Thursday, October 01, 2015

Copperhead

Copperheads are the most common snake on my property.  Yes, they are venomous.  However, they are the least venomous snake, they are small, and they keep to themselves.  They are not going to kill a healthy adult human.  This video is a rare sighting of one out and about.  They are almost always found under piles of things or in wood piles.  They can be very difficult to see; they burrow as much into the leaves as possible and their coloring takes care of the rest.  Wherever they live, they are there for a reason - to keep populations of other critters in check.  I have relocated 6 in my time here.  I just scoop them into a bucket or put a large jar over them and slide a board under them and carry them to a better location for all of our safety.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review of Canconier's The Black Dragon


I got this CD when I saw them present this program live in Houston.  They have combined 15th century music from the time of Vlad the Impaler with folk music from Vlad's general region.  We get to hear Tim Rayborn say and sing the German poem by Michel Beheim about Vlad's deeds.  Tim has an excellent driving, resonant, commanding storytelling voice.   
Annette Bauer is the recorder player on this CD.  She was away playing with Cirque du Soleil when I saw them live.  Tom Zajac filled in for her - it takes an amazing musician to fill the shoes of another pristine player.  Annette plays recorder the way you expect a world class figure skater to skate into a gold medal.  Her grace and agility, flexibility and musicality are simply magnificent.  Every judge raises their 10!
Shira Kammen plays vielle and harp on this CD.  Vielle is the great-great...grandmother of the modern violin.  Imagine rubbing two rubber bands together perpendicularly and expecting great music.  The strings are gut and the bow is bent opposite a modern bow.  Shira brings this instrument to life.  There is an earthy quality to the sound.  Her solos and supportive playing add richness and color and grounding. 
Tim plays several stringed instruments sometimes as an accompanying player and sometimes as a stellar soloist.  He is also the percussionist.  The attention to audible detail on this CD is most evident where the percussion is concerned.  Often times mixes drown out or dampen percussion.  Tim's delicate and driving percussion is on fine display.  Every intricate detail can be heard without drawing you away from the overall texture. 
The above musicians sing some on a few of the tracks, but Phoebe Jevtovic is the lead vocalist for 7 of the 17 tracks.  The thing that I love about medieval ensembles of this combination (both as a singer and audience member) is the use of the voice as an instrument.  While the voice is an obvious focal point for those songs, the other instruments weave and connect around the singer.  Phoebe's voice fits into this mode quite well.  She has a tone that is strong, real, polished, but not pompous.  All four members of the ensemble take their turns at solos and highlights.  You hear her as equal in weight.
There is quite a variety on this CD.  Laments to dances.  The instrumentation varies and includes instruments I haven't even mentioned.  These musicians bring music to life. They bring a collection of tunes and songs together to give you a auditory sense of the time.  There is beauty, life, and contemplation in what they have created. 

If you are vaguely interested in Medieval music, go now, buy it.  These are some of the best musicians on the scene right now; you absolutely can not go wrong.  The CD is on iTunes, CDBaby, and you can order it at www.canconier.com. 

Friday, August 07, 2015

Review of Lisa Schneider's Milkwood Thistle Promenade


When I choose to review a CD, I ask the artist to describe the CD in one sentence.  I do this because I may truly enjoy the CD but might not know exactly what genre box it goes in and that is often a very helpful detail in telling you about it.  When I asked Lisa Schneider to describe her CD, it was for that precise reason.  I soon found out, I was not crazy, there is NO GENRE BOX for her work!  It is certainly instrumental and fiddle driven, although, she sings one of her own songs on the CD, which is a lovely twist to the otherwise instrumental CD.  Listening to the CD is like listening to the hearts of several cultures coming together.  I couldn't quite place my finger on which culture.  I have listened to this CD a ridiculously high number of times.  Each time, I enjoy the twists and repetitions of the tunes.  Just when I thought I could sing along, the tune would twist in a way that only a fiddle can weave.   Lisa describes the CD as a "compilation of original and traditional ethnic-style folk music with hints of Classical, Klezmer, Scandanavian, and Breton elements."  If you know any or all of those elements, you will hear every single one, blended together.  Some tracks are heavier on one than another, but the overall blended effect is hypnotic and enjoyable.  The variety from one track to another keeps your ears on their toes, and yet the spirit that drives the whole CD brings it together. 
One of my favorite things about true artists is their ability to use all the crayons in the box.  Lisa does that, not only by using a variety of styles, but she also brings in other instruments played by friends and herself.  Others on the banjo, accordian, hurdy gurdy and guitars add depth to her tunes.  She pulls a few other colors out of her own crayon box.  She sings, she plays spoons, and her toy piano playing skills are on display for a track.  Toy piano is not some cheap trick to fill up space.  It's unique, interesting and a bit haunting. 
Lisa has this warm rich deep feminine voice that is fully capable of telling a story.  She doesn't over sing or try to soak up all of the light.  Her choice in vocal phrasing and mixing make her voice and the instruments work together exactly the way I think folk music should.  Her subject matter, voice, and writing style mimic folk styles so well that I had to check to see if it was hers or traditional (it's hers).

