December 30, 2008

Historical Explorations

On Saturday we went to Jamestown and Williamsburg with our friend Lauren. I had never been before, and Joe hadn't been in many years. Usually he doesn't like tours and such, but this time we were both excited to check out some old architecture and ways of living. We were especially interested in the timberframe and wattle and daub structures in the Jamestown settlement. Wattle and daub is similar to cob in that it is a clay and sand mixture. In the case of wattle and daub, however, the framework for the walls is a wooden lath (or wattle) of woven saplings to which the clay (daub) is applied. This is used as infilling between the timbers.

We were excited to find that there were earth ovens at both Jamestown and Williamsburg. The interpreter at Jamestown told us that the original clay ovens at the settlement were shipped over from England. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had Kiko Denzer's book "Build Your Own Earth Oven" like we did. I don't know that it would have helped them, though. They apparently sent a sorry lot of people over to colonize the new world. It would have helped if anyone had had some practical skills. It wasn't even until the 2nd or 3rd boatload of people that they decided to send over some farmers, carpenters, and here's a thought...maybe some women?

The Williamsburg oven was more similar to ours. It was about the same size, had a brick arch, and a wooden door. Joe was pretty excited.

I really enjoyed seeing all of the little houses at both places. The little houses just had so much warmth and character, especially in Williamsburg. We got there late in the afternoon and did the "free tour", meaning we just walked down the main street and didn't go in any of the buildings. Most of them had already closed up for the day. The evening light made for some nice pictures, though.

Throw in a visit to the cheese shop and the chocolate shop and it really was a fun day. You can see more photos from our trip here.

December 26, 2008

Holiday Happiness

Here's hoping everyone had a wonderful holiday. Ours was stress-free and filled with family and friends. Earlier this week my sister, Lynn, drove out from Blacksburg to spend a couple of days with us. It was a short visit, but we did manage to fit in some fun thrift store shopping and movies. The weather was quite balmy so we took Wilson down to the beach as well. He's not very impressed by sand, but you can't visit Va Beach and not at least look at the ocean. This photo was also supposed to be one of me and Lynn, but Wilson managed to steal the shot at the last second.
On the 23rd, we went to Joe's cousin Rachel's house for a family Christmas auction. The premise of the Christmas auction is that everyone brings some items they are getting rid of, which are then presented to the group and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Everyone starts with an equal amount of Monopoly money. :) What a fun idea! Such a great way to find a new home for items you're not using any more, and have blast at the same time. Emre was our illustrious auctionneer (seen here modeling an antique pair of aviator glasses, a very hot item) and kept a lively pace. I spent most of my money on big ticket items - namely a wooden box made by Howard and a hand-printed denim jacket by Melodie. Joe managed to snag a vegetarian cookbook and a pizza cutter.

On Christmas Eve we went to Joe's stepmom's house for dinner, where I managed to capture this rare photo of Joe and his siblings, Tommi and Max.

Christmas day we opened presents with Joe's mom. All of my sister's gave me cooking related items, all of which will see MUCH use. Jenny made me a BEAUTIFUL apron (I don't have a photo yet), so pretty I'm afraid to cook in it for fear of messing it up. Instead I wore it as an outfit accessory for the rest of the day, and received many compliments. :) I gave Joe a pressure cooker, something we've been wanting to get for a while. As you can see, food is very important to us. Joe managed to surprise me with an "Eco Media Player", an iPod of sorts which is powered/charged by a hand crank - the perfect accessory for off-grid living. :)

Having Wilson around at Christmas is almost like having kids. He's not quite sure what is going on, but he's very excited by it all. He was especially thrilled when we followed each round of gift giving with a treat from his cookie jar. Last year Lisa gave him a stuffed frog, a present he is still having fun with a year later.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Joe's uncle Tony's house for a delicious Wareing family tradition - Grandma June's pizza! I was too busy eating to take any pictures. :(

All this Christmas socializing really wore Wilson out. Good thing he has an entire couch full of warm pillows to sleep on.

December 21, 2008

Wilson's Cookie Jar

As I've mentioned, I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen since coming to VA Beach. Because it's Christmas, and because he's always guilt tripping me about moving him to the city where he has to be inside all the time, and because I just really like the little guy, I decided to try making Wilson some special treats. We have come to the conclusion that wheat and corn (very common dog food additives and common dog allergens) might be triggers for Wilson's seizures. So, I stirred up a concoction of oatmeal, molasses, peanut butter and rice flour baked into little gumball sized hard cookies. I figured it Wilson didn't like them, we could always eat them. However, the results are conclusive - Wilson loves them!

