Friday, 22 March 2019

Turn in the Road

Last year was a year of travel with several motives. One motive was exploring towns, states, locations, communities for a home that could be ours. A place we could feel comfortable, a place we felt offered us something, and a place that we felt we had something to offer in return. We each had a list of things we wanted, but the list was flexible. We knew compromise would be needed, nothing is perfect, and certainly nothing could be perfect for two persons with such varied interests.

We liked many places. We liked small towns, larger towns, towns in the north, towns near the Mexican border. We liked pretty much any town with a halfway friendly vibe, a library, a few restaurants, and a brewery. There are many towns that fit that criteria, but all of them had some negative (for us) that made them not 100% appealing or worth the risk of a move. So we reasoned: if there wasn’t a town that we loved in all of our travels, why not choose the town we already have?

I’ve lived on my south Texas property for six years, but I have not made Hallettsville my home community. I have maintained clients and community in Austin and Houston instead. For six years, I have driven the two hours to work for organizing clients and rehearse and visit my music communities. A two hour commute has been an acceptable price to pay for the lovely retreat I have created on my ten acre oak tree paradise.

Because we love the property, we decided to honestly give the Hallettsville community all of our energy to see if we could find a social and a working space to call our own. We got an office in town and advertised our services in multiple ways. We got involved and went to every function the town had to offer for six months. It’s not that Hallettsville is unfriendly or a bad place, but it does not fit us. We don’t fit Hallettsville. And, Hallettsville does not fit even half of our criteria list. With the exception of the fact that I loved the old 1890s building in which our office space existed, trying to fit our round needs and personalities into Hallettsville’s square space is never going to work.

In a bit of curiosity and frustration, I asked my facebook friends what towns they thought would fit us. Several towns were brought up that I had never heard of. We crossed most northern cities off the list because we don’t really like the idea of freezing for half the year. There was one southern town that caught our attention. We explored online to find locally owned restaurants, an active library, vibrant live music scene, artistic friendly vibe, AND a really weird house listed for sale.

We took our first trip to Silver City, New Mexico in early February. It was without question perfect for us. A town of 10,000 people, it’s big enough to have most conveniences, but small enough to be completely walkable. From that weird house-for-sale, it is only four-tenths of a mile to the library, to a grocery co-op, to a brewery, to the main row of locally owned bookstores and restaurants. There are nearby hiking trails, and people accept us as we are without question or curiosity.

We met with a realtor that week of our visit. She showed us six properties including the really weird house. Weird House is in a great location, the price was right for a house that will be a project for three to five years. Weird House has unbelievable potential and the town is wonderful. We put in an offer and negotiated the contract before going back to Texas.

I am writing this at our dining room table in our crazy Weird House in Silver City. Our move may seem sudden to some, but it is the right move for us. As for the Texas property, that’s the hard part. It’s twelve hours away and does require attention to maintain the space. I’m not trying strongly to sell it at this time, but I am entertaining offers. It may be that we can find a balance and still enjoy visiting, but the world is full of places to visit, and we want to build a life with community and friends. At some point, I’m pretty sure the property will become more of an obligation than a treasure. I would like to sell it before it becomes a thorn in my side. I’d like to pass it on to someone who can enjoy what I with my friends have built while I still love it.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Still Here

We skipped a couple of weeks posting. As with any routine, there are times when something else takes priority. Sometimes it is appropriate to drop the old routine completely, and sometimes the activity is still important, but just needs to sit to the side for a moment.

Creative writing is still a near and dear priority for so many reasons. This month, however, writing has been done plentifully for our new business.

Anne has been a personal trainer for years just as I have been organizing homes for years. We decided a service business combining our talents would be a marketable and beneficial combinations to us and our clients. We both see people getting stuck in habits, sometimes in a spiral that pushes people into depression with only one way to break the cycle: gather up all your remaining oomph and JUST DO IT! Sometimes, the outsider like us, rather than a family member or friend, is just the person to push or pull someone out of that cycle. We don't know your story, we don't judge you, we are just here to add to your momentum. If it's your physical self getting in your way, call us. If it's your surroundings, call us. If it's making a plan or goals and sticking to that, we can help you stay motivated with check-ins. Our main goal is to help people reach their potential, then stay healthy, stay motivated to move to the next bigger brighter goal. We want to live our lives fully and we hope to help others do the same!

We have a new computer system to learn. We have a new office space to set up in a way that will keep us motivated. We have a town to network - if we can not help someone, we hope to know who can! And we have clients to bring into our world. We have a Facebook and Instagram presence to establish.

Once we get ourselves settled a little, creative writing will be back in our active priority schedule. Until then, we have article to write within our areas of expertise which feel a bit like creative writing. We may publish some of those here. It will be fun to get back to writing about the amazing travels and foods and beers we meet! We hope you stick with us through this transition period... and if there is anything we can do for you, let us know!! ~ Solutions for Mind, Body & Home 

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Solutions for Resolution

The holidays are a time of year that bring many people to their knees.  Some in religious prayer and respect towards what Christmas time represents, others spiritually, financially and physically!

