Cozy Warm

The sound and smell of a gas chainsaw brings back memories of childhood for me.

When I was small, my parents heated our home with a wood-burning stove.  They would spend summer and fall preparing for winter by driving to Hoosier National Forest, where my mother’s family owned some land and a cabin, searching out dead trees and fallen wood.  While we kids would play, swinging from gigantic vines over deep ravines, they and some of my aunts and uncles would cut the wood with gas chainsaws and load it into pick up trucks to take back home.

This was before the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer essentially stopped all transport of firewood across county lines.

Once the wood was at home, my dad (and sometimes my mom) would work on splitting the wood with a sledgehammer and some wedges.  They’d stack the wood neatly in various places in the yard so that it was easily accessible.

The wood stove was in the basement, directly beneath one of the bathrooms.  I can remember wearing my red flannel Holly Hobby nightgown and standing in the bathtub, feeling the warmth of the furnace on my bare feet.  That bathroom always seemed to be the warmest place in the house.

Chef and I have a gas furnace in our house, but we do like to use our wood stove as much as possible.  So when some friends had a dead tree and offered us the wood, we snapped it up.

It’s been sitting in our yard for a while, and last week, Chef got a chance to work on cutting it up.

The sound of the chainsaw brought back memories.

The smell of the exhaust mingled with the scent of sawdust took me back to childhood.

Then the sledgehammer and wedges came out.

Isn’t he manly?

Get a load of that FACE!

And while I don’t stand in the bathtub in my red flannel Holly Hobby nightgown anymore, I do like to cuddle up in front of the fire, cozy under a blanket, drinking some tea and reading a book.  Wood heat just feels nicer than the heat from our gas furnace, for some reason.

And the reduced gas bill feels nice, too.

Favorite Tea

When cold weather arrives, I drink a lot more tea.  I do drink tea when it’s warmer outside, too, but I gravitate more toward hot drinks when the temperatures dip below 55.

Some teas are nicer when it’s warm out.  I like light, fruity tea in the spring and summer.  But when the leaves turn and I consider pulling on my long underwear, I like richer teas with warmer flavors.

This Lemon Ginger tea by Stash has an almost spicy warmth to it.  The ginger causes a slight burn in the back of the throat.  I like this one especially when I’m starting to feel a little under the weather, but it’s nice any time I want something that’s not too heavy but plenty warm.  It is really good with some honey in it.

The Meijer Gold Red Tea is darker and richer.  It doesn’t have a heavy taste at all, but still feels almost like it’s coating my tummy with a nice warm blanket.

Thanksgiving and Christmas make me think about cranberries, and this year I really discovered how much I really love cranberries.  This Trader Joe’s tea combines cranberries with green tea.

“Candy Cane Lane” from Celestial Seasonings pairs green tea with peppermint.  I didn’t think I’d like it.  I’ve not been a huge fan of green tea over the years, and while I’ve come to appreciate it, I didn’t think I’d like it with peppermint.  I was very wrong!  This tea is great with a little bit of sugar.  Perfect for drinking while watching Christmas specials on TV.

This cinnamon tea from Harney & Sons is the heaviest of the teas I’ve got today.  It’s a loose leaf tea, and you actually have to be careful not to get too much in your tea ball, or the taste will be overwhelming.  It’s a black tea with plenty of cinnamon.  It’s so dark it almost looks like black coffee.  Because this one is so rich and warm, it’s the one I choose on the coldest days, before the fire in the wood stove has heated up the house.

Do you have any favorite teas for fall and winter?  Please share!  I’m always looking for good, new flavors in my cup.

My Life as a Research Subject: Part Four (Or, You Have an Incurable Disease. Oh, wait. No, You Don’t.)

I’ve been telling you about my participation in a clinical research study for a medication to prevent menstrual migraines.  At first, I thought it was going to be easy money. Then I met Dumb Nurse, and things went downhill.  In Part Three, I told you the events that led me to feeling done with this study.

And yet, I wasn’t done.

Oh, unfortunate me.

The third week of October, I got a couple of calls from the research center.  Since I didn’t have or want any further appointments with them, I did not answer and let the calls go to voicemail.  The messages stated that they had lab results back that they wanted to give me.  I thought they had given me all my lab results — I’d had high liver enzymes and then they re-tested and everything was normal again, and they’d given me those results already.  So twice I ignored the messages.

On the last Wednesday of October, I got yet another call from the research center.  Wanting to get them off my back for good, I finally answered.  The girl said that they had lab results in, and the doctor wanted me to come down and discuss it with him.

I said, “No, I’m not making any more appointments.”

She said, “Um… well, the doctor really wants to see you about these results.”

I told her to send them to my family doctor and I would review the results with her.  I had an appointment in two days anyway.

The girl said, “Um… well… can I just give you the results?”

Big sigh.  “Fine.”

“You tested positive for Hepatitis B.”

Shock and silence.  Then, “How in the world would I have contracted that?”

“Well,” she said, “it’s contracted through bodily fluids.”

