Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Pointless Lists

Well, there goes summer. This always happens--it's the Fourth of July, an then suddenly, September. The girls start school in four days, and while I'll miss sleeping in every morning (going to work at 1 p.m. is awesome), I'm kind of looking forward to getting back into our regular routine. Um, and having four hours of quiet every morning, what, don't judge me.

So. August. For some reason I didn't really write anything on the calendar this month (I like to keep track of what we've been up to. Usually), so it's a bit of a challenge to remember what happened. But here's what I've come up with: Really hot weather. Tomatoes! Our canyon adventure. School shopping in Portland. (Ugh, malls.) We got rid of our LAN line and went all cell. Oh, jeez, and I met the Governor! That was kind of cool.

Well, good enough. Pointless list time!

Books read:
This is so sad, you guys--I didn't read any books at all. What happened is I found this...

Check this out:
ReFashionista. Actually, I've known about this site for a while, but this month I started at the beginning and worked my way through ALL of her posts. Basically this chick takes thrift store finds--for $1 or less--and turns them into things you'd actually WANT to wear. I've never sewn clothes--although I have made plenty of quilts and wall hangings--but this makes me really want to try to refashion something myself. I'm still working up the nerve.

Garden update:
Our poor little garden is just not doing as well this year as it has in the past. I guess the good news is that our 12 tomato plants are doing okay, which is most of the battle as far as I'm concerned. So lots of tomatoes, and lots of basil--which means lots of pesto. Fun fact: Abby loves pesto pasta. Johanna would rather eat her pasta plain. Eric puts pesto on anything that sits still long enough. I like it, myself, but only as a friend.

Canning update:
I only canned a box of peaches this year, instead of my usual two, because we still have half a dozen in the pantry from last year. My peaches this year are gorgeous. Last year, not so much. Whatevs.  I also did another box of tomatoes. Pretty!

Not canning, but I've been drying cherry tomatoes for the freezer (too much of a worrywart to just leave them on the shelf). I also dried apricots, but I can't remember if that was this month or last. Time, you know. Confusing.

Things I learned:
When your jaw hurts because you clench it for like a week straight, and you go online to see if there's anything you can do to get some relief, the predominate advice is simply not to clench your jaw. As a chronic clench-er, trying not to clench my jaw is frustrating and makes me want to clench my jaw. See where I'm going here?

Also: I already knew this, but seriously, when the going gets tough, Eric is awesome. I like that boy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Very Canyon Vacation

Golden Spike! You can see a replica from 1990 because
the real spikes are actually at Stanford University.
I'm sorry, you guys--going on that vacation really kicked my duff. (Thanks,!) I've started a couple of posts, but just didn't have the time or the will to finish them. Since getting home Friday evening, I've just been trying to get back into the swing of things. This has proven to be way harder than anticipated. I'm behind at work, I'm behind at home, and all I want to do is nothing. (The strength I got from eating coffee ice cream is what finally pushed me to finish this. Once again, coffee saves the day!)

To Reader's Digest condensed book this thing (um, anyone else know that those things are?), here's what we did:

Day 1: End up in Twin Falls (Idaho)
Day 3: Bryce Canyon (Utah)
Day 4: North Rim at the Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Day 5: Zion National Park (Utah)
Day 6: Home! (Oregon!)
Cathedral of the Madeleine. I love Instagram. P.S. Salt Lake City is like a really
nice downtown Portland. Good to know.
We spent most of our time in Utah. Quick observation: You'd think they'd know how to make a decent cup of decaf in that state, and yet, not so much. Finding a coffee shop was actually harder than finding a bar. That Starbucks in Cedar City was like an oasis in the desert, I tell you what. We also saw one in Logan, but circumstances being what they were, I wasn't able to show my support by patronizing that particular business. Thank heavens the motels we stayed at had coffee (I went caffeinated, stomach be damned, it tasted terrible, that's why God gave us cream) or I'd have been in a world of hurt.

(Cranky Steve, who is a Mormon, said that there aren't any coffee shops in Utah because of "clean living." He actually told me this with a Pepsi in his hand. I appreciated that.) 

