Saturday, September 17, 2016

Hey there, Internet friends

Just a quick note to say that all is well on the Walker front -- I've just been busy with work, family, and an intense Simple Year project (trying to go zero waste. You guys, it's hard, but it's also stupidly fun. I'm enjoying the heck out of this).

So I just don't have time to keep up with Pointless Ramble. And I'm okay with that. It could just be that the blog has run its course. Or maybe I'll pick it up again when my guest blogging year is over next April.

Just didn't want anyone to worry.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Goodbye, Skilly

Heartbreaking news: We unexpectedly lost Skilly on July 5, and it's taken the wind right out of our sails.

Literally the world's most beautiful cat -- inside and out.

The short story is that he went from perfectly fine to NOT FINE in less than a minute on the Fourth of July, but never did I think that whatever he was dealing with would be life threatening. We got him into the vet on July 5 -- he wasn't really able to stand by then -- and learned that he had a blockage in his bladder and was in kidney failure.

This has hit me hard, and I was feeling kind of sheepish about that until my acupuncturist told me that people often feel the deaths of their pets harder than that of humans because we have a very different relationship with them -- they're always there, and it's a very intimate relationship, i.e. lots of pets and hugs and you sleep with them, et al.

So that made me feel a little better.

Final resting place in the garden, by the blueberries. I like to
think he would approve, as he loved to help us pick them.

But it's still really hard. We keep looking for him. We had routines built from morning to evening that were Skilly-centric. He was the best cat ever, and he's left a huge hole.

Johanna is all for getting another cat right away (and naming it Pickles after her favorite cat in Neko Atsume, which has caused nightly fights between the girls because Abby hates that name, apparently), but Eric and I aren't in a hurry. We need some time to heal and just be.

Life is pretty boring when it's free of cats, but that's our reality.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Abby Texts: Awkward

Abby: When someone donates Fifty Shades to the rummage sale ...
Me: Oh. My. God.
Abby: I know.

Real posts at The Simple Year.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

No biggie, just a slight breakdown

School is out for summer and I'm having a bit of a breakdown because now I have a senior and a middle schooler and I'm just not emotionally prepared for either of those scenarios even though I knew this day would come eventually -- I have a very specific memory of when we found out we were pregnant with Johanna and we were laughing about "sixth grade and kindergarten. No wait, sixth grande and SENIOR!" -- and it just seemed so far out into the future, but here we are and you know what?

I so love my older kids, and I'm so happy with where our family is, but I would give (almost, let's not get too crazy) anything to go back and visit my goofy girls when they were, say, 8 and 2.

But I can't. And I really need to get my shit together and just accept that life is changing and it's okay, they're excited about this next chapter and I should be too.

I am not excited.

I will get excited.

Right after I cry a little more.

Metaphorically speaking. I'm not a cryer. I like to do my sobbing on the inside, it's just cleaner.

Real posts over at The Simple Year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Ooooooh boy. I'm sorry, you guys, I had no plans of letting this much time go by between posts. Having my zero waste project over at The Simple Year is taking up more time than I expected.

Although I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I'm trying to figure out how to sum up a month in one little update, and I'm not sure that I can. The girls are in their last week of school. Abby was elected ASB president for next year. I am having a breakdown because I'll have a sixth grader and a senior come Friday, and I'm not emotionally stable enough to handle that responsibility. Skilly is making all sorts of new friends now that the weather is nicer (or it WAS nice; it's freezing now) but is having a hard time not killing them (I feel bad for the birds, but not for the mice). I've been reading a lot. I'm making my own homemade deodorant now and it's awesome. I'm kind of tired, but I think that's the weather. I made sorbet out of gross canned peaches (they were too soft when I canned them) and it tastes like peach pie. Eric is terribly impressed with my abilities. And I also appreciate that he's accepted my zero waste craziness with total support.

Oh, and I just took my sorting test on Pottermore and I'm a Gryffindor, obvs, and my wand is ebony with unicorn hair, 13.5 inches and is slightly springy and flexible. Again, duh.

It's my wand and it's gorgeous.

Abby is a Slytherin and Johanna is a Hufflepuff. Both girls have 14.5 inch wands with unicorn hair cores, but I can't remember the wood type. Eric was going to take the test too until he realized he had to create an account. That boy does not do accounts.

We've covered the truly important things now. So yeah, I think that's pretty much it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Zero Waste Wednesday: A couple of kitchen cleaners that are rocking my world

I'm deep into my zero waste project over at The Simple Year, and it's been both overwhelming and amazing. Overwhelming because there's still SO MUCH TO DO, and amazing because I now have an excuse to be full-on zero waste crazy.

Which is kind of fun.

Recently I've been researching do it yourself (also known as DIY, except I always want to say DYI. It flows better, don't you think?) ... everythings ... and found two kitchen cleaners that have passed all of my tests: They're simple, you can get everything you need for them in the bulk aisle, they smell fantastic, they clean like a champ, and nothing separates when you leave it in the bottle for extended periods of time.

So basically like a lazy girl's dream.

Total ingredients: Two.

All-Purpose Cleaner
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon castile soap (I like peppermint)
Mix that around in a spray bottle and go to town. Give it a shake with each use.

Why this is so great: It takes very little to get a clean counter, it smells great, it's cheap and it's easy. This is my new favorite counter cleaner, and I have no desire to go look for any other recipe, THAT is how great this is.

Also, fun fact, I just learned that you aren't supposed to mix vinegar and castile, or you get the worst of both because of some scientific reaction that I'm not even going to pretend I understand. My old homemade cleaner mixed the two. I solemnly swear to never do that again.

Looks like marshmallow fluff, smells like candy canes.
Uh, if you use peppermint castile like me. ;)

"Soft Scrub" Sink Cleaner
6 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons castile soap
1 1/2 tablespoons water
Mix and store in a jar.

Why this is so great: It's not great -- it's perfect. Again, it takes very little to clean my sink, it smells lovely, it's easy to knock together and cheap as hell, and it doesn't separate during storage. Go make this RIGHT NOW. See? I told you!!!

