Friday, January 28, 2011

Ewe's not Fat!

This is Stormie.  She's my baby-girl.

She is a Tonkinese kitty (a Burmese Siamese mix).  She is 5 1/2 years old and she was the runt of her litter.  When we went to the breeders to pick up her brother, Aubie, we couldn't leave without her too.  She was an adorable little alien kitty!



It is funny how different 2 cats can be when they are from the same litter.  Here is a pic of them with their sibling that was adopted by another family.


Stormie craves love.  She likes to be held.  She likes to sit in our laps, but she loves our shoulders even more.

She enjoys anything that provides her with our undivided attention.  When I'm working during the day she will sit on my desk and stare at me with these sad little eyes to tell me that I'm not paying attention to her.  She looks so sad.  Look at her sad eyes...

She is very loving and will purr pretty much whenever we touch her.  Although, if she wants love and we aren't giving it to her she will bite our elbows.  Not hurtful bites, but annoying little bites.  Unlike most kitties, she has never scratched us out of anger or showed any anger towards us at all.  She is our sweet little girl.

Stormie also loves to play and she can become very jealous if we play with her brother.  She doesn't like to play at the same time her brother is playing.  She wants us to ignore him and play with her instead.  If we play with Aubie she will either run away and sulk or she will get on him and do this...

Lately, I've noticed that she is gaining some weight.  We call her "big girl" and I hope she doesn't know what we are saying or it may give her a complex.  Poor baby.

Growing up my grandmother had a little plaque on her wall with a cartoon sheep and on the top of it, it said, "Ewe's not fat, Ewe's fluffy".  I always loved it and thought it was so funny.  So, in Stormie's defense, I tell her "Ewe's not fat, Ewe's fluffy" so she feels better about her weight gain.  And she purrs to let me know she understood and she loves me.

This is Stormie lounging on the couch last night in all her fluffiness...


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm an Oatmeal Snob

I know.  I have a problem.  I'm an oatmeal snob.  I should rephrase that.  I am an unhappy oatmeal snob and it is all Quaker Oatmeal's fault.  Let me explain.

Every morning I wake up and I think about my morning oatmeal.  I walk into the kitchen, put the water in the tea kettle on the stove and grab my 2 Lower Sugar Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal packets.  Yes, I said 2. 

I have been doing this almost every day for the last 4 or 5 years.  Of course, there are some days when I have eggs or bacon or cereal, but 5 out of 7 days I have Lower Sugar Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal. 

The problem.  I cannot find the boxes for Lower Sugar Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal anymore.  I went from store to store to store to store.  When I went to Chicago I looked in their local grocery store.  In Tennessee I checked out their store.  In Florida too.  No one has the full boxes of LSA and C!

So, I emailed Quaker.  They wrote me a very nice email and told me that they discontinued the full boxes of Low Sugar Apples and Cinnamon oatmeal.  They only sell it now in the "Lower Sugar Variety Pack".  Which would be great since Kevan likes the Lower Sugar Maple and Brown Sugar.  Right?

No!  It is bad.  Why?  Because I DO NOT LIKE CINNAMON AND SPICE!  Believe me.  I  have tried.  I have tried hard to like it, but I just don't.  Some days when I'm out of Apples and Cinnamon I try Cinnamon and Spice and I regret it all day.  It totally messes up my day.  Over Christmas I gave away my stash of Cinnamon and Spice that I have collected over the last few months.  I had about 75 packets.  75 packets of oatmeal I don't like!  A person shouldn't have to buy something they don't like, right??

Also, some Variety Packs come with 4 packets of Apples and Cinnamon and some come 2 packets.  When I find them with 4 packets I buy the store out.  I know....I have a problem.  Especially because it leaves me with MANY packets of Cinnamon and Spice.  What is an oatmeal snob to do with this crisis??

To make matters worse, the other day I opened a new Variety Pack and there were 4 packets of my oatmeal.  Well, one of the packets had been closed incorrectly by their fancy packet machine and the packet was ALMOST EMPTY!  There was like a teaspoon of oatmeal in the packet.  So, what am I supposed to do with 3 packets when I eat 2 a day?  Grrrrrr!!!!  Fix your stinking packet machine Quaker!

