Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tis the season

It has officially begun

Monday, September 30, 2013

Ghetto Grooming

once again i have a huge lag in posting.  and, once again, it's not for lack of stuff going on!  i continued canning lots of goodies, adding to the list Roma Tomatoes, Pickled Green Beans, Pickled Banana Peppers and finally bagging cream corn.  it was while doing the corn that i really missed my mom and my aunt (her sis) - they were pros at this stuff.  but i made it through it & hopefully will have something positive to report after that first home made spaghetti sauce or whatever.
i'm sorry to report that things did not work out in the dog grooming salon i was working in.  nothing in that whole series of events that warrants any time here other than what i just gave.
in the interim, i am grooming dogs at home. not a lot, but a few here and there to keep the skills improving.  i have no desire to keep doing this out of my home for personal as well as logistical reason.  i mean, can you imagine trying to groom in the garage while this was going on?  sure, it would have made wetting a dog down easy, but the drying time would have been impossible!  so my plan is to do this temporarily until i can find a place & map out a plan to open my own store front.  i figure i have plenty of time, no need to rush and make any more mistakes than i already have.
so with that said, here's what Nacho has rigged up for me just to get by (excuse the blurry photos cuz that is all i seem to be capable of with my phone):
we start with a general overview of the setup.  tub on left, supply table behind that & grooming table on the right.
anyone who's been to our house will recognize the grooming table as our welding table.  we figure sometimes you need a shave down & a little spot weld all at the same time.

then only mistake we made on the grooming table is the arm is simply too short.  Nacho did rig it up so it raises and lowers, but right now it's at it's max height & that's not working so great.  but it works just fine for my temporary "salon".
next up, my supply table.  i was able to re-purpose my old garden cart.  i have had this thing since about 1995, so i would say that was money well spent - thanks Target!
you can see my small supply of towels in the bin & a few necessary bathing items along with my shears.
my favorite part....the OSB tub!
yeah, that's right, a tub made out of OSB & it works great!  on the left is the doggy door that swings open so they can walk right in.  you can see the little "lock" in the bottom of the photo above or to the right of Nacho in the photo below.  water runs out the drain in the upper right corner (photo above) which connects to a hose going out to our gravel drive.  i'm not worried about any chemical issues with our well since i'm using biodegradable products.  and filtering through the gravel makes it even better.
and you can see from the photo above, it was plenty of room for our 100lb friend Jake who came to see us this past Saturday!
Jake also tested our drying setup.  yes, that is a leaf blower in the blurry photo below - thanks for the idea Moser!
this is the area where we will need some improvements.  first up, a larger kennel.  Jake was fine in this & stood up almost the entire time so that helped get his belly dry fast.  but i really want something more comfy for a larger dog.  now the leaf blower concept may seem a bit klugey, but cage dryers are essentially the same thing.  i'm pricing those now but this thing worked like a charm.  we used it, the little yellow "squirrel cage" fan on the left, and my 2 assistants Barry & Nacho with regular hair dryers and this guy was done in 2 hours flat!  i don't think we could have achieved that if it had not been for the leaf blower & squirrel cage.  
so there you have it.  a rough start, but a start indeed.  what i do like about this setup is i'm at home so if i want to take a dog outside for a break, i've got a great layout for that.  there are lots of things to improve, but, like i said, this is only meant to get me by for a very short period of time.  
here's hoping the next posting under the grooming tag will show me with a giant pair of scissors & a big ribbon!

Monday, September 2, 2013

i've been canned!

