Travel wrap up

We survived our big trip. I was incredibly proud of my kids! They are great world travelers. We managed to get everything into backpacks for each of us. We did take one small additional wheeled carry-on because we had that many Girl Scout cookies to deliver to Oma. This was not a big deal because we only had the backpacks and my purse.

We just used backpacks we had so the kids were in school backpacks, and to be honest I was too. My husband has a larger travel backpack that has some convertible straps so it can be an over shoulder bag too. My backpack is one I found many years ago that seems to have all the right sized pockets in the right place for me to travel for 3-5 days so long as I don’t have a ton of clothing. It gets a bit tight if I have to travel for a work trip or something and need more clothing and shoes, but it is great for quick camping or weekend type clothes.

I would change the kids backpacks. We did a lot of walking and it would be nice to have some extra support straps and wider straps to make the backpacks more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. The kids did well with their stuff but there were complaints of shoulders hurting. I am not surprised as we walked about a mile to the hotel from the train station each time while we were in Munich.

My purse got a bit heavy as well because I had my laptop, liquids, magazines, snacks, etc. in there. The purse I brought was great except it didn’t have any way to close the top. Not exactly the best or safest way to travel. I got away with it this time, but I am sure I would not every time. Next time I’ll make sure to have a more secure purse with me. I debate about having taken my laptop. I didn’t use it much. I did use it a couple of times but when I really wanted to use it on the airplane I was unable to because of the seat arrangement and the person in front of me being reclined as far back as possible. Frustrating but wasn’t a deal breaker this trip. I am glad I wasn’t on a work trip with deadlines though. I would have been angry had that been the case.

A few things I could probably leave home the next time:

Clothes line and clips – Although this would depend on where we travel. We had a washer and dryer available. If not these would still need to come with us.

Laptop – I still go back and forth on this. It will depend on the trip. This one I could have left it home. A work trip, not so.

Second pair of shoes – I ended up not using my second pair at all and they were just extra weight and room taken up. I wore a pair of boots the whole time. Again, it would depend on the trip, but this one I could have left the second pair home.

Scarf/blanket – Debatable on these. This is the only trip I’ve ever had where the airplanes had the heat cranked. We spent the first nine hour flight sweating. I didn’t see a single person in our area of the plane with even a jacket on. It was hot! Now the flight home was more normal and was a little cool (the way it should be). I think we could have reduced the number of blankets we had, but the kids did like having a blanket from home in the hotels so maybe it was worth it?

Really that was about all that we didn’t use. I could have left the shampoo/conditioner home, but we used it up and got new in the hotels. If I traveled a lot to Europe I would invest in a travel adapter/converter for electronic stuff. I forgot about the power difference and cooked a Vick’s diffuser thing. I didn’t even think about it until it was too late. We had adapters but not converters and forgot that they run 220v over there not the 110v we run here. Just glad we didn’t start a fire.

Oh, one other thing we did this trip is we left our water bottles home. A little more expensive but nice in that we didn’t have to pack them around and in Europe we have found that most of the time even your water in a restaurant is bottled unless you specifically ask for tap water.

We had a great trip! I think my kids learned a lot about being in cities very different from where we live. We learned a tiny bit of German, ate some wonderful food, and the kids and Oma got to know each other a little bit. That has been long overdue.

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Travel Adventures

Hmmm… So much going on that I’m not even sure where to start. How did I get to be the person that has a bazillion projects, obligations, and more? It has always been my goal not to be that person and yet, here I am. I have become the mom that always forgets the kids’ projects and snacks. It isn’t the end of the world but it does get frustrating.

We are planning a vacation so that is on my mind constantly. This is a big trip so there is air travel, trains, and hotels to consider while travelling. Not to mention animal care for while we are gone. This is when it would be nice to live much closer to family. No such luck so we do what we can.

I’m excited about this trip. It will be my youngest’s first big trip. We have a 3 hour drive, 9 hour flight, a 2 hour flight, a 5 hour train ride, and a 1 hour car trip to get to our destination. Should be entertaining with two young children. Actually it should be a lot of fun. I love travelling with my kids. Of course there are moments when we all need some space away from each other, but for the most part they are a joy to travel with.

Our goal is to have each of us pack a backpack. We are only traveling for a week and there is a washer and dryer on the other end to use. There are some things we need to deliver so I don’t know if we will be completely successful. In general we will have some clothes, our entertainment, and our travel documents. I feel like we can do this because our kids are a bit older now being 6 and 8. Maybe not all 6 and 8 year-olds could do this, but these two I think can. They both enjoy being responsible for their own stuff and helping us out.

If you are like me you are asking, “So, what are you taking?” We are four people. Two boys, two girls.

