Thursday, November 29, 2012

What's For Lunch?


I realized as I was packing my (cute, red-striped) lunch bag this morning, that I eat a lot of fruits and veggies. Here's today's lunch:

1. Salad in a jar - this is very, very filling. And very, very delicious. The filled jars will last all week in the fridge. Amazing. Here's the recipe I've been using.

2. Bran muffin - this is not just any old bran muffin. I make them at home, and they are, hands down, the world's best bran muffins every. You can find the recipe here.

3. Baby carrots - crunch, crunch!

4. Cantaloupe - love those melons

5. Sliced apple - I think this was a Gala. I like Honeycrisp the best, but they're kind of spendy.

6. Raw almonds - a small handful - 12 or so - I love the flavor, they are filling, and they give me my daily dose of MUFAs.

7. Banana - need I say more?

8. Dannon Light Greek Yogurt - have you tried Greek yogurt yet? It has more protein, more calcium, and fewer calories than traditional yogurt. The texture is rich and creamy, even when it's low fat. Love this stuff.

What did you have for lunch today?

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Sometimes I think we all try to look too good. We put on our happy faces. We say, "I'm fine" when someone asks how we're doing, and we try to keep our shameful dark wriggly things pushed down deep inside.

We act as if we aren't broken, when, in fact, each and every one of us is.

Not that I think we should go around parading our faults and goof-ups. But still, don't you long for a truly honest conversation once in a while?

Yesterday I caught up on a friend's blog. She and her husband adopted a third child this year, a Chinese son with medical issues including a cleft palate. (Her first two children are their biological children.) Her youngest son comes with a lot of baggage and a lot of unknowns. In a recent blog post, she talked about some of her worries around his development--will he ever talk? Will he ever bond after living mostly untended in a crib for his first 18 months? Will he ever catch up developmentally?

Even though many adopted children are able to overcome astounding deficits once they are part of a loving family, there are no guarantees. Who can blame this mother, who is, by the way, a woman of strong and abiding faith, for wondering and worrying about her son's future?

What really stood out for me in her post was this:
"These are just thoughts I have sometimes, thoughts I wouldn’t dare put on our family adoption blog because they are much too personal. I don’t want to scare potential adoptive families away from this amazing experience."

Wait a minute. She can't share perfectly normal mama-worries because it might scare someone off from also being an adoptive mother? She has to look perfect so that the next mother to adopt a challenged (and challenging) child will be able to rest assured that with enough love, faith, and hard work, we can overcome all?

Because we can't. We can love with every fiber of our being, we can faithfully keep all the rules, and we can work until we are exhausted, and there is absolutely no guarantee that everything will come out right. Let's be honest here: we can't fix everything. We are all broken people living in a flawed world.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not all doom-and-gloom. In fact, I'm an intrinsically optimistic person. But I think we do ourselves and our fellow travelers on the Good Spaceship Earth a profound disservice when we try to pretend that everything is always "just fine" in our world. Or if we do admit to having problems, we act like it's only temporary because of course we're well on our way to getting things fixed. 

People, we are not the fixers. Oh, we can try, and we do, and sometimes we get things right. But there are other times when we unintentionally offend, or do harm where we meant to do good. There are relationships that are irreparably broken, people with illness or disability that aren't going to go away in this lifetime, and seriously, we need to honestly admit this and then hold hands and stick together, and help each other along on this E-Ticket ride we call mortality. 

God keeps his promises. He didn't promise any of us that we would have a perfect life, but he did promise us that we could have eternal life. He allowed his perfect son, our cool oldest brother Jesus Christ, to come to earth and work out the Atonement so that we can be healed and forgiven. I believe this. I believe that I'm broken and flawed, and I believe that Christ will make up the difference in the things I can't fix. It won't happen tomorrow and it may take more than a million tomorrows, but He promised, and I'm on board. 

But in the meantime, can we please grant one another the space to falter? Can we admit it to others when we're the one stumbling? Can we be honest with our fears and our doubts? 

I think that my friend may do more good for potential adoptive parents if she is real with them about the doubts and fears she wrestles with right now. Rather than scare someone off, I suspect that as she validates what is real and hard, other people will catch her courage and dig deep to find that kind of pluck within themselves.

I work closely with the young women--the girls ages 12-18--at my church. In my Mormon world, it's part of the culture to be upbeat about the gospel, to make it look like we all live in ongoing joy and felicity because, after all, we have the true gospel. It's easy to assume that if we are living the gospel right, our lives will go right. Right? Mormons are really good at acting like everything is just fine.

