Monday, January 31, 2011

The Devil's Millhopper No More?

Even though we live in Oregon now, Jay and I still read the online newspapers from various Florida towns. I could say it's because we want to keep up with the current events in our old home towns, but we mainly do it to see if anyone we know ever gets arrested. (What, you guys don't do that?) Anyway, I was shocked and saddened to read that because of budget cuts the state of Florida may be forced to close down many state parks, one of them being The Devil's Millhopper.

If you've been reading here for a while, you'll know how much my family and I loved going to this park, traipsing through the woods, and walking down (and up again) the many steps leading to the bottom of the sinkhole. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Go here or here.) I mentioned the park just a handful of times here on the ol' blog, but there are many more times we went there as a family that I never wrote about. I'd venture to say we went at least once a month, no matter the season. We went on holidays when we knew there wouldn't be many people there and we could enjoy the quiet and peacefulness. We went in the middle of rainstorms because the wet, lush greenery made us think we were in the middle of a rain forest. We went in the evenings when it was cool(ish) and we went in the middle of the day in the summertime when the mosquitoes were so bad we had to practically bathe in bug spray just to keep them off.

There were so many days when my family was sitting around bored, doing nothing, and someone would suggest going to the sinkhole and we would all be up for it. I remember the girl, just a few years old, being carried on Jay's shoulders because her short, little legs couldn't handle all the many steps. It wasn't long though, before she could do all 250 of them on her own. The Devil's Millhopper was such a huge part of my family's life. It breaks my heart that there is a possibility that other families won't be able to make similar happy memories.

I don't know why this issue is getting me so worked up. Maybe it's because I'm just feeling emotional. Maybe it's because right now I'm reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods and it's reminding me how important unstructured outdoor play is for kids (and adults). But I think it may have something to do with an incident that occurred yesterday.

Jay was off from work and we decided to go back to Multnomah Falls and take another stab at hiking up the mountain. Half way to the top, the girl decided she couldn't do anymore so she and Jay went back down while the boy and I carried on, despite being slightly out of breath and having aching buns and thighs. Once at the top, as we stood on the look out deck literally in the clouds, my son threw his arms around me, gave me a big kiss, and said, "We made it to the top Mom! I'm so proud of myself!" Without access to that park, my son wouldn't have been able to feel that pride and I wouldn't have been able to share that moment with him.

We're lucky now. Although I certainly can't predict the future, Oregonians young and old, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, all seem to take their natural spaces pretty seriously. Here, nature is respected and appreciated. Shame on Florida for even considering screwing its residents out of the right to enjoy nature. Once again, I'm forced to utter the phrase, "I'm glad I don't live there anymore."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Randomness

Saturday mornings have turned into my favorite part of the week because both of my children have developed a fond appreciation for sleeping in. It started over winter break, when they were staying up late and then sleeping in the following day. When school started again, regular bedtimes where never firmly reestablished, so by the weekend they're both pretty tired. And I love it. Jay is usually at work (or if he's home he can be trusted to leave me alone and entertain himself) and I can just sit and enjoy a pot of coffee and read or watch The Weather Channel so long that I end up seeing the Local on the 8's thirty times. I thought this morning I'd take a few moments to share some random thoughts:

*Daphne is coming into town next week (YAY!) and a bowling date meet up of Portland area friends new and old has been set up. I haven't been bowling since I was probably 14 years old. It will definitely be interesting. We shall see if I'm still the reigning Queen of the gutter ball.


*Last week I found this Orla Kiely for Target serving tray at Goodwill.I paid $2.99 for it. I just sold it on ebay for $46. So if you're ever out thrifting and see any Orla Kiely stuff, snatch it up. Or leave it for me to find, that's cool too.

*I have a new favorite show and crazily enough, it's on the Science Channel. (I'm going to be totally up front and tell you that I didn't even know I got the Science Channel until I heard about this show.) It's called An Idiot Abroad and it's from the mind of Ricky Gervais. (Love him.) Every episode centers around Ricky sending his friend, Karl Pilkington-a sort of high functioning simpleton-to see one of the seven wonders of the world. Hilarity ensues. (Go here for more info.)

