Wednesday, November 30, 2011


That's it! I'm finished with NaNoWriMo and I've won!

Even though completing my daily word count of 1667 words put me over the official 50,000 word mark, I paused mid-sentence and took a screen shot of that momentous milestone:

When I'd finished my word count for the day, this was my final tally:

However when I did the official "validate wordcount" step through the NaNoWriMo site, my word count actually came out a little higher:

Proof that a daily word count really does add up:

My friend Patty's wordcount is soooo close. I'm confident she'll cross the finish line today.

I'm pleased to report that Younger Daughter, unofficially competing, completed over 30,000 words of her own. Whoo-hoo! NaNoWriMo has a Young Writers category, and next year I'll encourage her to sign up.

Now that this project is complete, I need to get hustling on other things. I have a magazine article due tomorrow, a column due Friday, and a nonfiction book I need to finish up since it's being shopped around by my agent. Onward!

My sincere thanks to Patty (who encouraged me to sign up), to the fine folks at NaNoWriMo, and to everyone who offered support and/or participated themselves. Glad it's over, and glad I have 50,000+ words written on something I never thought I'd do.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No more disciplined warriors

I picked this off of SurvivalBlog tonight. Read it, then read it again, and once more again. When it starts to sink in, you'll realize what a scary concept this is.

"The disciplined warrior, made irrelevant by mechanized war, disdained and abandoned by the high-tech culture, is fading in American men. The fading of the warrior contributes to the collapse of society. A man who cannot defend his own space cannot defend women and children. The poisoned warriors called drug lords prey primarily for recruits on kingless, warriorless boys." - Robert Bly in Iron John, 1990

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tankards available!

We have a temporary retail page up which offers our hardwood drinking tankards for sale. Normally we're a wholesale business so this is a big deal for us. The link to the page is here. There is also a button on the top left hand side of this page which will take you directly to the retail page. We hope to have more tankards up within the next few days.

Since we're not normally geared for retail sales, the purchasing procedure is a bit awkward, and it's all explained on the tankard page. Hop on over and take a look!

College senior

Older Daughter found this photo on a random website. I liked it so well I copied it over here:

'Nuff said.

Moving to Montana

A reader sent this hilarious YouTube clip called So You Want to Live in Montana?

Did you know there are no paved roads in Montana? Or electricity?

A few random thoughts

A few things have caught my attention lately that I thought I would combine into a single blog post.

Tim Tebow
I'm not a football fan. Neither is my husband. The sport absolutely leaves me cold. But I must admit, I'm delighted with Tim Tebow's "buck the system" approach to the game. Not only is this young man a devout Christian, but he isn't fazed by the good-natured and not-so-good-natured teasing and heckling he gets about "Tebowing."

And darn it, he's a GOOD football player. As in, incredible. That's what annoys the hecklers the most.

Keep it up, Tim -- even non-football fans are rooting for you.

Black Friday from the Trenches
I have a friend who works in a large department store, specifically the fragrance department. She was required to report to work on Thanksgiving evening since the store was opening at midnight.

Here's what she wrote about her experience:

Yup, I'm alive. I survived black Friday.

It was simply stunning to me at midnight when all of us [department store] associates were ready for the doors to be opened and there were actually people, hundreds of them waiting to come in the store AT MIDNIGHT ON TURKEY DAY!!!! I was thinking: "Are all you people nuts??? Apparently not.

Because they spent like drunken sailors. Where is all this money coming from? Who knows??? I personally sold over $1600 today during my 11:30pm to 9:30 am shift.

Honestly unless I hadn't already experienced it I would never known we were in a virtual depression in this country! If I was Jim (her outspoken husband) I'd be having a soapbox moment. I'm just too tired. I got home from work at 10:15am and was fast asleep by 10:30 easy. Got up at 2 and tried to pretend it was a normal day.

Passing on the Baton
In response to a blog post called Preserving the Work of Five Millennia, a young homeschooling mom named Sara wrote me the following email. I was so delighted with the idea of this woman passing the baton of knowledge to neighborhood kids -- a true Titus 2 woman -- that I thought I'd pass it on to you.

My 6 year old home schooled daughter, Ella, wanted to start a club. So, we spent some time brainstorming and this is what we came up with: Ella's Edible Club. Several of her friends come over once a quarter and they learn how to make something from scratch. Ella had the idea to make food based on seasons.

We met for the first time in October and made small pumpkin pies and applesauce. Several of the girls had never cracked an egg much less mold a pie crust in to a pan. They did not realize that you could make your own applesauce. We all live in a suburb of Houston, Texas and are far removed from the food chain. None of her friends home school and most of their moms make cookies with frozen pre-sliced cookie dough. They all had a great time and we able to take their goodies home to share with their families.

Other items that I will be teaching them are making your own hot cocoa mix, Christmas finger food type dessert (good to give away as gifts), sugar cookies decorated with icing, pick strawberries and make jam, and bread (no mixers involved). That should get us through the summer.

