Fall Fun

When I first moved to Iowa over 11 years ago, I could not get past how cold it was. I graduated high school from Mesa, AZ and I spent my college years in NW Arkansas. I was not ready for the bitter cold temperatures. Even more unprepared for bitter cold temperatures in October. Something has happened to me over the past few years, though. Instead of spending the end of summer dreading the upcoming winter, I found myself increasingly anticipating the cooler weather. Cooler weather means less money spent on air conditioning. It means hot drinks and baked treats. It means curling up to a cozy fireplace with a good book. It means pulling out my wardrobe of cute sweaters and fun boots. It means Autumn leaves filling the landscape with bright reds, yellows, and oranges.

It also means Autumn leaves falling to the ground, covering my yard, and creating extra work for me to do. So my plan for the day was to rake the leaves and clean the house. Until I opened the door this morning to let the dogs out and realized it would only get to the low 40’s for the day. My original plans suddenly seemed very unappealing. So I sat and drank my coffee and found this great idea for a pumpkin painting. There is a step-by-step tutorial on the website and it seemed easy enough to follow.

I love those painting classes where everyone paints the same picture and you go step by step. I was so excited to be able to do the same thing in the comfort of my own home. And for a heck of a lot cheaper. So I made a quick trip to Michael’s to pick up some canvases. (I got a pack of 5 and used my 50% off coupon.)

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I invited my mom to make one with me and we gave it a go. (Mine’s on the left.)

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I was pretty pleased with the final product. I’m not the best painter in the world, but I don’t think you have to be for this project. It was fun and I love that it was something I could do with my mom.

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This was the perfect way to spend a chilly fall day. And it gets me in the right frame of mind for the even chiller weather that’s coming.

What’s your favorite part about Autumn?

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Happy My Birthday To You

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yummy messy cake

I used to joke that my birthday should be internationally known and celebrated. I have always loved my birthday. I love that there is a day to celebrate me. A day where everyone I know tells me I am special and loved. Growing up we didn’t have much money. Birthdays were one of the two days out of the year that I got presents and the only day of the year I could choose what we ate for dinner and I spent my life loving my birthday.

Some years I live in denial that I have grown another year older. Other years (including this one, thankfully), I am excited for a day to celebrate myself and I spend the week leading up to the 24th of July telling everyone I know, and occasionally some I don’t, that my birthday is coming up.

The way I feel on my birthday sets the tone for my entire I year. Do I feel happy and loved, full of potential? Or do I feel old, my unrealized potential slowly diminishing? Certain birthdays come and go and my life isn’t what I think it should be. I thought things would be different when I was this age. I thought my imagined dreams would have become reality by now. When I was 29, I had years of regrets and unreached goals. I dreaded each day that led up to the next milestone. I did not want to turn 30 and I pretended that it wasn’t going to happen.

I decided a couple of days before my birthday that I would find something to look forward to on my birthday. I wanted a party, a time to invite friends to celebrate with me. But a friend of mine scheduled her bachelorette party on my birthday and the following day was her birthday. So I had to think smaller. I made a cake. Not just any cake. This one was a special recipe I got from a friend whose mom had got it from a well-know tea room in town. It came out perfect and when I shared it with my family on my birthday, I found that even though I had dreaded this day for the last 3 years, I could still get excited about a cake. And that made me feel just a little less grown up.

Every year since, I make my own cake from scratch. This year, I found a recipe for a moist chocolate cake using quinoa instead of flour. It was rich and decadent and not dry like so many gluten-free desserts. (I also made it in the evening and it didn’t have time to cool completely so it kind of fell apart.)  This year was the first year I worked on my birthday in several years and by the end of the day, I was exhausted, spending my entire evening cooking dinner and baking my cake. But it was still a good birthday. Not only because the cake was delicious, but because I am 34 and can get just as excited by cake as I did when I was 7. 

 

Food Snob Pup: How I Created a Monster

This isn’t going to be one of those self-help posts: How to Create a Monster in 6 Easy Steps. Unfortunately, I was only able to accomplish this feat through hard work and a lot of luck.

Meet Maggie.photo

Maggie is my now 2 1/2 year old German Shepherd/Lab mix. I got her for two reasons.