The Christmas holidays, which always seems to begin Thanksgiving weekend and last respectfully until the new year, initializing a time of ghostly remembering, unhealthy habits and emotional challenges.  We are reminded of holidays pasts, good and bad.  Memories sparked of loved ones lost.  Relationships to family and friends evaluated.  We begin eating and drinking with reckless abandonment and oh, did I mention spending?  Money that is.  There becomes no limit to the gift giving and one upping in an attempt to make up for a years worth of internalized social or intimate inadequacy.  This is all done in the name of "the holidays" and excused as such.  In the end everyone ends up bankrupt, for all they have forsaken during this special holiday time. 

It is commiserated by a fun little thing called the NEW YEAR.  Like going to confession, we pledge our allegiance to the new year and all that we promise ourselves in the form of RESOLUTION. 

a firm decision to do or not to do something.
"she kept her resolution not to see Anne any more"
synonyms: intention, resolve, decision, intent, aim, plan; 

Halfway through the month of January, we are distraught.  Victims of our own lies to ourselves, the things we would pledge to do or not do.  February comes, the credit card bills for all of the fun we bought ourselves.  Every single year. 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Aaaaakk!   Whether you are filling your calendar with insane parties and getting in touch with people or you are feeling sad because you haven't had a reason this year to buy a turkey, a Christmas tree or a new outfit, don't forget the holiday is a time for gratitude and resetting!  Not being someone else or looking backwards.  The new year is not about making false promises to yourself and your co-workers.  It is about finding solutions to becoming the most authentic person you can be.  Wiping the slate clean and getting fit mentally, fiscally and creating a healthy space within and outside of yourself. 

Abby and I are proud to be a part of this movement!  Proud of encouraging people to read, to write, or journal.  We are excited to dedicate our resources to encouraging our friends, family and clients to not dwell and linger on the past or habitually continue creating new drama.  We want to help free the space within the homes, minds and bodies of those we care about. 

Despite the limited travel for the Eggcellence this year (although we are planning a social visit to Georgetown hopefully!), I am very excited to get back into the full swing of coaching in 2019.  Just setting up to do so, has been eye opening.  And we are definitely in the swing of things!  We would love some feedback on your plans too! 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Thanksgiving once more!

Thanksgiving this year is full of extra thankfulness for us! We had an amazing year and we are rolling toward 2019 full speed ahead full of ideas and energy... Here's what's up:

Anne and I have combined our services to create one business based in Hallettsville called “Solutions.” She is focusing on personal training, food, and habits. I am focusing on home organization, photo scanning and stuff like that. Together, they create Solutions for Mind, Body & Home. 

Our office space is on the downtown square of Hallettsville in an old building built in 1888. We are upstairs down a long hall that opens into the front room of the building with three tall windows looking straight onto the courthouse decorated for Christmas. Our side of the courthouse says “LOVE.” I am completely in love with the space. Being upstairs, and in a new town, Anne is working hard to make herself known by creating a community of people we both know and hopefully growing by reputation and word of mouth. And she is striving to expand her online presence. 

Not the worst view in the world!
She is offering a “Challenge” for free to the first 25 people to say YES. The 25 Days of Christmas Challenge runs from Dec 1 thru 25. She will post a short video of an exercise to add to the previous days. Day one, only one thing to do… by day 25, you will have 25 things to do! The challenge does not require any equipment. Every exercise uses your own body weight and movement and can be modified to your abilities. There is a prize for being the first person to complete the journey… 6 months of free online training with her (by the way, that's HUGE!). Personally, if I make it through the challenge alive, I’ll be impressed. Haha… I’m lazy. Anne’s typical client is the ordinary person who wants to stay active and avoid injury as we age. This challenge is designed to get us jumpstarted for the new year, not to make us cry :-)

To participate, just send us an email with “YES” from the email address you want us to use.  Anne will put your name in the system and you will get an email with a password so that you can sign in to see the videos, etc. I encourage you to say YES even if you are doubtful of your abilities to complete this just because this is one huge experiment bound to have funny moments and major bloopers… and I’m all for a little laughter - that’s what keeps me healthy!! 

Happy Happy Thanksgiving!!! 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

This isn't how my parents did it....

The rest of the title is ….”But that’s okay.” 

In opening my computer to write this blog, I noticed I had not been on since two days ago.  We’ve been busy.  Good for us.  Busy means doing, not talking about. 

The Eggcellence, Abby, Macy, Stoli and I have had adventure all year.  We have not given up on adventure, but the world doesn’t stop because (like many others) we like travel.  Graciously, we were allowed the gift of travel in 2018.  Travel in 2019 will be an even more precious gift and probably a little different in nature, but certainly not gone.  Now however, it is time to get back to work. 

We are excited about the work we have laid out in front of us.  I have always argued and pushed my clients on the subject of work being something they enjoy doing, not a daily grind.  I have encouraged clients to quit their job.  Not in haphazard abandonment, but in pursuit of a life that they can find pleasure and enlightenment, as well as pay their bills with a little left over.  I don’t feel like my parent’s generation had this opportunity and I can’t speak for the generation following me.  But I think everyone has the capacity to look around and decide “what they like to do” and how can they make that work. 