*A few weeks back, Jessie shared with me an older issue of the parenting magazine Brain, Child. At first I didn't know what to think because I'm totally over parenting magazines. They just seem so heavily influenced by advertisers that even the 'articles' seem like advertisements. "Want your child to succeed? Buy these toys!" Whatever. I don't need that kind of guilt and pressure. Anyway, last night I finally got around to reading the magazine and I really like it. There was one article by Catherine Newman that I can't stop thinking about. It was called Bored Again and it was basically about the beauty of boredom and how boredom is such a luxury. The way Catherine writes is so unapologetically honest that I'm completely drawn to her style. At one point she writes, "I am not trying to sound like one of those crafty-mama blogs that makes you want to kill yourself, the kind you bookmark one day because you think that putting out a wooden bowl of felt gnomes sounds like a good idea, but then you unbookmark it the next when you realize that the bowl is supposed to get refilled every morning with a different inspiring and wool based activity and it is just too fucking much to deal with." Bravo!

*
To go along with the above thought, I fear my kids are caught up in some weird technology loop that they can't get out of. Last night I announced that we were going to have a tech-free 15 minutes while I cooked dinner. Honestly, they both stared at me as if I was speaking Chinese.

When we do things as a family, we're fairly outdoorsy. We go to parks, we hike, and we all love traipsing through the woods. But when we're just hanging out at home the kids go from computer to tv to ipod to video games. The other day, for whatever reason, all those things were shut off willingly and I was so proud of my kids. Then I looked over at my son only to see that he was playing a bowling game on his phone. Seriously? How fun can that even be?!?

So now I'm stuck trying to figure out how to teach my kids (my pre-teen son specifically) the difference between entertaining yourself and having something entertain you. Are any of you dealing with something similar at your homes? Any thoughts, ideas, solutions? I like the idea of having some time every day devoted to no technology, but last night when I set up the aforementioned tech-free 15 minutes my son asked, "Why are we being punished?" Hmmm...am I fighting a losing battle?

Monday, January 24, 2011

What I've Been Reading

About a month ago I sat at the computer requesting book after book from the library. And wouldn't you know it, they all came in around the same time, so for the last few weeks I've been spending a lot of time trying to get through all of these books before they had to be returned.

Here's a bit of what's been on my nightstand:

*Whiter Shades of Pale
If you've ever popped over to Stuff White People Like, then you know the basic premise of this book, which is that white people like a lot of the same stuff, some of which is kind of pretentious, so let's make fun of that. This book takes it a step further though and divides the topics by geographic places known for exceptional whiteness, like Seattle, San Francisco, and yes, Portland. (Some strengths of the Portland white person include "strong legs from bicycling; well read thanks to Powells; good taste in music.")

This book was funny. For a while. But then I got sort of tired of being reduced to a stereotype. And I know I shouldn't complain because white people have been reducing other cultures to stereotypes for years and frankly, it's our turn, but it just got old. Plus, I felt is if there was a notion throughout the book that all white people have money, and if they don't it's because they choose to be poor by having a "low paying, high status [among other white people] job" like museum worker or book store clerk. Again, I get that this is all tongue in cheek and part of the larger joke, but I just stopped finding the joke funny. The last time being poor was funny was on Roseanne, and I'm sorry Christian Lander, but you are no Roseanne.

*What It IsOh, I just love Lynda Barry. This is a difficult book to really write about because there was no story or plot to it, just a lot of Barry's signature drawings and doodles, with a few words or short stories mixed in, mostly centering around what inspires someone to draw, write, or do any kind of art. Lynda Barry fans will love it.

*Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined AmericaI was motivated to read this book after reading Daphne's incredibly well written review and of course I loved it. I had planned on doing a full review here, but it was due back at the library before I got around to it and now I don't remember all the key points I wanted to talk about. But, I do remember the last section really striking a chord with me because it was all about how positive thinking helped contribute to the real estate mess this country is in right now.

I know of a lot of people down in southwest Florida-mostly older business associates of my dad's-people who owned successful companies and who at one point were what I consider very wealthy. But when the real estate market was doing well, they got too caught up in it and refused to see that one day the bubble would burst. I know people who not only have a second mortgage on their house, but also a third mortgage. I know a man who owes upwards of a million dollars on a home that's now worth around $250,000. Sure this can be attributed to greed or bad banking practices but a lot of it boils down to people only seeing the positive and refusing to even think that the negative could happen.

As for me, I continue to be a realist. Anymore, I hope for the best but expect the worst. With that attitude, I'm rarely disappointed.

