Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chilling out

It's a quiet Saturday morning.

The kids are sitting around, eating popcorn.

I'm looking around at the mess, realizing that it will take the combined effort of everyone in the house to get this cleaned up.

And we will.

But not quite yet.

This is nice. Peaceful. No one is crying, no one is freaking out that Mom is being unfair when she tells them to work on their school project or to put away their laundry. (I take it back - one is stomping around because I told him to eat breakfast. JEEZ, MOM.)

I'll enjoy it. Because at 10 o'clock it's going to get real around here. Gear up, buttercup.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Just checking in, really. I'm not super inspired this week, partly because I'm living in the future tense. As in, I'm tense about the future, and can't think about anything in the present, because FUTURE!!!

Tomorrow I have to drop the boys off with Gram, pick Catie up a bit early from school, and take her to a GI appointment, where they will undoubtedly tell me it's time for another unpleasant "clean out". Thankfully, I won't have to cook dinner, since we'll eat at Grams' house.

Saturday I don't really know what I have to do until evening; Jake and I are going to see a BagRock band, The Red Hot Chili Pipers at Hershey Theater, thanks to being the 5th caller on the radio!

Next week Catie is going to perform her National History Day presentation to the different grades at school, in preparation for performing for the judges at regionals on Saturday. My job is to make sure she practices, has her costume, and keep her calm.

In the next few weeks I have to try an experiment for the sake of an article I want to write; I'm going to switch my keyboard layout from QWERTY to Dvorak, to see if my 22 WPM speed gets any faster with a more intuitive layout. I cheat all the time by watching my fingers instead of the screen, so I ordered some relabeling stickers that will show both the old letters and the new ones I should be hitting. I found a free typing program that will help me train/retrain my fingers in Dvorak, so we'll see how this goes.

Sadly, all this is taking up so much of my brain space that I can't seem to function in the now. I did manage to move some laundry loads around, but the dishwasher is waiting to be emptied and refilled.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Zenni Optical - we like them!

Another one of those times where I WISH this were a sponsored post, because I'm totally going to try to sell you on this way of buying prescription glasses and they totally should pay me for it.  :)

Catie wears glasses now.

These are the glasses she got from our optometrist. Nice, right? Only within a few weeks she had damaged the hinges by taking them off with one hand all the time. I didn't know that was a thing, but Jake (a lifelong glasses-wearer) did.

So we got the frames replaced, because they were still under warranty, but she had to wear floppy glasses for a week until the new frames arrived. So I decided I HAD to get her a back-up pair of glasses, in case something else happened to this pair again.

There are a few online suppliers for prescription glasses, and most of them cost a LOT less than buying a pair through an optometrist. In order to... um... order... your glasses, you need to get a printout of your prescription and (this is important) your pupillary distance, or PD. Sometimes an office will be co-operative with releasing your prescription, but not your PD because they KNOW that you'll be ordering glasses from somewhere else, then. Selling glasses is the way they make their money - they barely clear $5 from insurance covered exams, so I can't really blame them. But I still need to watch my wallet, not theirs. It's your medical information, and it's your right to have it - ask politely but firmly.

Zenni Optical is a really nice online source for less-expensive glasses. Their base price for a full pair - frames AND lenses - is $6.95. They do have more expensive pairs, of course, and every little add-on costs money, as does shipping. But for less than $20 total, we got these!

They're memory titanium - very springy and lightweight, and baby brother-proof. She likes them better than her other glasses, which would cost us around $100 to replace through the optometrist, and wears them daily.

Zenni is pretty cool, too - you get a free case, microfiber wiping cloth, and a little pupillary distance measuring tool. Why? Because after the first family member gets their pair, hopefully everyone else with poor vision will be so impressed that they'll want a pair, too. And the PD tool will save them from having to run to their doctor for the info.

Isn't that thoughtful (and mercenary)? Next time Jake needs new glasses, I'm hoping to talk him into this - the last pair of his set us back over $400 from Pearl Vision!

Monday, February 23, 2015

So nifty - a FREE printable to help you keep track!

One of the things every finance pro will tell you to do, when first trying to save money, is write down everything you spend.

EVERYTHING. Every card swipe, every cash transaction... everything. And tally it.

By the end of a week, you should have a pretty fair idea of all your money "leaks", and can then determine which things you no longer want to waste money on... if you've kept up with it and can still find the notebook! I never can.

