Friday, May 29, 2015

May Pointless Lists

Life update:
We lost Eric's cousin Aaron to cancer on the 17th. He's been battling lung cancer (and no, he wasn't a smoker) for the past few years. I kind of hate how we say "battle" and either "won" or "lost" when we're talking about cancer because that implies that if you try hard enough, you can beat it. That's not how cancer works. Never mind, I have no energy for this rant.

So we're sad. He was only 42 and it just sucks. I'm not sure what else to even say about that. Maybe some of my lame posts make more sense now.

Books read:
Like last month, I picked a book and stuck with it: My best friend Mara is an author, and she asked me to read her latest novel, written during NaNoWriMo last November. She'd posted a couple of excerpts on her blog, and based on that, I was intrigued and excited to read her book.

And OH EM GEE, as Johanna would say: It is FANTASTIC. I'm not going to say more than that because it's not out yet and there's no point in enticing you with something you can't get, but wow, I loved this thing. I called her up demanding to know what happens next, but she's one of those annoying writers who doesn't know what happens until she writes it. I NEED A SEQUEL, MARA. Throw a girl a bone, jeez.

P.S. When she gets this one published, it's going to be copies for everybody!

Art update:
Remember this picture I posted of Johanna's artwork?

It's now in the possession of my Aunt Ann, who saw it on the blog and worked out a deal before the night was through. (She's terrible at math, though, because she could have just had it for her birthday. Ah, well. Johanna's college fund is now a little richer.)

So that was kind of exciting. Maybe I should post Jo's stuff more often. ;)

Work update:
Our Saturday the 23rd edition contained a letter to the editor complaining about the fluff articles I write (i.e. my "spotlights" on members of our community who do awesome things but would never make it in the paper otherwise); on the 20th, I had a story in about a new local business and that lady is so thrilled she keeps emailing me to thank me. Life in a nutshell: I suck, I'm the best. That is actually fairly accurate, now that I think about it.

Can't believe I'm admitting this but I'm totally admitting it:
Abby is binge-watching Supernatural on Netflix, and I've sort of been sucked in. I don't think she appreciates my running commentary throughout the shows -- because come on! There is some weird shit going down that deserves to be commented upon -- but anyway, I'm totally intrigued and enjoying it very much, even though supernatural horror stuff ain't really my bag. (Example: I tried to read Cujo in tenth grade, and stopped three pages in because TOO SCARY.) I haven't caught all of the shows, but we're in season two and pretty soon they'll be in Oregon. THAT one I really want to see...

Light update:
This month, I decided to just be kind to myself. This was a rather pleasant undertaking since there wasn't any part where I could beat myself up for failing. Because I couldn't fail. Sometimes I am a genius.

I think the best part was that I made it a point to do things for myself that were outside of the house. I went places is what I'm saying: Book talks, farmers' markets, presentations, and all during the week. I know, right? I came home and then left again. Weird.

I feel rather refreshed by the whole ordeal if you want to know the truth. Enough that I'm going to tackle the pictures stored on our computer next, which is going to be a bear. Maybe choosing a project where you're forced to sit indoors isn't the best idea for a month that could potentially be pretty great weather-wise... but eh, we'll see what happens. June in Oregon is kind of a crap shoot.

Posts I really enjoyed this month:
How to Engage in Purposeful Decluttering, Be More with Less: Great tips for everyone, whether you're just starting out or you've been at it a long time.

21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own, Becoming Minimalist: That's an apt title. I was surprised. And kind of horrified.

Your Minimalist Wardrobe Questions Answered, Slow Your Home. Yes, yes, yes!

This Season's Must Haves, Slow Your Home.  More yeses! Great perspective on "must haves."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Zero Waste Wednesday: Lunch

Bento box lunch! Salads are more exciting
after you've been to the farmers' market.

Whew! I almost forgot to post a Zero Waste Wednesday this month, and I'm POSITIVE everyone single one of you (hi, Mom and Ann!) have been waiting with bated breath to see what nugget of wisdom I'd be passing along this time, right?


