Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's Old is New Again - Secretary Desk

My mother in law Mary had a big birthday this year, so we wanted to get her something special as a gift from our family. She has been using a child's size desk for a computer desk, bless her heart, so I decided to get her something a little more grown up and a little higher than 2 feet off the floor.

I found a really nice secretary desk at a local flea market that was perfect. It needed to be refinished but overall it was nice. I did not get a "before" picture, which I am kicking myself over, but did manage to get a shot of the front piece after we did a little sanding, just to give an idea of what it looked like originally.

My original plan was to paint it a gray color first and then paint with a vintage light blue green color and distress it so that the gray would show through.

But we ended up liking the light blue color so much we didn't want to do the distressing.

We also refinished a chair to go with it. Again no before picture, but picture a chair with one of those stain finishes with the black specs throughout. It had a faux leather seat that needed to be recovered. In other words, it was not an attractive chair. We stripped it (and I use "we" loosely, Jason actually did it) and painted it gray and recovered the seat in a gray fabric.

Finally I took an old Mason jar and filled it with turquoise and clear stones, and added some flowers.

We were so happy with how it turned out.
Happy Birthday, Mary!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: "Half Broke Horses"

I just finished up a really good book called "Half Broke Horses" by Jeannette Walls. It is a true life fiction novel, telling the story of Jeannette's grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, a real life pioneer and horse woman.

The story starts at the turn of the century and follows Lily's life story, which included helping her father train horses as a child, riding 500 miles on a horse to teach in a remote one room school house, some time in Chicago, racing horses and playing poker, surviving as a rancher's wife/taxi driver and learning how to fly.

It is always interesting to me that in the 40's and 50's people were still living without indoor plumbing and electricity in rural America. The stark contrast between Lily's life in the Southwest and her life in Chicago, really highlights the differences in the country's development in this time period. This book also gives a good perspective of America's transition from horses to automobiles.

There is one particular quote that I love in the book, and reflects my general feelings on successful parenting (and horse training):

"Kids were like horses in that things went a lot easier if you got their respect from the outset rather than trying to demand it after they'd started seeing what they could get away with."

I highly recommend this book. I got it at our small library, so it should be easy to find.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lip Reading

There is a lot of talking among friends that goes on at a horse show while we warm up our horses or are waiting our turn.

Casey is not afraid to strike up a good conversation with anyone that happens her way.

She had a particularly good conversation this past weekend that had the person she was talking to laughing so hard she about fell off her horse.

Casey: "Did you know my horse has numbers and letters on his lip?" (race horses are tattoed on the inside of their lip for identification, and our horse Johnny is "off the track" as they say)

Other person: "Oh really? Can you read horse lips?"

Casey: "No, it's just numbers and letters"

Other person: "Can you read people lips?"

Casey: "No, but I can read my brothers mind!"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why I'm a Ding Dong

Every 2nd Tuesday of the month at 8am I lead a meeting that people dial into from all over the world. I have to get to work on time on these days so I can get setup for the meeting and be ready to go. I don't have a backup, if I'm not there, all the people will dial into nothing. So I usually get up super early, just to be sure I can make it there with traffic, and hopefully have time to get a drink before it starts.

Today, I left my house at 6:45am for the 45 minute ride to work, which gave me a 30 minute cushion. This is the route I normally take:

View Larger Map

But right there where the I40 symbol is, usually backs up every morning so I decided not to risk it, taking back roads instead around that area, meeting back up with 40 beyond all the traffic. I kept hearing traffic reports about a wreck in that area, so I was so proud of myself for being so smart to go around. This is the route I planned to take:

View Larger Map

So I got to where I was to get back on the highway (at "B" above) and was about to declare total victory over the traffic... but was not paying attention... and got on going the wrong direction...heading back home! I realized my mistake about 100 feet onto the ramp, when the weight of my error hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that I would now be forced to travel 6 miles in the wrong direction, with nothing but a traffic jam going the other way.

So I had about 6 minutes to think about what I'd done and my options before I got to the next exit.

I contemplated backing back up the ramp, a maneuver I've only seen attempted by one other person (my dad), but decided it was way too risky.

I contemplated crossing the median, but the traffic was way too heavy going the other way.

I did frantic complex mathematical calculations in my head, trying to calculate driving times of various routes.

I talked to myself.

I consoled myself.

I went through the 7 stages of grieving.

I asked God for answers.

And if I could have I would have banged my head on the steering wheel the entire time.

The way I figured it, I had 4 options:
1. Get to the next exit, get back on the highway going the right direction and get stuck in the traffic,
2. Find my way back over to the back road that I had taken before
3. Go home to do the call from home.
4. Get on the next plane to Jamaica, and call it a day.

I did not know if either option 1 or 2 would get me to work on time, but I figured even if I could get there, I would have 5 minutes to sprint into the building and boot my laptop up.