If you enjoy folk fiddle, go now and get this CD.  It is in my regular rotation and should be in yours.  If you're in Austin, visit Waterloo or Things Celtic.  If not, visit fiddlisa.com

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Kickstarter

I launched a Kickstarter campaign on August 3 at 2:03PM.  I asked for a modest amount of $1600 just to cover the costs of printing my new CD, "Why Should I?"  By 1:15PM on August 4, my friends and supporters had pledged the entire amount.  I was, I am still stunned by the quickness and fierceness of their generosity.  With 20 days left to go, I chose a "stretch goal" amount of $5000.  This amount covers all of the CD production costs as well as my proposed publicity plan which focuses on Celtic & Folk festivals, house concerts and concert venues nationwide in 2016.  We are on day 4, and we are well on our way to success.  Because a stretch goal is unofficial, I am adding all sales of the tshirt and all wholesale orders to what shows on the Kickstarter.  As of now, we are at $2723.  If we make it to $5000, there may well be some very silly thank you videos released...  officially, everyone who has supported will receive a holiday card of Stoli and me plus a download of a holiday song plus one of the $5 add-on prizes of their choice.

Thank you, everyone, for your support!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review of Quaver's Quaver


This is a string quartet CD.  But not just any string quartet.  This is a quartet made of VIOLS.  Viols are the earlier cousins of the modern violin, viola, cello, bass.  There is an audible difference because the instrument bodies are different, the strings are different, and the bows are different.  I invite you to do a little looking into what a viol actually is; I would rather discuss the sounds and impression I get from this CD.  The warmth of viols and the more grounded sound that the instruments produce remind me of the difference between a pristine white wedding cake (modern day string quartet) vs a carrot cake with texture and flavors that come together to create one cohesive structure. Pretty sure they should use that in their press kit. 
The four member ensemble, Marie Dalby, Brady Lanier, Loren Ludwig, and Toby Szuts, play together so tightly that is it difficult to discern one instrument from the next.  They react and play and move in a synchronized way that can only obviously be compared to a synchronized swim team.  Each team member keeps time gracefully making sure the entire group comes up for air gracefully and, as part of the dance, swirls in time.  Air, space, and synchronicity is honored beauty.
As for the ensemble's mission to engage the eclectic sensibilities of the iPod era, the ensemble plays everything from Medieval Machaut to an arrangement by Mr. Lanier of Sheryl Crow's Wildflower.  Both of these are my personal favorites on the CD.  Machaut is just crazy stuff, and Brady did a very fine job of marrying viols with a 2005 popular rock song highlighting the sounds of each instrument to give this instrumental version depth and richness that seems to preserve the original lyrics without actual singing. 

To summarize, if you enjoy the warmth of modern strings, but want to feel the warmth go from ordinary milk chocolate to dark 70% chocolate with sea salt, buy this CD.  Just go to www.Quaver.org and buy one or a dozen copies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ask Abby Anything 2

This time, about my container house!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ask Abby Anything 1

I have taken on a 52 week challenge.  I am asking for questions, any questions - personal, musical, spiritual, housing, cat-related...  I don't care.  Each video will be only 60 seconds.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Container House Progress

In case you are wondering how it's coming along, here is a video tour! We have been working on it for one month.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Container Helpers


I am so incredibly lucky and blessed to have the sort of friends who come out here, work themselves exhausted, and want to return for more!!!  Kati, Kim, and Kate came out for 2 full days this week.  While I cut the metal for the window and door in the bedroom, they built large portions of the walls that would hold the insulation.  Together, we installed the ceiling and stuffed the whole place with insulation.  We only lack the last ten feet which include my platform bed and the wall that will be built in place of the mammoth container doors.