Well, my young Mormon gal-pals have recently set some ambitious goals around missionary work. They aim to reactivate a number of their peers who have stopped coming to church, and to convert a few more non-Mormons in addition to that. Those are great goals. Of course we're supposed to be actively sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's what he said to do in the Bible, and it's what he tells us to do through modern prophets. 

But when we only present a cheery Molly-Mormon face to others, I think we're missing an important part of what the gospel really has to offer. Because every person out there knows deep inside that she is broken. And what we really need is not so much the promise of instant bliss when we become Mormons--because sorry, I have to be honest and tell you that there isn't any instant bliss no matter how good we all might look on Sunday--but what we really need is the promise that there are others out there who understand what it means to be broken, people who are real and kind, people who can help us when we're struggling to live up to the promises we make to God when we commit to being one of his disciples. 

What we really need isn't another perfect pretty face. What we need is Christ's Atonement, with all its messy demands on us here in mortality. 

Because we're broken, remember? And that's ok. We shouted for joy about it. 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ying and Yang

Two* of my amazing daughters are like ying and yang. Oil and water. Opposite ends of the magnet.

I felt grateful and happy to be able to spend some of my Thanksgiving weekend with each of them.

Polly and her family came to spend a couple of days. She gave me this handmade set of blocks as an early Christmas gift. (Because what's the point of opening a gift that is a Christmas decoration on Christmas? It's a little late to decorate then...) It is a lovely way to emphasize Jesus (rather than Santa) at Christmas, and it also makes me think of Polly. One of my favorite times with Polly on this trip was hanging out at Jo-Ann's fabric store with her on Friday morning. She lives in a small rural town, so she loves catching the Black Friday sales to stock up on fabrics for her coming sewing projects over the next few months. She consistently posts amazing ideas on her blog for upcycling used clothing, fun crafts to do with children, favorite books to read with kids, and a steady stream of gorgeous quilts. Now that she's caught up on quilts for her own family, she's starting to make them to donate to various charities that donate quilts to sick children. Anyway, it was fun just to hang out with Polly in the cutting line at Jo-Ann's and talk about the fun of creating things with our own hands. Polly inspires me to do more creating of my own, and I am so grateful that she and her husband made the trip with their young kiddos to have Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

(My other favorite Thanksgiving moment was watching the cousins play after dinner on Thanksgiving. They created a "gym" in our basement--please understand that this is an unfinished basement with a leaky floor--by drawing various exercise options on the concrete floor with sidewalk chalk. Then they made up membership cards for the adults to use so we could get some exercise. Smart kids! We needed to burn off a few calories at that point... Polly said the gym reminded her of Caine's Arcade, and I had to agree.)

After we said goodbye to Polly and her family on Friday, Mark and I spent the next day and a half helping Julia and her husband move from their home near Mount Hood to an apartment in downtown Portland. The most amazing thing about their new home is what's outside. Their apartment is on the corner of the building, many floors above the street, and they look way out over the city to the north and the east. Julia sent me this photo. (It tickled me that the caption was "Dawn breaking," since the latest episode of the "Breaking Dawn" vampire movies just came out this weekend.) But back to the was kind of hard to focus on unpacking boxes when the windows kept beckoning. Who needs pictures on the walls when you have several big windows with this? I think it is lovely, lovely. I am curious to watch Julia's blog posts to see if these views inspire her as she continues to write. Her blog began as a forum for her poetry, but in the last several months she has been exploring prose writing, too, finding voice for her testimony and views, shaping her thoughts and honing them to share with others. 

Oh, moving is hard work! I don't envy Julia and Scott doing the work of settling in to their new home. By the time we left them today, they had a bed, a sofa, and a dining table set up. The bathroom has toilet paper and hand soap, and Scott knows which basket the clean laundry is in. 

*I'm not going to write about all of my amazing daughters here (5 daughters, 1 step-daughter, and 3 daughters-in-law). Just these two for now. Except to say that Maleena and her husband, Max, made an absolutely delicious smoked turkey for our big family Thanksgiving dinner. They are pros with that smoker. Max even used some of the apple wood from our pruning project in May. You know your kids are growing up when they bring the main dish for a big family feast, and it tastes better than what you could have produced yourself. So awesome!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Archive: Six Ways of Looking at a Blackberry

This is, of course, after the poem by Wallace Stevens
My love/hate affair with blackberries.

Six Ways of Looking at a Blackberry

It was August, and we were tired of Los Angeles.  On a whim, we drove to Oregon to check out jobs and real estate.  He was hired, I found our house, but what really clinched the move were the blackberries.  Oregon seemed a land of milk and blackberry juice.  We stopped along the roadside and picked blackberries for free.  We ate blackberries until our chins were purple.  We thought they were magnificent!  We loved them!  Oh, how we laughed at ourselves in years to come.