I've had sole control over one of the joint accounts for a few months, mainly because I'm treating it like my little savings piggy bank. I'm putting half my "side money" away for a special treat (electric assist for my trike), and half to pay down our credit card at that same bank. But because I never carry a checkbook with me when I make my deposits (or rare small purchases), I often forget to write the transaction in the register when I get home. It's not like I ever write checks, anyway, so I was grumbling to myself that there should be a debit-card, wallet-sized register that I could carry with me, so I'd know my balance at all times.

Yeah, I know, there's probably an app for that. I'm still trying to learn how to use Evernote, lay off.  ;)

I searched online, and there are a lot of preprinted registers that you can order - not very expensive, really, but sort of a pain to order and then have to re-order when you used them up.

So I was thrilled to find The PocketMod! It's just a little preformatted template - you choose what note-taking ability you want - check register, food diary, grocery list, even a music staff sheet if you need to compose on the go. Add up to 8 widgets to the table on the side, click print, and follow this handy dandy folding guide above.

You get 8 pages of compact note taking ability that fits in your wallet or pocket, and when you're done you can recycle the paper and print a fresh one - no need to order one, pay for it, wait around, know that you're contributing to the fall of Western civilization by wasting money, time and fossil fuels for the "convenience" of having someone else print out a register for you!!! (Pant.. pant... calming down now.)  And best of all, it's so customize-able. There are even reference pages you can put in, like Morse code, tip calculators, conversion references, and a Simplified Dvorak Keyboard printout, should you be so radical as to want to learn to type a whole new way.

I printed two, one for each account, and I'm going to TRY to keep both updated so I don't have to wonder what the balance is - I can just look. I'll still have to check with the hubby before I spend anything major, since the notepad can't tell me when the bills arrive... UNLESS I MAKE ONE where I write down what day the major bills are due and the usual amounts they are!!!

Off to print some more!  :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cloth diapers - can you wash them without your own washer?

Once again, another major news article has tossed off the line "the poor can't use cloth diapers, because 1) laundromats won't allow them to be washed in their machines, and 2) daycares won't accept them.
I made some phone calls today to the laundromats in our area, Harrisburg, PA.

Classic Dry Cleaning and Laundromats chain- Jamie was a big help - a big yes you can, and you can earn free washes with their cell phone app.

Dolly's coin laundry chain - no problem, a ban would be unenforceable anyway.

Morris Laundromotion chain - never heard of anyone doing diaper laundry - no problem if they did though.

Wash Basket Laundromat - would probably upset customers, prefer not to.

Elizabethtown Laundromat - No big deal, but if there's a mess still in the machine they'd appreciate you cleaning it out.

Overall, the laundromat owners and managers overwhelmingly said that horse blankets and dog bedding were a MUCH bigger problem than diaper laundry or laundry covered in vomit (because really, when the tummy bug strikes and the kids nail all the blankets, it's just smarter to take $20 to the 'mat and get them all done at once). The former can clog the drainage pumps and leave a lot of hair behind, while the latter usually are only yucky and bad-smelling.

The only person who said anything about not wanting them there had no concerns about the machines, just the other customers. He figured if someone would be offended by diaper laundry, he'd be the one getting a phone call to deal with them, even though there was no rule about it.

Now, these are mostly just chain laundromats in suburban areas - I tried calling some of the smaller urban 'mats, but since they weren't staffed, I didn't get a reply. I don't know about larger cities and their policies - I'm sure that some are more strict than our soft, squishy semi-urban area, but I started calling several in the downtown Pittsburgh area and couldn't get a reply.

And that, I think, is the real crux - the places aren't staffed. So even if there's a sign up (which most don't have) how are they going to enforce it? And the ones that WERE staffed had no problem with allowing customers to wash their diapers there. So the real enemy here is public opinion - people being grossed out by the idea that diapers were washed in the same machines that they're using, and complaining to the management.

Yes, everyone's different. And I knew a few people that would spend money they really couldn't spare to run an empty load before they put their clothes in, to make sure the residue from previous washes was gone. People, these are PUBLIC machines. Much like public restrooms, you can get yourself tied in knots about what other people have done in there, you can clean it yourself, or you can trust that the machines are operating as they should and the washing process left them sanitary.

If I had to do it all again, I'd probably order something like this portable washer or this one,
or if money was really tight, this hand washing kit with either a spin extractor to spin them mostly dry, or a Spin Mop bucket or industrial mop bucket with wringer to get the things mostly dry before hanging. Just because laundromats cost a lot.

