Monday, January 31, 2011

Best face photo in January

My entry for this week's contest on  I took this for Babe Jr's Valentine cards.

Edited to add:  Voting is open to the public on this one, we're #473.  I appreciate your support!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rocky lives next door

There are flying squirrels living in my Father in law's storage building.  Babe Jr came running in today yelling for me to get my camera because one had come out where we could see him.  The neighbors probably thought I was nuts.  I ran out in my cut off sweat-shorts with a brown pea coat, gray ugg boots, and my camera strapped around my neck.  But, I got his photo.

And it looks like this is where he's been hibernating.  I have no idea what that actually is in the bag.

I'll definitely be watching for him this summer.  I'd love to get some shots of him gliding between the trees.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MCP Actions Giveaway

I LOVE Kelly Moore bags.  They are beautiful camera bags that look like designer handbags.  This is awesome for several reasons.  1. You don't have an ugly camera bag to lug around.  2. It doesn't look like a camera bag, so you're not announcing to everyone that you have expensive equipment on you.  3.  They serve as a purse and protect your camera, so you can safely take your camera everywhere!

So if you want to enter to win one of these gorgeous bags go to MCP Actions.

If you like me and want to buy me a nice gift, check out Kelly Moore Bags.

I should be doing homework but...

Can I vent for a moment, or twenty?  After talking to others about some of my experiences with our local community college in my quest to further my education, they’ve urged me to blog about it because it definitely fits the description of peculiar. 

Incident #1 – I enroll for classes.  One of which is a fast track course.  That means instead of going for an entire semester, I attend the whole day on Friday and Saturday for 4 weeks.  I ask and have the adviser tell me the first date of class at least 3 times to be sure.  I show up, and the class had already met the previous weekend.  I basically had missed ¼ of a semester; they had already done homework assignments and taken a test. There were other students who had met with the same advisor that ended up in my same situation. I had to withdraw from the class, dropping my schedule to part time, and try to get in another fast track offered later in the semester so as not to lose grant money.

Incident #2 – I’m enrolled in the IT program, Information Technology i.e. computer stuff.  I had 2 online classes my first semester.  I had never taken college courses period, so I was extremely a bit nervous about getting started.  I emailed my 2 professors in regards to gaining access to the program online.  I never received a reply from one, the other replied several days after the semester began.  I was told I had to wait for a letter to come via postal mail with my access codes.  Postal mail…for access to online courses…in the IT program.

Incident #s 3 and 4 – When enrolling in school there are certain documents required, regardless of your age or background; two of them being grade transcripts, and immunization records.  No problem, I thought.  The student advisor told me my high school should have both on file.  I called, they didn’t.  Because I graduated more than 10 years ago, they had grade transcripts only.  All other files were destroyed 5 years after graduation.  

Ok, I thought, I’ll check with our local pediatric clinic.  The doctor I saw is about to retire, but she is still in practice.  Her office had moved since I was running around in pig tails, and when I asked the desk clerk she looked at me like I was some kind of nutter.  She had no idea how I would find records that old.  

Next try, call mom.  She didn’t have them.  After I married she sent my baby books for me to keep and shot records were not included.  Many of those mementos had been left in my grandmother’s house after we moved out of town when I was 10 years old.  Her house, unfortunately, burnt down shortly after that.

Ok, what now?  I ask a girl in one of my classes (yes, they are letting me attend even though I have not yet provided proof that I’ve been properly immunized) who is a few years older than me, how she obtained her records.  She said the health department had hers on file.  "Score!" I think to myself.  I call the health department the next day.  Because I had my shots administered in a physician’s office rather than the Department of Health, they have no such record on file.

At this point we’re more than half way through the semester and I sort of forget about it.  Then, in December when I try to log onto the secure area of the school website to check my grades and double check the class schedule a helpful professor in the IT department had taken pity on me and set up properly, I was locked out.   This is where the #3 part comes in.  I go to the school to find out about the hold.  I explain to an adviser my situation; he logs on to look at my schedule.  He can’t see it because there’s a hold.  He can’t tell me why there’s a hold because they are locked out of the hold system.  WTH?  I’m told to check back in a few days.  Which I do, and the school is closed for winter break.

