Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Making biscuits

When I left the D.C. area after graduate school, I found myself in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. I didn't realize it fully at the time, but it was exactly what I needed. A quiet place to live out the summer. Free from traffic and busyness. After two years of living in a city that moved constantly, it was a relief to spend time in a place where I didn't have to leave the house if I didn't want to. No sitting in traffic trying not to be late to the next thing. No helicopters flying overhead at night. No horns or sirens. And for a while, at least, it was just the dogs, the birds, and me.

One thing I remember most was watching my friend make biscuits. She'd say, "Shelby, do you want biscuits this morning?" And in no time at all biscuits would appear. Like it was the easiest thing in the world to make a batch of biscuits for breakfast. As if everyone ate biscuits straight from the oven every day of their life. I was in awe. 

Mama's a southerner, and she did her duty and taught me how to make biscuits. But it's always been an ordeal. Get the ingredients. Dig out the recipe. Roll the dough. Spill flour all over the kitchen. And all these years later, I'm still trying to figure out the trick to get my biscuits to rise as high as Mama's. 

Last spring, Mama and I drove through Kentucky on a road trip. We had a tight deadline. I needed to be at the Nashville airport that day. I very nearly missed that flight. But we took a detour anyway. We stopped in Berea. And even if you don't know anything about the town, take a simple drive through the historic neighborhoods and you will learn this is a town of that values craftsmanship and the arts. On every street are shops selling locally made products. I wanted to stay there forever. 

Mama always uses a drinking glass to cut her biscuits. I have done that too, but I also have those fancy metal biscuit cutters that come in half a dozen sizes all nested together in their own container. But since this spring, I use something else to cut my biscuits. That day in Kentucky, on our drive-through visit, I bought a wooden biscuit cutter. My souvenir from a whirlwind trip. And my inspiration to learn how to whip up biscuits for breakfast or dinner like it's no thing at all. To learn how to make biscuits that rise a mile high like Mama can. 

That summer in Tennessee was over too quickly. The need to get a job and do all the responsible things a college graduate ought, outweighed all the desires soak in the slow pace of that place in the middle of nowhere. But sometimes, I need to remember that a slow life is as much a good life as one marked by accomplishments and big events. And sometimes in a life that feels too much like an ordeal, all it takes is a little flour and a wooden biscuit cutter to remember that any day is a good day to slow down and make biscuits.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Training Suspended

Race day is this weekend. Training went relatively well. I had to juggle workouts with other obligations for the final few weeks of training. Eventually I had to shorten a few workouts and skip a few others in order to maintain my sanity. The weather this fall has been perfect for running. I got to run on some gorgeous trails. These photos are all from one short run. Amazing.

Everything was going great. I managed to run my longest training run last week. Things were good. That is until this week. As if on cue for race week, it started raining. And raining and raining. And if the rain wasn't enough to discourage me. I simultaneous contracted a really terrible cold. It's bad. Things are not looking good, y'all. 

As of now, I have skipped all of my workouts this week. Race day is Sunday. The plan is to hit the road and head up there Saturday mid-afternoon. But it's not looking good. 

I am drinking the worst concoction ever, multiple times a day, because the internet tells me it stops a cold in its tracks. Considering that I'm feeling worse today than yesterday, I may beg to differ.  

Talk about disappointing, folks. I really, really wanted to race this thing. I had such high hopes for what Sunday could bring. If I'm feeling even a bit better, I'll still race. Although my expectations are greatly scaled back. I hereby retract all statements I made to others claiming I was going "kill this half marathon." Because right about now, this entire combination of sickness and looming race day is pretty much killing me. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Being trained

I watched "Man on Fire" for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I now hear Denzel's voice in my ear, "There is no such thing as tough. There is trained and untrained. Now which are you?"

I aspire to be trained. I penned out a plan to be one of the trained. I set out to train for this upcoming half with a purpose. But I gotta tell you, this training thing is hard work some days.

I had a long run last Friday. The longest one yet. I intended to run on a trail skirting a lake. Out and back, since to run the entire trail, I'd run a half marathon, and if I was ready to do that, I wouldn't be training. But on my way to the lake, I stopped on a national forest road that I am familiar with. Two lanes. Few motorists. I have often seen bicyclist there, but never runners.

I'd clocked the perfect distance on my odometer. I knew where my turnaround point would be. And I knew running this two lane highway, out and back, would be a better simulator of race day next month than any run on a dirt trail could give me.

But oh, it was hard work.

The sun didn't know if wanted to shine or send rain pouring down on my head. I like trails and corners. I do not like running straight stretches. Never have. They seem endless somehow.

My legs felt heavy from the get-go. Like the weight of the clouds pressed down upon me, and I was feeling it all. The struggle to propel myself forward through the air around me.

