Nov 30, 2013

Greenhouse, part 3--miracles

So, I feel pretty overwhelmed with gratefulness right now. It's not just the Thanksgiving season. I just feel like, lately especially, Jeff and I have had a lot of prayers answered. In some ways that have been surprising. Jeff's parents, sister & boyfriend, sister, brother & wife came over for Thanksgiving. The boyfriend informally sort of asked for permission to ask sister-in-law to marry him, and that was special. Grandma and Grandpa got to see Roo and Loli perform in Sound of Music, and that was special. The dinner was special. There was very little tension. We went to see the Teton Flood museum and the dam, and it was fun to watch Grandma, especially, enjoy all the kids. By the way, I have great kids. (I've mentioned that).

But there's so much more. We have a friend who we connected with and agreed to have him bring his horses to eat down our pasture. And he fenced off the corner of the property that wasn't fenced--just because he's a nice guy, but probably also because it meant more feed for his horses. But it's a huge blessing. My goal: next year, no notes from the city about our weeds. None. I think we can make it happen this year.

Also, the greenhouse.

In our initial post about the greenhouse, I mentioned how glass suddenly became available for an insane price, and that prompted us to start on this project much sooner than we ever thought we could. We thought it was ten years out. But I prayed, and said, you know, Heavenly Father. This would really make us happy. And guess what. Glass.

It's been like that all the way through this project. We found discounted cinderblocks. We found two perfect-sized doors on craigslist that were within our budget, but should have not been. They match our house perfectly, too. So they'll look nice--which I want. Because I want to be a credit to the neighborhood and not a pieced-together not-too-nice looking place.

And most recently, something kind of overwhelming and miraculous happened. All along, I've felt driven by time... deadlines. We knew, for instance, that we could not pour concrete for our footer after the ground started freezing. But plans were taking longer to complete than anticipated, and going to the city meant Jeff needed to find time off work, which could only happen on days where he didn't have very important meetings all day. By the time we finally got everything approved so we could start, the ground was freezing half the days out of the week. Problem is, cement needs time to cure. If we pour it on a good day, we could have two bad days after that & ice crystals form in the drying cement and render it crumbly and unusable.

Jeff was all for not finishing the digging. He had started on the ditch--about a foot deep-- all around our porch, and it was intense work especially on icy days, and I think he was getting discouraged. He suggested we don't finish digging, we either haphazardly do something for a temporary measure this winter, or leave it alone and continue next Spring.

But inside me I felt this urge, or drive, that we needed, and Heavenly Father wanted, us to finish this before this winter. So many things have happened so quickly. It just didn't make sense that Heavenly Father would then want us to wait six months. Plus, we'd have a tiny baby--that's really a stressful thing to deal with. I kind of knew that, if we set the project aside, it wouldn't get done anytime soon.

So I basically told Jeff... please. Keep digging. Finish the ditch. I think Heavenly Father will provide, and we just need to have faith, and I think we'll have some good days next week to pour, if we only finish the ditch and put in the forms. Which we know we need to do anyway, so even if we don't move on until next spring we'll have that step taken care of.

I went off to a book signing after that.

Halfway through my book signing I got a text.

Jeffrey had continued to dig, squaring out what he'd already done, and digging further along the house.

IN the process, he hit cement. He found a footer. Already there. 18 inches down. Perfect for what we needed, already set, already built. All ready for us.
He became emotional about it. I'm grateful, because I think things like this help us see that we're doing what we're supposed to be. I feel emotional about it because I know it means Heavenly Father listens to me, and loves me and answers my prayers. I love to see my husband feel that, too. It is wonderful to share an experience as a couple, something we both feel special about, and build our faith together. Kind of bind our testimonies together over shared efforts and faith.

So, Jeff's family was over. And while they were here, they stacked cinderblocks for us (we're not mortaring them until Spring, when the mortar can set, but that is Ok because the design of the greenhouse makes it possible to do this easily even when the rest is complete).