After I’d lived in Oregon for a few years, I knew the true story of Sleeping Beauty.  Really, she lived in Oregon.  In Oregon it was easy to believe that someone could go to sleep for 100 years, and the thorny vines would grow up around the castle.  Who needs 100 years?  It could happen in twenty years here.  It could happen in ten.

The air in the kitchen wraps itself around me in a steamy, sticky blanket.  Spilled sugar on the floor makes the bottoms of my shoes squeak as I walk from stove to table, cradling the hot jars of blackberry jam.  The pot on the stove bubbles like some weird mud pot.  The ding! of the timer.  The hiss of the steam.  The fragrant blackberries, cooking themselves into jam.

Here’s a ten-dollar word for you:  ubiquitous.  Look it up.  It means “found everywhere.”  It is a blackberry’s middle name.  Without warning, they spring up in lawns, flower beds, along fences and foundations.  They will climb trees and smother hedges.  They especially love to grow intertwined with roses, their not-so-distant cousins.  Acting like they’re married.  There oughta be a law.  I asked an older lady, a gardener, how do they do that, and she said bird poop.  Really.  The birds eat the blackberries, and then poop as they fly.  The berry seeds are too tough, and they don’t get digested.  Bird poop is the reason for the ubiquitous blackberry.

When I moved to Oregon, I learned that I had to be careful about telling people where I was from.  I, who had moved from an overpriced little house in Los Angeles, to a house twice the size for the same price, was being blamed for the high cost of housing in Oregon.  It wasn’t my fault.  I just wanted a nicer place to raise my family.  Besides, I would say, don’t you know about blackberries?  They’re not natives, either.  Hard to believe, because they’re everywhere, but they’re really the European blackberry.  Moved in and took over.  Who knows when, but I’ll bet that first blackberry just wanted a little elbow room, too.

In the moonlight, they hang like Eve’s fruit, tempting me to taste.  I eat them as the stars wheel above.  I drink their juice until my hands are stained, as if some strange deed has marked me.  They pull me  in, taking me to themselves, pulling me through their thorns until my toes dig deep into the earth to stay, green tendrils emerge from my ankles and shoulders, knees, elbows.  Arms and legs are vines.  My hair grows leaves and thorns.  I will stay here forever in the moonlight.  I will grow new fruit.  I am blackberry.  Blackberry.  Black.  Berry.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Huff and Puff Before You Stuff

This morning we joined the Jenson-May clan for their annual "Huff and Puff Before You Stuff" event at a local park. I forgot my camera, but Dorothy had her camera with her as usual, and she kindly shared these photos.

 Here's the whole group. Left to right adults: Seth & Lauren May, Kara & Ben May, Debbie & Tony Epperson, Phil May (Geniel is out of state to welcome a new grandbaby), Ken & Dorothy Jenson, Polly and Eric Carlson, and me with Mark
 Eric with Anson, Mark, Polly
Katie, Becca, me

After several days of heavy rain, we were fortunate to have beautiful sunshine. 

After the Huff and Puff, we returned home to begin preparing for a feast. We had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration today...lovely and a little noisy...but that's the price of a houseful of young cousins having a grand time. Mark hauled in an extra table so we could seat 17.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fun with Fabric Balls

Six months ago I gave one of my fabric balls to my colleague, Jen, expecting her first baby.

Today Jen showed me a video of her darling little guy, playing with the ball.

People, this talented child is only six months old! Check out the action with the fabric ball.

See why I love these balls so much?

They are so easy (and safe) for babies to grab. Such a little guy, and he already has the concept of catching and throwing.

Stay tuned in about 18 years when he's a star NBA player or something.

In case you're thinking he looks tall...ummm...he is. He has tall (and really smart) parents.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Healthy Challenge update

I've been doing the Healthy Challenge* for 4 weeks. It's working! I'm stronger and leaner.  I'm sleeping better. I feel soooo much better about myself.

(Oh, and did I mention that I've lost 8 pounds in the last 4 weeks! Woo hoo!!)

Yesterday I put on a pair of jeans and they did not fit. As in, they were way too big. Love it.

What's working:

I'm getting at least 30 minutes of exercise almost every day. I vary what I do.

