Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's Just Torture, I Tell You

Jay and I are house-sitting for a friend of mine.  She's kind enough to let us use her property for shooting and is mean enough to make me come workout with her.  (I haven't made it to her house for a six a.m. workout yet and I'm not seeing that happen any time soon.)

When she asked if we could house-sit, it took me about half a second to say yes.  How could you say no to this bit of paradise?


I don't do mornings.  I hate them and don't really believe they should exist, but this morning I crawled out of bed to let her eighty zillion fowl out of the coops, feed the bucket calves, and check the four mommas who haven't managed to get their babies on the ground yet.

Holy cow, these turkeys and roosters are ginormous

They were wide awake and ready to leave the coop when I opened the door.

The not-yet-mommas
Turns out, mornings aren't so bad out here (but don't tell anyone I said that!).

After a trip to check out our first 9HealthFair of the season, I took a quick nap before starting the noon-time chores.  Here's the thing.  Actual farmers make it look easy.  Faux farmers like me huff and puff through the feeding of the animals.  I did get one hell of a shoulder workout, since the tops of the rolls of cornstalks are taller than I am.

I'm not exactly sure how many laying hens they have, but for someone who *hates* chickens, it was a feat to go gather the eggs.  I had long sleeves and leather gloves on, so I figured even if I ran into a stubborn hen who didn't want to give up her eggs, I'd be okay.


As I was reaching up into a box, I felt a hen peck at my leg, so I flicked my foot at it to shoo it away.  Only, it didn't shoo away.  It attacked me.  Full-on, wings flapping, spurs.  Wait...spurs?  I don't know if hens have spurs, but I damn sure know that roosters have spurs.  Sure enough, I looked down and there was a little rooster looking up at me like, "bring it, bitch."  In fact, not only did he look at me like that, but he opened his damn beak and cock-a-doodle-doo'd me as he puffed up for another attack.

Are you kidding me?
Little bastard wasn't so cocky once I had Jay hand me the shovel.  In fact, he might have been afraid I'd whack his head off with it and hustled out of the coop.

We managed to fill up our down time before evening chores with a little plinking.  Have I mentioned that this house-sitting gig is pure torture?


Deejo, and Jay's dad and brother came out to crack off a few rounds with us.  While we were waiting for them to arrive, we enjoyed just sitting at the picnic table in the sun.  (I might have gotten a bit too much sun, shhh.)  I looked down and saw this rattlesnake.

Dead.  Just like I like them.
We didn't manage to waste enough time plinking, so Jay and I tried our hand at pin-striping.  Newt has been pretty hard to distinguish from other Souls because she didn't have any tattoos.  We fixed that today.  Nothing as in-your-face as Ripley's tattoos, but still cute.

Not bad for a DIY job.
The requisite gun sticker.  Now Mom and Bill can identify my car.
Since she got her new tattoos, of course she needed a photo shoot.  What's the point of getting new body bling if you can't show it off, right?



Finally, time for evening chores rolled around and I made Jay come out to take pictures while I fed the babies.


This little cutie has a mommy, unlike the two I had to bottle feed.  But it's only 24 hours old and super, super cute, so we had to get pictures of he/she/it.


Now, it's bedtime and I'm plum tuckered out.  I suspect tomorrow will include a much longer nap than this morning did :)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Adventures in Baking #87930

I was almost afraid to try a new recipe after the disaster that was the Royal Blue Velvet Cupcakes.

By and large, I'm not a fan of "flour-less" anything, but this recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cooking Classy caught my eye.  Even if the recipe wasn't any good, how bad could peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies be?  And with only six ingredients, not even I could screw it up.

So far, so good.

They look pretty good right out of the oven.
I got cocky with the second batch in the oven.  The directions say to let the cookies sit for five minutes before moving them to the cooling rack.  With the first batch, I only let them sit for about a minute and a half and them moved them and didn't have any problems.  When the second batch came out of the oven, I just tried to slip them onto the cooling rack.


It was a very bad idea.  They're not pretty, but they are tasty and only took a few minutes to make.  The longest part of the whole process was the ten minutes in the oven. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Breaking in Newt (Caution: media heavy)

Newt is finally starting to feel like "my" car.