We also got wood. Yesterday, Jeff spent hours going over the building materials we'd need, then comparing all the prices offered in our area. Then he found a source on Craigslist for some of what we needed, for an even better price. We headed over to Lowes to get the leftover stuff he didn't have online, and found it was more expensive there than Jeff had anticipated. He called the guy, and found out he happened to also have everything else we needed, for a better price than Jeff had anticipated. Another small miracle.

And now, this is happening.

I'm getting pretty excited. Something about seeing that first window (actually it's a door) go up is suddenly making it all real for me. We're doing it. We're doing the thing we've both, Jeff and I, dreamed about and talked about since before we married--a greenhouse attached to our house where we can grow our vegetables and herbs year round. A place where we can grow what we want, and have a uniquely beautiful place to be, warm and lush and beautiful during winter, spring, summer or fall.

And with that, the blessing of knowing we're where we're supposed to be, doing what we're supposed to be doing. That's the best blessing of all.

Nov 18, 2013

How to Make Niter Kibbeh--the thing that has been missing in your Ethiopian Cooking.

So, I've been trying for four years to make my Ethiopian food more authentic. NOt because I'm a culinary snob or something (heavens no, I love blue jello for instance) but because it is so inescapably and incurably good when I get Ethiopian food cooked by an actual Ethiopian, and when I've made mine, there has always been something not quite there. Missing flavors, missing savors. Sorry, I'm a poet. You'll have to put up with that.

I finally found out why. It's because all the recipes Ethiopians give to Americans to use start with vegetable oil. You chop up a multitude of red onions, fry them in vegetable oil with some berebere and maybe garlic powder, etc, then add fillers like tomato sauce....

it's just not the same. It's not Ethiopian food.

Because Ethiopians start, not with vegetable oil, but with a thing called Niter Kibbeh

which is a spiced, clarified butter that you will not find in the U.S. Unless you make it. And making it adds a few steps and an hour of time to any Ethiopian recipe. Which I think many people don't believe Americans would be willing to put up with.

But I am. (willing.) (because I love those real tastes and flavors I've finally been able to get going in my Ethiopian cooking.)

So, here's the recipe I found:

1 lb unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 -3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch gingerroot, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 -4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 -4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer on the lowest possible heat for about 1 hour.
Pour the clear golden liquid off the top leaving all the solids in the bottom of the pan. Strain through cheesecloth if necessary. Discard solids.
Store in the refrigerator or freezer and use as needed.

So what I do is, I follow those first four ingredients exactly (but I use normal butter... it's still fine).

Then instead of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek & turmeric I put in about a tablespoon (maybe 2) of
Garam Masala spice, which includes all of those things. It makes it much easier. More Ameri-friendly.

One thing I added was a good handful of a spice I ordered off of It's called Koseret. It looks like dried leaves, and half-way reminds me of basil, but it's got a wild, grassy scent that is unlike anything I've found here in America. IT makes the niter kibbeh perfect. But it's probably still pretty great without that.

The ingredients:

You can see the Garam Masala, garlic, ginger, red onion (in Ethiopian cooking, use red whenever possible). And the Koseret.

So you put four sticks of butter in a small saucepan, and put the burner on its lowest setting and let the butter slowly melt down. When you've got a nice puddle in the bottom, you can add the stuff into it.

Let it simmer on that lowest heat, slowly melting and separating (browning foam on top, clear liquid in underneath & sediment at the bottom) for one hour. Then pour the golden liquid into another container, without allowing the stuff on top or the stuff on bottom to trickle in very much.

A little sediment will escape, and there will be a little bit of stuff in the clarified butter. That's OK.

OK. Now use it to start all your meals. Any recipe that says "olive oil" or "vegetable oil," use the same amount of Niter Kibbeh. You will be very happy with the difference this makes in your Ethiopian cooking.

Nov 15, 2013

Farcequin, Part 6: A civilized moment

In case you've missed the travesty thus far, parts one through five are here. (Click the word, here.)

