Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Fruit Loop

You all thought I was done with this didn't you? Oh no, I have many more pictures to go through and I think I can get a few more blog posts out of this, and with NaBloWriMo almost upon us, I need to stretch this out as long as possible.

Our next stop on the Fruit Loop was Rasmussen Farms.The highlight for me was the corn maze.Can you believe this was my first corn maze ever?Luckily, I wore the perfect corn maze shoes:(Thank you to all you Pacific Northwesterners who suggested I buy rain boots! They've come in very handy.)

In amongst the corn were some of the prettiest, largest sunflowers I've ever seen. They were bigger than my head. Okay, that's not saying much because I have a tiny pinhead. They were bigger than Jay's head, which is huge. (Trust me, I've given birth to the man's children, he has a big head.)Shortly after leaving Rasmussen, we split a sandwich and a beer at Mt. Hood Country store which appears to be a country store/deli/pub:You have to love a place whose slogan is "We Heart Beer."


Up next:: The last of my Fruit Loop photos. And just as a reminder, there's still time to sign up for NaBloWriMo. Pop over to the website for more information.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Sewing Machine

Last week the FedEx man left a new sewing machine on my doorstep. The machine, being a surprise gift from my mother in law. This is significant for a couple of reasons:

1. Um, new sewing machine. Hello? How awesome is that?

2. My mother in law and I haven't always seen eye to eye, so it was definitely a kind, sweet gesture. (Thanks again mother in law!)

Jay brought home some sort of swine flu from work and I've been sick all weekend so I haven't had a lot of time to really use it yet, but in my few moments of Day Quil fueled mental clarity I was able to play around with it a bit. It has about 100 different stitches and some of them are just too pretty:I foresee this opening up a whole new world for me.

I also mended a shirt of mine and that took about two seconds. The new machine is so quiet and easy to use that I almost feel as if I can't take credit for the results. I'm much more motivated to give patterns another shot now.

There was also a gift within a gift in the form of the styrofoam that was surrounding the machine. The girl has taken it and made a castle for all of her freaky toys:Of course the styrofoam portion of the gift will be trashed as soon as I'm sick of finding little white styrofoam balls all over the apartment. Which will happen soon. Very, very soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review:: The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

As you all know, I love nothing more than a book about a quirky young adult escaping the confines of a kooky religion, so when I heard about this book by Elna Baker I knew I had to read it. (Sadly, I could never get it in the Gainesville library system, which I'm now convinced is three buildings filled with books that no one wants to read. But getting a copy here in drunk heathen town was a total breeze.)

The book, though technically a memoir, is written in the style of loosely connected essays. While this is a style of writing I love, it makes it a hard book to review. But the gist of the story is this: Elna Baker is a gal in her mid twenties, living in NYC and working in the entertainment industry. She's also a virgin and a Mormon. Sort of.

The title of the book comes from the dance that Elna attends every year where a bunch of local Mormons get together to dress up, dance, and hopefully find a spouse for now and all of eternity. This is where, for the reader, it all starts to seem kind of confusing. On the one hand, Elna actively participates in these and other church activities, but she also makes fun of them and clearly senses that she's out of her element. She dates Mormon men but feels no connection to them. Then she finds the man of her dreams but is completely thrown when she discovers he's an atheist. Throughout the whole book there is this constant struggle between who Elna wants to be, who Elna thinks she should be, and who Elna actually is. Plus, I also get the impression that if her family weren't Mormons, she would have no problems giving it all up. In fact one of the main reasons she's never given up on her religion is because if she stopped being a Mormon then she wouldn't be able to see her sisters get married in the Mormon church. (I know I've mentioned it before, and I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, but the threat of not being able to be an active participant in your family life is a cult-like tactic that some religions use to keep members. Just sayin'.)

Elna Baker is a comedienne at heart so there are parts of this book that are laugh out loud funny. But her story made me sad too because she's hopelessly naive. (She wasn't aware you could get porn on the internet.) This isn't to say she's ignorant, in fact she's incredibly well read and has traveled the world. But, as Jay pointed out (he read the book too), she traveled the world with her family, a large group of Mormons. She had never really done much without them or with someone whose opinions are vastly different than that of her own. She's seen the world, but from one singular, very insular viewpoint.

