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Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Beautiful Sunday

It is a beautiful Sunday. The weather is clear, crisp and still warm enough to work outside in shirtsleeves. To get into the mood and ready for a leisurely Sunday drive this afternoon to view the magnificent colors ....A little Nat King Cole.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apples and Plums ...Oh My! Plus the spiritual side of life.

While still in the throes of dealing with nature's bountiful gifts this year of apples and plums, I decided to finish off the last 3 1/2 pounds of Italian Prune Plums with a batch of Chinese Plum Sauce.

Apples?  Oh YEAH we have apples this year.  Previously I made and froze apple pie filling for 12 pies.  Now neatly wrapped and stacked in the shop freezer.  A friend, who is also up to her eyeballs in apples and pears, gave me a super recipe for crockpot apple butter.  Fabulous!. Easy peasy!!  No standing and stirring and stirring over a hot pot.  Just put the peeled cored and chopped apples in the crockpot with the sugar and spices and go about your merry way.

Recipes for both are posted at my recipe blog RecipeJunkie   in this post.

So....What did I do today?

Finished up canning the apple butter which had been cooking in the crock pot since yesterday.  Canned the plum sauce.  All the while, listening to Cole Train, Ella Fitzgerald and Delbert McClinton.   While waiting for the product to cool enough to handle, decided all that was left for the early afternoon was to get some crackers, brie cheese, apple slices (did I mention we have a LOT of apples) and some wine so that I could sit on the deck in the magnificent Indian Summer sunshine and read a book for a while.

Apple Butter and Chinese Plum Sauce

On another blog a commenter made reference to how blessed and fortunate we, in the United States, actually are.  His comment was in reference to the Occupy [insert your city] movement that seems to be stressing how disadvantage the 99% (whatever) is and how oppressed we must be by the 1% who control all the wealth.  First of all.....none of that is true but I won't get into the political part of that.

It is the spiritual part that is of interest to me. We have freedoms that are unheard of in other countries.  Freedom of movement. Freedom of thought.  Freedom to chose all sorts of life paths that we might take.  Do we always make the right choices?  Probably not.  But, we have the ability to chose.

With that freedom also comes responsibility.  When you choose badly, as I have often done in my younger years, you either learn from those bad choices and make better choices in the future....or you just keep repeating the same mistakes.

We also live in a society that is caring. Some will say that isn't so because every problem, every person isn't taken care of from cradle to grave.  Caring also means sometimes saying "NO".  Charities and personal help for those in need are abundant.  No matter how bad things get, there IS someone somewhere who is willing to give you a hand up. To help those willing to better themselves and who want to be helped,  lift themselves out of the darkness.  Hand up is not the same as a hand out.  Entitlements and demands to take from others is a perversion of charity.

Looking at my life now, I am grateful for every moment.  Even these moments of what others would think of as drudgery (canning, cleaning, harvesting) are to me a blessing and a joy. I have the ability, the skill and the drive to create. Apple butter from raw apples.  Knitted hats for friends from balls of yarn.  Clothing from cloth.   Those moments of leisure following the drudgery: sitting on the deck with a glass of wine are also a blessing.  The drudgery and the leisure....they go hand in hand.  You can't appreciate one without the other.

Those in the Occupy everywhere contingent who are focusing on the negatives, on money, on possessions and ignoring the blessed life and the opportunties that they have been given, compared to much of the rest of the world, are ignoring the spiritual side of life.  They are starving their souls and screaming into the void.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bigfoot of Cats

(Post written by my husband the Dumbplumber)

The tenth anniversary of finishing our new home also marks the arrival of a tiny kitten. Wifey and I have made a profound discovery. Many have been to our home, but other than ourselves less than five other people have ever seen our cat, our neighbor excluded. (He caught her twice in a live trap)

We don’t have a lot of visitors, but those that do come by only hear stories about the schizophrenic cat because she never reveals herself to others. And of those that have seen her, none have ever touched her or been within reach to do so. We did have one visitor about five years ago, my former grade school teacher, that actually had dinner with us and watched the cat casually stroll across the living room. We would like to use his confirmation as evidence of her existence , however, he took his testimony to the grave two years after his visit. It has become such a joke over the last ten years: Fewer people have seen our cat than have seen Bigfoot.

When we say it’s our cat, we really don’t mean it. She trained us to feed her ten years ago, never left, and has taught us to do many more things for her since. We actually thought about posting a story about the cat on our blogs with photos of the cat’s favorite resting spots, one near the dining table window,  another near the office window, another on the railing sheltered by a wild plum tree and of course the one on the bed. However, these photos would be much like those of the places Bigfoot was spotted, but instead of footprints, we only have cat hair to mark as evidence.
Office window spying on the quail.

We could also do a time lapse photo of her food bowl, slowly diminishing, but you would be confused that the water does not. That is because she prefers either the toilet bowl or her favorite larva infested stagnant pool outside in the garden bowls left for our local birds and other wildlife.