Last week, we got the parts that Jay ordered for her: a warm air intake, a strut tower brace, and a set of cold air inlets.  We invited ourselves over to Deejo's to use his garage to put all of her new stuff on. 

The inlets are the only visible change
Since we had a new car and new performance-enhancing toys on the car, we decided to take a road trip.  You know 9HealthFair season begins for me in February and runs through May, so getting away is tough.  Last Saturday was my sixth Saturday in a row teaching phlebotomy to the RN students, so the thought of running away was enticing.

Our plans were to go to Mom/Autobot's birthday party and then head out to South Dakota immediately after.  Plans never work out that way, do they?

Ashinator's car broke down and left her stranded, so we had to deal with that before we could leave.  We did get it back on the road for much less money than we anticipated it would take (Bonus!), but also left a couple of hours later than we had hoped (bummer).  I don't know why the drive through Wyoming always takes days but, man, that's a long, tough drive.

We landed in Hot Springs, SD for the night and when we got up the next morning, headed into the Black Hills.  One of the parts we put on Newt was a strut tower brace to stabilize the suspension and take some of the body roll out while driving on the mountain roads.  There was one road in particular that we wanted to try, the Iron Mountain Road.  We weren't sure it was going to be open since it was still technically winter.

We took our time getting there.  We went through Wind Cave National Park, where we saw bison.



We took Newt's picture with a fake bison and drove past some young mountain goats.



We were pretty happy that the road we wanted was open.  There was a warning sign that the road received no winter maintenance, but it was in good shape.  As we left the one of the tunnels, we saw this view:

The view as you clear one of the tunnels on Iron Mountain Road
It was pretty cool, perfectly framed by the trees.  Makes you wonder if they cut away the trees on purpose, doesn't it?

I wish we had out GoPro for the road, but we forgot it, so we had to make do with my camera for video.




It was a lot of fun.  There are a total of three corkscrews in the road and each one is just a ton of fun.


Once we met up with the highway again, we got a much clearer view of Mount Rushmore.


We've both been to Mount Rushmore and had no desire to go to the visitors' center, so we kept driving on toward Crazy Horse.  The amount of work that it takes is astounding, and they accomplish more every day, but I'm afraid it won't be finished in our lifetime, which makes me sad.  I'm also very happy that it's absolutely, 100% privately funded, without government assistance whatsoever.



Statue in front of the visitors' center
From Crazy Horse, we drove up to Deadwood and stopped in a little town along the way to (attempt) to grab something to eat.  There are definite pros and cons to traveling in the off-season.  Pro: no tourists.  Con: nothing is open.  By this time, the places we were driving through were just a blur, so I don't remember where I took these pictures, but I love the artwork.



We did manage to find the one open restaurant in Hill City.  Despite the waitress's best efforts to forget us, we were able to eat and head back out on the road to Prairie Berry Winery for "free" wine tasting.  Free, my ass.  We walked out of there with almost $100 worth of wine.  To be fair, the wine was amazing and I'm sure we'll enjoy it.


Deadwood and Sturgis didn't warrant much other than a quick pass through town to say we've been there.  We still had some time to burn before we called it a day and the Devil's Tower was calling our name.  Back to Wyoming we went.  What astounds me is how close everything is once you're in the Black Hills.  I mean, it was maybe a half an hour from Sturgis to the Devil's Tower.  I had no idea they were so close.




On our way back to South Dakota, around Beulah, we hit 1000 miles on Newt.  They were darn fun miles, too.  A lot more fun than if we would have racked them up driving back and forth to work.

I did not take this picture while I was driving.  Jay did :)
Despite all of the road time and everything we packed into one day, we still managed to find a hotel in Spearfish, grab dinner, and watch The Walking Dead (OMG!  Best. episode. ever.).

Unfortunately, Monday morning, we had to head back home so I could go to work that evening.  Why is it heading out for a road trip is so fun that even driving through Wyoming is tolerable, but driving through Wyoming on the way home seems to take days and days?