Obviously, growing up as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I could relate to a lot of Elna's internal struggles. Being on the other side of that now, there were times when I was reading this that I just wanted to grab Elna, shake her, and tell her to make up her mind already. And not for the obvious reason that I think she'd be better off not being a Mormon, but because everyone is better off just doing what comes naturally and not always worrying about what your family, friends, congregation, or god thinks. I really hope Elna gets it all figured out soon. And then I hope she writes a book about it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fruit Loop::The Gorge White House

Our next stop on the Fruit Loop was The Gorge White House.
Everything about this place was like something out of a fairy tale.As I looked past the rows and rows of fresh U-Pick flowers, I definitely had another one of those, I can't believe we're finally here in Oregon moments. (I've lived here six months, do you think I'll ever stop having those?)There is an expression that's popular right now, "Bloom where you're planted." It's used to describe the attitude you get when you're trying to make the best of whatever bad (or maybe just not ideal) situation that you find yourself in. I get what people are trying to do when they say that, I really do. I spent years trying to bloom where I was planted. It's exhausting and at times very depressing.If I could give any advice to those people, it would be to do whatever it takes and make every possible sacrifice to Plant yourself where you can bloom.
My only regret is that we didn't do it sooner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fruit Loop

This past Sunday we paid the boy $20 to babysit his sister so that Jay and I could drive an hour away to go to the Hood River Fruit Loop Pear Celebration.

The Fruit Loop is a scenic 35 mile drive through Hood River Valley with stops along the way at orchards, fruit stands, working farms, wineries, and lavender fields. Over the course of just a few hours, Jay and I took almost 100 pictures. Because I don't want to cram all of them into one long winded (and probably boring) post, I'm breaking it up and will be sharing them with you throughout the week. So if you tire easily of fruit and flower photos, you may want to avoid this place for the next few days.

Our first stop was Pearl's Place, where we began to load up on fruit.
Really, how could we resist these colors?
I used to think that all fruits were created equal, but honestly even the fruit is better up here. I really didn't know what I was missing my whole life by eating dry, mealy apples.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Things That Make for a Happy Saturday

*Grey, pleasantly drippy weather.

*Jay not having to go to work until 4:30.

*Not only going to garage sales, but coming home with goodies. Which I will photograph and share with you on the next slightly sunny day. (Soooo, maybe next April.)

*Going to the library to pick up a book I requested and finding that they actually have two books I requested. (I don't know if I've yet sung the praises of the Portland area library system, but it.is.AWESOME.)

*Pumpkin chip muffins quietly eaten out on the balcony. Alone.....
Yep, it's that time of year. The time of year when I start chucking a can of pumpkin into everything I make. This particular recipe comes courtesy of Jodi and it's flawless.

*Having the dryer break (potentially a very bad thing) BUT having the maintenance man fix it within just a few hours of me placing the service request. For the last few years of my life, it seemed as if every little thing was a struggle and I was constantly asking, "Why does everything have to be so hard?" It's really nice, for a change, to be able so sit back and say, "Wow! That was so much easier than I expected it to be." I love easy. Easy is good!

I hope that your Saturday was a happy one. And if not, I at least hope it was easy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Napkins and Sewing Machine Talk

Yesterday I dusted off the sewing machine and made some napkins. Because I really try to keep the paper towel usage to a minimum around here, a new stack of cloth napkins is always a good, worthwhile sewing project for me.You old timers will remember the fabric from its former life as a pantry curtain in my old house. I had put off cutting into into it because, well, I liked my pantry curtain. But, I have no pantry here so it was just fabric that was taking up space.

Usually when I make napkins I use whatever simple and quick tutorial I can find, figuring they don't need to be fancy. But this time I stepped it up a notch and used this tutorial over at The Purl Bee. I really love the way the corners came out:(As a side note: We used these napkins last night at dinner and not only did no one notice the professional looking corners on the new napkins, but they didn't even notice we were using new napkins or that they were made from our old pantry curtain. Clearly I'm the only one that appreciates details such as this.)

I would have liked to do a different, more decorative stitch around the edges but sadly my machine gave up on decorative stitches a long time ago. The zig zag is as fancy as it will allow, and even then it doesn't always do that well.

Which brings me to the next topic of discussion:

Within the next six months to a year or so, I'd like to buy a new sewing machine. Right now I'm using a Singer Simple which behaves very much as it's name suggests. When I was first starting out, it was wonderful and all I needed. But now, I don't always feel like it wants to do what I want it to do. It can't handle anything too complex, it's loud and clunky, and it has trouble with anything beyond a straight stitch. Because it's so temperamental, it makes learning new things hard and incredibly frustrating. Whenever I have a problem I'm constantly wondering whether it's my error or that of the machine. I've done all the at-home maintenance that the manual suggests and I could probably spend $50 and take it in to be serviced (its innards may just need tightening, who knows?), but I don't really know if that would be worth it since I just don't love this machine anymore (plus, its original price was only $99). So now my questions to all of you who sew out there: Do you love your machine? If so, where did you get it and what was the cost? What's the average cost of a *good* machine? Can I get a good one for under $200? I've seen some nice ones at Target, could I get one there or am I better off going somewhere more specialized? Any and all input is appreciated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What is Wrong With Me?

