Thursday, May 21, 2020

Planning Ahead For Grilling

Do you use a charcoal grill?  Do you know how many bags of charcoal you go through in the average year?  Do you know the best time to buy charcoal in your area?

For us, several years ago, when we went back to using a (small, for just DH and I) charcoal grill when our gas grill finally bit the dust after almost 20 years, I figured out that we averaged 7-8 bags of charcoal in a 12 month period.

Around us, charcoal always goes on sale right before Memorial Day weekend.  And pretty much doesn't go on sale again until the same time next year.

So, it has become my habit to stock up on a year's supply of charcoal when it goes on sale in late May.

Last week, the cheapest price I could find was $23.99 for a twin pack of two 20 pound bags.  Counting on it being on sale this week (and because we still have most of the 8th bag I had bought in May 2019), I didn't buy any.

This week, that same charcoal is on sale for $16.99 per twin pack.  I stocked up.  We now have four twin packs (8 bags) of charcoal.

My year's worth of charcoal cost me $28 less than if I bought it willy nilly throughout the next 12 months, whenever we had an empty bag.  We've got room to store the charcoal, so why not use that $28 for something else (I confess, I ordered a new saddle pad for Camaro) and take advantage of the lowest price of the year?

How about you?  Need some charcoal?  What's the current sale price in your area?

Friday, May 15, 2020

My Camaro

Late last summer, I said goodbye to The California Horse and within two weeks I bought a horse of my own.  I blogged about it here, and since then I haven't talked about him much, hadn't even given him an official name for his blog persona. From now on, he shall be called Camaro.  Partly because I referred to him, when I bought him, as my little sports car of an Arabian.  And partly because I'd dreamed that, when I 'retired' from active motherhood, I would trade my kid-hauler Suburban for a real Camaro.  I talked about that here, but it never happened.  I'm still driving the trusty rusty Suburban--currently closing in on 265k miles, and I doubt a motorized Camaro is in my near future.  So, my four legged sports car gets that as his name here.

For the sake of brevity, I'll say that I had a big mental adjustment to my new horse and new boarding barn.  I'm the only dressage rider there.  And almost the oldest rider, period.  I do love the barn owner; she's a friend of mine that I met over five years ago and have kept in contact with despite her leaving the barn where we met (and buying her own facility--YAY) and me riding warmbloods mostly while she rides a lot of Arabs and Quarter Horses.  However, when The California Horse went home, I was separated from all my great older (three of them in their sixties) dressage barn friends who had become my support system through all the family drama of 2017, 2018 and half of 2019 (hardly any of which made it to be discussed here on the blog.  Rough time.)  It was kind of like moving to a new home and I had to learn a new neighborhood, new people, and make new friends.  Traumatic in it's own way.

I rode Camaro a bit in the Fall, and had intended to do quite a lot of riding over the winter.  Which didn't pan out.  My allergies/asthma flared up as winter started, thankfully not as bad as they had been the previous winter, but still enough that I just didn't have the stamina to both clean 11 stalls and work my horse 5 days a week.  Turned out well, though, as it gave Camaro a chance to lose the muscles he'd had, some of which were wrong for a dressage horse (ahem, underneck muscle), and it gave us time to build some trust between us via short groundwork sessions and the occasional ride.

This Spring, we are back on track for getting a good regular riding program going, he is building muscles in the right areas (yay, over the back and through the topline!), and his 'spooking issue' he had with his previous owner has pretty much disappeared (trusting me rather than worrying about bogeymen in the arena).  I'm very pleased with the direction in which we are moving.  He seems to enjoy our sessions together, and I know that great things are in our future.

Getting decent pictures of him is difficult.  He seems to understand what my phone camera is.  Selfies haven't worked so far, as you can see by the terrible one below. He kept bumping my arm just as I was taking our picture, and this one is my favorite horrible one.  He looks like he has the head of a moose (he doesn't, his is a petite shapely Arabian head)  with a pom pom for a forelock (he actually has a forelock that reaches his eyes) and my head just somehow doesn't attach naturally to my neck (I assure you, in real life my neck isn't crooked or have the texture of dryer hose).

Even when I try to be sly and take a picture of him out in his paddock, he's on to me. Like here, where he dropped his head into the water trough and watched me with his eyes just level with the rim.

Apparently this is what he thinks of my efforts to get pictures of him.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

There Will Be Another

It's official, so I have the green light to go ahead and talk about it:

There is going to be another grandbaby in my arms this year!  #4 is now at 12 weeks gestation, so even though I've known for almost six of those 12, I am now at liberty to express to the world my joy and excitement at expecting another offspring of my offspring.

This will be the first baby of DD1 and Honorary Son, who just this week are celebrating their second wedding anniversary.  It is expected to arrive during firearm deer season this fall (mid to late November), so DH is really really hoping that DD1 will follow in my footsteps and deliver this child 1-3 weeks before its due date.  If it's a boy, I think I all ready have it's blog name picked out.  Something hunting related.