Here is what our packing list looks like:

  • Pants 3 pair for the kids 2-3 for us adults, us girls mostly in leggings because they pack beautifully. 1 pair of jeans will be in there as well for everyone.
  • Shirts 3-5 each
  • pjs
  • underwear 5 pair
  • socks 5 pair (we don’t want to have to wash these or undies every day)
  • a thin blanket (the kids) or scarf (me) for the plane
  • 1 sweatshirt or sweater
  • 1 longsleeve
  • a pair of sweat pants/lounge pants/after being out in the cold cozy clothes
  • 1 rain jacket
  • electronics and chargers – we’ll each have a phone or tablet and we’ll need chargers and ear buds. We are also experimenting with a power pack and we of course need adapters as we are travelling to Europe.
  • small supply kit of clothes line and sewing items
  • journals/sketchbook/coloring books
  • kids will have homework
  • pens/pencils
  • 1 small “pet” (stuffed animal) per kid
  • glasses – both prescription and sunglasses
  • gloves because it is still cold here and there
  • 1 pair good walking shoes that we’ll wear to travel in
  • 1 pair of slip on comfy shoes for evenings

Toiletries – All travel size to make airline travel easy. I will have 1 bag and my husband will have 1 so we can get a fair amount of stuff in there:

  • toothpaste 1-2 small tubes we’ll all share
  • toothbrushes
  • 1 hairbrush the kids and I will share this
  • my makeup (this doesn’t take up much space since I wear very little)
  • deodorant
  • shampoo/conditioner (normally we would get some there but we’ll be in a hotel mid-way and we want to be able to freshen up. 1 set for the girls 1 for the boys.)
  • perfume/cologne in small sample size
  • lotion because winter and airplanes
  • small thing of Neosporin and band-aids
  • Chapstick
  • facewash
  • baby wipes – do wonders for spills and sticky fingers
  • tissues
  • hair ties – long hair and I hate to have it in my face

I think this is all of it. I will try to note what gets used and what doesn’t. You’ll notice I don’t take jewelry. I don’t wear a lot to start with and after travelling in some areas of the world I’ve learned it is just better without it. I’ll have a watch on, a single copper bracelet that I always wear, and a single pair of earrings that I always wear.

I’ve taken photos of our documents and backed those up too.

We shall see how it all goes.  Off to our adventuring!

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Food Stamps

Argh! One should never read Facebook comments regarding a topic like food stamps. I get so frustrated by them. Obviously most of the commenters have not ever had to use food stamps, do not live in situations even close to what folks on food stamps are living in, and have no concept of how the “other” is living, working, or cooking.

I see comments like, “Provide the necessities only” or “Make food stamps only for FOOD.” I have questions for those folks commenting: Have you ever used food stamps? Have you ever tried to get the food stamps? Have you tried to buy those non-food items with food stamps? Did you know that if the person buys that steak dinner that one night that their entire monthly budget is likely gone? Have you thought that maybe they are celebrating that they got a job that will allow them to get off the food stamps? Maybe they got a second or a third job that will help with getting off of assistance? Do you know how much a month those folks are getting in assistance? Could you provide food for your family on that amount? You tell them to eat healthier food, not the processed junk. Do they have a way to cook that healthier food? Do they know how to cook? Do they have the time to cook? Do you have any idea how much fraud is actually involved in the food stamp program?

All these questions and more. So, why do I feel so strongly about this? Because I have had to use the assistance at two points in my life. I was not the exception to the rule. Most people I know who have used food stamps have used them for a little while and then quite happily gotten rid of them. Did I have a job? Yes! Almost full-time and I was a full time student. Were the benefits large? No. Around $100/month. Could I buy anything other than food? Not a chance. Even food that has been prepared already is a no-go. They require you to do some sort of preparation. Deli food is not allowed. Nor is alcohol, cigarettes, diapers, formula (this is provided through WIC benefits which is NOT food stamps), magazines, dog food, or any other non-food item. Did I buy steak once in a while? Absolutely! A person has to have a decent meal once in awhile. That does mean that I got that one good meal and not much else the rest of the month.

So how about the process to get the benefits of the food stamp program? Well, you have to prove you need them. How do you do that? Rent receipt, pay stubs, utility bills, school bills, etc. It is about a month or more to get all the paperwork in order to get approved. That is a long time to wait, especially if you have little kids who need to eat in the meantime. I was lucky. I was a “starving student” when I needed mine. Also, to provide that proof I had to take time off of work or school to make the appointments (that are required to be in-person) because like any good government office it was only open on weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The other aspect of all this that folks don’t take into consideration as a possibility is that like me, lots of the folks using food stamps have jobs. Probably have since a young age. I never felt bad about using the food stamp program for a total of about year since I’d been paying income taxes since I was 14.