I just don't know what the deal is, but lately I haven't wanted to be here. By 'here', I mean not just my blog but the internet in general. Most of the time I can enjoy the internet, in fact I love it. Other times, like lately, I feel completely overwhelmed by all it has to offer. There is so much on the internet that I want to do. Sewing and crochet projects, crafts to do with the kids, recipes to make and bake, photo and writing projects to get involved in. It seems like before long I'm mentally drowning. It's just all too much. Then, of course, I stumble across the occasional blog written by someone who seems to be effortlessly doing it all while wearing a big ol' smile and I feel like a giant shit face because today all I've done is snack on macaroni salad and play video games while the girl was at school. (Okay, I know I'm being too hard on myself and obviously I've done more than that. In fact, I've done all the same things I always do and then some. But as I sit here, it feels like I have nothing to show for my day.)

And let's not even get started on Facebook. I haven't been on it in days. I keep meaning to get on. I have messages. But just seeing them in my inbox fills me with dread. What if it's going to be from someone who wants me to do something? Like form a coherent sentence in a thoughtful reply? I'm just not up for that right now. Sorry Facebook.

Like I said, I don't know why I feel this way. I mean, I've known myself to get this way from time to time but then it usually fades after a day or so. But lately the feeling is lingering and that makes me nervous. I can't fathom the idea of giving up my blog or my internet life, it's a huge part of who I am. I'm hoping I just need to give myself some more time. Time to adjust to the new school schedule and time to continue adjusting to life in Oregon. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it here. But I lived in Florida my whole life and even though I hated it, it was familiar. Not only did I know where everything was, but I knew everything about the state. I knew all the trees and plants and animals. And while I love Oregon, everything about it is unfamiliar, so this makes each day a learning experience for me. Which is awesome, but exhausting. When I think about it that way, I can definitely see why I'm in a bit of a lull right now.

So, I guess that's why it may seem as if I've checked out from my cyber life. I'm still here, skulking around in the shadows, taking it all in. Just not feeling as vocal as I once was.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Walking

We live a very short distance from the girl's school. Literally, I can see it from the end of our street so it really makes no sense to drive there.

In the mornings, the walk can be busy. There are many other parents walking with their kids, and a lot of kids walking on their own. There are always people to talk to and flowers and leaves to stop and look at. I have to constantly get on to the girl to keep up the pace or we'll be late.

But come mid-morning, it's a different story. Except for one or two other people going to pick up their kindergartners, the street is empty. There's no crossing guard to talk to and no buses are zipping by. It's quickly become my favorite part of the day. Not only is it one of the few times that I'm truly alone, but it's also a time when there is nothing that I have to do. Well, other than head in the direction of the school.

This morning I took my camera with me. I've been spotting small signs of autumn and I wanted to document it.
The seasonal changes in Florida aren't real visible. Things go from alive and green to dead and brown pretty quickly and it's rare to see all the different colors. But here in Oregon, it's obviously a different story.
There are a lot of fruit bearing trees in my neighborhood. As you can see in the picture below, this one is already dropping fruit.They look like miniature apples but Jay tasted one and said it seemed like an unripened pear. (And no, Jay doesn't make a habit of picking things up off the ground and putting them in his mouth. Not usually.)

Right now, the majority of the trees lining the sidewalk are still green, but I wonder what they'll look like in a month or two. This is all so new to me, so I can't wait to find out.Have you seen any signs of fall where you are?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Random Thoughts

*I may be crazy because I just committed to doing NaBloWriMo. Blogging every day for the month of October. I did it last year and ended up loving the challenge, so as much as I was inclined to take a pass this year, I just couldn't do it. Now the question is, what am I going to write about for 31 straight days? I need to start stockpiling topics, so if there is anything you want to know about me, now is the time to ask. (I have a feeling I'll be making a lot of Lists next month.) And of course the more the merrier, so if you think you're up for the challenge, then by all means head over and sign up.

*There's only one more episode of True Blood. After this Sunday I'm going to have to go elsewhere for my weekly dose of bloody, violent vampire sex. Or maybe I can just print and cut some True Blood paper dolls and play True Blood the home version.