Last night we celebrated Joe's cousin's 30th birthday by going to an arcade. Joe couldn't believe I had never been to an arcade before (who knew I was such a sheltered child!). I guess arcade dexterity comes faster when you're a kid, because I certainly wasn't picking up on anything really quick. Joe and I went through 5 dollars of quarters and only ended up with 74 tickets. I had to give myself pep talks when I realized I was letting Pacman determine my feelings of self worth! All in all it was a very fun time. Everyone in our group was going to save their tickets to give to some lucky little kid, but it turns out there were no kids there, only goofy adults like ourselves trying to relive their childhoods. :)

December 18, 2008

Settling in at the beach

We've only been in Va Beach for 2 1/2 weeks, but it seems longer. That sounds bad, but really I mean that we've quickly settled in to our routine and surroundings and feel like old pros. I think the patterns we formed last winter resurfaced quickly and made settling in easier. Even Wilson remembers all his old haunts and rules - like waiting at a street corner for the okay BEFORE crossing.

Joe is working at the gym 6 days a week, mostly afternoons and evenings. This is quite the opposite schedule of his body clock, but he is making up for it with naps. :) He is making full use of the gym and working out alot. Usually he has almost finished a workout before I even get up in the morning. I am managing to make it to the gym more often this winter. I have dedicated myself to doing at least one yoga class a week and working out, with Joe's help, several times a week.

I am doing some substitute teaching when called upon, which has only been twice so far. I am really enjoying the downtime, though, and am investing it in expanding some of my interests. This website has been one of my major projects. My other focus so far has been cooking. Having access to an "easy" kitchen (e.g. one with running water, unlimited electricity, etc.) has motivated me to practice my bread baking and try out new recipes.

Wilson's ideal urban schedule would be to wake up mid-morning and hit the streets until evening. In reality he gets one or two walks a day, the occasional play date with his buddies Tico and Baby, and settles for sleeping on the couch the rest of the time (a privilege he is not usualy allowed and is taking full advantage of). Foxy's schedule hasn't changed much and still consists of sleeping non-stop except for his two, much anticipated meals, and a forced exile from the house at night. This is so we can sleep peacefully and not be woken up when the call of the wild hits him at 2:30 a.m. And now...a couple of pictures.

It is really hard to get a picture where Joe is not making some kind of face AND Wilson looks happy. In this one, I had to settle for Joe looking normal. The frog is Wilson's new favorite toy of the moment.

These pictures are for Deb, who requested more goat photos. Banjo always wants to get upclose and personal with the camera. Yoda is finally feeling big and confident enough to engage Banjo in that always favorite pastime of head-butting.

December 04, 2008

The move has been made. We are now in Virginia Beach until March 1st-ish. It is sad to leave our little universe. The morning we left (Monday, Dec 1) there was such a beautiful, but brief, snowfall. We couldn't resist playing around for a minute and taking pictures. I do love snow. Our little house will not be lonely, yet anyway. At the last minute we were able to offer it up as temporary accomodations for a friend of a friend while looking for more permanent housing. Here in Va Beach we are staying with Joe's mom just a few short blocks from the beach. Joe is keeping busy working at the gym. I am keeping busy with projects, following Wilson around the city, and keeping an eye out for occasional bouts of gainful employment.

November 22, 2008

Mice - small little creatures, very cute, but secretly they are weapons of mass destruction! I have spent my afternoon in the freezing cold wind going through boxes of what I thought were prized possessions (they must be or else why would I still have them, right?) but had been transformed into mouse nests, complete with the little rodents themselves. For about a year now, we have had our excess stuff, what wouldn't fit into the shanty, in a weatherproofed old cattle feed shed. Weather proof, yes, but not closed off to various living creatures searching for meals and cozy places to make a home. All summer long I couldn't go in there because of the many wasp nests. This fall, when I decided surely the wasps were gone or too cold to put up a fight, I discovered that all of our cardboard boxes had been chewed into and many of the contents shredded and fluffed by mice. I think this is just God's way of teaching me to let go of even more stuff. After throwing out what was destroyed, and sorting out what I don't really need anyway and can go to the thrift store, the remaining half is being put into plastic storage totes to further prolong its life. It is becoming easier and easier to get rid of stuff. I am now down to a few sentimental childhood items I want to share with my kids someday and miscellaneous supplies for my various hobbies. Virtually all electronic devices have been given away as they have been proven to be unnecessary to a fulfilling life. However....that's just MY stuff. The saga continues this winter when we go through all of Joe's stuff that is stored at his mom's house. At least we have learned our lesson and will be buying stock in Rubbermaid. :)

November 18, 2008

The first snow of the season! What a delight to wake up this morning and find the ground white with a fine dusting of snow. It continued coming down this morning and made for a delightful time with a cup of tea in front of the window. Unfortunately, I had to drag myself away and brave the roads into town for work. It is still coming down a little, and I'm hoping for at least a foot. :)

It has been a busy but fun weekend. We had many friends and family members come to visit. Our little house has been bustling with activity. We cooked pizza three times in as many days. I almost didn't think I could eat another piece of pizza, but it turned out you can never have too much pizza. :) We also managed to finally fit in some time to work on Lisa's place. I did a lot of trim work on the inside, and Joe finished the porch roof. It is getting close to being finished! I have decided that I really do have a passion for little bity houses, and for building them. Someday I might be a world-renowned tiny house builder, or at least locally renowned. :) In closing I leave you with a picture of Joe entertaining my nieces and nephew with some goat "riding".

