Friday, November 29, 2013

The Tori Douglas

I have been SO busy! I am happy to announce that I am a Winner of National Novel Writing Month. I took a break from everything this month to get it done, but I now have Book II of my Through the Veil series in first draft. The Gossamer Crown is now in the editing phase, after a short mental health break, of course. 

I am devoting my time to really put my work out there. When I published Hole in the Stone I just put it out there in the world and left it at that. I am have learned a lot about Kindle publishing, and hope to put that to work when I launch it's follow up book, The Gossamer Crown. I have a new site, dedicated to my writing aspirations, at The Tori Douglas, where I hope to see you guys in the future.

Between this and writing for and being active in Gaming Mommies, I doubt this blog, as much as I love it, will be getting much attention. 

I would love for you all to follow me to my new endeavors! If not, I will see you here, now and then. Brightest blessings to you all!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Plans in motion

My entire adult life has seemingly been a long line of crisis' strung together. Granted, there have been some amazingly good times hung on that line as well, but I have not once had my shit together. I would like to know what that's like. I feel like we have a plan that is a long-term solution, not an 11th hour fix that might make things worse in the long run. We are not running from a problem, as we have tried and failed to do in the past. We are not hiding. We are actually on the upswing, not in the midst of a catastrophe right now. We could probably continue on as we are right now and be back on an even keel in the next 2 months...until the next issue throws us back into the tempest. Fuck that. For real, I can't do it anymore. The next blow might be the one I don't get up from. We have to find a better way. We have to make a deep change and really live it.

All our life together, we planned and the gods laughed. The Hubs and I had a series of loooong talks, followed by a long, serious, and highly emotional conversation with my parents over the weekend. We are going to start back at zero. We are going to carve down our lives to fit into what we can afford and manage, and we are going to keep it there.

What are our resources?
 We have the Vardo. It needs some serious remodeling to be a permanent residence, like a working bathroom for instance, but it is all work that we have the tools and knowledge to do. Until then, it is structurally livable, as long as we have access to facilities.  

We have a bunch of crap. I will be spending the next few weeks ruthlessly sorting our belongings into keep. pitch, sell. There are, really, very few belongings we have that we can't live without, especially when you factor in cost to store it and the odds of us living somewhere we can use large items like our furniture, in the next several years. Better to sell it and put the funds toward the Vardo. By the weekend I hope to have the 1st of several yard sales and have the bulk of our furniture on Craigslist.

We have a cheap place to park the Vardo. My parents have a 1 acre lot, and have graciously agreed to let us park the Vardo on it. We will have sewer hook-up, electrical hook-up, and much to our kids approval, cable. We will contribute to the utilities, and I will happily cook for the whole extended family. We will be close enough to their house to use their shower, (the Vardo toilet works, and the shower might work but it leaks and we are afraid to do more water damage) and their kitchen when I need an oven. The Hubs has a new job, and the 1st week that asked if he could transfer closer to where my parents live. Even if we move before he is transferred, the company will put him up in Safford during the week, they have several drivers who live in the Sierra Vista area, but stay in Safford during the week to work.

We have a fierce desire to abandon almost everything and build a better life from the ground up. The ultimate goal is to remodel the Vardo, and then build a Tiny House. Both of these projects will be done in small bites, as we can afford it. This is the 2nd part of living within our means. We don't want a mortgage for a house we hope we can still afford down the line. We want to build as we can afford it, and have no overhead once they are complete. Once these are done and fully livable, we will find a piece of land, buy it cash, and park our Tiny Houses on it. When we can afford it. Not when we think we have the budget on paper to afford the payment. That is where we fail, time and again. We now accept this limitation in ourselves and are acting accordingly. 

On a more personal note, I seem to be in better mental health when I am in control of my living space. Even when we were squished in the Vardo, with my Dad ranting from his Alzheimer's and me having to care for him (he is fully incontinent, with a Foley Catheter and adult diapers...think of that in an RV) I was happier there. It was paid for. No one could ever evict us from the Vardo. It was mine to do with as I pleased. No matter what else was happening, that is an unbelievably comforting thought and I missed it the second we went back to renting. 

I always wanted to remodel the Vardo, and that plan completely fell away when we moved. We moved into the rental house in all good faith that it would work, we would buy it down the line and make a home and a life here. We just got sucked up in plans, again. We see what could be in the future, and ignore what we should be doing today. Scaling down and making what we have work for us will let us focus on today. What can we do today, each day, to make our life better. We are committing to no longer live a someday life. Someday we will own this. Someday we will be able to to that. I am 38, someday will never come until I decide today is that someday. 

Today is the day I will begin to sort out my life.