The trip started bad and ended bad*, but the middle was fantastic. Utah has quite a rugged kind of beauty, and all the parks we visited were gorgeous. (Well, maybe not the Golden Spike, but we had a very enthusiastic Park Ranger, so I have to give points for that.) Bryce is just unique, the Grand Canyon is huge, and Zion is... well, I don't know how to explain Zion, except to say it was our overall favorite. It was just cool.
Bryce Canyon is, according to Ebenezer Bryce, "a hell of a place to lose a cow."
I just take his word for it.
The girls were enthralled with the electrical storms--we don't have those kind of storms in Oregon. (I mean, sure, we have lightening... maybe twice a year... for an hour.) We lucked out because, while we got into plenty of storms, we always got into them as we were leaving a park. One of my favorite memories is the girls jumping around in the rain just as we were heading back to the car at Bryce. Other people were running into the lodge and looking at them like they were crazy, and I was all, um, we're from Oregon. One lady said, web feet, right? And I was like, word! So that was heartwarming, as was the fact she was a former Oregonian. Another memorable storm: Leaving the Grand Canyon, the storm was so overhead that the thunder and lightening was simultaneous. Crazy!

We had some early mornings in order to fit everything in, but we also had a couple of days where we got to our hotel early and were able to unwind. I enjoyed me some hot tubs, I tell you what, and Johanna went into every single swimming pool. The older girls had some internet time. Eric isn't really much of a relaxer, so he'd just plan the next day's activities. Well, whatever works for you.
The Grand Canyon is aptly named. Also, the North Rim is where it's at--way less
commercial than the South.
After this trip Eric and I were trying to decide if we really have it in us to do a BIG trip. You know, like camping in Alaska for like three weeks or something, which is Eric's dream. Personally I think that for next year's big vacation, we should pick a town (I'm gunning for Seattle. We've been so lame about exploring our neighbor state to the north) and just kind of... do stuff around one area (um, like go drink coffee and people watch downtown, or ride a ferry, or go for a quick jaunt to Forks, which I still want to see even though everyone is dissing Twilight hard these days--whatever, people, you know you read those books and liked them! I have the collector's box set, and I'm not even that embarrassed to admit it). I guess we'll see. Next summer seems very far away.

*Beginning: We were on this trip with my parents and my niece. Just outside of Baker City, Oregon--a mere four hours into our trip or something--my dad had some kind of allergic reaction and managed to pull the car to the side of the highway (and put it in park) before passing out. We were in a separate car behind them, and weren't sure what had happened at first. Mom waved us out of the car and told me to call 911. Dad was only out for a few minutes, and was awake again by the time the paramedics came. But super scary. The girls were all freaking out--Johanna thought she was going to throw up--and I think the only reason I did not was because 1) I was on the phone with a very calming dispatcher and B) I had things to do, i.e. calm the children, while my brave husband helped my parents. Anyway, my parents decided to head home as a precaution. I'm happy to report that Dad went to the doctor and all his tests came back normal, and he's been feeling great. I spent the rest of the vacation taking pictures with my iPod to send them whenever we got into some wi-fi. While not EXACTLY like being on the vacation we'd been planning for like a year or whatevs, I know my parents enjoyed seeing what we were up to, at least.
Zion was Utah's first National Park. Now we know why.
Ending: What our niece did not tell us, when she decided to hop into our car for the remainder of the trip, is that she had a sore throat. No big deal, right? Except it got progressively worse as time went on. We don't see this kid very often, so we weren't sure how serious it really was. She'd complain she didn't feel good, but then she'd be playing in the pool, for example. Anyway, second to the last day, in cute Logan, Utah, she decides she wants to go to urgent care and guess what? She has Mono. That last day was super, super sucky. I'm just glad that we got as far into our trip as we did before she started feeling really bad. She was super miserable... and so were we.

(But seriously... the middle was great! Go see some National Parks! They're awesome!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pointless updates

(Um, oops, while I was working on this I hit "publish" instead of "save," and someone actually clicked on it in the five seconds it took me to realize my error. So if that one person was you... that was a draft. Here's the real thing.)