I am itching to get started on a baby quilt for this newest little one.  Waiting to see if, in the next month or two, the gender will be revealed before I begin picking out and cutting into fabric.  DD1 is wavering between waiting until the actual birth to find out if it's a boy or a girl (and thus, I make a yellow and green quilt) or if she and Honorary Son are too impatient to wait that long (in which case, I will make a definite boy or girl-oriented quilt).

Meanwhile, mother-to-be is doing well; so far having the same mostly nausea-free pregnancy as I enjoyed with all of my own babies.  Hoping that this easy breezy baby building continues for the next six months and ends with a just as easy (and short, like mine!) delivery.

Monday, May 11, 2020


I haven't mentioned grandbaby #3, second grandson, aka Rascal on here much since his birth last year in May.  He recently turned a year old, and I broke Stay Home orders to deliver his birthday presents from DH and I.  Although I didn't hold him, and I stayed mostly six feet away, I did see him in person (briefly) on his birthday.

Back when he was born, induced a week before his due date because that's the way all of K2's babies have been born, he was small.  Just 5 pounds 8 ounces.  That worried me.  But, apparently all his test scores were good enough that he went home within 48 hours of being born.  His small birth weight was explained away as a result of the medications K2 had been on to help stabilize her mental health.

When I saw him for the first time, he just looked so tiny and fragile.  My smallest baby was DD1, who was born at 37 weeks gestation and weighed in at 6 pounds 3 ounces.  Here was a baby a full two weeks 'older', but weighing more than half a pound less.

His first month at home, he just looked smaller and smaller to me.  Skeletal.  But he wasn't due for a check up for another month yet, so his parents hadn't taken him to the doctor.  Until he choked while nursing and stopped breathing.  DS1 was able to resuscitate him while waiting for the paramedics they'd called.  Rascal was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with aspiration (the choke) and also failure to thrive.

It was a scary time.  But, it also ended up being the best thing that could have happened to that little boy.  Because with three days in the hospital, and weekly monitoring--that included weighing him as well as measuring his food intake at every feeding--for two months after that, Rascal began to grow and gain weight, and eat full meals instead of tiny ones that weren't nourishing enough. By the age of four months, he was actually starting to get the dimpled knuckles of a healthy baby.

At a year old, he meets all the normal milestones for a child that age.  He is still on the small side of the charts, but so was his uncle, DS2 who could eat and eat and eat and had such a high metabolism that he gained weight slowly.  DS2 also had/has all kinds of environmental type allergies (animal dander, dust, mold, pollen, etc) as well as allergies to food additives, and I suspect that Rascal has many of the same.

Overall, though, he is a happy go lucky little boy who is working on being brave enough to let go of the furniture or the wall and just take off running.  Any day now.  :0)

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Second Four Weeks

This is the end of the eighth week that DH has worked from home.

Here in Michigan, we are still under the Stay Home order. It has been extended to May 28th.  There are a few 'restrictions' that have been lifted, but really they were stupid things to be not allowed in the first place: landscape and gardening crews are now allowed to work, garden centers can open, people can go golfing and use boats with motors.  All of which are typically done outdoors and not with people on top of each other. Yesterday, construction crews were given the green light to resume business.

However, it is now mandatory to wear face masks in the grocery store and other enclosed public spaces.

So, I made a few more face masks for family members, at their request.

Flowers have been blooming all over the place.  I've been working on weeding flowerbeds, and also relocating some of my perennials that needed thinning.  DD1 has been the lucky recipient of some of them; she is happily landscaping her and Honorary Son's first home.

the bore bees (aka carpenter bees) are awake!

Garden planning, and tilling, and planting have begun.  Seed potatoes are in the ground.  Onion starts arrived yesterday, and will be planted next week (after this weekends' below freezing temps are over).




While the ground was still soft, DH and I pulled out a few weed trees with the tractor.  We'd meant to get them a year or two ago, but DH's job was so busy for all that time that they got overlooked and just grew bigger and bigger until they were no longer movable and transplant-able.

The clothesline got it's new lines, and has been in use frequently the past two weeks.

 We've had weather that varied from breathtakingly beautiful, to stormy, to WTF?!?


foggy sunrise


beautiful spring day

lightning glow

lightning burst

Shopping has been an ongoing adventure.  I say adventure to put a positive spin on it.  Some of my worst days, mentally, have been days I went to the grocery store.

Toilet paper, unavailable for most of the first weeks, finally showed up in quantity, although usually one brand at a time and with purchasing limits in force.  I'm a die hard Quilted Northern fan, and thankfully I had enough pre-pandemic, to last until it was again available at a store near me.  Although, if you compare the last package of my January purchased tp to the April package, you will notice a size difference.  Hmm. Yes, the package on the left (January) is taller than the package on the right (April).

May has brought further downsizing on the tp front.  Notice that there used to be six rolls to a pack; now there are only four. And for an increase in price, compared to the six roll pack bought in January.

