Thursday, March 27, 2014

Security. Saccurity.

Airline travel isn't without it's inconveniences. I mean you have to basically strip down just to make it through security. But there are a few ways that I've learned to streamline the process and get through without much hassle.

Dress Appropriately. Wear shoes that easily slip on and off. Don't wear a belt, or any other  unnecessary accessories. These items will slow you down when you inevitably have to take them on and off in the security process. The idea is to get through that security line as quickly as possibly. (Especially if you're anything like me and like to push the limits on getting to your gate in time to board.)

Pack smart. Make sure everything you need is nearby and easy to reach. Your laptop will have to come out, so pack it in a bag that you can slid in and out quickly. You don't want to be fumbling with straps and zippers. On that note, make sure that bag is big enough to hold your 1 quart bag of liquids. You can fit a surprising number of products into those bags. I can easily have everything I need for a week in that one bag. Why dig for them in two different suitcases? And if you bring a water bottle, make sure it's empty. You aren't gonna get that passed the TSA agents.

Other than that, keep your boarding pass and ID handy (my bag as an inner side pocket that works for that), and you're good to go. You can't see it, but there is still plenty of room in my bag for a book, camera, and snacks too (because ain't nobody want to pay for overpriced airport/airplane food).

Plan ahead and be smart and you'll be through security and on your way in no time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This is how we roll

I travel sort of a lot for someone whose job does not demand it. As luck would have it, I don't consider packing the chore most people do. I view it as my own personal challenge.

Can you fit everything you could possibly need for X number of days into the smallest bag possible?

Challenge accepted.

In my various travels, I stick to carry on only. I mean, why spend the extra time checking your bag only to run the risk of it winding up on consignment in Alabama. (If you don't believe that's where your "lost" baggage goes, read this article by Rebekah Sanderlin.)

I might, maybe, risk of losing my luggage on a return trip, but never on my way to a destination. I don't want to wait three days for a change of clothes, especially considering the fact that most of my travels occur over a  3 to 5 day period.

"So how does one pack for an entire week, in less than two feet of space?" you ask. Let me tell you.

Roll it. Pack it. Mark it with a B . . .

Oh wait, that's not how it goes. But yes, roll it then pack it.

I have been a rolling devotee since the days of my childhood when it was necessary to pack for a month of summer vacation sharing one suitcase with both my sisters. Yes. That means three girls. One suitcase. Mama had to pack that bag. God bless her. She's the one who taught me how to roll. I don't know where she learned it. Maybe it was her days as an Army Brat.

If you've never rolled before, you can find plenty of You Tube videos courtesy of our US military personnel giving you step-by-step instructions.

I say, "If it works for apple pie and the military of the U.S. of A, it works for me."

I depart today with my one carry-on bag any my one personal item. Come back tomorrow for more on how to pack that personal item to your advantage.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Found

Spring break arrived Friday afternoon. Which meant a road trip was in store.

The weekend was spent hanging out with my longest-standing friend. At least 25 years. So hard to believe!

We walked the waterfront, we got pedicures, we went for a run, and we did yard work. Look at these beauties growing in her yard.

The weather was perfect all weekend. Blue sky barbecue weather. And you better believe I attended my first BBQ of the year with some new friends. I also caught a flick at the Laurelhurst Theater.  If you haven't seen Nebraska, do it. It's sad and funny and tender all wrapped into one. Oh that last scene. I'll have to tell the story sometime about why that last scene gets me. 

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend as well. Spring break fun is just beginning to kick off. More meet ups with friends and more fun activities are in store. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sweet fix

Sunday afternoon, I spent a little bit of time organizing myself for the week. With Spring Break on the horizon and a half marathon a little over a month away, I've been attempting to eat healthier and exercise more. So I spent some time chopping vegetables and grilling chicken for a week's worth of salads.

I was recently challenged to cut out sugar and flour from my diet. Que the wailing and gnashing of teeth. I work next door to a bakery, y'all. The torture of it being mere steps away all day long is tough to handle. 

Over a week into this challenge, I can tell you, I have not been perfect. I have cheated, but I am trying.

In my Sunday afternoon prep for the week session, I whipped up a healthier sweet treat to try to ease the pain of missing out on the baked goods next door. 

Coconut Almond Clusters

First melt about a cup of super dark chocolate chips in the microwave on 30 second intervals. (Yes, I realize this doesn't actually qualify as no sugar, but with dark chocolate the sugar content is a lower, so I'm justifying it.) 

Once the chocolate is melted, drop about a nickle sized dollop onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Spread the chocolate a bit with the back of the spoon. Then grabbed about 5 to 6 raw almonds and dump on to the chocolate. Drizzled about a tablespoon more of the chocolate right on top all those almonds and spread it around. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Then put the cookie sheet into the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes. And enjoy.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Green eyes are better than blue . . .