There are a few things I've been wanting to write about, except none of them alone warrant a post. Possibly all three together don't warrant a post, I don't know, the good news is that this is my blog and I get to do whatever I want. Mostly.
This has nothing to do with the updates. I just like this picture of our cat. He's looking very pensive.
I have been making this iced coffee (and vanilla syrup) all summer long, except I've refined my technique. I like to have more coffee than milk in my glass (and a whole lot of vanilla, what, don't judge me), so here's what I've found works for me:

1/4 pound ground coffee
3 to 4 quarts of water (depending on how I'm feeling that day)

Combine and let sit for 12+ hours. Strain, chill, drink. I think that's the beauty of this recipe--you can tweak it so it's perfect for you. Also: I've been hearing from an awful lot of people that this recipe has changed their lives and they've cut back considerably on their coffeehouse visits. I know! Me too! It's awesome!

For the first time in over a year--since Trisha's Homemade Cleaner Month, actually--I had Eric buy a box of laundry detergent. And people, it's weird. After a year of no smells (I'm not a fan of manufactured smells) it about knocks my socks off when I go anywhere near the laundry room. (THIS is the recipe I've been using... you have to scroll a bit, but there it is.)

I've been very happy with my homemade detergent. But Eric's been having some problems with his white t-shirts becoming really dingy really fast, and since this used to never happen, I can only conclude that my homemade mix is to blame. So here's to experimenting, I guess. I'm hoping the headache from that "fresh smell" eventually goes away.

Not long ago (or maybe it was, I don't know, time is a mystery), I wrote about my frustrations with my minimalistic endeavors. Somewhere in that post I mentioned trying to find stainless steel kitchen utensils that were made in America to replace my worn out plastic Pampered Chef tools.

I found myself flush with unexpected cash in July, thanks to the front office winning some company-wide classified ad contest (yay us!). I decided to use it to replace my kitchen tools. I'd been eyeing the All Clad stuff, which apparently used to be made in America but is now made in China (at least the utensils, anyway). It gets great reviews, so I went for it and got the 6-piece set, plus the pasta spoon and tongs. This in no way replaces everything I had, but I tossed my oldies in a donation bag and decided to just use the more minimal set. And you know what? I love this stuff. It's probably overkill for a home kitchen--it's heavy duty, yo--but man, it's pretty! And functional! And works like a champ! (That pasta spoon I was wondering about, but it's my favorite piece. It's magic!) Eric has already somehow managed to scrape up the outer part of my ladle, but since this is kitchenware and not museum art, I'm letting that go. It'll all be scraped up sooner or later, right?, with use. (I'm SO MATURE. It's really hard.)

I really haven't missed anything I didn't replace except for my potato masher (All Clad doesn't make that, and I'm OCD about matching), but we're managing somehow without one.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The irony of wearing Justin Bieber Perfume ironically

No source. I don't want to encourage anyone.
Abby, Johanna and I were at Rite Aide recently for incidentals, like hair color (me) and mascara (Abby) and hair bands (Jo). You know, girl stuff. Anyway, we were searching for the hair bands when Abby comes up behind me and is like, look Mom! Justin Bieber Perfume! and pretended like she was going to squirt me with that crap. And I was all, as if, put that down, and she was all, noooooo! because she's a teenager and spunky, and then she went to squirt some on her wrist for a joke, but the pump thing was broken and a big ol' stream came out instead all over the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

Ugh, it smelled terrible.

And she was all, this is making my stomach hurt! and I was all, it's giving me a headache, and Johanna was all, I want those hair bands right there.

So then we were laughing about the irony of Abby trying to wear Justin Bieber Perfume ironically, and Johanna was all like, there's always someone in my class who loves Justin Bieber and has his t-shirts and gives out his Valentines, in this voice that kind of reminded me of my grandma when she's confused about Kids These Days.

It was awesome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday "Art," Portland Zoo mural edition

P.S. I started saying "adorbs" ironically, but now I say it all the time un-ironically,
so let that be a lesson to you, kids.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mother of the Year

Sometimes I really find myself questioning my life choices, like on Monday, when I was in the Dutch Bros. drive-through and I ordered my eight-year-old her own Americano.

I was like, two small decaf Americanos with cream, and PLEASE don't judge me, but one of those is for my eight-year-old and she likes it milky. And the barista was all, oh, so one regular cream and one extra cream? and I was all, yes! Thank you! And then she's like, don't worry about it, my mom used to get me coffee at this age, and Johanna pipes up with a, I've been drinking coffee since I was three! and it was all rather heartwarming, except for the part where I felt like a failure as a mother.

