Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chim Chimmery

   With the weather warming up so much, the horses have been shedding like crazy. And so I have been brushing them like crazy, something that is so nice for both horse and human that it can scarcely be called a "chore." Each of our three pasture ornaments has a certain way he or she likes to be groomed, and if you do it right you usually end up with a sleeping behemoth leaning against you. That's kind of the paycheck for this particular task. All of them appreciate a nice lullaby, too, so I sing while I brush. Thank goodness they are not too picky about pitch, tone, or volume.



   The other day I caught myself singing Chanta a song that my human chickens used to love, too, one we sang every night at bedtime for years. Chim Chimmeree from Mary Poppins. Do you know it? It is soft and slow and sounds a little bit sad, but only until you really listen to the words... Then all of a sudden there is gentle contentment in this song, and truly it describes how I finally feel about my life, my job, my station in this world.

Chim Chimmeree, Chim Chimmeree
Chim Chim Charee...
A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be...
*
Chim Chimmeree, Chim Chimmeree
Chim Chim Charroo...
Good luck will rub off
When he shakes hands with you...
*
Or blow me a kiss 
And that's lucky too!
*
Now that the ladder
of life has been strung,
You may think a sweep's
on the bottom-most rung...
*
Though I spends me time
in the ashes and smoke,
In this whole wide world 
there's no happier bloke...


   Sometimes being W-2 challenged serves up a bit of an identity crisis, especially without children at home to justify my being home, at least publicly. I have friends with fascinating careers who are tempted to abandon them. Other friends have children but still crave something more. Several beautiful women in my life are ready for romance and frustrated by the games people play. We all have days when we envy other people's situation a little bit, and possibly even feel intimidated. For example, I have so much admiration not only for homeschooling moms but also for professional women who keep it all together that sometimes I let it crush me. Then all of a sudden my joy has evaporated. Unfulfilled longings can be very painful, and we all feel that from time to time.

   This is such a waste of time and energy. Each of us plays a part in this world, and each of us has been given unmeasured gifts and blessings that are unique to our lives and our souls. In fact, I think that the same gift in one life will manifest very differently in another because of each person's uniqueness. A deep, refreshing well of wonder can be found in learning to appreciate your own special circumstances long before anyone else appreciates it for you, regardless of whether anyone else ever does, even.

   I am not suggesting that we stop reaching for goals or blind ourselves to the possibilities of change; quite the opposite. I am suggesting that we spark change with appreciation instead of envy. Learning to savor the details of my life, evolving and unplanned though they may be, has done wonders for my heart. With that appreciation comes increased contentment, confidence, and joy! This has allowed me to be friends with women who not very long ago would have intimidated me to that point of crumbling retreat. It has allowed me to dream more freely and laugh a lot more. I wish for longer days instead of shorter ones, and lately I can pray for my children with more faith than worry. So the precipitation of learning to love your life, no matter how it may look to other people, is incredibly nourishing. Start today.

   I certainly hope for a future where I can impart this feeling and so much more to my girls. Maybe the lullaby sank into their hearts years ago and they'll realize it along with me.

The Ladder of Life is an Illusion, Be Happy. 
xoxoxoxo


Linking up to Mama Kat, in answer to her question: What do you love most about your job?



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste Test

   The cookie contest is complete. The taste test is totaled. The fancy fun has come to fruition.

   Okay.

   It started last week when my Grandpa, parents, and little brother came to the farm for dinner and dessert. You may remember that the six of us split our votes evenly between the three recipes that night. Science required that the experiment continue.

   So it did continue this Tuesday night when we had dinner with Handsome's parents. His Mom was wonderfully studious about her evaluation, and I love her for that! She weighed every nibble even before we had dinner and wrote about each recipe. Thanks Judy!

   But we still had dough in the freezer, and we still needed more votes.

   So finally the taste test concluded today when I sent the remaining five samples to the Commish. Do you know how awesome those people are? They divided the five sets of cookies into about a dozen smaller sets and sent Handsome home with that many votes and remarks. You guys, thank you so much for participating! I especially liked how the ladies up front all shared one comment card and things got a little argumentative in ink. LOL



The Contenders:
   I decided on the three most distinctive recipes at my disposal, though many were offered. Let's just say that when chocolate chips and butter go on sale at the grocery store, I have some more experiments to conduct... Thank you to Rosalie and Amber in particular! xoxo



   The recipes, in order of appearance in the taste test, belong to...
  1. Edie at lifeingrace blog
  2. Tanya at: Sunday Baker
  3. and little ole me. 
   One of these days I'll post my recipe separately, 
but for the first two bits of magic please visit their respective blogs
which are both lovely for a million reasons besides these delish ideas.


