Monday, September 29, 2014

The Care Package Project: September

(Update below.)

After nine months of the Care Package Project, I've learned a thing or two... like that I'm really, really bad at sending care packages.

I mean, yes, we have put together some pretty great CPPs. That's not what I'm talking about. The shopping is the easy part. The hard part is getting the packages to their intended recipients on time... or at all.

What we need are lists so you can compare and contrast the failures with the successes:

Janice, January (we started the year out strong!)
Tim, March (he loves the flashlight glow stick thing Johanna insisted on adding. He texts her every time he uses it)
Everybody, April (as far as I know, everyone we sent Johanna's cards to got them)
Cousin Nancy, June (Mom said she was so touched to get a package from us)

Grandparents, February (the weather made it hard to be awesome)
Cody, May (it took almost a month for his package to arrive. He wasn't even in college to receive his college package by that time)
Marlene, July (too little, too late. I'm still sad about that)
Nicole, August (my best package to date... and she never received it)

So essentially what I'm noticing here is that I'm four for four. (You know what? English is a weird language.) Four wins, four losses. We needed September to turn the tide for Team Success.

As we've already established many, many times, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. That TS Eliot really knew what he was talking about...

Anyway, the moral of this post is that I literally JUST ordered something on Amazon (even though I've been planning this all month) to send to our darling little great-nephews, who turned 1 and 2 this summer, and they won't get the package until at least Oct. 6, so I'll wait to tell you what I sent until then.

In the meantime, Abby and I have already picked our October CPP recipient, and I have a whole 31 days before I fail yet again.

Seriously, I had no idea the Revolution would be this difficult...

UPDATE: Read about September's thrilling conclusion here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pointless Experiments: Soap scum vs. a stainless steel scrubby

So you guys, the words are still kind of mad at me for some reason, so instead of trying to write a real post, I'm going to tell you about a product I just found that I am totally in love with. And you know I'm being sincere and unbiased because no one in their right mind would ever pay me for an endorsement.

True story. Strangely, I find that comforting.

So here it is, the object of my unending joy:

Damn, why are they so expensive on ebay?
I paid like two bucks for mine...

Huh. Now that I study the picture, I'm finding more and more to alarm me in some serious ways that may or may not include a trip to a therapist at some point, but anyway, I've already opened my package and this picture is the only one I could find online for some reason and I want a picture now.

Kind of forgot where I was going with this.

Oh, right. These things are stainless steel scrubbers, and they are AMAZING. While I have one dedicated for cleaning my cast iron pans (as directed on the package! I think...), I had more ambitious plans in mind when I tossed this into my cart: Cleaning my kitchen sink and shower.

We've lived in our house for 11 years, and I am not that great of a housekeeper. I mean, I keep a neat house -- I like things uncluttered and put away and wiped down and looking clean -- but there are certain chores I'm really not a big fan of, like mopping and dusting and scrubbing. Scrubbing is exhausting. I don't do those types of things very often is what I'm saying, and it shows.

I decided to give it a go in my sink first. I had some staining action going on, as well as grungy faucet fixtures. The scrubby worked great on the faucet; less so on the stains. But all that took was a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Hey, though, worth the try. Because my sink looks pretty decent at the moment.

The real test came when we found out we were having overnight company roughly 1.25 hours before said company walked through the door. Just in case anyone needed to take a shower in the girls' bathroom, Eric cleaned out the tub. With a scrubby and some washing soda. 'Cause I gave up on buying cleaning products a long time ago.

And OH MY GOD. (That's not saying the Lord's name in vain; that's a prayer of thanksgiving.) That tub was a science experiment of disease and filth, and you should see it now -- blindingly, beautifully white and clean. And to top it off, the scrubby didn't look all that worse for wear.