Mile markers on the forest road were sporadic. I am a list maker, and when I run, I like to see those mile markers tick by, one by one, as I mentally calculate the distance I've run and how much farther I have to go.

One-third of the way done.

Over half-way there.

Only a 5k left.

That last mile, I huffed and puffed. So close. And yet, uphill. Any passerby at the end might have thought I'd gone insane.

You've seen children playing ball in the backyard, providing their own play-by-play as they hit a game winning home run, "It's going, it's going, it's out of the park!" Haven't you?

When it's hard to run, when I want to be the trained, but I don't know if I can keep going to the finish, even when I know it is so close, I become my own announcer and cheering section. Like a child playing ball alone in the backyard, out loud I tell myself through short, shallow breathes,

"You're almost there, Shelby."

"Keep it up!"

"You can make it."

"Go. Go. Go!"  

I did finish that run and drove myself home. When I got there, it took me 15 minutes to convince myself to get out of the car and walk the 6 steps into my back door. Finally inside, I sat down on my recliner and fell asleep for a solid hour. Completely spent.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Wagon Train Stampede

Back in August, I was searching for something completely unrelated on the internet. I have no idea what. But as I searched, I came across a posting about tickets to Old Crow Medicine Show's Remedy tour in this mountain town. What?! How could I not know about this?

I immediately bought two tickets. Determined not to go alone. And boy am I glad I had the foresight to do that.

I brought my sweet friend, Shawna, who I knew from the start was a full on Old Crow fan. She was so excited to go to this concert. (Seriously, how had she not heard about it either?) Her enthusiasm was completely contagious. So even though I'm not usually the excitable type, I got pretty excited.

Like nearly everyone else, Old Crow Medicine Show came on my radar after hearing "Wagon Wheel." But in my defense, that was years ago. Years ago. Long before Darius Rucker took to singing it on all the air waves. I've road tripped all over the US and particularly the South. My family roots run deep near Johnson City, Tennessee. I once dated a fiddle player in a bluegrass band. I've been to Uncle Dave Macon Day's Old Time Music Festival in Tennessee. Buck dancing is my kind of entertainment.

If you've never heard of buck dancing, check out this video.

All that to say, I'm not just jumping on the band wagon here, if you know what I mean.

Miss Shawna and I pulled into the already full parking lot as the doors were opening. We had enough time to grab some goodies and a bite to eat and snap a few pics before staking out a place front and center. Because as Shawna says, "There is no where else to be at a concert." You all should have seen the look on her face when she asked me if we could go up front. It was a face no one could possibly say no to.

The opener was a band out of New Orleans, the Deslondes (pronounced like DEZ-londs, rhymes with blondes).  Shawna and I were both so glad to be introduced to them. Creative and inventive. Each musician equally sharing the stage. What a fun performance to watch!

After their set, technical issues delayed the show for an hour. And while I had said after the Deslondes finished how glad I was that the audience wasn't too thick, it seems I spoke too soon. The hour wait with no updates on what was happening, and no where to go in the tiny venue, left us standing on the asphalt the entire time, waiting and waiting and waiting. An hour later, the show went on, without apparently the generator and therefore stage lights. But as I said, buck dancing makes me smile, so naturally, I don't care about flashy lights and all the extras. Plus, we had a pretty good view where we were.

But by this time, it was a full on crush. And apparently a crush doesn't hinder people from getting their dance on. I decided early on to hold my ground. I was not going to be pushed aside by the gals smoking pot and twirling circles behind me. I had been standing in the same spot for 3 hours at this point. There was no way I was giving up my place. Mama calls me mule headed for a reason.

The first half of the show there was a lot of jaw clenching on my part. Trying to enjoy the music while simultaneously being groped, grabbed, grinded, pinched, prodded, pushed and shoved. It was nearly more than I could handle. Then out of nowhere some guy jumps on stage right and dives into the crowd immediately to my left. Unfortunately for him, it was early enough in the show that the crush hadn't gotten too thick yet. Everyone stepped out of the way and he landed square on his face on the asphalt. That was just the beginning of some serious attempts to mosh it up.

I planted my feet. Glad for the flat boots I'd worn, which proved much more useful than heels or sandals would have in that moment.

The mosh scene behind me soon caused enough commotion that event security was standing in front of me trying to determine who the instigator was. After holding up the music for a few minutes and threatening to kick some folks out without actually, I think, taking any action, Old Crow pulled out a Grateful Dead cover singing Dire Wolf, "I beg of you don't murder me. Please don't murder me." Which I found rather appropriate in that moment, because I wasn't certain I would make it out alive. And even if I did, I was wondering if event venues have policies for damages done by and to attendees. I mean, I had just bought my red gingham shirt, which I rather like, and I was pretty certain if things didn't calm down, the very least that was bound to happen is that poor shirt was going to be destroyed.