Prep Notes:

Recipe #1:
   The dough for Edie's cookie feels like shortbread as you mix it, which means that my youngest daughter, my little sister Guinevere, and my good friend M will all love it. It's almost sandy, in a wonderfully delicate way. It also holds its shape really well, not expanding at all in the oven. I made the imprints with my first two knuckles, per some comments I read below Edie's blog entry. I think they turned out super pretty. These would be perfect for a ladies' tea party or pretty little reception of some kind.


   I first tried this recipe because Edie and her friends seem to be making waves with it, flying high its banner of long shelf life and reliability. I am ON BOARD. This is a great cookie, and I bet it would be amazing with just halved pecans, like a pecan sandie. It's that cookie. Yum.

********************

Recipe #2:
   This delish concoction from Tanya over at Sunday Baker makes a hekuva lotta cookies, you guys! I mean, my biggest mixing bowls were barely big enough to contain the dough! And she calls for a whopping 4 1/2 cups of mix-ins. FOUR AND A HALF CUPS! Wowsa. That's more than I have ever used for one batch, but it is exactly what was needed for this massive but moist dough. There was probably twice as much of this particular dough than the others, so if you're looking for a HUGE turn out and a versatile cookie, this is your pick.
   This cookie dough has an unusual secret ingredient, too... which I think makes a really wonderful difference in the finished product. You should visit her site to see the recipe for yourself, but I'll whisper this much: instant vanilla pudding mix. So good.


   For those of you who liked this cookie, the mix-ins I used were what I could scrape together from my pantry to come up with four and a half cups: a blend of semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, and flaked coconut. But you should see some of the ideas Tanya has! Wow, the possibilities made me drool. And you can probably think of some great ones, too.

********************

Recipe #3: 
   My recipe... I have made this so many times I can do it in my sleep. You can too. It is basic and easily memorized, and it comes together in just a few minutes. My girls have made this about a thousand times, too, and so far it reigns as fave with Handsome. We almost always have a batch of this dough waiting in the freezer.



********************
Now for the Fun Part...

Tasters' Comments:
Recipe #1:
"Perfect!"
"Could open a bakery with these."
"Loved the dough, tasted like Braum's cookie dough ice cream."
"Thought it tasted a little too floury"
"I like the light taste of the dough."
"Too flourish but tasty- maybe not so thick next time"
"I LIKE thick and buttery"
"Floury, not a sweet cookie"
"Texture of a butter-cookie, good dipping cookie."
"Wouldn't be a favorite"
"More like sugar/ shortbread cookies with chocolate chips."
"Looks funny"
"Yummy!"
"Very good!"
"Crispiest"
"Good flavor, very sugar cookie-ish, a little on the flaky side, perfect amount of chocolate chips-to-dough ratio."


Recipe #2:
"Could use a little more coconut"
"Very chewy and different, I like"
"Great chewy base, good nutty flavor."
"Chewy, tasty- my favorite"
"Don't groove the coconut texture, Love the chocolate/pecan mixture, just the right amount of chewy."
"Really good, it had a really sweet taste to it."
"Very good"
"Her favorite- very sweet and salty, she likes salt."
"Brown sugar? Coconut? Good cookie"
"Very good- love nuts and coconut"
"I love the crunchy dough, real different taste, love the extra..."
"A lot like traditional chocolate chip cookie except not quite chewy."
"Looks chunky"
"...there are many who aren't fond of coconut and nuts, but I loved the actual dough flavor the best in that cookie."


Recipe #3:
"Very chocolaty chocolate chips."
"Great chewy texture, great flavor"
"Almost not cooked in the middle enough, good though"
"Good texture!"
"Good texture, not much flavor"
"Too soft and sweet"
"My favorite!"
"Nice and soft"
"My favorite- very chocolaty."
"Too much chocolate, couldn't taste anything else."
"Tasted more of a sugar cookie texture, definitely softer"
"Moist, creamy"
"Reminds me of eating brownies."
"Good dough flavor. A little underdone and a little high in the chocolate-to-dough ratio."
"Tasty- more traditional chocolate chip cookie. Yummy"
"Very tasty"


Voting Results...
(Drum-roll...)



Congratulations Sunday Baker!!
And Edie, yours are my personal favorite as well as my Grandpa's, 
and I can't wait to make these for some special women in my life.
Thanks to both beautiful women for letting me share these recipes.

   So there we have it! A tasteless, laborious week devoid of pleasure... Sigh... All in the name of culinary science.

   As you can see from reading the remarks offered up by all of my fabulous taste-testers, cookie preferences vary greatly from person to person, and we pleasure seekers can take it pretty seriously when called upon. Some people loved the coconut; others might have chosen that recipe had it not contained coconut. Some people love chewy; others not so much. Some people like more chocolate saturation than others.

   At least now you can get a glimpse of what each one has to offer and maybe try one of these recipes for yourself. In fact, if you do, please drop me a note! And if you visit the other bloggers, tell em who sent ya.