So of course I had to try it on our shower next. Same course of action (the scrubby and some washing soda, lest you forgot already), and the shower floor was a thing of beauty. After company, when I had a few more minutes, I started tackling the shower walls, too, only this time I didn't bother with the washing soda. And WOAH. You guys, this is completely amazing to me. I had given up on the soap scum ever, ever going away -- and I've tried all manner of steel wool, magic eraser and homemade cleaner. I mean, my shower looks new. Like, no way is that thing really 11 years old.

But it is! It's just clean for the first time since 2003!

So I'm not really sure what the shelf life is for one of these little guys, but I can tell you that even after cleaning a sink and two bathtubs, my scrubby isn't looking all that bad. I'll be watching in the coming weeks to see if it rusts (it's not supposed to), is dishwasher safe (I think stainless steel scrubbers are supposed to be in a general sort of way), and what happens when I use it to clean my oven (that's another chore I despise and never seem to accomplish).

It's crazy times here in the Walker household. Obviously.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


So you guys, I got nothin'. I like to post three times a week for continuity and to challenge myself, but wow, right now the words are just not my friends. Fact: I've been working on this post for an hour, and this is all I've got to show for it.

I know, right?

Screw it. Here are some old words instead. I wrote this poem on a napkin at Sharis on a weekend home from college (well, we didn't have a lot of options when we were 19, you see*). I'm not sure why this has stuck with me when so much from that time has been lost. But so it goes.

To U2
I saw Bono the other day.
He was backstage.
So was I.
So I went up to him.
I wanted to have a deep, meaningful chat.
So I said to him, rather sullenly,
As if the whole world's existence depended upon his answer,
"Have you ever eaten
Purple soup?"

Side note: It would help, when you read this, to be high on bad coffee, too much sugar, your own brilliance and a fervent love of Bono. See? Totally makes it better.

* Sharis was the only place in town open 24 hours, and it was a hotbed of activity for the high school and underage college crowd. The manager -- who was our age and totally old man cranky (Frank! What happened to Frank, Mara?) -- would let us sit at a table for hours as long as we intermittently ordered french fries, milk shakes or that aforementioned terrible coffee.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My possessions are causing me suspicion

...but there's no proof. Word UP, Crowded House!

Hey, if I can start out on a tangent, Abby is going through a Crowded House phase right now and, fun fact, I did too when I was EXACTLY her age! We went to Minnesota for a three-week road trip extravaganza the summer I turned 15 and I wore my cassette tape out. So it's kind of awesome Abby found them at the same time I did. I like the cyclic nature of that. Plus Crowded house is awesome.

Now, to the point (or as close to the point as I can manage):

It's probably a good thing the fall season of Project 333 is coming up because wow, for some reason, my entire closet is rebelling against me. This is not good for my self esteem. I've somehow managed to shrink, tear, and stain all manner of thing, which, when you don't have all that many items to begin with, kind of puts a damper on the whole ordeal. Also, several are new (as in, purchased in August), and it just completely bums me out that they've already turned to crap.

Coincidence? You decide: The vast majority of the items giving me fits right now were purchased at Eddie Bauer. Not to point fingers, Eddie Bauer, but seriously, what the hell? I have never problems with their stuff before. I'm kind of feeling disillusioned. Where else am I going to find tall pants?

Anyway, all this means is that I need to go shopping, but I don't want to go shopping because it's so super boring and also depressing when you know probably whatever it is you're buying won't even last the month.

I'm not really sure what the solution is here. Buy only used? Learn to sew? Make my wardrobe even smaller?

No idea. But I'd love to hear how other people deal with their closets...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Instrument of torture

So I'm not sure how it is in anyone else's school district, but in ours, fourth grade is that magical time when students learn to play the recorder.

Um, this thing:

And some boring history
for good measure.

When Abby was in fourth grade, her music teacher was practically fresh out of college, and that guy was so filled with hope still that somehow he made the recorder actually sound decent at the end-of-the-year concert. Having attended many such concerts before and since, I can attest that THAT is sort of rare. I'm 95-percent certain the recorder isn't supposed to sound good. Like, ever. At all.