November 13, 2008

Rain, rain and more rain. We need it though, so I am very happy. It looks like we might be in for several days of rain and clouds, so that means watching the electricity usage until the sun comes out again. Luckily, our system is sized to handle several cloudy days, and we don't really NEED electricity anyway. The rain may also keep me from some of the pre-Va Beach projects I was hoping to accomplish, but it will provide a nice down-time as well. It seems like I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off and STILL can't seem to get anything done. I don't know how most of the world does it! I only work 3 days a week, 18-20 hours at most, but I never seem to have enough time. Luckily Joe has a lot of time at home and it far more motivated and efficient than I am. I come home from work to find major advances have been made since I was gone. The truck rebuild project has been taking up at least one of my off days a week, but we are making good progress on it. After another full day of tweaking and fiddling, it does officially start and run. Plus, the brakes work and all fluids are installed (although some are leaking, which is the next priority). I don't know that it will be finished and road worthy before Va Beach, but it's come a long way. The dream of a small diesel truck is becoming a reality. Well, off to take my boss' cat to the vet..

November 03, 2008

Happy birthday Mama!!! I can't remember how old you are, so you don't have to worry about me posting it on the internet for the whole world to see. :) Not that it would matter, because you look WAY younger anyway.
I'm very excited because I have just found, finally, a program that will allow me to easily edit photos. Now I can post pictures more often, including these I just took today.

Joe loves getting Banjo all riled up so he'll "fight" with him. Banjo secretly loves it, although he likes to act all offended.Yoda was feeling fiesty and wanted some action also, but she couldn't convince Wilson to wrestle with her. Wilson has no interest in wrestling anything with horns and a propensity for head butting.

This photo is for Lauralee, who wanted a picture of us cooking for a family cookbook she's making. Fresh baked bread and ginger cookies!

November 01, 2008

The truck lives again!!For those of you who don't know, Joe has been rebuilding a small, diesel pickup (a 1985 Isuzu P'up) for over a year now. This truck is supposed to be Joe's dream truck as well as providing us with a second vehicle, one that can even run on biodiesel or veggie oil. The project has been a huge one, and Joe had gotten bogged down and unenthusiastic about it a while ago. In order to inject some new life into the project, I have been participating in the rebuilding for the past couple of months. (The truck is currently at a friend's place, a scattered genius affectionately known as CarMan, who surprisingly enough has a wireless internet signal somewhere close.) The engine has been reassembled and painted so it is looking almost brand new. However....there were all these wires running around loose and unattached. I know absolutely nothing about cars, but we just started matching things up based on wire color and proximity. There are still a few random wires without a home, but we were pretty sure the main ones were all hooked up, except that we still weren't getting anything when we turned the ignition key. So, with CarMan's help, we traced every wire from the battery to the starter, disconnected and cleaned every connection, resoldered some broken connections, and worked!!!! Well, we still have to get some fuel and engine oil and try it for real, but at least it is looking like we haven't been wasting our time and money over the last year or so. The guys are on a mission right now to get fuel. This may be a premature posting of jubilance, but I just couldn't help it. :)

October 30, 2008

Another cold start to the day, but at least the wind has died down. It is nice getting to have a fire in the woodstove, though. There's nothing quite like a cozy shanty. :) Here are a couple of pictures of Joe's recent handiwork. It is so nice to come home from work and find wonderful new additions to our universe while I've been gone. The other day he built another set of steps from our porch leading straight into the garden. No more going the long way around! I guess the deer could end up in our garden if they were willing to walk up and over our porch to get into it, and the day that ever happens.....

We have been revisiting our future house plans lately in the hopes that we can reinvigorate ourselves on the project and make it a not-so-future reality. After having lived in a little-bity place for a year now, we have changed some of our ideas of what we want in a house. We LOVE living in a little house, and so we've been redesigning our plans to be even smaller and simpler. I have been getting books at the library for ideas, but all of the small house plans books are for houses that are 1,200-2,000 square feet. Even that seems huge now. I have been really inspired by Tumble Weed Houses, and while we're not aiming for that small (which is smaller than we even have now), it is really fun to think about. The smaller the house, the less intimidating a project it is to tackle.