  • On Mondays we have a little group that gets together for Yoga Group. We do yoga at one of our houses for an hour. So motivating to do it with buddies. There is a mix of gals and guys--Mark and one other husband are in the group. We've limited it to 6 because that's all we can fit in a house space with our yoga mats. I often do yoga at home on at least one or two more days during the week.
  • A couple of days a week Mark and I hang out with Jillian. That's Jillian Michaels (the trainer on Biggest Loser) and her "Thirty-Day Shred" dvd. Ouch. She really makes you work. Twenty minutes of non-stop circuit training (strength, cardio, and abs). But so worth it. We really are getting stronger with our gal-pal.
  • We try to get out for a good brisk walk at least a couple of times a week. This evening we put on our rain gear and grabbed some headlamps from the camping supplies and went out for a nighttime walk. It feels SO good to get out and move.
Treats one day a week. Eating within the Weight Watchers guidelines.
  • Initially I said I wasn't going to eat any treats until Christmas. Ummm...that hasn't been so realistic. However, I have mostly limited myself to treats only 1 day per week. Knowing that there is a "rule" I'm committed to has been a huge help with my self-discipline.
  • I love the Weight Watchers e-tools. Not only can I track my food choices, but the information on the e-tools helps me to make healthier choices throughout the day. If you're thinking about joining Weight Watchers, definitely plan to use the e-tools. And I appreciate that the Points Plus system weighs food values based on a range of nutritional factors: fat, carbs, protein, and fiber. 
  • Love love love Salad in a Jar
  • Love my morning smoothies
Tracking my Food 
  • See "Weight Watchers e-tools" above. You don't have to keep an electronic food diary for it to work. But writing down everything you eat really makes you pay more attention to what you eat. 
Drinking lots of Water
  • 8 cups / day
  • Glug, glug
  • I'm going to hang up a pretty poster in the bathroom, since I spend so much time there.
  • It's just a small group of us doing the Healthy Challenge, so we opted not to create a $ pool for a prize at the end for the "biggest loser." We're each coming up with our own rewards along the way. I like doing it this way! Everybody wins. I'm having fun coming up with a small (non-food) treat for myself every couple of weeks.
  • Black stretchy belt - here
  • Silver scarf (today's photos) - This was today's reward for making it half-way through the Challenge. It was fun to wear it to Church today - elegant and warm. Definitely a win-win on a blustery day.

And by the way...
*I'm sure there are lots of ways to do a Healthy Challenge. I'm using the one the Six Sisters designed. If you want to start your own Healthy Challenge, you can find it here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Lonely Rocking Chair

It's one of my very favorite places in the whole house.

I've spent quiet peaceful times in this chair for nearly 30 years.

Not today. Too busy. Not done yet.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Archive: Mattie's Song

Mattie’s Song
(An Acrostic)*

Apples almost gone, mostly kinda withered
hanging quiet, hanging still
hanging like moons on the branches by the wide
Yazoo River.
Branches hanging down, with their shadows
falling green on the cold, gray river by the trees.
Can’t hardly even feel the little bumps beneath her feet,
feet cold and bare on the
mud by the river where the edge is hard and ridged,
ridged from the ripples
slapping soft, slapping easy on the mud.

Don’t make a sound, Mattie,
someone might hear
in the quiet green air,
rub the panties soft in the still green shadows on the river.
Edith shoulda told her, shoulda said something, dammit,
but Edith never said it and Mama wouldn’t neither,
Mattie knew.
Forever only looking at her, looking kinda hard,
but still, don’tcha know, blood is thicker 
than the river.
Girls oughtta stick together,
specially when they’re sisters
and the shadows run deep on the rolling gray water,
deep washing water for the shame.

How was it now that the schoolmarm taught the colors?
Indigo she called it,
but you can’t fool blue,
and blue and yellow’s green, green like the shadows,
but the water runs gray, and the gray plus the
red is a dark color honey, on the Yazoo running Mississippi down.
Just the dark ring now at the edge of the stain that won’t never wash away,
funny how the red can wash into the river,
but the stain still won’t never wash away.
Kinda like them books on the shelf in the schoolhouse;
girls forget a lot,
but them books, they leave a stain,
and the edges, Mama, won’t wash away.

Looking right deep down through the rolling gray water,
looking at the fishes swimming deep,
swimming calm.
Mama never said, nor the schoolmarm neither,
if the fishes eat the red or if it kills ‘em.
Never going home, going back to be a girl,
never gonna wash away the stain and the shame.
Only going on, only going on.
Papa almost said it,
when he talked about the Indians,
said the women had huts where they went when they...
“Hush,” Mama said, “Quiet old man, hush your mouth and go away.”
Queer, don’t you know,
in the quiet of the morning,
with the tree shadows green on the cold gray river
where the red fades gray and the 
fishes swim deep.
Rinse the panties good,
rinse them wet,
rinse them cold.
Surely they won’t show beneath the dress if she stands,
stands in the doorway looking back from years away.
They’ll think she’s still a girl,
never knowing that she knows about the river.