You may have noticed in yesterday's post, that I was rocking me some green last weekend. 

I'm not certain that I have any Irish heritage, but my mama's people are Appalachian. So there's a good chance of it. 

As a 10-year-old, I remember being chided by a doctor, of Irish decent, at the big university hospital for not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. He didn't think my green eyes counted. 

Since then, I've done my best not to forget. And this weekend, I started wearing green a few days early. As I've told you before, here, here and here, I love any reason to celebrate. 

I don't drink beer or whiskey, but I made sure to wear green and plaid, and eat my potatoes. Are there any Irish roots in your family tree? How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Oh Monday Monday

Mama came to town this weekend for book events and fun. 

We spent a fair share of time chatting in coffee shops and hiking the trails. 

Even stopping to enjoy the local art along the way. 

I've told you all about Mama's novel "Mother of Rain". She and I are preparing to take a little Spring Break trip next week for more book events. If you're looking for a good book for your own Spring Break, get out and get yourself a copy now!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Waiting is temporary

Like last week, I am once again participating in the #SheSharesTruth linkup for Lent. This week we're taking a look at Psalm 38.

Sometimes when I read certain phrases seem to pop out of the page. In the Psalms, it usually has to do with waiting.

v. 15 "Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God." 

Waiting is a tough place to be.

Years ago, I was unemployed, or underemployed, for a very long time. I'm talking years. I had gone to school, and I had all the credentials, but I graduated at a very bad time economically. The journalism and publishing worlds were changing rapidly. There were few jobs to be had. Especially for someone with degrees in English. And every interview seemed to end with the hiring committee wanting someone with more experience. It was a rough, rough time.

My hope was shattered each time I didn't land the job in the final round of interviews. It got so bad that I had friends calling me from all over the country handing out advice before each interview. "Maybe you need to cut your hair. You'll look older," they'd tell me. "Be confident," they'd say. Or, "You have a nervous laugh," they'd warn. They really thought I was blowing it.

The thing I had to learn was it was temporary. My period of struggling was going to be temporary. I would eventually find a job. I wasn't always going to be living with my mom and dad and relying on others to house and feed me. When I recognized that, I was finally able to say, "If I'm still unemployed in 30 years, I'll have a really great book to write."

And it was temporary. I eventually landed a job and moved out of Mom and Dad's. (We were all doing the happy dance that day.)

But waiting isn't easy. And I'm finding out that waiting is something that never really ends. Once we get the thing we've been waiting for, there is always some other longing.

I went to a new doctor's office last week and had to check the box for single. If you'd asked me 5 years ago, if I thought I'd still be single at 31, my answer would have been, "No." But here I am.

Earlier this week, a friend who is going through her own waiting period was anxious and worried and feeling discouraged. "Wait," I told her. "It won't always be this way."

The Psalms tell us over and over and over again to wait. My favorite might be Psalm 27: 14.

"Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." 

If you're feeling discouraged in your waiting, read the Psalms. And remember, this is temporary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a . . .

Please pardon my absence. Babies do not seem to understand blogging schedules, and so I have been busy quilting for babies who are just being born, and babies who were born a month ago. And I somehow managed to whip out two new quilts in just over a week. Considering that these quilts can take me months to buckle down and do, that it a minor feat.

I'll share quilts once they are out of the hands of the United States Postal Service, and have arrived safely at their final destination.  Today I want to tell you about my favorite household product. 

I have long used this product to clean my teeth, especially when I want to brighten them up a bit. In a pinch, I've used it as deodorant. And it's my go-to product for cleaning the drip pans under the stove burners. I am not even joking about that one. You will not find a better product to clean those chrome pans. Years ago, I also started using it as an exfoliant for my face. 

Sounds crazy, right? One product that I can use for so many different things. And no, it's not Windex. 

The one product I always have on hand for whatever delimma presents itself, is none other than sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda. It is an all around wonder product. 

And I found a new use for it. Are you ready to hear what it is?

Let's back this story up. 

A few weeks ago, I was driving my roommate to the airport, well before the sun made it's appearance. My roommate drives a new truck. I drive a 15-year-old Camry. 

"Your lights are really dim compared to my truck," she said. 

Yes. I acknowledged that was likely true. Someone had pointed out years ago that my headlights were very oxidized, and had suggested I purchase a kit to clean it. But I never had. So they continued to shine a bit dim through their yellowed cover. 

This photo illustrates how the light cover looks a bit foggy. 

After that conversation on the way to the airport, I did a bit of research (aka a Google search). And I came upon a solution that elevated my all-purpose household cleaner to new heights. 

Yesterday, the weather was finally sufficiently warm enough. So I grabbed my box of baking soda and a wash cloth, and decided to see if this Super Product could indeed help my headlights. 