Today is the day I will do something to make the life I want happen.

Today I will plan, but I will also DO!

Today I will make my life better, and no longer wait for XYZ to make it better for me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Message 8/26/13

The Guardians at the Gate. The Bright Mother, Death

A New life, a new beginning awaits. What must you release to let this new life begin? Do not be afraid, the Mother has her hand upon you. Let it end, it has run it's course, and it's passing makes room for you to pass into this new start!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Message 8\19\13

Letting go is not losing control. Tightly regimented life and mind are a sign of fear, not control, in this instance. Give yourself the freedom to run a little wild and learn something new about yourself from the outcome. Turn right instead of left and always remember each day of your life is a fresh page waiting to be written. Do not copy and paste, write a masterpiece.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An open letter to the class of 1993

My 20 year High School reunion is today!
Sadly, I cannot attend. I live over 2000 miles away and finances are just now starting to perk up. I am actually more disappointed than I expected to be about not being able to attend. The Hubs and I went to my 10 year, and had a ball. 

My High School years were pretty average, I guess. I don't have a tale of trauma, drama, or, slow-clap-turns-into-thunderous-applause. It was four years of my life. 

Four good years, in which I had fabulous times and made life-long friends. I cried over boys, cried over stupid crap, cried because I was a teenage girl and that's what we do.I had shenanigans, got into some trouble, but was all-in-all a good kid. I was in too many clubs and activities. Band, Show Choir, Latin Club, Drama Club, Prom committee. I dove in to my school with a passion. I had some Honors level classes, and I enjoyed them. I was surprisingly well liked and even popular in certain circles despite being an overweight Band Geek. I had friends in, or was at least friendly with, all the various cliques, and even those few I had beef with at one time or another, the friction seemed to pass quickly and things went back to normal. 

Were those the "Best Years of My Life"? Not really, but they are collectively in the top 10. All I know is I am 2000 miles away, but when I see people from that time on Facebook, or around Elwood when I lived there or have gone back to visit, it makes me smile. I am genuinely glad I know that person and can instantly call up a nice memory of them that makes me smile. 

I hope the same happens to you, class of '93! I hope you see Kyle or Carter playing a song with their bands and get a warm memory of a school dance. I hope you see Tammy. Jennifer, Sarah, or Anne and think of  some Pep Rally. I hope you see Kreg or Amber and think of the Prom. You think of football when you see Paul. Kirk, Chad, John, or Scott. Maybe you see Bob and remember we prayed at graduation, even though we were not supposed to! Remember Kenny marching in the band half-time show in his football uniform and a big old tuba and Juan. Leta, Krystal, Ryan and David with the band at the end of the bleachers during every game playing Go! Fight! Win!? T.K., Danielle, Kristy, Chrissy, Jenny in those god-awful Crimson Suite dresses! Heidi, Aaron, Jerri Lynn, Carrie in a school play. Gary with that fab Sombrero on the Spanish Club float!

I could go on and on. I like to hope you think of something awesome when you see me around or read all the weird stuff I post of Facebook. We had good times, and they are worth remembering! Have a great reunion, Class of 1993, and raise a glass for me and all the others that are only there in spirit.

We are wild! We are free! We are the class of '93!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

No-Knead Bread is awesome!

I have been in a baking mood again lately. I made a Sourdough Starter, which I will post this weekend when it is ready to bake with. I did not want to wait for the yummy bread goodness, so I decided to try another bread recipe that I have seen around the internets. Originally posted by New York Times, the no-knead bread method has made the rounds in the blogs since 2008. Is it too late to say I'm jumping on the bandwagon? Probably, since the wagon is parked in storage by now...but I digress. 

The No-Knead method is very appealing to me for several reasons. 

1. It requires more time than actual effort, which works well for me. 
Time does all the work here, all you really have to do is remember when to mess with it. It took like 2 minutes to mix the dough, cover it with plastic wrap, and tuck it on top of the fridge. 

2. It is ridiculously cheap
And will be even cheaper when my Sourdough starter is ready to use and I won't even have to buy yeast! I estimate that there might be $.50 or less in this loaf of bread, depending on the flour you use. I happened to have bread flour around, but all-purpose is fine also.

3. It's delicious! Crusty on the outside, chewy and tender on the inside, with a deep, yeasty flavor that cannot be matched in bread with shorter proofing times. It really has that boutique bakery taste and texture.

4. It makes you look like an awesome, Hipster, Artisan baker!!!
You can totally make your friends and family think you are a master baker when you whip this loaf out for dinner or bring it as a Hostess or house warming gift. It looks rustic and awesome, smells amazing, and tastes even better. 

The Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe

3 cups flour plus more for flouring work surfaces
use what you have around. Bread flour is good, but all purpose works well. If you want to use whole wheat, mix it with white flour 1:2 ratio. The white flour "ferments" better and will develop better taste

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups purified water
Only use tap water if you are certain it has no chlorine. Chlorine inhibits bacteria growth, and we are going for optimum yeast development here

a cast iron Dutch oven or other high-temp safe vessel with a lid to bake it in. This is an important step! I said above that time does most of the work, well the Dutch oven does the rest of the work. I have an awesome cast iron Dutch oven that was my Dads. It is a no-name brand, but has been seasoned by years of camping trips!

A cotton towel 

plastic cling wrap

cooling rack

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl, then mix in water to form a "Shaggy" dough. It should not be liquid, but it should be too sticky to handle well.

Cover the bowl with cling wrap, and stick it in a spot where the room temp is consistent. I always use the top of the fridge for proofing dough. It is warm and out of the way. Now the waiting begins. Let that dough chill out for around 12-18hrs. I live in a hot climate, so I waited about 15 hrs so that I would not have the oven on at the hottest part of the day. 12 seems to be the minimum of consensus, but I did see a blog that the blogger got by with 8 hrs. Just make sure the dough has at least doubled, and looks bubbly and loose.

Scrape the dough out on a WELL floured surface. You will need to use a dough scraper or spatula. It will stick to the sides of the bowl.

 Flour the top of the dough and your hands, then gently spread the dough into a rough rectangle. 

Fold the dough on itself in thirds

Then in half
Cover loosely with the cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Lay out a clean, cotton towel and flour a spot for the dough very well. Cornmeal can also be used, and if you are super-fancy you can use a proofing basket. I tend to avoid single-job kitchen equipment, so I opt for a well-floured towel.

Once the dough has rested, tuck the seams under and put on the floured towel, then flour the top of the dough and wrap in the towel. Let the dough proof for 60-90 minutes. Again, super hot here so I waited an hour.

15 minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 500 and put the Dutch oven in to pre-heat as well. When it is time, carefully remove the Dutch oven and remove lid.  It will smoke when you take the lid off, this is normal and means the pot is hot enough.Turn the dough out into the bottom of the Dutch oven, and give it a shake to let the dough settle on the bottom. The seams will be up now, and will act as "scoring" since the dough is too soft to actually score. I did not take a pic of this step, as I had a dog, 2 cats, and a child trying to "help" me and I was nervous someone was going to get burnt. Slap the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes. Then, turn oven down to 450 and remove the Dutch oven lid, bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the bread from the Dutch oven and on to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing. This is the hardest part, by far, because it smell like heaven!

Just a note: There are lots of cool baking gadgets like sold HERE, but as I stated I don't like one-job equipment. I also like that this recipe is simple for the novice, home baker with amazing results. Whether you are a dedicated baking nerd with half of the items from the above shop in your kitchen, or this is your 1st loaf of bread, a little patience is all the skill you need for this bread to be in your belly!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homestead Update 08/11/13

We are finally in a hopeful place. Our landlord has been working with us to get through yet another rough patch financially, and has mentioned us buying the property on contract when our lease is up. I feel more inclined to work on improving the land knowing it may be permanent. 

I finished one keyhole garden, but it is being attacked by ground squirrels at every turn. They dug the pea seeds right up and killed one of the pumpkins already. That and the heat killing the cucumber, which I knew was a strong possibility, are discouraging. When I can get a few extra bucks, I am going to plant bush beans, potatoes, and maybe try cukes again when the weather breaks.

We also have been working on plans for a chicken coop. We learned from past mistakes and checked the local ordinance, even though we live well out of town. We are good to go for livestock, and are hoping to have the coop done, made for nearly free with pallets, (we just need to buy hardware cloth) and populated with 8-10 hens and a rooster in the next month. The next phase will be a 2nd coop for meat birds, then a few goats.

I started the garden way late in the year, and although I did not expect much production, I am worried I will have nothing to show for those efforts this year. That's ok, the foundation is laid for future seasons. Good news, though! My Mom and Stepdad sent us home from our last visit with a bucket of peaches from their tree. I am not up to canning at the moment, so I just sliced them up and tossed them with some pectin and bagged them up to freeze.

I got about 2 quarts. We are set for peach cobbler and pie this winter! 

Beyond that I have been crafting and trying to write. Etsy and Amazon have kept us above water the past month. I hope now that The Hubs is back to work that money can go straight into improving the property and toward homesteading projects like rain barrels and getting some fruit and nut trees!

Merry Meet, Merry Part, and Merry Meet Again...

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