Underneath the branches of the trees and the apples,
Mattie walking home 
to the home
no longer hers.
Velvet dust, honey, ‘tween her toes
on the road, ‘side the river running deep,
running dark beneath the trees.
Words in her head as she walks along the river,
words from the books going past the shriveled apples,
moons over Mattie walking home.
“Xeric,” said the schoolmarm, “means dry, really dry,”
but Mattie knows the river flowing deep.
Yazoo runs the river,
with the deep green shadows,
and the fish that sleep in red,
Yazoo running Mississippi home.
Zephyr of the river, take the girl
past the shadows,
let her cross the river flowing home.

*Acrostic: A poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words. This is an alphabet acrostic, where the first letter of each line forms the alphabet.

This poem is based on family history. My ancestor, Martha (Mattie) Clementine Rector, began menstruating one cold spring day in the South. She didn't know what was happening, so she washed her long panties (bloomers?) in a creek. She caught cold, and had a cough for the rest of her life. She used to smoke a white clay pipe to ease the cough.

 I wrote this poem in 1993. It was the result of a writing class assignment that I thought was so dumb. The teacher asked us to write a story of 26 sentences. Each sentence was supposed to begin with the next letter of the alphabet. Instead of writing a dumb story, I wrote "Mattie's Song," and I immediately stopped complaining about highly structured writing assignments. Sometimes the structure frees the brain to think of ideas in new ways.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Big One

I don't think I'm afraid of very many things, but I do fear earthquakes.

It's funny that I grew up in California, but I don't have any memory of being in earthquakes as a child.

My dad has a great story about the big earthquake (7.3) in Tehachapi in 1952. It was right after he and Mom were married. He was working on a ranch that summer, so they lived in a little tiny travel trailer in one of the fields. One night they felt the trailer rocking and Dad went out to chase the cow away that (they assumed) was bumping up against the little trailer. As he put his foot down to the ground, the ground came up and patted his foot. He suddenly realized that the "cow" was actually a big earthquake. According to Mom, he promptly dived back into bed.

I remember two tsunami evacuations. The first one was in 1960, after the 9.5 earthquake in Chile. We were down at the harbor having lunch in the cockpit of our family's sailboat. I had just turned 6 the week before, and my brother was not quite 5. As the water began to get sucked out of the bay, the sailboat suddenly lurched to one side, tipping all of the condiments into our laps. My dad shouted for my mom to get us kids to safety in a hilly area of town, and he took the sailboat out to a deep hole in the bay. He anchored there and stayed overnight on the boat, as it swung back and forth on its anchor with the water rushing in and out of the harbor with the tsunami surges.

The second tsunami evacuation came in 1964, when I was ten, after the 9.2 earthquake in Alaska. This time we were at home in bed (Mom, my brother, me). Dad was already down at the harbor, where he worked as the harbor engineer. Mom got us kids us and wrapped us in blankets because she had to drive the jeep - Dad already had the car down at the harbor. Once again she drove us to a hilly area where we stayed for the night. I had tsunami nightmares off and on for several years after that.

We used to joke about The Big One when I was a teenager in California. There were cartoons about the western half of California falling off into the ocean. It was all just a joke. Earthquakes happened somewhere else, to other people.

A few years after I moved to the Pacific Northwest in the late 70s, geologists figured out that the Cascadia Subduction Zone was ripe for a major subduction earthquake. A few years after that, they figured out that the Portland area is likely to sustain major damage in an earthquake because the fertile Willamette Valley soil is sediment from 15,000-year-old floods. Even really old sediment tends to settle in big earthquakes, shaking buildings and making a mess.

We've had a couple of small earthquakes in the region since I moved here. One was the Spring Break Quake in 1993. We were camped out at the coast, but I happened to be awake at 5:34 and I distinctly heard a distant boom. Something changed. Polly's friend, Patti, was camped with us, and she also heard or felt something.

About 10 years ago there was a small quake during the school day. I was teaching in a ground-floor classroom. I was standing up, teaching, and I didn't feel anything, but my students felt it. Their chairs moved under their bottoms. A few years later there was another small quake, but we were out of town.

This region is ripe for a magnitude-9 earthquake. I live in a  stick-frame house that is 103 years old. I sleep in an upstairs bedroom. If a quake hits at night, will I make it out of the house alive? And if we survive, what will our lives be like?

I look at news and photos from Japan, superstorm Sandy, hurricane Katrina, makes you stop and think. No matter how prepared you try to be, how prepared are you really?

A few years ago I took a short overnight backpacking hike with my grandson, Josh, when he was 8 years old. We camped just beyond High Bridge on the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge. During the night I woke up and had a hard time getting back to sleep. I lay there in our little tent listening to my sweet grandson breathe, and wishing I could get a little more comfortable on my Thermarest pad. Then, for some reason, I started thinking about earthquakes. What if The Big One hit that night?