*Feminism and Pop Culture

I consider myself a feminist but I'll admit that there are times I forget that I should really be more outraged. Women have definitely come a long way since Donna Reed, but the fact that there is a totally naked Brooklyn Decker on the cover of the my husband's latest Esquire magazine proves that we haven't really come that far. This book addresses all the many messages we're assaulted with on a daily basis through television, movies, and books and magazines. It was an interesting read, but fairly simplistic. I certainly don't consider myself well read when it comes to feminist literature, but this book wasn't really breaking any new ground, even for me. That being said, the book quoted and made reference to a lot of other female writers who have written about the subject with a bit more depth, so it's definitely a good jumping off point that I would recommend.

Next up on the reading list: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

What have you been reading lately?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rag Rug

I did it! I made a rag rug. I don't know if I have the words to express how exciting and fun this project was for me. I mean, I started out with some cut up scraps, which most folks would consider garbage, and then in just a few short evenings, I had a rug. If I were the type of person who squealed with excitement, now would probably be one of those times I'd be doing so. A Few Thoughts:

*As I mentioned earlier in the week, my initial inspiration came from Mandy, but I should mention that the instructions came from this post over at This Vintage Chica (which Mandy linked to.) The funny thing is that as I was reading through the steps, I recalled that I had read the Vintage Chica post before, many years ago, long before I started crocheting. I remember thinking that even though I loved the look of the rug, it was way beyond my skill level and there was just no way I'd be able to do it. Well, I did it.

*I used mostly vintage sheets with a few other bits of older fabric I had laying around that I saw no other immediate plans for.

*This was my first time crocheting in a circle and it was much easier than I imagined.

*Not only do I like the rug, but the family all complimented it as well. It's nice when I'm not just doing this little crafting hobby for myself.

*I plan on making more, but I personally don't have much use for anymore rugs. So, if I have your address, don't be surprised if you get a rug in the mail.

*Um, I made a rug. I hate to keep going on about that, but it was beyond satisfying to be able to make something I would have wanted or needed anyway. It's just one small way of sticking it to the man.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pardon My Absence

Holy crap has it really been a week since my last post? At first I thought that I could blame my lack of motivation on Mercury being in retrograde (see what you started Peggy??!!), but sadly that isn't true. I've wanted to blog, but life has just caught up with me. In the past week I've volunteered at the girl's school, went to a play date, then the boy got sick, and now the girl is home sick. (I love my daughter dearly but she's a total drama queen pain in the ass when she's sick. Right now, she's laying on the couch just a few feet away from me and I'm trying to be really quiet in the hopes that she'll forget I'm here and stop complaining at me.) Plus, we've had a few other minor life annoyances, nothing major, but enough to throw me out of whack for a few days. Sigh. I'll survive. But for now, here are a few things on my mind:

*Portlandia, a show about my new home, airs tomorrow on IFC and I'm a bit geeked about it. There has been so much buzz around town surrounding the whole thing. Most everyone is thrilled but the hipsters seem somewhat upset that their eccentricities are being picked on. Damn hipsters. (Don't know exactly what Portlandia is about? Check this out.)

*I have a few crochet projects I've been keeping myself busy with and then I saw this post (and this one) by Mandy and now I must crochet a rag rug. Last night I started the process by cutting into my thrifted sheet stash. Hopefully I'll have something to share soon. Have any of you ever made a rag rug? If so, any words of advice?

*Yesterday I bought this small vintage suitcase at Goodwill.

With space being so limited around here, I'm constantly searching for new ways to store/hide the kids (mainly the girl's) toys. So much of her toy collection seems to consist of weird, random junk that I don't recall buying but always has a way of showing up. Plus, it's usually crap I don't want to look at. A pretty suitcase solves that problem nicely. Now I only need about ten more.

*Last week Jessie sent me a jar of Pumpkin Glow body scrub by Bella Lucce and it's now my new favorite body scrub because the smell is just amazing. I know pumpkin season is pretty much over, but I had to go out and buy the stuff for pumpkin bread because every time I took a shower I would get a craving.

Well, I suppose I should go tend to the ailing princess (*rolls eyes). Hopefully I'll be back in a few days with a book review or two, because oh yes, I've still found time to read.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Qwirkle

One of the girl's holiday gifts was the game Qwirkle. The game is simple enough to play, the basic rules being that you take turns putting down one or more tiles, matching colors and shapes to create columns, getting points for each row you make. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.The girl likes the game. The boy tolerates it. Jay and I? LOVE IT.

