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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Gluten Free is New to Me and We are Caramelizing Onions!

This is Byron.  (I'm starting slow since I've been absent from my post so long, lol.)  Byron is a young English Lop buck and he is waiting for you to pet him.  When you try to close the cage door, he will not move out of the way and will be offended that you had the audacity to shut it in his face.

I believe my last post was back in June when we were getting ready for my oldest daughter's wedding.  Is that enough excuse to be gone so long?  It did take a lot out of us and we were tired for weeks after...But I think we're over it now!

Summer is always a busy time on the farm and this one is no exception.  Western Washington is known for its massive rainfall, but we do have very dry summers and things are definitely suffering the lack thereof around here. Our low flow well is struggling and we've put ourselves on water-watch!
This is Korb Yellow Highlight, the Dahlia.  He is very handsome and I've been sneaking water to him when no one is looking.  (Shhhh...)

A close friend of his (pic below) is Pam (no, not me, it really is called Pam).  I picked this one out especially, not just because we share a name, but it is my favorite hue in flowers - shades of yellow, orange & red!  Sunset colors!
My younger daughter and I worked at the local county Fair again this year.  I've had some health issues and am also eating a limited diet, so we packed weird salads to take along most days.  The two weeks sped by and we're back here on the farm most days.

Canning season is upon us and we're working hard, even though our own garden is kind of puny.  A friend 'down the valley' let us pick their green beans and we put them up.

 You can see some waffles on the stove next to the canner and in a plastic container on the green beans.  I've been making gluten-free waffles and freezing them so my 'special' breakfast is fast and easy.  These are made with Almond Flour and turn out fabulous!  The nice thing is they are heartier than regular waffles because of the protein content of the almonds.  I got the recipe online, tweaked it a bunch to make it egg, dairy and sugar-free as well, and now I get bona-fide delicious waffles that even my gluten-eating people like better than the regular ones!  (If you want the recipe, leave a comment with email addy and I'll get it to you!).
Foolish people that we are, we suddenly decided the cellar needed cleaning & organizing.  YIKES.  It's been roughly twenty years accumulating and was a BIG JOB.  We disposed of canning from 2012 and even found a couple jars from 2008...blech.  It's all in order and now the current accomplishments can go right down there and onto the correct shelves!
 We have taken time out to haunt our favorite beaches, namely Westport WA, home of Bennett's Fish Shack (yes, I know I've mentioned them often...) and Wash-Away Beach in Grayland.

This time as we drove & walked around, we discovered something new to us....Cat Feeding Stations!  I saw this little birdhouse-like structure (and a shiny black crow exiting....) and wondered what it was.  There are actually about 3 or 4 of them along the big rock jetty in Westport and they are cat feeding stations for abandoned cats!

Sounds like a great start to a poem...The sleek & stealthy feral cats, dining upon the many wharf rats, stopped to feed at little cat houses and soon gave up the eating of mouses!!

Hmm.  Maybe I should stick to my day job....farm wife!!
Raspberries, strawberries and luscious blackberries!  The raspberries and strawberries are cultivated, of course.  The blackberries grow here with wild abandon.  We have three varieties; the highly sought after wild trailing blackberries, Evergreen Blackberry and Himalayan Blackberry.

The Himalayan is a big, succulent soft berry (my favorite) and grow all along the back of our orchard fence.  We have some of the Evergreen around here, too.  They are a firm berry with a completely different flavor and hold their shape well for canning.
 This summer I've gotten to know another neighbor.  We've only got three neighbors withing a mile or two and I know the others!  Jean and I are becoming good friends and we're having a grand time trading farm produce!

Today my daughter and I are canning tomatoes from Jean's AMAZING garden!
Last weekend, on our drive out to the coast for lunch, I took this picture of the lighthouse museum in Westport.  I love the HUGE flag - almost looks photo-shopped in, doesn't it?!

There is a long dock along the seawall protecting the marina from the ocean and we had walked out there and I snapped this with my new....SMART PHONE!!!  Yes, I have finally joined the ranks of, well, everyone else on the planet and now have a smart phone.  So far, it holds true and it is actually smarter than I am, so I try to leave it alone....
My son wanted to can caramelized onions, so early this morning we began sniffing and crying over a big pile of onions from the garden and they are all in a big turkey roaster.....out on the porch!  The entire farm smells like onions, seriously!  I guess we have to cook them forever and then we can them.  After all these years, we're still finding new canning adventures!

