Monday, February 25, 2013



Year 13, Week 6, Day One (week 682)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
02-23-13 Saturday
    Temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s, clear, bright, blue sky, with a nice brisk wind to cut the feel of the temps a little. This weather report is brought to you by the City of Pompano Beach department of Tourism.
    There is a renaissance fair going on down here. It runs five weeks and this is week three of the fair. I decided I had to go see it and have some fun.
    I prepared for the whole day. I usually have a small basket for my stuff so I am not carrying anything from the truck to home, but today I chose to bring a big wheeled basket (what I use for laundry), both to carry what I gather at the fair, but also, because it is taller, would assist in my balance (I wanted to be a tight rope walker but my Psychiatrist says I am too unbalanced...). I am glad I brought that.
    I also have a cane that has a seat on it. It is not good for use for walking as it keeps popping open, the clip does not work right, but it is great to have when walking as you can sit down anywhere you need to.
    One thing I wanted to know was what type of range I would have should there be an emergency such as a truck breakdown (talk about this later)
    I took my time, people watched, sitting at picnic benches when needed. I also used my cane chair to watch different demonstrations where seats were not available.
    I was really impressed at the outfits and what they did to women. Even women I might not notice in public are noticeable. It would be nice if those styles came back again. The problem is that here in South Florida, it is too hot. Those styles were designed for cold climates.
    I did make a couple purchases, including three bags of Kettle Korn. One was small for my mom, and the other two was the biggest the vendor had, which was for ME!!!!!
    I got three cups of coffee. I left one at a booth I made a purchase. I dropped the second one and finally drank the third. The coffee was good.
    I skipped side trails which I knew had interesting stuff such as cannons and catapults, but not quite interesting enough to walk that far. 

Cannon inside one tent.
    There were hand made bows and arrows at one booth, finely finished boxes and toys at another, magic wands of twisted wood (You have to add your own magic).
  One vendor had a gnome standing at the entry. the nose of the gnome was a gourd.  
 Canes, swords, knives were also available. Clothing and jewelry was most represented by vendors.
    I sat and watched a woman work clay on a treadle pottery wheel to make a beer mug. A glass blower was doing demonstrations, his first show was Roman glass work. His second was Medieval . I sat down to watch it, but decided to keep going.
    The blacksmith was making charcoal when I went by. I never did see him working metal today. I have messed a tiny bit with blacksmithing over the years. His setup is portable but I would not mind having it. His bellows was big enough to be used as a kitchen table.
    There were musicians dotted around the fairgrounds. A harpist was really good. She would play a song, then let children come up and stroke the strings. It was fun watching the interaction. A real little child could not pluck the strings loud enough. A hammer decimer was played by a lovely lady. I recognized what the instrument was and she said yes. A man came up and had no idea what it was. I asked a few questions about it. The way she hit the right strings every time was impressive.
    One guy makes single string violins using gourds and other materials. I have one of his CDs and he is good. He had a drum made with a gourd that he could change the tone by squeezing a double ring that went around it. A couple years ago, he was making one of his instruments.
    There were shows everywhere. My favorite is the Irish step dancers. These are young girls who do several good shows, clogging and stepping to Irish music. These are the ones that keep their arms down tight against their sides and not smiling. that came from where the British outlawed dancing. The Irish would dance at weddings. The British would see arms moving around above the heads and move in to break up the group. Smiles would also be a clue. The Irish learned to dance with their arms tight against their sides and frowning so the British would not know for sure if they were dancing.
    Of course other shows were going on but I did not stay to watch them. There is so much to see in spite my need to rest.
    I have made friends with some vendors. Several were not there this time. There are other shows around the state and nation that compete for the weekends so they have to choose what shows to take in. Also, after many years, they get out of the business too. Two were vendors I really wanted to get something again.
The ball of my stick shift with a wooden dome, and a spin top I made and donated at the turning club meeting which was on Thursday.