BONUS CLEANER: Did you know you can use used coffee grounds to clean and deodorize? You can put a jar in the fridge to absorb odors AND sprinkle in your pans to super scrub. Technically I haven't tried either of these yet, it just sounds weird which makes it right up my alley.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

April books

April ended up being a pretty good book month -- the eLibrary really came through. Actually it came through a little too well, as I've got a couple of books I haven't been able to crack open yet. As long as I keep my Kindle in airplane mode, I can keep them in my queue. Otherwise, they'll get automatically checked back in -- they're way over their due dates.

Is that against eLibrary law? I have no idea. Or regrets.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future by Michael J. Fox (177 pages)
So, look. I think this book is supposed to be for, like, graduates (high school or college, either is fine) who are looking for advice from this actor guy who has had the highest highs and the lowest lows. Or something. And I think this is supposed to be reassuring, as in, "I've made mistakes and I've taken some chances and some crap happened and some good happened, and that's just life."

But you guys... this is drivel. I have "Lucky Man" on my Kindle (I bought it when Amazon had it on sale for 99-cents), and that was actually kind of interesting. This is just a reserving of his other writings meant to suck you in with the ol' Back to the Future reference, because who doesn't like Back to the Future?

In other words, I'm not really his target audience. On the upside, it only took a couple of hours to get through, and I had nothing better to do anyway. Another upside: I got this on my eLibrary account, and I got to check it out IMMEDIATELY. That never happens.

But lord, it's dull.

One Good Turn: A Novel (Jackson Brodie Book 2) by Kate Atkinson (433 pages)
I like Kate Atkinson. She writes fun books. Her use of language is fun, I mean. Sometimes her storylines are just alarming.

Eh, but what could happen? I was again on eLibrary, trying to find something to read (irony, since I can buy stuff now), and I remembered how I enjoyed "Case Histories" (or Jackson Brodie Book One) and I just wrote about how much I love "Life After Life," so really, it was a no-brainer to add this to my virtual book bag. Or whatever.

Just like in "Case Histories," we're introduced to a whole load of different characters who, eventually, you realize are all part of the same story. The ending on this one, though? I did NOT see that coming.

This was enjoyable enough -- I scarfed it down in three days -- but in some places I found myself just skimming because I wanted to hurry up and see how it ended. That's why I generally have to read books twice: Once to get it down quickly, and once to actually read it. ;)

I liked it. I immediately went and placed a hold on "When Will There Be Good News?" which is the third in the series. Our eLibrary doesn't have any of her other books, though, which is a bummer because I'd love to read "A God In Ruins" (with Teddy from "Life After Life"). Ah, well.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (529 pages)
You guys, I was not prepared for how much I was going to love this book. It's the ... well, it's the fictional book that's featured in "Fangirl," another Rainbow Rowell novel (which I thought was okay, but kind of long). So I sort of knew what it was going to be about, just because excerpts from THAT book are in THIS book.

Except she hadn't written it yet.

Anyway, seriously, I LOVE THIS BOOK. Another eLibrary ordeal, but I think I'm going to have to buy it. It's fun, well-written, and just when you think you know how it's all going to end -- because we've all read these "chosen one fantasy stories" more than once -- she changes it up.

Read it twice. (But only counted the total in my "pages read" once.) Rainbow Rowell is awesome.

Pages read: 1,139
Plus all the other pages I've read: 3,267
Equals! 4,406

Sunday, May 1, 2016

My conversation with Eric this morning

Eric: I won bear spray at the auction last night.
Me: Uh...
Eric: No, it's good, 'cause when we go hunting in Wyoming, there's always a chance you'll get into bear.
Me: That's not exactly what I want to hear.
Eric: And also when you and I go on a backpacking trip through Yellowstone someday, we'll be ready. Doesn't that sound FUN? That's on my bucket list, by the way.
Me: Oh, God. Is it really?
Eric: No.

I high-fived him. It's like the student has become the master.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Um... a small announcement

Hey there, my internet friends! Today is not only my favorite mother-in-law's birthday and my cousin Seth's wedding, but Earth Day!

That's a lot of awesome packed into one little day.

We love you, Seth and Ashley!

I have a bit of an announcement to share that is definitely eco-friendly and is going to make me really have to step up my game:

So you guys, it's not really going to come as a surprise that I am a minimalist and that I'm trying to pursue a zero waste lifestyle. The minimalism is easy, the zero waste is hard. I tend to get sort of lax on the zero waste front, because I'm easily frustrated and it's kind of impossible anyway, no matter how hard you try.

Well... that's what my mind keeps telling me.

Um, so anyway, I follow a blog called The Simple Year. It's about women and the projects they undertake to "simplify." That's in quotes because simple is never actually simple. We had Kerry, who bought nothing new for a year, and Kandice, who downsized just about everything in her life, and Tracy, who has been working on a series of objectives to declutter and organize.

But each project only lasts a year, and when the group called out for applications for the coming year's Simple Year, I applied with the idea of a zero waste project.

And my proposal was accepted.

So I'm the new Simple Year contributor.

It's slowly occurring to me what I've signed up for. Not that it won't be completely awesome -- I'm so excited! But I'm also nervous. When I found out my project had been selected and told the family what I'd signed us all up for, the conversation went something like this:

Eric: So Mom has some exciting news.
Abby: You'd better not be pregnant.
Me: What?! NO! I'm, uh, the new Simple Year blogger. I submitted the idea for a zero waste year and got picked.
Johanna: MOM! You're gonna do so great!
Abby: That's awesome! You will rock that!
Eric: [Quietly grinning]
Me: Um, so... it's not just me who's doing this project. It's all of us.
Girls: Noooooooooooooooooo!

So they're super excited too is what I'm saying.

Anyway, I started April 15  and have a few posts up, which is why I figured it would be safe to tell y'all now. I'll be writing about the challenges and successes of practicing zero waste in a small town and with a (kind of unwilling) family (it's hilarious to me that the girls are freaking out about this because they already do so much -- they're minimalists, too. Is it the new title? I have no idea). It's going to be fun, and eye-opening, and it's also going to force me to quit being so lazy and distracted.