Then Johanna sucked her coffee down like a college kid after a bad night, and I was kind of proud. Well, it was pretty good.

Um, that's all. The end.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Johanna's Backyard Carnival

Let's just get this out here right now: My parents, while perfectly reasonable while guiding me through my formative years, are completely insane when it comes to my children. My only explanation for this is that being a grandparent does something to a person's brain. Or maybe heart.

Anyway, my parents watch my girls A LOT (especially our Johanna. We owe them so much it's not even funny). A couple of years ago, my mother told Johanna a story about how, when she was but a wee lass, she would put on backyard carnivals for the neighbors. She only had a couple of booths because she was like ten or something, but Johanna hears this, and she's all, let's do that! and my mother is like, great idea!

And that's how Johanna's Backyard Carnival was born. The first one was in 2011. It was a smashing success. They meant to do it again last year, but sometimes life gets in the way of fun stuff. It happens. This year is a much better year all around, so the carnival was back on. Mom, Dad and Johanna had planned it for months, adding new booths to the list, finding prizes and necessary items, making signs et al. There's a lot of "et al" here because my parents' put on a pretty legit backyard carnival, just FYI. Let's just say that while planning does happen during the winter months, pretty much their entire July and August were devoted to this thing.

Thanks to my Aunt Joan, who's downsizing her possessions, the main prizes were Beanie Babies purchased in the '90s, which WERE going to be worth thousands but are now worth like a nickel apiece. She had so many other things she wanted to get rid of too, actually, that my parents set up a Bonus Prize table.

Everything about this year's carnival was bigger. There were more booths and more prizes, they set it up so more of the yard was utilized, and there were even more kids. There was a bubble machine and lots of balloons. There were snow cones and bags of popcorn and cupcakes. And there was even a picnic lunch.

My favorite part was just standing by the gate as the kids came in. There was always a collective intake of breath (by the kids and their parents) when they first spied the backyard. Mom had pretty bags for their goodies and even a bracelet of carnival tickets. There was so much to look at that every single one of them took a tour around the yard first before getting down to business. One kid even asked if it was someone's birthday, and Abby, who was working the face painting booth, was like, no, it's just something we do for Johanna.

For Johanna's part, she absolutely loved showing kids the booths, being with her friends (some she hasn't seen all summer), and giving away the prizes she had earned (that's my girl!). She felt so, so special, and honestly, I can't thank my parents enough for going through all this hassle just for a couple of hours of fun for the kid.

P.S. My favorite mother-in-law came to help, as did my Aunt Carol and Aunt Jan, who brought my cousin Clara and baby Maggie (who wasn't quite sure what to think of all this). We love help!

I think the rest of this post will just be pictures so you can get an idea of how insane and dedicated my parents are. I didn't include pics of all the booths because there were 11 of them and... well, it was getting long. Also, I didn't include photos with kids in them (aside from Jo) because not everyone wants their kid's pic online. But this should, at least, give you an idea.

P.P.S. If you're someone I know in real life, I did make a scrapbook on Snapfish. Email me and I'll send you the link.
First sight from the gate
Balloon Darts safely tucked away so no one would lose an eye
Beanie Baby Toss 
Bonus Prize table bench 
Cupcake Walk through my parents' flowers.
Fishing was a BIG HIT.
Ring Toss, with the popcorn and snow cone table behind.
Yet another prize table.
This one is a hit with the younger kids. Well, water, you know.
Johanna had to try out the bubble machine beforehand to make sure it worked properly.
Main prize table
Cupcakes came out at the last minute because it was hot and Mom was afraid the frosting would melt.
P.S. Decorated by my darling children.

I love the signs the girls made... they make me laugh.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday "Art," Johanna's backyard carnival edition

Ready for kids! 
I'm working on a post about Johanna's backyard carnival... but it's going to take time.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How I saved the entire world

We have been tremendously busy at work, which is hard to feel bad about when you're in the newspaper business. Yesterday was a crazy day for classified ads. And it wasn't even a deadline day. Garage sales, rentals, random junk, the phone just kept ringing. It made it a bit difficult for me to write this little piece on some guys and their canoe (that's a story for another time), but I'm getting kind of good at writing in fits and starts. I have an article in this week's paper that I never did have time to read all the way through before submitting it--and I submitted it only because I had to. Deadlines are not the most forgiving of things. Neither is writing at the front desk. (And I still haven't read it, but that's just because I'm afraid.)

Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right. Here's how I saved the world: Around 3 p.m. I got a call about a lost parrot. The lady was hoping it would be a free ad, but when I told her it was actually a $10, two week ad, she didn't hesitate. I always kind of feel bad about that $10 charge, whatever, we got down to business. People call in lost pets all the time, and it's heartbreaking. You've got this beloved family member wandering about in the wilderness* and you just want it back. Dogs generally get found; cats are a little harder. Birds? I didn't have high hopes for this lady, but I could understand the need to do something.
I write an ad about where the bird was lost and how badly he wants to come home. I take the lady's credit card info, wish her luck, and go back to my canoe story.

The phone rings not ten minutes later, and it's this kid saying, uh, we found this bird... and I was like, WHERE ARE YOU?, and the kid told me where they'd found it, and I was like, you have GOT to be kidding me. Let me get you a phone number.

Because dude! That was the bird!

I figured I'd give them a half hour to make arrangements, and then call the lady to tell her I was voiding her credit card charge, but she called me. She was so excited because someone had just called her, and I was like, yeah... and started telling her about the phone call and giving out her number, and it apparently had not occurred to her that the paper had something to do with this because she was shocked. So she's thanking me profusely, and I tell her yay, you found your bird! and it was all rather heartwarming.

After I hung up I remembered a lady coming into the office maybe this past spring with a parrot on her shoulder--wearing a cone, that was a sight--and a puppy on a leash, but the puppy had not been trained to sit on her shoulder, so it was just on the floor. (Ha.) She was walking all over the place and the bird just stayed on her shoulder. I wonder if THAT was the lady. I wonder if the bird was out of his cone and what made him decide to take off.

It's a mystery.

But anyway, that's how I saved the world. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

And then I took a call from this guy who was ticked off about a photo we'd run on the front page, and since the reporter who took the thing wasn't in, he decided to just yell at me a little bit. (Well, it was more like a condescending rant then yelling, let's be accurate in our descriptions here.)

You can't win them all.

*Or neighborhood. Whatever.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No big deal, I just met the Governor

You guys, I have not met very many famous people. I haven't even SEEN that many famous people. Once I saw Tanya Harding ice skating at the mall in Portland. In fifth grade they had schoolchildren sing at the re-dedication of Bonneville Dam ('83!) and I got Bob Packwood's and Mark Hatfield's autographs. They're right next to Mickey Mouse and my classmate's autographs, actually. I went to a Tori Amos concert in the mid-90s, and that's also about the time I saw The Screaming Trees. Once at Disneyland we saw the cast of Full House, but Mom wouldn't let us talk to them even though they were all wearing Full House denim jackets (not exactly under the radar) so we just stood quite a ways in front of them and Mom snapped a picture with them in the background. One of them waved. So much for stealth.

I can't think of anything else, and I realize this is all rather pushing it. I'm trying to make a point people, jeez. And that point is that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber came into our office yesterday.
John Kitzhaber! From his Facebook page!
I think this story is best told as I described it on Facebook last night:
This is just to say that Governor John Kitzhaber came into the office today and shook my hand (he has quite the grip) and said he was pleased to meet me (and then I just stood there grinning at him like an idiot) and then I presented him with one of the News' Legacy books and he said thank you when he left the building and I'm pretty sure this means we're best friends.
I was sorely tempted to tell him I am a big fan of his work, but I was also trying to be professional and not pathetic, so I went the grinning idiot route, and he smiled back (probably because he was worried for me, who cares, John Kitzhaber smiled at me!), so I think it just as well.

P.S. I called Eric immediately because apparently the rest of the office is used to shaking hands with high ranking government officials and were pretty calm about the whole thing, and I needed someone to properly appreciate what just happened. And he was all, did you tell him he's actually your boyfriend?, and I was like, he had a police detail, dude. So no.

P.P.S. Now that I think about it, I DID tell the police detail that I was thrilled to have just met the governor and probably came off looking like a fangirl. I did not get arrested or even tasered, so I guess we'll call this a win. But that might be because I gave them Legacy books, too. One got a paper cut when he put his books in the car and I gave him a bandaid. Um, I'll just stop now.