oh no, not that kind of canned but you never know!  every few years i get the motivation to put up some of my own veggies, etc.  i've been feeling compelled this year since i quit my corporate job & don't have the steady income from dog grooming yet.  i've been trying to save money or reduce spending at every chance i get.
one of the items that i eat ALOT of is canned tomatoes.  and when my local grocery store stopped carrying my favorite brand, i figured now was as good a time as any to start canning my own. i may not have enough to get me through a winter, but i have a start.
i've frozen Roma tomatoes in the past, but we don't have a very larger freezer, and i think i pushed Nacho to his limit with the cherries i froze this year.  there simply is no room for normal food much less frozen tomatoes this time.  and with the kitchen remodel, i actually have some empty space in my cabinets since i got rid of so much unused stuff.  so canning it was going to be.
lots of history from the women in my family canning for years, lots of googling around "how to can tomatoes", and a very helpful book titled Food In Jars, and my process didn't differ that much from everyone elses....with one minor exception!
i start by getting a large pot of water on the stove & heating up to boil.  this will save you some time so you can clean & prep the tomatoes while waiting for the pot to boil.  lightly wash any sand/dirt off all the tomatoes - this is where a big sink comes in handy!
 i don't submerge mine for washing because i've seen where tomatoes will absorb that water & it dilutes the flavor so i just lightly wash them off.  the peels will be coming off so i don't feel compelled to clean them too much.  keep that bucket close by because it becomes the dumping ground for all things used/discarded - no stinking up my garbage!
after rinsing, i core & score each tomato. i like to core them before cooking because i hate the hard hearts that tomatoes can often have. some people like them, but not me.
you don't have to do either, but certainly scoring them makes removing the peels easier after shocking.
 and into the water they go!  make sure your water is boiling each time you put a new batch in!! if the water is not boiling, it makes getting the peels off even harder.
 notice i keep a pie pan full of tomatoes ready for the next batch!  several recipes i found said boil them for 1-2 minutes.  i just boiled them until it looked like the peels were nice & loose.  that seemed to be anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes.  riper tomatoes lost their peels sooner.
you're ready to remove & shock them!  my mesh ladle/strainer thingy was ideal for this.  i'm not a mess maker by nature, so this allowed me to let some of that water strain before transferring them to the "shock container".
my container was just another large pot filled with cold water. you'll also find most instructions say use ice water or an ice bath.  our refrigerator doesn't make a lot of ice because we don't use a lot of ice, so i just used cold water & it worked fine.
this stops the tomatoes from cooking & helps the peels come off.  this was by far the hardest part because it required me to be patient - something i anti-excel at.  if you don't give them long enough to cool down, handling them will teach you you should have!  at this point, i'd let the cooking pot get back to boiling & start another batch. just wait a few minutes & peel the cooling/shocked tomatoes & transfer them out to a bowl to sit while i finish the remaining batches.
you could transfer the peeled/shocked tomatoes directly to another pot for cooking, but i'm limited on pots so i had to use my same boiling pot for the next step, cooking, hence the temporary pyrex bowl above. 
once all my tomatoes had been cooked, cooled, peeled, and any remaining hearts taken out, i emptied out the water from the boiling pot & filled it with the processed tomatoes.
i brought this batch up to a boil, then dropped it down to simmer for 30 minutes.  i don't pretend to understand why, but if you are canning Whole tomatoes, you don't have to do this.  but if you cut them up like i did, you have to cook them.  
once the cooking was done, i began filling my jars with tomatoes.  i use a Ball canning kit that has the funnel and tongs for removing jars, lids, etc when processing.  you'll see in a bit, i didn't need the tongs, but the funnel is great because it's sized for Wide Mouth as well as Regular Mouth jars.
i also found numerous instructions that said to put a little lemon juice in the bottom of your jars before filling them. i have no idea what this is for, but did it anyway. i assume it must be something related to preserving the contents.  the chopstick that you see in the photo above was used to poke around and get rid of any air bubbles - but i'm not exactly consistent in doing that.  
the first batch of jars i did were just straight tomatoes.  nothing fancy in with them.  but the 2nd batch i did....
i went all spicy spicy on them!  all the jars have at least one clove of garlic.  some of the jars have Red Pepper Flakes and the others have Italian Seasoning.  can't wait to see how these taste (fingers crossed)!
so here's where things go off the beaten farmer guy that supplies me all my produce FOR FREE (thank you Jim), told me about an oven method.  normally, you'd have another larger pot of boiling water going, heat your lids up in a separate shallow pan of water to losen up their glue, put the lids & rings on your filled jars, and submerge them in the boiling pot for 5 minutes.  that's the standard for sealing them. 
the method i used this time was after filling the jars with tomatoes, put the lids and rings on - DO NOT heat the lids up in a shallow pan of simmering water.  turn your oven on to 200 degrees F & set the timer for 1 hour.  
 put your jars in directly on the racks (although i did use a cookie sheet for my 1st set - habit for not making messes in the oven but you don't need it).  shut the door & let the oven climb to temp & wait for the timer to go off.  seriously, that's it!
when the timer goes off, turn the oven off & either let them cool down in the oven, or take them out & let them cool on the counter.  i did both & it didn't seem to make a difference.
it's a bit weird because i'm used to the water bath for sealing them, but it makes sense: the gradual rise in temp does the same thing by softening the glue on the lids & sealing them down.  the only difference was after removing them, i didn't hear that gratifying "pop" when the seals took, but i did see the lids go down when i came back to check on them.  i tested the seals by waiting 24 hours & removing the rings & lifting the jars by the lids - none of them gave way which means the seals took!
i won't pretend the oven method is easier/better, especially since i haven't eaten any yet.  this winter will tell me that.  but it is a nice trade-off if you don't have a pot tall enough to process Quart jars in.  the water bath method is faster, usually on requiring 5-10 minutes of processing, but the oven eliminates that big pot of boiling water & having to lift filled jars out of it - something that always makes me nervous as the Most Clumsy Person in the World.
don't get me wrong, it's a good deal of work to do this.  but isn't there something so gratifying about canning your own stuff?  i come from a family that did all their own preserves, veggies, etc., and while i wish i had taken more of an interest in this when my mom, aunts, & grandma were here, i just feel good knowing i'm doing something that would make them proud. better late than never!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


