Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Five Favorites from Pico to Puzzles

I'm far too critical of myself in the kitchen, but every once in a while there's something good to say. This week I made pico de gallo! It was a fun and fulfilling time at the counter cutting ingredients into small pieces. I might have gotten a tiny glimpse into how this food-making thing appeals to so many folks. I for SURE enjoyed eating the fruits vegetables of my labor!

Summer Surprises
For all the hellish hotness around here (it was about 109 degrees today), Summer in Vegas brings its unexpected joys. This butterfly is one of them. I'd also add snow cones, swimming pools, iced coffee, early morning walks, and the occasional cloudy day.

A July birthday in the Mojave Desert means two things: my birth mom was hardy, and ice cream cake is called for. Here I am with my four kids and a treat from Baskin-Robbins. My oldest son will probably pass me up in height by my next birthday, his tallness exceeded only by the cheesiness of his grin for this photo.

Home Improvement
Second only to my own home-improvement projects are the projects of friends. Look at this superb floor, installed to replace WHITE carpet, which has no business in households with children. This is the home of a close friend and neighbor and it was interesting to hear about the project as it progressed. It was especially notable because it was a community effort involving several other friends and providing stories and memories to relish.

I love jigsaw puzzles, and splurged on two with a gift card from my parents. This was the smaller of the two, and lots of fun, though completed too quickly. I think I'll do it again and again and when I tire of putting it together I'll glue and frame it and hang it up somewhere to remember this summer.

Happily linked up with Mama Knows, Honeychild

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I recently read a fiction novel set largely in and around castles. It has made my imagination run wild. What's it like to live in a castle? (Or, what WAS it like?) What was it like to build one? What are the rooms like where you sleep? Eat? Dance? Behead people?

In true researcher fashion, I ran right out to my local bookstore a couple weeks ago and bought a book about castles. In bed that night, I studied every page, entranced by the photographs and learning a bit from the descriptions. But the next day I took the book back because it kinda sucked. There were no photos of the interiors of the castles. And no explanations! I don't know what a "keep" is! Isn't there a "Castles for Dummies" book? I need it!

If I can't get what I want from a book I'm not sure exists anyway, I need to arrange a tour. No, not just a tour ... a short-term stay. I'll tell you what I am really hankering for, and you tell me if you know a travel agent who can hook me up.

I'd like to stay in a really old castle run preferably by the SCA, or people like that. I need more than a few nights ... a week, let's say, or a month. And things need to be really authentic - this castle can't have central air or electricity or running water. We will do things on this visit just like they were done centuries ago. I want to walk down hallways with stone walls and floors and ceiling. And I don't want to be cheesy tourist lady with a camera around my neck. I want to be dressed in period clothing. And I want to feel what they felt. What would my shoes be like? My hairdo? My body odor? (I'm pretty sure they didn't bathe quite as often as we do now - but I will learn this all during my stay.) At dinner time, I want to gather in the big ol' dining hall (but they didn't call it a dining hall - what did they call it? --- see? I need a book!) with a bunch of other authentic people from way back then and eat a meal like they would have way back then. After dinner and whatever they do right after dinner, I will retire to my little tower room with a window out to the lands below and go to bed. What sounds would I hear? What would the sheets feel like? Would there be castle critters scurrying about?

Tonight I will go to sleep thinking of this marvelous castle visit I have to look forward to. And this is just the beginning! Wait til you hear how I want to experience New York City! Normandy! The English countryside! Buckingham Palace! Charleston, South Carolina! Alaska! A passenger ship across the Atlantic in 1914! The Oregon Trail!

Monday, July 21, 2014


How can you NOT overthink your purse selection? You carry it with you every time you go out! You better consider your options, and you better like the thing. Currently, I don't like mine and it is way past time to get a new one. Conveniently, I have some birthday money, so I am trying to find the perfect replacement for the old and inadequate thing I've been carrying around.

The purse pictured above (I took the photo to text to my friend the purse expert) was just the right size and style, but I didn't really want red. Or blue. Or yellow. Or brown, or black, or zebra, leopard, or plaid. I tried to like it. I set it on my shoulder and walked around the store, and when I'd pass a mirror, I'd take a look. It seemed fine. Nothing stellar but not ghastly, either.

There was a nice, soft green one, too, but it was ultra-casual, and once every 238 days - when I dress up - it wouldn't work. I liked a black and white striped one, but it was a shade too fancy and didn't have the straps I want. The bright blue looked like Easter egg dye. The pink screamed, "look at me! I need attention!" I love gray but there were only three gray options there tonight so that tells me I have missed the gray boat - it is no longer "in." Floral makes me think of ugly sofas. And what business does anyone have with a garish orange purse unless they're in the forest trying to not get shot? 