Luckily, things mostly calmed down with a change of pace in the tunes. And only hyped back up again at the end of the set when two men, one on each side of me, tried to weasel their way through. Luckily for me, I had teamed up with the couple next to us, and the guy and I basically had become a wall since the earlier incident. He was a brick, and people didn't mess with him, even though he wasn't that much taller than me. I found it completely unfair that because I was a girl who didn't have a guy protecting her that I was being treated with more disrespect than he was because a bunch of nimrods thought they could push me around. Boy were they wrong. I was not having any of that. I should not have to hire a bodyguard to enjoy myself at a concert.

I heard the guys behind me say, "I think we can still do it." I knew they were coming. I knew they were going to try to squeeze by me or try something. I didn't know what or when, but I was not going to let anyone treat me differently because I am a girl.

Sure enough a hand grabs my left shoulder and tries to push me aside. I pushed that hand away, turned my head, and said, "Get back." At which point, I see his buddy trying to move in on my right side, and I turn to him, and say, "No." Apparently those self defense classes I took way back when were right. If you say, "Stop. Get back!" with conviction, even guys much stronger than you will listen. I always thought it was baloney, but I was wrong. When some isn't expecting you to stand up for yourself, and you do, you catch them off-guard. Remember that ladies.

After Old Crow left the stage for the second time, and the crowd started to clear, the woman whose husband was the other half of the wall turned to me and said, "You're a badass!" Her husband agreed labeling me the best person to stand next to at a concert.

And thanks to our skills at protecting our coveted front row real estate, we scored a set list from the crew!

Look, we survived! Even my new shirt. I am so thankful Miss Shawna was with me last night. I am sure I wouldn't have made it through that rough and tumble crowd without a friend nearby.

All-in-all, I am glad I got to see Old Crow in person. Although I might need medicine if I ever decide to see a show like that again!

And someone really needs to tell Ketch Secor that Oregon is NOT the Evergreen state, as he incorrectly stated over and over and over again. For shame. Oregon is the Beaver State! And we're proud of it. So please, please get that right next time you come to town.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Catching up

Where to begin after being gone so long? I don't even know. I think the best friendships are the ones where time is irrelevant. The kind of friend who it doesn't matter when the last time you spoke or saw each other, each reunion erases whatever time is lost and you feel like you never parted in the first place.

I have a few friends like that. Friends who no matter the miles. The distance. The sporadic ways in which we fail to keep in touch. We have a bond that time and distance cannot break.

And so in ode to one such friend of mine, I am making an attempt today to come back here. To you.

Let's pretend for a minute that it's not Monday, and we aren't all frantically trying to regroup for the start of yet another busy week. Let's make believe that today is a lazy Saturday afternoon. It being the first day of autumn, we're sitting in my living room, grasping steaming mugs of orange spice tea.

If you need a visual, here's the couch I found to finally furnish my tiny house:

I call dibs on the left corner seat. That's my spot. Right next to the bookshelf. You can sit wherever you want.

Life got crazy after that hike to Comma Lake. My couch was delivered. Yay! We have somewhere to sit today. I have continued to unpack and decorate this little house that is mine. Nearly every wall is full of pictures and paintings.

And the yard. Have I told you? I finally have tomatoes growing from a tiny volunteer from a 3rd Street compost bin. Can you believe it? It's only taken me 6 years of living in this mountain town to finally grow tomatoes. Slowly but surely they are ripening. Even though I've had to cover them from the cold nights we're already starting to have here.

I have had visitors come from across the country to stay in my guest room. Such a change from a tiny studio. It's so nice to have a little extra space for friends. Not just friends, but family too. So many family events over the last couple of months. Birthdays and celebrations.

I drove my very last tour on the Cycle Pub too. It was time to say goodbye to a fun side job, and reclaim my weekends for a little while. I got to bring along my family and some dear friends for the farewell tour. It was bittersweet.

But can I tell you how nice it's been to have responsibility free weekends? Oh so nice! Quiet for sure. But refreshing and recharging. I don't have to tell you that I'm an introvert. A home body. After a busy summer of work and people and stuff happening all the time, I needed that. A weekend with nothing on the agenda. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. 

Well not completely nothing to do. I signed-up for another half marathon. Call me crazy, but there is something about September and the fall that makes me miss high school and college and weekend cross country meets. So I signed up for what should be a perfectly fall race along the Columbia River in October. I have more time to prepare than the last two races. I want to be one who is trained. I made a plan. It hangs on the wall by my back door, so I can't forget to get my workouts in. It feels great to be in training. To see those miles on the calendar and know that I am getting stronger -- faster. Fingers crossed that I'll reach my goal in October. 