Next time I'll start calling around to daycares.  :)  Actually, in PA it's legal for daycares to use cloth diapers, the only requirement is that the parents supply enough clean ones for the day, a waterproof container to store them, and take them away at the end of the day. From there it's just a matter of educating the daycare workers about how to use the diapers, which is the real hurdle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent, writing, and other stuff.

It's Fat Tuesday, also known in more fun locations as Mardi Gras, but here in German Pennsylvania it's Fastnacht day - a day for eating super fatty, sugary doughnuts. Our local gluten free bakery is offering them today, and I may pick some up today as a last hurrah.

Because tomorrow, the fasting begins. Because of my blood sugar issues, I won't be "fasting" properly, but Lent is a good time to start what I should have started ages ago. No refined sugar. Fruit will still be OK. I'm dropping diet soda again, but I have a feeling that's going to be something that I'll pick right back up after Easter.

And I'm going to commit to writing in my new book every day. Whether it's crap or not, I'm going to write. If it stinks, I can revise.

I'm also going to attempt to post here daily/semi daily, but that will be secondary to book writing.

I have a feeling that the first few days of writing, my book characters will be eating cakes and pies, washing them down with Coke Zero, and then eating candy bars and cookies...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In which I open myself to crossfire from all directions.

Hi, jane readers!

For those who might have bounced here from another direction, I wrote a piece for jane (an online magazine of sorts) about how and why Catie and Daniel are educated.

The comments section cracked me up no end. (A big thank you to all the supportive commenters, BTW. You're so sweet, and I wish I could have you all over for milk and cookies, or maybe just some wine.)

I figured I'd get some "homeschooling? That's for freaks and won't help them in the real world" comments. No big deal - I had to counter worse than that when explaining homeschooling to my own husband. He's one of my biggest supporters now, but he was against homeschooling before he got to know some homeschooling families. I figured I'd get some "Catholic school is for dweebs" comments, and that happened too. And I just KNEW I'd get some snarky comments about the factor that made Jake decide it was time to move Catie to private school - Jake went to pick her up from a school dance, and the 6th graders were twerking away to music we don't allow in our home.

Of course, those comments centered on how sick a man Jake must be, to translate the booty shaking motions as "too sexy, too soon". And I figured I'd get those comments, too - there were no surprises there. I know our parenting decisions are unusual (that's what makes a good article, after all), and I know there are a lot of people who disagree with homeschooling, Catholic school, religion in general, and the notion that people learn better different ways. That's OK, I don't need their approval (thankfully) to live my life or raise my children.

What I DIDN'T expect was a 14 year old girl would try to give me parenting lessons. I forgot that minors can get Disqus accounts, and she explained that sending Catie to Catholic school would cause her to rebel and act out sexually, that she (at the ripe old age of 14) was experienced enough to know that I must censor my kids, I was a major slut-shamer and a big war-on-drugs mama, and all her friends being raised with a religious upbringing were irrational, where she was logical. Her sexuality was not suppressed, she enjoyed it and enjoyed expressing herself that way.

When I had dried my eyes (laughing too hard), I made my best attempt to answer her in an appropriate manner.

We don't censor our children, we wait until they're older to introduce certain things. We don't deny sex education (as she insisted all Catholics do), we give appropriate education, teaching what the world says AND what our faith says. Sexuality is a beautiful, powerful, sacred thing. It's best saved for marriage, but I'm realistic - both my older two were born out of wedlock. I would hope that my kids would learn from my mistakes and save sex for marriage, but I understand. I really do.

So what I tried to explain to the 14 year old online, and to my own daughter, was that when you're among friends who are acting up sexually at a young age, it makes it seem more normal. And when sexual acts seem more normal at a young age, it can be easy to get physical when your body feels ready, but your mind and your heart can't handle the aftermath yet. Because sex is done with your bodies, but it involves every part of you - heart, mind, body, soul, spirit - and you are more than a bundle of nerve endings.

Your heart and mind and soul have value. You are so much more than just a body that experiences physical pleasure - a wonderful thing to be sure, but when your mind and heart are in agreement with your body, it's more than wonderful. It's real.

(Not saying what you've had isn't real. I'm saying that UNTIL it's real, it isn't. Make sense?)

And this isn't exactly what my Church teaches. It's just one mom, trying to make sense of all this and guide her kids the best way she can.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Frugal eats on a VERY cold day, GF bread recipe

Currently the weather app on my computer says it's 17 degrees. At noon. The wind chills have been below zero for much of the day.