Chocolate is Good For You.
It's a Fact.
See You at the Gym!
xoxoxoxo

Things That Make Me "Cuhressy Bones"

   Apart from the big stuff, the unanswered problems and heartaches in life that underscore joy and around which we work constantly, there are some common things that drive me absolutely crazy. Out of my mind. Way past calm and pleasant. Dangerously close to a real emotional deficit. Do we have any of these button pushers in common? Let's see...

  • Having dirty floors.
  • That tangle in the back and bottom of my hair after wearing a ponytail or messy bun outside or in bed too long.
  • Running out of exactly two crucial things between big trips to the store.
  • Lacking the willpower or creativity to work around those needs and spending an hour in the car to go buy those two crucial things.
  • Having seventeen and a half blog posts written but zero polished and ready to share.
  • Going through the motions with the animals and forgetting to slow down and enjoy them.
  • Returning books to the library late despite my eight million warnings and reminders to myself.
  • Looking through dirty windows.
  • Opening a bottle of dried spices and shaking them into a pot then realizing it's supposed to be a flip top canister, not a screw top, and suddenly I have six Tablespoons of oregano and basil in the spaghetti sauce instead of a couple of teaspoons.
  • Composing a note to someone in my head while my hands are busy then when I see them realizing I never actually sent it.
  • Forgetting a load of clean laundry in the dryer so long it gets wrinkly.
  • Having a dirty car.
  • Constantly misspelling the word "from." 
  • Forgetting romaine or any other type of lettuce in the crisper drawer. WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?
  • Forgetting to wear deodorant on only one side.

   The bad news is that these things make regular appearances in my life. And like the pebble in the shoe of a mountain climber, the little things wear me down sometimes more than the big things. 

   The good news is that they are all in my control. I have the power to clean the dirty stuff, manage my time better, and for gosh sake's try a french braid and leave in conditioner now and then! So do you. I bet most of the things that make your "cuhressy bones" can be mitigated by noone other than little ole you.

   So best wishes. Take the reins in your life, even if it only starts with a better perspective. And please check your lettuce drawer today.

Get a grip woman! You're losin' it.
xoxoxo

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Gander Incident: a Rebuttal

   Hi there! If you have been reading at the Lazy W for a bit then you are familiar with my ten-four-good-buddy M Half. She is the smart as snot girl blogger with whom I shared that infamous Pine Forest Misadventure. Okay. M is in Europe this month enjoying a much deserved sabbatical, and I have to say that North America is poorer for her absence. Do take a peek at her blog; she is chronicling great stuff daily!
   However. 
   Today I am going to take advantage of her not being at a six-hour striking distance and write a rebuttal to her recently published "G is for Goosed by a Gander." Everybody relax! Especially you, Mom! Last month she shared her version of the hike, so now I am simply offering my version of this, umm, violation, but as a line-by-line argument. Fair's fair, baby!


********************


M Said:
I've been avoiding telling this story for a couple of weeks now. I keep reliving the whole thing and    the worst part, the worst part, is how no one came to my defense. They sat and watched, nay, they laughed. Laughed a horrible, terrible, heartless laugh. I think there were tears in his eyes, and he almost fell off his chair. In retrospect, I sort of wish he had.


I Say: 
Yes, we laughed. But it was anything but heartless. Our hearts were fully involved in the transaction. No one laughs that hard without some passion.


M Said:
Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.


I Say:
That's what she said.


M Said:
I asked Marie if I could spend a day working with her at the Lazy W. I've spent many days watching her work, doing my own computer-y stuff, and listening to her move about. This time, I wanted to leave the computer in the car and join her in doing chores. She writes about brushing the horses and it just sounds all romantic and dreamy and wonderful. I've been around enough that I know it's hard work. Marie works harder than I do, for sure. But for a day? Sounded like fun. It's like The Lazy W is my own personal dude ranch. And Marie cooks. Bonus.

So theyer I was, ready for some werkin. 



I Say:
We actually do talk this way when we're alone at the farm. Case in Point? Murder Sheyed.



She Said:
We cleaned out buffalo and horse troughs. She shoveled poo. I got sunburned. We ate fruit and cheese. Her Handsome came home and we all sat outside chatting in the shade. Marie told me again how MIA and Mama Goose had come to sit on her back while she read the other day.


I Say:
I really don't work that hard. But I do move around a lot, on account of the excessive coffee intake around here. And actually when M asked how she could help, I shrewdly assigned her one of my least favorite tasks... scooping debris out of the large-animal troughs. LOL But she's a trooper. And yes, she did get a little pink around the shoulders, a fact I grew to regret later that day... Regarding my prior goose-sitting experiences, let me stress that up to this point everything had been platonic. I had been reading on a picnic blanket when both Mia and Momma Goose climbed gingerly on the small of my back and sunned themselves while I polished off some good fiction. After a few chapters everyone's innocence was still perfectly in tact. This was about two weeks before the incident being described here.