It's the little things that we contribute to society -- like this mom's efforts to teach other children that food doesn't grow in grocery stores -- that is our culture's salvation.

Good for you, Sara! Keep it up.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bringing home Atlas

Our neighbors were still holding the cow/calf pair we had purchased, in part because we still needed to pull together a place to put them. The section of barn with the best stall space had been falling apart, largely due to our bull Gimli's rampage a few years ago. The original construction of this outbuilding wasn't the best to begin with, so we've had to do a number of patch jobs over the years.

So, time for another quick repair job. Don dug a hole...

...and put in a stout pressure-treated upright.

This allowed us to push the wall back in and screw it to the upright.

It was a muddy job for both of us.

A sturdy latch on the door...

...and we were ready for business.

Lily, the cow, walked okay on the lead rope, but of course Atlas wanted nothing to do with it. The idea was I pulled, and someone else pushed from behind. Here a neighbor boy, Ethan, gives Atlas a little shove.

"No! No! Don't wanna!" It's amazing how strong those four little legs can be.

But with mama walking ahead, he followed.

Mostly. He still needed a little convincing.

While Atlas might disagree, it was actually a fairly painless move from the neighbor's barn to ours. Here they're settling in.

Lily is still in the overprotective and suspicious stage, and it won't be made any better when we dehorn Atlas in the next few days. But I still intend to see if I can train her to milk. We'll see.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Crawling toward the finish line

I'm still keeping up with NaNoWriMo! Out of the targeted 50,000 words, I've written 43,525 so far.

I must say, the pace is tiring, especially on top of things like cooking Thanksgiving dinner, writing WND columns, handling schoolwork, and other obligations. But oh well, it's only four more days!

My girlfriend Patty is keeping right up there too -- hopefully we'll be able to limp across the finish line together!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black thoughts about Black Friday

I must admit, I don't "get" the phenomenon of Black Friday. People go wild and crazy, they spend the whole day shopping, they come home with great deals, women "bond" with their girlfriends, etc.

I... just... don't... get... it.

[Disclaimer: I hate shopping anyway, so that could have a lot to do with it.]

But honestly, where do all these people get the money? And how lavish ARE their Christmas gift giving? How many people are they buying for?

Maybe it's because we've lived so close to the poverty level for the last eighteen years (since starting our woodcraft business), but such extravagant spending is simply beyond my comprehension.

That's why I found this article to be so amusing: the One-Day Holiday Shopping Plan from Real Simple Magazine, possibly the most amazing waste of paper on the planet. Ready for the highlights?

Fuel up. Don't eat a sugary breakfast, eat something healthy. Okay, makes sense if you have a full day ahead of you.

Don't dress for comfort. Huh? The logic behind this idea is that if you feel dowdy in sweatclothes, you'll buy more. Instead, "cute flats or an on-trend top" will "boost your self-confidence." So you'll buy less? Right.

Download an upbeat playlist. Oh no, don't listen to the warm fuzzy nostalgic music the stores play which, presumably, encourage you to shop! Instead, bring your iPod and listen to music "with a beat faster than your resting heart rate" which will keep you moving "quickly and efficiently" through the stores. Right.

Get dibs on discounts. This means getting "apps" (whatever the heck those are) on your smartphones for sales at your favorite stores. (This makes me think if people applied as much legwork and research into choosing a good spouse as they put into Black Friday sales, the world would be a happier place.)

Head out solo. The idea is if you shop with a girlfriend, you'll go to places you wouldn't normally go and buy things you normally wouldn't buy. But don't worry. "You can share deals with friends by using the free My Shopping Circle app, which notifies them about sales you see (and vice versa)." Right.

Stop at the bank... In other words, use cash and not a credit card. At last, a sensible suggestion.

...Then hit the mall. But go in through a side entrance to avoid any "lavish displays" encouraging you to spend. Oh, and you can "avoid unplanned detours by using the free FastMall app, which contains full maps of more than 1,250 malls nationwide." Sheesh, what IS it with these "apps"? Can't people think for themselves anymore, or do you need an "app" for that?

Buy less expensive stuff first. The idea is "once you shell out for something costly, your brain loses perspective on what's a good price." Cough.

Eat lunch. What??? All this was done before lunch? Criminey, how much shopping are you doing?? Oh, and you're supposed to go easy on the carbs at lunch because those will "make you want to nap." Yes, heaven forbid you should want to stop shopping.

Perk yourself up. After lunch, you're supposed to "treat yourself to an inexpensive manicure at a salon or a free chair massage at Brookstone" (whatever Brookstone is) lest your enthusiasm for shopping start to flag.

[At this point in the article, please note, is a link to another article on How to Make the Holidays More Affordable. How's this for an idea: Stop shopping.]

Skip lines. The concept here is if you're standing in line behind lots of other people, you're bored and will buy something on a whim. So, pay for your items in the men's underwear department.