I don't want a huge flap on the front. I need a convenient place to stow my phone. I am dead-set against touting a designer too obviously (a small name plate is acceptable but I do NOT want to see any words or letters or symbols from a distance of more than two feet unless the designer pays ME to carry his or her product.) Ideally, my new handbag needs to be big enough to hold my wallet, phone, and lip gloss but small enough that it doesn't take five minutes to find my car keys. It should have an artistic air, but not scream Bohemia. Be smart but not pretentious, cool without trying too hard, fun but not flippant ... and able to show up for a serious interview over coffee, then get on the plane for a Pearl Jam concert. See what I mean? Am I asking too much?

I didn't get the red purse. It just didn't make me happy. I am not allowed to expect my husband, children, career, friends, or hobbies to make me happy, so doggone it - my purse has to do the job. I have a feeling I'll be shopping for a while.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Seven Quick Takes Friday

I signed up for a fruit and vegetable co-op! This is great news because it will force me to prepare and eat some vegetables. Even funnier than the image of me preparing and eating vegetables is the image of me arriving at the co-op pick-up place at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday morning with my tousled hair and laundry basket. The whole thing seems oddly like a punishment of some sort.

The Edel Gathering! How did I not know about this? Clearly I've head my head buried in the sand. Dangit. Jennifer Fulweiler and Hallie Lord put together this fabulous idea and it happens next weekend. Best. Idea. Ever. It was sold out before I even knew it existed, but NEXT TIME! I'll be there! And I'm bringing 240 of my closest friends!

Puzzle love - I love puzzles the way I love sugar and, perhaps, tequila. It's a love that has to be controlled. My parents gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card for my birthday and days later this loveliness arrived at my doorstep:
The thousand pieces aren't the challenge. The challenge is not letting the puzzle consume all my time to the detriment of my marriage and mothering. I've been texting a puzzle-loving, long-distance friend and we started new puzzles on the same day. She wrote: "I'm glad I have a puzzle buddy. Sometimes I think it's just me and cat-loving grannies that like puzzles." This gave me an image of myself at age 91 - sitting at a table, working on a puzzle and drinking tequila. I'm not sure if that's utterly depressing or something to look forward to with all my might.

I'm pleased to report that my curriculum decisions for next year have been made! Next comes the ordering of the materials - wheeee! (recalling grade-school book order joy). Inevitably, this is followed by implementation of the materials. (Sigh.) Why can't the implementation maintain the level of excitement that the choosing and ordering does? Well, maybe I've made SUCH good choices this year it will go swimmingly.

I'm coming out of a bleak week. Simply, a rough combo of circumstance and mood. And in the middle of it I read about a friend having a theme song. I considered what my theme song would be and came up with "Shake it Out" by Florence and the Machine. Full lyrics here, but the highlights:

And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope

The song does a good job of fluctuating between despair and new resolve. My moods do the same thing. I also love how she says, "I like to keep my issues drawn." 
Half marathon coming up! Whaaaaat?!? My m.o. is to sign up for a race while I'm on a high from a previous race and then months go by and I forget and then something jars me and the dread sets in. But that's why I sign up, because if I didn't have something on the horizon I would curl up and melt into a slothful glob. It's two months away at this point. Gotta up those miles!

Our backyard project is under way again - after a brief, ten-month hiatus. We removed some flagstone from an old patio, replaced it with rock, and then let the unwanted flagstone sit around gathering spiderwebs for nearly a year. Well, this week a friend came and took the flagstone so now we have no excuse not to get to work! Here's what I've done so far: pulled some weeds by the pool and set out these kinda-pathetic pots to try to get a feel for what I want by our palm tree.
I gravely dislike the look of three empty pots sitting by the pool, and they are light years away from the look I'm hoping to achieve - but who wants to bet they sit there for ten months?

Read the inspiration for this post, and many other great ones over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Orange You A Beauty!

My daughters had a sleepover recently and wanted to "do facials." When I was their age, my idea of a facial was spreading Noxema from ear to ear and braving the burning tingle. 

But this is 2014, so we have the internet. And we don't have Noxema. I searched "easy homemade facial recipes" which led me to a pumpkin facial and then I adapted a little and before you could say "clogged pores," there was this:
I would share the recipe, but you know me- I'm so breezy and confident in the kitchen that I never measure. Haha! But the truth is I couldn't screw this up unless it got too runny and wouldn't stay on their faces so I just tossed stuff in the blender willy nilly and adjusted for thickness (by adding whole oats). Here are ingredients and quantities as near as I recall:

2 cups-ish canned pumpkin
about 1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup milk, roughly
1/2 cup honey, more or less
1 cup oats, give or take a little

Put everything in the blender and blend!