I will still be posting here. Simple Year is quite focused, so for all my random thoughts, Pointless Ramble will live on. I'm sure that's a relief (at least to my mother).

The end, I guess. Or maybe I should say, "The beginning."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Take THAT, anxiety ferret!

So remember how last month I went to my reflexology appointment and the anxiety ferret basically made me want to jump off the table and run for the hills?

Yeah, that was fun.

How can something so fluffy and adorable be such
a jerk?!

Anyway, I had my monthly appointment on Monday, and I was kind of nervous about it, truth be told, because I was trying NOT to be nervous -- trying not to psych myself out by assuming it would all go wrong again. It's kind of hilarious how when you try to not think about something, your brain immediately latches on to whatever that is and that's all you can think about.

It's fine, that's just science. (I guess?)

But when 2 p.m. rolled around -- my standing appointment time -- I marched myself up the hill to the reflexology office (how cool is it that it's just up the hill?) and told myself that THIS WAS GOING TO BE FINE.

And it was. Oh, the anxiety ferret was all, hey girl, what's up?, but I was all, I don't even see you.

And it went away.

That's probably luck more than anything, but you know what? We take our victories where we can.

And also: I just tried to enjoy it. How often do you get to have someone rub your feet with soft music playing, a heating pad under your back, and the sunlight streaming through the window? I focused on why I like reflexology: It's relaxing, it's completely selfish (I mean, no one is benefiting from this but me), and it stimulates my organs or something. (Oh, the joy hearing that you have some congestion in your colon. Yeah, totally gross, but if you can get beyond THAT, it's very nice to have your stomach issues justified.)

So yay me is what I'm saying. Anxiety ferret, you just stay in your box.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Project 333: Spring edition

I'm not going to lie: My spring and summer wardrobe is my favorite. I love the patterns, the colors, the lightweight fabrics. I love ditching the sweaters and the boots and pulling out t-shirts and sandals.

I love my wardrobe so much, in fact, that I'm not even remotely tempted to change it by going shopping. That would just mean I'd have to get rid of something else, and I'm not ready to part with anything.

Seriously. I love this wardrobe.

Right now we're dealing with temperatures that go from freezing (that's 32º Fahrenheit here in the good ol' States, because apparently everything has to be a revolution with us) to low-80ºs -- generally in the same day in a span of a couple of hours. (Oregon! You crazy beast!) So right now I have a couple of my favorite sweaters still in the mix because I need them, but I will ditch them as soon as I can (i.e., the weather gets truly nice consistently).

This was my lunch view yesterday. It was too gorgeous
to stay inside. 

This is, however, the perfect time of year for my jackets -- my old beige thing (we're going on six years now, it's like my child at this point) and my new to me denim jacket (a heck of a deal at a consignment shop last summer). Saying goodbye to my coat? Not all that hard, to be honest.

Other changes: I have a couple of t-shirt skirts (skirts made out of t-shirt material, whoever thought of that is a GENIUS) that I'm waiting to cycle in -- they look ridiculous with tights, but it's not always warm enough to NOT wear tights. Oh, and confession, I have a few dresses in the back of the closet I am not counting as they're too fancy for everyday wear, but we've already gotten three wedding invitations for this spring, so... I want them around. Just not THAT around.

When I first started P333, I couldn't wrap my mind around stretching the rules to fit my life, but at this point, I'm pretty comfortable doing whatever I need to do in order to make the capsule work for me.

Some of my favorites: Navy flowered shirt, beige and orange
peasant blouse, orange and white tank, blue and grey
baseball-style shirt, navy peasant blouse and black
and white t-shirt.

Here's the obligatory list of items in my closet. If you are good at math, you will notice that this is a list of 35, not 33. Eh, details are boring.

Grey: (3)
Santa Clara University long-sleeve t-shirt
... and blue baseball-style 3/4-sleeve shirt (pictured above)

Black: (10)
Turtleneck sweater
Shoes 1
Shoes 2
... and beige skirt
... and beige polka-dot tank
... and white t-shirt (pictured above)

Beige: (5)
... and orange patterned peasant-style blouse (pictured above)
... and orange tank (pictured above)
... and orange patterned scarf

Brown: (1)

Purple: (2)
... and multi patterned tank

Teal: (1)
Peasant-style blouse

Blue: (13)
Cardigan (navy)
Cardigan (light blue)
Turtleneck sweater (light blue)
Pretty peasant-style short-sleeved blouse (and tank... both in navy, pictured above)
Tank (navy)
Denim jacket
... and flowered t-shirt (pictured above; my very favorite!)
... and another flowered t-shirt, but this one is a gauzy material
3/4-sleeve shirt (navy)
... and yellow patterned maxi skirt (lighter blue)
Capris (light denim)
... and stripped scarf

For more on Project 333, click HERE.

* So the story on these capris: I could absolutely NOT believe how long they were on my 6-foot body. I mean, they actually fit and didn't look like I was wearing high waters AT ALL. When I got them home I realized they were long because they are actually real people pants, not tall people capris. Ah, well. Whatever works.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pointless experiments: Tiny note project

(File this one under "stuff I forgot I was going to write about.")

Once upon a time, like in December, I took part in Courtney Carver's 31 Gifts You So Deserve. I think I even mentioned I was doing so at the time ... yep, HERE at the very end. Anyway, one of her gifts was writing tiny notes to say thank you, or I love you, or I'm thinking about you, and either sending them off into the world or taking a picture and emailing the sentiment.

My first thought was, wow, that would make a really fun little project someday!

Page from my journal, which is basically a dumping ground
for quotes I like and things I want to think about...

Someday, because December was already hella crazy. ;)

In February -- chosen because it's the month of love or whatever -- I decided to launch my tiny note project with the goal of one note mailed out per day for all 29 days. I even had fantasies of making the walk to the post office part of my daily work routine.

Well, THAT part didn't happen because I ended up getting sick and it was all I could do to, like, survive.

But the tiny note part? NAILED IT.

My tiny notes and my 2016 goal journal, which I made
from recycled paper and had bound, then decorated.