She Said:
She came out of the house waving a blanket around. "Let's see if they come sit with you!" She spread the blanket out and I giddily stretched out on my belly to try it.


Sure enough, MIA didn't even hesitate. He climbed right up on my shoulder and positioned himself somewhere around the back of my head. 


I Say:
This was a red flag that I missed. Mia wasted zero seconds getting to M's shoulder blade area. There was no polite back sitting or sun cuddling whatsoever. And the truth? I was instantly transfixed. Frozen in morbid observation. My bad.


She Said:
His little feet were a bit scratchy and on freshly sunburned skin, I felt a little tender. Marie asked if he was hurting me and I said a little. This next part is a bit of a blur. I have spent the last week trying to figure it all out.


I was focusing on trying to soothe my skin when I realized there was something going on behind my head. MIA was pulling my hair, and hard. There was a flurry of activity and I couldn't figure out what it was until I saw Handsome's face. He was red, laughing with big fat tears rolling down his face. His expression told me everything I needed to know about MIA's intentions with the back of my head.

Where was Marie? Right next to me. Laughing, watching, and doing nothing to stop it.

I Say:
Raise your hand if you have ever laughed nervously or if you loved National Geographic shows. It's fascinating, right?

She Said:
"Ow, get him off me! It hurts!" I'm not sure how long it took. 3 hours? 30 minutes? Maybe 15 seconds ... it's all the same.


I Say:
Like, eight and a half seconds. It would have been a winning rodeo score.

She Said:
Finally Marie pulled this lusty bird off my head and I sat up to fend off any additional advances. Handsome still couldn't actually form words with the laughter ripping through him. Marie looked a bit stunned. MIA kept trying to ... woo ... me again.


There was some talk of video and YouTube and encouragement for me to lay back down to replay the sordid scene all over again.

"NO!"


I Say:
Perhaps M has forgotten HER offer to put Mia on MY back and replay the drama in reverse! Perhaps the tears of laughter in her own eyes had obscured her vision just a tiny bit, and the tears of laughter on mine and Handsome's faces appeared just a little fatter than they really were. Maybe. But I do admit there was talk of YouTube. And later that night Hubs (M's guy) was on board, ready to rake in the cash, already making financial plans for the inevitable golden egg.

She Said:
And that's how my relationship with MIA crossed a line we can't ever uncross. I may never see geese the same way again.


No geese were harmed in the construction of this blog post. My ego, however, may never be the same.


I Say:
Mia was certainly affected by the whole thing, though not the least bit harmed. His love for M is stronger than ever. And while he and Momma still take sun naps with with me, now there is no fraction of a chance that gander is allowed anywhere north of my rib cage. Ever. I may even paint a sign warning visitors of the lustiness around here. 


As for my friendship with M, I just hope she still trusts me. I hope she knows deep in her bones that I would never allow that to happen with a hooved animal or even a talon-weilding rooster. Also, if she needs some neosporin I have some handy. And I hope she takes it as a compliment that Mia loves her so.


********************

   So that's pretty much what happened. It was a quick and sudden event that has given the four of us plus our friends and families many hours of laughter mileage since that afternoon. We learned a lot more about our tolerances, curiosities, and greed in the conversations that followed.
   The moral to the story?  I am not sure there is one. Just that you never know when or how you will learn more about your friends. Oh, and geese need love too.

Sorry About Your Shoulders, M!
Enjoy Europe!
xoxoxo

Friday, April 20, 2012

What a Week!

   Welcome to the weekend, you guys! Wow, this has been a happy, productive week around the farm. I do not feel caught up exactly, not even close actually, but no worries. I do feel the swell of springtime and the momentum of so many worthwhile projects lifting me up out of what is normally lots of regret and worry. The magic of this time of year is in full effect, regenerating me day after day.

   As I write this, the buttery sun is at my back. The geese are waking up from an afternoon nap, unwinding their long necks and stretching those wings into asymmetrical shapes. The Oklahoma wind is blowing but relatively mellow. And I can see the newness of our downstairs rooms after rearranging some beloved artwork. The indulgence of an afternoon cup of very good coffee suddenly has me thinking of New Orleans. But then it usually does.

   What have we been up to...

   A few days ago my wonderful parents, my little brother Philip, and our Grandpa Rex joined us for dinner at the farm and also a chocolate-chip cookie taste test. That was fun! The six of us sampled three different recipes and then cast our votes. Do you know what happened? An even split! No kidding. Each of the three recipes received precisely two votes, so while there was no loser, there also was no winner.

   Soooo... in order to pursue a slightly more scientific model and to rid our freezer of the very tempting raw cookie dough, on Monday morning I'll be sending little taste test kits to Handsome's office for our friends and cohorts there to break the tie. And odd number of kits this time. Surely by Tuesday we'll have some results worth sharing! And you'll get to see the three amazing recipes too.