My leg and back had it and I headed out. I had kept my weight in my cane and that gave me some more range. Hard on the hand but I was able to make it around the fairgrounds.
    I was the first to park in the open field parking section I was in. they had parked cars all around my truck. I had few landmarks to go by. I passed the area where my truck turned out to be and had to backtrack when I knew positively that I had gone to far. When I finally found my truck, I could go no farther. I was lucky that I had put my weight into my cane the entire time I was there as I would have been crippled from the effort. Taking the weight off my leg gave me a little bit of range.
    At my mom's house, I immediately took a nap. My leg let me know it was not happy. I don't know how I went to sleep as fast as I did. I had to roll over to give my leg a new position to rest in. I ended up only sleeping a short time, then slept in a recliner as it was again a new position for my leg.
    I went to a meeting in the evening. I was limping bad during the meeting, especially when getting up. On the way home, my truck started acting up. The engine was cutting out while I was driving. It was getting worse and worse as I went. It finally died several blocks from home, forcing me to walk home. This is what I mean about learning what my range was in case of an emergency. I used the starter to pull me along a lot farther than I should have, but the less I had to walk the better. I now know, that if I, by any stroke of bad luck luck, and am prepared, can walk to a gas station or some place else CLOSE if needed.
    The walk home was more than I should have gone after my day at the fair, but I had no choice. It was too close to be worthy of a cab. I was really happy to get home. The last hundred yards was so far and felt like it was uphill against a wind...
    While resting in the recliner chair after I got back from the fair, I finished my forth scarf for the year. I later showed it to someone and they loved it. I've started a new one and will start a second. The first will be worked in the truck exclusively while the second will be carried around with me in a bag where I go. I will have to rip out the first one down to the chain stitch as I want to do something different. The stitch I am doing now is not interesting enough.

 Finished six foot long scarf. Two stitches, chain two while skipping two holes, then two stitches again. On the way back, the stitches go into the holes and the chain goes over the lower stitches.
    I have two weeks for my art show so I would love to work on some projects tomorrow, such as getting materials together for demonstrations during the show. I am thinking of making shaving flowers again. I give them out to little girls that come by. they are quick to make and won't cause much pressure on my left wrist which has bothered me ever since I got off the walker.
    Because of my truck, I will have to see what happens tomorrow.
Year 13, Week 6, Day Two (week 682)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
02-24-13 Sunday
    84 degrees, clear sky, bright sun, nice breeze. This weather report is brought to you by the city of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism.
    Last night my body to let me know that it would rather sit in a seat all day long and not experience any fun of moving around, but I was able to do walk a bit of a distance yesterday. I am hobbling quite a little, especially when I get up from bed or a chair and then the leg relaxes a little. My back does not "hurt" but I know it would like to. I was not about to do much of anything.
    My brother came, picked me up and we went to my truck. It looks like the same problem we had before. This time, though, we had the tow hitch already made and we didn't have to use an air hammer to remove the bumper bolts.
    It took some time and work for both of us (well really him) before we could tow the truck to the garage. I wrote a note attached to my key. I don't need this expense but it has to be done. Soon too.
    When I got home, I laid down to nap as I was not recovered from yesterday, along with today's activities. Of course no wood working was done.
    I forgot to mention that we hit a couple yard sales in the morning and I made a couple purchases. I picked up a metal rod with end caps at one yard sale. It was in a sealed package. it said it was a shaft for a roller bearing. I ended up giving that to my brother. He will find a use for it. I was thinking of machining the rod some time for some project. If he can use it, so much the better.
    I also picked up a container filled with kitchen stuff. cork screws, a garlic slicer/shredder, Orange peeler, measuring spoons, to name a few things that was in it. The container was not all that bad either. No, I did not need it, but the garlic slicer looked interesting.
My find at a yard sale. The garlic slicer at the top was what caught my attention first.   

    Whatever I had planned to do at home, or at Mom's was messed up by the truck problems. My brother dropped med off at home fairly late.
    Next weekend, I will pick up my woodworking from the antique shop where it is on display. I plan to set up a mock-up of the display table and see what fits into the display and what will look good, along with seeing what condition everything is in. A lot of it will need to be washed. I won't have time to fix the finish, re-varnishing them. I will only do refinishing with really bad pieces. I have a bunch of extra work that did not fit into the display and I need to find them to see what will work in the show (Mom moved things around in my place while I was in the hospital).
        I will see what I actually do next week.

Friday, February 22, 2013

This just goes to show you how far behind I am. We are heading toward the closing days of February, and I am just getting to the end of the January stuff. I've been so very busy writing and editing, I've scarcely had time for anything else. Well I have a short breather right now where I am halfway caught up, so I figured I'd post some more pics. Got some thrifting finds to share in here.

So, come on inside... 

You'll have to excuse the smudges and the cobwebs but it's been a busy couple of months. I did take enough time to get rid of my 2012 Calendar though and moved around a few molds. 