And last but not least; Why is trying to make ends meet and helping your fellow human out such a bad thing? Why are we so bitter about helping someone out? Has no one ever helped you? At any point in your life have you ever had a hand up? If not, I am so very sorry that you have been treated so poorly. I’m sorry that you that much disgust and hate toward another human that you are embittered toward them for trying to provide a basic need for survival.

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Dry winter

Still very little snow here this year. We’ve gotten some but I’ve been hearing about fires starting from sparks from a burning barrel. In December. Usually we’ve had enough snow that isn’t a problem. Not the case this year. It makes me nervous for what the summer will bring.

As the year 2016 comes to a close I always like to reflect a bit on the year past and the upcoming year. This year has been quite the year.

Things that happened or that we did this year:

  • Made a couple of trips to South Dakota with the family (this is a fun easy get-away for us)
  • A trip or two down to the Boulder, CO area to meet up with family
  • A trip to Seattle to visit family
  • I opened a yarn store
  • I’ve decided I really don’t like my office job, but it pays the bills and makes the yarn store possible because it is my safety net. I hope to soon work without a net.
  • I would love to run a farm, but haven’t figured out how to manage the juggling everything with animal care.
  • My kids make me laugh every single day, and sometimes that laughter is because they drive me a little insane.

Those are the major highlights. I’ve been terrible about running this year. I started out the year with an abscessed tooth and it seemed to affect everything so I was off to a bad start, then I got crazy busy and wasn’t good about keeping up on it, and now it gets dark so early it is hard to squeeze a run in. That is one of my plans for the upcoming year is to get more running in. I enjoy it (never thought I’d say that) and it will help me to get my blood pressure back down.

I don’t really do resolutions but I do tend to make some yearly goals. This year my goals are:

  • Run on a regular basis again
  • Fit in at least a 5K race and maybe try to train for a longer race
  • Get my blood pressure down
  • grow my yarn store business
  • quit my other office job
  • new roof on the house (we got hail over the summer that makes this a requirement)
  • re-work the chicken coop so it will be warmer, easier to clean, and accommodate more chickens
  • plant more trees
  • actually garden
  • Do another Eat Local Challenge
  • Clean up our fences
  • clean out the old goat pen
  • fix up some better outdoor shelters for our cats (we got a new one and they’ve gone all strangely territorial so one that has been here the longest doesn’t seem welcome in the garage anymore)
  • Enjoy our travel to Europe in March
  • meditate on occasion
  • write more often again

I think that is a good start to the year. Nothing crazy, just some overall goals. I never have understood the resolution thing. Most folks don’t stick to them for long as it is.

I’m off to continue on my taxes and books for my business. That is by far the worst part of owning your own business. The bookkeeping.

 

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Finally! Some winter weather.

November 17, 2016 and we finally got measurable snow. About stinking time! We have been soooo dry. I’m glad to have a bit of moisture although I’m never thrilled about driving in the snow. You would think learning to drive in the snow and driving in it my whole life I wouldn’t mind it. That’s true part of the time, but depending on the roads most of the time I dislike driving in the snow.

Chores aren’t as much fun in the snow either. Getting bundled up to go chop ice or move wind blocks around isn’t ideal. We’ve had such a mild Fall that I haven’t gotten around to winterizing much at all. Dang! I had to do a quick move on some plywood to help block the wind around the chicken coop, that I need to clean. Both the chicken coop and the dog house need new bedding too. Working two in-town jobs sure gets in the way of doing things at the house.

At least the one job is my own. I opened up my own yarn store on the 12th. I’m hoping it can lead to the end of my other in-town job and I can just work for myself. With that I would like to be able to do more farm/ranch stuff. Critters for my own fiber etc. I toy with the idea of a milk cow but that is just insane. What I may do is go in with my friend who is working with a young heifer to get that heifer to be a milker. I would love to help out with that and get some of the milk. The issue with having a milk cow is that you have to milk them every. single. day. Rain or shine. You do not leave because no one wants to have to ask the people watching their place to milk too. That is actually what my friend and I have been discussing though. They like to travel a little on weekends and stuff to visit family and would like to have the milk cow too. If I am willing to milk while watching their place they could have the milk cow and be able to leave the place once in a while.

So still lots of ideas floating around. Just not sure which will work and what won’t. I will be very excited if I can get back down to one job. Especially if it is working for myself. For now I’m off to work on my many projects.

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Eat Local Wrap Up

Where to begin? This was harder in some ways than I had anticipated. I forgot to factor in that school for us (my husband and I) started on the 15th so the whole week prior to that is a total madhouse where we work. This also means we had zero energy to do anything as far as cooking. And to make matters worse we had a brown out that may have taken out our refrigerator. 😦 We haven’t gotten a chance to work on it. Again, that craziness that is the start of the school year. My kids start school next week, so we really don’t get any slack until September. Oops. I forgot to factor that in.  Oh well.