Special ingredients for recipe #2


My sweet Momma and my vivacious Grandpa, 
casually examining what I have not done in the garden yet.
We all agreed that my penchant for hand-painted signs 
is inherited straight form ol' GPS (that's what we kids call him). 
He has always, I mean for YEARS, always had hand-painted signs in his office, 
his home, and his garden. Suppose I come by it naturally.
Can you see how high the pond is now? This is wonderful news.


   A few days before that, I was very happy to welcome to the farm two young women who were interested in looking at textiles for sale. Jaimee and Rebekah visited on a particularly gorgeous evening, and we spent as much time playing with the animals as we did chatting about aprons. Turns out that Rebekah has discovered her "spirit animal" is a buffalo, so she and Chunk-hi spent several minutes bonding. It was really special. Not everyone gets why we love buffalo so much, but when someone does it feels so very good.



In honor of her spirit animal, I am adding to Rebekah's apron 
a herd of running buffalo, in applique form.



See how he presses so steadily against the wire grid?
He loves having his forehead and face scratched.
Don't worry. It's high tension, bison-grade fencing.


   A few days before that, last weekend in fact, we ventured about an hour from the farm to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of a local landmark's renovation. In Arcadia, Oklahoma, sits a very old wooden barn, all red, and perfectly cylindrical. And domed. Lots of people are fascinated by this structure, as well they should be. And over the years it has gained a bit of a cult following for all its owners' interesting stories and restoration efforts.

   Anyway, the day we visited was also the day of the predicted storms and tornadoes, so we were on high alert. You can see in the photo below that our skies were anything but blue that day.


There's our state flag again. Love it.
I am crazy about the colors and symbolism.


This narrow little stone staircase was perfectly uneven.
I want to build one here so badly.


Domed roof


Several groups of square dancers performed that day, all ages, 
and every single person was beaming with happiness!
Both Handsome and I have grandparents who square danced together. 
My guess is that lots of Oklahomans do.


Brand spankin new to Instagram, I get really stressed out 
when my phone doesn't upload properly or whatever.
Guess who loves to document this? He really does.
Oh, and this is the threadbare denim jacket I wear Every. Blessed. Day.


Here is what I was trying to get on my phone,
the inside of the barn's domed roof. 
It looks like a woven basket, right?
So cool. Thanks babe. xoxo


I know it is poor camera manners to take a picture with so much light behind the subject, 
but this couple caught my attention sitting near this window.
They were so sweet to each other, and the natural light 
and the noise of the square dancers they were watching just made me feel all nostalgic.


   All week we have worked hard, finished and started sewing projects, watched with bated breath as the hens sit on eggs, planted seeds and flower starts, and spent time with loved ones. We've celebrated amazing good news about Savannah. (If you have shared in praying for her, thank you... keep it up!) It's been a fruitful few days for sure. Then just last night we enjoyed a really special announcement...

   The Lazy W is hosting a wedding next month!!! A young woman at Handsome's office is newly engaged to her one true love, and we have the very humbling privilege of being their wedding venue. I'll share as much of it with you here as she is comfortable with sharing. For now, let me just say that we could not be happier about this! Surely I've said before that the farm pulses with life when we fill it up with happy people. We always get an emotional charge from the memories made here, and those charges last. They really do. They become part of us, so to have a wedding here is just the sweetest, loveliest gift we could receive.

   Okay, the afternoon is winding down and dinnertime approaches. We wish everyone a very happy weekend! Fill it up with love and romance, laughter and good food. Forgive each other. Be easy on each other. 

Celebrate the good stuff and let it multiply.
xoxoxo  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eight Recent Pinterest Experiments

   Who has two thumbs and an excessive amount of ideas on Pinterest? THIS GUY!

   I am on the verge of feeling genuine shame over how many photos and links I have "Pinned," knowing full well that it would take me years to actually go forth and execute them all. It all seems rather elusive and imaginary, doesn't it? Except that some of it really is doable and worthwhile.

   Today instead of sharing things I want to do eventually,  I would like to share some things I have already done and give a snippet review of each.

   Ready?

********************

1. Displaying found feathers with shells, etc.



   Thanks to the plethora of birds running around the Lazy W, we have an abundance of loose feathers available at all times. The black and white dotted guinea feathers are some of the prettiest, and this is arrangement showcases them nicely. I've been sticking feathers everywhere. In potted plants, vases, bowls, you name it. I want to say it's a wholly artistic effort, but really I just always have pockets full of feathers and need to put them somewhere when I come inside. Still, this counts. This Pinterest idea was totally inspirational.