oh my! it's been waaaay longer than i thought since i last posted.  not that there has not been plenty going on, but i certainly have had time to post SOMETHING!  well, more on that later.  more importantly, i found the love of my life last night.  no, not another Nacho!  but check this girl out!
she is a gen-u-ine MCM (mid-century modern) Danish Modern Teak set!  and she was left sitting by the curb waiting for her prom date.  she even had to sleep outside!  oh the humanity!  well, since i have never fully recovered from my Regret......there was no way i was going to let this happen again!  no way! so i texted the 2 people i knew i could depend on for a rescue & one of them was able to take this girl in!  it's sickening what i paid for her - about 6x less than she is worth!  although i would have loved to have kept her for myself, you simply cannot rescue every stray.  but you can find good homes for them!  
and you can see, she's not in perfect shape, but certainly doing well for her age!  and Terry says i can visit her whenever i want - i hope he doesn't check the bushes for me nightly!  that would be embarrassing.
so while our time together was brief, i know i will see her again, and probably in the lifestyle she is accustomed to!
so long Danni!  until we meet again!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fairchild Oak & Bulow Plantation

What is it about really old trees? I mean I'm fascinated by old wood. Who isn't? Admit it you are too!
We've been in Flagler this week & decided to take a break from the beach today, checking out a local state park.
This is Fairchild Oak at Bulow Creek State Park in Ormond Beach, FL. A 300 year old oak. Man the things this tree has seen!  Hurricanes, fire, wars, reality shows.  I'm amazed at anything that can survive Real Housewives!
With any vacation comes more sitting than The Hubs likes, so we hiked the local trail for a 4+ mile loop.  It was an adventure in biting flies, mosquitoes, & constant monitoring for ticks (we only found about 5 or 6 total during our hike).
Man do we know how to relax or what!  But really, it was neat!  Next time I'd bring bug spray & maybe a bike because the trail was some 6+ miles one way & I really would have like to do the whole thing.  Next trip. 
Had we been able to do the full 6+ miles one way, we would have hiked to Bulow Plantation - instead we drove up the road "a fer piece".  There's nothing left of the actual plantation house except for some posts marking the area, but the remains of the sugar mill were pretty cool.  

Oddly enough, I think I liked this short visit better than our walk around St Augustine the other day.  I tend to gravitate to the little parks that get less attention.  It's probably cuz I hate the crowds so, but there is just something about the road less traveled or the park less visited.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Let them eat...