Flour and butter have been hit and miss.  I use a lot of both in my cooking and baking.  Whole wheat flour, which disappeared from the shelves the second week when everyone had bought out the bleached all purpose flour, has been my most desired commodity.  My everyday bread recipe is half whole wheat and half (unbleached) all purpose flour.  I began the pandemic with most of a 5 pound bag in my kitchen canister, but finally ran out about a week ago.  Grudgingly made a batch of all white bread last weekend.  Yesterday, when I went shopping, I scored a (teeny tiny) bag of whole wheat flour, as well as more unbleached all purpose flour.

2 pounds?!?  I'll have this used up before May is over!!

This week has been mostly temperate weather.  We enjoyed a small campfire last weekend, even burning a hollow log (aka a blow log) that DH found while cutting deadfall in the woods earlier this year.

The little oak saplings we had planted two Aprils ago are doing fairly well.  This week they started putting out tiny baby leaves.

Hoping that by the time another four weeks pass, much of the restrictions on daily life will have been lifted.  DH will probably continue to work from home much of the summer, at least for the parts of his programs that are teleconferences and analyzing data.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Yarn Along: May

Happy May!  Happy Yarn Along Day!  I am joining with Ginny to talk about what I've been knitting and reading in the past month.

It was a busy knitting month.  First, I grabbed a bunch of scrap acrylic yarn, and, using the mitered square technique learned working on my Hue Shift afghan, I whipped up a doll sized afghan for K3.

The Yarn Thief approves; 
she thinks it's cat sized rather than doll sized.

I also finished section 2 of my Hue Shift, and recently began working on section 3.

section 2

1st row on section 3

I went on a dish cloth making jag; making a second cow-themed dish cloth for Surprise's birthday present, and then two dish cloths for my own kitchen.

Hay Baby dish cloth

Cheep dish cloth
(color in pic is atrocious, it's actually a nice light ice blue)

Open Star done in scrap cotton yarn

Whew!  But that's not all!  I saw a sock pattern on Ravelry that made me think of a 50g skein of heathered pink yarn I have in my stash.  So I made myself a pair of ankle socks using that yarn and the Fairy Maiden sock pattern.

And if that wasn't enough knitting, I decided to see if I could make Mom a pair of anklets using the yarn left over from the speckled skein she had provided that I had made socks out of in March (talked about here).

Well, the short answer turned out to be no.  BUT, I got bold and found some leftover sock yarn from 3 other projects that seemed to go fairly well with the colors in the speckled yarn.  So I pulled off a pair of rather bright shorty socks as a surprise for Mom. They have K2P2 cuffs for 12 rows, then K6P2 repeats on the fronts of the legs and tops of the feet.

With all that knitting going on, I didn't do much reading.  Confession: I tried one book (the last one I had from the library), couldn't get into it and after 60 pages gave myself permission to put it down.  Michigan is still on Stay Home lockdown, so the libraries remain closed.  I went digging through my personal collection for a work of fiction (most of my home library falls into non-fiction and reference).  I came up with All the Stars in the Heavens and managed to read the whole thing, although I thought about ditching it more than once. It reads well in some places, but in others it's like reading someone's school report: mostly names and dates without much interesting meatiness. 

I am so anxious for this lockdown to be over and to have access to the local library again.  It's been nearly two months, and as of yesterday, there is at least a month more to go before libraries will be allowed to reopen.

Friday, April 24, 2020


Mid-week, I was excited to actually find broiler chicks for sale at the farm store!  After trying to order my own at the end of March (when I typically order for a late April/early May delivery) and not being able to find any available from the hatchery before the second week of June, I wasn't sure how much luck I'd have getting any locally.  From past experience, the Spring weekly orders of broiler chicks are usually sold out by the day they arrive at the store, and sometimes even weeks before then.

When I stopped to buy a mineral block and some fly spray for my horse, I just had to cruise through the part of the store where the new chicks are kept. Just in case, you know.

There, in a stock tank, was a whole bunch of fuzzy little Cornish cross babies!  The tank had three different "pre-sold" slips of various quantities taped to it, but I didn't see the typical SOLD OUT sign on the tank.

Hunting down a sales associate, I tentatively asked if any of the broiler chicks might still be available.  And amazingly, the answer was yes!! I could buy the dozen that I requested.  I admit, I'd had my fingers crossed.

Woo hoo!  Adding a bag of chick starter and a bale of pine shavings to my cart while the associate fished yellow fuzzballs from the stock tank, my day took on a whole lot more happiness.  Farm fresh chicken to eat before September!! (My chicks on order probably won't be ready to butcher until late August, which was a bummer.)

box of future chicken dinners

Based on a few of the chicks still having a prominent egg tooth, I'm guessing that they had just arrived at the farm store mere hours before I did.  That's probably how I got lucky enough to buy them; they hadn't sold out yet.

Now they are happily adjusting to life at this little place here, in our brooder.