Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day highlights

A wet Memorial Day.

Sometimes life gives you opportunities that you never even thought possible. Like being able to spend a Sunday with both of your grandparents, decorating graves and hearing the family history one more time.

This is particularly miraculous because just two months ago, we thought we had lost my grandpa. And on Sunday he was walking around and cracking jokes and just having a good ol' time. I mean, whoa.

Actually, I guess that IS the highlight. We met my brother Tim and my parents and my grandparents' house, knocked out some rather eclectic bouquets assembly line style, and hit the road. We stopped at five different cemeteries, we saw where Gramps played high school football and where Gram lived when her family first came west from Wisconsin, and we heard all kinds of stories.

Like: My great great grandfather brought his family out west from Missouri, and then died less than a year later from pneumonia. His wife took the girls back home, but my great grandfather stayed.

It was fun.

Oh, and tangent alert, we had lunch at McDonalds, except I had packed a lunch for our little fam because I am kind of a poser when it comes to restaurants, plus I'm back on the no processed food train (unless you count that chocolate I recently purchased... but it's fair trade organic and high in cacao content, so it's basically a health food. Eric says it tastes like bark). My grandparents couldn't really understand why we would choose to eat sandwiches and carrot sticks instead of cheeseburgers and fries, but they think everything I do is awesome so it wasn't that big of a deal. And hey, McDonalds came through for me in a big way--they gave me a coffee in my reusable mug with steamed milk from their espresso bar and acted like it was no big deal when I was trying to explain my food allergies and how a Frappe wasn't really in my future. And since this was a small town with no other coffee options, I really appreciated this small act of kindness.

Johanna can make a bouquet out of anything.

And one more tangent except kind of not really, Johanna would pick whatever little flowers she could find growing up from the ground in every cemetery we visited and would place the little daisies or buttercups or dandelions or whatever on the graves near where we were, whether we knew who was buried there or not. Since these were fairly old cemeteries we were visiting for the most part, those were the only flowers some people got.

She's a sweetheart.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday "Art," as seen on the road edition

I thought this was a sign from God that it was time for more coffee, but Eric said
anything trucked in a vat with a flammable liquid warning is probably not
something I'd want to drink anyway. I don't think he knows me all that well.

P.S. Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 23, 2014

All Purpose Balm from Zero Waste Home

I haven't given up on my zero waste efforts; I just haven't written about it in a while. I get a little frustrated on this front because it's just so dang hard sometimes to find viable alternatives in our little town. It makes me want to give up, truth be told, but I can't. Because I am obsessed. And I will win.

The kitchen is the obvious place to start with this, and there I've made some good progress. One area that's proven a little more difficult is the bathroom. Specifically: My self care products.

I focus on myself, by the way, because Eric hasn't quite caught my mania yet. I'm a big fan of converting through example. Hey, it worked for minimalism. :)

All of that is to say: I've been making All Purpose Balm from Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home for a couple of months now, and I am in love.

Figure 1: Melting! Turns out it's hard taking a clear picture at
this stage because of the steam. Who knew?

I purchased Bea's book the minute it came out. For my Kindle, because that's the way I roll. It looks beautiful on my iPad's Kindle app (because I am all kinds of pretentious). I follow her blog and have learned so much from reading about her experiences. She's the reason I take jars and reusable bags to the store. True story.

Anyway, a couple of the recipes caught my eye immediately, one of which is her All Purpose Balm. I'm not going to share the recipe because, hello, copyright. Although she does have kind of a similar recipe on her blog here... but it's not exact. Look, let's just say this: The whole ordeal involves a mason jar (I used a cutie four-ouncer), beeswax (yay bulk section!), and oil (I used organic olive). And that's it. You melt and mix and if you mess it up (i.e., it's too thick or too thin), you simply remelt and add a dash more of this or that and see what happens.

Here's what happened: Awesomeness. Of which I am a big fan.

Figure 2: I love these jars. They're so cute.

Not on the first try, though. I didn't think it was going to be thick enough, so I added more beeswax. Alas and alack, I was wrong and it was then too thick. More melting, more oil, and perfection.

I'm on my second jar of this stuff now. It's just a delightful concoction that smells like honey that I can use on my face, lips and body in a general kind of way. I've even used a tiny bit in my hair as a leave-on conditioner. If I heat it momentarily in the microwave, it gets warm and lovely, and I can massage my feet and feel kind of like a princess, if princesses had to massage their own feet.