That evening, Elfreda scrounged through her pitiful wardrobe. NOthing is right, she grumbled to herself. If only I'd had more time to shop... and my savings working three years as a secretary hadn't been so threadbare... finally she donned a rose-colored taffeta gown with silk-ribbon piping and a diamond necklace her grandmother had passed down to her. She ventured down the stairs, stopping every once in a while to consider whether it was a good idea to come to dinner at all.

Finally she entered the dining salon and shuddered a little, seeing him there at the head of the table, wearing his wide-lapeled brown-pinstriped white dinner tux. His hair was quite (unintentionally, she thought) rakish; combed along the top of his head so a curl fell in the middle of his forehead, right between his bright blue eyes.

He stood as she entered the room and gestured rather gracefully and graciously, Elfreda observed with some amazement, for her to take a seat to his right. She did, and sat, looking at her plate, which contained a rather large pieces of meat. She shuddered again, hoping it wasn't more rabid-crock-steaks.

"It's beef," Bobbert commented. Elfreda looked up at him in surprise. The corners of his eyes crinkled. Elfreda quickly looked down again and began cutting into the meat. It was perfect--seared, just a little pink on the inside. But as always, she could only take about seven small bites before she was completely full. Seeing her toy with the rice on the side and the salad, Bobbert commented again. "You have eyes bigger than your stomach."

"Mother's always said that," Elfreda said, then wished she hadn't. Her mother was a sensitive topic. The reason she was here at all... here, marrying Bobbert instead of staying home to be courted by Davian.

"In my case it's rather more about the eyes than the stomach," Bobbert replied, seeming to not notice the tension that had suddenly risen up inside his dinner companion. "You do have extraordinarily large eyes."

Elfreda looked up again, staring at him sadly, perhaps a little beseechingly, with her giant, green, lash-fringed eyes. He looked at her and his expression shifted from amusement to something different--slight concern, maybe. A little sadness of his own.

"Come," he said, standing and nearly knocking over the teakwood chair he'd been overwhelming with his large form. He held out a hand. "You look like you could use some fresh air."

"I've had plenty of that today," Elfreda said wryly.

"Some dancing, then. There's a record player on the patio. I'll put one on, and we can practice for our wedding dance."

Dutifully Elfreda rose, brushed one long, flowing red-gold lock from her shoulder, and followed.

The patio was a beautiful place--planter bowls overflowing with red bougianvilla, narcissus and chrystanthemum clustered in others, as well as some tall iris and tulips. As the music turned on she wondered, fleetingly, what sort of fertilizer the household staff used to get them all to bloom so companionably together, and then Bobbert whisked her up in his arms and, breathlessly, she followed. His dancing was graceful, poweful, flowing, energetic and classily understated. He dipped her several times and even raised her up in a lift over his head, spinning her before he set her on the ground.

"Oh, Bobbert," she couldn't help but exclaim, "You are such a wonderful dancer. And so strong!"

A smile cracked his rock-like features, and he dipped her again, planting a kiss on her brow. When he brought her upright again she raised her face. It was an automatic gesture--a response to the warmth she felt from him, the fun of the dance. Her large eyes gleamed like insouciant emeralds. He looked down on her for a moment, smiled a little, and released her. "You're looking better now," he said. "Would you like a cocktail?"

Elfreda experienced a strange sense of loss--sinking from a cloud to the ground. She nodded and sat, waiting while he mixed and handed her the beverage.

"Tommorrow'll be a long day," Bobbert said. "But at least we won't be in the crocs. We're going out to the herd. Culling the especially sick ones before the season gets cold."

"Herd?" Elfreda asked warily.

"The Emus," Bobbert stated.

Elfreda put a hand to her heart. She remembered the emus--giant, screaming birds. When she'd visited as a child, she'd been terrified of them. She glanced up and saw Bobbert was watching her, and placed her hands back in her lap. "Are you hospicing the birds as well, or is the fact their feathers are worth their weight in gold?"