Other than that, I've spent the last part of the summer planning a very special birthday, for my baby sister. Look at how much fun we had: 

Everyone should get a giant helium balloon for their birthday. That's what I say. (You should have seen us try to fit that thing in my Camry! My car may look like something your granny drives, but shes' a beast with over 232,000 miles and counting. I love my car! And for the record, the giant balloon fit in the backseat with room to spare, after a minor seat adjustment.)

I am sure there are more stories to tell. And more to come. Did I tell you I'm going to an Old Crow Medicine Show concert tomorrow? Eeekk! Can't hardly believe they are coming to this out-of-the-way mountain town. But first, let me top off your tea, while you tell me, what have you been up to the past couple of months? 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Quest for Comma (and other mishaps along the way)

Remember that one time I read Bob Welch's book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and then I decided I needed to go explore my backyard a bit more. In his book, Welch writes about his own quest to find a little lake near another lake, and I made it a goal this summer to find that same lake.

After a serious failure of an attempt to find Comma lake last month, I set out early yesterday morning for the second attempt to find the lake. With the taste of defeat still in my mouth, my hopes were high that I'd come out with a few less scrapes and bruises and much more satisfaction at having accomplished the goal. 

And then, not two minutes after putting the car in park at the trail head, I managed to lock my keys in the car. With my pack. And my cell phone. I can't even make this stuff up. My first instinct was to forget the pack and just go hiking and find the lake so the day wouldn't be a complete waste. I'd deal with the car situation when I returned. But knowing that wasn't the wisest choice given the difficulty I had in finding the lake last time, I marched to the site manager to see if he had any tools that might help with the job. He gave me a flimsy wire and not a lot of encouragement.

Heading back to the car, I cut back through an empty campsite where there happened to be a much sturdier wire hotdog roaster. Not even 100 yards from where I was parked. It seemed the best option. One guy after asking the year of my Camry suggested with great enthusiasm that the job would be a cinch. He did not, however, offer to help. And it turned out not to be as easy a job as he suggested. In fact, his method was an utter failure. 

I borrowed a phone to call my dad to see if my insurance would cover the cost of a broken window, but Dad's phone went straight to voicemail. By this point I was willing to pay for the repair myself. But one more method was attempted. Prying the corner of the door open with a borrowed Leatherman tool, and slipping the wire inside was the next best option. When it was not strong enough to push the unlock button, it was time to hook the end of the wire and slipped it around the door handle. It took a few tries, but finally, FINALLY, the door unlocked. The relief was real, people. The whole ordeal lasted an hour and 15 minutes, with minimal vehicular damage, and a slight headache of my own making.

So almost two and a half hours after leaving the house, I was finally on the trail, with pack and keys, ready to find Comma Lake. After further study of maps, and knowing what went wrong on the last attempt, confidence was high that this hike would be faster and more successful. 

There is no trail to Comma Lake, which is why she's so difficult to find. An hour later, on and then off the trail, find her I did.

Shortly after hiking around to the other side of the lake, a thunder storm rolled in, and I was forced to seek shelter under a tree. 

It passed quickly enough, and the sun came out again. There is nothing quite like getting to enjoy a lake all to one's self. If you don't count the birds, bugs, and frogs. I saw more than one Stellar's Jay hanging about, and may have heard a woodpecker or two.

The day was successful in all sorts of ways. I just hope next time doesn't necessitate the breaking in of my vehicle. But in the off chance it does, there may or may not be a hotdog roaster shoved into the undercarriage of my car. And I might be looking at the purchase of my very own Leatherman. I'm just saying maybe it might be a good idea. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Hillbilly Makeover

I know you all have to be dying to figure out what happened with that grill. Right? Well, let me just say it's been a bit of a slow process. Mostly due to the fact that my to-do list is never ending, especially when I spend weeks at a time living in other people's homes watching their animals. So one day here and another day there, and a month later, and I can say that the hillbilly grill is very nearly complete.

I didn't take photos of the cleaning process. Sorry. It mostly involved various de-greasing products, scrub brushes, paint scrappers, sand paper, and lots of washing. Try as I might, that chalky green paint refused to come off. Oh sure, it bleed off the grill into a puddle on the carport any time I washed it. I could sand it to a fine powder, or chip off small sections. But try as I might, none of these things made any real noticeable difference. The paint still rubbed off at the slightest touch.

Sunday, I decided to throw in the towel on making this grill look like anything other than a free grill I found on the side of the road. I bought a can of high-heat grill spray paint and got to work. I then finished disassembling the grill.