Kate brought me the cabinetry that goes under a waterbed.  We carried them into the container and stacked them where the kitchen counter is to be.  I did this so I could consider whether it would work to use them as my kitchen cabinets.  I already knocked out the facing that is in those open holes.  All of the drawers are here, but some are missing handles.  I think I will sand down all of the fronts knocking off that 70's routered look, paint the whole thing, and maybe even remove the doors.  It will be a bit taller than a standard counter, but I'm tall, so I don't mind!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Meaning of Life

I have found the meaning, the mission, the purpose of my life.  I think it should be the meaning, mission and purpose of every person on this planet.  My mission is to inspire.  Not impress or dictate or judge or instruct, though I may do any of those to a degree, the mission is to inspire.

Inspire:  Fill someone with the urge or ability to do something; create a feeling, especially a positive one in a person; animate someone; give rise to an idea.

Maybe I build something.  I show photos or invite others to share the experience.  Hopefully, the experience inspires them.  It doesn't even matter HOW it inspires them.  Maybe they are inspired to travel in a way they never thought possible, or they are inspired to show young women that building is fun, or they are inspired to look at things in a new way or tackle a project that has been just out of reach.  That part doesn't matter.  Just inspire.

Maybe I sing a song.  Maybe someone is inspired to write or cry or laugh or sing along or filled with happiness and is inspired to hug or buy a friend an ice cream.  Maybe someone is inspired by the travels or the work it took to record and write a book - they can do something like that too.

Remember, I have no interest in impressing.  I'm not offended by impressing, but to inspire is much deeper and offers much more power to the inspiree.  Imagine a world where people wake up in the morning choosing how to inspire others.

I will work every single day to offer the world something inspiring.  I promise to notice the inspiring things others do.  Let's get out there and inspire.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Focus

In public, I focus on what I do well.  As a musician, I perform songs that I feel fit my better vocal qualities.  As a person who posts status reports on Facebook, I post cat pictures and accomplishments.  As a builder, I video and photograph things that went well.

There are songs that I can not sing well.  That's right, they sound like CRAP when I sing them.  There are entire genres of music that I sound ridiculous even trying.  Do I focus on this?  No.  What would be the point of waking up in the morning focusing on what I can not do?  I sing the songs I sing well, and I research and find more songs, try them out.  I work on some for months before ditching the song.  Sometimes that feels like a waste.  I wish songs presented themselves more easily.  When I get on a stage, I highlight the things I do well all the rest stays home in the practice space.

As a builder, seamstress, maker of things, if I posted all of the failed projects, well, that might actually make a pretty funny blog, but seriously, each major project takes months of thought and planning, confusion and re-evaluation.  In the end I share with the world things that I think will inspire others, the finished successes.

My inabilities are as great as anyone else's.  Here are yesterday's failings.

I can't memorize to save my life.  Even songs I have been singing for over 10 years, I fail.  I try every now and then when I have a safe friendly audience and 9 times out of 10, I fail.  I manage this by having cheat cards.  Highlight abilities, not failings.  I have 8 new songs in the works right now.  I can not remember chords or words and I have been working on them steadily for 5 months.

I can not read and follow instructions.  I can't.  It's not that it is difficult, I CAN NOT.  I can learn by doing.  I can learn if someone shows me or explains it.  I can learn if I draw it.  I can follow picture instructions like the ones from IKEA.  So many people complain about IKEA instructions, but they were made by and for people like me.  I attempted to read up on wiring - fail.

I have a million ideas that never come to fruition.  I video something and never get around to putting it together.  I say I'm busy, but yesterday alone, I spent 4 hours on facebook and another few hours drinking a glass of wine on the porch and several hours staring at walls from the comfort of my sofa.  That's not a joke.  Hours that I could have done anything.  The problem?  The absolute truth is I'm afraid no one will like the video, so why bother.  I'm afraid it's not going to be interesting or helpful.  Self esteem or reality?  I will claim a combination, thank you.  That's the problem with everything that keeps me from doing the thing.  Fear of failing, why bother... It will take too long, why bother... No one cares, why bother.

I frequently spend hours of time trying to decide if I should work on music or the property.  I decide on one and instantly feel like I have failed the other so I spend an hour on facebook trying to decide if that is the right choice.  If I would simply DO one of them, I would likely also have time for the other.  Entire days go by in this battle.  This is not an exaggeration.  I came up with a scheduling system that helped for a while, but now that I am working on the construction of my house, I let the scheduled activities fall away.  I have time to do them, but I also have one million reasons why it is ok not to do them.  I literally sat on my couch looking at my fiddle thinking, "I should pick it up.  It will only take 10 minutes."  And I did not.  I sat staring for 10 minutes somehow incapable.  Instead of feeling proud for doing a thing, I feel ashamed for letting another day pass by.