Bobbert's expression hardened. "Bird flu," he said. "They're dying like flies. THe rangers collect them so we can keep them away from the general population. I have people working on vaccines, using serum taken from the birds we care for until death."

"Very noble of you," Elfreda said shortly. "Well, if I'm to be up early I'd better retire." She turned without waiting for his response and left the room.

Once in her room she flung off the gown, threw herself across her bed and collapsed in sobs. Bobbert was trying to break her. That's what he was trying to do--working her so hard, then being so warm and luring her in at night. Why? What was his purpose? Wasn't he the one who'd insisted she come out to this forsaken place and be his wife, holding her mother's cancerous nose over her as insurance for her obedience?

By the time Elfreda fell asleep, her pillow was completely saturated with tears, and her hair tumbled in a damp heap around her face. She didn't hear the door open, didn't hear him come silently in, didn't know he stood by her bedside for several minutes, looking down on her before he turned and left again.

Nov 6, 2013

My Kids Are Awesome

When people compliment my kids, I always agree with them. "She's pretty amazing, isn't she," I'll say when someone tells me something great one of my kids has done. Or I'll just simply remark, "my kids are pretty awesome."

I think it takes people "aback" at times. Like... you just bragged about your kids.

Yes. Yes I did.

The thing is, I'm pretty tough on my kids, in the sense that I make them work hard, I work with each of them carefully on behavior stuff they are struggling with or need to change, and sometimes this is quite challenging. My kids are all highly intelligent (see, there's the brag again) and very strongwilled. And this can present lots of challenge. It is difficult to parent strongwilled children. But my thought is, strong willed people, who know right from wrong, who've learned compassion and the importance of obedience, who've developed good habits, can be the most amazing people. So I'm parenting the greatest set of kids. Nothing that turns out really great is usually easy. SO I'm optomistic.

And to the world around me, my message is always, "my children are awesome."

Because they are.

I have a few people I trust and talk to when I'm worried about how to handle something, or worry over a kid's tendency, or feel at a loss for parenting tools. Those are people who I know will understand--who've parented multiple kids of their own and know kids go through stuff and turn out wonderfully in the end, and who I know won't talk about my kids to others. Also Jeffrey and I often (of course) discuss the various challenges in our family and strategize about how to handle them in such a way that our kids feel loved but also understand how they need to act and what they need to change, at times.

But outside of that small clutch of people I trust, I don't say that kind of stuff. I don't talk about my kids' struggles. I figure, kids deserve privacy just as much as an adult does. Would I talk to the entire world about an adult friend's struggles, an adult that I happen to know inside and out because am around them enough to observe & know all their deepest darkest secrets, worries, bad habits? Would i just go spill about all that stuff to anyone who'll listen? No way in heck. Those things are my friend's things. I have no right to talk about them to anyone else. That's called gossip.

I don't "gossip" about my kids to anyone. They are my friends, and I care about them deeply and believe in their right to privacy about deep struggles and difficulties.

When I talk about my kids, my words are: My Kids Are Awesome. Because they are.
And it's not wrong for a parent to say wonderful things about their children. TO accept and agree with compliments. My kids aren't "mine." When I accept a compliment and agree with it, I'm not complimenting myself, I'm agreeing that somebody I love a lot is Awesome.

So, with that as background, I feel like I need to take some time, right now, to talk about why each one of my kids is Awesome. This is part of my job as their mother. They need to hear it from me directly sometimes, not just random people who see their awesomeness from afar. I want my kids to know that I--their mother who sees every tiny little thing, who makes them work hard and learn hard and who corrects them and knows all their difficulties and struggles--know that they are awesome, too.

This is Loli.

That picture is from the Les Miserables play my community put on this summer. As you can see, she played Cosette. Loli has a beautiful voice, and is intuitive about music. She learns it fast and easily. She also has a great memory--she memorized those lines almost the first time she heard them. The director of the play thought I must have been going over lines with her and making her practice... not so. Loli just loves to sing, and loved being in the play. She acted the part perfectly. She is very talented.