Despite this, I am surrounded with the opposite.  Friends and family that have blocked themselves behind a wall perforated only by flouresant lights and stained coffee pots.  The other side are those who constantly say, if A+B=C then, I can’t. There is no “outside of the box”.  I know a few people who will argue all day why the universe will not allow them the opportunity to have a job, or even make money with a hobby that they enjoy.  Lazy?  Lack of self esteem?  Loyalty to the bathrobe?  Perfectly acceptable if you can afford it and you are happy and satisfied.  But the rest...

It is not wise to tell people what to do.  But leading by example is perfectly okay.  So, as I said; it is time to get back to work.  Abby and I are taking a new plunge for 2019, highlighting our talents and interests, invoking a little risk and liberating ourselves to continue with our hobbies, working on writing, improving the property,  and hopefully providing a network for our community and reaching a little further if all goes well.  Not to worry, success or failure, we will always keep our feet moving, one in front of the other. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018


I am big on goal setting. I am also big on letting things shift if the goals turn out to be not quite right for the time. For some convenient but otherwise unexplainable reason, I set goals per calendar years. My years end with a couple of busy months at Texas Renaissance Festival and setting up Christmas decorations for my organizing clients. During this time of not having to scramble for work, I decide how my next year should go. I make notes and goals. Anne's calendar year is similar being a personal trainer. People set goals and make resolutions for the new year making January a natural launching point for ideas and business plans. Planning for 2019 is getting very very exciting. We will be able to tell you more very soon. So many things to announce very very soon...  I hate waiting.

For now, Anne is steadily trimming trees and making the property tidy and neat while I play music at the Festival. I'm trying to keep myself busy so that I don't spill the beans on the big plans before we're ready... I so hate waiting!

I would have told you another Alaska story this week, but I'm pleasantly preoccupied with festival music and planning for 2019. I promise to get back to real stories and real writing soon!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Not Just Bones

Having absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Halloween was only yesterday, today’s post comes in the form of a few sentences about cemeteries.  On all of our travels this year, Abby and I marveled over the vast number of cemeteries.  Not the big giant kind I grew up around in Galveston where we held our breaths for the drive by, or as teenagers, challenged ourselves with a sit and chat to no one in particular.  These cemeteries Abby and I would see advertised were down dirt roads that seemingly went off the side of the earth when I would peer down them trying to catch a glimpse of a graveyard, often a family plot, as suggested by the name of the cemetery.  When it was convenient, we would stop and muse over the script etched into the stones of granite or marble and the lives of people we didn’t know.  In my experience, cemeteries either fascinate a person, or absolutely don’t.

I am fascinated.  To me, cemeteries are not simply a boneyard of the forgotten, but history, alive and well.  Gravestones tell a story and conger the imagination of a time before today.  It is very much going back in time, in an instant.  There are famous cemeteries, private cemeteries, cemeteries divided by race or distinction.  Texas has MANY cemeteries and they are very big.  There is one nearby in Victoria, where (I was amazed to learn) I have several renowned buried relatives! I also learned I have relatives buried in Cuero and Austin, crazy.  Mostly however, I am intrigued with the forgotten cemeteries.

 Those are the ones that prompt me the most.  The ones that jab and make me want to probe into the lives of strangers.  Through this I have learned that foundations exist for volunteers to care for cemeteries that have long lost their patron saints.  Counties have taken on the job of caring for the history and restoration of cemeteries with the help of others who want to get involved.  That is a volunteer opportunity calling my name!  As an example, the county in which I live, Lavaca county, has a website dedicated to this subject,  A further example that can be found at that website is a cemetery in Hallettsville that I recently had a stroll through, called Hallettsville Memorial Park, also known as the Hallettsville Graveyard.   It is a bewitching story of bodies that have been moved into and from the graveyard, stones lost or displaced.  Here is an excerpt from the website:

A large number of tombstones in Lavaca County have been moved from one cemetery to another. In some cases the bodies were reinterred, but often just the marker was moved.
The Hallettsville Memorial Park has a lot of markers lying in slabs of concrete and it's believed that many of these were moved into Hallettsville from rural burial grounds in an attempt to "save" them. Similarly, a large number of markers were moved to the Hallettsville City Cemetery after it opened in 1890 from the Hallettsville Memorial Park which was poorly kept at the time. That's how some markers in the new cemetery have death dates that predate the cemetery.
There are several cases in Sammy Tise's cemetery books where a person is listed in two cemeteries. We also know of several cases where markers were moved to another county.
Please contact Regena if you can contribute to this list of displaced markers.