2. Butterfinger Cake




   Okay you guys. This cake. I can't remember what the occasion was exactly, but one day last month I decided rather late in the afternoon that we desperately needed a special dessert that night. I drove fifteen minutes to the nearest grocery store to buy the supplies. I forgot some of the most important supplies. So then I drove twenty-three minutes to a second grocery store so I wouldn't have to face those employees from the first store again. I've done the "Oops I forgot something" sing song routine with them before, and for some reason those people are merciless. I shudder to endure that amount of teasing a second time.

   Once home, I was finally free to assemble this GORGEOUS and mouth watering cake. It was so much fun and quite delish. Handsome and I ate a couple of pieces each. We sent the remaining cake to his office the next day in order to avoid spending all of April, May, and June on the elliptical machine. Bottom line? If you like Butterfinger candy bars and you like cake, then try this recipe.

   Also, Plain Chicken is a great home cooking blog to check out. Do yourself a favor and browse her other recipes!

3. Panko Crusted Tilapia




   This was another delish recipe. Not expensive, not too time consuming, and also something a little different, at least for the two of us. The lemon cream sauce was delectable, you guys. The only change I made was to add a speck of nutmeg. Also I forgot the sugar, but I bet that would be so good.

   What makes this recipe extra special to me is that it got me to finally buy a box of Panko crumbs! I had never tried them before, although every other woman in the free world has been cooking with them for a million years. They are quite good. Very much worth adding to my standard stock-the-pantry shopping list. Yum.

4. Chalk as Stain Remover



   My big comment here is that this WORKS. Using white chalk rescued two of Handsome's button-up dress shirts that had been stained AND already laundered. (My bad...) Keep chalk in your laundry basket. Bam. Good as new.

5. Wardrobe Images 




   This link is less of an inspiration than an illustration. I have a cropped denim jacket that came form a thrift store and has the perfect amount of thinness and fraying all over it. Really, truly, the perfect amount. When I am not dressed to work outside, that denim jacket plus a long sundress and either boots or flip flops are pretty much my standard daily wardrobe. In fact, that happens to be exactly what I wore to lunch with my friend Melissa today!

   Sometimes I will get ready to go out somewhere with Handsome and he's like, "Oh, look. You're wearing your denim jacket again. Cool."

   Or maybe we're headed to church and he says, "Oh wow, your denim jacket goes with that too. I would not have guessed that. Cool."

   I have a lot of sundresses sort of like the one above. He sees me choose one and automatically starts helping me find my denim jacket. It's kind of a thing. It's nice to be understood, but I imagine that if we are ever invited to a black tie affair, my fave denim jacket will mysteriously go missing.

6. Apron Tutorial



   This apron tutorial is just great, you guys. Fast, simple, unlined, adaptable, and so fresh looking. I made one of these cute little numbers yesterday and will be making many more. It has a more casual feel than lots of other aprons, and the bow is pretty adorable. I will pass along this comment: the measurements she provides will give you an adult small, but if you want a different size it's all rectangles so it's simple to adjust. If you are a home sewist, give this a try! She has lots of other fun ideas too!

7. This is just wonderful.




8. Up-Cycled Tee, Drawstring Tank Tutorial





   I saved the most exciting idea for last. This tee shirt up-cycle is beyond fast; it takes less than twenty minutes to complete. It is practically FREE because you just use any old tee-shirt you can find in your closet. And it is actually wearable. 

   Some ideas look cool in photos then feel weird in real life, but this drawstring tank top is even better than expected. I have sewn up about a dozen of these since trying it out last week and I am keeping several for myself. If you have a quarter of an hour and a tee-shirt, try this for yourself. You can even do it with a needle and thread, no machine required. Imagine all the possibilities!

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   So there ya go. Eight ways Pinterest has enriched my life this past week or so. Is this enough to justify my addiction?

I'll Stop Pinning When They Make Me.
xoxoxo

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A First Garden, With Kiddos

   This post is dedicated to my drop-dead-gorgeous cousin Jen, who is actually my second cousin, but who feels like a sister in many ways. She and her husband Gabe recently moved to Colorado and are starting all kinds of wonderful new adventures there! They have four equally gorgeous and lovable children, two of whom are still in the "little kids" category. She is starting a new garden in their brand new back yard this spring.

   A NEW GARDEN, YOU GUYS! WITH KIDDOS!

   Can you even imagine my sympathy excitement? Is that a thing, like sympathy labor or sympathy pain? Not sure, but anyway, I am excited for her sake and I am excited because it brings back so many wonderful memories of starting new gardens myself and of growing things with my own little chickens. My own little human chickens.

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   Jen and I had the chance to chat on the phone yesterday about how to start. What tools to buy, which supplies are really necessary, selecting edibles versus flowers, etc. Compost, even! We touched on everything except insects. And for the next two hours gardening was all I could think about. I kept wanting to call her back and tell her more things I have tried and learned over the handful of years I've been sort of doing this, but life goes on. We both had things to do.