I lose things five seconds after I just had them.  Don't we all do this?  In a construction zone, it gets ridiculous.  I own 4 tape measures.  I could not find any of them the other day and I had them the day before.  Pens, hammers, drills, everything seems to disappear.  I organize things for other people, but I can't keep track of a pen for 60 seconds.

I try to eat well, but some days I eat a dozen caramels, some dark chocolate that I don't even really like and a glass of wine.  I had some yogurt for breakfast, so there's at least that.

This post is a list of the failings I had just yesterday.  They happen all the time...  most days, actually.  What I share with the world is a photo of my cat and a photo of something I accomplished successfully.  The rest of this stays at home where it belongs.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Container window

When I search the internet for how others have installed windows into their containers, I find basically this:
1. Cut hole in the container usually with an angle grinder, some use a torch.
2. Frame the hole with a steel welded frame.
3. Install usually custom made window.

What if you don't weld?  What if you would like to use recycled window from Habitat Restore or off the side of the road?



I pondered this for nearly a year.  And for the last week it has been all my brain has been set to solve.  And, I was successful!  Yesterday, I finished the cut for a 32 inch wide, 5 foot tall window.  With the help of two friends, we set the window by wedging wood above and below the window.  I am really pleased with the fit, the look, and how well we managed to seal it up.

I have three more windows to go.  I will definitely video and share the whole process.  The window cost me $15.  Add up the caulk and wood for another $10.  My whole window cost me $25 and about 4 hours of actual labor time.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Container House Floors

My container is an extra tall, extra long container.  Standard size is 8 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 40 feet long.  Mine is 9.5 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 45 feet long.  The extra height is going to be used for insulation and fan circulation.  I'm in south Texas.  Staying cool is vital.
One fantastic container
This week, I started construction to turn this metal box into a home - my home, my dream home.  My friend and tiny house enthusiast, Roze Hanks and her daughter came out for a few days and helped me build the first portions of the floor.  We built fully insulated platforms in eight foot sections.
Hazard, ME, & Kim
Kim and Hazard came out and helped build the remainder of the floor.  And Kim stayed for a shopping trip to Victoria, TX and helped me build an 8 foot by 10 foot deck for the bedroom end of the container.
Kim finishing the deck


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Favors

Have you ever done something nice for someone that ended up turning into a nightmare?  Feels AWESOME, doesn't it?  My traveling musician friends brought their fifth wheel trailer here last week.  This would be a free place for them to stay and relax.  They immediately got stuck in the mud just off the edge of my gravel driveway.  It was dark, and it had been raining.  It was hard to see.  Luckily, I have a guestroom.  No problem.  Everyone get some sleep and we will deal the next day.  They had a festival gig all weekend, so they borrowed my truck to get there and back each day.  Monday, I had my AAA come out and rescue their truck and trailer.

Later, in the backing up process, the truck got stuck again.  We have tried off and on Monday, Tuesday and today to try to get it unstuck.  We bought gravel, we tried jacking it up, but the truck is now so low that a jack won't fit.  Nothing is working.  They called on their Good Sam membership and we are now waiting for the SAME WRECKER to come out again.  Since Good Sam told us what wrecker they were sending and it happened to be the same one from Monday, I called them and texted photos of the situation.  At this point, we have no choice but to pay whatever fees they want to charge.  We have tried everything.  Nerves are shot, tempers are short.  The week that is usually so peaceful out here has been an absolute nightmare.

This may be the last trailer allowed on my property.  There is an RV park just 13 miles up the road.  This may have saved ten bucks, but it spent everyone's nerves.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rain Rain Rain

This week has been exceptionally rainy.  We aren't used to this here is moderately dry south Texas, and even less used to it since we have been in a drought for years.  On my way home from St. Patrick's Day playing in Lake Charles, I got to see all of my neighbors' properties shiny with deep water.  My property is no exception.  The low end of my property has a pond.  The high end has my home.  Even the high end has pools and the ground is just saturated and mushy.

Friends arrive with their fifth wheel trailer after dark on Thursday evening.  Unfortunately, their passenger side wheels on the trailer went off the gravel and got firmly stuck in the mucky clay mud.  The trailer and their truck is still sitting there.  I'm not exactly sure how we are going to free them except to wait until summer when all of this will dry up.  Thank goodness I had the guestroom ready.

MUSIC: I had a lovely time at Things Celtic in Austin on the 15th.  Another lovely time at the Westminster in Austin on the 16th, and an insane time at MacFarlane's Celtic Pub in Lake Charles, LA on the 17th.  I turned in the master copy of the learning CD on the 16th and the art has been approved.  I should be able to pick those up on the 27th and ship out the orders very soon!