I found the perfect little blank note cards at the stationary store (purchased before my self-imposed buying ban for Lent. I had to really plan ahead!), and embellished them myself with stickers. I tended to do up a week's worth of cards at once and then mail them over the span of a few days before starting all over again.

One unforeseen obstacle was that, while I had plenty of people I could write to, they had to be people who wouldn't think I was weird for saying, "Hey, happy Valentine's month! I love you!" So at least a quarter of those on my list were children -- nieces and nephews mostly. I mean, kids don't think twice when you mail them a Valentine and tell them they're great and you love them so much. They're just like, RIGHT?! 

I figured that aunts, uncles, parents and in-laws would probably not think I was too weird, either, nor would my very best friends in this world.

I didn't get a lot of response from the project (which I understand -- people are busy! Actually my friend Shannon sent me a note to thank me for my note, and I was going to email to say thank you, and FORGOT. Shannon! I got your note!), but what I did hear was all positive. People like getting real mail even if they don't tell you that. And the point was to spread some love, not generate mail or thanks for myself, and you know what? Mission accomplished!

This was actually one of the funner projects I've embarked on. In case you're curious, my January goal was to make healthy choices (you can see my some of my scribbles for that in the picture above) and in March I tried to establish a nightly routine (and kind of failed). This month I'm just going for peace. I figure that will be hard enough. ;)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Another round of pointless updates!

1. Hello, internet friends! I decided to ditch all plans today and just enjoy being at home. The weather is gorgeous, my house is a mess, and I have nothing that I really need to be doing. 

What a gift!

2. Was it only last Saturday that I ended up in Longview with my parents because we'd gotten the call that Grandma's heart was acting all funny and she'd been taken to emergency? Anyway, as I sort of alluded to in a past post, it turns out my sweet little Grammie has congestive heart failure. And had a mini-stroke, although that happened in the hospital and since my mother and aunt were watching her and noticed it, she was saved from having a massive stroke.

Because of that, she's been admitted to a nursing home for a few weeks (this place totally sucks -- it's where my mother had to bust out my grandfather a couple of years ago). But she's content, and she's getting better, and maybe she'll be able to move back to her assisted living apartment.

When your Grandma is 92, you just sort of have to accept that there is no way you can control the outcome and just be grateful that you still have a grandma. 

Anyway, although that was NOT the Saturday I'd wanted to spend (emergency rooms are kind of the worst), it was okay because I got to see Grandma and tell her that I love her so much, and just kind of entertain her with stories about the girls, and hang out and just be.

3. We've had some ridiculously great weather in our little part of Oregon this week, and the flowers and buds are really starting to pop. This makes me so happy. I love being able to take a walk after work or have lunch outside in the sunshine. 

4. That sunshine and ability to have outside lunch breaks saved my sanity this week, as we were putting together an annual spring section at work and that was a lot of extra stress and angst and general awfulness. Our publisher must have caught on to our despondency because she brought in good coffee and snacks half-way through. Turns out I can be bought. Actually, never mind, everyone already knows the way to my heart and happiness is just coffee.

But hey! We finally sent that thing off to press yesterday! My eyeballs will probably stop hurting any minute now.

5. The only bad thing about the sunshine is that, as I'm looking out the window trying to decide what to write next, I can see those windows are grungy and need a good clean. Ah, well. Maybe tomorrow.

6. Johanna went to a Blazers game on Thursday with her class at school -- a very last minute thing, as she had previously said she didn't really want to go. Turns out the $10 fee was just to buy her ticket, so I sent my baby to Portland without any spending money, which wouldn't be a bad thing if this kid wasn't an empty vessel that must be constantly fed. Luckily, her best friend's grandpa had volunteered to chaperone and he spotted her for snacks. This is why you read the fine print when you're signing a permission slip three hours before the class leaves, I guess. 

Ah, well. Details are boring.

7. Now that I've written about Jo, I feel like I need to write about Abby, just to be fair. That kid is so super busy and has so much on her plate. Are all teenagers this driven? Anyway, with basketball over, she's been able to enjoy more time with friends, and I think that's a good thing -- she needs to have some fun.

Also, we are not even thinking about the fact that she is in her last term as a junior, and that next year she graduates from high school and goes off to college. NO.

That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

February/March books

Rest assured I am keeping up with my "pages read" extravaganza. It's just that I found myself resisting reading in February, until it occurred to me that THAT was because I didn't like my book very much.

So I quit reading it. And that made all the difference.

Because I gave up buying stuff for Lent, my book choices were limited to what came up on my eLibrary account and what I already have in my ebook collection.

It was like I was a pioneer or something.


Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles Book 1) by Colin Meloy (565 pages)
Ah, I began this book with such hope. I've heard from several people that this book series is a winner. Well, it's set in Portland -- our neighbors to the west -- and Colin is the lead singer of The Decemberists.

I LOVE The Decemberists!

But I just couldn't get into this book. It was fine. It was even fun in some spots. But it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Because I love coffee.

And I still love you, Colin Meloy.

P.S. Johanna is reading this book and she likes it just fine. She has to ask me what words mean a lot, but I think that's a good thing. Expands her vocabulary.

Under Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles Book 2) by Colin Meloy
I'm not going to even put a page count here because this is the book I quit about a quarter of the way through. I just didn't want to read it.

I guess this begs the question of why I even attempted it if I didn't enjoy the first one, and the answer is easy: It was available on eLibrary and I figured it was the quickest way to get something new to read on my Kindle.

Ah, well.

Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (512 pages)
Now here's a book I've already read a few times, and one that I keep coming back to because I like it so much. It's about Ursula, who keeps dying and then coming back for a do-over. She lives the same life, but it's never the same.

I don't know, I think that's fascinating. So I'll probably read it again.

Regarding Ducks and Universes by Neve Maslakovic (344 pages)
This is one of the very first books I bought for my Kindle back in 2010. My device was brand spankin' new, and this book was on sale for 99 cents. I hadn't learned yet that there are reasons cheap books are cheap, but let me tell you this: I got a hell of a deal, because this books is amazing.

So it was fun to have an excuse to read it again. It's all about quantum physics... without being about quantum physics. Felix in Universe A is feeling pretty good about himself until he realizes there's another Felix in Universe B. It's a complicated idea, but Maslakovic doesn't make it seem complicated at all.