For all the above mentioned uses of baking soda, simply add a bit of water to make a paste. Slather it on and let it sit a minute. Then scrub, rinse and wipe clean. 

In less than five minutes, I had both headlights looking like this. 

Here you can really tell a difference between the clean light on the right and the foggy light on the left. 

When I finally get around to cleaning the rest of the car, I'm gonna try the new baking soda method again. I'm gonna a take more than just a couple of minutes, and see how bright I can really get these old lights to shine.

What's your go-to household cleaner? Do you have a product that you use for both cleaning and personal care? Tell me.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lent: sharing truth

I've written before about the daily devotionals I participate in provided by She Reads Truth. It's evolved a lot in the last year, and the community is constantly growing. I can't say enough good things about how it has helped me to create a daily quiet time that I don't want to miss. And that was really the point when it all started. For women to be in the Word together. If you're looking for a Bible study, if you want to make daily Bible reading a priority, check it out.

This Lent season, She Reads Truth has set aside Friday's as sharing days. Where we are challenged to take a look at scripture and share how it speaks to us. This week's passage is Psalm 130. I'm not a teacher, but here's my stab at it.

"If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? v. 3

I recently got in an argument with someone I love very much. That argument was the result of hurts that keep coming up, again, and again, and again. As I listened again to all the ways I've hurt this person over the years, two things happened.

First I got angry. And then I got sad. In my anger, I wanted to list out for her all the ways I too had been hurt in our relationship. But I was also sad, and feeling like a complete failure of a person and didn't know how to fix the relationship, to move on from these hurts that kept coming up.

How many times do we do that? Bring up past hurts. Hurts we've already acknowledged, but never moved on from?

How many times do we beat ourselves up for the things we've done or failed to do in the past? I know I do.

God doesn't do that. He doesn't hold our sins against us.

Y'all, there is a but after that statement. The best "but" of all.

"But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you." verse 4

God doesn't turn our sins into a bully stick, to be pulled out and used to beat us over the head with time and time again. No. He offers us forgiveness. He offers us his son. He offers us freedom from our sins.

Isn't that what this Lenten season is all about? Looking toward the cross. Knowing that we are all miserable failures, but for God.

Let's remember God's forgiveness and stop using past sins to beat ourselves (and others) with.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hickory Dickory Dock

I can't stand the watch aisle at department stores. It's as if some maniacal elf sneaks in there and sets every watch one minute apart, so that on the hour at every hour alarms will beep one after the other in a continuous chorus of repetitive beeping.

Repetitive beeping noises make me a little batty. Like the cars that beep when you haven't fastened your seat belt. I have family members who know this little quirk of mine, and so intentionally leave their seat belt unbuckled until I'm threatening to jump out of a moving vehicle in an attempt to escape.

It's not just the beeping that drives me crazy though. I got a new analog alarm clock when I first went off to college. I thought it was going to be so cool. Until I couldn't sleep because of the tick tock of the second hand making it's rotation. It made me feel like the mouse running up and down the clock all the night long.

To say I am a light sleeper is an understatement. I once woke in the wee hours and couldn't figure out why my roommate would be showering. My anger subsided only about ten minutes later when I realized that the water I heard was nothing but a rain shower.

I don't often wear a watch, mostly because the batteries die and then I never get them replaced. I was recently gifted a watch, which by the way I like and enjoy wearing. The problem is that even if I have left the watch on a table across the room, the simple tick tick tock of the watch's second hand has the ability to wake me up in the dead middle of the night.

I typically wear earplugs to go to go to sleep, but they fall out and then the mechanisms of that watch taunt me until I wake. As a result, the watch has been banished to spend it's nights in a drawer in the bathroom. Far away from my sleeping ears.

The problem with my aversion to clocks is that I can't always control the clock situation when I'm staying at someone else's house. I have been known to physically remove clocks from a room, just to get some sleep.  If for some reason I can't remove the offending clock, and if I forget my earplugs, it's game over.  I am bound to be up half the night cursing the man who invented the clock.

So if you happen ask me to be your house guest, don't be alarmed if the next morning you find your precious antique bedside clock relocated to the hall table. Or the wall clock now resting on the bathroom counter. It's no a comment on your decor. I promise.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Muffulettas and Moon Pies

Yesterday, being Mardi Gras and all, I decided to celebrate with mini Muffulettas and a Moon Pie. Around here, people don't celebrate Mardi Gras. I tried to wish someone a Happy Fat Tuesday yesterday, and he thought I was making a comment on his weight. I kid you not.

Growing up, Mama taught us that near about any occasion can be turned into a celebration. I already told you about those MLK Jr. Day parties she'd host. We once got to go out for ice cream just because it was Leap Day. And on sweltering summer nights with no A/C, Mama sometimes woke us up for peaches and ice cream. Not every occasion got an ice cream party. The first snow meant an early wake-up, long before the sun, to sit on the couch and watch the flakes fall out the big picture window. But since I don't live at home anymore, I've got to create my own celebrations.