I've a bunch of other things going now, but shall save them for another post!  I'll just leave you with this....

I was standing at the sink, doing a few dishes (ok, a lot of dishes), and feeling just a bit sorry for myself (health issues I mentioned earlier) and doing a bit of praying.  "Lord, I just want to be able to do my work...serve my family....take care of stuff on our farm...."  And I realized that, standing there at the sink doing dishes, I was doing just that.  Sometimes I don't see all the good things the Lord has done for me when I'm busy concentrating on the not-so-good.  It brought to mind

Philippians 4:8King James Version (KJV)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Until next time, let's think on all those good things!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Life...it just keeps Happening!

Peace.  Quiet.  Calm.  Nope, that's not what's happening around here!  We're just 3 days from 'the wedding' and things continue to fall apart!  Day before yesterday I started feeling twinges in my stressed gut...and sure enough I'm in the middle of a recurrence of the dreaded diverticulitis.  So, while I should be hemming the hubby's new dress slacks, ironing all the wedding finery and preparing for the weekend's festivites....I am sitting in my recliner with a heating pad and sipping chicken broth!  AND I burned my tongue and the roof of my mouth badly because I AM OBVIOUSLY NEW AT DRINKING FROM A CUP???

In the last couple of weeks my toaster, Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and the daughter's laptop all bit the dust.  Last night the septic system decided it's ready to be pumped.
 AND, if  ONE MORE PERSON suggests that we must be thrilled that our daughter, (after we've gotten so used to her) is getting married and moving 2 1/2 hours away....I shall scream!

Okay, okay.  Of course, we are thrilled for her and even for ourselves as her intended is a fabulous young man.....but emotions are running high and did I mention we are...well....stressed?

Deep breath.  Sigh.  In a house full of chronically ill people, a big event seems even bigger.
We took a day and went to......the beach of course.  It's our favorite.  The face above is on a jetty at Westport.   The left picture is to put it in better perspective.  (remember to click on a picture to make it bigger).

I just realized that the viewing tower is shaped like a lighthouse when I took this picture.  I have been there many times and never realized it before.  Duh!
 Then, hubby and I took a one-night camping trip to Ft Stevens State Park again.  This is the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, with typical Washington/Oregon June weather, of course.

 The Army Corps of Engineers built this viewing platform.    There is a sign nearby warning that it is to be used At Your Own Risk.  It sways in the breeze or if too many people walk on it.....
 My favorite part of the Fort....the military ruins.  These stairs lead uphill to Battery David Russell.

It was a nice day, though the mosquitoes were fierce in the shadows.  One fun moment....We were basically the only people around but then a young couple with two little girls came up the steps and in view of the battery.  With a sudden intake of breath and a quick rush forward, one little girl said.....it's a CASTLE!!!!!!!

Pretty close, I'd say.
Wandering the ruins was enjoyable as always.  We also fished that evening in Coffenbury Lake.  I, of course, caught the biggest fish, no lie!

We had a close encounter with a bald eagle who swooped out of the sky to snatch up a caught-and-released trout from about 15 feet in front of us!  Beautiful, but definitely startling!  
 Battery Russell is just one small portion of the fort.  There are acres of ruins to discover and explore and also a museum where you can watch a video and see information on the history of this coastal defense dating from 1863 and the Civil War.
Well, times, they are a changing and we must change as well.  The farm won't be the same without our girl, but we trust that God has great things ahead for not just our girl and the Godly young man she waited all these years for, but for those of us still here on the farm, as well.  Now, if I can just survive the wedding!

On that note I shall sign off and go...eat...Jello.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Scared of the Dentist but Lemon Cake and Coffee to the Rescue!

 Meanwhile, back at the farm, life was continuing on at its usual pace.  Daughter has been packing, de-junking, sorting, and moving many of her belongings to the apartment they will live in after the wedding, a 2 plus hour trip away.  I am trying very hard not to accept any more junk er, valuable stuff to add to my own confusion.  Most of the wedding details are coming together now, enabling us to at least stop for a deep breath occasionally.  And even try to get the dishes done....or not.