Catie already had the day off of school for the Presidents Day weekend, otherwise they would have probably had at least a delay - subzero wind chills aren't any fun at all, and last year we even had a cancellation for cold temperatures (in Pennsylvania, mind you. In Michigan they'd probably just yell at the kids for not wearing warm enough clothes.)

So since yesterday, we've had the wood stove burning steadily. It was a struggle the first few hours to get the house heated beyond 70 degrees - the wind whipped the heat away as fast as we could produce it. Thankfully we hit a tipping point, and now the house is as toasty as you could ask.
An old picture - we don't keep the wood stacked there while we burn.

I'm cooking some chicken soup from drumsticks, carrots, celery, garlic, and some dehydrated veggies in one crock pot, and baking some potatoes and sweet potatoes in a smaller crock pot. A meal that should really heat Jake up from the inside out when he gets home. Thank goodness he isn't working outdoors in construction anymore - he had a spell a few years back where he had a mild case of hypothermia, and it took days of hot coffee and snuggling with a hot water bottle to get his core temperature back to normal.

I suppose the cheapest way I could cook right now would be in dutch ovens on the wood stove, but I'm not sure how long it would take vs. in the crock pot, and I don't want it to cook too fast. Thankfully crock pots are cheap to run, anyway.

On the crock pot note, I tried making gluten free bread in the crock pot recently, and made the decision to donate my bread machine right after the first batch came out! I would have taken pictures, but none of the loaves lasted long enough to get a shot. 

I used this recipe - only I left out the cider vinegar, and I used my standard gluten free flour mix instead of her blend.
  • 1 Tbsp. bread machine yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 12 oz. water (1.5 c) (105 degrees or a little less than hot)
  • 11 oz. (approx 2.5 c) GFCS’Gluten Free All Purpose Flour mix
  • 2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs (or 9 Tbsp. water and 3 Tbsp. ground flax seed)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cider vinegar
Then I greased the inside of the crock pot - any size will work - my smaller one made a loaf that looked like a round cake, the oval one made a nice artisan-y looking loaf, or I was able to wedge a small sized loaf pan in the big pot.

I mixed the dough with my stand mixer, but if you have strong arms you can just stir it well in a bowl. Plop the dough in your greased crock (er...), smooth the dough a bit, and switch the pot on low for a loaf in about 3 - 4 hours, high for a loaf in 2 -3 hours.

I have to say - this is the most successful bread recipe I've tried, but it really works best the same day or the day after - it WILL go stale/moldy fairly quickly, so baking daily or every other day is the best way to manage, followed by slicing and freezing your bread.

Or there's always French Toast.  :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The van is dead. Long live the van.

Well... not officially DEAD dead, but when the repairs amount to more than the most optimistic Kelley Blue Book value of the car, it's time to look further afield.

As previously mentioned, the Mighty Chevy Astro has been limping along for many months. It reminds me of the movie Space Cowboys, where the old astronauts are downplaying their aliments for that one last chance to go to space.

Now, my husband is many things, but he's not that good at diagnosing car problems if it's not an engine sound - and especially if he only drives that vehicle once a week. So when I first explained that the Valvoline quickie lube guys went pale and made the sign of the cross when they saw my undercarriage, he assumed it was hyperbole. (It was, but they were very concerned and gave me an absurdly long list of things to have our mechanic check out.) But it started and drove every time anyone put the key in, so Jake didn't quite buy the mechanic's concerns about the AWD rear motor, transmission fluid, cracked sway bars, radiator gaskets leaking, and the fact that when it was time to accelerate, it was a chancy game of "will it accelerate fast enough to get ahead of that semi truck today, or is this a day where it will struggle?". Because when he drove it, it felt like every other crappy van he ever drove. Me, I felt the little changes in how it handled from day to day.

So we took the van to a mechanic with a stellar reputation - car COLLECTORS use this guy, so we knew he was good. For $45 (plus tax) he gave us the full look-over. His list of repairs was even longer than Valvoline's, and since I had him on speakerphone with Jake in the room, he couldn't assume I was making more of it than I was. (Please tell me I'm not the only one with this problem? Other wives/husbands deal with this, right?) Even before dealing with the AWD hub, the repairs would have reached $2000. To his credit, the mechanic explained that there were some things we could fix bit by bit, and some things we could probably baby along for another 6 months or a year, if it meant that we would be grounded without the van. But to put more money into a van that we'd have to replace shortly anyway seemed like a bad idea.

We went home (carefully), called the credit union to see what sort of loan we could get that would keep our payment below $150 a month (I know - payments! <Shudder>) and started the internet searching process. Within a few hours, we had found a nice, 2008 Chevy Uplander for only $6500 in a nearby town.
It looks grey, but it's actually a very dark blue.