Note - Quaker thanked me for my input and sent me 2 coupons for free oatmeal.  That's great, but it just didn't make me feel better since I still have to buy a bunch of packets I don't like.  Their packaging is also annoying because several times I have bought the normal oatmeal instead of Lower Sugar because the packaging is so similar and I am blind and do not realize the BIG LOWER SUGAR banner is missing. 

I'm praying to get over my addiction....thank you for listening.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Listen to your Mother!

One night while we were in Tennessee Kevan's mom called and told us that cold weather was moving in.  It would be getting down to 9 degrees overnight.  She instructed us to open our cabinet doors and to turn our faucets on a light drip or the pipes might freeze overnight.  We thought that she was just worrying and that we would be just fine, but decided we would at least open the cabinet doors before we went to bed.  But, we went to bed and forgot about the cabinet doors.  Oops.

So, I woke up the next morning (the house was about 46 degrees) and grabbed my tea kettle.  I poured out the water from the day before (I always do this...I feel that the water is dirty because it sat in the kettle for the last 24 hours...I know, I need help).  Then, I turned on the faucet.  NOTHING came out.  I was devastated that I had just poured all of our storage of water down the drain and we could not have our morning oatmeal.  What was I thinking?  From now on....I will test the water faucet before I pour the water down the drain!

First thought that came into my head.....we should've listened to my mother-in-law!  I'm sorry Judy.  I admit.  You.were.right.   I couldn't have oatmeal, I couldn't take a shower, I couldn't brush my teeth, I couldn't flush the toilets!!  You get the picture.

Kevan and I had to work all day so we went through the day trying to adjust to not having water.  I have to say, I would rather struggle with heating issues than to not have water.  I'm so glad God gave us water.  Next year, we will plan better and have emergency water on hand.

Earlier in the day Kevan decided to check out the crawl space just to see if he could tell what was going on.  Do you see the little tiny window near the ground with the wood/bricks sitting up against it?  Yes, my husband crawled through that.  I could never do it.  I'm so happy God gave us husbands for things like this!  Sorry for the ugly house pic, but this was right after the auction pre-clean-up and pre-pressure washing.

Kevan didn't find much out by going in the crawl space.  My brother David called us that afternoon because he had heard that we didn't have water.  He talked to Kevan for awhile and gave him some ideas.  We didn't know if the water issues were due to frozen pipes, the well house being frozen, or what other issue could be causing it.  But, Kevan and David decided to make sure it wasn't the well pump first.

Since we didn't have water Kevan would bring me a pot full of snow and I would melt it on the stove.  If you aren't familiar with melting snow to make water...this much snow:


Makes this little tiny bit of DIRTY water!


Kevan wrapped the well pump with towels and once we had boiling water from the melted snow Kevan would take it and pour it on the well pump and then pour some on the pipes surrounding the well pump.  Here is a pic of our well house.


We did this over and over and over and over and over and over. Remember how much water we got from one pot of snow....we did it over and over. Then, miraculously the faucet in the kitchen started dripping water! So, we did it over and over again and eventually we had water again.

Then, I went right to the bathroom and took a bath in this.....and I loved every minute of it.  I love water.  Indoor plumbing was the BEST invention followed by 2 person jacuzzi tubs.  ;o)


Heating Adventures (Post 3 - Gas Furnace)

Note - this is a really boring post about gas furnaces.  If you don't care about gas furnaces you probably should read a different post.  If you are a heating and air person will you please read and make any suggestions that may help us figure out what went wrong.

This will be my last post on our Tennessee heating adventures.  I know everyone is probably VERY happy about that.  :o)  We just wanted to make sure we documented this so that we can remember and laugh later.  Also, next year when we are in nice warm Florida we can read through our past posts and decide if we really want to go through it all again in cold Tennessee next year (I'm sure we will...we had a blast).

So, at this point we had the wood stove for heat in the 2 main rooms where we spent most of our time and the gas fireplace in the living room (which isn't really a room we use), but we had no heat in the bedrooms or bathrooms unless we wheeled the little radiator around the house. 

When the house was purchased at auction we did not realize that it did not have a reliable/inexpensive heat source.  We found out later that the previous owner had purchased a new gas furance, but passed away before he was able to install it.  It had been sitting in the barn so the auctioneer sold it instead of keeping it for the new home owners (us). 

