Good as Gold

I’ve been binge watching Golden Girls since it was added to Hulu. It’s one of those shows I watched when I was a kid. The kind of show that you watch again as an adult and go, “Ah, there’s that bit of my personality.” According to the usual internet quizzes and most people who know me, I’m a Dorothy. Sarcastic English teacher, me to a T. But watching has led me to a troubling conclusion: I’ve got a bit of Rose to me. Because here’s the other thing, I tell stories. Rambling stories. Stories that are tangential at best to what we’re talking about. Not even a “Picture it, San Juan, 1995” preface to them.Luckily the bulk of my friends are more tolerant than Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia. But in a society that values cutting wit (often with an emphasis on the cutting part) and bluntness, there is a certain amount of stigma to being a Rose. She’s kind, gentle, and naive, and okay, yes she’s not that bright. We could probably use more Roses right now.

Okay, maybe not the not-that-bright aspect, we’ve got an awful lot of that going around. Kind, kind we could do with more of. I think it’s fitting that Rose works as a grief counselor. She listens and honestly wants to help. On the surface her stories ramble and make no sense, but she knows what she’s on about. Most of the time. Where was I going with this? Oh right. There’s nothing wrong with nice. I’ve been told. The internet also tells me, repeatedly, that I’m a Slytherin. That means I’m nice, but not to everyone. Sophia is the OG Slytherin, btw.

I suppose in the end I have a little bit of all of them to me. Sarcasm, stories, loyalty, love of cheesecake, confidence… and that’s good to realize. Because I’ve also realized that these women who seemed so old when I was about 8 are now an awful lot closer to my age. When Blanche lies about her age, she goes for 41. I’m coming up on 37. Most of the time I don’t think about it. I’m just as likely to say I’m 28. Not because I’m trying to hide my age, but because I’ve always been bad at knowing how old I am. When I was 10, my mom coached me on lying about being 13 so I could get up to my grandmother’s hospital room for a visit. I started drinking when I was 18, which led to being nearly 22 and having a very forlorn moment in the beer aisle. I had gotten so used to drinking illegally that I had forgotten I was old enough to buy my own booze. (It’s not just my age I’m bad at. One time I was complaining about my brother and Mom snapped, “He’s 13. What do you expect?” Ten minutes later I had so shout at her, “He’s 15!” So you can see this is hereditary.) Thank god age is just a number. Now who wants some cheesecake?

Rory Gilmore is not Dorothy Gale

Have we all watched the new Gilmore Girls yet? If you care enough to read this, then I’m going to guess your answer is yes. A lot has already been said about it. It’s been out for a whole five weeks now, and that’s forever in internet time. Like a lot of Gilmore Girls fans, my sister-in-law and I binged it the day it was out. It was our own personal marathon. (In fact she put me to shame by watching most of it from the elliptical due to a fitbit challenge she had going with friends. Meanwhile, I did a bunch of knitting, basically the opposite of a fitbit challenge.) I have feelings about a lot of what went down, but maybe you can tell there’s one thing that really bugged me. Okay there were lots of things, but this one rates its own blog post because I’ve seen the other stuff covered in plenty of places. In a show full of literary allusions and book loving characters, how could the writers so massively fuck this one up?

It’s Fall. The Life and Death Brigade, at least the moderately attractive boy contingent, has descended upon Rory. In the morning, Rory decides she needs to leave it all behind. Logan, the boys, it’s time to grow up and do the adult thing and write a book. Sure. As Rory says her goodbyes, Finn says, “Mother is judging us.” And my heart leapt a little bit. The Wendy-bird is going home! And then Robert makes a Cowardly Lion reference. sigh No. Okay, let’s back up.

Robert, Colin, and Finn appear in steampunk gear and gorilla masks.  I’m a sucker for a man in a waistcoat, so I did love this bit, and would like to run off with these clothes. I especially want to steal the top hat Logan gives Rory.There is a lot of presumable breaking and entering involved. They acquire golf clubs, and use the rooftops as a driving range. We see them straight up break into Doose’s. Sure they throw a lot of money about, but Taylor is going to have a heart attack anyway. There is movie watching in the streets. I have to admit, I do love this dreamy magic realism vibe that is going on in these episodes. And the keyword of what I’m getting to is the magic. They hit a tango club, and then a bed and breakfast, both of which Colin buys, along with a 1983 Colt, apparently. And the Wendy-bird goes home.

This is not Oz, it’s Neverland. Logan is not the wizard, pulling the strings behind the curtain. He’s Peter, flying in through Wendy’s window, begging for stories and taking her away from the world where she is on the cusp of adulthood. Colin, Robert and Finn are lost boys. They don’t grow, they don’t realize that what they needed was within them all along. Colin gets drunk and buys things, and Finn punches Robert for saying he’s from New Zealand. The very first thing they do is play dress up. It’s no pirates and indians, but it’s not nothing, either. There’s no heart, bravery, or brains. They are children out of time.