It's a nice ride - I had forgotten that some of the sounds and shimmies the Astro made were abnormal, so riding this is surprisingly quiet. As you can see, there are two sliding doors - a big deal, since the Astro only had one on the passenger side. And where I actually had to grab a handle and use a step to get up in the Astro, the Uplander lets me get in and sit without any climbing. It's clean - the previous owners used to keep towels on the seats - and there's a full set of rubber floor mats.

One of the nicest things about it is that it's one of the stripped down models with very few fancy options - no power doors, no built in DVD player, nothing much to break. I'm so glad I won't have to say "no, you can't watch a video on the way to the grocery store!".

But the options it DOES have are lovely - power steering, power locks with a key fob, CD player, A/C, and emergency calling (OnStar, but we don't have a subscription, so it's just an emergency alert).

Yes, this means a car payment. Yuck. But we'll be using our usual tricks to pay it off faster (paying more than the usual amount, sending windfalls off to knock the balance down), so our 4 year payment plan will probably not take that long. Good thing, too - I want to hold onto this long enough for Daniel to learn how to drive!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Don't pay to do your taxes!!!!!!

H&R Block, you are officially on my list of shifty buggers I have to keep my eye on.  

Jake and I decided to do our taxes last night, gleefully anticipating our federal refund. It's going to be a little less this year, which I had to explain to Jake is a GOOD thing - it means we made more money overall this year! But as we reached the big money-maker portion of the return, the EIC (Earned Income Credit), H&R Block pulled a fast one.

They tried to say that the free version of their online software did NOT include the EIC paperwork, and if we wanted to include schedule EIC in our return, we would have to upgrade to the $19.99 version of the software! And they made sure to show exactly how many thousands of dollars we would be forfeiting if we failed to file the EIC.

I was livid! How DARE they? The EIC goes to the low income families with children - and H&R banks (quite literally) on people being both poorly informed about how to file their taxes and eager/desperate to receive their refund.

My mother in law heard my loud profanity (I have a mouth like a sailor when it comes to financial injustice) and came in the room to see what was wrong. She showed me that yes, if you log in through H&R's website, you have to pay for the upgrade.

But if you go through and click on Free File, it will take you to a version of H&R Block that is completely free (for income levels under 60K). So we had to back out and re-enter everything after going through the IRS link.

I share with you so you don't get to a certain point in your refund and get duped into paying for a service that is being offered for free.

And H&R Block, I'm watching you.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thrift store shopping strategies

I have a hard time remembering the last time I bought brand new clothes. I really had to think about it for this post, and the best I can come up with is buying some post-pregnancy clothes at Old Navy about 2 years ago. Most of my clothes are from my favorite thrift store, Community Aid. There aren't that many of them - I think there are only 3, and they're all in the central Pennsylvania area. But they are AWESOME.

Some of you may swear by Salvation Army, and I used to love them before Community Aid moved in - other people really like Goodwill, Volunteers of America, Purple Heart - the trick is the management. The reason I love Community Aid is it's always kept clean, it's well stocked with all sizes (kids especially), and they make a real effort to only put out things in good shape, so I don't have to spend as much time checking for damage on clothing. In your area, the store that does that might be Goodwill. Either way, this is my favorite thrift shopping trick.

Once a week, our store runs a 50% deal - everything is 50% off for the day. Pretty awesome. But about once a year they run a Dollar Day promotion - all the clothes marked down to a dollar! So when I know Dollar Day is coming, I do a quick inventory of the family's clothes. What do we need, what size is everyone now, what DON'T we need, and write it all down.

I know, Dollar Day is cheap - you could get a mountain of clothes and not sweat the price much - but if you pay to take something home that doesn't fit, you then have the hassle of figuring out what to do with it. In general, I've found that buying dresses and skirts a little bit too big is safe - they're easy to take in. Shirts have some flexibility, but you don't want to look like you're stuffed into it or swimming in it, so find a decent size range you can play with. Pants are the hardest to find, since everyone is shaped so differently and pants will cut off your circulation or fall right off if they don't fit right.