Sparky's afghan on the bed
And speaking of birds, we are left with much evidence of breakfast birds, lunch birds and the occasional afternoon ‘snack’ bird parts littering our yard and deck area. No, she is not a neat cat.

However an argument can be made that it is the local foxes leaving their calling cards. But I maintain that foxes do not do their bird hunting during the daylight hours and they certainly don’t drag their feasts near our house for devouring. No, it’s the cat. It is our policy (due to the many predators here ‘bouts) that we leave the cat indoors when we leave overnight. We joke that she is stationed as a ‘guard cat’, and I must report that, over the past decade, nothing has gone missing with her on duty.

About our only complaint is that we receive little in return for providing food, water, shelter and security from the cat. Her interaction with us is minimal at best. She sleeps on the wife’s side of the bed, she allows very little petting (preferring to present her tail for stroking), passes infrequently over the sofa for the cursory touch, only lounges outside on the deck when we are there, as guards, and spends the entire day lurking outside, scouting hidey holes and available critters.
Favorite railing sunning spot

She will not come when called and prefers showing up for her four o’clock treat, somewhere between 3 and 5, depending on the time of year and accuracy of her fur covered kitty clock. Timing has never been her strong suit. But she is given credit for never having clawed, chewed or shredded the furniture. That, she saves for her personal pedestal which has been fashioned into an homage to Edgar Winter.

Shredded cat perch.

Overall I should not complain. Having never been a cat-person, I do appreciate her low maintenance, but live in wonder at how many 50lb bags of cat food has been consumed by our 4lb cat over the years. About the only thing she demands of me (since I refuse to acknowledge that she is my cat) is to open the back door, then close it, then open it, then close it, then open it, then…well, you get the idea.

And on this tenth anniversary of her arrival, I would be less than honest if I didn’t confess that on more than one occasion I have dreamt of the day when we would be cat-free. No cleaning the litter box, no vacuuming the cat hair, no lugging 40 lb. bags of Cat Chow out of Costco, no listening to the wifey’s daily, screeching/calling of the cat, which no doubt is enjoyed by neighbors on both sides. But on the bright side, her going missing, or worse, could be assuaged by popping the cork on a new bottle of 25 year old Single Malt and hailing a toast to one of the least troublesome intrusions ever into our lives.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kindle Conundrum

A Kindle (or other E-book tablet) seems like a great idea. It can hold thousands of books, easily transportable, inexpensive downloading and instant gratification. No more piles of books cluttering up the area. What's not to love? I WANT one and will probably buy myself one for Christmas.

However, I think there is a dangerous dark side to the electronic book movement and the electronic photos that we rely on. Who takes a photograph from a negative and has prints made anymore? All of our current memories are digitized.

Our culture is being digitized. We live in an era where we are losing connection with our own history as a society and with the history of civilization. Schools no longer teach history. Facts, dates, relationships between events and how those long ago events have shaped our present. Not taught. Ask a child in elementary or even high school why we have Thanksgiving. Where did the holiday come from and why do we celebrate and I bet you will find that hardly any child can tell you about the history behind it. Sure they might be able to spout something about Pilgrims and Indians and how the eveeel white people destroyed the Indians yada yada yada , the politicized version, but the real history......not.

We live in a throw away society. We live in a society where technological advances are coming at us at a fast and furious pace. Things that just a few years ago seemed miraculous are now obsolete or quaint. Commodore Vic 20 anyone? Items that are broken are not repaired but are just thrown out, because after all, we can just buy the newest latest thing and it was old anyway.

History that our parents and grandparents have lived through is sometimes relayed in family stories. Personal stories of the Great Depression, World War I and World War II. If we don't have those family stories, we can go back to books and photos that were taken at the time. Photos and stories that show us the lives that people led. How they dressed, lived and what they thought about at the time. Without those books and photos and films we gradually lose contact with our own personal pasts and with what society was like.

We can go back even further and read literature and articles written during remote times and remote eras. The Crusades. Marco Polo explorations. The first people to meet with the Mayans. Even further back the Mayan's own writings. Our historical record consists of stone carvings, clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, velum books, handwritten and printed books. We have a tactile history. We can touch it and see it.

What would happen to our own current history when the digitized versions of our culture have been erased from the hard drives of the future, either on purpose or through some disaster. Our books, our photos, our writings all erased. Vanished in an electronic storm or at the push of a button.

Without 'real' books and hard copies, it may be in the future as if we never existed. Without historical records, history can be twisted to be anything that you want. History can be warped to benefit the latest government, the powers that be. We have always been at war with East Asia.

Pooof. Gone. Vanished.

Those who have not learned history are doomed to repeat it.

Keep your books.....they may come in handy even if the Kindle is convenient.....for now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Naked Knitting

So the other day, I'm finishing up this hat for the Dumbplumber and expounding to him on how to make decreases and why the colors seem to line up in these nifty stripes.