I actually decided to try to make a run for it with option 2 (though option 4 was tempting)...but the traffic light at the end of the exit ramp took away my 5 minutes, so I decided to just go home in utter defeat.

So this is the route I took, I was on the road for exactly 1 hour and got nowhere.

View Larger Map

I managed to lead my meeting successfully, even though I had a massive headache by that point, probably due to some serious teeth clenching, white knuckle driving.

When I had a break in meetings, I decided to attempt to get to work again. I turned out of my driveway and traveled about 400 feet only to see huge "Road Closed" signs blocking the road. So I had to turn around and go in the opposite direction from where I needed to go on some back country roads, where of course I got stuck behind someone hauling a trash can standing up in a pickup truck going about 15 miles per hour. I came very close to just giving up and going home for the day, but I eventually made it there.

If our road had been closed on my way back in on my first attempt, I think my head would have exploded. So I'm thankful for that!

So if there is such a thing as a "Ding Dong" award, I think I deserve it for today.

Friday, September 3, 2010

CoolHorse.com is SO Cool!

For those of you who are not aware, we lost our pony LuLu last weekend. We all have taken it really hard, but Casey has taken it the hardest. LuLu was the horse that taught Casey how to ride, and was Casey's barrel horse.

Here they are when she first started to ride LuLu by herself, she had just turned 4.

And here she is this year, running barrels on her.
We never realized old LuLu could move as fast as she did for Casey.

Here they are at their first rodeo this spring. This was LuLu's first time ever in this kind of environment, she never even batted an eye...that's what made her such a good horse.

Casey Hiser/Lulu 04302010 from Bob Fitzgerald on Vimeo.

When CoolHorse.com posted on Facebook this week asking how people cope with a horse's loss, I posted a comment about Casey losing her pony, and how when asked if she wanted to skip the next show or ride a different horse, she said she "wanted to ride, cuz that's what cowgirls do". They responded that they wanted to send her something to wish her luck, which I thought was so, so kind of them.

We got their package today, and I can honestly say that they went above and beyond. They sent her a box
full of cool things...much more than I ever would have imagined...

...2 ball caps,

...a really nice note, with a gift card...

... a pink brush (how'd they know she loves pink?)...

...a pink hoof pick and a tail bag (her new horse could really use one!)...

... a cool t-shirt and a bunch of lollipops and candy...

and best of all, they got her a big, ole smile!!!

I would like to say a HUGE thank you to CoolHorse and I would encourage all of you to checkout Coolhorse.com by clicking here They really went above and beyond, and I think they deserve our business!! (Plus they have some really cool stuff!!)

I got this duvet cover a couple of weeks ago as their special of the week. I LOVE it!! I've been searching for something like this for 15 years!

Through divine intervention, God brought us another horse for Casey about a month ago. We weren't looking for a horse, but knew we would soon need to retire LuLu. We decided to get Dotty, because kid safe horses like her don't come around too often. Little did we know why God brought her into our lives. She has really helped Casey get through this tough time, giving her something to look forward to in the future. We're excited to see what Casey and Dotty will do. We sure are proud of her cowgirling up this week!

Casey/Dolly from Bob Fitzgerald on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Master Bathroom Redesign Part 1

During my annual hibernation in August from the heat, I usually start looking around the house for projects. Our master bathroom is ready for a redesign and needs some structural help as well. So today we started what will be a long chain of events, we removed the sink and vanity.

I have an old dry sink that I picked up at a local thrift store probably almost a year ago The plan is to turn it into a vanity with a hand painted Mexican talavera basin sink that I've also had for awhile.

Unfortunately we need to replace the flooring because it is rotting underneath due to water escaping the shower/splashy kids, and the ceiling also needs to be replaced due to a leaking vent in our roof (it sounds like our house is falling apart but for some reason it has all happened in this one room of the house). I won't be sad to see the popcorn ceiling go though, I can't stand the popcorn!

My good friend Elizabeth volunteered to help (bless her heart) and as soon as JW heard a demo was going to happen he was onboard too. He was the perfect size for the job.

Here are all the tools we used based on what we could scavenge from Jason's shop/the kitchen: A crowbar, a steak knife, a screw driver and a crescent wrench (not pictured). We decided we need a tool box if we are going to continue with this type of work. I think I made about 12 trips back and forth from the house to the shop.

This was a close as I could get to "before" pictures.
We had already cleared out all the stuff and removed the drawers.

Next we had to disconnect the water lines.
We were worried, but we never got wet!

Then, we took down the mirror.

We worked and worked on getting the counter loose.

We got it out. These pictures don't accurately reflect the thinking/effort it took.

Next we removed the remaining structure, which required lots of unscrewing, prying, cutting. We went through several plans.