My grandpa likes to tell me that my dad was once the master of taking things apart, only to not be able to put them together again. Or maybe he just lost interest in the putting things back together. I'm not sure which. So when I was staring all the individual pieces of my grill, all I could hear was Grandpa's stories about Dad. It was then that I took this picture, in case I had to tell Grandpa I'm more than just a spitting image of my dad.

Here's the one that shows I gave up on the green beast:  

One can of spray paint later. A little more cleaning. And it was reassembly time. The hillbilly is still a hillbilly, but he cleans up pretty good. Don't you think? 

Up next is to pick up a propane tank. Then the real test will be on to find out if that sign was telling the truth. Does he work? 

Whether it works or not, I can at least tell Grandpa that perhaps I inherited a few mechanical genes after all. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Hillbilly Grill

Sundays are adventure days around here. Since I started driving the Cycle Pub, it's often the only day I don't work during the summer months. And one Sunday last month, I logged an adventure for the record books. 

My good friend deserves all the credit here. We'd been talking for a month about how I need a grill now that I have a yard. So when we saw one for free on the side of the road, we obviously had to stop. 

I was skeptical. Sure it was free, but did we even believe that it worked? My friend was much more optimistic, and insisted we load the sucker into my Camry. Especially, after a guy in a truck whipped around the corner. We'd barely beaten him to the find. 

Now don't get me wrong. I often extol the hauling capabilities of my little ol' Camry. But even she has her limits. And this green grill, I was certain was it. 

"Maybe I stay here, and you go get a truck," I told my friend. 

Unfortunately, all the tools I usually carry in my trunk were removed during the move and hadn't yet found their way back to the car for moments like these. But if I am stubborn, my friend is even more so. I think sheer willpower got the thing wedged into the trunk.

Then came the task to secure it. You will not believe what became "rope" in our quest to tie this barbecue down. 

Jumper cables? Check. 

Plastic grocery bag? Check. Check. 

Again, let me state clearly, I do not deserve the credit for any of this. Both my friend and I have hillbilly backgrounds, but I stood by in shock and awe and watched MacGyver take over. Then I gave my friend the keys to the car and said, "OK, you drive!" 

And somehow we made it home without incident. Well, unless you count the stares from everyone wondering what the heck we were doing. And the rash I got on my arm from touching the thing. That green paint rubs off like chalk on a blackboard. But that's the story of how I got a free grill.

Now the cleaning and restoring of the grill is another story for another day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Beds and boxes and books. Oh my!

For the past month of living in this new house, I've been sleeping in a room surrounded by boxes and boxes of books. I honestly don't know how I've been able to sleep at all. Last night, all my Craigslist browsing finally paid off. I found a second bookshelf. And it's a big one. 

The kind folks I bought it from even offered to haul it to my house for me, once it became apparent that my Camry was no match for the job. She even recruited her teenage children to do all the heavy lifting. Or all the heavy lifting up to the point of getting it to my carport for cleaning. 

I scrubbed it good. It could probably use a fresh coat of paint, but I've been told the neighborhood alley cat has a propensity for spraying anything left outside. And yes, I mean anything. The warnings have been so strong, I'd worry about taking a nap in the yard for fear of what this cat might do. 

With that in mind, I didn't want to leave it outside unattended for any length of time. Not even to let paint dry. Somehow, I managed to pivot and slide and heave the sucker up my back porch and across the house into the bedroom, all by myself.  

Then I spent the rest of the night unpacking 7 or 8 or 9 boxes of books. Nothing but books. Oh my. I have more books than I thought I did. I don't know where they all lived before, because they certainly couldn't have all fit on the only other bookshelf that I own. 

There are still plenty of boxes to be unpacked, but the books have finally been put to bed. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Escaping the 80's: a cry for help

Are y'all up for helping me out with something here?

Clearly this is in no way an interior design blog. But I have a home decor dilemma. My tiny house has a very dated kitchen. Need proof? Here it is:

I know the 80's look is so the thing right now. But I still maintain some fashions should never return. Never. And this kitchen is one of them.

I knew from the first day I looked at the place that those kitchen cabinets were so not okay with me. But obviously not hideous enough to rule out living here for an extended period of time. So I began searching for a way that I could transform them.

I eventually landed on the idea of vinyl wall decals. Which are nice in that they aren't terribly expensive and they aren't permanent, so they are great for a rental in which you can't make drastic alterations.

I landed on some gold and silver triangle decals to help tie in some other gold accents going on in other places in the house. I also thought it would be subtle enough to make the cabinets look more updated without drawing too much unneeded attention their way.

So last week, I finally got around to taping some of the decals up to figure out a design I liked. I started with the upper cabinets. After a bit of sketching things out and calculating needs, I decided to take the ruler, the tape, and the decals and wing it.

This is where I landed (please ignore the counter mess, I have been working on this project in between batches of jam):

I finally got around to the lower cabinets last night. But now I'm wondering if it's all a bit too busy.