The beginning of an awesome meal

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Going Away

A little going away gift from one of my co-workers on my last day

Monday, June 17, 2013


well it's been a VERY eventful few weeks here.  never mind our flooding.  that was easy.  we know when the water is coming up or going down & we know how to prepare.  but my latest?  hmmmm
for the past 2+ years i have been very honest (and vocal) about how burned out i am in my current job.  i absolutely loathe working in IT.  and i am not alone i'm finding out.  i reached my peak about a year and a half ago when something happened at work that really sent me over the edge - i posted about it & retracted it because there was nothing constructive in least i didn't think so then.
i realized much later that it was the push i needed to start finding my way out of my current job.  a year later, i was still struggling, but i was trying.  it took a while, but i realized i was asking myself the wrong question for the longest time:  what is it you really want to do?  that just added another layer of frustration because now i was not only unhappy in my job, but i couldn't not answer this question that i thought would make it all better.  somewhere along the way, i realized the question really was "what do you like?"  never mind the "to do", just what do you like.  that changed everything.
2 things happened:  i changed my approach to searching for the next job and Cookie was diagnosed with brain cancer.  i won't rehash the brain cancer stuff because it's all out there already, but it did really make me sit down & think about how much i like animals, dogs in particular.  i started googling "careers working with dogs".  aside from joining the circus (which i'm pretty sure i already live in), certain options kept presenting themselves:  vet, vet tech, groomer, trainer, dog sitter.  so i started researching those.
meanwhile, back at the farm, i began what i like to call my "man on the street career research project".  i would ask anyone & everyone about their jobs.  the Culligan guy?  yep!  the girls at my vet?  check!  the ladies at the nursing home?  check!  random people in check out lines!  really, i did!  and if i heard about a job someone did & couldn't ask them?  i googled it!  my philosophy was that old standby:  throw enough darts, you're bound to hit something.  i had some weird epiphany last March.  sitting in my cube at work, i broke.  i said out loud to all my co-workers "i'm done!  i will not spend the rest of my life staring at the corner of a cubicle!" and i meant it.
i believe in signs too!  always have.  weird things happen for a weird reasons.  i remember my graduate adviser was soooo disappointed in me when i mentioned this in front of her years ago.  "How can you study what you study & believe in signs, fate, etc."  my answer:  i just do!  and this year has been just that.  my favorite, our trip to Jackson Hole, WY and my dog sledding tour.  our guide Courtney and i had a conversation about how she made the leap, leaving her job in healthcare to be a guide.  i was captivated.  i so admire people that can take a leap of faith to get out of the normal routine & make their own path.  i told her at the end of our tour that this was the year i was going to take that leap of faith.  i was going to jump.
and jump i did!  i gave notice almost 2 weeks ago.  Wed will be my last day working in a corp environment.  and what am i leaving for?  dog groomer!  that's right!  i'm gonna go work for the 4-legged variety.  and i could not be happier right now.  i've worked in a local shop the last 2 Fri & Sat's & have enjoyed it.  it will be challenging, but i'm not scared at all.  and that people is a very big deal for me.  but i get it now. every person i have ever talked to that has done something like this said the same thing: you just reach critical mass. a point where you know if you don't jump off that cliff, you never will.  and i could literally feel each of those moments when i took that one step closer & the final one when i jumped.  and it felt great!
will i make a lot of money?  probably not! will i make any money? i sure hope so!  but am i scared?  not a bit!  i don't know when i've been so excited to embark on something.  i have certainly had better, more lucrative offers in the last year+, but none of them felt right in my gut.  this did the entire time.  so, like a marriage, for better or worse, here goes!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


This here is a Crepe Myrtle. They are a quintessential symbol of my growing up in the South. I bought it from a nursery here in the Midwest about 5 years ago. They assured me it was cold hardy for zone 5.  I don't believe I've ever let it sit through a flood - I think I pulled & potted it during the 2009 flood. But here she is sprouting leaves after 2+ weeks under 6+ foot of water.  I'm gonna take this as a sign of a good summer to come!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mom's Day