You know how it is in the middle of the night when you can't sleep. My imagination just took off. There were downed trees all around us from the earthquake. Hmmm...would we be crushed? Dead - end of story. Not dead - now what? We'd have to hike out by climbing out over all those huge trees that would be lying in our way. No doubt the trail would be a mess. I mentally hiked along the trail until I got to...oh, no! High Bridge had collapsed in the earthquake! We were trapped. My cell phone wouldn't work in the narrow gorge. Maybe I could climb to the top of the mountain above us (not likely, by the way). Even if I could somehow get cell reception, what good would that do? Most of the cell towers would be down. No one would be able to come rescue us. How long would our food last? Could we hike out to Wahtum Lake? There was still snow at that elevation...

...and on and on.

It seems silly now. Except this evening I was in the shower, when I had a sudden thought. What if The Big One hit right now? Ack, I'd be naked. I'd have to grab my clothes (which were next to the shower) on my way as I ran down the stairs to escape the collapsing house. But it's November and cold outside! I'd have bare feet? Could I grab my slippers (back in the bedroom), too?

Stop. Breathe. I know that the likelihood of The Big One coming at any particular moment, just because I'm thinking about it, is almost mathematically nil. But still.

I have to admit it. I'm afraid of earthquakes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Word of the Week: Selca

What is it called when you take a digital photo of yourself?

My friend Becky, a professional photographer, calls it a "score." But when I did a google search for the term, "score," none of the definitions I found had anything to do with digital self portraits.

I tried putting "what do you call a digital self portrait" into the search engine and came up with the term  "selca" (for "self camera" or "self capture"). It was listed in an urban slang dictionary, and on a blog that claimed it's mostly an Asian term (because photography is such a popular hobby with Asians).

(Slightly related: a link from the above site also warns about how some people look when they take photos of others.) (Translate: we can look pretty silly.)

So what do you call it when you're out snapping snazzy self portraits? 
(Really stupid???) (Slightly awkward???)

Whatever you call it, it's trickier than it looks!

And yet, I have been known to blithely turn the camera toward my not-so-trustworthy face, with often disastrous results. Oh, my. Full disclosure: I don't show these pictures to anyone. I really should have deleted them long ago. I'm only posting them now 1) because it's NaBloPoMo, and you never know what desperate random topic will turn up, and 2) because Katie* would totally post goofy photos like this and I really ought to just get over myself. But don't say you haven't been warned!

*Ok, maybe not so much. I went through a bunch of Katie's posts, and the goofiest photo I could find was this one, which is nothing like the awful ones you're about to see if you are actually foolish enough to keep reading.

WARNING: Don't try this at home! You, too, could end up looking pretty silly.

 Hmmm...can I take a good photo of my Veterans Day shirt all by myself?
 Apparently not...
 Hoo boy, she sure has long arms...that's a long way down!

It's so jolly hanging out here in the backyard trying to take a photo of myself. 
Let me show you a few more teeth.

 Here's the evidence that I did not heed the "no double chins" advice that you often read.

 I did a solo 50 mile hike back in 2008. 
Apparently I'm about to collapse at the first stream crossing.

 What? You mean the map says I've only hiked 3 miles so far?

 Hey, c'mere and pull me up the trail, will you?

 Such an elegant pose inside the tent by myself on a rainy night.

 Tough to come up with entertainment options under these conditions.
Sure, let's try another photo. Why not?

 I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair...

 Yes, I look so much better now that my hair is combed.

 If I have to swat another mosquito I think I'm going, heck, let's try a photo instead.

 Mother, is that you? I'm calling to tell you happy birthday.*
What? You say you don't recognize me any more? I can't really be your child?
(*This really was taken while wishing my sweet mom a happy birthday. So much for multi-tasking.)

But then...
...if you take enough awful photos...
...if you really really try...

...eventually you get it right.

One of my favorite photos of me. Ever. And I did it all by myself.

What? You read all the way down to here? Well then, just for you, here is a site that gives some good suggestions on how to avoid looking like a doofus. Have fun taking scores or selcas or digital self-portraits or whatever they're called!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vegie Mania

I love salad in a jar. I'll be eating it for lunch three times this week. MMMmmmm...

(Even though it's from a vegetarian website, it's ok to add some meat to your salads if you want. I add a little leftover roasted know the yummy kind you can buy already cooked at the grocery store on Saturday evenings...) (I might also be adding some pickled beet stems.)

And I love love love this new (to me) parmesan roasted acorn squash recipe.