I had kind of forgotten about the recorder, and fourth grade, and Abby practicing in her bedroom until Johanna announced over dinner one evening that she needed $4 to buy one.

Well, damn.

But then she was all, Abby put her old recorder in my closet but she told me I couldn't touch it, which, side note, is it kind of sad that she actually followed those directions, or is that just me? Because that seems like a dare.

Okay, maybe it IS just me.

Anyway, so Eric was like, is it still in your closet?, and Jo was all, I think so, and then they trotted off together and found the thing and yay! Less plastic in the landfill in like 50 years!

That's the highlight of this story.

The lowlight (downside?) is that Abby taught Johanna how to play both Three Blind Mice and Hot Cross Buns*, and Johanna has been PRACTICING in her room almost every single day. Um, except when she's practicing outside because we kick her to the deck. In a very loving way. The flowers grow better with music is all.


So the moral of this tale is that times are tough in the Walker household at the moment. I'm not a drinker, but I'm reconsidering.

The end.

*Fact: Those are actually both sung to the same tune. Ha!

Wait, not the end. I just remembered that I learned to play the recorder in fourth grade too, and I have a vague memory of bringing mine home and being so excited. And that excitement lasted until I took my very first breath and exhaled into that thing, because wow, squeaky and terrible. I was nine and I already knew me and the recorder were just not meant to be.

Now it's the end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

And now for something completely different: A guest post by Abby

A slight introduction, if I may: I asked Abby to write about her first couple weeks of high school, mostly because I am getting over a wicked head cold and thinking is so hard, you guys. Thanks, Abby, for  agreeing to this. I owe you one. Just kidding, I gave birth to you, we're quits now. --TW

Get ready for the raddest post you've ever read on this blog, because M.C. Abby is in the house.

Hi. Hello. I really don't know how to write blog entries, mainly because blogging is for forty-something year old mothers with delusions that people actually read what they write, and I don't fit that demographic. But today, I'm going to try. Because I love my forty-something year old mother who actually doesn't have delusions about people reading what she writes, since she is a realist. She's the realest realist I've ever met.

I'm rambling. Let's get on to what she actually asked me to write about, shall we?

Ah, High School. A term that is basically synonymous with the word fun.*

Actually, it's not that bad. I already like this year better than last year, even though I'm taking a lot of hard classes and am now a Sophomore, and thus smell terrible. If you're an avid reader of this blog, you'll know what I mean. 

Aside from the pungent odor of myself and my classmates, however, my first week went over pretty well. I like my teachers well enough. My classmates are nice, though the class of 2017 is sadly lacking in cute boys who happen to be, like, 6'5"**. The people I don't like are mostly dumb, so I have classes with very few of them. The ones I do tend to stay away from me, because I was probably sardonic to them at one point or another and they know that it's really difficult to retort when they don't understand the insult. That's just how I roll, insults and jokes that only I understand.

My friends are pretty cool, and I've already made quite a few new ones just from sitting beside them in class. I like new friends, because when I'm with them I get to repeat a lot of stories that my old friends already know, so they think I'm hilarious. Which I am anyway, though it helps when I have something to say, you feel?

My classes have been going well, though they all have their quirks. Like the art teacher who is even more into inner passion than my last one. Or the fact that I had to buy a $100 graphing calculator for my Algebra 2 class that I don't even know how to use (though I did learn how to write "ABBY IS COOL" on it, so you decide if it was worth it or not). And how I had to go to Trashmart and buy binders for a couple of my classes, because my teachers are a bunch of notebook haters who don't understand the subtle beauty of notebooks and the glorious notes one can take in them. Sigh.

I actually decided to take a Personal Fitness class as an elective, which makes me question the fact that I am actually my mother's daughter. But then again, I'm not very good at things that have to do with physical activity, so maybe we are related. The class hasn't been too bad so far, though I have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing it so I won't die the first week of basketball practice. Sigh again.