Even before this little adventure, Rory was jetting off to London quite a bit. Ostensibly it was for work, but thematically, she was flying off to see her Peter. London, of course, is the literal birthplace of Peter Pan. It’s also to the east, Rory was literally flying straight on til morning. How did she pay for those flights? Careful bonus miles management on a level that may as well be pixie dust and happy thoughts.

Rory has never been great with change, especially change that moves her forward in life. Look at her first night at Yale, with Lorelai spending the night. Rory’s never been able to move out of the nursery. She’s never wanted to, really.She’s no Dorothy, wishing for a technicolor world and agency of her own. Lorelai has always provided the color. Agency is what she’s trying to avoid. The adult thing would be to just dump Paul already, but she never does. Why? It would be hard. It would be grown up. So would be putting in any work as a freelance journalist. Suddenly things are harder than working for the school newspaper, and she flounders. (And did Rory ever take any journalism classes? There was lots of English, and game theory and economics with Richard, but not once did we see her take a communications class.)

So the writers went for the story they wanted, even though it isn’t the story Rory is living. Really, that sums up most of my problems with the episodes. The writers were still locked into the story they wanted to tell ten years ago, nevermind that the characters, and actors, have moved on.

A House Full of Meaty Goodness

Oh my god it’s 2017. Hi there. I’m not even going to with what a horror 2016 was. Instead I’m going to talk about food. The other day Professor Furious got a hankering for pho. Impossible to find in Small Town, where we are unfortunately still living. So, like I do whenever I’m faced with a problem, I turned to the internet. So many recipes. Most of them are even pretty similar. I’m working off of the Serious Eats Quick and Easy 1-Hour Pho, mostly. Meanwhile, I had my own craving for barbacoa, which is tradiontal Mexican deliciousness made by slow roasting a cowhead in a pit. I opt for beef cheek meat and the slow cooker.

The biggest problem cooking anything around here is getting ingredients. I rarely see cheek meat at our grocery store, but luckily the one “downtown” actually had it. (And a beef heart, which I almost bought because I have been wanting to try cooking beef heart for freaking ages, but never have for various reasons, mostly of the not finding it variety.) Luckily the spices for pho are pretty easy. The weird thing was our store was out of limes. I don’t think they even carry bean sprouts or fresh basil or the noodles. No flank steak, either. Luckily, there’s a hippie store on the outskirts of town, so everything is organic and cost like twice what would be at HEB for pesticide laden stuff, but whatever. I really wanted to make it. Still no flank, we’re doing chuck, instead.

Barbacoa is stupid easy. Chuck the amount of meat you want into the slow cooker with salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin, and like a little bit of water. Use a lot of salt. More salt than that. I mean you can salt it when you’re eating it, but put in plenty. I am really bad about cooking by sight, and didn’t really pay attention to how much meat I had. So let’s say it was like a pound? A pound and a half? I threw in like a small handful of salt? What do I look like, a food blog? You do you, and it’s not the end of the world if you err on the side of caution and just put some salt on your taco. When we buy it already made, I always end up adding salt. Put your slow cooker on low and let it go overnight. I started ours about 8:30 on Saturday night, and woke up about 10:30 on Sunday. Twelve hours is probably good. I like frying it in a pan before making tacos. It crsips up any fat on it, and helps cook off any extra liquid. After that, it’s all up to you. I do corn tortillas, Professor and Mini like flour. You can dice up some onion, and cilantro, and slice some limes. (The acid in the limes helps cut through the fat.) I use the Herdez Taqueria salsa, which is red and has a smoky flavor it it. The Professor like the green avocado one they do. (And so do I, it’s really good. So is their tomatillo salsa. This is my go to brand for not making my own.) Or make some fresh pico de gallo and throw that on. Sky’s the limit my friends. No pictures, because it’s hard to make it look pretty, but man I wish you could smell my house right now, and that is really not something I say often. Here’s a cat instead.

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Brave Sir Robin demands barbacoa. Or anything else you might be eating. If you would just let her climb in the fridge, that would be great, thanks.

Pho time! It’s a lazy Sunday, so I have more than an hour to get it done, which means I have to rely less on some of the quick bits in the Serious Eats recipe. I’m skipping the ground chuck, mostly because I hate the idea of tossing it after using it for stock, especially when I found perfectly good stock bones at the store for once. (Never ever do they have them. So frustrating.) Instead, I’m diligently skimming. I have this tiny strainer that is about sized to sit on a coffee cup. No idea where it came from, it’s just one of those things I’ve had forever. Possibly it’s from one of the times I broke a french press and decided to look into other options for my cold brew? (Mason jar and then straining directly into the glass I think this was. … It did not work great.)