Tell me what you think. I really do want to hear your ideas for this place. Unless of course you love the white 80's cabinets. If that's the case, we can no longer be friends.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Weekend List

Today is one of those days that I wished I was a coffee drinker. I am tired. Tired in a it's Monday morning coming out of a full, FULL, weekend.

Friday was for working and cycle pub driving and barbecues with neighbors and making jam until midnight, just because it was on my list of things to accomplish for the day. (And yes, I realize, that at some point I just need to throw the list out the window. But . . .) 

Saturday was an early riser to road trip with my sister. We went to Western Oregon University's graduation to see a dear friend walk across the stage. We are so proud of Miss Victoria. 

 We had a fun afternoon together. Playing with our nephew and visiting with good friends.

Sunday was a long day. I spent 6 1/2 hours working in the yard. My old neighborhood is full of wonderful gardeners, and they all decided to gift me with a "free" garden. (My grandpa says it isn't really free because I had to do so much work.) It was a lot of work to get everything transplanted and in the ground before dark. But I did it. And it was satisfying work indeed. A neighbor even stopped by to tell me how impressed she was with my quick work. Hopefully, the next time she stops by we'll be able to enjoy a glass of ice tea with a sprig of mint and enjoy the view.

Daisies and mint, lemon balm and kale, sunflowers and parsley. Giant parsley.

This picture is deceptive. It's huge. And that's after I cut it back.  

I might be the most excited about this gem. 

What is it? You ask. 3rd Street rhubarb. The root is planted awaiting my very own rhubarb. But until then, I've got some fresh cut stocks ready to whip up some strawberry rhubarb jam. Just one more thing to add to my list of tasks to accomplish tonight. 

There is so so much more that was also planted, but I can't remember what. I did get a few seeds, a gift from Mountain Ma, in the ground as well. Cross your fingers that I'll be able to keep all of these wonderful plants alive. 

There were many, many other things on my weekend to-do list that were not accomplished. Clean car. Unpack books. Send Father's Day gift to Dad. Just to name a few. What was on your list this weekend? 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Ups and Downs of Moving

Moving into a new place always has its downsides. And my new place is no different. Like the garbage day truck that takes 15 minutes backing up to haul off the dumpster across the street. If you know me in person, you know that 15 minutes of repetitive beeping is enough to make me want to pull my hair out. It's nails on a chalkboard to me people. And yet it's something I imagine I'll have to learn to live with once a week at least for the duration of my lease.

And then there's the other not so pleasant things about moving. Like finding a 5 inch gap in the baseboard beside the dishwasher. And then having to pull on gloves to retrieve all of the lost items, all the while praying I don't pull out a rodent, or any other creature, dead or alive. 

I didn't find any creature, only unknown items. Was that hollow spherical thing an orange at one point? It takes a Google search to determine that the Black & Decker Gizmo was someones lost can opener that I have now sent off to the landfill in that giant truck that beeps incessantly every Tuesday morning. 

For all the down sides of moving though, there are some good things about a move. Especially a move after all your belongings have been in storage for 13 months. Going over a year without things makes you realize that maybe you don't need those things after all. I may have to have a yard sale after the move, rather than before. 

I've been unpacking and organizing sewing and craft items this week. It really wouldn't be a week-long task, but I have only had about an hour a day to work on things. I love a good organizational project, and this is one that needed to happen. I am one of those people that saves things thinking I'll use it one day. I'm obviously not a huge hoarder in that my house is basically empty. But I do keep sentimental items, or items I think I can use again in a new way. 

Case in point, I have had a picture frame boxed up since 2007 because it was a good frame, even if I was no longer a fan of the print that went in it. I recently got a new scripture print that I thought would go well in the frame, except for the white mat had a pink edge, and that wasn't really the look I was going for. 

So as I was unpacking this week, I found my white paint and a foam brush and painted that pink strip white, and now the frame is just waiting for a place to hang. 

As I unpack these half baked projects, I've actually been finishing them. And that, my friends, is a very good thing. They are generally quick and easy projects, ones I should have completed years ago and never did. Like this 10 minute project. 

I once broke a pretty blue wine glass that looked like this:  

The stem was completely intact, but the top was uneven. I thought with a little bit of work, I could even off the top and add a plate and create a nice little decorative stand. But that broken glass has been packed in a box for longer than I want to admit. (Longer than I even remember.) Until this week, when I finally took a hammer and gently chipped down the sides to make them even. Plugged in the hot glue gun and attached the small tea saucer I have been saving with the broken glass. Check it out: 

Moving certainly has its downsides and its unexpected sides. But I really like the sense of accomplishment that unpacking and finishing projects is currently giving me. Even pulling all of that junk out from underneath the cabinets was satisfying in its own way. I'm just really glad I didn't find anything worse than petrified fruit and a fake spider encased in a rubber ball. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On Portraits & Presidents

I told y'all that gypsy life was in no way stopping just because I moved, right? I am currently splitting my time between unpacking my home and house sitting in my old neighborhood. It's been a wild week.