   So here ya go, Jen! Here is the sum total of what I would tell you if we could spend the day together in the dirt:


  • Have fun! Have so much fun. Let yourself fall in love with the magic and pleasures of gardening before you seek out the worry or overabundance of detail that is out there. Do NOT get your soil tested yet. Just touch it with your bare hands. A lot. Get dirt manicures regularly.

  • Find your favorite times of day to be in the garden, ideally one time when you can regularly be with the kiddos and Gabe and another when you can regularly be there alone. The garden is different in the morning than it is as night. Explore. Be there often. Watch it evolve, fall in love. Try visualizing how it might look in a week, a month, a year... Decorate it if you want to. Have a comfy chair nearby, take meals and drinks out there... Live there a little bit. Lend yourself to the garden and it will be yours.


  • Get really, really dirty and if possible be barefoot anytime you're outside. Hose yourselves off instead of tiptoeing to the shower! Once it's warm enough let Louie & Riley shampoo their hair outside, and take pictures.

A backyard beauty shop, post AWESOME mud monster party, in Oklahoma City. Circa 2001.


  • Read about other gardens for inspiration more than for science. The science will come, as will the wisdom of plain old trial and error. I mean, mostly what plants need are soil, sun, and water. Bam. 

  • Buy cheap seeds and lots of them. In fact, I might send you some. No need to start them indoors; I only do that because my chickens are ill mannered. My chicken-chickens, not my human-chickens. My human-chickens have great manners!

  • Do that composting thing we talked about, it will make a big difference AND you will feel extra cool and hipsterish for sending less trash to the curb every week. Let Louie be in charge of that if he wants to. Take pictures.

  • There is such a thing as worm farming, and I bet you have somewhere in town that knows about it. Get a little carton of earthworms or maybe ladybugs for the kiddos and let them be "farmers." It's good for the garden, but mostly it is so much fun. Take pictures.

  • There are more easy-to-grow things than not, and you'll gradually find your favorites and shape your own garden style. Most stuff is cheap, and there is no shame in buying a flat of bright, cheerful annuals for instant gratification! 

  • Make friends with other gardeners.

  • But don't take them too seriously or let anyone discourage you; just enjoy their company and trade plants now and then.

  • Pull weeds after a good rain or a deep watering, and remember that one good, slow, deep watering per week is a lot healthier than a quick, shallow watering every day.

  • Teach the kids to eat veggies straight out of the garden, just knocking the dirt off on their jeans or rinsing them under the hose. Joc had eaten one thousand sugar snap peas this way, and Jess has eaten as many baby carrots. They seemed to like snacking on what thy had personally planted and tended. Coming home from school on springtime afternoons or taking swim breaks in the summer, they were always eager to see what was ripe for picking.


  • Plant all kinds of lettuce seeds between your plants instead of using store-bought mulch. It's cheaper, healthier, edible, and (in my humble opinion, but you should you decide for yourself) prettier. Plus, if Miss One Year Old takes a tumble, she won't skin her little pink knee on a bed of lettuce. Cutie. xoxo

  • Let the kiddos plant something they want, no matter what it is. Even consider designating a little spot "Louie's Mud Garden" or "Riley's Wildflowers" or something. Take pictures.
The girls learned how to trim lettuce with scissors and watch it grow back thicker each time.
We were never low on salad with them on patrol!
Look how professionally they crouch in the garden... It's in their blood for sure.

French Breakfast radishes, long and white, more mild then the red ones, really delicious.


  • Straight lines and perfect rows are optional. Let the kids decide your shapes if you are brave. Take pictures.
Spicy red radishes harvested after school.

On the far left are young sugar snap pea vines about to explode into growth and yumminess.
Then lettuces, spinach, and arugula. All planted and maintained by those pretty little ladies.



Proof that a veggie garden does not need to be big or fancy to be productive and memorable.



  • These things are almost guaranteed charmers, plus they're quick: sunflowers, zinnias, carrots, hyacinth beans vines, morning glories, radishes, lettuces, strawberries, green beans, pansies, and cannas.

  • These things are worth every little bit of work and wait: Tomatoes, sugar snap peas, all melons and gourds, all peppers, roses, and cucumbers.

  • Do not plan to sow seeds one weekend then walk away. Allow yourself the luxury of an ongoing affair with your garden... Work on it a little here, a little there... Enjoy it, have fun, let your plans change along the way, add color, edit plants, move things, eliminate things, let your kids learn with you and let yourself learn from them... Plant continuously, grabbing a packet of seed every time you visit the grocery store! You don't need a big budget. Those ten for $1 seeds are awesome, as are the 75-cent flower babies. Let the kids fall in love with gardening, too. They will never forget it. xoxo

I love you Jen.
Take pictures.
I wish I had more.
xoxoxo

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let the Great World Spin: a book review

   This latest book was suggested and loaned to me by my friend Desiree, one of our original four book clubbers. Hi Desiree! Thank you for this, I totally enjoyed it! She is an avid reader with strong opinions, and she always brings something interesting to the discussion table. So when she thought specifically of me for a title she had just finished, I paid close attention. And then I gobbled it up greedily. In a nutshell: this award winning and critically acclaimed novel was just as interesting and enlightening as it was beautifully written.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

(Thank you goodreads for this cover image!)