Ah, well.

So. Zero waste lunches. I am a big fan. My goal in life is to ban plastic sandwich bags from the house, but Eric keeps buying them (STOP THAT, ERIC!), even though, as far as I know, he rarely uses them.


Abby and I use LunchBots bento boxes (but there are several stainless steel options out there -- this is not a product endorsement but rather an idea endorsement). Her lunchbox actually used to be my lunchbox until LunchBots made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I ended up with three smaller bentos, like so:



Although you can get colored lids, I just went with stainless steel because, quite frankly, I like to toss these suckers in the dishwasher and not worry about whether or not the cute paint job is going to peel off. (These pictures make it look like the lid is attached; it is not.) Abby's box holds a sandwich, crackers and some sort of fruit or vegetable; I usually use the single compartment for a salad or a sandwich, and the double for fruit or vegetables. I rarely use the three-compartment bento. It's kind of my Plan B when the other two are dirty and I'm too lazy to wash them.

But I also am a big fan of glass jars and lids, and use them to hold yogurt, dressing, crackers, desserts, and whatever else I can shove inside:

Except I use plastic lids.

Glass jars and lids work great for zero waste lunches. You can't give them to a kid (I'm pretty sure Johanna kicks her lunchbox around for entertainment), but for an adult? Easy alternative. Plus everyone has glass jars knocking around.

I'm not a particular fan of plastic containers, but we have many from our pre-enlightenment phase (?) and that is what Eric and Johanna use for their lunches. Not as pretty as mine or Abby's, but it does the job. Eventually I'd like to get everyone stainless steel lunch boxes. That will probably take a while, just because of the initial expense. (These things aren't cheap.) No one seems to be in a hurry.

Um, in conclusion, here's what my lunch commonly looks like using my containers and jars et al:

This day I went crazy and put homemade ranch in a jar.

Add a cotton napkin and a real fork, and I'm good to go. The end.

Super cute
Stainless steel is an environmental boss
Stainless steel is reusable, dishwasher safe, and practically indestructible*
I mentioned they're super cute, right?

None for me. Johanna and Eric have to deal with plastic and its aftermath, but whatever. What's a million years to biodegrade, really?
Oh, wait: Expensive to start with

* It survived a bonk on our kitchen's tile floor, which is how we test the durability of all our kitchen products. Usually accidentally.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Johanna's bakery

You guys, we have created a monster.

And it all started so innocently:

Trisha Morrissette Walker
May 5 at 7:01pm · Instagram
My greatest accomplishment as a mother has been teaching Johanna how to make chocolate frosting. Every time we're out of treats, she makes a batch. She's gotten quite good.
Trisha Morrissette Walker's photo.

Around the third or fourth batch, I wondered if perhaps I had put the cart before the horse:

Trisha Morrissette Walker
May 13 at 6:26pm · Instagram 
It has occurred to me, belatedly I admit, that it's time to teach Johanna how to make cake...
Trisha Morrissette Walker's photo.

The good news is that my mother saw my Facebook post and took it upon herself to teach Johanna how to make a cake. Or, more accurately, let Jo loose in her kitchen with the recipe and the ingredients, with help only on the oven front. Jo thought this was the BEST.

She brought her finished cupcakes home and frosted them with some leftover frosting (that was maybe her fourth batch, and it tasted like heaven. She is really getting good at chocolate frosting), and then started planning for her next creation.

Last week, she made orange frosting and my mother's white cake recipe:

I'm not entirely sure how she made the orange frosting, but I have a feeling she just winged it. It tasted like a Creamsicle but without the alarming neon color. It was seriously, seriously good.

Irony: She didn't like it. The cake was good, she thought, but the frosting wasn't her thing, which is too bad because she'll probably never make it again. Well, maybe if I ask nicely.

For her next batch, she was thinking of grinding up some leftover candy canes for a peppermint kind of extravaganza, but then she got distracted by a homemade cookie mix I'd been gifted:

The moral of this story is that we are up to our eyeballs in treats, Johanna has decided she'd like to be a baker when she grows up, and we're all pretty happy about the way this turned out, although my kitchen will probably never be clean ever again.