  • Ingredients:
    • 3 whole star anise pods
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 4 cloves
    • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth, plus some water
    • 1 ounce (four packets) powdered gelatin
    • 2 cups of water
    • 1 smallish (mine was maybe 5 inches) hand ginger, quartered
    • 1 medium onion, sliced into thick rings
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/4 cup fish sauce
    • Oil, I used olive
    • 2 pounds rib bones, with some meat on them
    • 2 pounds chuck roast
    • To Serve:
    • 1 box rice noodles, the wide flat kind, prepared according to package directions
    • A bunch of cilantro, basil, and thai basil
    • Bean sprouts
    • Scallions
    • Limes
    • Sriracha
    • Hoisin

Process:

  1. I had time and rib bones, so I decided to make stock. Heat up some oil in the bottom of a stock pot, and brown the ribs. What I had was two or three inch chunks that were probably the leftovers from the butcher doing up packs of ribs. Some of them had pretty good sized bits of meat on them. Work in batches, don’t crowd the pan. Generally, I ignore that advice, dump it all in, and hope for the best. I didn’t this time, and I’m glad.
  2. Add the ribs and cover with the chicken broth. I added about two cups of water because the broth didn’t cover the bones. I also threw in a good sized pinch of salt. A couple of tablespoons? IDK, y’all. I mostly make things up as I go along. If you’re trying to cook off my directions and are a beginner, ask me questions in the comments. Otherwise, y’all are making beef stock, but don’t go throwing in anything other than the salt.
  3. Bring it to a boil and turn it down to a simmer, and let it go for about 3 hours.
  4. Wander into the kitchen every half hour or so and skim off the gunk from the top.
  5. At about 2 1/2 hours, remember there are more steps to this whole thing and they take time to do.
  6. Put the chuck roast in the freezer for about 15 minutes to facilitate slicing.
  7. While the chuck is chilling, slice up your onion and ginger and put it under the broiler. Probably not on parchment paper like I did, because that gets sort of burnt. (But didn’t actually catch on fire, so it’s not the worst kitchen decision I’ve ever made.) Keep an eye on it. My onion charred nicely, but the ginger just sort of looked dried out. When one side is getting a nice black on, go ahead and flip it.
  8. While the aromatics are charring, get the spices (cinnamon, anise, coriander, cloves) together. I don’t have cheesecloth, but I do have a ton of coffee filters. I tied mine with kitchen twine (why do I have that? No freaking clue!), but you can probably staple it shut. I just dropped the cinnamon stick in, because it wasn’t going to fit in my little spice bag. Add to the pot.
  9. Dump the gelatin packs into 2 cups of water to bloom. Stir a bit to make sure it’s all submerged. Get distracted and start playing with it. Go back to cooking.
  10. Realize that the chuck isn’t going to fit in the stock pot with the bones, and it’s been about three hours, and the bones have given up about all they’re going to anyway. Use tongs to pull them out. Have a helper (I used a husband feeling guilty about playing video games while I was in the kitchen) remove any meat from the bones and add it back to the pot. Careful, it’s hot. Be sure to pull any gristle that hasn’t broken down. If it hasn’t yet, it isn’t going to.
  11. The gelatin should be properly bloomed, dump it in.
  12. Also add in the fish sauce and sugar.
  13. And the ginger and onion.

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    Everything is in. Pretty? No. But oh man it smelled good.

  14. Slice the chuck roast thinly, and probably about 1 inch long slices. This entirely depends on what you feel like trying to eat. Definitely remove as much silver skin as possible, and large chunks of fat. Add to the pot.
  15. By now, all of the ingredients should be in your stock pot, except for the”To serve” stuff.
  16. Bring to a boil and back down to a simmer. Let it simmer about 45 minutes to an hour.
  17. Again with the wandering in and skimming.
  18. The noodles should take about 8 to 10 minutes to rehydrate. So, about 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat, get started on that. Also on slicing up scallions. img_20170101_182713
  19. Put your noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Ladle soup in on top.
  20. Add your chosen add ins.
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    My bowl. Not pictured, the healthy amount of sriracha I added.

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    Mini’s bowl. It’s mostly bean sprouts. And one leaf of cilantro for “garnish.”