GREEN CHAI: Is a swamp of mud.  The on-demand shower water heater that is in my bathroom died.  This means I must quickly get the shower-house in working order.  Guests are already here and more will be showing up for the big container build week of April 5-11.

Friday, March 13, 2015

This Week

ON THE RANCH:  I brought home a pickup truck.  My dad got himself a new fancy shmancy truck and let me have the old one.  It's beautiful, I love it, and it hauled a bunch of supplies home already.

I only accomplished a couple of ranch things this week.  I installed a water filter, I hung the swing that my grandmother sent in the before-mentioned truck, and I unloaded many things that dad sent like outdoor kitchen equipment and a chainsaw.  Woohoo!

IN MUSIC:  The book is finished and I am now in possession of 20 copies.  The CD portion of the books are not here yet, but all of the recording and graphics are complete.  Pre-Sales are going well.  The Pre-Sale deal ends March 20 and books w/CD should ship the first of April.

This weekend begins the St. Patrick's Day celebrations.  I'll be at Things Celtic in Austin on Sunday (3/15).  They have music scheduled all day long.  I will play form 4-5.  Then I have a wine tasting at a retirement village on Monday.  Then, on Tuesday 3/17, I'll play at MacFarlane's Celtic Pub in Lake Charles, LA.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Tradition of Irish Song

I write these posts a couple of weeks in advance.  This post is scheduled for the day that I have set to finish and finalize my book!!  I will be publishing to "CreateSpace" who will print on demand and sell me bulk copies to sell on my own.  I hired my graphics person, Greg Baumgardner today (Feb 9) and he's on for creating a book cover.  I am really really super excited about this.  I really hope we are uploading the entire book and it will be available in just a few more days!!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mornings

Do not trust mornings.  Almost everyone wakes up feeling groggy and many wake up flat out depressed.  Why?  Your blood pressure is low.  Low blood pressure has the same effect as depression.  In a clinical study I did, I was able to begin predicting what my blood pressure would register in the morning by how able or unable I was to laugh at things.  Imagine, me not being able to laugh.  I found that first thing upon waking up, when I felt depressed, when nothing was funny, my blood pressure was low - the worse I felt, the less funny things were, the lower the reading.  As soon as I ate breakfast and got moving, I would come around.  Sometimes we wake up feeling depressed and we believe we are depressed.  We judge our entire psychological well-being in the first hour of the day. Instead of getting moving, looking for things to laugh at, eating a decent meal, we wallow in bed all day.  Some days that is completely appropriate, but I challenge you to imagine that it is only your blood pressure.  Get up, get moving, actively look for something interesting or funny, eat something healthy.  For me, it helps a lot to realize that there is a physical, ordinary reason for feeling down in the morning.

It helps me find a way to move past that and get to the good part of the day.  Since realizing this I have a morning routine that works very well for me.  I wake up and talk to the cat, and I take my time getting up out of bed.  Low blood pressure can also cause that black out feeling when you stand too fast, so be careful.  I get up, feed the cat, make coffee and start a timer for 50 minutes of crafting time.  I plan the activity the night before so that I don't have to think, I just start.  I craft and drink one cup of coffee.  Some mornings, I feel too depressed to craft.  I craft anyway.  After the 50 minutes, I'm usually awake enough to make breakfast and have a second cup of coffee.  After breakfast, I am usually ready to take on the day.  I make absolutely no judgements about how I feel until after breakfast and this has made a huge difference in my life.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Uncooked Flour Tortillas

One of my favorite things on this planet is HEB's UNCOOKED flour tortillas.  I find them in Austin stores in the refrigerated area.  They say to just cook them in a pan, and that works just fine, but I discovered a way to take one of my favorite things and turn it into food-gold.

Photo borrowed from:http://www.masalamexicana.com/recipes/2014/12/5/saag-enchiladas

Save a small amount of fairly clean bacon grease.  Use the tiniest dab of bacon grease to grease the pan before placing the tortilla in the pan.  Put the tortilla in and make sure it greases and immediately flip it so that both sides get some grease.  Now let the cooking happen.  When it poofs, flip it and let it poof again.  Heaven.  Absolute food heaven.

I love this so much that I ration them.  I make three and only three at a time.  Sometimes I only add cheese or butter and cinnamon.  Sometimes I make tacos.  Whatever you do with them, your food will be come magical.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

License Plate shingles

I plan to shingle the roof and tile the walls of the shower in my new shower house.  This is not a unique idea - I did not come up with it.  This idea has been taking up space in my brain since the day I saw pictures of Dan Phillip's license plate house.  Dan of Phoenix Commotion builds homes in Huntsville, TX out of all sorts of recyclable materials.  He is a major innovator and inspirational force amongst those of us who love using abnormal building materials.