The end.

    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    In which I write about our local farmers' market with perhaps too much enthusiasm, but it's my blog so I can do whatever I want

    Once upon a time, like last Thursday, I decided that my deep need of fresh greens outweighed my profound dislike of crowds, and thus I found myself wandering around our local farmers' market, with Johanna in hand.

    Side note, and we haven't even gotten that far yet, but I've been really bad about attending the market the past few years because it's Eric's racquetball night, it's a hassle to get down there after work and find a parking spot, and, as I think we've already established, I kind of hate crowds.

    Whatever. I'm trying to expand my bubble this month, right?, so I picked up my baby from school and we immediately headed the seven miles back to town to see what we could find. Which, incidentally, was this:

    In case it doesn't translate, that's a bag of salad mix, a bunch of spicy greens, two cucumbers, two sacks of mini tomatoes, salad turnips, radishes, early garlic, spinach, kale, cilantro, rhubarb and six ciabatta rolls.

    Johanna is a fun one to shop with because she loves raw vegetables. She helped me pick out produce at every stand and got genuinely excited over the spinach and kale. She actually asked to go back for the kale with a polite, "Mom, I don't think you heard me: I want some kale."

    Also: Cucumbers and tomatoes... in May. I did not expect that. Apparently there are greenhouses involved here, and yeah, you can tell the tomatoes were raised under tarps and not in the sun because they don't have the sweetness, but TOMATOES IN MAY. Who cares?!

    Anyway, I was thinking of getting some pizza, also available at the market, and bringing that home for dinner, but with my bags o' awesome, we just headed home for salad and bread. You can tell we're all greens-deprived because no one complained about the lack of pizza.

    Once home, I immediately made a salad (the mix with the turnips, radishes, cucumbers and tomatoes) and sliced the ciabatta rolls, and then after dinner, I made a rhubarb crumb cake and Johanna experimented with raw kale and then kale chips. She decided she liked the burnt ones the best because they didn't taste like a cooked vegetable. The ones she deemed "too cooked" were inhaled by the rest of us. We tossed back an entire bundle of kale in less than 10 minutes. It was awesome. And probably had nothing to do with the generous sprinkling of applewood smoked salt we used to season the things...

    P.S. It was so much fun to actually be excited about food again. I haven't played so much in a long time.

    Anyway, my plans for the remainder: A fritatta using the spicy greens and early garlic (I just got some fresh eggs from a coworker, so that's awesome); spinach salads now that we're at the end of the salad mix; another rhubarb crumble because I have some leftover stalks and the first one was inhaled (plus what else do you do with rhubarb?); and maybe some salsa with the cilantro.

    I'm thinking that this market needs to be a Mom and Johanna date every Thursday because we haven't eaten this well in a long time, plus it was kind of fun to see some familiar faces in the crowd and talk to the farmers (I have my favorites). And it was all locally grown!

    P.P.S. I saw the mayor at the aforementioned cucumber and tomato booth, and I was like, hey, Paul, and he was all, hi, Trisha, and I felt pretty good about myself because the mayor knows my name, and this one doesn't think I'm drunk.

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Light 2015: May

    You know what I miss now that the girls are older?
    Dandelion bouquets. :)

    After the complete and utter failure that was my April 2015 Light project (where I decided to give up my tech toys and learned that I can't eat a meal without one after all), this month, I wanted to do something a little less... difficult.

    Hey, it's my Light project. I can do what I want.

    So I've been concentrating on just being kind to myself. My mind and my body have been sort of chaotic lately, and I just want both to settle down. (You know what, anxiety? You suck.) Here are a few of the things I've been attempting with self-care in mind, even though I despise the term "self-care" because it seems so narcissistic. Personal problem, moving on.