    Set almost entirely in 1970's New York City, Let the Great World Spin tells the stories of several seemingly unrelated characters who are like the spokes on a wagon wheel if the center of the wheel is this certain event: a renegade tightrope walker between the Twin Towers. Their lives begin to intersect more and more, and a history between them builds just exactly the way real life does. Telling you that much, though, does nothing to impart the book's magic.

   If you read this piecemeal, like I did the first third or so, you may not notice this at first, but ingesting several chapters at once will make it clear: the author writes in a perfectly unique voice with every single character. New vocabulary, new mood, new context, everything was new every time we moved to a new perspective. I could find none of the usual narrator's objectivity, and I loved it.

   A little bossy momma's warning: this is an excellent book, told truthfully and graphically. It is not suitable for children or young adults. Desiree, are you sure you're old enough to read this?? LOL Totally kidding.

   One other thing struck me about the pattern McCann built as the characters were revealed. Each one of them had a drive, something in his or her life that fully motivated will, pleasure, longing, and relationships. Some of those drives were healthy and some were certainly not, but under his creative brush, I have to admit that I could see the pull of each one clearly. The inertia or magnetism, even when it was negative. Career mobility, romance, drugs, charity, grief... These people had kinetic themes attached to their lives whether they liked it or not. That gave me a lot to think about you guys. What are your life themes?

   In addition to their actual life paths, these personalities also differed in how they viewed and interpreted the tightrope walker. An otherwise innocuous event sparked opinions in people and interactions between friends and strangers that were really insightful, really telling of the spectrum of emotions human beings are capable of displaying. And of course, we cannot help but see the intentional foreshadowing of the September 11th attacks on those same towers.

   On the back cover of Let the Great World Spin is a list of glowing reviews from various authors and publications. I'd like to share one that happens to express my own opinion succinctly:

"McCann's gift (is) finding grace in grief
and magic in the mundane,
and immersing the reader in these thoroughly."
~San Francisco Chronicle

   Exactly. Maybe that's why I liked it so much: finding grace in grief and magic in the mundane is what keeps me going. More than that, it's what fills the tiny gaps in life and what grows us from the inside out. Do you agree?

   While browsing for cover images, I happened to see that many sites are already dedicated to listing quotes from this book. I am not at all surprised. If this had been my personal copy I would have dried up two highlighters and a red pen by the end! Just for fun, here are some quotes I happened to really like myself (and no I didn't cheat and pull these off of someone else's list, these were collected along the way like wildflowers):

  • "Let this be a lesson to us all, said the preacher. You will be walking someday in the dark and the truth will come shining through, and behind you will be a life that you never want to see again."
  • "Genius, they called it. But it was only genius if you thought of it first. A teacher told him that. Genius is lonely."
  • "He said to me once that most of the time people use the word love as just another way to show off they're hungry. The way he said it went something like: Glorify their appetites."
  • "I wasn't sure if I hated her or not. Sometimes my mind sways between good and bad. I wanted to lean across and smash the glass and grab her nappy hair, but then again, she was looking after my babies, they weren't in some orphanage, starving, and I could've  kissed her for not giving them too many lollipops and rotting their teeth."
  • "He never saw himself in any danger or extremity, so he didn't return to the moment he lay down on the cable, or when he hopped, or half ran across from the south to the north tower. Rather it was the ordinary steps that revisited him, the ones done without flash. They were the ones that seemed entirely true, that didn't flinch in his memory."
  • "Now that he was gone he had a name again. Thomas. I wrote it in blue eyeliner on my bathroom mirror. I looked through it, beyond, at myself."
  • "Every time a branch of mine got to be a decent size, that wind just came along and broke it."
  • "Listening to people is like listening to trees- sooner or later the tree is sliced open and the watermarks reveal their age.  
  • "...she was tired of everybody wanting to go to heaven, nobody wanting to die. The only thing worth grieving over, she said, was that sometimes there was more beauty in this life than the world could bear."
   And just one more, possibly my favorite...

"Afterward, Gloria said to her 
that it was necessary to love silence, 
but before you could love silence 
you had to have noise."

   Please do try to squeeze this into your reading schedule soon, before they make it into a movie. Can you believe the weird timing? I finished the book the day that article there was published. 

   Anyway, it is a very well done 349 page illustration of humanity, and reading it will be time well spent. Please let me know what you think!

Thanks again Desiree!
xoxoxo

pinnable

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