Last week, Abby wrote a bit about genealogy which is a subject, I myself, was lucky enough to get treated to, by a friend that essentially broke down a huge hunk of my family, on my mothers side, producing a book at the end. There is a tie between genealogy and cemeteries. The book led me to lots of interesting stories and grave sites.  I now assume, that all of the graves I visit have a story and what fun learning or imagining what they might be!  Hanging out in cemeteries is not creepy, it is educational, thought provoking and encourages creativity.  It also is a great way to get outside, not just the environment, but yourself.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Old photographs

My Great-Grand-Family

I am in the middle of an obsessive project. Anne supports the obsession by making sure I get dressed in the morning and eat a good dinner in the evening.
The obsession involves identifying family members in old photographs (my mom is helping immensely via text!), typing labels for these photos, and then scanning the photos with their labels so that future family members can see the family story.
I scan photos for people as part of my work as an organizer. I have often thought, and even commented to my clients, that these photos or family letters that they have had me scan would be an amazing glue for a novel or some other type book.
I have a particular fascination with history, simple factual history, the fact that what happened even 100 years ago is all but a mystery to us today. Autobiographies are written about famous people of 50 or more years ago that are so full of guesses, probablies, and we-thinks. I wonder how on earth we lose information so quickly.
My Gram Beverly
Here I am scanning photos of family members born just about 100 years ago. In those lifetimes, they existed in a world I can not even imagine. My great grandmother, for example, was diagnosed with tuberculosis, went to a sanatorium, where she was treated in isolation from the outside world and eventually died. I have approximately 5,034 questions. From the diagnosis to her death…  HOW did it all play out? Did she go home to pack a few things? Was she instantly and immediately quarantined? How do you feel about these things as a 22 year old mother of two daughters??? She lived there for about a year. What did she do? How did she pass time? Did she write? Is there any hope of recovery or do patients all intend to go and die there?
She died leaving two very young daughters with their father in the middle of The Great Depression. These two daughters ended up wards of the state growing up in a State Public School, but their father never gave up his rights to the girls. Rather than adoption which would only be possible if their father gave them up, the girls went from foster home to foster home which often meant being a servant to a family who needed help. The way children’s protective services has changed since these days is truly unbelievable. What was acceptable, required, and expected back just 80 years ago is simply stunning to me. How can I be so removed from the reality of just 80 years ago and from a situation that was a family reality no less???
"yours truly" is my grandpa, AKA Pop
These are the questions that compel me to scan photos for my own family and for other people with boxes of photos and old albums rotting in the basement. These days scanners are available for a very affordable price-tag. People can certainly scan their own photos. My clients hire me (for 19 cents per photo) because often, these jobs are incredibly overwhelming, exhausting, and time consuming even if you move quickly and know exactly what you are doing. I scan photos for other people, then they can label the photos once they are in digital form. The overwhelm is greatly reduced. The albums can still exist for those of us who enjoy the tactile existence of old paper, but the color and integrity of the paper will be preserved digitally as those colors fade and paper disintegrates in real life.
Anne and I read the first two Miss Peregrine books by Ransom Riggs. These books are written for a young audience but employ the concept of using old bizarre photographs to propel the storytelling. I positively love this concept.
Pop at the end of WWII
With all of the photos I am currently scanning, with all the questions that I have swimming in my brain, with all of my desire to write a story that floods the mind with awe and imagery, I am beginning to outline a tale using the tales of my family of this 1930’s time. The fact is, this book will be complete fiction even if I use the correct names and dates. The important part of any story is the way people feel. I can’t possibly know any of that. And this takes us back to my fascination with history of the not-so-distant past. Even a well researched autobiography of a famous person is put together with suppositions. These render the entirety at least somewhat fictitious. Even a biography written by a person about her own life in the here and now could be considered somewhat fictitious. One person’s point of view in any particular situation might be another person’s complete fiction, and not because one is lying. Points of view, ways that we each internalize the world around us, these are individual and not universal.
For now, I will finish scanning all these piles of photos and keep them safe for any family member of the future who cares to see them. Maybe, just maybe, I will find a way to tell a story with them.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Do You Like Fish?

One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish….wait, there are no red or blue fish.  This post comes a day or so before there might have been some red fish, but there is just too much going on right now to make the journey to the coast as we had planned this weekend.  So, instead… a little about the fish we do have, have had and will continue to have for the entirety of the rest of the year. 

A little safflower oil goes onto the comal and a spot of butter, until it all comes to a bubbly froth, glistening with the anticipation of the giant side of a pink salmon laid flat into the sizzle that sears the skin to crispy perfection, all while cooking the flesh to a idyllic, moist, tender flakiness.
skin seared pink salmon a.k.a. "trout"

This is how I have come to cook the load of pink salmon that we brought home from Alaska, the pink salmon we have appropriately granted the name, TROUT, because that is the consistency, texture and flavor and there are no complaints here.  The skin is very thick however, so the comal searing method is the best for getting the skin delightfully crunchy, countering the lemon, pepper, butter, caper and whatever herb or addition to the topside of this fish.  I grew up in Galveston, but learned to cook little else besides shellfish.  I am making up for it now!!  Anything one can make with trout, we make with our pink salmon.  It makes for a different kind of “salmon cake”, so we make trout cakes with shallots and Poblano peppers, instead of onions or traditional bell pepper.  The other method to disguise the hearty skin, roast and discard it!
Salmon cakes with some craziness involved there...