    Going to bed earlier. 
    I like to sit in my chair playing Hay Day until I'm so exhausted that I barely have the energy to brush my teeth and wash my face for our 10 p.m.-ish bedtime. I've started crawling in bed around 8 (which isn't sad AT ALL) and reading until about 9, and then snuggling down. I have no idea if this will be plausable when summertime hits and the sun is up late and it's warm and lovely out... but I'm only worried about May, so BRING IT.

    I read somewhere that food is the most overused anxiety medication, and exercise most underutilized. So when Abby wants to take a walk after dinner, I go. Even though my legs are killing me. Even though I would rather rip my eyeballs clean out of my head. (Actually... no, that's gross. I'd rather walk.) It gives us a chance to talk, and I guess it does kind of help my anxiety, maybe just because I'm so tired that I don't have time to worry about anything.

    Quiet time. 
    We've been having some stupidly nice weather, and when I can swing it, I treat myself to quiet time on the deck, reading in the sun. It's the best.

    Or, as I like to call it, My Ambitious Dinner Menus. I force myself to make meals early in the week so I can coast through the latter part. Which works remarkably well -- no Random Crap in a Tortilla nights for us! (Well... more than a couple, anyway.) More than that, having something to focus on is kind of a good thing. Not so much sitting and stewing. More like standing and braising. (Oh, I'm hilarious.)

    I've tried to make writing for fun a priority this month, too. On the weekends especially, I like to grab a cup of coffee and go for it. It's part therapy, part relaxation technique, and all mine.

    Getting out. 
    Because I'm an introvert, this one is a little hard for me, but I've decided it's good to... I don't know, expand my horizons. Abby and I went to a high school presentation on anorexia one Friday night (to support Abby's friend, who is in recovery and was staging a fundraiser), and then on a Wednesday evening (!), I went to the library to see a presentation by Dee Williams on tiny house living. (She was hilarious. Best book talk ever.) Anyway, there are always events I think would be fun to go to, but never bother to make the effort. I'm bothering. It's been good.

    So this is the part where I write a really witty conclusion, except I never got around to that, so just pretend. The end, I guess.

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    Maybe the lesson here is that we just shouldn't go out to eat

    Once upon a time, like on Sunday, my little family celebrated the gift of motherhood by giving me the day off. And you guys, I don't care what the jewelers try to tell you, THAT is what mothers really want.

    Not having to deal with anyone? Priceless.

    Me and my girls and some random lady.

    Since we're still trying to use up the gift certificates I won in that May Basket drawing last year, Eric and the girls took me to a restaurant for dinner. It's one of the nicer ones in town, and as we were seated, Eric and I joked that at least we wouldn't be forgotten this time.

    Ha ha ha! We're so funny!

    So our waiter this time wasn't a hipster guy; in fact, he looked like he was in his later 20s to early 30s, which gave us great hope at his responsibleness. He was a little late taking our order... and he forgot the sugar for Abby's ice tea for like 20 minutes, but hey, he apologized, and to be fair, Abby didn't miss the sugar anyway.

    Maybe because we had the kids there to distract us (we need to take them out more because wow, we're lacking some special social skills), but we failed to notice that an hour had slipped by without getting served.

    And once we did notice, it was hard not to stare at the people who came in after us who got their food before we did. Um, those fish and chips they were munching on? Yeah, mine and Jo's.

    Hey, tangent, once I read that being forgotten is the worst human fear out there. I think that's probably true. Once you think you've been forgotten, you just sit there and stew. Do I speak up? Do I sit here and just be patient?

    Have I really been forgotten? Am I not good enough to be noticed? Is there something wrong with me? What is wrong with me?!

    (Why, yes, I do have issues! Why do you ask?)

    So finally, Eric and Abby get their meals, and the waiter assures Johanna and me that ours are coming right up. I gave them permission to dig in, but they refused; as the minutes dragged on, I finally told them to just hurry up and eat already because by the time we got served, their meals would be cold.

    And hey, it was only 10 more minutes. I guess we should have taken waiter guy up on the extra bread basket after all.