There is no denying we are big time nerds around here. And not the cool, hipster kind of nerd either. More like the let's-have-a-week-long-Scrabble-tournament kind of nerd. Or, the let's-play-Life-and-build-elaborate-fantasies kind of nerd. (Whenever we play Life, my pretend husband is always Alec Baldwin, Jay's pretend wife is Scarlett Johannson. This type of thing is totally normal, right?) But we have taken our love of Qwirkle to a whole new level. Not only have Jay and I literally played this game everyday since Christmas, but some days I think it's the highlight of the day. It's gotten to the point where we send each other texts that say things such as, "I'm going to Qwirk you so hard tonight" or "Let's Qwirk three times tonight. Right on the dinner table. In front of the kids."

So yeah, the game is fun.

*Sleeping old lady cat not included nor necessary for fun game play, but it's a nice touch. Yeah, we're also the let's-take-pictures-of-the-cat kind of nerds. Seriously, she has entire photo albums devoted to her.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Zippered Pouch

This past Sunday was one of those days where I didn't have anything that I had to do. Jay was out golfing, the kids were entertaining themselves. Mostly. (Or maybe I was just blocking out the fighting and yelling.) Anyway, I decided to take a few minutes to myself to see if I could get over my fear of zipper attachment.

So I found an online tutorial, chose some ugly fabric and the ugliest zipper from my stash (seriously, it was the color of a nipple), and I set to work. The end result was bad news. The pouch itself was oddly shaped and bulky and the zipper was crooked and weird looking, probably because I was too lazy to attach my zipper foot. Plus, I didn't really understand the tutorial I was following so I made some mistakes along the way. In the end, the pouch was just wrong on so many levels.

Now normally when I have a failure of such massive proportions, I'm not motivated to make another attempt for quite some time. But I had been thinking about my pouch failure all night and I was ready for another go at it.

On Monday I chose some new fabric, a prettier zipper, and a different tutorial. I worked on it, on and off, all day long.

Around 8:00 PM, I had this:
Woo-Hoo!

The Details:

*If that bird looks familiar, I slapped a similar one on a purse last summer.

*I looked at a lot of different tutorials before finally having luck with this one over at make it perfect, and if you are anxious to shake your fear of zippers, I highly recommend it. Everything is explained clearly and she backs it all up with the always helpful pictures.

*The actual construction of the pouch took until about two in the afternoon, but the bead work and embroidery took another six hours. I have a new found appreciation for anyone who chooses to sew beads onto anything. It's tedious and time consuming.

*Everything used was already in my stash, which is so exciting to be able to bust through a bunch of different stuff in one afternoon. The outer fabric came from Goodwill, the bird fabric came from Ikea, and the fabric used for the lining used to be my curtains on my house back in Gainesville. The zipper was passed on to me by Kashoan and the beads came from Liesl. I love how every little part of this bag has its own history.

Now that I've conquered my fear of zippers, next up world domination. That's the next logical step, right?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review:: Every Last One

Mary Beth Latham's life is typical. When not working at her successful landscaping business, her life revolves around her home and family. Her days are spent taxiing her three teenage children around and helping with everything from shopping for prom dresses to choosing a college. Her life, while certainly not perfect, is typical, and in many ways ideal. But after her daughter's ex-boyfriend commits a horrific act of violence against the family, Mary Beth is forced to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life, a life completely unlike her old one.

Sigh. I really don't know what to say about this book and I've been struggling over this review for almost a week. Usually, at the very least, I know how I feel about a book. But this one, I didn't really hate it but I didn't really like it either. It was just kind of.......there. Something to read while waiting for something better to read.

On a positive note, the writing in the book is gorgeous. It flows so smoothly and is almost poetic, without being too flowery. But the story itself is lacking. There was a lot of build up to the violent act that you know is coming and that will change things. But then in a blink of an eye it had happened and we're moving on. And then the story was over. This left me frustrated because I had wanted more details, but I don't think this is a book about details. It's a book about feelings. Blech. More specifically, feeling things and not discussing those feelings with others. Double blech. I hate it when people suppress their feelings to the detriment of themselves and those around them. Eventually, I just stopped caring about the characters in this book.

Let's discuss the author, Anna Quindlen, for a moment. Do any of you like her? I know she's a well known and prolific writer and journalist but I really don't know much about her work. I had been hearing her name for years yet had never read anything by her. Are all of her books like this? I saw this as sort of chick-lit for middle aged women, not really a genre I see myself getting into anytime soon.