What got us baffled was that the holes in the vanity where the water lines/drain are were not large enough for us to pull it out of the wall over the water lines.

Then the guys came in and cheated with power tools.
We would have gotten it though.

How can so much dirt accumulate under something that is completely enclosed?

I want to say a HUGE thank you to Elizabeth for helping today.
She has some serious demo talent!
Stay tuned for more updates...hopefully coming soon!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

I am on a chocolate chip zucchini bread kick this summer and I have the jiggly stomach to prove it. It really is one of the easiest baked snacks/desserts you can make. It requires no mixer, you can whip it together fast, it uses typical pantry items and makes 2 loaves. You can't beat that! Also, removing the chocolate chips makes it dairy free, which is unusual for baked goods.

I use this recipe by Paula Dean, but it is a pretty typical recipe. I will cover the basic steps below, but consult the recipe for more details.

First grate up one medium sized zucchini, to make about 2 cups. I grate it by hand, it's really easy to grate.

Mix together all the dry ingredients, except sugar. I don't use nutmeg, just cinnamon. Technically you should probably sift it together, but I just don't have the patience for sifting. I've tried it, I just can't do it. Maybe I need a different sifter?

In another bowl, mix 3 eggs with a fork or whisk until they are light and airy.

Add the sugar and mix together.

Add the oil and vanilla. Mix it all together.

Add the zucchini.

Add the flour mixture.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into two 9" bread pans.
I have one in our family who won't eat nuts, so I mixed the nuts into only one pan.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

You can eat one and freeze the other, or you'll be surprised how fast both loaves will disappear.

You will love this and kids will too.
And they won't even notice that they are eating a vegetable.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book Review: "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"

As the summer draws to an end, I thought I'd highlight some of the excellent books I've read in the past few months. I love to read books based in history (love the ones that are based on actual events/places) and small town, rural and/or western America, but I'm not afraid to venture out to read anything (when I have time to read of course, which is rare).

The first book I read this summer was "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows.

I wasn't sure whether I'd like this book, because it is written entirely as a series of letters and telegrams between the main characters. But I ended up loving it. The book takes place post World War II in London and Guernsey Island. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands between England and France. Honestly, I had never even heard of this island let alone it's strategic position in the war.

This novel has both bright and dark elements, interweaving the tragic events that occurred during the German occupation of the island with humorous post-war recovery stories of the quirky islanders and the main character, a successful London journalist, looking for a subject for her next book.

I highly recommend this book, it's one that is hard to put down and gives a great look into what England and Europe were like post WWII.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When Good Gardens Turn Bad

I'm here to officially document the rise and fall of the 2010 TripleCreek Farm garden.

Warning: Some photos in this post may be disturbing to serious gardeners.

I'm just keepin' it real, people.

We typically tend to the garden from March until about August, when we're forced to wave the white flag and abandon it to hibernate through the extreme heat of the summer. But we usually can get a pretty good crop in by that point.

This year was different. We had an all out attack of nature on our garden, on multiple fronts, and were forced to surrender in June. Here is the full series of events, sad as they may be.

Nov 2010. Planted garlic. You can read more about it here.

Feb 2010. Planted cool weather crops. Broccoli, peas and onions. You can read about it more here.

April 2010. Cool weather crops coming up nicely.

May 2010: Peas are in and we plant 30 pepper plants, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, watermelon, about 30 potatoes, carrots, & tomatoes. We suffer through about 6 weeks with no rain. Luckily our automatic watering system keeps the garden going.

June 2010: The garden suffers it's first major attack. Of the chickens! As soon as the garden starts to produce, the chickens move in for a feast. Every time we turned around, a chicken would run off with a tomato in it's beak. They also ate entire zucchinis, and any cucumber within reach. The only safe crops were the peppers (guess chickens don't care for habaneros) and the underground crops.

So we decided we needed to secure the perimeter. I bought a cute white picket fence that Jason hastily puts up, unfortunately I don't get nearly enough. By the time I get more, the 2nd force of nature has moved in, and that is the amazon heat. The entire month of June had temps at least 10 degrees above normal, mostly in the upper 90's close to 100.

The rest of the fence never gets installed because we are forced into early hibernation in the A/C. We turned on the automatic waterer, turned our backs on the garden, leaving it to fend for itself, the best it could. Bless it's heart.

July 2010: We are gone for weeks at a time, on vacation and to summer camps and the heat continues. We occasionally venture into the garden, but not too often. The dragon carrots survive. Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and garlic are dead and gone.

August 2010: What's left of our garden. The weeds have taken over. The peppers are still hanging in, the bugs got the potatoes, and there is something strange growing in the tomato cages. It's thriving actually. I have no idea what it is.

Anyone have any idea what this vine plant is?

So there it is. The good, the bad and the ugly.
We'll try again next year!