 Wonder of wonders, Spring appears to be at least considering starting up here in SW Washington!  The skies refuse to clear completely, but we have had a few glimpses of...is it called sunshine?...and the rains have lessened up enough that we probably won't kill each other after all!  I mow the garden when I mow the yard, just to keep the jungle under control, but the bulk of this year's produce may be produced somewhere else.

We celebrated a subdued Mother's Day.  My kids were awesome, of course, but I started the day out missing my Mom and couldn't quite put it out of my thoughts for the day.

We also celebrated my son's birthday...complete with balloons, confetti, noisemakers and hats.  He's 31, by the way.  His request was Esther's Orange Marmalade Cake from the Mitford Series of books by Jan Karon!  If you make one, you'll keep making them, I warn you!


 I am a complete dental coward.  I wake up in a panic all the preceding days of a looming appointment.  In need of a tooth extraction, I bravely made an appointment and drove in to the office (45 minutes of anticipatory anxiety), fidgeted in the waiting room and finally got in to my...consultation.  My blood pressure was up and I was a nervous wreck and THAT was just the consultation!  I have now had the procedure done and am home recuperating, albeit I make a poor patient as I am in no wise 'patient' as I wait to get back to normal.

 The last time I had a general anasthetic I was 21 years old.  Decades have passed since that time and I'm pretty sure I got over it quicker back then.  Wednesday was my tooth-pulling and as of today (Saturday), my limbs still feel like lead and I'm decidedly cranky.  I'm pretty sure it's mostly due to the fact that I really figured mowing the lawn on my riding mower would make me better faster and when I got out there, it had a flat tire.  Normally I am a very sweet and pleasant gal, but I confess to having a small fit, stomping into the house and slamming the door.  I tiptoed out later to see that my dear husband has removed the offending tire and taken it into town with him.  Hopefully he won't be afraid to come back.

Mushy food is the theme this week and today's
special is Chicken Pot Pie!  Yes, even if I have to be propped up in the kitchen, we still eat
homemade food.  If I were totally honest,
I would have to say that today I probably would
have eaten store-bought, if the darn store
weren't so far away.  A 40 minute trip in,
major hike through Walmart and a 40 minute
trip back sounds as difficult to me today as
contemplating the Boston Marathon!

On the bright side....hmmm.  Just a minute.  No, just kidding!  There is always a bright side and I'm thrilled that dental technology is what it is.  Nothing like when I was a kid.

My computer has been my companion whilst recuperating, so I have new recipes to try.  This Lemon Cake was divine (and soft!).  We put Lemon Curd in between layers and a light glaze on top.

Recipe found here:
http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com
 I did wander around and take some pictures of the mess place and there is much to do.  Warmer temperatures and plenty of rain have made everything grow like the rain forest, so no danger of boredom!  We're still milking three goats and raising a bottle calf, so I made the trek to the barn this morning.  I felt pretty good until I was washing up the milking machine and it seemed heavier than usual.  Actually, the house was farther from the barn than it was last week, too.
A few of the rabbits are having litters and the chickies are totally feathered out so I'll take pictures of animals next time.

Well, Chicken Pot Pie is almost ready so I'm off to gum it down, lol, and then sit on the porch swing and watch the grass grow for a bit!  WAIT!  I need COFFEE! That's the problem!  I missed a whole day of coffee back on Wednesday and you just don't get over these things that fast.  Huh.  Well, glad I've got it now, so I'm off (so to speak...)!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Skillet Burger Meal and Deteriorating Brain Cells

My brain cells are dying off at an alarming rate.  Does this happen to everyone who has a daughter getting married?  And, more importantly, will they come back (brain cells, not the daughter)???

In between all the 9,764,321 little details involved in getting ready for this special event, life has the nerve to continue happening!

I had naively believed that, why of COURSE I can handle a vendor space at our large Country Chicks Spring event.....
 And I DID.  I nearly did myself in trying to get everything accomplished.  Cute chickens, friendly foxes, rascally rabbits....I sewed, stuffed, painted, cut, wired.  And we went.  And we conquered.  And our vocabulary continues to shrink.  Soon I will be so tired as to be reduced to monosyllabic grunts.