Feed any remaining pumpkin to the dog because it's supposed to help with doggy tummy problems.
Now you pour the facial smoothie into little personal bowls for each spa customer:
And then they apply it to face and neck for a delightful and only kinda disgusting edible face mask:
Allow the mask to dry for 20 minutes and then wash face with a warm washcloth. A word to the wise spa owner: clean pumpkin mask spills off the sink area sooner than three days later as the mixture will harden like concrete and you will curse the internet, pumpkin, and your own otherwise willing disposition.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Best Mom Advice in Rough Times: "Feed and Clothe"

I did okay when I had my first baby. When he napped, I napped. Or showered. Or lounged around eating BonBons. I didn't realize how easy I had it, of course, until I had two. 

With the birth of my second baby, showering and doing errands in particular became super-difficult and I was stymied! 

When baby number three came along I just gave up completely for about a year. It wasn't pretty. I have housekeeping stories involving the cloth-diaper poop-sprayer alone that would rock your world. I really should have taken more photos of my house during that time because now they would be hilarious.

After weeks and months of just trying to feed everyone and keep some clothes clean, I realized this was the key: just try to feed everyone and keep some clothes clean.

To this day, when friends have babies, I share the same priceless bit of advice: just feed everyone and keep some clothes clean! Let the rest go for a while. Believe in God's grace and connect to it as much as possible in order to focus on your baby (or babies, or children) and keep your other responsibilities to a minimum.

If you read this and think: "Wimp! -- I balanced two sets of triplets, a full-time job, my 3,500 square-foot house and kept everything sparkling!"... well, you should write a book and tell all of us how you manage. Or if you're a person who refuses to believe your life or your marriage can go on without regular polishing of the baseboards, for instance - go on polishing! If you're handling it, I ain't gonna stop ya. My "feed and clothe" lecture is for those of us who aren't handling it.

And here's what I've discovered recently - it's not just moms of newborns who need extra grace and the "feed and clothe" minimum. I've found the following circumstances can leave me scrambling, and I am years past having a newborn:
  • seasonal transition times - (i.e. the beginning and end of the school year, or when Autumn turns to Winter) 
  • job changes 
  • illness of any kind, no matter how small
  • having houseguests
  • holidays and other times that involve extended family
  • travel
  • marking milestones - even good change is often difficult!
I can usually, though not always, recognize when I'm in the midst of a challenging time. When I do, I remind myself to take it a little easy for a few days, or sometimes weeks (the craziness of Christmas, for instance, requires weeks). "Feed and clothe," I tell myself. "And try to enjoy my kids."

The cool thing about having older kids is that when a tough time comes along, and I resort to "feed and clothe," those older kids get in on the jobs! I wish I could say that with them managing the minimum requirements, I'm able to go back to eating BonBons, but that hasn't happened. And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

You Know You're in a Bad Mood When ...

... Your "Happy Place" Suddenly Turns Depressing or Terrifying

Do you have a "happy place?" If you're having trouble sleeping, or trying to fend off anxiety in the dentist's chair, or upset about how a meeting went --- do you envision a certain place to calm yourself down, lower your heart rate, and remind you that life isn't always rough? I do. In fact, I have several, because I'm a woman of many moods and not every happy place can serve every mood.

Right now, my mood is dreary enough that none of my happy places are functioning as they should.

Here are brief descriptions of the places which usually bring me such peace and joy, followed by their current malfunctions under the influence of my grumpiness. Delightful!

Happy Place #1: Ivar's Acres of Clams in Seattle - whenever life isn't treating me well here in the Nevada desert, I can go to my happy place at a window table at Ivar's. I'm sitting eating a bowl of clam chowder and looking out past the boats at Puget Sound. It's dreamy. Even saying "Puget Sound" makes me happy! Imagine gazing at it! And after I eat my chowder, I will walk home in the light rain to my cottage (also with a view of the Sound) and work on my novel, which has been paid for in advance by my generous and admiring publisher.

Today's Problem: The chowder is cold, my server is grouchy - almost irate - because his girlfriend just dumped him, and a dreadful oil tanker accident has rendered the water in the Sound black and murky.

Happy Place #2: A golden meadow from a hike in my childhood memory - It is so gorgeous it will make your eyes sing opera. Sunlight floats over the green grasses and wildflowers and the entire scene is framed by Aspen trees with their noble and pretty white trunks.

Today's Problem: I just got bitten by a rare spider that was crouching in the green grass seemingly waiting to get a taste of me. Its poison is starting to make me dizzy and I just overheard someone say "no help for miles." I'm as good as dead.

Happy Place #3: Barnes & Noble Bookstore at The Grove in Los Angeles - all three stories of it! In this happy place, I have hours and hours to spend meandering and searching through the books. Whenever I find a book I want to read or look at, a giant pillow appears at my feet and I can sit and relax and peruse to my heart's content.

Today's Problem: I'm reading a best-selling book written by my ninth-grade boyfriend, who, when I knew him, couldn't have written one coherent paragraph. Gradually, I realize the store is dark and monsters and velociraptors have been set loose on all three floors. And they've caught my scent.