Now, I work in a doctor’s office, but I have almost no contact with patients.  I haven’t had a blood transfusion.  I haven’t gotten any tattoos or had any acupuncture.  I don’t do drugs (so I don’t share needles), and my husband and I are monogamous.  So I basically have zero risk factors for contracting Hepatitis B.

The girl continued, “The doctor wants to see you back for treatment.  He’ll treat you for free.  And if it makes a difference, the employee you had a problem with previously no longer works here.”

My head is still spinning.  “I need to think about this.  Send the records to my family doctor and I’ll discuss it with her,” I said.  And have her re-test me, I added silently.

So, like all patients do these days, I Googled Hepatitis B and confirmed that I had no risk factors.  Then I started thinking… I had a vaccine for some kind of hepatitis about ten years ago.  Which hepatitis was that?

After doing a little more internet research, I determined that it was indeed Hepatitis B that I had been vaccinated against.  And I know that when you have a vaccine, sometimes those antibodies stay in your system and cause false positive results on blood tests.  Chef has experience with this because he had a TB vaccine as a child.  He was born in Germany, where that vaccine is common, although it is not given in the U.S.  So every time he gets a TB test, the results show he’s positive.  It’s a real pain in the neck.

But Hep B vaccines are relatively common these days, and I would certainly have thought that a doctor’s office would know how to interpret the results — or at the very least, ask the patient if she had ever been vaccinated.  They never asked me that question.

That is, not until the phone rang again.

It was the same girl from the research center who had called about 45 minutes earlier.  “Um… I was just looking at your results again, and, um… have you ever have a Hepatitis B vaccine?”

Why yes, yes I have, I assured her, in a much nicer tone than I was feeling.

“Well, these results may be because you had the vaccine.”

“Yeah, I finally figured that out on my own.”

She began to apologize.

I said, “Look.  I’m not necessarily upset with you, but this just goes back to the problems I’ve had with your facility all along.”  And while I didn’t use the word “incompetent” I’m pretty sure I gave her the idea that that’s the word I was thinking.

First she tried to shift the blame, then she tried to tell me how she “went the extra mile” to look into it more after she’d called me.

And I said, “Well it would have been really nice if someone had done that before you called me and I freaked out for an hour.”

She apologized again and made some excuse and said, “Well, that’s why I called you back,” as if that was going to make me ever-so-grateful.

I said, “But you don’t call someone and tell them they have an incurable disease before you have all the facts.  That is not okay.

After a stunned silence, she apologized again.

“Thanks,” I said, and I hung up.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so angry.  I had become worried — for my own health and the health of my husband — because they didn’t do their jobs before calling me.

Two days later, I went to see my family doctor who reviewed the results with me in detail, taking a lot of time to look things up to make sure she had the information correct.  She showed me what she had found and went over the results carefully, making sure I understood.  She assured me that the reason the test (one of three tests, actually) came back “reactive” was because I’d had the vaccine.  I have new-found love for my doctor.

And I will never participate in a research study again.

Ironically, as I was writing this post, that stupid center called me again. It was the center director who said that the doctor was there and wanted to talk to me about my lab results.

Now, in case I haven’t made it clear, I HAVE HAD IT WITH THIS RESEARCH CENTER.

So I said, “No.”

“Well, he just wants to go over the information with you,” she said.

“No!” I repeated.  “I don’t want to talk to anyone from your center again.  I’ve already gone over the results with my family doctor who assured me that the reason the results came back the way they did is because I had a vaccine.”

“Well, that’s why we were calling.  He wanted to go over that with you.”

“NO,” I said again.  ” You don’t call people and tell them they have Hepatitis B without having your facts straight.  I don’t want you people to call me ever again.

Oh yeah.  I said “you people.”

And then I hung up on her.

Now, are we done?  I certainly hope so.  I really don’t want to write Part Five in this series.

So the question: Was the money worth it?

H- E-Double Hockey Sticks, no.

Sorry for my language.  I know my nieces and nephews sometimes read my blog.  But this time, it had to be said.

Okay.  I’ve got that out of my system.

And thankfully, I don’t have an incurable disease.

Monday Meal: Let’s Hear It For the Boyz

Monday was a meal of Monte Cristos and Apples & Onions.  Monte Cristos are one of David’s favorite meals, and he had asked Chef Sunday if he could help make them because he wanted to learn how.  Of course, Chef agreed.

But when Monday came, David had homework he wanted to finish.  Plus, Malachi, our nephew and one of David’s good friends, showed up.  David and Malachi don’t get a lot of time to hang out, so David was hesitant to pass up time with his friend in order to help Chef.  But then Malachi agreed to work in the kitchen, too, so they got the best of both worlds!

They started with the Monte Cristos.  Chef lined up the bread, and David was responsible for slathering on the mayonnaise while Malachi took charge of the mustard.

While those were cooking, they moved on to Apples and Onions.  Malachi used the Apple Corer-Peeler-Slicer.

David worked on sauteeing the apples and onions with the bacon.

The meal, of course, was wonderful.  And I bet the boys enjoyed eating even more because they knew they’d helped.