    The moral of this story is that it took us two hours to eat, but unlike our Elks lunch fiasco, this time no one seemed to mind that it took forever. Eric was like, at least we were all together! It was family time! (He's very relaxed when he's not trying to get back to work.) And the food was pretty good. And the girls were happy. And we were all dressed up and looking pretty hot. And we were all together.

    (Johanna's observation: "They were late getting us our food, but they were quick getting us the check!")

    Well, anyway, we're 0-2 now, in case anyone is keeping track. Eric and I are thinking that maybe these waiters can just tell we have gift certificates and aren't real people, or maybe we just look exceptionally kind and not prone to pitching fits over food. (Well, Eric does, anyway. Pitching fits over food -- or, more accurately, the lack thereof -- is actually something I would do. Have done. Will probably do again in the near future.)

    But hey, all this is not to say that Mother's Day was a wash because of a late meal. It wasn't. It really was the perfect day. I got to sleep in,* do morning yoga on the lawn, read and read and read, not clean the house, take a nap, go out to eat, visit with my favorite in-laws, and get homemade cards from the girls.

    See? That's pretty damn perfect.

    Thank you, family.

    Well, thanks Abby!
    (P.S. She did this freehand...)

    *Johanna brought me breakfast in bed: An omelette and a cup of coffee. Since she notices everything, she knew exactly how to brew a cup in my fancy coffee cone. Anyway, she came to snuggle, and told me that when I'm "too old to chew junk," she'll make me scrambled eggs instead.

    Thank you, kid. That's love right there.

    Friday, May 8, 2015

    Lunch date fail

    Once upon a time, like last Thursday (this was supposed to be my May 1 post but I never got around to writing it. Oops), Eric took me out to lunch at our local Elk's club restaurant. If you remember how we had this exact same date last year (um, it's okay if you don't 'cause I barely do. Well, I'm old), then you'll know that I dissed the place hard and then was utterly amazed by the artisan bun on my cheeseburger.

    So this time, I kept my mouth shut and just went along with it. Besides, Eric had two $10 coupons, which meant lunch was free, so really, what was the downside?

    Doesn't this look delicious? Yeah, not what we ate.

    Like last time, we were the youngest in the joint by a good 40 years. Well, except for the bartender / waiter dude, who was a total hipster and who had two speeds: Slow and stop. We chose a table in the corner with the best view of the river, and then proceeded to chat. And place our order for two cheeseburgers. And then chat some more.

    We'd been chatting for a full 35 minutes, still sans cheeseburgers, which was a little odd because all those old dudes at the bar who had come in after us were all eating their meals. Eric stands up to talk to Hipster Waiter Guy, and before Eric can even get a word out, he's all, I'll go check.

    So at this point it's been 40 minutes and we've kind of run out of things to say to each other because we've been married 19.5 years and we'd just seen each other that morning and hadn't had enough time to come up with any new stories. Hipster Waiter Guy slowly makes his way to our table and is all like, the cook is just putting the toppings on your burger, won't be much longer, and then after he slinks away I'm all, uh, that's code for, 'oh shit, we forgot.' That made Eric laugh, so I felt pretty good about myself.

    So at 12:55, we finally get our two cheeseburgers, which are just okay. No artisan bun, that's for sure, and frozen fries, not that there's anything wrong with frozen fries, just wasn't what we were expecting after last year's extravaganza. Eric is determined to get back to the office ASAP and is pounding his cheeseburger like he's going for the gold at a food eating contest, and I'm just trying to keep up, plus I was pretty sure all signs were pointing to food poisoning or, at the very least, one of my fun stomach attacks because I had my doubts about the naturalness of my meal.

    Whatever, pound pound pound, now we're done, it's 1:05, and Eric is ready to go. Hipster Waiter Guy isn't even trying to make eye contact, and Eric is like, do we actually have to tip for this?, and I'm like, oh hell no, 55 minutes, yo!, and he agrees. He pulls out his two $10 coupons -- our burgers were $9.50 yeah -- and puts them on the table, takes my hand and we're out of there.

    I'm like, uh, we can't just leave, because I knew Hipster Waiter Guy was going to stop us for apparent dining and dashing, but that dude gave zero craps and didn't even bother to turn around to watch us leave, let alone yell at us about being delinquents. 