The hubby figured a clamming trip was just the thing!  We could 'get away' and 'enjoy the beach'.  Fancy words for....let's get up before daylight and drive for an hour and a half and hike a mile to the beach, then dig like crazy for cold, wet clams!  Last dig of the season, so off we went.
 He forgot his toothbrush.   And his seizure meds.  I got stung by a hornet.  I remembered the meds for him.  The toothbrush was another matter.

Three morning clam digs and 90 harvested razor clams later, we were all 'rested up' and came home.  Can you say laundry, dishes, housework, animal chores, lawns to mow?  When does the 'rest' begin?

Did you know that you can make a really delicious meal in one skillet if you really don't want to do any dishes?
 I put a couple of lovely lean hamburger patties in and while they began to brown, I added chopped onion, then a sliced red potato...a few brussels sprouts and a handful of fresh green beans.  A little salt & pepper, lid on until veggies were tender and VOILA! a gourmet dinner in a skillet!  Quick, easy and oh, so delicious.



The people at the beach were a bit on the strange side.  This fella wouldn't even speak to us.
 His gal just gave me a funny look, but neither one objected to my taking their pictures.  They're quite photogenic - no doubt people ask them all the time!
 Francis goes on every camping trip with me, but she thought perhaps we should slow down just a bit.  She was also pouting because she was wearing a polka-dot dress that she hated.

A couple days after we got back (today) we had a group wedding-invitation-making gathering.  Six adults, five kids and we made a big dent in the work, but haven't finished yet (of course).

People no more than headed out than our beautiful sunny (80*) day turned absolutely black & stormy!  Hail the size of quarters, thunder & lightning....and one HUGE strike!
 Even inside the house it made our ears ring and scared me BIG TIME!  Still don't know what got hit, but the house, outbuildings and vehicles appear to be fine, so we stayed inside.  The storm seems to have passed over now, so I'm thinking a trip to the barn to check on the animals is in order.
Looking out the window at the peak of the storm I noticed that I'd left my truck window down.  Ugh...Did I mention my brain cells are rapidly deteriorating?  While getting ready for today's card-making gathering, I announce that I should put an apron on to preserve my clean clothes and then marched with purpose to the refrigerator and peered inside.  "We don't keep the aprons in here anymore," I proclaimed to the room at large.  And then I retrieved my apron from the pantry.

This is just after trying to make breakfast a day or so ago and, being unable to locate the pan spray for the pancake griddle, I say, "I need the....spray...paint!  No.  SPRAY paint.  Spray PAINT.  Hmmm.  Spray?  Paint?"

"STOP SAYING THAT!" says my alarmed younger daughter.  "Oh, I found it!" says I.  The...PAN SPRAY.

On that note, I shall stop this post.  And maybe go lay down for a bit, lol.  May the fourth be with you.  And your brain cells, too!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Our New Best Friend at the Tokeland Hotel

 For some reason, we have become middle-aged in recent years.  I distinctly vaguely remember that we used to be, well, younger.  Hmmph.  Well, no matter.  We are who we are, even if we aren't who we were.  Though we're who we were still on the inside.  If you know what I mean.  (Did I mention I've been a bit stressed again?)

Dave & I had a grand small adventure the other day.  We've recently purchased a camper van for the express reason of making life on the road easier for me.



I basically suffer from agoraphobia/panic
disorder and find travel to be difficult and
a self-contained home-away-from-home
to drive relieves a bit of stress for me.

Anyhow, I digress.  This 'new' to us camper van has not been without its...shall we say 'kinks' to be worked out?  (The kids have threatened to ground us if we call for help again!)

We did pretty well this trip and managed to get home without too much difficulty....
We drove to the beach via Grayland, Tokeland and on to our destination...Westport Washington and the home of Bennett's Fish Shack where they serve THE MOST DELICIOUS fish and chips in the world.  (My world, at least!)  Oh. Man. It. Was. SO GOOD!  I mean, just look at it!
(Be sure to click on the picture and make it bigger so you can really smell see it!)
I could eat it again right now, even though it's 8:30pm and I had dinner at 6, not to mention they're only open on weekends.... We're talking fresh halibut and beer-battered cod here. Tartar sauce, french fries.  (Great.  I just talked myself into a snack before bedtime!)
 We stopped at Wash-Away Beach (where the State Highway and many acres of land & homes have been devoured by the ocean) and sat on the rocks to enjoy the evening sun for a bit.