Here is mine, so far:

Monday, February 09, 2015

Demolition & Construction

My water well pump was housed in a dog-house-like shack.  I have wanted to remove that and build an 8 foot by 8 foot structure to house the well and a shower house and a garden tools storage space.

Day one proved that the people who built this showed up with a 12 pack of beer, a bag of miscellaneous nails and screws and began throwing things together.  There was an under eave that was attached only by a few nails to one of the rafters...  it was kind of weird.  I managed to successfully tear up about half of the shack in 3 hours.

Day 2, I thought I would approach the remainder with a saws-all.  The walls were proving difficult to remove because nails were used in the middle as well as around the edge and along the bottom.  It took me about 5 minutes to hate the saws-all.  I have a lot of tools.  This one may be free to good home soon.  I went back to my slow-and-steady-wins-the-race methods and had the thing down to the studs and cleaned up in about 2 hours.

Day 3:  I set the cinderblock supports and floor joists.  I have a ton of 2 X 6 boards from friends and from the awning that used to be over the front porch.  Even though this is a small structure and doesn't really need 2X6 floor joists, that's what it got!

Day 4: Rainy and cold.  Boooooooo...

Day 5: Kate Cofrin and Kim Tucker came out to the ranch and pulled apart all of the wood from the old awning of the house.  I cut the boards as they cleared them for use as the floor.  Together we installed the floor. 

Day 6: We framed.  We started with the wall that has the window but is otherwise one full complete wall, and filled in the places around the water well frame.  The wall space we are sitting in is the wall where the door will be.  I don't have the door yet and so without a door to measure, we chose not to build that wall until I have a door.

To be continued!!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Singing Telegrams

I started a singing telegram business in Austin many years ago, let's say 10 years ago.  When I went on the road full time, I contracted the telegrams to my friend and fellow performer, Mardi.  She is fabulous and even though I owned the business, she constantly had new ideas and wanted to add costumes and acts.  As it seemed clear that my career was moving in a travel direction, I decided to sell the website to Mardi as it was really the only concrete investment.  She now owns and operates Singing Telegrams of Austin.  When she goes on vacation or at busy times like Valentine's Day, she lets me do telegrams for her.  With Valentine's Day approaching quickly, I'd like to offer a fun memorable way to say "I love you."  Mardi offers a Kermit the Frog and a Gorilla Valentine telegram.  We both will also be delivering classic telegrams in semi-formal attire.

Call Mardi or myself and schedule your telegram soon!!!
In case you forgot how to reach me:  Email or call 512-905-2783

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Organizing

I organize homes, offices, and I scan documents and photos.  If you're overwhelmed or you have a job you would simply like to turn over to someone else and just walk away, give me a call.  I work side by side with clients and I also have situations where clients just let me loose on the chaos.  Visit the website www.cluttercalmer.com or the blog virtuallytreasured.blogspot.com for ideas...  and give me a call.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Container Houses

People often have a million questions about container houses.  The first being how I go the idea.  It's not an original idea.  Container houses are a big deal out there right now.  To give you a quick visual, this website did a great job of compiling some photos.  http://www.inspirationgreen.com/container-homes.html  Enjoy!

The next question is usually how much the container cost and/or how I found mine.  I searched the internet and called some companies.  My container with the shipping and delivery cost me $3600.  $500 of that was delivery.  If you are near a port, like Houston, your shipping/delivery could be this low or lower.  The further inland, the higher the cost you can expect.

Then the questions continue regarding building and codes.  We'll get to all of that in good time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Violence, Consent

There is this adorable video going viral out there right now.  It is cute.  The young boys and the girl are lovely children.  The message is anti violence toward women.  I have a problem with the presentation.

The boys give their names and ages and what they want to do when they grow up.  They are presented with a lovely girl.  They are told to make a funny face at her.  They do.  They are told to caress her.  They do.  They are told to slap her.  They do not.  They are asked why not.  Because she is a girl.

I'll address the slap first.  So, if a fellow boy had been presented, these kids would have had no problem slapping this stranger for no reason?  Save your violent tendencies for other men.  Good for women, I suppose, but not good for the world.  Any violence, particularly unsolicited violence, is a big fat no.  Why?  Because violence is wrong.  The.  End.  Dog, cat, woman, child, girl, man, boy.  Does not matter.  Violence is wrong.