I was getting really nervous because my family (mom, dad, sister, sister's boyfriend) was set to arrive in 3 days!  I hated to think that we would all have to struggle to stay warm.  So, we called a Heating and Air Company and asked them to come look at our Gas Furnace.  He looked at us, told us that it was really old (probably from the 70's or before) and said we needed a new mercury flame sensor.  He thought we needed a new furnace and that he didn't think he would be able to find the old sensor.  Then, he gave us our $70 bill and we were still left without a heat source for the bedrooms/bathrooms.  My husband decided to look online to see if he could find the part and install it himself.  Luckily, Kevan found one online for less than $100 shipped.

When he received it he went outside to the furnace, removed the old and replaced it with the new one.  It took him less than an hour.

Amazingly, we had heat.  Warm heat.  Heat in the bathrooms, heat in the bedrooms.  It was soooooooooo lovely.  My parents would be arriving the next day and I was elated that we would have heat when they arrived.  They were going to stay about 6 days with us.  We had wonderful heat for the first 3 days.  Then, we all realized it was getting really cold in the house.  Kevan went outside to investigate.  Pilot light went out.  That was it.  Whew!  Great, right?  No, not really that great.  We all went to bed that night and woke up freezing!  Kevan and my dad went out to investigate, pilot light went out.  Light pilot light.  We now have heat.  This went on about 3 times a day.  Seems to happen at the same times everyday.  We left Tennessee shortly after and have yet to find out why the pilot light does not stay lit.  If anyone has any ideas please let us know.  It worked for 3 full days and then start malfunctioning.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Buying another Hybrid

While we were in Tennessee we started having problems with our Nissan Xterra.  Kevan is VERY handy and he is also very good with car problems, but after replacing the spark plugs and doing a few other things he could not figure out why the Xterra's engine was "missing".  It started to get closer to when we would need to leave for Florida and we were very concerned about driving it all those miles.

So, I started doing some research online to find out if we could trade in our Xterra for another vehicle.  We have been wanting a Highlander Hybrid for about 5 years and we also thought about getting a Nissan Pathfinder.  I found a beautiful used 2006 Highlander Hybrid about 1.5 hours from us so we went to look at it the next day.

Well, we bought it! 


We prayed for several days before we went to see it about whether we should buy a new vehicle and then we prayed on the way and during the time we were at the dealership.  We really felt like God wanted us to make the purchase so we went ahead with it.  I have to say, I LOVED MY XTERRA.  When we got home with the new car I was depressed.  I wanted to get back in the car and drive back and get my Xterra.  I cried when I had to give it to them...that is how much I loved it. 

I loved my X because it was rugged and manly.  We could drive it around the farm and get it all muddy, climb into it with muddy boots and accidentally scratch the paint on the outside (because it already had scratches) and I was okay with it.  The Highlander is so different.  It is pretty, clean, feminine and doesn't have rubber mats.  I'm not okay with driving it around the farm or getting in it with boots on.  I'm definitely not okay with scratches!  I am still sad about giving up my X, but I am learning to love the Highlander (even with it's fake wood interior trim).  It has heated seats.  I love heated seats.....even in Florida.


Many of you may remember that we purchased a Toyota Prius back in 2006 and then Kevan was in an accident back in 2009 and the car was totaled.  We did not replace it with another hybrid, but with an older Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible.  One thing we learned with the Prius was that we do NOT like car payments.  So, we have tried to pay cash for our vehicles.  We were blessed that we were able to do the same with the Highlander.  Dave Ramsey would be proud. 

Also, we purchased it from Nelson Mazda in Antioch, TN and it was a great experience.  I would highly recommend them if you are in the area and needing a vehicle.  Maybe one day when Kevan and I retire we can go there and buy a Mazda Miata from them.  Kevan had one when we were dating (it was also totaled in an accident) and we LOVED it.  We really miss it, but it is not practical for us right now.  The only thing that was not very nice about the dealership was that when we drove it off the lot it was EMPTY so we had to go straight to the gas station to fill up.  Nelson should pay the $$ to fill up your customers tanks before they leave your lot.  We've never bought a car that required us to go to the gas station as soon as we left the lot.