So very good. I was doubtful, because I don’t always nail stuff like this on the first go, but this is amazing. Even Mini really liked it, and she’s generally iffy on food as a whole, unless it’s pepperoni and crackers. Next time I will probably let it cook with the chuck and spices a little longer. I’m also getting some cheese cloth, or maybe one of those reusable bags for this sort of thing, because the cinnamon fell apart. It wasn’t horrible, but it happened. I might also go with 4 anise stars, and 5 cloves. I wanted just a little bit more out of those. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m working with about 4 more cups of liquid than the original recipe called for, or if it’s just my personal taste. It could just be that my brain is looking for things to fuss with, because how could I get it so right on the first go. (More fish sauce? But that’s totally me. I love fish sauce.) To put it away, I put all the meat in one container and the broth into mason jars on its own. (I got a canning funnel, and seriously, one of the best kitchen things I have. It combined with the mini strainer made separating meat and broth super easy.) I also could have probably done less meat. IDK. Go with how meaty you like your pho. I love the gelatin trick, and I am probably going to be using that one in the future for other soups.

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Brave Sir Robin patiently waiting for her bowl to appear before her. 

Our new year started with our family together, a roof over our heads, and plenty of tasty food. All in all, not a bad beginning.

Obligatory New Year Post

2016 dawned cold and rainy, but it dawned. The arbitrary designation of a new year has come. Thank gods. I can’t think of a moment in 2015 where I had things under control. In the spring, money was tight because I wasn’t teaching. Then it all went to hell with death after death. Summer was crazy as Professor Furious and I worked on the same play, which is not a thing we are repeating, even though the money was nice. This fall I taught three  classes, had it confirmed that I will never be more than an adjunct here, had a kidney stone that led to the discovery of an even larger kidney stone that required outpatient hospital visit three hours from home because Small Town doesn’t have any urologists and spent the last two months in distracting amounts of pain, and made the decision to homeschool Mini because I’m back down to one class in the spring and American medical bills are no joke. I’m clinging to a clean slate with both hands.
Here’s the big plan:
Homeschool Mini and pray I don’t fuck it up.
Figure out what I really want to be doing and put my energy there.
Teach the fuck out of that one class I do have this spring.
Drink so much water.
Work on the house in anticipation of selling it because we can’t live in small town much longer.
Write more at all.

Do these pants make my parenting look bad?

I told Mini she looked cute this morning, and that she’d done a good job of picking out her outfit. And then I paused. We’re not supposed to tell them they’re cute anymore, right? Because we don’t want our girls to grow up thinking only their looks have value? But then I thought of all the other things I’ve told her in the last day or so: That I was proud of her for getting a 100 on her spelling test. (And that maybe we should ask about harder words. Pointlessly, since she can usually spell something perfectly once she’s seen it written.) I told her she’s hilarious. Odds are good I called her a drama princess. (Not a day goes by without a pratfall from this kid. She did her first spit take last week.) We’ve talked about the kind of scientist she wants to be, and if she was ready to start guitar lessons up again. (Her teacher found a full time job and isn’t doing lessons anymore. Small Town does not have a lot of guitar teachers in it, and the ones I’ve heard of don’t take kids her age.)

I told her I liked her outfit because of an argument we had early this week, while getting ready for school. We hadn’t picked out her clothes the night before, so I had to trust her judgement while I made her lunch. Always a hit or miss prospect. That day was a miss. A really cute watercolor-y floral chiffon top all flowy and girly, and camo print basketball shorts. All the important bits were covered. The shorts came from the “boys” section, so they went down to her knees instead of barely covering her butt. The shirt wasn’t sheer, and even had a little built in shrug thing. But I couldn’t do it. I pulled out the leggings that actually came with the shirt and a regular tshirt.

“You can change the shorts or you can change the shirt,” I said.

Mini threw herself to the floor screaming, “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?” in a way that would put Shatner to shame.

So, you know, how most of our conversations go when I ask her to do something. Eventually, she changed into the leggings. And that’s why I think it’s important for me, as her mother, to tell her when she’s cute, when she picked out a good outfit. She has to learn about picking out clothes that are appropriate. And sure, chiffon and camo are probably perfectly fine for Montessori. But someday she won’t be there. Someday she’ll be trying to figure out what the fuck business casual means. She’ll be trying to pick something out for a dinner, or a date, or just to hang out with her friends at the mall. That should not be a painful or difficult choice. This is why I fought for her right to not wear a uniform. We don’t live in some dystopian military society, not yet. Picking out clothing is a skill, and it can be a hard one to learn. (Especially for girls, given the higher expectations for them when it comes to fashion.) So yes, I’ll tell her she looks cute, but that’s not all.

I hate not having the right words. It feels like a personal failing as a writer. Like why did I go into debt with that MFA if shit goes down and I can only stand there thinking “Oh fuck.” But that’s where the last couple of months have left me.

