Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's Going to be a Berry, Berry Great Summer

This is one of my favorite times of the year. This is when all the wild berries around our house become ripe enough to pick. First we have the black raspberries, then the big blackberries will be ready next.

Tyler and I have already gone out to pick berries this week, even my Mom who has Alzheimer's has gotten in on the fun. It's quite the hunt for us to look for the berries. We start out picking the obvious ones that are along our path. Then, we look though the weeds and thickets for the berries that are hiding. The ones that are hidden are usually the biggest and juiciest. We get so excited when we find a large patch of ripe, juicy berries!

When we go out to pick the berries, it gives us a nice opportunity to spend time together and enjoy nature. It takes a good couple of hours to go through all of places where the berries grow. Our dogs like to accompany us, and they even eat some of the berries right off the vine!

Of course, besides the thrill of the hunt, nothing is better than to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Berries are great on ice cream, yogurt, and even by them self with some sugar. For Father's Day tomorrow, I'm going to make a cheesecake and put the berries on top.

Yes, it is definitely going to be a berry, berry great summer!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover - Attic Edition

That was the name that Tyler came up with for our attic project. It was actually more like "Design on a Dime," but we still gave our attic a nice little makeover.

I planned one of my furlough weeks for last week so I could work on the attic. For months, Angel has told me that she wanted the attic fixed up enough so she could have a slumber party up there. We have a large unfinished attic that could comfortably hold Angel and all her preteen friends.

First, we went up to see what we were dealing with. Usually, my husband is the one who braves the attic trips to get the Christmas decorations. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There was a lot of dust, dirt, and dead bugs. We spent a good while sweeping and cleaning everything up.

Our next concern was making the attic comfortable enough that they could all sleep. The floors are just bare plywood. We checked around to see if we could find some inexpensive carpet remnant. We found a real good deal at Menard's. Their carpet remnants were on sale, and we found a 15 x 19.5 ft remnant for $107. It covered enough of the main section so everyone could fit with their sleeping bags.

Next we looked around for some furniture we could temporary move up to the attic. We have an air mattress that folds up into a small couch, that we bought for guests. That went up along with some folding chairs and oversized pillows. We also brought up Angel's T.V. with the D.V.D. player.

As we were hauling all of this stuff up to the attic, we realized we were having some problems with the folding attic ladder. The hinges that lock the ladder sections had broken, and it was starting to bend. I called the manufacturer, Werner, and asked about getting replacement hinges. To my shock, they told me they had discontinued the model we have, and they would send us out a new one free of charge! They even expedited the delivery so we would have it before the party!

The finishing touch was my brainchild. I concocted the idea of creating a pulley system so the girls could hook something from below, then pull the robe to hoist it up. At first my husband thought I was nuts, but he finally got on board and helped put it together. It worked really well, and it helped prevent the girls from trying to climb the ladder while carrying stuff.

The attic still needs some more work, but at least it's good enough for a nice little getaway for the kids. It was a fun little project.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Due to Current Economic Conditions...

I don't know about you, but I am SO sick of hearing this phrase. This phrase is always the preface to bad news: Due to current economic conditions, we are forced to close this store; due to current economic conditions, 30% of the workforce will be laid off indefinitely; due to current economic conditions, more families are losing their homes to foreclosure.

The company that I work for has not been immune to economic problems. We are a transportation provider for many large manufacturers. Our company's niche has been tier one suppliers for the automotive industry, not the best niche to be in these days...

As soon as the extended summer shutdowns in the automotive plants and bankruptcies were announced for Chrysler and General Motors, our company started a major cost cutting frenzy. Travel and other discretionary expenditures were drastically reduced. They also reduced labor expenses by cutting back hours and asking all salaried employees to take three weeks of unpaid furlough. Some employees were permanently let go.

The past few weeks were very difficult. Every time I would see an office door closed or see others speaking in hushed whispers, I wondered what was going on. If I saw a manager walking with an employee, I wondered if they were being walked out. I also started eying the name tags on the cubicles and office doors. If one was missing, then I knew they were gone.

This week is my first week of furlough (I will be taking my other weeks in July and August). It really sucks to lose a week's wages, but I have really loved having this week off. I enjoyed being home with the kids, and I didn't have to worry about them being at home alone with my Mom who has Alzheimer's. I planted our garden (better late than never), and worked on our attic so that Angel can have a big slumber party up there tomorrow night.

So, due to current economic conditions, we will not be going on a big vacation this summer or making any large purchases. But, I will be spending more time with my family, writing more on my blogs, and taking more long walks to relax and unwind.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Help! I'm Watching "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!"

Has anyone else been watching this show? I'm not sure what to say. There are so many things I dislike and find disturbing, yet I have sat in front of the T.V. watching every night this week!

First of all, the term "celebrity" is being used quite generously. The only names that were familiar to me were Lou Diamond Phillips, Sanjaya, and Patti Blagojevich (actually I had only heard of her husband, Rod). Oh yeah, and I cannot forget Steven Baldwin who has made reality T.V. his career.

The other issue I have with this show is that some of these people are completely nuts! I seriously think Spencer Pratt from The Hills needs some major mental help. He and and his wife Heidi have quit repeatedly, and now they want to come back. John Sully had an unexpected meltdown and flipped out on Janice Dickinson (who has had some ugly moments of her own).

Most of the challenges have been horrendous. It's like Fear Factor meets Survivor. The players have to contend with tarantulas, rats, eels, and anything else disgusting you can think of. Lou Diamond Phillips had to get medical attention from all the rat bites he sustained last night. Can't you get diseases that way?

I will say I've been most surprised by Patti Blagojevich. I guess her husband was supposed to be on the show, but the courts would not let him while he awaits trial for allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's senate seat. I figured that she would be snotty and arrogant, with a lot of four-letter words coming out of her mouth. Instead she's shown a great attitude, and the other players all seem to like and respect her. She holds her own with the challenges, too.

So, I guess I'll be tuning in next week for four more nights of groaning, eye rolling, and cheering on pseudo-celebrities. Now that all our other shows are done for the season, there's not much else to do anyway...