It was certainly a whirlwind weekend, but it felt good to get away, even if it was only for one (very) full day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THIS is a bracket I can get behind!

I follow Grammarly on Facebook and several times a day, they post something that makes me laugh or cringe (or both).

Over the weekend, they posted "The Battle to Determine the Most Maddening Writing Error".  I don't do March Madness brackets or anything of the sort, but this?  This I can get behind.  Take a look at the competitors:


Your/You're beat out Two/Too/To in the first match-up.  Today's match-up is "I could care less" v.s. "Could/would/should of".  I voted for the could/would/should of, which makes me want to scream, "HAVE! It's could HAVE!" and then mutter under my breath.

When I shared the bracket with Digger, though, he lost it over "I could care less" and went on a mini-rant.  I guess the family (the two of us anyway) is divided for this match, but that just makes it more interesting.

Here are my picks (I meant to post this before Grammar Madness began, but I'm late):



And here are Digger's picks:


After we completed our brackets, we had a rousing discussion about who was going to win.  I'm fairly certain that Misused Apostrophes is going to take it all, but he's pretty certain Irregardless is going to win.

I can't wait to show him Mother Knows Best!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Introducing Newt

So.

Ripley had to go in for service last week.  Nothing big.  Just an oil change and coolant flush, but while I was there I might as well take a test drive in the 2014 Soul, right?

I drove the exclaim model and it was meh-okay, nothing spectacular.  But I told Jay he should drive one just to try it out, so the next day we went to a different dealership and tried out another Soul.  It was meh-okay.  I did love the panoramic sunroof, though.  Holy cow!  All the benefits of a convertible without the annoyances.

Neither one of us were bowled over with the upper-end Souls.  The poor salesman was disappointed, but we hadn't driven anything that we loved more than Ripley.  I mean,  we're talking about my Rip.  She's pretty much the shit, you know?

After a quick conference with the GM, our salesman came back and asked if we wanted to drive a base model.  Hell, test driving doesn't cost anything and we were already there, so we just shrugged and said, "sure".

What a blast!  The base model was so much more our style.  Turns out that our top-of-the-line 2010 Soul exclaim translated to a base model 2014.  Pretty much everything we had in Ripley comes standard in the base model.  We drove the automatic and were luke-warm about it, so they offered to bring in a manual transmission for us.

The next day, Saturday, we returned to the dealership.  Still not with any intention of trading in Ripley, but it was something to do on a Saturday afternoon.

The manual transmission with the new engine sucks donkey balls.  Jay drove the car first and complained about the transmission being "boggy", but from the passenger seat it didn't feel so bad.  We switched places for the drive back to the dealership and "boggy" isn't quite the right word for the accelerator dropping out from under your foot after each gear change.  I can't explain it well, but it was bad juju.  I'd shift, give it some gas and for just about half a second it was like the gas pedal disappeared until the engine decided to catch up.

When we got back to the dealership, we told the salesman that was the worst transmission we'd ever driven and encouraged him to take it out on the highway.  Seriously, something is effing wrong with how the transmission and the GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine work together.  Jay and I thought it was just that Soul, but in talking to Deejo, we realized that's just how it goes in the new GDI Kias.  Sucked.

We wandered the lot a bit, looking at other cars, but went back to the Souls.  The salesman pointed out a base-plus model in Alien II (the new green) and we took it for a spin.

Loved it.

Loved.

It.

We decided to see what they'd give us in trade on Ripley.  The trade was fair and we started the paperwork.  Monday evening, after he got home from work, Jay took Rip to the dealership and picked up Newt.

Newt had 27 miles on her when Jay picked her up.  We're still in the "getting to know you" stage, and there are things I really love about her (helllloooooo, back up camera), but I'm not going to lie, I miss Rip.  We had 88,500+ miles together and did lots of fun work to her.  After 88K miles, you know your car.  I was incredibly lonely driving home last night without Ripley's light-up speakers.  When we brought Ripley home, I thought the speakers were fun, but a gimmick.  However, having Rip "talk" or "sing" to me on the way home from work kept me company.