1. She is so pretty. I mean, look at that coat. It’s very striking.
2. When we met, she pretended like she was calm and docile and completely manipulated me into adopting her.
3. My nephews were dead set on her. Well, one of them was. The other really wanted Cee Lo, a younger puppy with excessive energy. Maggie didn’t have excessive energy. She was calm and docile.

That was 3 reasons. All very valid, though. So, I adopted her and brought her home to meet her brother, my now 7-year-old Dorkie (a mix of Dachshund and Yorkie). She was 5 months old at the time, and as it turned out, she was not actually as calm and docile as she’d led me to believe. This I found out after she ran around my living room in a circle, jumping on and off sofas and chairs for half an hour without stopping.

I realized then that I had my work cut out for me. What I didn’t know, though, was just how much work she would be. Within a few days, Maggie started to scratch. A lot. I checked her over and over for fleas. It turned out, she had a yeast infection over her entire body. Her poor skin was so itchy that she couldn’t go more than a few seconds without scratching. She got pills for that and then shortly after got a yeast ear infection in both ears. Apparently Maggie is a yeast infection magnet. More pills that didn’t quite clear it up and then pills to try to completely kill off the infection.

Maggie lost a tooth at 6 months. Not because it was her baby tooth, but because it also was infected. It turned gray and smelled like death. In addition to all of these, Maggie had a lot of digestive problems. Bills were quickly adding up and I did what anyone does in a situation like this. I turned to Google. Google has a lot of information on this topic. Almost 1 1/2 million hits, actually. One thing that I saw over and over: yogurt. Yes, giving your dog plain yogurt in her food is a good way to help prevent yeast infections. I began mixing a few spoons of yogurt into her food daily. It helped! She stopped having yeast infections.

Her digestion, though, was still abysmal at best. I turned to my bestie Google. I found some super high quality dog food brands, but they were all quite pricey and she eats a lot. So I found this handy-dandy website that objectively rates dog food brands and found one that was only high quality (not super high quality) for quite a bit less. Finally all of my problems were solved. At least as far as health concerns.

So how did this create a monster? Well, it turns out conditions were prime for breeding the perfect Food Snob. I couldn’t put yogurt in Maggie’s food without putting a little in Bodie’s as well. Every night, I would feed them and mix in some yogurt. As Maggie’s gotten older, I have eased up a little on the yogurt. But she still always wants something in her bowl.

When I put down a bowl of dry dog food, she looks at me as though I have completely lost her mind. She looks at her bowl and back to me, sometimes whining, sometimes hitting me. As a mom who loves spoiling her kiddos, the worst part is when she looks forlornly off into the distance as if she will never be happy again.

MagsI made the decision to not put anything in her food until she got used to eating regular dry food like every other dog in the world. I stuck to my guns and didn’t give her any yogurt, or other tasty treat. For almost 2 days. Then I gave in and scooped some yogurt into her bowl. I have created the perfect Food Snob and there’s nothing I can do about it (unless I walk around blindfolded for the rest of my life).

WTG? (What the Gif?)

I am sometimes in awe of computers and all of the amazing things they do. Maybe it’s because I’m (just) old enough to remember the advent of the personal computer. My family got our first computer in the late 1980’s. It was a 1986 Apple Macintosh computer*. At the time, I thought it was my ticket to unlimited fun, right behind Barbies and The Little Mermaid. We got that instead of any of the new video game consoles that were coming out. My dad got it so he could work on his thesis at seminary where he was getting his doctorate degree. When he wasn’t hard at work typing away on it, my siblings and I were able to play games on it. It wasn’t as exciting as the Atari and NES systems some of my friends had, but my parents had a very limited income and we weren’t able to do -or buy- a lot of the same things as my friends. Trips to the movie theater were reserved for rare special occasions as was eating out and buying new clothes. We were otherwise limited to cheap thrift store clothes, or hand-me-downs from church members.

 

3820499875_5546d4d550_z-1photo by Tiziano L. U. Caviglia

If you were ever fortunate enough to own one of these bad boys,  you probably realize how epic the games weren’t. There was a built-in unbeatable chess game, a black and white drawing program and a typing game. We did have a floppy disk game of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. At the time, I had not read the book and so could not actually play the game. Now that I have read them and re-read them and then re-read them again, I think it would be fun to play it, just to see if I could get further than Arthur’s house being demolished.