Then we thought of coffee and dessert!  (Yes, food rules our lives.)   On our way toward home, we remembered the historic Tokeland Hotel.  Alas, it was CLOSED when we arrived, but the proprietress was outside and when we explained that we were looking for coffee & dessert, she invited us in anyhow!

Katherine served us warm Marionberry Cobbler with ice cream for Dave and whipped cream for me.
She had hot coffee out in a minute and I asked if she wouldn't consider sitting down and having dessert with us!  "Don't mind if I do!", said she.
We chatted like old friends over our tasty repast, discussed my daughter's upcoming wedding and Katherine's recent loss of her husband and how hard it was to keep up the old hotel alone.

She enjoyed hearing about the wedding plans and suggested that since she was our new best friend, we should invite her...which we did!

As we left her vintage establishment and stopped to pay our bill, she refused our payment, saying it was her 'random act of kindness' for the day!

What a wonderful finale to our day out!  There are still lovely people out there, for sure.

In case you wonder if our camper van gave us any struggles on this trip....yes it did!  When we were about 10 or 12 miles still from home, it sputtered and died (it's done this before, I'm afraid).  Now, we live OUT.  I'm talking, rural and lonely two lane road with no shoulders and very sharp corners!  We panicked, calmed ourselves, called home to warn them that we might need assistance.  PRAYED it would start again...and it did!  We limped into our big town (pop. 775) and made it to the gas station to add more gas.  You see, it sat with old gas in it too long and when it got low (quarter tank) it started sputtering.  We have now fixed that, but I'm afraid we'll have to sneak out next time we plan an adventure!  Wonder if Bennett's Fish Shack is open nights.........

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Overwhelming Ides of March

When you aren't overwhelmed....are you just, well, whelmed?  I think I could use a little bit of underwhelmedness for awhile!

It's been a long winter here in good ole Washington.  First, we had a fair bit of snow.

And then it rained.  It snowed some more.  Did I mention that it snowed?  And then rained?
 There was an extra cold spot in front of the dishwasher that I mentioned several times to my hubby.  He finally crawled under the house, only to find that it was a mess!  A leak that apparently happened long ago and now enough house was rotted that it required new floor joists and removal of the cabinet, which meant all new countertops.  The kitchen was out of commission for quite a bit, but I do enjoy the new countertops and new cast iron sink I got out of the deal!
 Then it snowed some more.  Did I also mention that here in the Pacific Northwest we do not get a lot of snow?  Usually.

Zen the Shetland Sheep thought it was just fine.  We thought it made chores a bit chilly.

The goats insisted on kidding and the kids added up.  More chilly chores.

I bought a milking machine and finally convinced myself to learn how to use it in self defense.
 As if tearing the kitchen apart and doing gazillions of chores in the snow were not enough, we also got another kitten.  What possessed us to do that?  Well, Mr. Ripley, the first kitten, is aloof and unfriendly and dear youngest daughter badly wanted a cuddly companion.  So, Theo has joined the insanity family and now there are two CRAZED AND MANIACAL young cats AND an opinionated chihuahua in my house.  They spend most of their waking hours tearing around the house and sharpening their claws on my furniture.  Can you say.......CAT and DOG HAIR IS EVERYWHERE???  Oh.  my.  word.
Just to be sure that my nerves don't settle down, my oldest daughter has become ENGAGED.  This is a very happy occasion, do not get me wrong, but it is also fraught with....things.  Things on the calendar, things to plan, things to remember, things to do.....So many THINGS!  She is thrilled.  Her intended is a wonderful  like-minded Christan young man.  We are thrilled.  At least I think we will be when we get over the shock of it all, lol.

I think I missed my long winter's nap.  Wonder if it's too late?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Easy Peasy Broccoli Cheese Soup for a Winter's Day

 I've almost written a blog post a dozen times....and now a couple months have gotten past me!  I'll not make excuses, I'll just dive right in!