It started with Professor Furious working on a fairly demanding show. In addition to being in charge of the build, he was doing the set and lighting design. Nothing terribly unsual around here, really. I’m used to it at this point. I miss him when shows go into tech, but I know that it will eventually close and things reset. My parents were beginning their move to Small Town from Hawaii, anyway, and so I made plans to drive back home with Mini and my mom for spring break. Professor would be in the midst of the worst of the crunch, and I generally make it a policy to straight up get us out of his hair come tech week if I can. But then my aunt Noemi, who is essentially my second mother, took a fall and went into the hospital. So I pulled Mini out of school the week before spring break, and we rushed home as soon as we could. Here’s the thing, Noemi has always been the active one. I don’t necessarily mean like hiking and sporty stuff, but fiercely independent and lived for her work and her nieces and nephews. Maybe not the active one, the feisty one. She was 75 and demanding her laptop so she could work from her hospital bed.

WordPress tells me I started this two months ago. I don’t want to go into the whole hospital and then hospice thing. I don’t want to tell the whole story, but I don’t know how not to tell the whole story. But it was hard, and it was terrible. Dad finally flew in the Friday of Spring Break. I think Mini and I drove back on Sunday. A nine hour drive, just me and the six year old. We got stuck in traffic on I10 for an hour, though, so more like ten, thanks to a pretty terrible looking accident. And as we got closer to home, in the dark, in the nearly middle of nowhere, I saw flashing lights ahead, and assumed the troopers had nailed someone speeding to or from Spring Break. But no, it was a really fancy looking rv that had burned out on the side of the road. There were no more flames, just a charred frame on the back three-quarters only illuminated by the still flashing lights of the cruisers and fire trucks and road flares.

We got home and I realized our eight year old cat, Bentley, didn’t look great and smelled terrible. I thought it was his teeth bothering him. Professor Furious was only home to sleep, usually at midnight or later, thanks to the show, so he hadn’t noticed. We talked about the possibility of needing to pull some of his teeth and how much that would cost and how we’d do it anyway because we loved him.

Mom and Dad came a day or two later. We talked about Mimi and I said I didn’t think it would be a week. I think it was Wednesday that we got the call that it wouldn’t be long, about ten thirty or eleven at night. So we decided to just go. I hadn’t even unpacked yet, so I threw in clean underwear and I thought funeral clothes, but apparently I grabbed them and put them down again somewhere, because they were nowhere to be found when we got to my brother’s house. I still don’t know where they are. We drove and drove, it was so late and we were exahusted. I told the Professor what was happening via text message, because he was at work and it was midnight and we couldn’t wait for him any longer. And the call came a while later, after I had switched off driving duties with my mom. The sun finally came up, and my dad could drive, and before we were even home, in the town that will always be home, the calls and texts from my cousins began. The usual funeral planning things.

It all went moderately terribly, since my family is the worst at communication and the best at passive aggression. And we came back to Small Town before the rosary, before the funeral. And I picked up Bentley, my living stuffed animal, who usually clocked in at about 18 pounds and it was like lifting air. He’d lost two-thirds of his body weight, and the next day the vet told me he was in severe kidney failure. His numbers were all double or triple the acceptable limits. He stayed for a few days, as they pushed fluids and hoped to flush his system. Finally we brought him home, and he held on for a week, though I didn’t see him eat that entire time. And finally we called the vet and she came and we said good bye to him here at home.

A week or so later, we found out that one of our World of Warcraft guildmates, who we’d known for ten years, had passed away. A heart attack at 46. I still expect to hear his voice on Vent or see him in guild chat. It’s easy to stay in the denial phases when you can just tell yourself he works weird hours and just hasn’t been on at the same time you are.

A couple of weeks later, at the Earth Day celebration, we saw some dogs from the shelter and decided to adopt a sweet girl who’d been at the shelter for almost two years. Our dog Dyson needed a friend. He was a Catahoula-Pit Bull mix, we think. He had that big dumb love baby head and weighed close to sixty pounds but wanted to be a lapdog, and he loved other dogs. You may have noticed the use of the past tense. Galaxy got along great with Dyson, ignored the cats, and basically needed to be within a foot of me at all times. I was her person and she was going to protect me. From everyone. Finally, after a week of her nipping at Mini -catching her on the face once, though she didnt’ even break the skin- and barking at the Professor every time he came in the room, we decided we couldn’t keep her. She was sweet and loving and loyal, but only to me. That evening Dyson managed to get the back gate open. I called and called, and there was a storm rolling in and he was scared of them so I thought of course he’d come home. Galaxy came running as soon as I stepped outside, but he didn’t. And finally we gave up and left the back gate open, but I had a feeling. Sure enough, the next morning Animal Control -run by a group of the sweetest girls you will ever meet- called. He’d been hit, and they’d picked him up about twenty minutes before I noticed the gate was open. It was right behind our house. I went to bed and didn’t leave until it was time to pick up his ashes the next day. I basically traded Galaxy for Dyson’s collar and ashes. (She’s got a potential foster home, though. I talked to them about her, and they seemed like they weren’t deterred by anything I said. I hope she makes it.)