I'm exceedingly pleased with this as a face cream, by the way. I tend to break out a lot with commercial products, and my Adult Onset Acne (is that actually a thing? I may have just made that up. You're welcome, science) is so much better now.

Figure 3: Cooling on the counter. I reused a small tin
for easy lip balm access in my purse.

Pros: I enjoy smelling like honey; super easy to make; soft skin; all-natural; readily available bulk ingredients; inexpensive; zero waste!

Cons: Are you afraid of boiling hot oil? I'm not when it's only a few tablespoons. Just something to ponder.

P.S. Just in case you're wondering, this is not a paid endorsement of any kind. I mean, for one thing, my blog isn't big enough for anyone to think paying me is a decent financial investment, plus I wouldn't do that anyway. Take that, The Man! (But bribing me with coffee? That's an entirely different matter...)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday "Art," Skilly helps Eric with the softball lineup edition

That open eye says I'm on seriously shaky ground
for interrupting his beauty sleep with his BFF, the remote.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Care Package Project: May

Figure 1: Cody's college care package.

This month's Care Package Project is brought to you by Abby, even if I'm the one who did all the shopping because oops, time kind of got away from me (I know, shocker!) and this thing needed to go out by the 16th, so there wasn't time for a Walker Family Goes Shopping kind of extravaganza.

Have we actually ever even HAD a Walker Family Goes Shopping extravaganza? So maybe never mind.

Abby is the one who really wanted to send cousin Cody a care package. We meant to a couple of months ago, but then decided we'd wait until dead week / finals. Tangent Alert: When I was in college, the parent group would give students care packages during dead week, and it was awesome. My mommy always signed me up for the package, and I looked forward to them very much. All of that is just to say that so much depends upon sugary treats when you're finding excuses not to study.

Here's what we included (our grocery store has some awesome, random stuff):

Figure 2: Load o' crap

Chewing gum: Orbit AND Big League Chew (a little leaguer's dream)
Red vines (also known as licorice)
Payday candy bar
First aid kit
Rubber baseball

Here's what you need to know: Cody is 19 and a relief pitcher for his college baseball team. He lives in a dorm.

Here are some of our favorite parts of this whole ordeal:

Figure 3: Swagger Body Wash! Ha ha ha!
That's just hilarious and totally worth the 89-cents.

Figure 4: First aid kit so when the boys bean each other with the rubber
baseball down the dorm hallway they can patch the wounds.

Figure 5: Razors were a special request from Abby, who's tired of seeing
Cody sporting his 'stache on Facebook.

I included one of Johanna's cat cards for Abby, Eric and I to write on, but Johanna made her own:

Figure 6: I love Jo's little characters.

I'd say this is a pretty successful package, all in all. You've got all your food groups covered, you've got necessary items for maximum baseball enjoyment, you've got some diversions, you've got Swagger body wash. What part of that isn't a win?

P.S. Again, please don't take any of the above product links as a personal endorsement on my part of any kind. This isn't stuff I would personally buy. Mostly because I couldn't eat any of this if I wanted to live. Not bitter, moving right along, I was channeling my inner college student here, that's all. I'm only linking in case you're not familiar with the products and are therefore wondering what the heck I'm talking about. You might be wondering that anyway. It's hard to know.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Abby Texts: Bus haiku

Abby: The following is a haiku about the bus:

no no no no no
no no no no no no no
no no no no no

Me: Classic!

Abby: Also about the bus:

why why why why why
why why why why why why why
why why why why why

Me: Also classic.

Abby: This is actually a haiku:


Poor grammar but makes a point.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Taking a stand

With the May Primaries coming up, and all the commercials and canned calls and lawn signs that go with it, I feel like June can't come fast enough... and we still have two weeks to go.

And then another seven months before November rolls around and all this nonsense is over.

I just depressed myself. Hang on while I get more coffee...

That's better.

Hey, though, in this post-Florida climate where every vote is important, I thought I'd just cut to the chase and let those relentlessly fighting over me know exactly where I stand on the issues. This will make it so much easier on everybody. If what you're selling isn't on this list, don't call me. I'll call you. Probably on accident. I do a lot of butt dialing. Just ask Ann.


I believe that a woman should be able to nap without her motives being questioned.

I believe in coffee.