She is also very intelligent. She's good at school... she's a little bookworm... she enjoys being challenged. She asks probing questions about the universe. She writes brilliantly--some of her stuff reads better than essays I corrected as a TA in college. She also is a fun person to be around. She has good friends. She's funny. She raises an eyebrow at me when I'm joking... she can tell even when I'm not smiling. She is pretty confident about her opinions. She is obedient and trustworthy. She is, all in all, a pretty amazing kid.

This is Bella.

Obviously, Bella is beautiful. But there's more to it than that. She's graceful, and dignified, and hilarious. She makes her sisters and brothers laugh and brings the boisterous fun. When you first get to know her, she might seem very quiet and very careful and calm, but don't let her fool you. Bella is a hard worker. She is very motivated to achieve well. She does all her jobs well--meticulously, and in school, she went from being somewhat behind because English is not her first language, to being one of the more advanced students in a matter of months. She loves to read. She loves to write me sweet, honest notes and draw pictures. She is very compassionate and responsible with babies and small children. I know when I leave my babies with Bella, they are safe. She is also a good leader. She knows what needs to happen and doesn't rest until it does. She works diligently, practices diligently, and is a good and loyal friend and daughter. She asks all the questions that are hard to answer, and is patient when they can't be answered immediately. She always wants to do what's right.

This is MayMay.

As you can see, MayMay's entire face is taken up by her smile. She has an amazing smile. MayMay came to our family with a lot of challenges to overcome--physical and mental and emotional, because of what she'd gone through before. She has grown fast into a wonderful, smart, bright, energetic, strong, capable girl. I'm indescribably proud of her for what she did in school last year--went from a K+ reading level to just a little above a 2nd grade reading level. She continues to improve, because of hard, diligent work. MayMay is all heart. She loves everybody, even people who aren't nice all the time. She thinks about others feelings a lot. SHe gets sad when others are sad. She gets happy when others are happy. She is often a peacemaker and intercessor in our family; when a kid is sad, she's the one who's there first. If they might be getting in trouble, she rushes to explain for them. At school, she's the one who sits by the alone kid or talks to the sad kid and is brave enough to tell kids who aren't being nice that they aren't being nice, and she even lets not-nice kids have a chance at redemption, in the sense that she forgives and will be a friend and rejoice when someone has gotten better at being nice. Meaza has a lot of friends, but it's not for the surface reasons of designer clothes or cool hair (though her hair is very cool) or owning lots of stuff. She has friends because she is a great friend. The best you could ever ask for.

This is Roo. (formerly known on this blog as "Jaws.")

Roo is just pure sweetness. She's smart, and funny, and thinks about things a lot and comes to some great conclusions. She is the best hugger in the family. Her hugs are heartfelt and tender. Roo inherrited her dad's giant, compassionate heart and tendency to reach out to others in love, even when it's a risk. She is also very musical. She surprises people with her sweet, true voice. She is also very smart. She remembers stuff quickly and learns quickly. And she is patient with the learning process--she trusts that she'll be able to figure something out if she keeps trying. Roo is very imaginative. She makes up all kinds of complex games with layered themes, not shying away from the grittiness of life. Her younger siblings and her older sister MayMay love to play with her. Roo is easily cajoled out of sadness or upset-ness. All you have to do is smile at her, and she'll smile back. That is a talent I would love to have. She really loves people. When her friends are away, she misses them deeply and thinks about them a lot. Roo is very inclusive. She doesn't want to leave people out. She has an infectious smile and laugh, and she's just an adorable, sweet, smart person. I feel grateful to have her in my home.

This is Squirt.