But what about all of the other fishes we brought home??  The halibut, has exploded in creative ingenuity as far as recipes go.  Abby, delighted in pursuing the quest for the perfect halibut ceviche.  I think it went marvelously, or at least my taste buds did, with the lime and lemon acidity cooking the fish to the texture of….let’s just say, tender morsels of meat that almost melt in your mouth among the creamy avocado,  crunchy cucumber, bits of red onion and Serrano pepper.  Yum!
Abby's ceviche....yes, that is cleverly a Chimay glass.

Recently, we grilled halibut and mango kabobs with Anaheim peppers on the skewers for a little kick!  Lip smacking!  When all else fails and we just want a good hearty piece of fish, out comes the comal again, this time with a slide into the oven, bathing the halibut in one of Abby’s favorite sauces for a marinade/glaze.  I think I got a picture of one of those just before she polished it off!
halibut kabobs with mango

I often want to challenge myself by entering pictures on a website or Facebook page appreciated by those who love to cook and share, but I am far too bashful and lack that sort of pride.  What I am instead, is grateful.  The fish were not free by any means, but there is something pretty cool about being able to reach into one of the freezers and hand pick the filet o’ the day!  Speaking of....
oops, almost missed a shot of this halibut...looks like cheesecake!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Texas' Second Spring

It has been raining like crazy for days. The cooler dryer air invited us both outside all day. We have never seen so many varieties of mushrooms in white, yellow, and reds. Anne regrets not documenting them earlier. Each day, there seems to be a new one. The resident squirrel eats some of them, but we are afraid that squirrels might be able to metabolize things that humans can not, so we decide not to follow the squirrel's example.

There are also yellow, white, red, and purple flowers and greenery that comes alive when it rains like the ferns that grow directly on the bark of many of our oak trees. The oaks look like fluffy green muppets for a few days and then the ferns go dormant and brown.

Then there are the animals. Pairs of wrens look for a place to nest - the back porch? "Twitter twitter not here" they say. The tractor wheel wells? "Twitter twitter not here" they say. Who knows where those silly birds will set up. Tiny quarter inch long toads hop along the ground. We amazingly huge giants fear our own footsteps. We don't want to crush any of these tiny creatures accidentally. We tip-toe from workspace to workspace with our heads facing the ground at all times.
This one followed me around the property while I took pictures.
Anne and I saved scraps from our Alaska journey. We chose the photos we loved best and had those printed. It took me a couple of weeks, but I managed to create a scrapbook of all of the materials and photos. It's amazing to us looking through it what memories and writing ideas are sparked upon seeing a simple receipt or photo of a cheeseburger. It gives me hope that we will manage to write a few more things about our travels.

Anne and I have been looking into an office/studio space in town. It seems Hallettsville has been having its own economic springtime. A year ago, things were available. Now, there are vacant spaces, but nothing available. One awesome small building is used by the city to store their Festival of Lights stuff, and so it sits with no sign, no visible use. On the square, there are new businesses and a lot of office space for lawyers and CPAs. We sure would like to be right there in the middle of town offering Anne's fitness and goal training and my organizational services. It's frustrating, but we both know things will work out one way or another.

For now, we focus on food. Haha.... no really! Anne is one hell of a cook. I truly appreciate every single bite. For breakfast, I use leftovers to make something interesting for her and it's obvious she appreciates every bite, too. Food is our daily gift to one another. We make each plate pretty and well-rounded. We have eaten almost one entire freezer full of fish (one more to go). We eat out once every couple of weeks including this evening. We are going to a place we have never been before. The menu looks amazing, and we will both be able to sit back and enjoy being served beautiful foods.

To the Texans out there, happy second spring, y'all... and happy autumn to the rest of yous guys!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Then and Here

Every morning I get up with the sun or fog or whatever the morning decides and make coffee.  Until recently, the coffee made itself.  The threat of lethargy changed that pattern.  Now we take coffee on the porch.  Later, Abby makes breakfast, usually hardy and oozing deliciousness that should be considered a sin any morning other than a Sunday.  We make plans about dinner and then we get to work.  Abby toils at her projects that would be falling off a shelf if organized that way.  The shelf could not support her addiction to doing things and doing them well.  I meander the property, deciding the next big outdoor project and buzz in Abby’s ear all day, a reminder that I am there for support, should she need it.  She rarely does.  We meet for “beer-thirty” which has been decided on as a sort of RESET poised in our day to, God forbid, keep us from going too fast in the world, or check in if we need to realize why we might be moving too slowly that day.