Thankfully Psycho Kitten and Griffin are being unusually cooperative. There may have been one or two nights of racing around the house at odd hours, but so far neither of them have given me a heart attack by creeping into my room while I sleep. I think they're getting used to me.

I still don't have internet set up at the new house, which is awesome for getting stuff accomplished. It eliminates all sorts of things I would normally be doing in the evening hours. Oh, you mean I can't virtually couch shop without an internet connection? Well, I guess I'll unpack more boxes. And so I am making progress. But it also means I can't update this little corner of the web either. It's a trade off.

But I did want to tell you about one project that I managed to check off my list last week. It may be my favorite thing about this new place so far. It brings out the total and complete geek in me. My living room my not have a sofa or any thing on which to sit yet, but I hung a portrait on the wall.

Many towns have streets named for former presidents. And this mountain town is no different. And since I was moving to one of those streets, I took a little inspiration from my favorite magazine. (Have you read Garden & Gun? I love it. And if you don't know what I want for my b-day, I have two words for you: Subscription, please.)  Here's the photo from G&G's article "Inside Beautiful Botherum" by M.K. Quilan (October 17, 2013):

Photo by Caroline Allison from Garden & Gun magazine

The photo sparked the plan. And I began scouring thrift stores and Goodwill for the perfect frame. The tiny house doesn't have a fireplace or a mantel over which to hang the portrait, but I liked the gold accents. And I thought I'd add my own twist with an oval or round frame. Eventually I found something a little more unique. And after I got the keys, I ordered the print and cut the mat so it'd be ready to hang. 

Here's the first thing to be hung on the walls of my new home: 

Now I know you all are gonna say "there's a reason people hang portrait of Lincoln everywhere." Believe me, I know. His bust hovers over my shoulder every day at the office. Not even joking here people:

I get Lincoln is everyone's favorite. And I can guess you have no idea which president is hanging on my wall. But in my opinion, Mr. Taft may be the most underrated president. He's often only remembered for his size. He was a big guy, at least by early 1900s standards.

But did you know he was the only president to serve in both the executive and the judicial branches of government? The only one. Many others have served in Congress, of course, but Taft was appointed Chief Justice of the United States by President Harding. 

In addition to being president and Chief Justice, Taft was also an activist for peace. He helped form the League to Enforce Peace during World War I, which was a precursor to the League of Nations.

And if that doesn't do it for you, he was the last president to rock facial hair. Come on all you hipsters with your beards and handle-bar mustaches, Taft should be your favorite, or at least in the running! 

Can y'all tell I did my elementary school president report on Taft? 

Also, it is becoming apparent to me that 5 1/2 years working in the legal field is bringing out a hidden interest in Chief Justices. Here's a photo I snapped on vacation a few months ago: 

If you're beginning to think I don't give the 16th president his due, I did drive something like 20 miles out-of-the-way to visit his "supposed" birthplace in Kentucky. If that isn't enough, this was actually the second time I stopped at this place and took a picture with the cabin that was not actually the one he was born in as advertised.

Lincoln, despite the false advertisement, you're still a pretty radical dude. I just like a few other guys too. And right now, Taft rules!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gypsy Life Update

I've been waiting to post this for about a month now. How does a gypsy admit that she's taking a little hiatus from living out of the trunk of her car? Does this mean she is no longer a gypsy? Or does she maintain her title, even though she has a permanent (and I say that loosely because nothing in this life is ever permanent) place to lay her head and shelves to surround herself with books?

My last living arrangement was always temporary. A six month deal. That deal ended May 31. I started looking early. This mountain town, Bend, has a particularly small number of rental vacancies. Due in no small part to the housing collapse that flooded the rental market over the last 5  years, and then you have the tourist industry, that with housing prices so low the last couple of years, nearly every available house was bought up by investors looking to create vacation rentals. All that creates a less than 1% rental vacancy for long-term rentals. It's crazy, y'all.

And as you would guess, because the rental market is so tight, prices have shot up in just the past year alone. Now granted, we have much better rates here than many other parts of the country. But let me give you a little perspective, do you remember that little studio I moved out of last year? Someone built townhouses around the corner from there that are now renting for 4 times what that studio cost when I moved into it 5 years ago. Let's just say, I was more than a little worried that I wouldn't be able to find a place, much less afford one when if I did.