*Last week I made a Wacky Cake, after seeing it mentioned over on Mandy's site. I love the idea of a cake without eggs and milk. I decided to not frost it, and just sprinkled some powdered sugar on top. The kids loved it and even fought over the last piece.Jay wasn't as thrilled. When I mentioned that it was a recipe from the Great Depression, when expensive ingredients were hard to come by, he said something about being able to taste the depression. Whatever.

*A lot of you have asked what I'll be doing with myself now that both kids are in school. And the answer is sadly, not much. The girl is only in half day kindergarten from 8:20 until 10:40. That doesn't give me much time. But I'm definitely making the most of it and I'll take what bit of alone time I can get.

*The woman that lives below us also has a kindergartner and she and I walked the kids to school together this morning. You all know that I'm a bit of a loner and a social freak so this was a huge step for me. I learned that she sews too, has been doing so on and off since she was a teenager, and right now she's in the middle of making Halloween costumes. I was so excited to learn this because now, at the very least, we'll always have something to talk about. Sometimes I think it's so much harder for women to make friends because the interests of women can be so varied. I mean, men can almost always find some common ground talking about sports, beer, and grilling.

*The downside to my new friendship is that I cannot remember her name. She mentioned it when I first moved in five months ago but I've forgotten. The last time her son was playing at our house I sort of casually asked what his moms name was and he told me, but I couldn't totally understand what he said. (Keep in mind, he's five.) Then he said, "But I just call her Mommy." Yeah, I don't think that will work for me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kindergarten

Is blog land sick of seeing pictures of small, back-packed children all ready for their first day of school? Well too bad, because I haven't posted mine yet.

Here she is, clearly excited.Here's picture number two.This was taken after we told her to stop acting like a Dorkwad McSpazzatron for two seconds so we can take a decent picture. Although you can see that she still has the "I'm Number One!" fingers out. Spazz.

And here she is running ahead of us, because Mom and Dad are so not cool.Whatever little one, you don't bother me. Your brother has already significantly worn me down.

So, the first day of school went well. She made some friends and played and is excited to go back tomorrow. Which is wonderful. It was all much easier than the boy's first day of kindergarten. Back in the day he ran screaming from the classroom and had crying bouts that lasted most of the year. Needless to say, it was a tough time for our family and I'm glad I don't have to relive that again.

One down, one to go. The big one starts school tomorrow.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Self Portrait: September

It's that time again. Time for me to slap a photo of my mug up in this spot and dissect it mercilessly. I'm starting to feel sort of self indulgent doing this. Even though it's my blog, I'm not really comfortable having all eyes on me. I'm much happier talking about other things. But I'm standing by the idea that this is a good exercise for me. At least for now.

Anyway, here's the photo:
*This was taken today and is, amazingly enough, the first shot I took. That is just unheard of around here. Normally I take the full twenty (the limit I set for this project back in July)and then just settle on whichever one makes me ill the least. Again, I don't think I look gorgeous in this picture, but I look like how I think I look. Sometimes I think there is this huge difference between how I see myself and how others see me. Like, have you ever had someone compliment you on your appearance on a day when you feel like you just crawled out of a dumpster? Whenever that happens it always completely throws off my view of myself.

*My hair is red now. More specifically it's Garnier Nutrisse number 76-Hot Tamale. My son loves it and thinks I look like a rock star. This has me concerned because his idea of fine style includes things like mustaches, Ed Hardy shirts, and lots of Axe body spray. This may have been a style misstep on my part.

*My hair is at a weird length while I try to decide what to do with it. Part of me wants to grow it out-I'm thinking a chin length bob-but an even bigger part of me wants to have Jay give me the Natalie Maines haircut. (Did anyone else see her on Larry King the other night? She has a straight up buzz cut. And I love it. Here's a semi recent picture.)

*I know I look tired. I haven't been sleeping well. Firstly, I've been drinking way too much Diet Pepsi Max which has been keeping me awake. Then last Friday we tried out a new dog food which disagreed with Liz Lemon so I was up at one in the morning scraping poop out of the carpet as best I could without lugging the steam cleaner out. After that I just couldn't go back to sleep so I watched the last half of a Ricky Gervais comedy special and then played Call of Duty until four. I haven't had a good nights sleep since then.

*One more thing, while I was taking this shot I was listening to Animal Collective, whom I'm really into right now because they remind me of The Beta Band, which is a band I listened to a lot of right after my son was born.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What I'm Reading Right Now

For the first time in quite a while, I'm reading numerous books at the same time. My brain is all over the place and I don't have the attention span for just one book. I'm not sure why this is, it just is.

Because I doubt very seriously that I'll be feeling less scatterbrained enough to actually review these books, I thought I'd just share a bit of my thoughts so far.