Winter has hit the Pacific Northwest in a more, well, winter-like way than usual!  We've had snow & icy temperatures more often, which I'm enjoying to the fullest!

Well, except for today, since I've got a nasty cold bug and the trip to the barn for evening chores sounds exhausting at the moment!


Our Christmas Country Chicks event went
 fabulously, though I completely exhausted myself sewing and crafting endlessly beforehand.  My Ebay and Etsy stores are still going strong, so those long, slow Winter days of lazily quilting by the fire haven't happened yet!  More like frantic bursts of sewing, stuffing, painting and sanding.

Today I made a nice Broccoli Cheese Soup, since I have a cold and it sounded comforting.  It's really easy to make:  Boil a pot of broccoli florets until they're as done as you like them.  Drain them and set aside for a minute.
In a separate kettle, melt a cube of butter.  Remove it from the heat and whisk in a half cup of flour.  When it's totally smooth, whisk in a pint of chicken broth and a cup of milk.

 Now you can return it to the heat and stir until it's bubbly and thickened.  I added about a cup of grated cheddar and a cup of smokey swiss cheeses (you can choose your own favorite) and a handful of frozen bacon bits.
Next you can toss the cooked broccoli in and stir.  I like my soup a bit thinner, so I added another pint of chicken broth.  You can thin it with more milk, if you'd rather.  Either way, it's delicious and will put hair on your chest!  (wait...what?)
Feel free to season it with pepper & salt to taste.
Eat up, we're not making dinner tonight.  Can you say....toast and hot cocoa?  I told you I have a cold!
 This is a corner of the garden, taken about a month ago.  The grass in there is greener than the lawn!  It'll take a bit of rototilling to get it back in shape come Spring.

Ripley the cat races through the house and flings himself against the sliding glass door repeatedly when he sees Tippy, the ouside cat.  Eventually he settles down....wherever he wants to, often in my crafting room.
 We've had a couple of lovely snows a week or two ago, and I got outside to wander and look for tracks.  Bobcat, rabbit, raccoon and a solitary elk wandered the road down to the valley.  Rumor has it that a cougar has been spotted repeatedly about 3 or 4 miles from here.  We haven't seen it or any sign so far this season.
 We've got long strings of Christmas lights along the fences that will stay until they burn out!  That long walk to the barn is much friendlier at night when there's a light to guide you!  Unlike in the city, where there are street lights, it is very dark here in the back woods!

I think I shocked a visitor recently when I mentioned that, yes indeed, we do milk the goats twice a day, every day!

So far, two of our milkers have freshened (given birth to kid goats) and each had triplets!  That means I go to the barn at 8am and again at 6pm or so to milk Shiloh and Merrieanne,  and then bottle feed six hungy babies!
Thankfully, the girls help me!

Isn't this a beautiful picture of the snow on the trees?   I was thinking about the first snow of the season on the forested hills outside my kitchen window:  The snow illumines each tree, changing the forest from a green mass to hundred of unique individuals.  I imagine that God sees us that way - where I see a crowd, the masses;  God sees each unique individual illuminated.
 A young family man we know was part of a project to film a living nativity over the Christmas holidays.  Afterwards, I received a call from him, asking if we'd be interested in some farm animals:  free of cost AND delivered!

Meet Mortimer, the bull calf (heart on forehead) and Harriet the heifer!  They are sweet little babies and growing like weeds!
Also in the package deal were four sheep!  Hmmm, I can see some woolly projects in my crafting future!

A little black goat came along, too.  She had suffered from starvation at a previous home and arrived in very poor condition, nearly unable to stand and with very little interest in life.  I broke out my arsenal of goat remedies and I'm happy to say, she is very gradually improving!   In her emaciated state, she was not worth a nickel, so I named her Bad Penny!
Here are the first of the triplets born.  For some reason, I've been busy enough to not remember to take my camera down to the barn now that there are actually six of them!

Farm life changes continually, and at the same time it stays very much the same.  Animals and chores come & go and we tend to do the same kinds of things over and over through the years.

Well, I've caught up for now and it's about time for chores again, so I'll stuff my pockets with kleenex, and take my aching self down to the barn.  Imagine how good that woodstove is going to feel when I'm done with chores and can collapse in my recliner for the evening again!