Finally, the first week of January I get in touch with someone and am transferred to the records clerk.  The hold is in fact because of my lack of immunization records.  We determine that the only way to resolve my situation is for me to get the MMR shot again.  After more confusion and red tape between the health department and the college, I finally manage to convince the clerk at the health department that I am not trying to fraudulently obtain an immunization, that the school in fact requires it since I cannot provide records.  Eventually she lets me through. Then the elderly nurse is confused because I have Babe Jr accompanying me, but she does not need immunizations. Finally I get the shot, Babe Jr gets to watch and laugh, and I acquire that precious slip of paper as proof.
I still haven’t gained access to my grades, but since my name did show up on the Dean’s list, I assume I’m in good shape.  Then, I received a postcard from the records department today (yes, it’s January 26, 2011) with a postal date of October 26, 2010 saying that my immunization records are needed.  

Incident #5 – Which leads to today and this tangent of a blog post.   Text books, as most everyone knows, are ridiculously overpriced and I believe school bookstores are set up by the devil to rip off unsuspecting college students.  I learned from experience to wait until at least the first class to see if the text is actually required.  Often it’s not, but the teachers post that they are required so that students who receive enough aid can purchase them with grant money if they wish to have a copy to refer to.  I do not receive enough grant money to cover the cost of my books.  Even if used books are available, they cost nearly twice as much and often more on campus than if you purchase them online.  If you’re crafty enough with the interwebs, you can often find them in PDF or e-book form to download for free.  

I am required to take a 7 week Orientation to Technical Programs course, even though I’m already in my second semester.  The syllabus only states the title, not the author or edition required.  It does state that we must have the text for the first class meeting.  In an effort to be frugal I email the professor of this course to ask for more information about the book.  This is the response I get:

Subject: RE: Text book
Sent: January 24, 2011 11:10 AM
From: Professor X
To: Peculiar Student
I do not have access to it right now. I loaned mine out at the end of the semester and it didnt' come back yet.

I know the title is Keys to Success.

That is copied and pasted in its entirety directly from my school email account, only names were changed to protect the innocent.  I’m supposed to have the first of two on campus meetings for this class the day after tomorrow.  It looks as if I’m about to be forced into being price gouged at the bookstore for a text I will need for less than 7 weeks and probably never open again.  I’ll be lucky if I can get 20% of that back if it is eligible to resell at the end of semester.  However, the bookstore will not be open the day of the meeting, its only open Mon-Thurs.   

Classes were canceled today because we are experiencing another blizzard and the school will probably be closed again tomorrow.  If that happens and we still have this Friday class, it looks like I will be showing up unprepared.  Amazon probably has the book I need and I could pay for overnight shipping, but I can’t get in touch with an actual person at either of the nearby campuses via phone or email to give me any information.

I actually feel better and substantially less frustrated after putting this post together.  But, that doesn't help with the whole book situation.  Crossing my fingers and wishing right along with Babe Jr that the weather gives us yet another reprieve.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Accomodation Clarification

Some of you blog readers have commented to the effect that you are looking forward to following the construction of our new home.  Lest you soon think I’ve pulled the ol’ bait and switch, let me give you some back story.

Mr. Backwoods and I are both originally from a very rural area, but we moved away to more urban areas where job opportunities were plentiful after high school.  About two years ago some things happened in our lives that made us decide we wanted to make big changes.  We decided that my husband would change career fields that we could move closer to home.  His job change and a decrease in cost of living would enable me to quit working, go back to school and focus my time on Babe Jr in the years when she needs to be involved in more group activities and will require a lot of my attention, support, and skills as a taxi service.  We began preparing and he finally got a job offer last July in our hometown.

During the transition we chucked all of our worldly belongings into a few storage facilities and began depending on the hospitality of family members while we lived out of bags and searched for a place to rent until we were ready for a more permanent establishment.  This unfortunately, proved much more difficult than we thought.  Rental properties in this area are few and far between, did I mention it’s very rural?  Most of our friends that stayed in the area lived with their parents long after graduation.  We always thought they were a little nuts, until we realized they probably had no other choice.  The only apartments are income based, and even if we qualified, there are long waiting lists.  Rental houses are so scarce, that if you happen to find one that will let you actually keep your terrible terrier; the cost is literally about 3 times anything that might be considered reasonable.  After months (and months) of staying with the in-laws (even though we love them dearly!) we decided the only short term solution would be to become a cliché.