His response......"You know, husbands might be more interested in  knitting if you did it naked ....Nekid Knitting.....Just saying."

All righty then.    The Bare Nekid Ladies Knitting Club.!!!   I think it could take off and become a national movement.

And while I'm at it.

The Dumbplumber's baby photo

Awwww.  Wasn't he cute.  Still has that same sunny disposition (mostly) and sense of humor.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Young and Stupid

Young and Stupid. Is this any way to go through life? seems so.

Coddled children who have never been told NO. Everyone gets a trophy, just for breathing. We wouldn't want to hurt their little "feelers" now would we? Every widdle kiddie is equal and gets praised for doing basic acts of life like taking a poop.

Mommy and Daddy give them everything with no questions asked. No chores, no responsibilities, no pressure. Life is a bowl of cherries.

No ability to reason about anything. No critical thinking skills. Life is just a bowl of delicious cherries.

THEN.....wham. The real world strikes where we are not your Mommy and Daddy and really don't need your useless whiny ass dragging us down. You suddenly have responsibilities, have to pay back your loans, take the consequences for your stupid choices. Waaaaahhhh!!

Now....throw a giant tantrum in NYC and elsewhere. Kick your feet. Hold your breath. Demand that we all give you things. Give you money that we worked for so you don't have to.

This is what it is. A giant tantrum by spoiled children who have been raised by spoiled children.

What society needs is good enema.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Forest Gump of Plums

I am the Forest Gump of plums. Last year it was cherries.  This year plums.

This year all of our plum trees have gone into overdrive producing.  So many plums.  So many types.  I feel like Forest Gump

Wild plums, Italian plums, Santa Rosa plums.

Plum jam, plum jelly, plum pulp frozen to make more plum jam and jelly, plum bread, plum cookies, plum crisp, plum tortes, plum pies, plum sauce, dried plums, frozen plums, canned plums, fresh plums.  

FREE plums.  Please take some of these plums.  Begging people to come an pick them before our deck is totally spotted with rotten plums dropping off of the tree.

I can't stand to see the fruit go to waste so I spend my time preserving, cooking, freezing and drying.

Here is a recipe that freezes well.  The bread is better after sitting and 'aging' for several days, otherwise, it is cakelike, crumbly and doesn't cut well.  The Italian plums are a pleasing blend of sweet and tart that doesn't make the bread gooey.

Tax Time In October

Yuck!  It's tax time!!

I know it's only October, but since this is the first year filing as a corporation we have lots of things to clarify with our CPA before the end of the year.  Better get a jump on it early.

Yes.  We are eeeeevviiiil  corporate owners.   How soon will the hippies be descending upon our corporate headquarters (aka...the workshop) demanding that we provide jobs, benefits and ham sandwiches?   The first one of these useless dregs that volunteers to jump into a knee deep septic tank or crawl under a flooded crawl space with partially decomposed cats to re-plumb a leaking pipe, might get a job.  I feel pretty secure that we will continue to not have employees.

Here I thought I was done with financial planning.  Guess not.  Items to consider:
  1. Are our lease agreements between us personally and the corporation legally constructed for
    1. Equipment
    2. Property
    3. Vehicles
  2. How much does the corporation owe us personally as  a share of utilities,internet and phone since these items are not physically separated  and are too expensive to separate.
  3. Payroll from the corporation to us personally as W2 employees of the corporation.
    1. Did we pay ourselves enough to satisfy the IRS that the wages are 'real'
    2. Have we paid our payroll tax liability properly and on time.  Previously as sole proprietors we never had to worry about that: just pay the quarterlies.
  4. Tax treatment of the leases.
  5. Do we have the expenses in the correct catagories.  Cost of Sales, Capital Purchases, .
  6. Are our depreciable items being correctly treated or should we just expense.
  7. Have we adequately separated personal use items from business use items.
  8. Have we structured everything to comply with the IRS rules, and California Corporate tax codes so as to minimize the taxes the corporation pays and minimize the income taxes we pay for W2 wages versus income that is treated differently (leases, reimbursement for expenses, investment income)
  9. How soon will the Dumbplumber go nuts thinking about all this stuff.  Actually, that is my job.... to keep him from going ballistic and not sputter like an angry Daffy Duck.
  10. Do we have enough personal liability insurance, property, vehicle.  Tax treatment of the premiums on the vehicles. 
  11. What about sales tax on items sold versus items used in contracting jobs.  
  12. Do I have any idea how to use my computerized accounting program or have I totally screwed it up.  Probably.  Maybe I should just go back to using a spreadsheet like in the dark ages of my bookkeeping experiences.
  13. And on and on and on
Gah!!   Thank goodness we have a good CPA.

The Dumbplumber is invited, by me to stay away from this meeting.   It is WAY too early for our annual tax time arguments.