Early computer and video  games, as primitive as they seem now, were almost magical to my 8-year-old eyes. To be honest, I still don’t understand exactly how they work. I’d rather not think about it and I will stubbornly cling to my own magic computer box theory indefinitely. (Also, rainbows are gateways to fantasy worlds that double as giant slides, and Amanda, my corn-silk hair Cabbage Patch Kid is a sentient being, fully devoted to being my-best-friend-forever, even though she’s currently stuffed in a box in my basement.)

Thinking about how far computers have come in such a short time really is incredible. And we truly are better off because of it. I can complete tasks (like buying a Starbucks drink on my phone) so quickly that I have endless time to devote to the things that truly matter**. I can keep in touch with friends on the other side of the world without buying a $1400 plane ticket. I have near infinite information at my fingertips, only one Google click away. I can search online for reviews of books so I don’t waste time reading a book I might not like. And I can repeatedly watch two seconds of a movie clip on an endless loop anytime I want. Wait, what? Why? The rest of that makes complete sense. Watching a looping video clip, though?

I don’t fully understand the magic of computers, mostly because I haven’t really tried. One thing, though, that I find truly mystifying, is how somewhere along the way, computers have paved the way for a reduction in the ability to share thoughts using words and complete sentences, replacing the English language first with thousands of acronyms and now with millions of GIFs to express how we really feel about things.

To that I say, “What the GIF?!”
click here to see how I feel about GIFs.

*Random fact about Apple Macintosh: the computer we got that was made in 1986 continued working my entire childhood and lasted until after I went to college. I think it would still work but my mom got rid of it, along with our dot matrix computer

**Author’s disclaimer: Using technology to complete tasks quickly and efficiently may not leave you endless time to devote to the things that truly matter. (Unless the things that truly matter include Candy Crush, Cross Fingers, T.V., video games, or Pinterest.)

Embracing My Geek

When I was younger, my favorite thing to do, hands down, was spend quality time with my dad. He was a pastor and his normal Sunday routine consisted of him driving to 3 separate towns to preach at 3 separate churches. Sometimes my whole family went to all of the services. We would pile into whatever junk car we had at the time. My parents would sit up front and turn on some classic rock, most likely to drown out the sound of 4 kids fighting in a back seat that was only meant to hold 3 kids. Sometimes, though, my mom would decide that 1 service was enough. The rest of the family would go to whatever service was closest and skip the rest. These Sundays quickly became my favorite. I loved going to church when it was just the 2 of us. Not only did I get to sit up front, a treat in itself, but I got to spend a couple of hours riding in a car with my favorite person. We would listen to classic rock together and sing our favorite songs, sit in companionable silence, or talk. He would tell me stories about history and I gained a deep appreciation of history because of those Sunday drives with my dad.

My dad is also to blame for my relationship with geek culture. If Sunday drives were #1 on my list of favorite things to do, spending time watching t.v. or playing games with Dad was #2. (Although that might have dropped down a spot for several years when I chose the imaginative world of Barbie and my Cabbage Patch named Amanda). I would curl up next to him on the couch and watch what he was watching. His favorite show was Star Trek. We watched the original series together and all of the Enterprise movies. I don’t know if I liked the show on its own merit or if I liked it because I watched it with my dad. But I loved this time together. As I grew older, I began learning about strange people who also watched these shows. They would dress up as the characters on t.v. and call themselves Trekkies. Part of me must have known that this had to be decidedly uncool. Or maybe whoever told me about them told me in a way that left no doubt that they were just plain stupid. I was an awkward child, easily swayed, and desperately wanted to fit in with my peers. From then on, I stopped watching Star Trek with my dad and turned my full attention to Barbies, Amanda the Cabbage Patch Kid, The Little Mermaid, and The Chronicles of Narnia. (Lesson from my childhood: playing with Barbies and watching The Little Mermaid repeatedly when you’re 11 does not actually help you fit in. It, in fact, has the opposite effect and you would probably be better off watching Star Trek and attending a convention dressed as a Klingon.)

Now that I’m older and imagine I might be a little wiser, I have found myself to be far more satisfied and content when embracing the dark edges of my mind that seek out science fiction, fantasy, and fandoms instead of closeting them. I live a much fuller life by blending my geek with the parts of me that are more acceptable to the closeted or mundane of the world, while encouraging others to not be ashamed any longer and embrace their own geek.