I miss hiking.  In Alaska, we were able to take some amazing hikes with a wonderful new friend and guide, Laura.  She helped me to test my own limits and gave Abby and me confidence hiking alone on some of the trails throughout Alaska beyond our visit with her.  There are no words for the views both from above and across an expanse of wildflowers into a bay and the majestic mountains in the background, to the rainforest type environment with giant trees and foliage that reaches out to touch you before you arrive.  Here, the moss grows thick on trees, the ground is wet, rivers and streams ride alongside until inevitably you have to cross them over rocks or with one big stride, hoping not to drag a boot.  Even in the middle of summer, you might sweat a little, but there is so much to see and feel and hear, all stealing the conscious awareness away from anything as petty as a little warmth or heavy breathing.  The altitudes we endeavored were not high, so the hikes are very doable for all levels.  My biggest bane, the descent.  My clients always come to me with complaints about knees and we get right to work strengthening them and I balk when they continue or insist their knees are “old”.  Okay, Alaska has taught me that there is such a pain, but it is diagnosable and treatable.  My knees are not old.  They are inexperienced at certain things.  With an Ibuprofen and a day of rest, they are back to new.

Were it not for a mailbox an eighth of a mile away, down a dirt and gravel road with occasional rain-soaked potholes, there would be no hiking here.  But, as the summer refuses to give up it’s relentless grip and yield to the celebrated fall, the sun beats down on the mailbox trek, bringing back the nostalgia of once beautiful hiking on our trips this year.  Because the road follows the property, and it is a corner tract, it is encouraging to keep the park-like ambiance associated with those acres of the property.  We work very hard at that.  Meanwhile, it is all we can do to avoid the missiles falling from the sky in the form of acorns.  Based on the noise they make hitting the metal roofs, if one were to actually hit us...or the cat...or the dog….there would most certainly be the sight of crimson streaming from one our skulls.

Abby is rehearsing for a gig this weekend.  I can hear her across the property amidst the thud of those acorns over my head.  I finished the dishes from dinner (shepherds pie and salad) after we sat down and watch a movie.  The movie was ‘Into the Wild’.  We saw the bus from the movie at the 49th State Brewery when we were in Denali, Alaska.
  The movie, is not so much about Alaska as it is a coming of age movie centered around a very common struggle, children and parents.  To me however, it is a story of going to extremes, but stopping just short of killing yourself doing it.  Of course, the movie ends tragically and has put me in a melancholy state, missing the open and vastness of carefree travel as well as the lessons it teaches, good and bad.  I miss my parents too.  One is gone forever, the other...well, I just need to go see.  This is probably my last post about Alaska and the trip that lasted months, going up and coming back.  The air is thick now with discussion of next year and the adventures that await us right here at home.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

From Junk to Kitchen!

The first half of this journey can be visited HERE.

Once we were back home from Alaska, my first priority project was Anne's outdoor kitchen! Before we left, Anne's dad had run some wiring for us. It was easy enough for me to simply finish it up with the outlets and one master light switch.

The counters were each designed with specific things in mind. First, my dad had given me a cast iron gas stove years ago for just this sort of project. The stove sits up a few inches and in an outdoor environment cooking for a large group, one might want to use a large stock pot for stew, frying oil, or any other idea. This meant I needed a lower than normal counter to accommodate the stove itself and stock pots. Second, we wanted a small fridge, but a large enough one that would actually be useful for food prep. These types of fridges typically come in 34 or 36 inch tall varieties. 36 inches is about as tall as I wanted the counters to be, so I made sure there were enough 34 inch fridges with decent reviews. A 36 inch fridge would require a 38 inch tall counter because of the structure under the counter. Third, the sink was to be a big metal bucket style. It needed to be low enough to accommodate the tall sides, but high enough that one doesn't need to stoop over it. Fourth, I have tiles that are 12 inch by 24 inch. This means, for convenience sake, make the counters 24 inches deep and make a change at an even foot. The long counter that hosts the fridge is 8 feet long, then it drops exactly 12 inches so that a tile can be used vertically. The lower counter hosting the stove is the remaining length. Now that my dimensions are all decided, time to act.

The LEGS. I chose PVC to be legs because I had plenty leftover and I thought the round legs would look smoother than chunky rustic wooden 4 by 4s. I cut the PVC 1 inch shorter than my final height because the horizontal support will add another inch and the counter plywood is another half inch. With all my PVC cut, I strung them up on the clothes line and painted them. While they dried, I cut round pieces of wood and connected them to the floor where each leg would go and to the underside of my horizontal support. Once dry, I seated the legs onto the round floor guides. I secured the long horizontal supports to the plywood and Anne and I lifted this over the legs and I guided each leg to fit over its corresponding round guide. We did this for all three counters at three different heights. The sink counter is made of leftover floor slats (not plywood for tiling), but the same horizontal support board idea was used.

I put edging along the counters to hold in tile grout, set the tiles, and grouted the tiles. Then I painted the edging. I added an accent edge color to match the color tiles I used so that I wouldn't have to cut any big tiles. Make it look like I did it all on purpose!

Time to paint the exterior RED! My good old $65 WalMart special paint sprayer painted the new container house as well as the interior of this project and the exterior. This corrugated metal would be practically impossible without the sprayer.

Anne wanted lights to match the ones in the other areas of the property. We bought a strand and I plugged them into some Christmas-time clicker switches to have an off/on button.