Here's where it pays to build a solid relationship with others, so that when it's time to take a break from gypsy life, you aren't left living under a bridge. I contacted my old property manager to find out if she had anything coming open. It just so happens that she did, and it was owned by the same person who owned that little studio. I trusted the property manager and scheduled a viewing. I was a little nervous about the location as it wasn't in the radar of places around town I'd thought to look. But I brought Mountain Ma and Pa along to help me. And it turns out that property manager was right. I did love the place. So I submitted my application (which was really sort of a formality since I already had a long-standing relationship with the property management company and the owner). And I got approved for the place all before the house had a chance to even go on the market.

So last week, I signed a year long lease (gulp). And moved all of my wordly belongings into a little tiny house with just a few trips in my poor Camry, who hit 229k miles just over a week ago. That sweet car has a heart of gold. I abuse her so much, and she rarely fails me. I also had the help of a few kind-hearted and generous friends. I couldn't have done the move without them.

I am still unpacking. I have boxes and boxes to go. It's been so strange to find things that I haven't seen in over 13 months. I finally did unpack a few (of the 12) boxes of books, just to get a little color in my living room. If you read at all, you will understand the joy I felt as I placed those books on the shelf. It was almost like seeing a good friend after a long separation. But books can't give big bear hugs, and that definitely makes a reunion with friends 100 times better than a reunion with books.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Dream House

A few months ago, Mama called. She calls nearly daily, so this was no surprise. But that day she had one request. The only thing she wanted for Mother's Day come May was her very own Little Free Library. She had been working overtime with a local organization to get the very first Little Free Library in her town. And once it was up, she knew she wanted one decorating her own front yard. 

So I called my sisters to spread the word. That was all it took. You can purchase them from the website, but we wanted to make our own.  

My twin sister is full of creativity and may be one of the best gift givers I know. She is also an artists and paints lovely landscapes. She called a few days later with an idea. I have no idea where she got this idea, but she had decided that we could make a library from a wooden dollhouse. Not only that, but she had found the perfect dollhouse for the plan on the site for all things for sale, craigslist. 

Have you seen 13 Going on 30 with Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo? This dollhouse we found, it was pink just like the dream house from the movie. Really sort of perfect. 

I will admit. I was skeptical about this plan. I had doubts if we could really make it happen. Three girls with zero building skills. I wondered if we'd have to tear the dollhouse apart. Or build shelves for the books. But my twin sister was set on it.  

She secured that perfectly pink dollhouse and started planning a trip to visit this mountain town, under the guise that she was bringing our nephew to see us. OK. That wasn't just a smokescreen for a plan to make Mama her Mother's Day gift, she really did bring our nephew with her, and we had a lot of fun besides working together to transform the dollhouse into a library. 

He gets really excited sometimes & this is what he does. 

The nephew made friends with the locals. 

When the crew finally arrived with the dollhouse in tow, all I wanted to do was play with it. It is a seriously cool dollhouse. And it came complete with furniture and a baby. It turns out my nephew's favorite game was when I let the baby slide down the stairs. Over and over and over again. Now that they have stairs in their new place, he has taken to throwing his dolls down them. I wonder where he learned that . . .

At least my sisters let me keep the furniture after they made me quit playing with it.

The first task was to clean it. 

Then we each had our own task in the makeover. My twin sealed the outside. 

Little sister used her muscles to cut windows for all 8 windows. 

My job was to caulk the doors and windows to create, hopefully, a nice tight weatherproof seal. 

See! I worked too. 

Little sister and her husband also helped attach the latch and create the base the dollhouse would eventually sit on. That was only after I took to it with some white spray paint to make it pretty. I am terrible at spray painting in general. And I warned my sisters of this fact. I am impatient and sloppy when it comes to these sorts of things. But seeing as how this was a gift for Mama, I took my time. Despite the wind blowing the paint in every direction but where I needed it to go, I kept my cool, and I managed to complete my best spray painting job ever. No drips. None. And I even finished before the rain started to fall. 

Once everything was ready, I loaded it all up into my car, and drove to Portland on Mother's Day to meet up with Mama. I called Dad on the way there to let him know he'd have to finish it up and install it.  

I bought Mama a Starbucks gift card, just to make her think that was her only gift. After shopping, we headed to the car, and Mama was very confused. 

"You have a dollhouse? Why do you have a dollhouse in your car?"

"Do you remember the only thing you asked for Mother's Day?" 

"What? A Library?" 

"Let me show you." 

The thing is, even though we called Dad and let him know what we were up to from the first day we found the dollhouse on the internet, he still spent his Spring Break building another library. Not even kidding. He's sort of a stinker that way sometimes. So for over a month, Mama has had a beautiful birdhouse library in her front yard. 

Luckily, Mama loves both. So now she has two.