Rendering not guaranteed to be actual scale.

We opted to purchase a modular home aka double wide trailer.  Going the mobile home route actually gives us a lot of flexibility in our options, but allows us to own our own place at the same time.  Generations of my father’s family have lived in the same hollow for years.  It’s secluded, it’s beautiful, it’s what we always dreamed of, and best of all it was the land was available and free.  We can live on our dream property and make sure we will be absolutely happy there.  If we immediately built a traditional brick and mortar house, there would be no turning back.  You just can’t sell a piece of property that’s been in your family that long and move Lord knows who right in on top of your Dad, Granny and other assorted extended family. 

Now our house payment will be equivalent to that of many people’s cars.  If everything pans out and we love living there are much as we're sure we will, we can work toward a permanent solution.  We already have to drill a well, get a septic tank, have electricity ran, and do all the same prep work as required in traditional construction.  Once we decide to get permanent we have several options.  You can actually put a modular on a foundation; we could do that and build on if we choose.  But the awesome thing about your home being mobile is if you get tired of it, you can sell it and roll that sucker away.  Did you know that there are even trade in programs? 

I’m hoping to start construction on this wondrous prow front cabin of our dreams in the next few years.

Yes, that is a snowy rooftop in a fall scene; ah the magic of photoshop.

We’ll already be living on the property, and there’s plenty of room for both the trailer and the footprint of a new house.  So we could actually order a cabin kit (one company actually has an option that’s almost the exact floor plan I’ve had in my head for years), order just the plans, or have new ones drawn up, shop contractors and begin work ourselves while living right in front.  

My ultimate strategy is to get the plans, dive right in and get our hands dirty.  We’re pretty handy, and we have a lot of handy friends and family in convenient professions *insert evil smile here.*   And since we would have accommodations right there on location, we could take all the time we need to build, search through warehouses and salvages, shop clearances, and learn how to DYI just about everything.  The thought of how much money we could save by spending the time and effort looking for deals and DIYing makes me salivate a little.  

I figure if the Duggers can construct an enormous plantation home utilizing mostly child labor, we can put together a 1500 sq ft cabin with the help of a few subcontractors, right?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Photoshop Salad

I finally had my first Photoshop class tonight.  Last week's class was canceled due to inclement weather.  As I had assumed, we are not going to learn terribly advanced techniques in this class, and I think some of the portions of the software I'm struggling with while post processing photos will not be addressed at all.  But, I am learning all the basics and figuring out the full function of tools that I haven't been able to master with my Googling of tutorials.

Today's assignment in class:  Make a salad.
We had to cut out the veggies and place them on the cutting board without leaving any of them behind, or bringing the white background over with them.  Already having working knowledge of some of the selection tools, after having the teacher explain each tool, its various options, and how they work in depth; I was able to get this in about 5 minutes!
Those olives were a pain in the backside!  But, I'm seriously loving the magnetic lasso tool now.  I had no idea how it worked until tonight.  I love efficiency!

This totally takes me back to making collages in elementary school from cut out magazine pics.  Health Class, the 4 food groups, the food pyramid didn't come about until I was at least in Middle School.  I'm dating myself here.  My homework also involves cutting and pasting of food.  I have to separate some fruit on one, and Chinese food on the other.  For once, I'm not looking forward to Chinese food.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Breaking Ground

The snow finally gave us a break and temps warmed enough so that we could get some work done.  Dad called and asked us to come over early on Saturday so he could make some progress before my brother's basketball game Saturday afternoon.  Here he is busy at work.

Taken from where my front porch will be.

The driveway.  Dad was going to move it to the other side so we wouldn't have to turn the curve before pulling in, but it would have been too steep once he adjusted the grade for water to drain away from the house properly.

Ariel view pulled from Google maps.  I thought it would be helpful to visualize the property, and now you can understand why I'm "backwoods" babe :D.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Design Changes

I'm sure you noticed, but I've been changing my blog design around a lot.  I'm trying to settle on a "signature look."  Exactly how I want to portray that, I haven't decided.  I'm thinking a specific font, logo, and/or header that will be consistent in its basic design, allowing me to change the background and make other tweaks seasonally. 