They are the main decoration in the kitchen and are starting to spill over into the dining room. These are right by the kitchen door, and everything in the picture is thrifted. The sea shell mold is on the bottom is new, something I thrifted this winter. The rooster on top is new too; Roger sent me that over the holidays, along with a few others. I love these molds and hope I don't run out of walls! 

Below is the farther end of the dining room, where I set up some of the wonderful things I have been gifted with over the years. 

The large wooden dragon you see in the rafters, the Chinese restaurant calendar, the smaller wooden dragon, and the zodiac mold all came from Roger and his mom. Roger also made the turned bird that is next to the small dragon, and gave that and a bunch of things to me last year. There are a lot of odds and ends here, really too many to go into, but quite a few are thrifted. That Errol Flynn as Robin Hood sketch is a prize I got from an auction from last year's Pulp Ark convention, it was done by the very talented Mr. Rob Davis of Airship 27 fame. The elven lady holding the little dragon was a holiday gift from my #2 son and DDIL. They know me well! 

The thing with the feathers in the picture above is called a witch's ladder. I made it for a friend. Witch's ladders were traditionally used for cursing, but this one is to attract good luck. Besides the naturally shed feathers found on the property (birds fly so they are nearer the heavens), it has green and gold braided cord, little green and sparkly shamrock buttons, an aventurine pendant for drawing luck and prosperity, and a gold plated Mercedes key fob. Each knot that holds a feather was tied with a wish and a prayer in verse. A great mediation tool, and I'm told it's been very effective. Winking smile

You can see part of my indoor jungle over there too. The house has lots of windows and my houseplants are pretty happy here.

What makes a blah winter day more fun? Thrifting! A January trip to the new thrift store in the little mill city nearby gained me some more bakeware.

Yeah, like I needed more. Well, I do love to cook and bake, whenever I have the time. Loaf pans are a kitchen essential. Those little pumpkin muffin tins were just too cute to pass up. 

Now these are things that actually got put right to use. 
Um, try and not notice the dog hair.  

I honestly didn't see how bad it was until I resized the picture. The comforter was coated with it! Ariel the Wonder Dog is rather spoiled and she gets to sleep on all the beds, which is why we have the old comforters on top. Everything gets washed before I use it, and all these are presently in use.

That white canister is Tupperware, and that one and an orange one the same size that I got in a set last year live over by my computer. They hold quick snacks, like packages of granola bars and peanut butter crackers, for those days when I need to eat but can't leave the keyboard. The mice haven't been able to raid my stores. The glass jar that says TEA now hold teabags on the counter. The little flowerpot thing is a pen holder on my kitchen table. 

Baskets! I found more to hang in the kitchen. The little chest holds loose twist tie material that came off its roll and was making the 'slinky from hell' all over the counter. The wicker buffet silverware caddy is hanging up and I'm planning on filling each 'tube' with either silk greenery or little jars of cuttings in water. The other basket is also hanging, and while I left the liner in there, have no intention of putting a live plant in that one. 

I grabbed the terracotta bread warmer because I loved the design and we do have dinner rolls on holidays. I thought it a bit pricey, but that was half price on green tags day, so what the hey...

Lee grabbed me some green rug yarn at this same thrift store for a holiday gift. I went back and got all the cream color. 

I was going to make chair cushions by crocheting over rope but now may do a rug or a basket that way. Rug yarn wears like iron. 

Another green tag item that day. When I saw this bucket thing I thought immediately of putting some of my cactus plants in there and using it as a tray for them. 

Now I think it's going to hold store circulars on the kitchen table. We have trouble corralling them and they are always a mess. We get them from several supermarkets and quite a few department and big box stores.

My find of the trip! 

My purse at the time was timeworn and falling apart, and one of the straps was about to let go. It was also just about this size and style. When I was walking down an aisle of household linens on hangers, headed toward the craft stuff for that rug yarn, this purse was clipped to a hanger between sheets and blankets. I looked it over, and it was perfect, inside and out. It went right into the carriage.

I wasn't sure about the  color, which is a softer, more pleasant green than it looks in these pictures, but it has grown on me. The best part was the price—$2.99! I had planned on buying a new purse that day, at our next stop. Well that saved me at least $10. No, I don't buy anything expensive, I abuse the poor things too much. 

With thrifting, it's not about the money spent on an accumulation of doodads cast off by others. Most trips I go with a bunch of small bills saved from other shopping where I bought groceries or household necessities. It's just a carefree, inexpensive outing, poring through things and looking for special bargains. I generally go with someone else, and we have fun poking around, finding for things for ourselves and each other. You don't have to spend a lot; heck—you don't have to buy anything at all. You get to talk to people and sort through items that bring back memories, and you come home feeling just as satisfied as you would if you went to a fancy mall (and a whole lot better off financially too). Besides, if you go to a charity store, your $$ go to help other people, so you're actually giving back to the community. Win-win.