First we have The Thorn Birds.I started reading this one about three weeks ago thinking that it would be the perfect summer book. And for the most part, it is. I'm engrossed in the story and can't wait to read more. But I had to shelve it because the descriptions of the heat in the Australian outback were making me ill. Especially on days when the temperatures here were in the nineties, it was just too much for me to handle. Honestly, just looking at that dry and dusty cover makes me need a glass of water. I want to read more, but I'll be waiting until I can snuggle up with some blankets to do so.

Next up is Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner.Right after we moved I read another of Weiner's books, Good in Bed. For lack of time, I never reviewed it here but it was a good book, a fun read, and on the NPR book list that I'm working my way through. So when I saw this one at the library I snatched it up. I'm about half way through it and it's......just okay. I don't know. In the last few years I've learned to see the appeal of chick lit, but mostly I find the characters to be more like stereotypes of people than actual people and that seems to be the case for this book. It's not awful, and I'll probably finish it, but I'm not going to be shouting its name from the roof tops anytime soon.

Also on the nightstand is Waiting by Debra Ginsberg.
This one was suggested to me by Shannon, who doesn't have a blog but pops in from time to time to tell me what to read and I'm so glad she does because she and I seem to love all the same books. (You may remember she suggested Good Grief.)

This book is a total winner and I'm loving it, even though I've never been a waitress in my life. (I know this may come as a shock to you, seeing that I have such an outgoing and eager to please personality.) What I have had though, is crappy jobs, crappy co-workers, and crappy customers. So reading about this gal's crappy experiences is right up my alley. (As a side note: This book somewhat reminds me of Ayun Halliday's Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-Market Dilettante, also a great book.)

Lastly on the nightstand is this book of Bawdy Bedtime Stories.Sigh. Here's the thing: I want to say a lot about this book but I don't want to use words that will cause my mostly family friendly blog to pop up in Google searches done by pervs so I'm just gonna say that this is the most boring book of smut stories I've ever laid eyes on. A large portion of the stories are about women having sex with their husbands. Seriously?! I don't need to fantasize about having sex with my husband because I can have sex with my husband. The stories that aren't about dull married people doing it in their backyard (Oooh, so scandalous. Whatever.) are equally tame. I just wanted.......more. I wanted NC-17 but got PG13. Maybe I'm skanky but I like my smut a little smuttier, kinda like the One Handed Read in the back of Bust Magazine.

Moving on.......

Up next on the to-be-read list is My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black.If you've watched any of those I Love the '70's/'80's/'90's type shows on VH1, then you've probably seen this guy. We love him around here and I'd probably be reading this book right now if Jay weren't hogging it.

What are you reading right now? And do you have any suggestions for a good smut book? (Feel free to email me with your answers to that second question.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Newport

Friday we decided to squeeze in one last day trip so we piled into the car and headed out to Newport to hit the aquarium. Let me just take a moment to say that I have no idea how we ever made the five day car ride to Oregon because now it seems we can't drive two hours without the children arguing over the prime real estate that is the backseat of our car.

The backseat fighting coupled with road construction made it seem as if we were in the car forever, so I think we were all a bit disappointed with the fact that we were in and out of the aquarium in about an hour. (It was on the list though, so I can cross that off as done. ) It's a nice aquarium and all, and if I lived closer I'd probably buy family passes, but I don't see us making the drive too often. It probably didn't help that the aquarium has this huge Swampland exhibit going on right now that totally bored my crew because, um, hello we just left Florida which is nothing but a giant Swampland. (As a side note to this: The boy says that whenever anyone finds out he's from Florida they ask him if he's seen an alligator. When he tells them he's seen so many that it's hardly a big deal, they stare at him in awe. They also ask him why he isn't tanner.)My son is looking so adult in the picture below. Scary. After we left the aquarium we had lunch at Rogue Ales Brewery (probably the highlight for Jay)and then went to the beach to let the kids run around a bit. The beach here is so different from the beaches I'm used to down in the south. I don't think it's ever going to be bikini weather here. (Yay!)It was pretty cool at the beach that day. The temperature of the water was 51 degrees. Of course that didn't stop the kids from running in it. I'm still so surprised at how the kids aren't bothered by the cold temperatures. How did we ever survive in Florida as long as we did?Below is a glimpse of my daughter's new favorite tee shirt. She says Bart is asking, "May I have two kisses Mommy?" See, she says things like that and I just have to forgive her slightly over bearing personality and shrill banshee voice. (See previous post.)

All in all, it was a lovely day and a nice end to the summer. Even if our car still is filled with sand.

(School starts in one week. Woo-hoo.)