I believe that Jesus meant it when he said we should love our neighbors as ourselves.


Um, it turns out I can't really write a true list of where I stand on the issues because it just makes me cranky. Like, why do I even have to say this stuff when it's so obvious? Education is important, so is the environment, so is food safety, so are basic human rights. Just... quit being stupid, politicians, okay?

And seriously: Quit calling me.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tales from the incredibly slow

I had an IBS attack yesterday.

I should not have been surprised, and yet, I was completely shocked. My diet has been kind of sketchy since Lent ended--so much for continuing on the no processed train--and fairly horrible the last week, a perfect storm of circumstance and PMS. Even though I know.

As I've mentioned many a time, I'm an incredibly slow learner.

Unfortunately, the attack came while we were at our nephew's baptism party (Logan! Is adorable! And likes Abby better!). Also unfortunately, my anxiety really kicks in when IBS symptoms emerge, and all I could think about was Getting Out.

I tried to talk myself down from the ledge (there's a whole sad litany of things I think in these situations to various degrees of success), but I just could not. The anxiety was too great. I felt extra terrible because the girls were having so much fun with Logan and Kayden, and we don't get to see Eric's sister and brother-in-law too often, and it was a beautiful sunny happy Mother's Day, and I had just managed to ruin it all.

So I don't know, you guys. You probably don't need a lot of details. I'm just so disgusted at myself for letting this happen. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what it was I got into, it's that it's my own damn fault.


On the upside, before IBS took me down, I pulled out my stack o' hats to share. I am now down another three, except for some reason no one wants the brown one I'm modeling in Friday's post. Also, I thought these were children's hats, but it just turns out I have an incredibly large head. Ah, well.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Well, that was unexpected

So remember how on Easter our family went to the local blossom craft fair so I could take pictures for the paper and generally be awesome? And then I got my ego crushed? AND had to explain that Eric isn't my brother?

Ah, good times.

So, funny story, a friend of mine was selling tickets for the Lionesses annual basket raffle, and naturally we stopped to chat, buy tickets (6 for $5) and take her picture (which ended up in the paper and it was just darling, if I do say so myself). That was the only thing we spent money on all day. Minimalism in action! Although I did feel bad for some of the vendors. Turns out Easter weekend is a pretty crappy time to try to sell people your homemade items. Anyway, Eric joked about her making sure to draw our tickets, and she joked about how she definitely would, and we all laughed and said our goodbyes and that was that.

I totally forgot about it until Monday evening, when I got a phone call while trying to eat a rather late dinner of nachos (Johanna had a softball game and Abby and I ran concessions... that's kind of another post for another time, now that I think about it). There's this lady screaming in my ear, and she's apparently got me on speaker phone because there are actually a LOT of ladies screaming in my ear.

Turns out I won that basket. I mean four baskets. It was a lot of stuff. Um, $2,400 worth of prizes.

Holy shit!

Abby and I model two of the 15 hats donated by one local manufacturer.
My big hair prevented me from keeping any of the
truly cute ones. Ah, well. I'm not big into hats anyway.

Since I hadn't entered to win (and to be truthful, hadn't entered at all--Eric bought the tickets and wrote my name down because he's silly that way), I didn't pay attention to what was being raffled off. It turned to be a lot of hats, shirts, skin care products, coffee mugs, socks, a watch, women's gloves, golf balls, kitchen towels, cute girly toys, cookbooks, jewelry and a boatload of gift certificates.

Just unpacking this made me laugh. It's just so dang much stuff. Eric was like, so much for being a minimalist, but I was like, hey, it's cool. We are going to be really popular with our friends for a while.

And you know what? We have been. Minimalism has taught me that you don't have to keep everything you receive. I've donated items to our school's annual carnival raffle and taken hats and shirts to work (one company donated 15 hats; another, at least 20 shirts. Crazy). I've given things to my mother and favorite mother-in-law. I've had friends pick out hats for themselves and their daughters.

We've made a lot of people happy. It's been fun.

Now, just so you don't think I'm mean, I did let the girls keep a few things of their choice (for Abby, that was a couple of t-shirts, a hat, and hairspray; for Johanna, art supplies and a Webkinz lion)... but you have to understand that they're minimalists, too (well, Johanna is technically a hoarder, but she doesn't require new stuff, she just really hangs on to her old stuff), so they did not require much. That made me very proud, actually.