I even managed to find some true Louisiana olive salad way out here in Oregon. 

I used Southern Living's recipe as my guide, so you can hop over to this link if you want to give it a try.

The first time I ever had a muffuletta sandwich was actually in Little Rock, Arkansas. Which my entire family took to pronouncing as "Our-Kansas," because Kansas was our least favorite state to drive through on those long treks, and Arkansas meant we had only one more day left in our journey. 

That was back in 1996, the first time I ate a muffuletta. I remember liking the sandwich. But what I remember most about that meal was the table full of businessmen sitting nearby. 

I don't remember what this crew of nicely dressed men were eating. But whatever it was, it was hot, Hot, HOT! Either that, or they just couldn't handle a little spice. They were sweating bullets. All of them. Faces redder than an August tomato. 

We watched them throughout the entire meal. Laughing, and wondering when someone was gonna tell the poor fellas to order a glass of milk to cut the spice. No one ever did.

We tried to stop back by that fun little Louisiana style eatery on the way home later than summer, but it had closed down.  

What about you? Do you celebrate Fat Tuesday? 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy

I mentioned last week that I got to go shopping at a fabric store recently. But what I don't think I said is that I love shopping for fabric. Really. Truly. I feel my most creative self when I am planning and coordinating fabric for a project.

It was not love-at-first-sight. My crush on fabric. It happened gradually.

I didn't always sew. It was my high school boyfriend's mom who taught me how. We made Christmas table runners. And I remember going to the fabric store with her to pick out fabric and I had no idea what I was doing. In my day-to-day life I am often rendered incapable of making a decision because of the sheer plethora of options. Imagine how I felt at 16 standing in a shop filled with all kinds of different fabric, and I could have my pick. In the end, I think I just copied whatever fabric she choose, but in a different color.

It all worked out in the end. I learned how to sew (a very little). And that boyfriend's mom became my Mountain Ma (aka Mama T). We get together for lunch once a week, and she takes care of me when I'm sick.

But that experience alone didn't make me feel comfortable in a fabric store. When I was gifted my very own sewing machine a few years ago, I remember walking through a fabric store. Feeling overwhelmed, I ducked into an empty aisle, and I called my sister.

"I feel like a poser," I said. "I don't know anything about sewing or fabric. What am I doing here?"

You know how they tell you that if you want to conquer your fear, you have to face it? Well, that's kind of how my love of fabric shopping came to be. I just kept going back. And I found that as I like letterpress cards and nice paper, I like designer fabric. Often I'll order it online. But when I get the chance to go to a nice little fabric store whose walls and floors are covered with bolt after bolt of fabric, I could stay there all day. (Just ask my sister, who practically had to drag me out of Bolt last week!)

I mostly use this fabric for baby quilts. I just finished one, am over half-way through another, and have been commissioned for four more before the end of the month. (Yes, I sell them. If anyone is interested in buying.)

Quilting takes time. It takes patience. A lot of hunching over a machine. And my friends make fun of my "old lady" hobby. But I found my happy place in a fabric store. And not much tops seeing a photograph of a happy baby playing and drooling on quilt you made especially for him.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Celebrating Oscar

At some point in my growing up years, my parents gave up paying for cable television. As such, we got zero stations. Not even PBS. We had ants crawling across the screen. That was it.

They didn't get rid of the television though. They kept the VCR. And we used it frequently. So frequently in fact that at one point in my life I could carry on full conversations using nothing but movie quotes. It really annoyed people when while watching a movie I'd seen umpteen times, I'd spout every single line.

So it's no surprise then that Oscar night was a big night, after watching so many movies throughout the year. But obviously since we didn't have television, we'd have to move our party elsewhere. When a television was installed in my dad's classroom, Mama would have us girls load up the beanbag chairs in her Previa. And we'd grab the M&Ms and Diet Coke and head to the school to watch the start walk the red carpet and make their acceptance speeches.

Being a bit like my parents were at my age, I don't even own a television. So it's been a few years since I've been able to watch the Oscars. My roommate has a television though, and with a little tweaking of the antenna we can get a couple of stations.

Last night, my sister and I got to recreate our Oscar parties from so long ago.

The beanbag chairs were upgraded to couches. We traded M&Ms for homemade Bob's Red Mill popcorn, southwest seasoning courtesy of Martha.  In addition to the air-popped corn, and because I am on a eating as local as possible kick, we had some local treats made right here in Bend, Oregon.

Bonta gelato and Atlas hard cider. We had the original cider, which has just the right balance of sweetness and tart. If you're a cider drinker, you know what I'm talking about. To top everything else off with a sweet treat, we went with the Coconut Lime sorbetto. A great dairy-free options for anyone looking for one.