Yes, go read it. You're welcome.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (339 pages)
So this book... I don't even know where to begin. This is another of my favorites from my own personal (nonexistent because it's digital) collection. The writing style -- or how Eli Sisters "speaks" -- verses what Eli and Charlie are doing is just... it's hilarious. These two are assassins. They should not be sympathetic characters. Well, Charlie really isn't, but Eli is. It's dark and grim and just funny as hell. I don't know what this says about me personally, but I totally recommend this one.

Fangirl: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell (445 pages)
It's no secret I'm a big Rainbow Rowell fan -- this is the third book I've read of hers in as many months -- so maybe you can imagine my joy when this one came up on eLibrary. I literally dropped what I was doing and just started reading right then and there.

This book was good, although I'm not sure it was as good as some of the other books of hers that I've read (Eleanor and Park? That one is perfect). Cath is in college. She writes fanfic and has a very popular website. But she's struggling. It's her first year of college. Her twin sister Wren isn't really talking to her. She's worried about her bipolar dad.

But she's endearing, and she acts totally like an 18-year-old would, and it was nice to see that she was eventually able to get her shit together.

If I keep my Kindle in wifi mode, I'll have enough time to read it again before I have to return it. ;)

February/March pages read: 2,205
Plus January:1,062
Equals: 3,267

Huh. I would honestly have guessed I was higher than that. Who cares, really, I just think it's kind of interesting.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter, Internet friends!

So... my sweet little grandma went to the emergency room yesterday morning, and we've since learned that she's got congestive heart failure and AFIB. When my Mom called to tell me the news and announce they were headed to Longview, I decided to go along, too. It was a hard, frustrating day (all we did was wait, and then wait some more), but the good news is that she is where she's supposed to be now and is getting care.

Grandma was sure she was going to be sent home -- so what if she can't walk? -- and was mildly surprised when she heard she was being admitted to the hospital. But she rallied, and even decided maybe it was okay because now they could figure out what was wrong with her heart.

My thoughts are with her today. I don't know if this is the beginning of the end or what is going to happen. I'm trying to be very zen about the whole ordeal.

Not really the post I'd planned to write, but anyway, now you sort of know why I've been MIA.

I do sincerely, however, wish you all a very happy Easter. Go eat some chocolate. I certainly am!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lenten update update

So remember how I checked in about the half-way mark to let you know how I was doing with my Lenten fast, which is basically that I have given up processed foods and shopping, and I was blithely all, oh, yeah, I'm doing great!?

The mighty have fallen, internet friends.

I am struggling. I want chips. I want chocolate. Actually, during my weekly grocery trip yesterday, I bought a chocolate bar -- milk chocolate, I'm not even bothering to pretend I'm in it for the supposed health benefits -- and I'm not even sorry. I ate about half at lunch and it was delicious. If there's any left over by dinnertime, meaning no one else in the family has sniffed it out, I will finish it.

I also bought a dress yesterday -- my first purchase since this whole thing started 40-ish days ago. One of Abby's cute little friends held a "prom dress project," where all dresses were $10, and I found what must have been a little back dress from some old lady's closet, because this thing is actually made in America, which you can never find anymore, and a brand that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist in 2016. Anyway, that alone might not have been enough to tempt me, but all proceeds go to a local women's shelter, so it was buy this dress and help or not buy this dress and not help.

Um, I guess I could have just donated the $10 and stayed true to my fast, but... I didn't.

It is a pretty great dress.

So that's the new state of the union. Lent is hard. I wanted it to be hard, so I have no one to blame but myself, but damn!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Project 333: Winter 2016 edition

Since my last post was such a downer, I'm making it up to you by writing about something way less stressful -- my winter Project 333 capsule wardrobe. (If you're not familiar with Courtney Carver and Project 333, start here.) And so what if the spring edition starts in three weeks? (Meaning: Wow, I really put this post off, didn't I?) Better late than never. I guess.

As I pondered writing about P333 this morning, I briefly considered just tossing everything out of the closet and starting fresh -- and early -- with that spring rotation. But this is what it looks like outside my little Oregon window this morning:

Rain and 38º. I can't feel too bad about it because we were
in drought all last summer, but it does drag on my soul.

Hardly inspirational for putting together a wardrobe containing short sleeves. Which is to say: I'm embracing my winter wardrobe for a little while longer.

I've gotten rather good at getting rid of anything I resist wearing in my capsule -- that's just Hint No. 1 that something isn't right -- but for some reason, I've been holding onto this cardigan that Abby decided to let go of earlier this year:

If anyone I know in real life wants this, let me know...

It's actually really comfortable, AND it's got pockets! I wore it to work once just to see if I'd like it. I liked it. So I put it back into my wardrobe, where it has hung untouched since then.

Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?

(King Lear. Anyone? No?)

Well, aside from that little failure, which has now been rectified, here's what I've been wearing this season:

Grey (5)
Santa Clara U long-sleeve t-shirt
Stripped sweater with holes
Baseball-style t-shirt

Black (12)
Short-sleeve t-shirt
Sweatshirt dress
Long-sleeve t-shirt
Turtleneck sweater (a favorite)
Jeans (really good purchase, as it turned out)
Patterned leggings
Boots *
Ankel boots *

Look! It's my favorite beige jacket last summer
in Cannery Row! That shirt is not in my winter
lineup, but it will be coming out this spring.

Beige (5 minus 1)
Jacket **
Abby's sweater (bye!)
Black and beige patterned skirt
Orange floral patterned bohemian-style blouse

Purple (2)
Purple and orange patterned tank top

Green (1)
Patterned leggings (they kind of make me feel like the Jolly Green Giant)

Ah, well. At least that giant is jolly.

Teal (1)
Bohemian-style blouse

Light blue (1)
Turtleneck sweater (same style as my black one)

Dark blue (6)
Patterned skirt
Long-sleeve t-shirt
3/4-sleeved with embroidered flowers
Denim jacket
Denim jeans

Well, anyway, that's been the state of the union this winter. It's a solid little wardrobe, and I have been pretty pleased with it. Not that I'm not dreaming of wearing that above-pictured short-sleeve orange shirt. ;) But this wardrobe has gotten me through all sorts of situations, from work to a funeral reception to weekends. What more could I ask for?