Let there be light!
Dinner time!
The incoming plumbing is a simple garden hose. Anne buried it a few inches so we wouldn't accidentally mow it. The outgoing plumbing is a pipe to a garden hose to water the trees in the yard. 
Cutest bucket sink ever.
I think she likes it.
Anne is adding her own touches daily including plants in old pots outside the door. My grand finale was making signs for our spaces. Anne has cooked amazing meals using her outdoor kitchen every single day since its completion. Our small cabin stay cool and I think she feels like she's on vacation out there!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Enjoying a little southern Colorado

A morning in Ft. Garland, CO
We have successfully identified all thirty something species of mushrooms exploding around the property from all of the rain and humidity and despite their beefy, leggy, sometimes beautiful composure, have decided all of them, are inedible. Darn, the fun we might have had. In fact, I do my very best not to even run over them with the lawn mower fearing spores-a-plenty waft into the air and rain down to engulf my lungs like some sort of alien narcotic.  After noticing they have an interesting living and breeding behavior, then some type of imminent death within a day or so, as well as the animals not even feigning interest, I have decided mostly to ignore them and like all things ignored, they will eventually go away...right?...If it ever stops raining in south Texas and the poor drenched coastline.
hard workin' Abby...a typical day.

It is easier to focus on other projects, or like last week just leave.  After Abby’s exhaustion over the finishing of the outdoor kitchen and the ever present oppressive humidity, we decided it was a good time to check in to the Colorado property for a couple of days.  Literally, two days.  Two days to get there, two days to get home and a barely timewise affordable two days there.  But, we made the best of it.  We loaded up the truck, sans the Eggcellence this trip and headed north to the cooler, drier air we so enjoyed in Alaska.  With a quick stop at our new favorite midway point, Caprock Canyon, where the colors reflecting on the canyon wall are indescribable and the buffalo, truly roam.
Caprock Canyon SP buffalo

We try to check the Colorado property once a year, hoping to up that number in the future (it’s only accessible about six months out of the year).  This summer, like so much of North America, the area was struck by fire.  This fire, started by a non-resident to the area, actually the country it turns out, who had absolutely no right to be there.  He left a fire unattended overnight, swearing he had done his best to put it out, before and after it became an out of control blaze destroying more than 100,000 acres of the beautiful Sangre De Cristo Mountains  He is now facing over 100 counts of arson for the homes destroyed.  Ironically, the day we got there last week, was the day area wide county announced the fire was officially 100 percent contained, almost three months after it ignited. Despite the devastating drive through La Veta pass, we arrived at our property and saw it unscathed, thankfully, but one ridge over, less than a mile as the crow flies, is where it began.

A busy schedule for the two days in Colorado along with absolutely beautiful weather, kept me focused!  I highly suggest anyone who hasn’t given southern Colorado a chance, to take some time out and visit some of the beautiful natural wonders that exist there.  While Ft. Garland is not much of a town with its population a little over two hundred and advertising four restaurants, two convenience stores, a liquor store, cannabis dispensary and a museum, it is still a place I am proud to call home away from home.  It has an RV park and a kitchy motel, both alive and well and available if needed.  We stay on the property, rustic style.  Each time we go, we try to play a little, investigating some new area and work a little, making the property somewhat ours, if even in the most simple way.

Our play this trip, consisted of a trip to Pagosa Springs via the Rio Grande National Forest, a very pretty drive through the South Fork recreation area where future hikes will definitely take place.  It is a little over a two hour drive from the property through the pass which even includes a tunnel!  We visited a couple of breweries on our day trip, one I favored over the other, Riff Raff Brewing Company  They hosts two different locations, we opted for the kitchy spot on the main drag, Pagosa street vs. “downtown”.  One of the highlights of the day happened there in the form of a very good lamb burger which we split to go with our flavorful brews.  There are at least two other breweries to visit in the area, along with hot springs to float around in available at three different locations.  We really didn’t have time to frolic, so we kept moving with a visit to just one of the other breweries before making our way back to Alamosa, by way of Chama, NM and Antonito, CO., two historic towns with lots of interesting vibes.  Alamosa is a town worth visiting and also has three breweries, two next door to each other and complete opposites in all respects.  Of the two I prefer, called Square Peg Brewerks  ttps://, a place where it is obvious that they care about their product and put the focus on that, relying on those who appreciate the true nuances and quality based brews to keep the doors open. Meanwhile, Alamosa, about 20 minutes away from the property is a good go-to for shopping, meals and a refreshing drink, passing by the Great Sand Dunes and several animal preserves and a fishing hole or two.  Though we didn't make it this time, below is my favorite near by brewery in Colorado, by far....Three Barrel Brewing

We also cruised out on one of my favorite drives in the area, towards Cuchara on the Highway of Legends from the La Veta end. Sadly, not only was the normally gorgeous green cliffed drive that makes me think I am visiting Ireland, scorched from fire damage, but the place we enjoy going in Cuchara, the Dog Bar and Grill, where Macy is even invited, was closed when we got there despite their website saying they were open.  In fact, much of Cuchara was closed.  We won’t give up, and will check in on them again in the future. It is still a beautiful and very interesting drive to continue the Highway of Legends drive back out to Trinidad.  Be sure and take a camera and allow enough time for stops.