Squirt is very smart. Scary smart. He's learning first grade math right now and he can read almost at a first grade level, and he's only five. And he'd be further along than that if I pushed him, but I want him to enjoy school and feel like it's a fun experience, and he does. He loves school. He'll ask to do sight words and math facts flashcards and to read from science books with me about things like reptiles and amphibians and dinosaurs. He asks a lot of questions. Questions that I often cannot answer in their complexity. We have discussions together and come to some possible conclusions instead in those circumstances. Squirt is a very energetic boy, but he has a big heart as well. He loves his little brother deeply. He enjoys his siblings a lot--especially the ones younger than him, and likes to laugh when they do cute things and tell me about them. Squirt is also a leader. His friends really enjoy playing with him. He brings the fun. Squirt loves his mom and dad and his sunday school teachers. He loves to dress up like his Dad for church. Last Sunday, when we came down from singing a number in the ward choir, Squirt crossed the room of his own accord to go sit next to his primary teacher and he beamed the whole time. He really loves his teachers. Squirt has a sense of humor--he laughs a lot at jokes and when he's being tickled. Squirt loves hugs. Sometimes he needs to cuddle for a while with his mom, who finds this incredibly sweet. Squirt loves tools, and mechanical things, and his favorite thing to do is be with his Dad, fixing or building something. Squirt has an amazing memory-- he retains information others miss, and remembers and makes connections that often surprise. Squirt will do amazing things as he grows and learns more.

This is Baby Rose.

Perhaps the most beautiful baby ever. Rose is sweet and funny and enthusiastic. She loves playing with her siblings. She also has a great imagination, sometimes with hilarious results. Rose loves hugs. She loves her older and younger siblings, who cherish her. She was the first baby born after the adoption so she is "all of ours" in a way that seemed to emotionally seal our family together after all the changes. Loli, Bella, MayMay, Roo, and Squirt all have a soft spot for her. Rose loves her friends. She'll reach over to hold someone's hand or hug them without a second thought. She's got a great smile. She's energetic and plays any game you want to play, and makes a really cute pirate. Roo is articulate and surprising, with some of the things she comes up with--a little three year old girl talking so articulately, like an adult. She sings beautifully--surprisingly strong, clear, and in tune for a three-year-old. And in a way, she is a little adult. She takes matters into her own hands. She is sure of herself and intelligent and expects people to take her seriously, and also love her. And if something doesn't make sense, she'll either call you on it (you're teasing me, that's not true) or ask questions until she understands. Which I think is a great thing. She looks after her baby brother with a level of care and attention that I love to see.

This is Chumba.

Chumba is impossible not to love. He's sweet, he talks all the time (though most of it is still hard to understand) with great emphasis and feeling. He loves to play with his siblings, and willingly joins in all the pretending, playacting, and other games. He needs "cuddle breaks" every once in a while-- he'll come sit on my lap or lay next to me on the bed and just be quiet, while I hug him. He loves to be cuddled by his siblings, too (except when he doesn't) and when anybody's hurt or upset, he'll go over to them, lean over them and stare at them with his large blue eyes and usually, plant a kiss somewhere. He's very intensely interested in everything. From the time he was born, he was reaching for stuff. Honestly, right out of the womb, laying on my chest, he was reaching out and trying to grab things--my hair, my face. He likes to take things apart and then try to put them back together, like his Dad. He loves to have books read to him, especially Ten Little Tadpoles and Olivia's Opposites, where he likes to open his mouth really wide on the page about "Open," and he likes to growl really loud on the page that says "loud," and has a lion growling. Sometimes you can just tell he's thinking very hard, figuring things out... he gets quiet, and intent, and moves two pieces of something together in different ways to try to figure out if they go together or not. He's a sweet baby. I'm a little sad that he won't be the baby of the family for much longer.