Second, how about that caress?  Did one of the boys look at the girl and ask if he could touch her cheek or arm?  Nope.  They just did as they were instructed as if they are completely entitled.  They were shy in this task, but that's because they are very young.  I would have cried if one of them looked at her and asked her permission.  That would have been an incredibly beautiful moment.  No consent was asked for nor granted.

Violence is wrong.
Consent is critical.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Container Plan

Here is the plan for the container house.
Floor Plan.
 Some details are still to be determined like the specific size of the windows.  I have almost all of the light fixtures, sinks, furniture, and one of the two ceiling fans.
Technical Plan.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bench swing

This bench swing was removed from the disgusting world of the Manor House.  It is solid, but dingy, and it had been shoved in a barn covered with other stuff for at least three years.

There is nothing wrong with natural wood color, but because I had 4 cans of blue spray paint, I chose to brighten it up.  I hung it and purposely let the rain and weather give it some natural cleaning.  I sanded and wiped it down and slat by slat spray painted it.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Traditional Irish song book

I am working on a book of traditional Irish songs.  I have wanted to do this for a long time and with a third CD in the works, I have decided now is the time.  I want more singing along, more sharing, more singing in the world!  Traditional music only stays alive if it is shared.
Horrible sample cover...  project in the works!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ranch To-Do List

A wonderful woman, tiny house enthusiast, constructionista, photographer, and friend has volunteered to come help with the building of my Container House the week of April 5-11.  Because I want to maximize anyone's expertise when they come out here, I have a LIST of things to get done before that week.  AND that week itself will be an exciting time.  If you have any desire to help with ANYTHING, please, now is the time!  Look at your calendar and the following list and come on out.   
January through March.  
*Shower House - Demo the existing doghouse style water well house.  Frame an 8 by 8 partially roofed shower.  (THANK YOU KATHY COFRIN & KIM TUCKER!!!) Finish walls, attach doors, shingle shower & roof with license plates.
*Chain Saw Work - I have several (10 or more) down trees.  I need to chop the trunks into pieces that I can haul back toward the house where I can use an electric chain saw to cut them to firewood pieces.
*Wire and Stucco the Garden - The cinder block raised garden is not finished.  I need to wrap the 10 by 10 garden in wire mesh and stucco it.  We could also repair Eliza-Cat's broken arm - large stucco cat statue
*Paint the Exterior of the NEW Container and the OLD Container.  This will require ladders.  I have one tall one, but I will not climb it or do anything on a ladder without another human on this property.  
*Bottle Jack Assistance - I need to lift one end of the NEW Container to re-set the blocks.  
*Lawn Mower Spa Day - I think it needs a new battery...  also, can someone teach me to do an oil change?
*Gate Lamp - make a solar recycled lamp for the gate.
*Get Stuff off the Roof of the OLD Container - I have a tall ladder, but it sounds like a recipe for 911 if I just try to pull the stuff down and it's too heavy to push....  and some of it is nailed together.  My balance on a ladder is sketchy so I can't get good enough leverage to pull the nails...  I pulled 4 nails just to test the idea and decided I didn't feel like visiting the emergency room.
*Bench Swing by the Pond - The poor thing needs to be sanded and painted.
*Finalize Electric Plan - I just need a second opinion by an electrician type.
*Relaxation and Crafty Days - We all need some re-charge days.  If you just want to come craft or sit in a swing and drink wine, I will be happy to make time for that mighty task as well!!

When I get a truck:
*Re-Floor the OLD Container - This will require 10 sheets of heavy plywood and lots of tile.  I have a small trailer, but I won't get the truck for a couple/few more months.
*Cut the OLD Container - I want to cut entry ways and windows into the old container to be used as a half garage and half outdoor kitchen. A small amount of framing might need to be done to support the spaces with large cut-outs. 
**SUPER BONUS - I want to build a wood roof with standard asphalt shingles for the OLD Container. 
*Deck building - Small, more stair like decks on the old container leading to the kitchen half and a permanent ramp on the garage end need to be built.  2 10 by 10 screened in porches are in the plans for the NEW container...  we could build the decks for those any time.
*Rebuild the Pop-Up Trailer Roof - I have the design planned (and I only need a couple more pieces of lumber), but I can not lift the old roof off of the trailer alone nor lift the new one into place, so I have done nothing but ponder the plan.  