Loss loss loss… And I haven’t been able to begin to talk about it until now. Even so, I’ve cried a good bit while writing this. But I had to. There have been other things I’ve wanted to post about: the garden we slapped together on a whim because the hardware store had a huge plant sale, finding a solution for the clothes that aren’t quite dirty but it feels weird to put away and so they live sort of on the floor next to the hampers, my new job, etc.. But I felt like I couldn’t until I said all of this. Now that I’ve said it, I can try and move on. Well, now that I’ve said it, started going to therapy, and gotten a booster perscription of anti-depressants and refilled my anti-anxiety meds. (Did I mention that perscription ran out, totally out no more refills, have to find time to go in to the doctor’s office, right before all of this happened?) Oh and a couple of weeks ago, we got these two:

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Makenzie and Brave Sir Robin. So expect ridiculous kitten pictures and stories.

Sometimes it’s the big things

In my last post I mentioned that I used wood leftover from building Mini’s bed. Let’s talk some more about that! Up until now she’s mostly slept in a full-sized bed that originally belonged to my great grandparents. It’s a piece of boarding house furniture that’s lasted longer than it was probably meant to. It’s been refinished a couple of times, and passed back and forth in my family quite a bit. It went from my great-grandparents in Iowa to my grandmother in Texas to my parents to Professor Furious and I in our first apartments then to Mini. It went with us to Minnesota and back. And y’all, I have to admit, it’s mostly because nobody wanted to be the person who got rid of the bed. At first I held onto it because it had been mine at Grandma’s house and it made me think of her. Now I’ve gotten to the point where I think about her in other ways, and also a chunk of one of the feet just flat fell off when we made the move to Small Town. And while a full size bed has been nice for Mini with regards to bedtime stories and cuddling when she’s sick, it takes up floor space and I wanted her to have something she chose. I don’t want her to have some ridiculous guilt about being the one to get rid of the bed when she’s in her twenties. Then, through a friend of mine, I found Ana White’s website. If you don’t know, it’s chock full of woodworking plans. Most of them fairly basic, all of them completely doable when your husband builds theatre sets for a living. And by doable I mean it’s really easy to hand him the plans and say, “This, please.”

The concept of a loft bed for Mini has been kicking around in my brain since I took her on an IKEA trip a couple of years ago and she was totally fascinated by the ones set up in the store. Y’all, we live so far away from an IKEA now. Plus I knew we could totally build one. It’s a platform that you put a mattress on. Approximately 90% of building set pieces involves building platforms. So I poked around the Ana White site and found this junior camp loft bed. Finally, over Christmas break, Professor Furious had the time to poke at the plans, order the wood, and build it. Now here is where I’d have a bunch of amazing in progress shots for you if I was a better blogger. But we were building it out at the shop, which is unheated, and it was in the 30s. I was more interested in moving fast than taking pictures. The cold did slow down the build, though, since it took the wood glue longer to cure, and also the wood got a little rained on when it got delivered. (Alas, we are still without a truck of our own.)

I probably should have made her bed before I took this, but I was so excited that it was done that I couldn't wait.

I probably should have made her bed before I took this, but I was so excited that it was done that I couldn’t wait.

As you can see, clean up wasn’t even finished (drill, lower left corner) before she started hanging out and playing in the under area. We skipped the stairs in favor of a ladder style simply to save a little time and money. I think it’s also good for her to practice her climbing skills. Adding the steps if she had too much trouble climbing up and down was totally left as a possibility, but it hasn’t been a problem. Her little cousin J might have a problem, but that’s what milk crates are for.

Fort mode!

Fort mode!

Mini has a thing for forts and “camping,” so I knew that was an aspect that would definitely be explored. I’m going to hit up the thrift stores and see if I can’t find some cheap plain white sheets. I have plans for making curtains that are a little more permanent, and also a little more fun. I’m envisioning scenes and windows, and am basically all around trying to bite off more than I can chew. It’ll be fun! 20150209_154529You can see were’s using some of the space for a toy box. My mom suggested adding shelves there, but seriously, she has enough shelves. Mini camped in here over the weekend. I think she maybe wanted an air mattress, but I was so mean and made her use our Sumo Omni instead. Now that we’re back to school nights and she has to sleep up in her bed, the Omni makes a good bedtime story spot so that I don’t have to climb up. The bed completely supports my 300 pounds (I had Professor Furious way overbuild it), but that is a narrow space for getting up there. Plus, I like forts! Right now we’re lighting it with a little headlamp, but I want to pick up some mini-lanterns or some other super cute lighting. In the end, it’s not exactly the end because we still need to paint it, but it’s up and Mini is super happy. I’m okay with calling it good where it is,. It’s built, it’s anchored to the wall, and the kiddo is not climbing into our bed nearly as often as she was before. I’m looking forward to the next project, a dining table. If you have any technical questions, comment below and I will poke the professor for answers.