So the second step is what I consider pretty smart. The dressing rooms are closed on Dollar Day, so go and find your favorite, best fitting pair of jeans. Write down the brand, size, and cut - I love Old Navy jeans for this, because I know I wear a size 10 Sweetheart cut, the styles (Diva, Sweetheart, etc) are embroidered on the back inside waistband, and they're common enough that I can usually find a few pairs. If I feel adventurous, once I've found the first pair of jeans that I know will fit, I branch out by holding the "sure thing" pants up against other pairs of different brands. Obviously, you need to be aware if one pair is stretch denim and the other is "standard" denim or other non-stretchy material - they will fit VERY differently.

Credit to
Another trick (good for us busty girls) is if you want a shirt or dress, take a measuring tape and measure your favorite top across the bust part. You've probably developed a bit of an eye for things that look about the right size, so once you've spotted something you like that looks close to the right size, measure across the bust (or hips, if that's your problem area) to make sure it will be big enough.

For the kids, sizes are pretty much standard unless you have a skinny or plus sized kid. Then you just have to worry about what's needed, and what's available in the right size.

Happy thrifting!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Long distance? What's that?

I was reading this article over at Monroe on a Budget, and realized - Oh my gosh - my kids don't know what long distance means! I had to explain that back when calls were sent over wires, long distance calls had to be routed, sent over longer wires, sometimes the sound would be affected by the resistance of the wires over the long trip to your ear... and it cost a LOT more.

I'm old enough to have gotten excited when Candace Bergen was shilling for Sprint, advertising their "Dime a Minute" plan for long distance calls. I remember scraping enough money together to set up a local only landline, because long distance and toll call service cost more. I remember looking for 800 numbers in the PHONE BOOK so I could call businesses from home, or the payphone. (If you're too young to know - 800 numbers are free to call, nationwide, making them good for avoiding long distance charges). My mom used to have a ham radio license because it was the cheapest way to stay in contact with her boyfriend when he they were in different colleges, and she told me that sending a telegram was one of the cheapest ways to send a 10 word message - in the '70's.

Now? I guess going over your text and data plans are the new "long distance" charges. Or going over your minutes, if you're still on a minute plan. I still remember being shocked when I got my first cell phone that I was billed for calls that I had received! Now it makes sense to me - you're using network bandwidth whether you place or receive the call - but back then it seemed like the ultimate money grab. I was used to the caller paying on a land line. Then when they introduced free mobile-to-mobile, it seemed like an incredible deal. And with Republic Wireless charging only $25 for unlimited talk, text and data in the US, all the other plans seem like tripe!

I have an uncle living in the Ukraine (long story, but he's over there teaching English). About once a week, he video chats with one of my other uncles. VIDEO. CHATS. For FREE. That was firmly in sci fi territory as a kid, and we used to think it would be so expensive once it was available. It's cheaper than a regular phone call internationally! My dear friend "Penny" is overseas - yet I "talk" (type) with her every day online.

Funny thing - digital communication has been huge for deaf people. I knew a deaf man who had a
Blackberry (the keys made it easier) and just texts everything. Back in the 90's, TTY/TDD devices (phones for the deaf) were still something that cost a fortune, had to be specially installed, and weren't all that easy to find. Now it's just as easy for most deaf people to contact others as it is for hearing people. Wild.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's cold

Yes, it's cold. Brilliant insight, right? In other news, water exists in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms on our planet.

But really - yesterday in our neck of the woods, the temperature dropped 15 degrees in 2 hours. A lot of people (us included) had some rutted slush in their driveways. Now we have "concrete" ruts that aren't going anywhere for a while.

And we had a mishap yesterday that left us chillier than we usually like when the temperature is 14 degrees outside. We supplement our heat with a wood stove, which usually works so well that the furnace doesn't kick on at all, and the only reason we even turn it on is to use the forced air blowers to move the heat around. Around the edge of the wood stove door is a gasket that helps control the combustion rate, sealing the door against the stove. It's something that should probably be replaced every year, but it looked pretty good this fall when we did our beginning-of-the-burn-season checkup, so we left it alone. Mistake.

Yesterday the high heat cement that holds the gasket in place, simply gave up. The whole gasket started flapping around - just as the temperature was dropping. Jake went to the hardware store and bought some high heat glue and fixed it, but we had to leave it alone overnight to allow it to cure. That was a bummer - listening to the wind actually shriek around the roof, and knowing that yes, we could turn up the heat, but then we'd have to deal with a huge bill. So we kept the heat low, dressed warmly, and used warm blankets. All normal, thrifty things to do.

All the same, I'm really glad to have the wood stove up and running again today. I plan to have the house up to 72 degrees by 2 PM, and that's going to feel like utter heaven. My toes just don't stay warm like they used to in my teens, back when I wore sandals year round.