I found a couple of treasures, too, namely shampoo and conditioner, hand cream, and a funky watch. Since the basket was geared towards women, Eric got snubbed, but he didn't seem to mind. Maybe that's because the best part of the whole ordeal was the gift certificates. We are going to have a couple of fancy date nights, as well as several family date nights, and that is amazing. We love experiences!

P.S. One certificate is to some laser skin care center. My mother pointed out that this meant I could get my upper lip hair zapped off, which sounds kind of painful and really weird. I'm totally in.

Anyway, the remainder of the items will grace future Care Package Projects, birthday parties and showers, and that's also kind of fun. You know how sometimes you hold something in your hand and it tells you the person it's really meant for? That happened.

Watch your mail, people, that's all I'm saying... :)

P.P.S. I'm 98-percent certain I only won because I didn't mean to win. I feel guilty about winning, but excited about sharing. I can't decide if that's irony or just coincidence.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pointless recipe: Mediterranean spice rub

Now that the weather is nicer (ha, it went from 80º to 60º in less than 24 hours, I love you, Oregon!), our thoughts have turned to barbecue.

Oh, wait. I mean "grilling." Barbecue in the Pacific Northwest is a completely different beast than barbecue basically anywhere else.

Anyway. Once upon a time, when I was young and fresh and hopeful, barbecuing meant marinading meat overnight and then letting Eric cook the crap out of it. We've both learned a thing or two over the course of our 20 year relationship, one of which is this:

Marinades are hard.

I mean, not the mixing and the pouring, obviously, but the remembering to get my act together the night before. I get distracted by books a lot. Fast forward to 2005-ish when I discovered the ease and beauty that is a spice rub.

It's totally genius--you mix your herbs and spices and whatnots together, and then right before you put your meat on the grill, you pour olive oil over the whole ordeal and sprinkle with the rub. And then rub it in! There's no remembering to do anything the night before. There's no preplanning involved at all.

It's like the best thing that's ever happened to me. (Um, besides coffee, Eric and the kids, of course.)


This is the recipe I have been making for literally nine years running. I always have a jar of this in my pantry. I have given jars of it for gifts. I have put it on beef, fish, pork, chicken and potatoes.

I have adapted it--I don't do very well with ultra-salty anything, so I've cut back on that quite a bit, plus I believe in lots of herbs--but this is essentially what was published in my beloved Everyday Food Magazine*, which is now defunct, and the world poorer for it.

My notes in parenthesis because I can.

Mediterranean All-purpose Spice Rub
Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups

1-2 tablespoons coarse salt (original recipe calls for 1/3 cup. Holy shit!)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I always buy dark because hello, it's delicious)
1/4 cup paprika
1-2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
(P.S. if you're missing some of these herbs, who cares? Just add more of something you have. Trust me, it will work out just fine)

Place all of that in a jar and blend well. (You might have to use your fingers, it's okay, I won't tell.) Store in airtight container away from heat and light, up to six months. (Like it'll last that long.)

To use: Rub whatever it is you're cooking with oil, then sprinkle on some rub, then rub it into the meat (or not) and then grill. Or bake. Or broil. Or roast. Or pan fry. You can't lose.

The end. You're welcome.

*The magazine article listed variations, of which this is one. The link doesn't show those, unfortunately. But hey, we do what we can.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What Johanna did on Sunday

Johanna and her first quilt

What I've learned parenting Johanna for the past 9.5 years: Adventure happens. Fairly regularly. In all forms.

She and Eric have a routine on Sunday mornings, which is essentially: They get up early and watch Sunday Morning on CBS. Eric actually sets his alarm; Johanna is a naturally early riser, especially if it's a weekend. (Ha.)

So that's what I walked into yesterday, just innocently searching for a cup of coffee. (Cracked open the Mountain Thunder, Ann. It's lovely. Thank you.) Johanna wanted to snuggle. Then she wanted a blanket. Then she wanted to MAKE a blanket.

I have a box of quilting supplies that I haven't touched in probably six years. (Which reminds me, Mom, I have some lovely material I think you need to go through, and what you don't want, I'll rummage.) Johanna is a big fan of getting into this box periodically when a sewing bug hits. A couple of months ago she tried making a sock for her American Girl doll (one sock. It's Johanna). This time, she was searching for longer, larger material, but most of my stuff is fat quarters, so she ended up with a couple of pieces she wanted to sew together. She cut the thread and started making a go of it, but the thread was much too long and all that really happened was a bunch of tangles.