Can I borrow a cup of yak milk?

Y’all, I screwed up. Not like the worst screw up ever, but it’s a dumb mistake that could have been avoided with like two minutes of thought. Mini’s class is studying Asia, and so they all had to pick a country. Of course she was out the day they picked, so her first choice of Japan went to another kid. Which, fine, whatever. She loves Japan and is fine learning about it all on her own. There are only six kids in her class, so there’s still plenty of Asia to go around. Japan, China, Russia, Turkey and India were all taken. Her teacher told me to just pick something cool with her. My heart said Thailand. My stupid stupid brain said let her do her own picking. Then, for some god awful reason, same brain steered her to towards Mongolia. What was I thinking?

I was thinking Mongolia is a really cool place with ponies, and yurts, and falconers who hunt with giant eagles. I was thinking about how there’s a like 5% chance everyone is related to Genghis Khan. I was not thinking about how these cultural appreciation lessons usually work. We have to bring in a meal from her country, or at least inspired by the food they eat, on Friday. And it turns out Mongolian beef isn’t actually Mongolian. Go figure.

Do you know what they eat in Mongolia? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really need to know. We watched the Bizarre Foods episode where he goes to Mongolia. Not super helpful. It’s all forms of milk curd and intestines and sheep head. Not a lot of dried cheese curd to be had in Small Town. Shockingly low on sheep heads as well. The internet has been less than helpful, giving me the same three dumping recipes over and over. They’re potsticker-esque, but filled with ground beef and nothing else. I’d go with those, except for the part where I have made potstickers before and oh man is it tedious. The lazier bit of me is thinking of a cheese plate with some crackers and cured meat of some kind. You know, really lay on the “inspired by” wording of the assignment. Add some pickled veggies, because apparently a lot of their vegetables are pickled due to the whole largely nomadic lifestyle thing. Or I make Mongolian beef because obviously it must have been inspired by Mongolia at some point, right?

This is a difficult parenting impasse. Basically I can do something authentic, something “inspired” by, or something that I know is utter Western bullshit but is easy. How much does it matter? I’m doing the research and cooking here, not Mini. Okay, not entirely true, she watched Bizarre Foods with me, and then sat on my lap while I googled Mongolian recipes. But there isn’t exactly a grade on the line here. (Yay Montessori schools!) I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I pretty much have to decide tonight. I have learned one thing though: never listen to my brain.

Sometimes it’s the little things

It’s been a while! I had a Halloween post started, and then WordPress ate it, and then I got discouraged, and then Thanksgiving was ridiculous, and winter break was moreso, and the weather said nope to all my outside plans, and I have little things I’ve been doing, but nothing major, and here we are. I’m not teaching this semester, which means our budget is quite a bit tighter than I’d like. But I’m still trying to make changes that make things better.

One of the things I love about our house, that absolutely sold me on it, is our storage, especially the storage in our kitchen. Our last house was a rental and sort of a cookie cutter budget deal. (Literally, I knew a few people who had our exact house. And you could tell from the front that there were several more of it in our neighborhood.) The kitchen was set up weirdly and had about four square feet of counter space. So you can imagine what the storage situation was like. We unpacked the bare essentials and left everything else in boxes in the garage for the year we were there. But this house. Oh I love my house. Our kitchen isn’t the biggest ever, but we have counter space. And the cabinets! So many cabinets! We’ve unpacked everything and we have *multiple* empty cabinets. The mixing bowls aren’t even nested, each one has its own spot. But there’s always something, isn’t there?

We’ve got a drawer full of spices, but the bigger canisters live in cabinet. A cabinet where they fall on my head when I’m rummaging for the thing I need that is always at the very back of the shelf. So what’s a mostly broke Pinterest-loving girl to do? We just built Mini a new bed (another post! Soon!), and there were some leftover bits of wood.

20150123_155633I snagged a couple of pieces of 2×4 that are about 22 inches long. I had some contact paper kicking around from an old project, and so I decided to go ahead and use that the cover the boards. Why 22 inches? That’s how long they were and it happened to fit pretty well. Now a word about contact paper: it’s a pain in the ass. I got this one because I liked the pattern, but also because it said it’s repositionable. The repositionable part comes from the adhesive not being so sticky. The problem is, they made it too much less sticky and it comes up a lot. Super annoying and I probably won’t go that route again. I cut enough to wrap each board like a present, and then secured each seam with a piece of tape. Seriously, they sat on the counter for two minutes while I emptied the cabinet and it started coming off.