When you come home to a spectacular winter sunset like this one, it makes the short days and long nights worth dealing with. 

Being as busy as I am these days, an outing that ends in smiles and small treasures, and a reminder of the glory of Nature, makes for a very peaceful mind. Coming here to the blog to share it with you is also a lot of fun. While I don't get a lot of comments, I do see from the stats that someone is reading and enjoying the pictures, which is why I keep posting them—in hopes that some of the serenity and contentment in my life gives you a good feeling too.

Now you all go have a happy day! 

Monday, February 18, 2013


From Harper Collins, 387 pages
Hello, and welcome to my first post (and hopefully not my last) on this blog for 2013. I know my presence here was sporadic at best last year, but hopefully things will be better this year despite my busy writing/editing schedule.
In any event...

Let me start off by saying that I think it's fantastic that Dick Wolf has decided to start pursuing a literary career on top of his long standing television resume.
But considering his decades long association with the Law and Order franchise, one should not be surprised to see some similarities between that and his first novel.
The New York Police Department has its own Intelligence Division to discover and prevent terrorist threats before they occur. THE INTERCEPT is the fictitious first adventure of one of their investigators: Jeremy Fisk.
Fisk and his partner Krina Gersten are following a series of events from an attempted plane hijacking that had absolutely no chance of succeeding to a major assassination attempt at the re-dedication of the World Trade Center over the Fourth of July weekend.

As with any episode of any series within the Law and Order franchise, there are a couple of major plot twists before the climax that I will not give away, but will tell you that one of them I was completely surprised by!

Long time fans of his television work can easily draw parallels between his book's main cast and TV characters.
For myself, I can easily see Intel Division Captain Barry Dubin played by Jamey Sheridan, like he did James Deakins during the opening years of Criminal IntentJeremy Sisto (Detective Cyrus Lupo during the final seasons of Law and Order) could portray Jeremy Fisk, and Milena Govich seems perfectly cast to me as Krina Gersten, for the lady detective is akin to Nina Cassaday from that character's tenure on L&O.

Yet while Wolf was drawing upon familiar ground for his first novel, there is one quibble that I could not ignore, but does not spoil the overall story. When trying to figure out what the terrorist's target might be, a comment was made that thankfully "the Yankees were away", playing baseball on the west coast.

But what about the New York METS? Yankees fans in general usually ignore the "other team" except for the latest installment of the infamous "Subway Series". Yet one would think that the Intel Division of the NYPD would not ignore the National League baseball team in their fair city.

Otherwise, I give this novel a solid 'B', and wonder what Dick Wolf has planned for Jeremy Fisk next, for even the cover hints that this is only the first appearance of the character.
As for me folks, HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE Book 2: "Catch A Rising Star", his first full length adventure is scheduled for release this year. I still have a few short story commitments to honor, then I will be starting work on the manuscript for ALPHA, Book 2: "Wayward Son"; when I'm not editing stories for the Pro Se Presents magazine or taking care of The Free Choice E-zine (
I do have other articles planned for this blog, otherwise Nancy Hansen would never let me hear the end of it!

So until next time, I remain humbly yours,
Lee Houston, Junior
Busy writer/editor at large