I don't really talk much about my family. Here or there in generalities. Yes there are the outrageous tales of me & my siblings. And the constant references to my "diddy". But I hardly ever talk about my mom.  Just never really have.
My mom passed away 7 years ago this August. She was way too young to die as far as I've ever been concerned.  My relationship with her was cliche complicated.   We had a very typical push pull relationship - she would always try to pull me closer & I would always push her away.  I'm like my  Daddy's family that way.  But it never meant I didn't love her.  I'm just extremely hard to love..much like my  Daddy's family. 
But I am the walking talking embodiment of my mother.   I have all her physical features.  Crazy multi-personality hair, long fingers & no fingernails, thin lips & baggy eyes.  I even have the same freckel on my thigh that she had.  I also have her same mental/emotional struggles.  I suffer from the same self doubt & criticism that she did.  At times I suffer from the same depression that she did, just not to the same depths.   But I also have her tenacity.
Since her passing I've tried to come home each year for Mother's Day & hang with my family.  I find it reassuring, recharging & sometimes frustrating, but always a blast!  This trip I stopped in to visit with my mom's best friend, Miss Nancy.   Sidenote:  In the South all women are referred to as Miss & their first name.  I love Miss Nancy like a mother.  There are things about Miss Nancy that I wished my mom had possessed but since she didn't so it would be pointless to mention here.  As Miss Nancy & I were catching up, I recounted a particularly difficult circumstance I'd had to navigate in the last couple of years.  Something where I'd really had to stand on my own & defend myself.  I'd never second guessed what I'd done or how I'd handled it, but when I told Miss Nancy the specific ferocity with which I'd done so she said "That right there was Sandra & she would have been so proud!"  Well it may not have come from my own mother's mouth, but it was just as good. 
Happy Mother's Day mom & guess what, I was always proud of you too!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

This is the way we go to work

go to work
go to work
this is the way we go to work until the flood recedes!  EVERYBODY SING!

Monday, May 6, 2013

these boots were made for wadin'

one of the most popular question we get during any flood is "So are you able to live in your house?"  yes we do/can.  that is usually followed by the "how".  doesn't take much to describe to people the kayaking or john boating in and out.  yes it is a pain, especially when it floods in Feb & there is ice to consider, but hey, i'd rather sleep in my own bed.
what is hard to explain to people is the equipment & logistics.  it is imperative, no matter how high or low the water, that you have a pair of these
these are chest waders.  neoprene to be exact.  they are essential & you must keep them with you at all times!  they are also apparently the perfect Christmas gift from your hubs!
so i get up & do the usual get ready morning routine.  one exception:  do not put your shoes on!  at least i don't because i cannot wear my waders with shoes.  so get all dressed up like normal, except for shoes, and squeeze into your waders.  i now know exactly what a brat feels like!
put all your ancillary stuff in a dry bag (or garbage bag if you forgot to get the dry bag down before the flood uhg!).  do not forget your shoes unless you want to wear the aforementioned waders into work!
and for good measure, maybe wrap that in an rain jacket & cram it in the back of your kayak for the paddle out/in.   have some rope handy (preferably attached to your kayak in the event you need to tie off somewhere & you will!
 lastly, lock up said kayak when you get to shore.  you can never be too careful!
it just so happens that we got these cable locks 11 years ago from my work.  they are just simple computer cable locks - remember back when companies used to literally lock their computers down?  turns out the cable is the exact size to fit through that hole in our kayaks.  not all kayaks have that but ours do.
oh, and be sure to take your paddle with you.  this year's saving grace for me is my paddle comes apart so it's super easy to store in car.  and be prepared to keep a very dirty vehicle over the next few weeks, especially if you let your hubs use your car cuz he will be oblivious to the mud mess he creates in your vehicle.
on the other hand, buy more garbage bags!  wash, rinse, & repeat 3 times a day for at least 2 weeks & you've got it made!


in the midst of all this flood tragedy, remember, There Will Be Hockey.
Nacho's hockey team had their annual cookout on Sat.  this year, due to the flooding, we held it at Moushon Manor!  mad props to Angie & Scott for putting up with hosting us all!
 it was the usual awesome fair of ribs, chicken, pork, and this year's newcomer shrimp boil!  two words:  yum & E!
and of course there was a trophy ceremony!  
Yes Moser that is the traveling trophy!
the important thing to remember people is.....B2B

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

River Monster

nah really it's just the concrete toad i bought last year finally peeking through.  

we are starting to see more and more of the surroundings!  i can't even remotely say yard cuz we are nowhere near that but we do have the concrete patio back as of last night.  yipee skippy!  nacho says by this Sat we might be able to walk in.  no driving in yet, but i'll take what i can get.  we still have to boat the boxers in/out for bathroom breaks but maybe by Sat the top of our berm will be showing so it will give us them some relief.  haha get it?  relief?  bathroom humor rules!
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