If you're thinking of trying your own project but don't know where to start, here are my suggestions (hard won after three or four years of this now):

  • Don't be afraid! That's the main thing. Look, this is a three month project. It's not forever. (Unless you want it to be. Like me.)
  • Start with your favorite clothing. Pick 33 items (or 44, or whatever seems like a challenge) and then put the rest away, out of sight.
  • Notice what's happening with your wardrobe. Are you resisting wearing anything? Do you wish you'd have added something else? Swap things out. Which brings us to: 
  • If you have to make edits every month -- or every week -- go for it. Look at it as a fact-finding mission or a science experiment. There's no right or wrong here.

P.S. You don't have to count exercise clothing or "lounge wear" that doesn't get worn outside the house. You actually don't have to count anything you don't want to count. I didn't count shoes or scarves for a very long time.

See you in a few weeks with my spring P333... assuming I can get my act together. :)

*Both of these will need to be replaced by next season because of general wear and tear, which bums me out because I really like them.

**My jacket, which is going on Year 6, has some unexplained blueish stains on one of the elbows. The blue is rather faint, so I've decided not to worry about it. But this also bums me out. This jacket is my friend.

Friday, March 11, 2016

One step closer to the edge

** I talk about a recent anxiety attack in this post, and that may be a trigger for those of you out there who are also suffering from anxiety. Sorry about that. I'm just trying to get it out.

It's been a rough week for my anxiety -- I kind of know why, it's hormonal, period kind of stuff -- but knowing why doesn't make it any easier. I've been practicing a mental exercise of sorts the last few weeks when the panic starts to surge, and that seems to help ... most of the time.

So it's a little alarming when it doesn't.

Anyway, I see my anxiety as an ill-behaved ferret. This thing likes to knock stuff off the table and cause as much havoc as possible. I'm almost fond of the dumb thing, I'm so used to it.

Looks cute, right?

Well, it's NOT.

The exercise: When AF ("anxiety ferret") pokes her head out to play, I'm all, hey there, I see you. My acupuncturist suggested that -- because there isn't always a reason for an anxiety attack, and just acknowledging that it exists, without trying to figure out why, can be helpful in stopping the rampage.

And that generally is all it takes.

But when AF starts a ruckus, I imagine calmly step over her. I used to do that when my kids were in that insane 3-year-old stage and they'd throw a fit. Step over those flailing little bodies, like, hey, I know you're upset, but I am not dealing with you when you're like this.

My acupuncturist was kind of pleased with me when we discussed my anxiety at my last appointment, just that I was able to make this connection and put it into place so quickly -- it had only been two weeks since we'd talked about it -- and honestly, I was feeling kind of proud of myself, too. I enjoy a good coping strategy. Especially when it seems to work so well.

After a perfectly lovely weekend, filled with naps and books and absolutely no stress, I headed back into the world on Monday, ready to face the week, cheered further by the reflexology appointment I had scheduled for 2 p.m.

I love reflexology! It's all the benefits of a massage without having to get undressed. ;)

My stomach had been acting up all morning -- yay fertility (I guess) -- and I was hoping that it would settle down by the time my appointment rolled around, but it didn't. I even took half of an Imodium Multi-symptom (those things are gold), and that sort of helped ... but not really.

So there I am, talking to my darling reflexologist and just trying to enjoy my foot massage, when AF peeks out with that stupid little head of hers.

And I'm like, hey there, not right now, please, this is my monthly treat and you are NOT going to ruin it.

And AF was like, you can't tell me what to do!

I actually thought about just getting up off that table, putting on my shoes and getting the hell out of there. It was torture to have to fight the panic while pretending nothing was wrong. AF didn't care if I acknowledged her; she didn't care if I stepped over her as she started throwing her fit. I breathed deeply. I went through my usual litany of, I am in no physical danger, I have control of my body, I have control of my mind. I clenched my teeth and bit my tongue and just concentrated on NOT GETTING UP OFF THAT TABLE.

And I didn't. But, as I said, it was torture.

And that totally bums me out. I've been getting reflexology monthly since the fall, and it has been so good for my general health. Just because it IS so relaxing. I get to lay on a heating pad with a cozy blanket for an hour and it's totally selfish and accomplishes nothing!

So basically it's just awesome.

Having an attack there, in what is usually a safe place, is discouraging. It means that next month I'm going to be thinking about it when my appointment rolls around, and then trying NOT to think about it when I'm back on the table.

And it also means I'm not really doing as well as I thought I was.

Well, whatever. Needs must and so on. (Life After Life? Anyone?)

The end? I'm not really sure how to end this, except with a sigh of relief that the week is over and I can start fresh tomorrow.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent update: The half-way mark


Today is the 26th day of Lent (I know because we get daily Lenten Reflection emails from Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire -- we love that guy), and, as we're a little over the half-way point, this seems like as good a time as any to come clean about how I'm doing with my Lenten fast.

If I may be so bold as to quote myself from my February 12 post:
Much like in years' past, I'm giving up processed foods, but this year I'm going for extra holy, so I'm also adding another element to this whole ordeal: I'm giving up buying anything, too. I don't actually buy that much, 'cause minimalism, yo, but I do rather enjoy coffees and the occasional lunch (and dinner) out on the town. It's just too easy to walk down the street and pick up a sandwich. I see these two things as extensions of each other: If I'm not eating processed food, that means most restaurant eating is out, and if I'm not buying anything, that means, like, no food treats at the grocery store.
Ah, the optimism in which we begin any life-changing event! ;)

Actually, I'm proud to say that I'm doing pretty good with this. Eric said last night that he thought it would be the no-processed foods that would be the hard part (and I've kind of just decided that anything pre-packaged, with the exception of milk, cheese, and, like flour and sugar and whatnots, counts as processed), but that's actually the easiest for me to handle. I think it's because I'm used to NOT eating things anyway -- people bring things like cupcakes with bright pink frosting or packaged cookies to work all the time, and it's not a big deal for me to just smile and nod and not even be tempted.