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Year 13, Week 5, Day One (week 681)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
02-16-13 Saturday
    61 degrees, light breeze and wet in the morning, lots of blue sky in and the sun came out a bit in the afternoon, tempered by a strong breeze in the afternoon and quicker cooling. This weather report is brought to you by the City Of Pompano Department Of Tourism.
    Today was originally planned for the local Renaissance fair (Ren-fest). As the weekend got closer, I saw it was not going to happen. It looked like it might rain Saturday. Also it looked like it was going to be bitter cold.
    I also saw that if I did not do laundry soon, I would be going to work in a polyester Seersucker suit.
    Then I saw that I only have three weekends to get ready for my art show. I have some stuff at an antique shop and needed to let him know that at the end of the month, I was taking my stuff out for the show.
    Together, that killed my woodworking plans for Saturday.
    Because of the wetness before the sun came up, there were no yard sales. It almost looked threatening yet after the sun came up. No one was going to set up if there was a chance to get their stuff wet.
    After breakfast, I petted the cat. Mom showed me that the neighbor had his Mango tree trimmed and she got several pieces. The biggest piece was about the diameter of your forearm. I put them in the shed for now. I plan to make some projects out of them.
    We settled down in the recliner and I looked at the clock. I had several hours before the antique shop would open. I left mom and did laundry at the laundry mat. I found out late in the evening that my cell phone case had broken and fell on the laundry mat floor. The guy who found it, had called several people on the phone to find out who might know where I was. He had called Mom while she was asleep and did not get her. He called in the evening and got her. It was only then that I learned that I had lost my phone case.
    After the Laundry mat, I went to the antique shop. I walked around and drooled all over the place. In one section, he has blacksmith and wooden implements. There was a big kettle that caught my eye. I looked at wooden hand planes and examined a shoulder plane. This one has the blade go to the very edge so you can plane a shoulder straight down. A normal plane has some material between the edge of the block and the blade so you cannot cut straight down. I touched my wallet pocket. I set the plane down when it dawned on me that I will never use it as I never do that kind of work. I also don't need more dust collectors laying around. Drats!!!!! I hate being at the age that I understand that concept.
    He has some blacksmith tongs and kitchen tools made by a blacksmith. There was a leather thing that at first I thought might be a bra or some kind of girdle. I read the tag and learned it was a blinder for bulls who are under harness. Half the fun is figuring out what they were used for, and then seeing if you are right.
    It was fun looking around. We talked a bit and let him know when I was coming in to get my stuff.
    After the antique shop, I stopped at a thrift store I always visit. I saw several things that were interesting, but walked out with a stainless steel bowl for two bucks. I did not need it as I have nearly a dozen of them and they don't get a whole lot of use. The thrift shop is for charity. I joked that I give my all money to charity and she was very expensive to date.
    When I got back to Mom's house, I relaxed in the recliner and added a bunch of rows to my newest scarf. I am doing a stitch I had not done before, but read about many times. A couple tips from people prevented me from making some common mistakes. I do two double stitches, then chain two, then drop two double stitches, then chain two again. It ends up giving you blocks and spaces through the entire piece. When I got home, I measured what I had and it was three foot long. I did about a third of it at stop lights, early mornings when waiting for the gates to open at work, and waiting for meetings.
    Mom mentioned she was going to something tomorrow in the afternoon. That will cut short my wood working. I am thinking of doing something simple such as another spin-top.
    I will see what I actually do tomorrow.
Year 13, Week 5, Day two (week 681)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
02-17-13 Sunday
    45 degrees early morning, 58 in the afternoon. sunny strong breeze. The wind blue my hat off a couple times even though it was scrunched down on my head. The cool breeze took the heat out of the sun. It is supposed to be just as cold tonight. This weather report is brought to you by the City of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism.
    Having lost my cell phone yesterday, I had to wait for the person who had it to come by her place of work. She was an hour late. I was happy to get it back. The phone case had two straps and a metal clip. The threads holding the straps broke and the cell phone lifted off the clip because of something I was doing at the time. My cell phone is called a GO PHONE. My ATT contract is a dollar for the first call of the day. then it is unlimited on calls to any ATT cell phone. Calling land lines and other company cell phones costs a little bit. For how few calls I make, it is a good plan. He had called a lot of people in an effort to find me. the amount available was lower. I was not worried about him racking up high bills on the internet, mainly because once the money is used up, he would not be able to make any more calls. The phone was only twenty bucks, but the chip has some numbers I have not recorded elsewhere and those would not have been a happy loss.
    I crocheted while waiting. when I left there, I had lost a lot of planned working time at Mom's house.
    I have a cane that has a chair attached to it. The "back legs" are supposed to clip to the main shaft and stay put while using it like a cane. It would not clip. I almost got it right with some pounding and pressing. I failed to get that sweet spot where it will stay put but is easy to open. I plan to use that next weekend as it will allow me to sit anywhere to rest.
    My brother showed up while I was checking something on my truck. We went out back and talked for a while before dinner. He is reading books on sheet metal bending and bending metal for boilers. He said that with his books, he could make a boiler for a steam engine. He is learning things that will work for his job too.
    After dinner, we went back out and found it too cold to stay out. I don't think the temps dropped that much, but we were warmed up from dinner. I went out front with the idea of sitting out in the sun, but the wind took away any sign of heat the sun was giving.
    My brother is planning on digging up Mom's and the Neighbor's yard to put in sewer hookups next weekend. That kills woodworking as he will have the mess right where I usually work. It will be a long project.
    ON the way home, I picked up a phone case at Home Depot that is not going to break. It cost more but It is going to last a very long time. I like the horizontal design case. this is vertical. I will live with it.
    I am hoping to go to the Ren-Fest next weekend. I am glad I did not go this weekend as my leg is having a bad day. I would not have been happy at walking that distance. My walk at Home Depot showed me that long walking would not be the most fun thing there is.
    I will see what I actually do next weekend. A lot of plans can well change at a moment's notice.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Let's Do Some Catching Up With Nancy!