I also have a case of the guilts.  For the first time in my life, I've bought a big-ticket item because I wanted it.  For someone who was raised, and who raised her own kids, based on necessity, I have a little (okay, a fair bit) of guilt over spending that much money on a want, not a need.

But Newt sure is pretty and she smells good and I'm certain I'll be over the guilt in no time. :)


Note: Credit goes to Daddy Hawk for suggesting the name "Newt" when I bought Ripley.  Some members of my family thought "Newt" was too wimpy, so I went with Ripley.  This time, though, since Newt's color is Alien II, I can overrule the naysayers.  And she is a bit brighter and "cuter" than Ripley was.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

More Adventures in Baking

It's been a while since I've been "moved" by a recipe that I just had to try.  I stumbled across a recipe for Royal Blue Velvet Cake.  It screamed at me to try it.  I mean, look at how beautiful it is!

From Google images

And who doesn't love Red Velvet cake?  So why wouldn't blue, which is the exact same thing with blue food coloring (and a touch of violet) instead of red, be fabulous too?  I had to try it.

Then I ran into a little issue with no cake pans.  We have eight million cooking implements - some that I don't even know how to use - but no cake pans?  How does that happen?

So I decided to make cupcakes instead.  I'm a problem solver, if nothing else.

They're more Cookie Monster colored than Royal Blue, but they're okay.


They even taste okay, but that's about it.  Just okay.

I was going to attempt the amazing marshmallow creme frosting, but since I didn't get started baking until time for The Walking Dead, guess what's not happening.  I'll buy a jar of pre-made frosting on my way into work tomorrow and my co-workers can frost their own damn cupcakes.

Well, they were worth a try, but I don't think I'll be attempting them again.  I'll stick with my rainbow cupcakes - they're prettier and taste better.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Perpetual Motion

It's about this time every year that I start feeling just completely overwhelmed.  That's not such a good thing so early in the year, is it?  Since this happens every year, I know I'll get through it, but until I get a handle on everything that needs to be done, I just feel like a hamster on a wheel - running, running, never getting any where.

Yesterday was my "official" start of the spring 9HealthFair season.  For the next five Saturdays, I'll be teaching phlebotomy to nursing students.  We have 75 new nursing students taking the class and another 30 or so coming to the refreshers.  I do this every year and have an amazing team to help me with the classes.  In twelve hours of class time split up over a two day period, the students go from "theoretically" knowing how to draw blood to completing 25 sticks.  It is not physically difficult for me to teach, I can do it in my sleep at this point, but it is absolutely, 100% emotionally draining.  Thank God I have my Amanda and Jessica and Jennifer to help me out - I couldn't do it without them.

Yesterday's class of 25 students went suspiciously well, and that bothers me.  We only had one crier, but no fainters, or egotists, or just plain lousy sticks.  Why should it bother me that it went so well?  It means that the "crazy" class is still out there.  Crazy can come in many forms, but we always have one class with at least one crazy.  Since we didn't get the crazy class out of the way yesterday, that means that it can happen in any of the next five weeks.  Pray for me.

In addition to 9HealthFair season starting on Saturday, my classes ended Thursday, which means I have to complete all of my grading by noon tomorrow.  Everything is done except for reading their papers.  Forty-six of them.  Can you tell I'm stalling?  What has happened to the ability to research, comprehend, and integrate information into a cohesive paper?  It's a lost art, I tell you.  Absolutely lost and I'm not sure we can get it back.

AND...my new classes start tomorrow.  Three completely different classes that need to be set up in the LMS (learning management system); three syllabi that need to be updated/revised; three sets of lectures/labs that need to be polished.  By 8:30 tomorrow morning when class starts.

So, to recap:
  • Five more weeks of phlebotomy classes for nursing students (completely separate from my regular classes)
  • Forty-six papers to read/grade
  • Final grades must be calculated once said papers are graded
  • Three different classes need to be set up and ready to go in about thirteen hours
  • The Walking Dead starts in eleven minutes
Who needs to sleep?  I took a nap today anyway.  Because when the going gets overwhelming, the overwhelmee takes a nap.