Ugh, because there's nothing that tastes good enough to be worth an IBS attack.

But the not buying anything? That is tough, which I knew it would be and is why I added that little piece to my Lenten puzzle. It's not so much the fact that I can't get any books for my Kindle, or even buy an new ink pen for my journaling that's hard -- it's the simple stuff, like not buying my favorite veggie sandwich or walking to a coffee shop for an Americano.

And I haven't!

Okay, I did once. Last Thursday. I drove to Dutch Bros. and even as I was on my way I was like, well, I'm going to have to admit this on the blog, is this coffee really something I need? But then PMS was like, COFFFFFFFEEEEEEE, so that was pretty much that.

And it was delicious.

I've also mostly been taking Sundays off -- if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, that makes 46, and Lent is only 40 -- although I'm not going too crazy. One decaf vanilla latte. I had a bowl of Cheddar Bunnies today and am eating a candy cane that was leftover from Christmas. I'm purposely still not buying ebooks or ink pens because that seems like it would be cheating. Actually I didn't even buy the chocolate bar I was eying yesterday during my grocery trip because that also seemed like cheating, Sunday or not. (I wasn't going to take any Sundays off, but then I read "'Cheating' on Sundays" by Meg Hunter-Kilmer, and I was like, mini-Easter! I can get behind that!)

But I tell you this, my friends: this weekend I not only made a double batch of banana muffins (used all seven over-ripe bananas banging around in my freezer!), but a batch of Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. You try PMS-ing with carrots as your only comfort food. It's a miracle I didn't completely lose my mind...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Patrons of the arts

Johanna creates what's close to her heart. Which is mostly just doughnuts.

Johanna is my little theater buddy, which is great because this means I can see any show I want and can use her as an excuse to go, because obviously as a mother I need to encourage her interests. She told me once that she likes plays even more than she likes movies. I think there's something about the live, unexpected element that really floats her boat. The only reason she's looking forward to middle school next year is that she can take drama as an elective.

So going to plays is no problem. Going to gallery openings and exhibits, that is a problem, mostly because it just doesn't occur to me to go.

This month I set out to change that. One of my goals this year is to take the girls to more artsy events, and lo and behold, I just happened to interview a teenager earlier this month about the show she curated as a school project, and I was like, hey! This is right up Johanna's alley! and made plans for the two of us to attend.

I kind of forgot that Johanna freezes up when she's in a new situation, especially if it involves a bunch of people she doesn't know. So she spent the whole 10 minutes we were at the show's extremely crowded opening clinging to my arm and starring blankly at me when I tried to talk about what we were seeing.

Oh, and then there was the series of paintings that featured boobs, and she just couldn't get over that. I told her we were looking at the human form as artists and not 11-year-olds, but it turns out we WERE looking at them as 11-year-olds. And apparently 11-year-olds think boobs are terrifying.

Another Johanna original: A study in color.

But then I got the great idea of going to another gallery for a show about pets that was in its final days. This was more her speed: No boobs, plus we were the only ones there. She was much more relaxed and even drew her own picture on the community mural wall.

On the way home, I tried to talk to her about what we'd seen, but it turns out that she didn't really care.

That was Friday night. On Sunday, the two of us, plus her best friend Annika, went to see "Taming of the Shrew" at the high school. I had taken photos of a dress rehearsal and had written a review earlier in the week, and while I knew Shakespeare was going to be a bit of a stretch for the kid, I figured that, if nothing else, the acting was great and the costumes were fantastic and she'd probably figure out what was going on from the action (with a bonus of supporting the school's drama program, which is hella poor).

We made it through the first act just fine, but by the second, both girls' attentions were waning. I kept whispering a translation of what was going on to Johanna, who would consistently tell me she already knew that. So that was fun. (Insert Johanna here asking, "Are you being sarcastic?) Mostly what the girls got out of the show was that speaking in English accents is super fun. They kept saying things like, I think thee is a loon, and no, I think thee is a loon, over and over and over again, all the way home.


Anyway, I guess the point of all of this is that we were patrons of the arts, all right, even if none of it turned out quite the way I had planned.

I mean, it never does, not with kids. And that's okay. At the very least, we got to hang out, and at best, maybe someday she'll actually think about that weekend and be inspired to try something new.

Or not. It's really cool either way.

P.S. Johanna is apparently taking commissions from her classmates for her artwork. Here's one of the most recent ones she's given away:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rest in peace, Uncle Bob

I'm so glad you're not suffering anymore, but wow, we are going to miss you.

Love you. Say hi to Gramps for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Zero Waste Wednesday (-ish): Homemade sore throat spray

As we established in my last post, I've been sick. You know, I usually get at least one cold in the winter (it's tradition), and I've had some bad ones, but wow, the one I'm fighting now has got to be the worst. I was taking pictures for an article on the high school's new theater production last night and had to leave the room because I'm still coughing / crying / clutching my broken sternum.* Although, fact: I actually slept through the night last night. I'm not sure what to do with so much good news. I kind of can't believe I'm ever going to feel better at this point.

Anyway, when this whole ordeal started, I found an organic throat spray at the grocery store and that has been my constant companion these last seven days. When I looked at the label, I discovered the ingredients were just apple cider vinegar, honey, and some herbs.

Hey, I own apple cider vinegar, honey, and some herbs! When I finished my 2-ounce bottle in five days, I kind of wanted to see what would happen if I made my own.

This is why we have the Internet. I found all kinds of "recipes," although they all seemed to call for essential oils, and on that front, my friends, I am sorely lacking.

Just to prove I actually made this, you get a crappy photo.
Apple cider vinegar + local raw honey + recycled
spray bottle = I'm a genius!

Eh, what could happen? I decided to try THIS recipe from One Good Thing By Jillee (because if you're ever trying to find a tutorial on anything, she's got one), except basically cut out everything that wasn't water, apple cider vinegar or honey.