The Freshman class is gigantic, and they crowd the hallways. My patience with them is waning. That's all I'm going to say.

Well that's about it, my friends. Or my mother's friends, I guess. Or maybe random people from around the world reading this and making fun of how stupid we Americans are. I don't know.

I hope you enjoyed this post, though many of you probably aren't used to this level of awesome in your everyday reading. I apologize if I have ruined other writing for you, since other writing is not written by me. Sorry.

And now, to finish, a haiku. It just seems fitting.

Public School is fun
If you don't know what fun is.
People smell bad, dude.

K bye.

*That's called sarcasm, people, which is a form of verbal irony. I learned that in my Honors Sophomore English Class.

**I'm tall. I like tall boys. Sigh.***

***I sigh frequently, and with great fervor. It's one of my many talents.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The grey area

Remember in April when I announced I was letting my hair go grey?

Well, I'm still going gently into that good night. I haven't quite decided I look darling in hats and ponytails yet, but wow, I might be close.

Waiting to check out of our hotel during our trip to Leavenworth,
approximately 30 seconds before Jo dumped my coffee. Love
her face. Anyway, see my grey?

I'm actually okay with the grey parts of my hair. And I like my natural brown, or what's left of it. It's the sad, brassy dyed ends that are getting to me. But ever undaunted, I press on. I mean, I'm going to have to grow it out eventually anyway, I guess. May as well be now.

Hey, true story, when I announced I was giving up hair dye, my mother and grandma decided they were in, too. They were all like, you're the inspiration, which kind of reminded me of that song they used to play over and over and over at our middle school during noon dances. Mid-80s. We had a lot of noon dances for some reason. Probably just to herd us, now that I think about it.

God, middle school. If I had to pick one argument as to why I would never go back and do it all over again, that would be it.

Wait, what was I talking about?

So my mother calls me a month or two later, and was all, remember how I wasn't going to dye my hair anymore? I caved. And then she called Grandma to confess, but Grammie couldn't talk at that particular moment because she was busy dying her hair.

I don't know, I thought that was funny.

Anyway, Eric keeps saying that 2015 is going to be my year, i.e. my whole head will be grey, but I'm thinking maybe 2016 will have to be my year because this is taking longer than expected.

Ah, well.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday "Art," harvest moon face-off edition

iPod Touch...

...verses big girl camera.

I don't know, you guys, I kind of like the grainy funkiness of the first photo. No offense, big girl camera.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Goodbye, Jane Austen

So here's something weird that happened:

Eric and I went to a nice restaurant across the river for our anniversary dinner (using a very excellent gift certificate from that May Basket raffle I won), and when I started the car to go home, the radio came on.

Fun fact: I am not a big fan of the radio. My age is showing, but you guys, pop music is so bad. I have Jane Austen, my original 2009 8-gig iPod Nano, always plugged into my car's auxiliary jack. That way, I can listen to all the Linkin Park and Chevelle and Anberlin I want.

Jane Austen looks like this.

The only time the radio comes on is when Jane Austen is not connected. And, as we've just established, Jane Austen is pretty much always connected.

I mean, sure, her internal battery is getting kind of weak, so I have to charge her more often than I used to. And fine, her screen is getting some kind of weird... like she's losing her color or something on the upper lefthand side. She's old, she's earned her eccentricities.

She's kind of my baby.

So when the radio came on, Eric and I just kind of looked at each other. I was all, where's Jane Austen? And he was like, are you sure she's here? And I'm like, I was listening to her while I ran errands this morning. And he's all, she's not here now.

We looked around for her, under the seats, in my purse, in the glovebox, but she was gone. Jane Austen AND the auxiliary cord. Poof. Gone.

Nothing else was touched. Since my big girl camera was in the trunk, I was ever so happy about that.