It's been a while since I set these pictures aside to share with you. I've been very busy with writing and renovation projects here on the farm. So busy, I never got a chance to post anything but writing stuff since way back in October. Yeah, it's been a while! Let's see if we can get past the holidays and into the New Year.

Christmas was a busy time, but my kids—who are all adults mind you—begged me to bake gingerbread cookies. It's the only food they asked for specifically, so how could I say no? I made several batches, enough for them to share. I can't have the sugar anymore, so I had to give them all away. Don't they look nice? 

While my back wasn't happy, I didn't really mind doing them because I work in shifts. I made the dough one day and baked it a couple days later. The frosting part takes forever though. While I am not really skilled at it, and I use the tubed stuff, I am fussy and detail-oriented. The little trees and wreaths on the houses are decorated. The snowmen have carrot noses and coal eyes and buttons. I added those things one sprinkle at a time by dipping a toothpick in a bit of matching frosting and sticking them in place. I find a toothpaste tube squeezer makes getting that frosting out far, far easier. It takes a lot of pressure and a fairly steady hand to do something even this simple! 

At least three days worth of work went into frosting these in between wrapping gifts and writing. An old office chair with an orthopedic cushion in the seat, rolled up to the kitchen table, made a world of difference in my comfort.

That is what you call a labor of love. Or insanity, if you are the one doing it. I was able to send some of these gingerbread masterpieces of mine down to Roger too. I'm sure that didn't hurt his feelings any...

This is a cheeseburger pie, requested by my oldest son Jason, whose birthday is December 23rd. We had pizza too, but he really wanted this. I made a similar one for New Year's Eve 2011, and he really liked it. Unfortunately, I never wrote down the recipe! They didn't care for the traditional pork toutiere, but this one got raves. So I had to recreate it from scratch. This time I wrote everything down.

It is filled with ground beef cooked with onions and some quick oats to take up the juices. I mixed in shredded sharp cheddar cheese. He tells me it was the best thing he ate that night. That's a compliment when you are also having 4 kinds of takeout pizza! 

We exchanged holiday gifts that evening too, since with so much family to see on DDIL's side, it made things easier. That part of the holiday was spent at their house, as with the renovations here, I don't have room for a tree. We had Ma and Jason here on the farm for a while on the 24th, as well as an elderly neighbor, and the whole gang showed up over here for a late Yuletime dinner. It was great fun!

I got the best gift of all this year—I found out I have a new grandchild on the way!  

Fall and winter is the time of year when I do the most cooking. This was a yummy winter chowder with potatoes, broccoli, bacon, and cheddar cheese. SOOOO good! 

We're eating more soup this year, both canned and homemade, and I have been making regular usage of my thrifted soup mugs. Being a writer who works from home, I eat often at my desk, and a plain sandwich with a mug of soup sure makes lunchtime far more interesting. The soup above only needed a buttered roll, it was filling. 

Excuse my messy house, we have several rooms under renovation so we're kind of packed into the ell. At one end is the dining room which is also my office. You can see my computer in the background. That's where the writing magic happens. 

Those exposed beams were begging for some interest, and so when I got a box of throw away baskets from a rummage sale this fall (they were going to the dump!) I cleaned them up, added a few of my own, and started finding spots for them. A few have come from thrift stores since then. The icicle lights look wonderful up there, so we still have them in place, and they cast just enough light to sit here at my PC and work. I plug them in every evening. The baskets aren't touching them, the lights are on the other side. 

A lot of the trim is still down where new windows were put in. This place is a work in progress. 

This is my only little holiday tree, and my small decoration spot, this year at one end of the kitchen table. This was taken right before New Year's Eve. The plant stand you can see in the previous picture would be on the right here.

The tree was a holiday markdown last year, and it came pre-lit. I decorated it with marked down ornaments. The bubble nightlight, the rooster mold, picture, most of the stuff on the table, the tin and even that chair you can see the top of were all thrifted. The table, clock, and wreath were left in the house. Roger gave me the eight resin reindeer. Yeah, no window trim here either, but we want to get some barnboard up there eventually. 