Well, I don't have a sewing machine, or I'd have set her up on that. But I do have some 18-year-old fusible tape that I bought when Eric and I were newlyweds and I wanted to "make" curtains for our bedroom. Ahem. They turned out terrible. Who cares, I was 23 and thought I was a genius, moving right along.

P.S. I used that tape to make Johanna's Halloween costume. We do what we can.

Anyway, I set her up with the fusible tape and after a quick tutorial on how to use it (including how to iron... I mean, she's nine and a half, that's totally old enough to brandish around a steaming hot small appliance, right?), she was off and running. She had it so down that I just stepped aside and started making muffins, near so if she needed me I'd be accessible, but giving her space if she didn't need me after all.

She didn't need me. :)

After the blanket part was complete, she decided it was time for embellishment. "I'll never be a tailor," she mused several times as she cut the tape to fit her tiny pieces, but I assured her that if she ever did take that route, she'd be on a machine, which would be a thousand times easier and faster than using fusible tape.

"This went much better than my sock," she said when it was all done. "I mean, that didn't even fit, and it was just for my American Girl doll."

Practice is everything, sweeting. And socks are hard.

So yeah, this is not really what I wanted to do on my Sunday, but she was so dang happy. I've discovered that when her creative juices are flowing, it's best to just go with it. Because being told you can't create when that's all you want to do? Is mean. (Says the compulsive writer.)

And her Grandma M. and Aunt Jan are going to be SO PROUD.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Continuing Adventures of Cranky Steve

It's been a while since I've written a Cranky Steve update, that crazy character, and let me tell you, that's unfortunate because there's a lot of movement on that front. For one thing (update #1), he's retiring the end of June. He says that July 1 he's going to sit outside the office in lawn chair and drink a cocktail and stare at us through the window (totally not creepy AT ALL), but we all know that when he leaves that last day, we will never see him again.

(Update #2) Steve is depressed because his pet raccoons are no longer coming around and he's pretty sure that has something to do with global warming. Except I don't think he really believes in global warming. Whatevs, I told him it's probably not that, just that he tamed them to the point of insanity and they might have gone into someone else's house and that got them shot. He says maybe, but coyotes are big fans of raccoon dinner, so that could be it, too.

Or, even more upbeat, he thinks maybe his babies got poisoned. Regardless of how they met their untimely demise, he misses them. Well, he's got one, anyway, that lives under his porch, so that's a plus.

Which brings us to (update #3/rant #1) his unshakable belief that raccoons in the Pacific Northwest do not have rabies. Everyone is idiotic who believes otherwise (um, that would be me). And! Bats also do not have rabies in our neck of the woods, either. We're like a rabies-free zone. I suggested that maybe taming bats could be his next project, but he said that he doesn't have any. Too bad. We have bats at our house (they live in our poplar trees), but I am A) not going to tame them or 2) let Steve anywhere near them.

Fun fact: I love our bats. I love watching them swoop around at dusk. And they eat bugs. Yay bats!

Probably NOT what we have living in our trees. But SO CUTE.

Lastly (update #4, I told you there was a lot of movement on the Steve front), he likes telling me about a certain brand of organic ketchup sold at a certain downtown grocery. It's so potent you only need one little drop of the stuff per tater tot! So the other day, he brings me a bottle. Actually, he brought me all kinds of stuff, to show me, I assumed, but he insisted I keep the ketchup. I was all, why are you giving me ketchup? and he was like, try it and if you don't like it, you can give it back, but if you do, you can pay me the $5. Then I was like, so you want my used ketchup?, but Steve is a hard man to crack. He just smiled and acted like we were finally getting somewhere with the understanding.

So the other evening we had burgers for dinner, and that ketchup? Is delicious. So I was like, Steve, I have your five! And he was seriously very excited that I had tried it, and that it was A Big Hit, and then laughed when I told him Johanna liked it so much that she had two bun / ketchup / cheese / lettuce "burgers" when the meat ran out.

And then he suggested that I go buy a case because the lady who owns the downtown grocery is threatening to sell and move on to other things. Dude, I got a website. I'll take my chances.

So that's the Continuing Adventures of Cranky Steve. Maybe more later.