THE BIG WEEK!!!  April 5-11, All of the following are on/with/for the NEW Container House:
Please note this is not a workshop type of thing....  This isn't a how-to seminar....  we are learning together and building my HOUSE!
*Frame the entire floor and insulate the floor, cover entire floor in heavy plywood.
*Cut the doors and windows.
*Install 2 doors and some windows. (AT LEAST the bedroom out door and window)
*Frame the walls (AT LEAST the bedroom).
*Frame the ceiling.
*Build the platform bed and underside cabinetry.
*Wire the whole thing.
*Insulate and cover walls - AT LEAST the bedroom (wall covering not yet decided... drywall is so boring)

*I* think that is a doable list for April 5-11 if Roze and I have even one extra set of hands at any time that week.  If we can build my bedroom, then Roze might come back for the summer when we can finish the rest and build HER tiny house.  

Overnight Anytime:
I have a guest room with a queen bed and a set of bunk beds...  so a whole family or group of friends can come out and stay the night or two or ten anytime!  

For the BIG WEEK - April 5-11:
Guest room above.
I also have a VERY SMALL pop-up trailer that would sleep two.
I have a gazebo deck and a small tent and a 4 inch foam mattress.  I use that set up at festivals and it works great.
I have a LARGE family sized tent.
There is plenty of space if you want to bring your own camper.  
I don't anticipate 20 people at once - oh, the chaos - but even just a couple extra hands can make the work go so quickly and joyfully.

FOOD: 
There will be food...  always.  If you have special diet issues, lemme know.  I have a lovely fire pit and lots of firewood as well as a fully functioning indoor kitchen.  

Holy moly...  I covered a lot of ground here.  I'm excited and my mind is racing.  I am working every single day on these tasks.  If something sticks out as YOUR project, let me know and we will tackle it together.

SO EXCITED!!!
Love and joy to you all,

Abby

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Yurt building

Thank you, Wikipedia.
I was hired to redo all of the canvas for a 16 foot yurt.  The canvas is heavy.  I have an ordinary Singer sewing machine that is about 15 years old.  The hardest part is keeping the fabric moving along evenly.  I enjoy using canvas in construction type projects.
Thank you, Stoli, for making sure the finished pieces don't leap from the table.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Finally

I love this time of year.  If you can find chocolate covered cherries, they are on sale.  Free is my favorite flavor, but half price is pretty darn tasty.  Ah, Queen Anne's Cordial Cherries, you are so tasty... definitely one of my favorite things.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Ranch Visitors

Recently, two inspiring women visited the ranch.  I had met Roze at a tiny house workshop a few years ago.  Roze met Marilyn at another workshop and the two were visiting tiny house enthusiasts and builders in the south Texas area.  We chatted into the late hours of the night and then got up in the morning for a hiking tour of the property.  I showed off the new container and the three of us bounced off pros and cons of certain ideas.  Until the first cut is made into the metal, all ideas are still debatable ideas.

Roze is a fantastic photographer and she is looking to reestablish herself in Texas.  She will be coming back for a week in April to help me at least get a bedroom space built in the container.  If we can do that, she may return for the summer!  I am super excited!  Roze has ideas and an energizing personality.  She has construction experience and creative ideas for efficient living.

In preparation for her help in April, I have a list of smaller projects that I want to have completed.  I am inspired and ready to get to work.  I am also hoping that people who have expressed interest in helping will find the time in the next few months.  An extra set of hands makes a project go so quickly.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

New Year

It's the Eve of New Year's Eve!  New Year's Day is my holiday.  The resetting of the calendar is significant to my life of growth, change, learning, and goal setting.  I don't necessarily make "resolutions," but I do observe what I accomplished last year and what I would like more or less of in the coming year.

For 2015, I have decided to let music come back into the primary light.  I am working on a third CD.  I am working on many new songs both for the CD and just because.  I am playing violin for 10 minutes a day and bluegrass mandolin for 10 minutes a day.  I am also putting together a book of traditional songs.

For 2015, I am making writing a priority.  I will be posting to my blogs more often and, I will be writing on my novel or series of short stories daily.

For 2015, the Irish language is getting some serious attention.  I am devoting 30 minutes per day to this cause.  I will be writing once a week in my Irish blog: www.austinirish.blogspot.com  I started this wave of work at the begining of December and I am already seeing some pieces come together.  I have studied off and on for nearly 10 years.  It's time for these pieces of the language to meet up in my brain!

For 2015, I have projects on the ranch!  This month, I have been working to take the home I have to a higher level of welcoming.  That means, I have worked on clean up, adding crafty touches here and there, better outdoor seating, and outfitting the guestroom completely.  The shower house will be my next project.  My container home will be the project of the year!

Let the year begin!  Happy 2015!!!