Here's where a lot of our time and money went this winter, we had to get two new furnaces. The house had a combination wood and oil furnace right under the kitchen ell, but it was on its last legs and was far from efficient. We bought this woodburner below and put that into the lined chimney right where the old oil waterheater used to be. It has a blower and ties into the existing ductwork. Works very well, though it is slow to start and get the heat going. 

The oil furnace below was professionally installed, and it is a good one, very efficient, and keeps the house toasty warm. Far more comfortable in here this winter and we have gone through 2/3 less oil too. This one is in the same place as the original combination burner used to be, and uses the kitchen chimney. By code you can no longer have both oil and wood in the same flue.

The two furnaces set us back around $6000, but were a total necessity. The cellar here is messy looking but clean enough to be safe. Someone had let coal in rotten bags sit on the floor for decades and it took forever to get that out. That little garbage can is for ashes from the woodburner, it was on its way out the door when I snapped this. Never put ashes in anything combustible even if you think the are cold. They always have some little tiny hot coal in there and that's enough to cause a fire. The firewood behind the furnace here is fine, that unit only has internal heat, the jacket is cool to the touch. It's a weird angle, and things are a lot farther off than they seem. This is right below the edge of kitchen and dining room in the ell.

Now on to some of my crafting purchases before the holidays. 

I am making a crocheted baby blanket for a family friend who just had a little boy. Isn't that luscious yarn? The blanket is nearing completion, so later on I got some white to edge it. I hope to have it done before the little tyke gets to college. LOL! Then I need to make one for my own grandbaby...

The punches were 75% off because Halloween had long since passed. The cording I needed for another project I never seem to get to. 

Had to show you that yarn again. It is gorgeous! But it sure doesn't go very far. I worked on this a lot while watching old programs on HULU. I still don't have cable TV here. *POUT*

Yep I made more of the double thick hot pads for the holidays, these were in cotton yarn from my stash. They sure came in handy! These are the fronts...

And these are the backs. 

With the 17" long casserole dish I have I used two of these beneath it and that worked fine. They are washable. Cotton yarn is best for kitchen stuff, because if for some reason you get it too close to a flame, it will only scorch and burn normally. Acrylics and blends melt because they have plastic in them, and they can weld themselves to your stove or your skin. Plus they give off a terrible stench. NOT good! 

I went thrifting!!!! And I got two really interesting baskets. I have so many now, I only want the special ones. 

You can see these in the holiday lights display above. To hang things on those beams, which are 242 year old chestnut and very hard, we've had to start holes with a drill or awl, and then work like demons with pliers to screw in cup hooks. That wood is very solid! 

Same trip I got these little goodies. They were marked down because it was well after Halloween. 

The little ghost is so cute I could not bear to put him away, so he is living on the lower rail shelf in my dining room. I am a sucker for those silicone mold and pans and I loved Jack O'Lantern pumpkins, so they found room in my cupboards. The squish up nicely and easily spring back to shape, so they make great padding between glass and ceramic baking dishes. 

I have no idea what I am going to do with these, but could not resist them. It was only $1.99 for all.

They are a nesting set of stainless steel lunch containers. I will find some use for them, maybe holding birthday candles and stuff like that. You know me and tins of any kind...

Two more of my thrifting treasures. I don't buy many books anymore but I have been dying to read a Dresden Files story and I did start this one. Man, is it a hoot! LOVE IT!!!!! Just wish I had more time to read, and better eyesight too. Writing is about all my eyes can take most days. 

You saw the little bubble candle earlier. It works fine and brings back memories of my dad, who was always a gadget guy. We had bubble lights like this back in the 60s. They were better in candelabras where they can stay upright, than on the tree, where their weight made them droop and they refused to bubble.

I will buy books I like for my grandson though. I keep some here at the farm for those rare times when he might not have a handheld game with him and the weather is not good for fishing or whatever activity he might be into at the moment. 

Curious George and Ferdinand are classics anyway. Brings back the days when Captain Kangaroo read them on his morning program. You can't imagine how important it is to read to children and encourage them to read to you. My lifelong love of books was sparked by the ones the Captain read. I might not have become a writer had I not been such an avid reader. You better believe that I read to my kids too, and I've watched them reading to Ben. 

OK, so I did buy some books in that trip. It was a good day for them!