So here’s where the clever part comes in, you stand one board up so it’s tall and then set the other board so it’s not so tall for stair steppy tiers. I have no idea where I first saw this. It’s probably been on Pinterest a hundred times. Hell, I may have read it in a Helpful Hints from Heloise column when I was Mini’s age. (I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house where there were two volumes of fairy tales, a copy of Tom Sawyer, and lots of Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping. I was probably the only eight year old to read Erma Bombeck’s books. Sometimes I say things like this and then realize things about my personality make more sense.) So anyway here’s the in-progress, just so you can see the board placement:

So very exciting, I know.

So very exciting, I know.

These are all our taller bottles the little teeny ones live in the drawer along with the odd-shaped stuff, extra ramen seasoning packets, and Pizza Hut parmesan and red pepper flake packets. But the problem is some of the taller things are a lot taller.20150123_162504So even with the extra height it was hard to tell what was what for the stuff in the back. I used a fine tip silver paint pen to label the spices with black lids, and red Sharpie for the rest. Yes, you can see the labels for the chili powder and comino, but I don’t know what will eventually be shuffled where, so I went ahead and labelled them. They say open because we have multiple jars of both of those, so I can tell easily which I need to grab. Why do we have multiples? Our grocery store has cruddy selection when it comes to spices and also doesn’t carry Fiesta, so when we make the two-hour trek to HEB, we stock up. And yes, we do go through them fairly quickly.

Would all of this be better with fancy uniform spice bottles? Sure. But fancy uniform things cost money, and I already had everything here on hand. Was it worth it to go to the trouble of covering the boards with contact paper? Maybe not, since you can’t really see it. I like knowing it’s there, but definitely not something I would have bought specifically for this project. All in all, it was free(ish), and took me about ten minutes. Now when I open the door I won’t have things falling on my head, and it looks a lot nicer. It’s not the biggest thing ever, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. I think that’s something I need to work on keeping in mind with regards to the house. There are big expensive things we really want to do, but that doesn’t mean we should knock out the easy little things.

Backyard Progress

When we moved in the backyard was pretty sad. So was the front yard, actually. They were both pretty dead looking. Then the rains came. And kept coming. My understanding is that we had an extended rainy season this year. Unfortunately, this means that since about the only things growing in our yard were weeds, those’re what went wild.

Also pictured, the mini fence inside the yard.

The stone building just on the other side of the fence is a church. You might think that would do something about the amount of cursing I did while pulling weeds. It didn’t, but I felt a little guilty. (Mostly because across the street from the church is our high school, and I could hear kids outside while I was working.)

The bulk of what you’re seeing here are goatheads and tumbleweeds. We don’t have a mower yet, so things got quite out of hand. I picked up a weeding hoe, thinking I could at least get rid of some of the goatheads before we got someone to come in and take care of the rest of it. Two horrible days later I had only managed to clear a 10′ by 20′ bit of the yard that really didn’t have much on it. So we called in help. Thank gods. Not only did they mow, but they also took out all the dead trees. (Four of them, three of which were unnervingly close to the house.) And they cut the trees down into firewood. All well worth it and done in a fraction of the time it would have taken us.

Mini has been wanting to play soccer in the yard. We can finally say yes without worrying about what's lurking out there.

Mini has been wanting to play soccer in the yard. We can finally say yes without worrying about what’s lurking out there.

We still need to grab some burlap or carpet scraps to drag over the yard to pick up as many burrs as possible. Hopefully it will cut down on a resurgence of goatheads. What will also help will be putting in some ground cover of some sort, either grass or maybe a clover. Goatheads don’t do well with competition, so if we can get something else to take hold that’ll be great.

Now that it’s mowed, and with the benefit of the weather getting cooler, we can start working on the things that need doing. Building raised beds are fairly high on the list. We’ve got a ton of shade on the east side of the house, thanks to a well established shade tree in our neighbor’s yard. There’ll be one bed there for more delicate things that won’t handle the height of desert summer so well. Then, on the west side, we’ll do a bed or two for things that need more sun.

Also on the list is a firepit. Nothing better than a fire under the stars. Of course, that means picking up some seating for around said firepit. Mini wants us to build her a ninja fort. We’ll probably go full swingset while we’re at it. That girl loves to swing. The fence is… well, the previous owner replaced some sections of it right before we bought it, but really the whole thing needs replacing. It’s all rickety and the gates are all in fairly terrible shape. Fortunately, the worst one is on the smallest section. I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult to replace. And then we need to walk the whole fence and look for any low bits, and possibly just put hardware cloth all the way around. Small Town doesn’t have a lot in the way of traffic, but we do live on a relatively busy street, and just where people feel comfortable starting to go faster than they would more in town. I want the yard as puppy safe as possible.

There’s a lot to be done, but at least now it all feels like it can be done.