I guess while I'm at it, I should write a little bit about this guy:

Jeff is my best friend. At the time I met him, I was amazed that so much awesome could exist in one human being. He is compassionate, handsome, intelligent, artistic, open-minded, talented... holy cow, where did this guy come from? I have a very strong belief that the only reason he didn't marry until age 30 was because Heavenly Father was saving him for me, and I've wondered ever since what I did to deserve him. He plays Chopin and Debussy with so much feeling and artistry. Less, lately, because we're so busy... I miss it. He is a graceful, confident, dashing ballroom dancer. He is coordinated and capable and brilliant at figuring out how to fix things--we've never taken our (20-year-old) vehicles to the mechanic. He figures out what's wrong, goes to a junkyard for a part, and fixes it. And it's fixed. He can walk by things and sometimes they'll fix themselves. (I'm not kidding.) I know that if he's trying to figure out how to do something, particularly if it's something to make our family's life easier or better, he'll end up finding a solution that works well. And he'll continually try to refine solutions so they're easier and easier for me, (less competent at these things) to implement. He cares deeply about politics, about the gospel, and about family and relationships. He loves everyone, but makes friends carefully. I feel very privileged to be one of the handful of people he lets into the innermost places of his heart. He is passionate about certain topics, but not evangelical or pushy like some passionate people can be--he loves people into listening to him. And he is capable of compromise. He is a peacemaker, but he isn't threatened by resolving conflict. He's patient, and loving, and open, and if he's disturbed about something he goes quiet and contemplative, not angry or upset. He does almost everything he does for *me* and for our kids. He is a great husband and father, and it hasn't been an easy road, coming into a family with a kid already there, and blending a family once again through adoption. We've been through things that would test anyone's patience to the utmost, and he's come through each time, supporting me, supporting our kids. He cares for his Sisters and brothers. He's given blessings to them, and to me. What a great guy. No wonder my kids are awesome.

OK, I challenge you moms and dads, now. Tell me why all your kids are awesome.

Nov 2, 2013

Greenhouse Project Update

SO we've collected the windows. Got the cinderblocks. Jeff's actually been very busy painstakingly constructing plans to submit to the city, so that's where we were at as of two weeks ago, when we got a "cease and desist" notice from the city.

Which was kind of frustrating to me, because we haven't started anything.

Also we've been getting a lot of notices from the city about our lot. Mainly about the tall weeds (but we've got 5 acres of alfalfa field, Yo.) WE've been working hard on keeping our yard & lawn mown down, and some grass does seem to be coming in, which is good. I've got a feeling we really are going to have to till and re-seed, however. We're doing it this spring. I feel like it needs to happen this year so we stop getting these notices (which are promulgated by complaints from our neighbors... or neighbor. But let's not talk about that.)

(OK, no, let's talk about it. Confession time--when we got the notice, I got upset and called the city guy. & left a message on his phone asking what it was he wanted us to stop doing... mowing our lawn? Because that is the only thing we're really doing with the property right now. And I said we needed to talk about all these notices and come up with an understanding... we want to do lots of wonderful things to this property, but we have seven children and limited resources so people might need to be patient. And remember that, before we moved in, the "lawn" was just a giant, weedy field. With tons and tons of dandelions. So, yeah, I lost it and got kind of assertive on someone. ANd I'm not sorry... I feel like it's time to make sure people know we *live* here and they have to deal with us. Preferably face to face and not with intimidating notes. Gah! Love my city. This is the one bad thing about it--whichever person/people keep sending complaints to the city instead of talking to us face to face, and the city's idea of how property should be. We can't, for instance, have anything but dog, cats or horses according to the zoning on our lot, and it's five acres of alfalfa field in the middle of nowhere. SIgh. We're going to work on that issue sometime in the future. Right now we're just trying to figure out how to grow grass.) OK, Vent over.

Anyway, Jeff went in to ask the city what the cease and desist notice was about, and the city guy said it was because he'd heard we were trying to build a greenhouse. Jeff informed him that, in fact, we're really just glassing in/enclosing our porch, and the guy was like "Oh. Well, that's OK."

So that's OK then.

But it spurred Jeff into faster action on the plans. He took a day off from work to complete them and submit them. City has approved, now it needs to go to the county.

After that, we're looking at concrete and footers. We're laying down concrete & rebar, then putting cinderblock on top of that. The windows will be framed with lumber, of course. We don't have lumber yet. We still need to go get that.

We need to get the cement in the ground soon, however, before there are no days where the ground's not frozen. SO cross your fingers for us, please.