Steer clear of attractive salespeople. Yes really. I guess unattractive people are more trustworthy and less likely to deceive you about a product. Right.

Get in, get out. So you don't, um, spend too much by listening to alluring sales pitches.

[By now you've reached 6 pm in the evening...]

Multitask at dinner. This can be accomplished by meeting "your spouse or friends for dinner at a restaurant that offers gift-card freebies." Cha-ching, you've spent more money. Congratulations!

Back at home, search for discount codes. But wait, your shopping day isn't over! Now you're supposed to go home and do some online shopping, preferably patronizing websites that offer free shipping.

Cash in your rewards. After all the purchases you've loaded onto your smoking credit card, you can now take your credit card points "to buy gift cards or make online purchases through the card's rewards site." This, of course, nets you more "points" for more pointless spending. Right.

Buy toys online. Presumably you're so pooped from fighting the crowds all day that now you're allowed to buy toys online and save yourself the hassle. Good thinking.

Be a little sneaky. I'll quote this murky advice in its entirety: "'Just as you're about to finalize an online purchase, cancel the order,' says Lindstrom. 'If you've previously shopped the site, the merchant should have your e-mail address, and you may get a message within minutes touting a discount code.' Or contact a site's live-chat associate and ask for a discount. This simple action could save you about 15 percent off the price tag, says Robert Pagliarini, the founder of, a financial website."

And now, says the article, you're all done! Whoo-hoo! You've racked up hundreds or thousands of dollars buying things you can't afford for people who don't need them. What an accomplishment!

What cracked me up is these suggestions are supposedly real and legitimate techniques to make your Black Friday experience more enjoyable. Me, I prefer the Black Friday experience of staying home, doing some repair work on the barn, eating leftover Thanksgiving goodies, listening to early Christmas music, visiting with some friends, and other free activities.

And people wonder how we can afford a good life on a low income...

Our Thanksgiving

As you can imagine, my Thanksgiving consisted of a lot of cooking, which I wisely elected to start on Wednesday.

Bread stuffing starts by making a fresh loaf of oatmeal-wheat bread:

Here Younger Daughter tears the bread into pieces. We left the pieces on a cookie sheet overnight to get a little stale, which makes for a less soggy bread stuffing.

For desserts, this year we elected for pistachio pudding pie and pumpkin pie. I just used graham crackers for the crusts.

Here's the loot by late Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday I also made wild rice stuffing, which is my own personal indulgence. No one else likes it but me (hee hee), which means I can add all the onions I want and no one objects. Hee hee.

Thanksgiving for us started out very early at our county animal shelter. Thursday is the usual day the girls do their volunteer work there; and the needs of the animals don't stop just because the shelter is closed to the public for the day. So in we went. There was a lot of work to do, so they were there for 2 1/2 hours.

(Here's a cat, playfully pulling on the cord of my camera -- hence the blurry photo.)

We made it home just after noon, and I had to rush to put the turkey in right away in order for it to be done by 5 pm.

Bread stuffing ready to cook in the back; potatoes ready to peel in the front.

The mashed potatoes became Older Daughter's project.

To keep the chaos in the kitchen under control, I had to stop periodically and wash some dishes.

Lydia hung around just "in case" anything happened to drop on the floor.

Dinner rolls are probably the most complicated and time-consuming thing I make. Here's the beginning.

Dough before kneading...

...and after.

First rising.

Older Daughter punches down the dough...

...and then while I cut out the rolls,

...she scores the rolls, brushes them with melted butter, and folds them over.

Then it's time for the second rising, on the shelf behind the stove where it's warm from the stove's heat.

Making whipped cream for the pies.

Don sharpens the knives. This has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition after the embarrassing time several years ago when our pastor joined us for dinner and generously offered to carve the turkey. All our knives were so dull we went through five or six before we found one marginally sharp enough for the poor fellow to hack through the turkey.

Making candied yams, a dish particularly favored by our young houseguest GG.

At the last minute we were able to welcome our dear friends Mike and Judy, whose original Thanksgiving plans fell through but they didn't let us know because they "didn't want to bother us" on Thanksgiving Day. Bother us...! We had a twenty-pound turkey for only five people and plenty of food. Thanksgiving is a day for family AND friends. We were thrilled to have them join us.

They brought a wonderful Chardonnay.

Since our kitchen table is small, we used it for the adults...

...and dressed up a card table for the girls, so they wouldn't have to subject themselves to our boring solve-the-world's-problems conversation.

The turkey turned out beautifully...

...and the feast of abundance was a blessing indeed.

There were far too many leftovers to fit into the fridge, so we used our (ahem) "outdoor refrigerator" to handle the overflow. (The temperature was closer to freezer temps than refrigerator temps, but that's okay.)

The nice part about Thanksgiving cooking is I go on strike for about three days afterward. Is anyone hungry? No problem! There are plenty of leftovers, help yourself!