Danced…

This weekend was devoted first to neighborhood obligations – my husband is the president of the neighborhood association and was slinging hot dogs for the masses on Saturday.

Meanwhile, I was at a chiropractor doing my best to deal with the constant pain I have been in. My lower back has a cluster of muscles that is pretty much constantly spasming. Combine that with plantar fasciitis in my right foot and I feel pretty much useless at times.

The rest of the day was filled with the basic minutiae of living – laundry, chores, and more. And on Saturday we woke to rain and the low growl of thunder.

No brick moving for us.

Instead, we threw ourselves into more work inside our house. I now have my office in the smallest room in the house. This room was probably a nursery or sewing room at one time.

Dave had his office in it originally, but moved to the front bedroom, right next door. And while my office has always been located in the library, I decided it was time to devote just a few more square feet of space to exercise and health.

So now my old office is our new workout room. I can’t wait to get a smart tv and mount it on the wall. That or a projector, since I’ve got a laptop I can use while exercising at the treadmill.

Solar Eclipse

Yesterday, however, was very special. My husband had asked for the day off of work months ago. I wrote a note for Em’s school on Friday letting them know she would not be attending on Monday.

This feels very “Night of the Comet” for me (which I cannot tell you how many umpteen times I watched as a teen). Thankfully we escaped with our vision intact and did not become piles of red dust or find ourselves with cannabilistic tendencies. At least, not yet!

Instead, we all piled into the car and drove to Columbia – a place I was sure, after carefully checking the hourly projections for three different cities within range, would have the least cloud cover and the best show.

An “eclipse” rock we found at the park

We planted ourselves at Flat Branch Brewery, where just yards away was this lovely little park with a creek running through it. Emily played in the creek for over an hour before we headed back up and ate lunch while watching as the sun was slowly consumed by the moon.

Dad really seemed to like the trip. He was only annoying a handful of times, which might be a record for him.

As it neared totality, I took Em’s hand and we walked to the park, lay down on the damp grass and watched as the moon slid in front of the sun. A ring of yellow-white fire surrounded it and I could see a corona jet out from the right side of the moon, the sun fiercely declaring it would not tolerate being obscured for long.

Emily danced around me and then we both looked at each other and I said, “Come on, let’s go find Daddy!” We met him just steps away from the park because he had the same idea.

The creek at the nearby park. I love creeks. I remember taking Dee to one in San Jose when she was a few years younger than that.

It was a magical, mystical experience. Side by side, we hugged and watched as the sun reappeared.

Em loved the creek.

I have seen one other eclipse, 40 years ago, on the side of a highway in Oregon. I was seven and grumpy from a long car ride. We also didn’t have the super-cool glasses that we did Monday.

Yesterday was…perfect. I spent it with the people I love, who love me back, and it was a truly life-changing event.

It will stick in my memory for a very long time.

 

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