Our “work” this time was sponsored of course by Abby and her constant sense of creativity, insisting that we start a path up the ridge of the property.  There are plenty of stones there, unlike at home and it isn’t hard collecting for a path, beyond the 9,000ft elevation, that is.  We didn’t finish the path, but almost made it about halfway up the 5 acre lot, Abby leading the way and constructing, me collecting and Macy doing sniff tests on everything.  Now we have to look forward to the completion of this rock pathway for our next trip, hopefully not a full year away.
Abby and Macy in deep discussion

Abby treated me on the road trip home to something I had seen many a sign for, but never had the occasion to stop and now I am sorry.  The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery in Amarillo, Texas  Yes, that’s right y’all, the home of the 72 ounce steak challenge meal.  A stop by the winners wall will blow your mind.  Current first place is held by a very svelte woman, who seems to have accepted the challenge and crushed it!!  We had lunch at the bar and tried a couple of their in house brews that I was quite surprised and pleased with.  The IPA went perfectly with my lunch prime rib plate and Abby had her porter and chose a lunch brisket and rib plate.  It was all very good, reasonable and a different kind of fun.  The people who worked there were all engaged and seemed to appreciate their surroundings.  I will be back to this macabre environment with surprisingly good beer and food.
beer list at Big Texan

Speaking of food, we are back home now of course and back to work.  We have big plans for the future and there is not a dull moment around here.  I am back to creating in the kitchen, getting work established and Abby is filling in the calendar for the rest of the year.  I will leave you with this week's fish entre.  Baked halibut with homemade chipotle bbq sauce and the most incredible mac-n’-cheese I have ever had that Abby whipped up with some jalapenos I roasted and plenty of good cilantro.  YUM!!  My favorite meal this entire year...right here at home...
Yummy halibut & Mac-n'-cheese

Thursday, 13 September 2018

From Junk to Treasure

Part one of two.

We started with a 40 foot container that was here on the property when I bought the place. It was FULLLLLLLL of stuff. About half of that stuff I moved for the previous owner to his own storage unit. The rest, I gradually gave away or threw away. Within about a year, I had an empty container. The roof was rusty and HOLE-y, which gradually rotted the floor out. It was going to take a lot of work to make this piece of junk worth anything at all. I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the time or money on such a risky project.

I tried to give away this piece of junk, but alas, the trees surrounding it and the power line above it make it nearly impossible to remove without damaging something and no one wanted to risk trying to remove it. So it sat... and sat.... an eyesore... a plague upon my otherwise creatively crafted home.

When Anne moved onto the scene, I described the various ideas I had for this junk heap. 1. Cut it up into recyclable strips or strips to use in fence making, 2. Stare at it some more, 3. Try to find someone AGAIN to try and remove it., 4. Design an outdoor kitchen and garage. 1. would take a lot of time and painful angle grinding. 2. Sigh.... 3. SIGH...... 4. Well, maybe if we could do it on the cheap.

I drew up an idea and Anne was enthusiastic. She's an amazing cook, and the space in that part of the yard would be just perfect for the addition of a way to cook for a large group. The idea was for about 16 feet to be kitchen and 24 feet to be garage. The final numbers were chosen based on where the i-beams could support my garage shelving unit which ended up being about 14 feet kitchen and 26 garage.

Anne ripped out the rotted floor. And I primed the areas that would be cut for doors.

Floors OUT!
Garage side.
Kitchen side.
Then Anne scrubbed as much rust off of the roof as possible. I primed that and coated it with a heavy thick poly-elasto-super-goo. This is all with the hope that we can preserve what is left. Holes still exist un-repaired, but now they are OUR skylights!!
Scrub it!!!
Watch your head up there!!
Next, after scraping and priming the interior, I sprayed the entire interior with exterior paint. My dad had given me a couple gallons of taupe colored stuff he had left over. This covered less than half of the garage. We bought more of that same color for the rest of the garage and decided on a nice gray blue for the kitchen.

Painting with no floor... fun... Look at those skylights!
Time for cutting!!!  I cut with an angle grinder 2 large doors and 6 small windows. Each cut out pushes into an awning. AND Floor time! We decided a deck style floor would be better for this space. This allows the rain to go through instead of getting trapped and rotting the floor.

Kitchen door!
From the kitchen side before the garage shelving moved in.
We took the old deck from the garage area to make the new garage porch. The kitchen door is about 4 feet wide and the garage door is about 7 feet wide. Because the garage door was much larger and therefor heavier, AND it was set up on a deck, it only went up far enough for a bench, not a walk through.
Garage door. Garage porch and bench.
Garage shelving from my old garage area went right in to separate the space. We were able to move the entire garage over before we left for Alaska.

Looking toward the kitchen.
Plenty of work space.
The kitchen had to be put on hold until after Alaska. The kitchen required a lot more detail and beautifying.  And so, I will save the kitchen for my next post in two weeks! Link to part TWO will be here :-)