So, should you read this book? I don't know. It's not the worst thing I've ever read, and I'm sure there are a lot of women who this book would appeal to. I'm just not one of them. At best, I consider it just a mildly engrossing waste of time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Used Tampon

There is a used tampon in the parking lot of my apartment complex.

It's right in the middle of an unmarked parking spot next to spot 198. I'm giving you these specifics in case you want to come look at it.

Now I certainly can't say that I know all of my neighbors well. But I do spend a lot of time walking the neighborhood and I exchange hellos with people, and it's hard for me to imagine that any of my neighbors would change their tampon outside in the middle of the parking lot. Plus, given its location (literally in the middle of the parking spot), I choose to believe it fell out of someones garbage bag. We apartment dwellers are known for slapping our full garbage bag onto the hood of our car and driving it over to the dumpster. Maybe there was a hole in the bag and as this poor woman drove off, out fell the tampon. Then when this gal comes home, she parks her car in her spot, having no idea her used tampon is underneath her vehicle.

I first noticed the tampon on Sunday when I was walking the dog. I had hoped one of the maintenance guys would take care of it. We have three really nice, hard working maintenance guys. I have no complaints about them. But they are not touching this thing. Up until today there had been no rain and the tampon had begun to dry out and you could almost convince yourself that it wasn't a used tampon, maybe just a wad of bloody tissue. Yep, that's it. Someone had a nose bleed. But now, it's raining again and the tampon has swelled. And there is no mistaking it for anything but a used tampon.

I've almost picked it up myself. When I'm walking the dogs I always have a couple of bags with me. I could pick it up. I think about picking it up. But I just can't bring myself to do it. Here's the thing, I don't consider myself above any type of labor. If I had to pick up used tampons everyday to support my family, I would do it. But I wouldn't be getting paid for this. I would be doing this out of the kindness of my heart and apparently my heart is cold and bitter because I'm totally going to have a What's in it for Me? attitude about picking up this tampon. And as far as I can tell, there is NOTHING in it for me other than the fact that I won't have to look at it anymore. And frankly, the whole thing is not that big of a deal to me. I don't have to walk that way. But I'm still gonna. Because now I'm on tampon watch.

By my count, tomorrow will be five days.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Six

This past Sunday, my moon faced baby girl turned six.As I've mentioned here before, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the extravagant nature of children's birthday parties (especially children this young), so it was a very quiet party-if you can even call it that-at home. Just the four of us and the crazy six layer cake.A game of Beat the Parents was played:A few small presents were opened:(Notice the left-over-from-Christmas gift wrap. I am so lazy about that type of thing.)A candle was blown. Eventually.:And the cake was cut: A Few Thoughts:

*Even though I tried to keep things low key, the girl still got way too overstimulated and hopped up on sugar and had numerous crying meltdowns before the day was over. What is it about young children's birthday parties? Someone always ends up in tears. I really just think small kidlets can't handle this much attention being thrust on them. We finally decided to get her out of the house and she chose a trip to IKEA so she could play in the play area.

*Despite the fact that a lot of you shared my sentiments about birthday parties, I still feel a bit like the birthday grinch so I want to make it clear that I'm not anti-party. But I admit that I may be anti-party for kids this young. I can't wait to throw a party for my girl, but I want it to be at a time when her friendships are based more on love of each other and shared mutual interests. (Did you read about Courtney's birthday party for her girl? I love it!) Right now my girl's friendships are basically based on convenience, who's in her class, who lives nearby, who we walk home from school with, etc. Realistically speaking, six is not the age when lasting friendships are made.

*In retrospect, a six layer cake may have been too big for our little family. Jay took a bunch to work and I still have a ton here at home. And I'm sick of looking at it.

*About the cake: It wasn't made from scratch, I had plenty of help from Duncan Hines. But it's still a lot of work and a lot of ingredients. Nine eggs people. NINE EGGS! Five tubs of frosting. And really, had I wanted to be persnickety I could have used another tub because it was a bit thin in spots. Anyway, I started baking the cake early. Two layers on Thursday, two on Friday, and two on Saturday. I wrapped each individual layer in saran wrap and stored them in the fridge until I assembled it all on Sunday. I highly recommend this method because I didn't have to spend all day baking. Of course it did lose that fresh from the oven warmth, but I think the rainbow cake is more about visual appeal anyway.