    That was probably the coolest thing I did all week.

    You'd think our sad tale would be over, but alas, not yet. Eric is on a mission to get up the hill and back to work -- we'd walked to lunch -- and he's practically running and dragging me along behind him. Finally he looks at me and is all, are you okay?, and I'm like, dude, I just pounded a cheeseburger in like 8 minutes and this is all uphill. Been better, and he just laughs because he thinks I'm a riot.

    I'm a riot, all right. I can't believe I didn't puke on his shoes.

    Anyway, I am happy to report that I did not get food poisoning or have any sort of reaction to my meal, so yay, calling it a win! Also, doesn't this make a much better story than if we'd gone to eat and had a delicious meal served in a timely manner?

    Well, whatever. I think it's going to take more than a couple of coupons to get us back to that place.

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    Project 333: Spring update

    My favorites!

    I didn't think I'd have much to update so soon, but then Abby stole my new black t-shirt (well, it is pretty awesome) and I decided that my grey pants need to go away.

    So I'm down two items is what I'm saying.

    Somehow Abby lost my denim jacket in her bedroom -- or maybe I lost it in my bedroom -- so if we ever find that thing, I'll have room for it now. ;)

    Here's my updated list, in case anyone cares:

    Grey: Cardigan, striped pullover sweater (2)
    Black: Dress, pants, capris, long sleeve tee, turtleneck sweater, cardigan, floral scarf and four pairs of shoes/boots (11)
    Black/white: Top, tank (2)
    Beige: Jacket, skirt, long sleeve tee, capris (4)
    Beige/orange: Top, tank, scarf (3)
    Maroon: Pullover sweater (1)
    Purple: Skirt (1)
    Navy: Cardigan, long sleeve tee, tank, striped scarf, patterned tank (5)
    Navy/beige or orange: Top, gauzy top (2)
    Blue/other: Recycled t-shirt skirt (1)
    Denim: Skirt, jeans (2)

    This is probably the best wardrobe I've ever managed to create, and I'm so excited that, after six tries, I've finally learned enough to make this happen.

    You guys, P333 is my favorite subject, so indulge me here because I rarely get to talk about it in real life and I feel a list coming on:

    What I've learned with P333:
    1. finally figured out that my 33 (um, or 34) isn't a place for clothes I'm on the fence about. This time, if I had any hesitation at all, that item didn't make it in. And as we've already established, my closet is now the best it's ever been. I don't think this is a coincidence.
    2. Once upon a time, I thought I really liked dress shirts. Turns out, I don't. P333 has helped me hone in on the items that I actually wear as opposed to what I think I wear. And knowledge is power: My last shopping trip was fantastic because I could just make a beeline for the items I knew I'd wear (like pretty t-shirts!).
    3. Which reminds me: I know what my personal style is now! Such a little thing, yet so huge.
    4. Pick a core color. (Mine is black.) Makes it much easier to coordinate.
    5. It seems counterintuitive that less would equal more, but it's a strange world, my friends, and that is exactly what I'm telling you. When you have 34 items (3 of which are scarves and 4 of which are shoes), you can really see your options. I used to have an overwhelming number of items, but nothing to wear. (Probably because it was all stuff I thought I liked but didn't. See #1.) I don't have that problem now. 
    6. Knowing that my closet is awesome and that whatever I pull out of it is going to make me feel like a rock star means I have one less thing to worry about each morning; it simply depends on the weather and what's clean. 
    7. Those lists of "50 Wardrobe Essentials Every Woman Needs"? Yeah, ignore 'em.
    8. That one magic item that will make your entire wardrobe "click" doesn't actually exist.
    9. P333 isn't about the number 33. It's about figuring out your individual "right" number. Mine seems to fluctuate between 28 and 37, depending on the season. I don't really worry about it.
    10. Never underestimate the power of a really great fitted jacket. :)
    Anyone else out there do P333? I'd love to hear about other people's experiences...