Seriously, it is so delicious that Mark and I were fighting (nicely, but with forks poised) over the leftovers.

It was so good that it was all we wanted to eat. Tastes waaaaay better than squash that's been slathered in butter and brown sugar. Can't believe how sweet and savory it is.

It is also a super easy recipe. Once you get the squash sliced (the only hard part...get it? Hard part, as in the rind is pretty tough. Use a big knife and be careful with it...), there's nothing to it.

You should eat these things.

That's all. Just do it.

PS - Thanks for the acorn squash, Mom!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veterans Day

Thank you to all the veterans everywhere.

Special thanks and love to the veterans and active duty folks in my life:
My dad, Ken
My brother, Maury
My uncle, Charlie
My nephews and my niece and her husband: Aaron, Craig, Becky, Jason
My son-in-law, Scott, and his brother, Kevin
My former son-in-law, Mike
My daughter's brother-in-law, Chris

I love you and appreciate you and your families. You have made, and continue to make, tremendous sacrifices that make my world a better and safer place. Sending my gratitude today and every day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Little Libraries

Do you want this in your front yard? I do.

It's a little free library, and it is in someone's front yard in Oregon City! This photo came from a news article in the local paper, and ever since I saw it, I knew that I wanted one of these in my yard, too.

The idea is that you make a little "house" in your yard, next to the sidewalk. You attach a sign that says "Little Free Library," and you fill it with books for others to check out. People walking by your house can "check out" a book. They don't have to have a library card or anything. They don't even have to sign for it. They can read it and then bring it back, or they can replace it with another book. It's just a neighborhood way to share books.


When I googled Little Libraries, I got tons of hits. Here is the home organization. If you google Little Libraries, you will find lots of news articles about the libraries, and how they are helping people to be more neighborly. Uh, and read.

You can register your little library at the website, and then people on vacation in your city--that would be people who are really into these libraries--will stop by your library when they're in town.

Here are some more photos of these cool little libraries. There are tons of photos on the website. These are just a few of my favorites.

Maybe I can get Mr. Haynie to build a little library for Laurel Lane. What do you think?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Jackets

Kat and Sarah called yesterday afternoon to say they had just purchased a jacket pattern, and could I please help them with a sewing project?

Hooboy...I was wondering what kind of pattern they had in their eager little hands!

Come to find out, it wasn't bad. Simplicity 2150. They chose option D, the furry looking one in the upper right-hand corner.

They stopped by with their dad this morning to discuss fabric options. They had been thinking wool, with a lining.


How about fleece? I suggested. Nice and washable, and we could skip the lining that way.

Two hours later they were back with their fabrics.

Kat had fleece giraffe.

Sarah had faux mink.

I had them do rock-paper-scissors to see which jacket we would make first.

Thank goodness, Kat won.

Here's Kat, modeling her partially-sewn jacket. We adapted the pattern to include a zipper front instead of 3 hooks/eyes. MUCH warmer.

I always love the way a flat piece of fabric turns into a shaped garment,  just by cutting the fabric with curved outer lines and sewing the curves to other curves.

Kat sewed the straight seams with just a little help.

Ta da! Kat in her finished jacket. 
We took lots of shortcuts made many clever adaptations to the pattern.
It took about 2 hours total.

I don't have any process photos of sewing Sarah's jacket because the faux mink was an awful mess. Take my advice. Don't buy faux mink. Thank goodness I did the fleece version first.

But I do have to admit that it is a darling jacket on her. 

However, sewing with the constant feeling of fur bits up my nose was not an attractive undertaking. 

I will have fur bits floating around the house for at least 2 weeks, I am sure.

But Sarah loves soft things, and this faux mink is so soft!

Check out these two stylin' tweens. 

(And I'm thinking about borrowing their pattern to make that cute red jacket for myself...)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Archive: Conquest in Yellow

A really cool post by my son-in-law Bryan on Bryan's Brayn reminded me about this poem in the archives.

I wrote the poem in the mid-90s and have revised it occasionally since then.

Conquest in Yellow
(Dandelions, not indigenous to North America, arrived sometime after European contact.)

The dandelions dare, taunting,
waving little bastard flags
that thrust above the lawn.

They spring, resurrected, 
from beneath my mower’s blades,
and carpet my earth in yellow laughter.

What single parent spawned this rousing rabble?
How did the first one come?

Did some subtle seed stow away
among damp hemp in dark ship’s hold,
holding off that business of beginning
until it found new shores?

Or was it sabotage?  Some canny slave
who slipped the seed among his rags
until it could be planted 
between the careful crops?