The Highlander Hybrid has been getting about 27-28 mpg and the Xterra got about 17 mpg.  So, that is an improvement of about 10 mpg.  The HH has a smaller gas tank...when we fill-up we pay about $32-$35 in the HH, but the X was about $50.  So, we are also saving about $15 per fill-up.  The X only went about 300 miles on a full tank and we've been getting about 315-325 miles on a  tank in the HH.


Another really cool thing about the HH is that it has a 3rd row of seating that folds down into the trunk when you don't need it.  This came in REALLY handy when my parents came to visit.  It was great that we were all able to fit in the same vehicle and we didn't have to drive separately. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paco-Vicunas, Goats and Dogs

A couple week's ago my husband and I had the opportunity to help out family friends with their computer.  I was so excited to go to their home because I knew they had farm animals....specifically, they had Paco-Vicunas!  I had heard stories about them and I couldn't wait to see them.  I asked Kevan to make the appointment earlier in the day just so I could visit with the animals before we worked on the computers.

Just look at this face!  Sorry the pic is blurry, but I had my cheap camera and it was dark in the barn.


Paco-Vicunas are wanted for their wool.  The males are so expensive (they have sold for up to $125,000) that our friends drive their "girls" all the way from Tennessee to Kansas to breed.  It is the closest place for them to find a "stud" for their "girls". 


They are a lot smaller than I imagined and VERY CUTE.  Also, they may look like the same picture, just zoomed isn't (you can tell by the background).  She just always has that cute look on her face!


While we were there we were also able to pet (and covet) their goats.  They have both Boer and Kiko goats (about 50 of them).  They are all female. 


We realized when we were there that our friends really feed their goats well.  They are not pregnant...they are just that fat big!  :o)  I loved it.


Also, they let us meet their dogs and this one (Moses) even let me pet his tummy (I know...I cut his head off in the picture....oops). 


They believe he is the father to Bear, Kevan's father's dog.


Our friends were very gracious and fed us dinner too.  They even gave us a couple handfuls of their pecans which they hand picked from their pecan trees.  I don't have a picture of the pecans, but they had TONS.  We really enjoyed our visit at the Davis Farm.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Where is it??

Kevan and I took a little mini-vacation to Chicago a few months ago.  He had to go there for work so I went with him a few days earlier and then flew home before the work week.  I was very excited about going because I used to live in Chicagoland. I wanted to show him where I used to live, take him to my old church, show him Navy Pier and downtown Chicago. 

The day after we arrived we got up early and drove out to Navy Pier.  It was COLD!  We checked out the parking prices and found out it was like a zillion dollars to actually park at Navy Pier so we drove a few blocks away, fed a meter and then walked back. 

Here is a picture of Kevan at Navy Pier.


It was a very quiet morning, about 9am, and despite the cold weather we really enjoyed our walk around Chicago.  We ran into this little guy while we were there.


We also saw this double-decker bus.  Who would sit up there in the freezing cold weather??  Craziness I tell you!


Once we were done with Navy Pier we drove to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (parking was $18!!!  Can you believe it??).  I did a little research about the different exhibits that were in town and I knew Kevan was going to love the Weather exhibit.  I didn't tell him ahead of time because I wanted to see the excitement on his face when we reached it.  Let me just tell you....his reaction WAS AWESOME!  As we were walking around the museum he heard this (below) make noise. 


He stops immediately and says, "WHERE IS IT!!!!  WHERE IS IT!!!"  He starts running through the museum to find it.  It was so funny.  Anyone that knows my husband knows that he loves anything weather, but he especially loves Tesla Coils.  He built his own Tesla Coil in high school for the Science Fair and they even accused him of cheating and said that he couldn't have made it on his own. 

Kevan entered the Hurricane Simulator...he was cocking his head to the side because he said it was messing up his hair.  Haa Haa!


Another exhibit was the Smart Home (Green + Wired) exhibit.  You may not know this, but one of our dreams is to one day own a home that is off-grid.  We want to produce our own energy (wind/solar) and our own heat (wood/water).  So, this was a pretty cool experience.  We had to pay extra to view it, but it was worth it.  The house isn't that pretty (see below), but it has a lot of cool ideas. 


The kitchen had the ability to have cordless appliances.  You just had to set the blender on a certain spot on the counter and it worked.  There were no electrical outlets in the kitchen.  One of the things Kevan loved was that they had a Control Panel for the whole house so you could see how much energy was being used and how much energy the home was producing.  Also, the home was VERY smart.  It turned the lights on by just speaking to it.  If you are into stuff like this and you are in Chicago I highly recommend going to see it and paying the $8.