Well, that’s what I like to think anyway.  And if I convince them, then maybe they’ll take over the cooking altogether!

Hasta la Vista, Visa!

For the last couple of months, we’d been waiting on a payment for some sculptures Chef did back in August.  Large sculptures, which amounted to a large payment that we have been waiting and waiting and waiting for.

Finally, on Saturday, after at least three phone calls to the client over the last month, the payment came in.  Hooray!  I knew that would make the business bank balance much more comfortable.

But on Sunday, I got an even better surprise: Chef told me that this payment was enough so that he was able to send the LAST payment to Visa.  So that debt is GONE!

I did a little dance, right there in the front yard.

I’m not sure what the neighbors thought.

Chef told me one of the main reasons he likes paying off debt is because each time we get rid of one, I do a little dance.  He claimed that once all the debt was paid off, he was going to incur more debt and then pay it off again, just to keep watching my little dances.  I told him, “No way, Bucko!”

Or something like that.

I promised him I’d do little dances for other things — like maxing out our IRAs each year, or saving enough for a big purchase.  He seemed agreeable with that.

We have just four more debts (aside from our mortgage) to pay off: three credit cards and our Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC.)  The next victim is our WorldPerks Visa.  (If you ask me, the only “perks” are for Visa, who has been getting all our money!)

We’re getting closer and closer.  And I’m so excited!

Creme Brulee

Chef was gracious enough to tell me (again!) the recipe for his creme brulee:

Ingredients:

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 quart of heavy cream

6 egg yolks

Method:

mix ingredients, pour into ramekins, bake in a water bath for 40 min at 350 or so. For chocolate I melted a couple of milk-chocolate bars and mixed them into half of the above mixture.

Note: if you want the crisp topping, sprinkle with sugar and burn with a small propane or butane torch.

Dreaming of Being Debt-Free

Just recently, I came across a link to an article that had been posted to Dave Ramsey’s website in September.  It was about what dreams people have for when they are debt free.  (You can find the article here.)

I’ve been dreaming more than usual lately.

First of all, we really, truly hope to have completed our debt snowball by this time next year.  I’ve been racking my brain to come up with extra ways to earn income in order to help meet that goal.  (By the way, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to determine whether it’s “racking” my brain or “wracking” my brain.  I’m still not sure, but the information I found leaned toward “racking.”)  The little book I wrote is selling, but not so well that we’re rolling in the dough.  My work with Demand Studios has fallen by the wayside because they’ve changed their site quite a bit and I’m having a very difficult time finding topics I know something about.  And of course, my participation in the research study is down the tubes since my experiences with them have been less than great.  I’ve considered another part-time job, but with working four ten-hour days at the doctors’ office, plus at least a few hours a week for Chef’s business, on top of upcoming surgery, I’m having a hard time figuring out what I could feasibly do.  Right now, I’m seriously considering putting my “fun money” toward our debt.  (Chef and I each get a pre-determined amount of “fun money” each paycheck.  He gets his bit and I get my bit.  I would not ask him to contribute his bit toward the debt, but I’m thinking about sending my bit off to Visa… or at least half of my bit.  Because you know what I think would be really fun?  Being debt-free!)

I’ve become really antsy in my full-time job.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of tasks there that I enjoy and that I feel really match my skill set.  Maybe it’s because the bosses don’t do a great job of making me (and the rest of the staff) feel appreciated.  Maybe it’s because I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am just super-eager to get to the end.  I’m not sure, but while I am trying to work on having a good attitude in my job, I admit that I feel that the sooner I’m done there, the better.  So that’s making me want to push even harder toward getting all that debt paid off.

The other thing that has me chomping at the proverbial bit is the fact that Chef and I have been more active in our dreaming lately.  We’ve always had ideas of building a house out in the country.  We want to have a great big garden and to raise some animals — chickens, goats, rabbits, and honey bees.  We want to continue to have people over for meals, and we also want to be better able to minister to missionaries on home assignment by offering them a place to stay for the weeks or months that they are in our area of the country.  And Chef and I, over the years, have gone in waves where we think about these plans a lot for a while, and then we don’t think about them for a while.

Right now, we’re thinking about it a lot.

We’ve been looking at house plans, barn plans, and lots for sale (like the one below.  So pretty!)

photo courtesy mibor.com

 

I’m so eager to get there.  I want that little house in the country, and I want to make meals consisting of braised rabbit, goat cheese, eggs, honey, and fruits and vegetables from our own land.  I want to be a homemaker, keeping our home cozy and comfortable (rather than messy and barely functional, which is how it feels sometimes right now.)

I also want to be debt-free so we can give more and serve more.  We have some causes we support a little bit right now, but we really want to increase our giving.  And we really enjoy being hospitable to guests, and we want to be able to do more of that as well.  But with working so much and not having a lot of extra money, we’re not able to do as much as we’d like to.

All these dreams and desires are motivation.  I’m eager and I’m anxious.  And that makes me think harder about how to move the train along a little faster.

I’ll let you know if I come up with any great ideas.

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