Cookbooks are a passion of mine, but I am selective about what I buy. These were all small but filled with things I would actually make—and yes I have a KitchenAid mixer with several attachments. And really... sugar free Jello recipes with two pre-diabetic people in the household, you know I wasn't going to pass that up! The crochet book was a find, the afghans in there are adorable. If I only had more time to cook and crochet! 

A different thrifting trip, this one right after the holidays. I keep all my $1 bills at the end of shopping and put them away for mad money. They are what I take to the thrift stores or flea markets and yard sales. Everyone is always happy to get ones. 

I am using the wooden spoons, and have the copper mold up in the kitchen, now that I've changed calendar locations. The silicone kisses mold went into the cupboards with the others. I am going to have to make some filled kisses with that, with something sugar free. Hmmmm, Valentine's Day is this week....

Some of my happier finds. I still have to find a good place for the stained glass star, but I love that. I grabbed the little hanger for it too. 

The tin is being used for storage. I have a thing for tins with interesting pictures, and I love birds. Dry and mouseproof storage in this old farmhouse is a must. I just now opened the little box that was sealed in plastic, and has been living on my PC since it came home. It is filled with little squares of notepaper with that print on one side and tied with a small apple green satin ribbon in a bow. I was originally going to give it away, but then fell in love with the box. Yeah, I'm a cheap date! 

Well let's shift gears now and talk about the weather...

It's been a odd winter, we've had howling wind, some snow now and then, and long periods of bare ground. The grass stayed green until late in the year. Some nights it's so quiet out here, you can hear the trains in the distance.

We see deer regularly. Sometimes up to seven at a time! 

These two look big but they are only this past year's twins. They come regularly now that momma doesn't want them around all the time. Sometimes she does rejoin them though, now that she's bred and the bucks have stopped chasing her. We have another doe who had a single fawn, and we see them now and then too. They love the big field where they can graze in peace.

Now we need to go back indoors for a bit...

This is the beginning of the renovation of the smaller bedroom, which is not really a bad size at all. Because the weather was cooperative, two brand new energy efficient windows got put in. 

Yes, it's white vinyl because we couldn't afford the colored version. I insisted on vinyl because it is low maintenance and doesn't rot or swell. It will be wonderful to have windows that open and close. We did this before the rest of the yuck was stripped out of the walls because we got a few mild days. You don't want to put in windows when it's bitterly cold out! But doing it at this time of year cuts down on dealing with nasty things you can stir up, like wasps. The window is square but the framing looks weird. How good would you look at 242 years old? Making stuff fit is always a project with these old houses.

A dividing wall built between two rooms. All the bedrooms are in the front of the house facing the highway. I have always lived on back roads, but I find you do get used to the noise, which quiets down at night.

The new bedroom is to the right. There was a middle room here, that was small, and another decent sized bedroom to the far left. I decided we can get by with two bedrooms instead of three so we are keeping the middle and lefthand bedroom as one bigger room. 

With the old plaster walls gone, you can more easily see the original post and beam construction in this old place. That patterned stuff you see is old wallpaper. That wiring is shut off and capped, and will be all replaced. Like I said, this is a big project! 

OK, now we're going back outdoors again...

One of the lighter snows we had this winter. I think we got a few inches from this one. We had a lot of light snows, and plenty of wind. 

We've had snow off and on, with one storm dropping 6" and another 11". But we just got about 30" from a blizzard that fell on bare ground. So it's been interesting! 

That barn roof is a favorite of mine for taking pictures. 

As are the pines out front. They look frosted! The haze you can see is snow still sifting down.

I have feeders all over the place. We attract a lot of birds. I have several families of cardinals in the area. This guy is sitting in the white lilac between the house and barn. 

I think the cardinal was was waiting his turn at my main feeders. The woodpecker and gold finches below found something they liked right there in the lilac. I love the mesh feeders. So do the birds!

We do get bothered by squirrels now and then but they haven't been too bad. I wired the little covers of the mesh ball feeders to the base, so if the squirrels get them open, they don't fall far. We almost lost them a couple of times to those crafty tree rodents!

Well there you have another holiday season and some of the aftermath here on the farm. I know some people hate winter, but I've always found it a snug and cozy time to get things accomplished indoors. Of course, I don't have to go out in the cold and drive to work on icy streets in traffic anymore. But I never seem to get the blues—I'm too occupied with projects for that. Maybe that's the secret? 

Whatever you do, make it something worthwhile that keeps you happily busy, and makes someone smile in the process. The world will be a far better place with more happy and smiling people in it.