The wind turbine:

I will leave you with this.  :o)


Monday, January 03, 2011

Heading into Deep Water...

The last full day that we were in Tennessee at the Sullivan House it rained.  Every time it rains we can hear the creek behind our house raging.  We had not yet investigated it during a rain since we arrived so we thought we better that day or we wouldn't have the opportunity. 

Kevan was going to drive his mom to the creek on the 4-Wheeler since she forgot her boots.  Then I was going to walk behind and we would meet up at the creek.  Sounds like a good plan right.  I thought so too.  I started off walking while they went to the barn for the 4-wheeler.  In order to get to the creek we have to pass through a little tiny stream that we usually just hop from rock to rock to get to the other side.  No biggie.  Except that when I got there, it looked like this....I didn't want to walk through that.  My boots are not waterproof.


I realized then that Kevan was going to have to take me for a ride on the 4-wheeler too in order to cross the stream.  I waited until he took Judy across and then he came back to get me.

Once across the little stream we walk through a nice path to the creek.  This is what it looks like on a normal day.


The day it rained, it looked like this.


I was sad thinking we wouldn't be able to get to the creek.  Kevan and Judy were getting on the 4-wheeler to go through the water to get to the creek.  I was thinking, "Are you crazy??"  Of course, I didn't say that out loud.  This is what I saw next.


Followed by...


So, I decided.  If it was okay for them...I guess I could make it too.  Kevan came back to get me.


There are no pictures of my trip since I had to keep my camera in a ziploc bag in my coat so it wouldn't get wet.  We finally made it to the creek.  This is the pretty creek on a non-rainy day.


This is the creek the day it rained.  Craziness!!  As you can see, the little island that Joe and Kevan were walking on in the previous picture is GONE.


Here is a little video for you too.

Finally, I would like to thank this little red 4-wheeler for keeping its passengers safe!  I was very happy we didn't get wet, stuck or that it didn't die on us.  Thank you little one!  You are a great little 4-wheeler.


Heating Adventures (Post 2 - Gas Fireplace)

After a few weeks of being at the Sullivan House and freezing our little toes off we decided to try and use the gas fireplace that came with the house.  We had not yet used it because we wanted to get it "checked out" first.  But, we were so cold.  So, we used it before having a chimney guy out.  Note to self - this is a bad idea.

After about 20 minutes of having it on we noticed that there was debris falling from the chimney that was on fire and the house was filling with smoke at a rapid rate.  I ran outside and it looked like the chimney was on fire.  Kevan screamed for me to call 911.  There is a firehouse about 1 city block from our house, but it took about 30 minutes for them to arrive.  I guess it is an unmanned firehouse so they only come in when needed.  (I forgot to take pictures during all of the chaos)

It turned out that it was only bird's nests that were on fire and our actual chimney was NOT on fire.  Whew!  But, during all of the chaos the fire department removed our gas logs so we were no longer able to use the gas fireplace even if we wanted to.

Here is a picture of Kevan and his dad putting the chimney cap back on after the fire department left. 

He tied this rope to the back porch (just in case he slipped) before climing up onto the roof. 


We ended up hiring a chimney sweep and he also put the gas fireplace logs/insert back together again so we could use it.  Now, it is really pretty and we are able to use it without the fear of burning down our house.  The bad part is that it only heats up the one room of the house.  So, we were still left with the bedroom and bathroom being freezing cold.

During all of this time (weeks) of figuring out a heating solution we used spaceheaters.  We used a nice little radiator for the bedroom at night and it kept it nice and toasty.  It only uses 1.5 KW's and we only ran it while we were asleep.  It would cut off once it reached the right temp and turn back on when it was colder.
DeLonghi TRVO715 Vento Hi-Speed Convection Oil-Filled Radiator Heater
DeLonghi TRVO715 Vento Hi-Speed Convection Oil-Filled Radiator Heater

Sometimes in the morning we wheel it into the family room and use it until we are warmed up and then turn it off.  It has worked out really nicely even in the larger family room.  We purchased ours at Lowes.

Here is the picture of the finished fireplace once the chimney sweep cleaned it up and put the gas insert back in.