But it makes me wonder--why would anyone even want Jane Austen? She can't have any street value. She only has music. She has a scroll bar, for crying out loud. She's been discontinued! Why take her and not the radio?

I just don't get it.

I am sad.

UPDATE: Jane Austen (and cord) have been found! On the floor of the backseat, for some reason. (Thank you, Johanna!) This still doesn't explain WHY Jane Austen was in the backseat, or HOW she got there, and I'm kind of questioning Eric's and my combined sanity because neither of us remember tossing her back there... but hey! Happy ending!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Backseat driving with Abby

Abby in the Zipper Mobile, more commonly know as Zippy. This thing is
my Grammie M's 1988 Honda Civic. It has no airbags, but ah, the legroom! 

Abby got her driver's permit in August, and since that time, we've been doing a lot of driving. I was smart and let Eric teach her the basics on the backroads near our house, so by the time she got handed over to me, she at least had some idea of what was going on.

Not that it wasn't scary. My life flashed before my eyes three times on that first jaunt we took together. Let's just say that corners were something she really needed to work on.

It's been about a month now, and she's steadily improved in that time, but jeez, you guys, there are so many reasons why this whole ordeal is completely insane. For one thing, while my head knows that Abby is 15, extremely smart and responsible (and just amazing all around), my heart is pretty sure that she is still 4 and should not even be sitting in the front of a vehicle yet.

That's kind of hard to explain to a kid, but that's the crux of the matter. No matter how old my children are, I still feel the need to protect and help them. Letting Abby drive around with all the crazies out there is counterintuitive.

The upside to all this is that Abby and I are spending extra time together, and that's just fun. When she's at the wheel, she decides where we go. It makes me laugh when she worries about wasting gas (um, that's just the nature of the beast, my girl), or when she asks if she can drive, say, downtown, and then is shocked when I agree ("Are you sure that's safe? I might hit a car!"), or how excited she gets if she reaches 45 miles an hour (you'd think she just broke the sound barrier).

Or when she says things like, ooops, Dad would have gotten me in trouble for that...

So hey, there's some good times in all that terror* is what I'm saying. So what if my heart is out there on the road with the crazies? This is just part of Abby growing up and into her wings, and I am quite supportive of that, actually. Her being able to drive, especially when she has her license next year, is going to make things so much easier, on her and on us. So what if this is a precursor to other, bigger milestones? Like graduating from high school... going to college... leaving me sad and lonely and without her. It's probably cool.

*Not so much because I'm worried about her driving, you understand, but because! She's 4! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Abby Texts: Back to school

Abby: Literally we couldn't find our bus and (the teacher) kept telling us to find random numbers but we couldn't so he finally just stuck us on a random bus going to the middle school where apparently we're supposed to transfer. Nice.

Me: Niiiiiice!

Abby: FINALLY on the right bus.

Abby: Screw this stinky bus
and all the stinky people

Me: Classic. Well done. I get you tomorrow, yay!

Abby: Yay and then we go someplace fun like the bookstore or maybe coffee because I cannot endure more school without looking forward to something.

Me: Sure. You pick.

Abby: You are beautiful. I am crying of joy. Not really though because you can't display signs of weakness in this bus environment or else you'll be targeted and eventually die.

Me: Solid self preservation tactic.

Abby: I can't die here or else my ghost self will be forced to roam the stinky aisle of this bus forever and I honestly don't think I could handle that.

*When Abby gets stressed, haiku comes out. That's just one of the many reasons why I love her.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy anniversary!

Eric and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary on September 2. And do you know how we celebrated?

We didn't.

September 2, 1995

Oh, don't look so disappointed; it's cool. One thing we didn't think about, all those years ago when we were young and foolish and still hopeful, is that when you get married over Labor Day weekend, you're pretty much guaranteed to celebrate your anniversary every year with the start of school.