I like my story better.
It surely was a girl-wife, trying to be brave,
a Maggie or a Jane perhaps, who,
just before she boarded,
bound for brave new world,
picked one last flower 
and pressed it in her apron pocket.

The children of that flower, yellow-bright
would ease the strangeness of new door-step.
I know she coaxed it carefully,
rejoiced when it bore seed,
and when, in joy, she plucked the hardy stem
to blow, and blow,
the dandelion billowed and made 
swirling clouds of seed that tumbled
through her hair and pierced the ground
beneath her feet.

They mostly stayed close to home, 
but the wind caught three
and carried them two townships over, down beside a stream
where they grew
until their seeds were caught by the wind, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One more red thing...

...ah, beets. You make me so happy!

Do you love beets yet? I don't mean those canned wanna-bes.

I'm talking about real beets, with glorious leaves still attached.

They have a earthiness about them, like all good root vegetables. Potatoes may be better known, but they are not so sweet. A beet isn't starchy like a potato, but it has a robust solidness to it that makes it a lovely dinner companion.

Every Saturday I look for one or two bunches of beets while I'm shopping, and most weeks I come away with beets in my grocery cart.

Roasted Beets
I know, I know. All the recipes say to scrub the beets but then leave the skins on while they are cooking. Well I do it my own way. I want to enjoy them hot out of the oven, and I don't like dealing with the skins then. Here is my method:

  • Cut the greens and little root off of the beets. Wash the beets and peel them with a potato peeler. Your hands will turn red, but that's ok - it won't last long.
  • Quarter the beets and put them in a roasting dish that has a lid. Add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir everything well until the beet pieces are oily.
  • Put the lid on and bake at 350ยบ for 1 hour.
  • They are finished when they poke easily with a fork.

Beet Greens
Again, I don't follow the usual recipes. There are plenty of recipes out there for sauteed beet greens. They taste ok sauteed, but Mark and I prefer our beet greens in a quiche. I substitute them for the chard in this recipe. 
I took this photo a while ago when I made the recipe with chard. When you make it with beet greens, it's even prettier because the leaves have those beautiful red veins in them. I think beets are such a pretty vegetable!

Beet Stems
So last Sunday evening I was chopping up the beet greens for the quiche, and I commented to Mark that it was a shame to throw away the stems. They are so pretty and red! He tasted one and thought it tasted sort of like celery. Not much to it, in other words.

On a hunch, I did a google recipe search for Pickled Beet Stems. Sure enough! I found a simple and tasty recipe here. I didn't have all the ingredients, but I didn't let that bother me. There are all kinds of pickle flavors, right? So I substituted some whole cloves since I didn't have any coriander seeds on hand. And instead of dill seed, I scooped a little brown mustard into the pot.

Mmmmmm! Later that evening I added some pickled beet stems to our salad in a jar recipe, and they give a wonderful little punch of flavor every few bites. We're sold! What a wonderful way to use every part of the plant.

Thank you for your beautiful red deliciousness, dear beets! I'll be seeing you again next Saturday when I do my grocery shopping!

*Oh, and in case you were wishing for a poem about beets, I found one here that is rather lighthearted, written by a street poet in San Francisco. Found another one here that is rather solemn and serious and very beautiful. Perhaps a beet poem should go on my writing projects list...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Red things I love: Mark's knitting project

I love saying this: Mark knits.

Not with two needles, but with a circle loom, like this:

He has a big loom for making adult-sized hats, and a little bitty loom for making baby hats. Sometimes he makes big hats for gifts, and sometimes he makes baby hats to donate to hospitals.

See why I love this guy?

Lately he's been knitting a red hat to use in the high school play. The script is called "The Homecoming," and it's the play that later turned into the movie and TV series, "The Waltons." At one point in the play, the mother in the family gives the oldest son a red hat she has knitted for him. It's supposed to be his Christmas gift, but she gives it to him early so he will be warm when he goes out on a dark and snowy night to search for his missing father.

Mark and I know all about this because we're in the play! We're the grandparents. He's Homer and I'm Ida. He's nice and I'm cranky. (Is this type-casting, or what!!??) So of course he's the one making the hat for our "grandson."

Here are some photos of Mark-the-knitter in action:

Oops, blurry camera.
Man, he's so fast!

One more thing I love about Mark's knitting skills: he learned from a guy at church who is even older than he is! Then he (Mark) got another guy about our age started on it. There is this old-guy knitting group at church!! Not that it's an official group that sits around and knits together, but here's the thing: they could. Isn't that awesome? And they all make baby hats to donate, because of course that's what the cool guys do.

Oh, and if you're interested in seeing Mark's red hat on stage, you can come to the play:

"The Homecoming," at Oregon City High School
December 12-15, 7:30 p.m.