I really like the font in the current header, its called Victorian.  I thought it looked a bit "peculiar" without being too weird or hard to read, and it's still pretty.  I like the sort of vintage eclectic look, so as long as I don't get too colorful with any of the accessories I should be able to keep it pulled together and not get tacky or overwhelming if I add some color or images for a holiday.

The actual header design, I'm not totally set on yet.   But, I'm pretty sure I want mainly B&W.  I'm really happy with what I've found on, but the selection is a bit limited.  I'd love to hear your comments or suggestions of other places to get cute, free blog stuff.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Days

School was closed in both counties again today.  Father-in-law took Mother-in-law to work very early this morning because the roads were bad, so the Wild Child was left in my care.  I decided shortly after the second round of chicken noodle soup and snacks that we would go out to play in the snow and attempt to burn off some energy.  Everyone piled on multiple layers of clothes, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots.

We had intentions of building more snow people, but the snow was very dry and refused to pack together.  I think they had fun anyway.

Of course the Terrible Terrier could not be left out.

He had on layers, too, but still had to go in a little early when I noticed he was shivering.  I need to find some yorkie snow boots.  He was not happy about being put inside and barked out the window until the rest of use trudged inside for hot cocoa.

And this is what happens when you eat nacho cheese Doritos with hot cocoa and lots of marshmallows.

After a nice warm bath and clean pajamas, everyone took a long nap.  Including me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Diva

Babe Jr had a snow day today, then my evening classes were canceled as well.  We took advantage and went out to play.  

Babe Jr picked the hat and scarf.  We put juice in a spray bottle to give her rosy cheeks.  Perhaps we can make her a beau if we have more accumulation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

More of the white stuff..

We're finally well on our way to getting a house, but some dozer work needs to be done on the land first.  We were hoping that would happen this weekend, but today I woke up to this:

Its been steadily coming down like this all day and the weather channel is calling for a high of 28 tomorrow.  Looks like its going to be a few more weeks on getting that grading done, sigh...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Morning Monologue: The Soundtrack of My Life

It’s funny how something as simple as a song playing on the radio at the right moment can put things back in perspective.  I’ve been PMSing, worrying about money, the logistics of getting a house set up, and dealing with all the general overflow stress that comes along with the holidays.  Then, this morning when I got in the car, one of my favorite songs was on the radio as I crawled in my frost covered means of transportation.

It may show a bit of my redneck side, but I have an affinity for southern rock.   When I turned that dial and the lines to Simple Man played, “Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold, all that you need is in your soul,” it immediately quelled my financial woes and reminded why I rearranged my life and reset all my priorities. 

Everyone may not see things from my point of view, or agree with it.  But I’m the only one that walks in my shoes and I try to live my life a way in which I can feel proud.  There are certain morals, ethics and standards that I want to model for my daughter and making choices that go along with that may not always be the most profitable, personally beneficial, or easy in the short term. 

I truly believe that God (or the universe, whatever your personal beliefs may be) has an ultimate plan and sometimes you have to take the winding road to get there.  It may be riddled with pot holes and sometimes even completely lacking pavement, but those bumps and obstacles you encounter along the way are what make you stronger.  Coincidently, just as I dropped Babe Jr. off at school, the next song to play was Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.”   

Hardships are what build character; the ability to adapt, adjust, and muddle through are what build a strong individual.  The important question is, can you overcome those obstacles while maintaining a sense of integrity and be proud of the choices you’ve made when you reflect on your journey?  I like to think I’m headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday Recap in Photos

  We had a lovely holiday!  Everyone ate goodies until they couldn't move.

Mr. Backwoods as proof.

We joined friends to make use of new toys, where my camera was kidnapped.

He didn't understand my "fancy camera", hehe, hence the blur.

Then it was subsequently used against me.

We played new Wii games until no one could move their limbs.
Eventually I regained possession of the camera.

And the critters all had fun, too.

And by popular request, the recipe for the Rolo Pretzel Turtles.

Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Place pretzels on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
Place one rolo candy on top of each pretzel.
Place in oven for 4 minutes until rolo gets soft.
Smush a pecan on top of each.
Place cookie sheet in fridge until chocolate and caramel re-hardens.
Pull off cookie sheet liner and stuff face until sick.

These are the easiest thing I have ever made, and they were gobbled up the fastest this year.  I found out about these from the pod on NSBR last year, but they just seemed to simple to be that good.  Boy was I wrong!