And the start of school, you understand, means an End of Summer Celebration with the girls, who decided they wanted to go to a really yummy New York-style sub shop, and then get frozen yogurt. And that's what we did. And it was FANTASTIC. Our little family is just fun, that's why. We have a good time together.

September 1, 2014

So yeah, I had to make dinner on my anniversary, and mostly we just talked about Johanna's first day of fourth grade and Abby's high school registration extravaganza, but you know what? Still fantastic.

Hey, though, we do have a special date planned for next weekend. It's kind of between two (very nice) restaurants right now because I have gift certificates from that May Basket ordeal I won, and we're still trying to decide. It's not a bad dilemma, truth be told.

P.S. Love you, Eric. You make my heart sing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Looking back, kitchen edition

So have you guys ever heard of The Daily Create? Yeah, me neither, until Mara (who you can now find over at The Writing Life) clued me in not too long ago. It's a site that gives you daily creative assignments, like "Tell the story of the Muppet Conspiracy Theory" or "Make a video of a rolling rock," just in case you're a creative type but are out of ideas, I guess, or maybe to challenge yourself.

The August 21 assignment was "a photo of the most unusual utensil in your kitchen drawer." Mara emailed me all like, I thought you'd like this one, unless you've gotten rid of everything. And I was all, um, kinda have. I think my most unusual utensil now is just my pasta spoon, which made me happy and sad all at the same time.

Here's what I learned from this assignment: It is HARD taking pictures
of kitchenware. Even with a big girl camera.

Because: Once upon a time, I was an enthusiastic collector of all things kitchen. I had pie crust shields, an avocado slicer, even a julienne peeler. I had all manner of baking dish, cookie cutter and wooden spoon and spatula. I never really used many of those things, but I liked having them--and so, so much more--because I bought into the dream of what I could do in my kitchen, as opposed to what I was actually doing in my kitchen.

Do you know how many times I used my cheesecake pan in the seven-plus years I owned it? Zero times. But I kept it because I liked the idea of making cheesecake, not because I was making cheesecakes all the time. I didn't need it. I didn't need 75-percent of what I thought I did.

That's what I discovered when I started cleaning out my kitchen in 2012 (after I'd declared myself a minimalist and decided to get the hell on with it). It actually took a few tries to get it properly purged--I got rid of the easy stuff first (the pie crust shields, avocado slicers, and julienne peelers of the world), then went on to the harder stuff (my vast collection of stoneware, my specialty pans, even my garlic press), and then finally dumped what I liked but never used (strangely, my biscuit cutters were the hardest item to get rid of by far. Whaaaaaat?).

My kitchen drawer, circa this morning. My pasta spoon doesn't even live here.

In the end, here's what it all boiled down to: Was the object in question something I actually used on a regular basis? (Don't talk to me about Thanksgiving-like scenarios. That's not reality.) If I didn't use it, it didn't really matter how pretty it was, or what awesome recipe I could potentially whip up using it, or that I might need it some day. I just tossed whatever it was into a bag and got on with my life. Don't think about it--that's my motto. Don't think, just act. It's totally not as hard as you'd think it'd be to mindless. ;)

But while it makes me seriously, seriously happy to look into my rather sparse, beautiful drawers and cabinets, when you get a creative assignment like taking a photo of your most unusual gadget, it does kind of pull you up short.

Bad for creativity, good for sanity. Eh, we'll call it a win.

Oh, I almost forgot: I did try to find the weirdest item in my kitchen drawer, just for the sake of completing the assignment, and here's what I came up with (and this is kind of pathetic, I totally admit, but I don't have a lot to choose from, as we've already established)--my can strainer and my small collection of sorbet spoons that I inherited from Eric's Grandma Jane. True story, I originally thought those spoons were just, like, play spoons for kids. It took an anniversary dinner at a fancy restaurant--where we cleansed our pallets between courses with sorbet--for me to figure out what they really were.

Figures 1 and 2.

So... the end, I guess.