How did it go? I keep getting asked that. Overall my Eat Local Challenge went really well. Did we fudge it some nights? Absolutely! Did we eat more or less junk? MORE! We have a local creamery and bakery so ice cream and donuts! Yummy. But, talk about junk food. We ended up modifying things mid-way because of this. We thought it was silly that we could have ice cream and donuts but not apples or watermelon. So, we allowed the fruit back in with the caveat that it be USA fruit so bananas were still out.

We got to eat at several great local establishments and even tried a couple of new restaurants. One new to town, the other was just new to us. I didn’t have to go to Wal-Mart! Not for groceries anyway. We still went for school supplies but that was it. Hooray!

We shopped a lot at the farmers’ market for meat and eggs and watermelon and cantaloupe now that the fruit is ripe. We tried our local butcher/specialty meat shop. Not local meat we found out, but local value added. We can’t win completely.

Things that were easy: milk, eggs, chicken, veggies, honey, beef.

Things that were hard: travelling, fruit, flour, spices, sugar, and breakfast. So much so that we ended up giving in and getting cereal and not worrying about the spices and flour. I did not buy anything new other than the cereal.

The best part of the whole challenge? Peoples’ generosity. I was given beef, lemons, cucumbers, basil, squash, and maybe something else. I’m sorry if I am forgetting you. Peoples’ encouragement was another good thing. Every one was very supportive of me.

So could we survive from our own back yard? Not mine this year! Grasshoppers and hail took care of that. But with the whole community pulling together we likely could. I know my family would have a lot of work before we were self-sufficient, but I am happy with my pantry stocking. I do need to adjust a few things to line up more with what we actually eat though.

 

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Eat Local- around 10 days in

My Eat Local Challenge really is a challenge especially when travelling.  I will tell you about that in a bit, but first I need to update you on the basics. Like I thought, fruit is a challenge. A huge challenge for our family. We eat a ton of fruit and even only about 10 days in we have found that we aren’t willing to give it up. What we have done is to allow fruit with the caveat that it must be purchased from a locally owned grocery store and be from the USA if possible. Even better if it is organic, but that isn’t mandatory. Since the main focus of this challenge is to support local businesses buying the fruit from a local producer (not possible at this point or this year for most fruits) or from a local grocer.

What has worked for us? Vegetables, milk, eggs, and meat. My CSA share is huge for this. Right now the list of what I pick up each week: kale, kohlrabi, cucumber, tomato, onion, garlic, lettuce, zucchini, milk, eggs, cabbage, radish, celeriac, carrot, and garlic scapes. I get this each week for a cost of  about $100/month and is certified organic. I can’t buy that much conventional food at a big box store for that price.

The meat I pick up from my local farmers market. I get my chicken from Beehaven Farm Roadside Market and my pork is already in my freezer. If we need beef I can either get beef from my CSA or I can get it from another vendor at the farmers market.

I do have to say thank goodness for our pantry. This would be a lot more difficult if I didn’t keep a well stocked pantry. Pasta would be next to impossible, delicious, but tough for the time it takes to make. My husband made a really yummy lemon basil pasta the other night. Delicious but it did take a while to make. That isn’t a big deal on nights when he hasn’t been at work all day, but to get home after a day of work and crank out pasta isn’t really the way he wants to wind down.

I am lucky too in the fact that my husband cooks to wind down from work or the day. This means that for the most part this challenge isn’t difficult for me. I’ve just been getting to eat delicious food. I do scope out the local foods, but I don’t do much of the cooking.

Exciting news! I have found local citrus. Lemons, oranges, and figs (I know, not citrus but he grows them too). We have a gentleman who has designed a greenhouse system using geothermal heat and he grows citrus in Western Nebraska.  His system is called Greenhouse in the Snow. It is a pretty neat system that enables one to grow plants on our high plains that would never survive otherwise.

Last, but not least. Doing this while travelling: Ugh. It is tough. My schedule did not allow me to go to the farmers’ market while in my conference town. I did find a local coffee shop. Finally. I also found a small grocery store near my hotel that stocks several local products. I ran into the issue of not having a refrigerator or microwave in my room. Apparently when one stays in a fancy place they expect you to eat out. I have done a ton of eating out over the last several days. At least most of the places are not chains and are unique to this town.

Would it be possible to do it while travelling? Yes, if one has a bit more time in an area to research local food and businesses. It is difficult when one doesn’t know the area or isn’t spending much time in an area.

I will try to update you all again next week.

 

 

 

 

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