Which means my recipe was just: 

  • 3/4 cup water (supposed to be purified, I used tap because our tap water is amazing)
  • 2 tablespoons raw, organic apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey

... All heated up on my stovetop to melt the honey, and then put into my reused throat spray bottle. I had some left over, so I put that into a jar and popped it in the refrigerator because I didn't really know what else to do with it. P.S. To use, shake like mad first.

I suppose I could have added the sea salt ... but I didn't. My reasoning: Apple cider vinegar is used for its bacterial-killing properties and honey soothes, and water is just life or whatever, so good enough.

(Also: I was really tired when I made it.)

So of course now that I have said homemade throat spray -- which, I gotta say, tastes better than the store-bought one and actually sprays -- the tickle in my throat has abated. I've still used it (probably more than necessary) because I MADE THIS AND I'M SO EXCITED plus it's basically a habit at this point to cough and then spray. So I'm not sure exactly how well it works is what I'm saying. It can't hurt, that's for sure, so ... no harm, no foul.

In case you don't trust my tutorial and notes (and honestly, I don't blame you), I've got a few more links for you. Because I'm all about service and sharing knowledge, you guys.

THIS POST from The Hippy Homemaker lists a bunch of different herbs and whatnots that can be used to relieve sore throats. Huh, apple cider vinegar also loosens phlegm. Good to know.

THIS POST from Wellness Mama contains a recipe for a tincture where basically you're soaking herbs in vodka and then straining them, which sounds awesome.

And THIS POST from The Nerdy Farm Wife has both a spray recipe (using a tincture!) and herb lists for battling a sore throat.

As for the zero waste aspect of all of this: No purchased container to have to deal with later with the added bonus of already having all necessary ingredients on hand. Oh, wait, I think I'm supposed to do a pro/con list, sorry, it's been a while since I've done a post like this:

Got to reuse a bottle
Actually tastes fairly decent for a throat spray
No weird preservatives or ingredients I can't pronounce
Sprays well
Could probably also be used as a "swish" if you don't have a spray bottle

None that I can think of ... unless you just like going to the store when you're sick

*My sternum isn't actually broken. But something in that general area is definitely strained or sprained. Probably. I don't know, medical classes were sparse during my college days as an English major.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A couple updates or whatevs

Update 1
I just watched Johanna give Eric a hair cut. With clippers. It's probably the best home hair cut he's ever gotten.

Which means I am off the hook for future hair cuts. That's the best case scenario, really. ;)

Update 2
I have been battling a mother of a cold since last Wednesday. You guys, this cold has been so bad that I missed a day of work. And all our planned weekend activities (see Update 3). It started with a tickle in the back of my throat, then advanced to a raging headache and coughing so hard that I swear I've broken my sternum. The alarming thing about THAT is that I have a high pain threshold, which makes me wonder exactly how bad I'm actually feeling. I mean, if I think it hurts, then it's probably really awful, right? Like punctured lung bad!

Well, whatever. It only hurts when I cough. Or sneeze. Or blow my nose. Or laugh. The dumb thing about all this is that, while I sound terrible and look worse and am constantly clutching my sternum (I'm kind of proud I even know what a sternum is, although I didn't until Eric told me this morning), I'm actually finally feeling better. I can feel the pressure leaving my head, and it no longer hurts when I swallow.

It's just those damn unannounced tickles that send me into coughing fits and bring me to my knees.

Eh, it's probably fine. No, it's not. God, that hurts...

Update 3
This weekend we had Big Plans in the Walker household: Abby and Johanna received awards from the Sons and Daughters of the Oregon Pioneers (Abby is Miss Pioneer Oregon,* and Johanna won the middle school essay contest), and then Johanna had a two-day basketball tournament. So we were going to spend the night with Eric's sister and have all this family time and whatnots.

So I missed that. Ah, well. But Eric taped both Abby's acceptance speech and Johanna's time in the basketball games for me, so I at least got to watch after the fact. Not quite as good as being there, but I definitely made the right call staying home, in that I was just in bed for 48 hours. Good times.

Abby is going to be mad at me for posting this.
Let's not tell her, okay?

*It's an essay contest, not a pageant by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to tell you this. Mostly because ... well, because I think pageants are dumb.

Update 4
So let's talk about Miss Pioneer Oregon's costume, shall we? We had exactly three weeks to get this together and have her portraits taken. Ha ha ha! Isn't that hilarious? Also totally true.

So we found out she'd been awarded the honor the day we left for the Christmas House in Lincoln City (relive those memories here and here). Abby and I hit the Goodwill there, not really expecting to find anything but also totally hoping we would because, as I've mentioned above, time was of the essence.

Anyway, so we hit Goodwill and go to the dress section. There's a lady in the way on Abby's end of the size rack, so we just go to the other end ... where we find this red gingham monstrosity in a size 18. Abby, incidentally, is like a 6. Well, what could happen? It's got a great front button feature and the pattern is definitely 19th century. Here's a close up of the top:


The buttons were actually the best part of the dress. Emboldened by our discovery, we hit the "miscellaneous linens" section, hoping to find some sort of apron. What we actually found was a bed sheet (?) that had a nice crocheted bottom. We were like, we can totally make an apron out of this! 

Ten minutes and $15 later, we were feeling kind of good about ourselves. Although when we took our items up to pay, Abby was all, please don't judge us, to the cashier, and we told her about Abby's award and that was a mistake because the cashier had all kinds of ideas and she was clearly an overachiever. They're out there, you guys. All you can do is smile and nod.

Yadda yadda yadda, I took the dress to an alterations shop in town, and the lady took the dress in IN ONE DAY for $35. Score. Then my mother, bless her soul, made the apron, and my mother-in-law pitched in a green bonnet, and Abby already had some black combat boots (close enough to prairie-wear) and some grey tights, so wallah! That is how you make a pioneer costume in 18 days.

As for the portraits, I took them myself in our backyard. I figured, what the heck, I get paid to take pictures all the time (kinda) for the newspaper, so really, what could happen? This was a good route to take, by the way, because it's basketball season and figuring out when we could actually get pictures taken turned into a bit of a dilemma. But we did it. 

I'm kind of amazed it all worked out so easily, really.