About Bikes And Babies And Love

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The Amgen Tour of California has come and gone for the 8th time. Once again, we made the trek to watch it start in Livermore. Thankfully we scored the perfect spot for watching the riders pass by and grabbing some lunch. 

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(also home to the Livermore Rodeo, now in its 95th year!)

Unlike past years where the stages have progressed from Northern California to Southern California, this year they reversed it. It made for grueling climbs on hot days through Palm Dessert at the start, but gorgeous weather toward the end. Amgen Tour of California, Stage 7 start in Livermore

After the tour, it was time to SHOWER BABY. Peanut and I made our way to San Jose ('cuz we know the way, duh), and attended the baby shower for my teeny tiny even whilst preggo niece. How teeny tiny? Put it this way, the girl is smaller around than my hips and she's due next month, which was confirmed during that toilet paper game. I lost. That's what I get for using my own ass to measure things. Note to self.

My niece opening gifts at her baby shower while her mama and my girl assist.

Could she be cuter? No. No she could not.

(proud granny and Peanut in the background—also cute, for the record)

Proudest auntie-to-be! I might remember being a little excited about HER arrival WAY back when.

Niece's sister, also a niece, and PROUDEST AUNTIE TO BE

(also totes adorable, for the record)

The Ladies

My most favoritest picture from that day.

The Ladies.

Quite possibly the most loving, accepting group of women you will ever know. I am thankful for every moment I've had knowing them, and I've known three of them since before they became them (including the fourth one who was hiding on the other side of the camera). Bob's sister is amazing, in her own right—not only for how she has handled the loss of her baby brother—but for how she handles everything. Her compassion and love inspire me. Her brother loved like that, too. It's a rare thing to love people with abandon. It's a gift to be loved like that. It's a greater gift to love others that way.

 

 


Phoning It In With Faux Toes

Each bloom reminds her she is alive—they breathe together.

I've fallen for the air-plant thing all the cool kids are doing. Looks like one might actually bloom. File under: thing I've keep living.

Letting go was what allowed her to grow in ways she'd never dreamed possible.

The only difference is that sometimes I put mine in Etsy-inspired doll parts. Blame the cat lady thrift store. They sold a basketful of them for a pittance.

Sometimes it's about returning to that place that feeds you.

The hills surrounding one of my favorite Tassajara barns are all but brown now. The sun has turned up her thermostat to Hotter than Hell this week.

Bay Bridge

I never tire of driving over this bridge. Every time is breathtaking.

Celebrating Life: Bob's Birthday

You would have been forty-three this year. We spent your last birthday together in the hospital; it was your 40th. Inpatient chemo in Santa Clara, I think. Or was that Christmas. No, I think Christmas was in Hayward.

These are the details that get blurry for me, and I'm not sure why I want them to be important, because they aren't. You'd laugh that I think they should be. We weren't about birthdays or holidays or the events. We were about the everyday moments. That's why we worked as a couple for all those years. So this past weekend, for you and for me and for life, I celebrated outside in the world around me.

One Barb

Follow

Triple Gall

InorOut

2 Barbs

Ascending a Sugarloaf

Ridge Top Trail

Loookout

Panorama - Ridge

Mt Diablo in the Backdrop

Peeking Peaking

Three Barbs

I miss you every day, and I thank you.

Thank you for letting me love you, for loving me, and for being an amazing father, husband, son, brother, and friend. Thank you for being real, and flawed, and human and for letting me be the same. Thank you for sharing over half your life with me, growing up together and not apart; learning how to be partners and parents together; make mistakes, and fix them. Thank you for teaching our children, loving our children, and inspiring them.

Thank you for showing me how a marriage and partnership can work, so that I knew what to expect for and of myself and of someone else in the next go 'round. Thank you for teaching me how to give to someone else, love someone else, care for someone else in his hour of need, and figure out what matters in life, so that there are no regrets at the end of the day.

And thank you for our children—they continue to be the light of my world, the pain in my ass, the laughter in my day, the love of my life, and the two most uniquely different expressions of the same genetic material to be enjoyed under one roof. Thank you. Eternally, in the truest sense, grateful. 

Thurston Howell or Bob?  You make the call.

 

 

 

 



The To Done List: It Will Change Your Life, Probably

I don't do To Do lists. They depress me. They loom large. I make them endless. I make them long. I make them unwieldy. 

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But crossing things off feels good. That sense of accomplishment? It's delicious—a beacon of hope.

Whether you like your lists handwritten, on your iPhone, or in your head, a list of accomplished tasks does something to your brain like nothing else. I GOT THAT STUFF DONE.

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Enter the To Done List.

Or: SHIT I ACTUALLY DID DO TODAY.

The next time you get to the end of your day feeling defeated try this: sit down and make a list of everything you did accomplish during the day. Everything. When you are someone with chronic illness or young children or just your average person trying to keep it all together, this is an important exercise in remembering you didn't do nothing today. Hell, try it right now. I don't care if you are still lying in bed. You read this, didn't you? Let's do this. 

Life as a passenger.

Here's my list so far:

  • washed dog bedding
  • put on dog's coat
  • moved son's laundry to dryer
  • reorganized cat food and litter box
  • ordered laundry soap
  • ordered halloween costume accessories
  • emailed one doctor, booked appointment with another
  • work-related research project
  • photographed items for future blog posts
  • put new blanket in dog crate
  • chatted with friends for a bit
  • talked with my son about weekend plans
  • ate breakfast & lunch
  • did a load of our laundry
  • got dressed, brushed my hair and teeth, and left the house
  • picked kids up from school
  • took kids to extracurricular activities
  • helped kids with homework
  • unpacked boxes
  • went on a nature walk with one of the kids
  • took more photos for family stuff
  • moved portable heater/fireplace
  • put away china in kitchen
  • straightened up in kitchen/dining room
  • helped kids with laundry
  • ate dinner
  • edited photos
  • updated family calendar
  • dealt with some email stuff
  • worked on blog-related work for about an hour (writing, editing, photos, emails, ads, social media etc.)
  • repaired iTunes library issues on phone

Oh, and posted to my blog. That, too. Calling this day wrapped. Catch y'all next time. Enjoy the fall colors. Damn trees are showing off like crazy around here.

Downtown was showing off yesterday. #latergram

 

 

 

It's Tuesday: Lazy Tacos And Getting Rid Of Paper

Mishing and mashing is what this is going to be, because I just don't have it in me to make a thematic post. I have three or four incredible well thought out and written posts, all of which are ¾'s of the way completed, which means they'll never see the light of day. In lieu of writing yet another one of those, I'm doing this post. Enjoy.

I made the tastiest whole chicken the other day, and I don't think I told anybody about it except one friend and it was just too easy and yummy not to share here. 

Whole Chicken in Crock Pot

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons paprika (I used a blend of chili powder instead of paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (I was out of thyme, I have no idea how, but I was, so I used some oregano, I think)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper (I used a blend of chili powder instead of cayenne)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large chicken

Directions

  1. Combine the dried spices in a small bowl.
  2. Loosely chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Remove any giblets from the chicken and then rub the spice mixture all over. You can even put some of the spices inside the cavity and under the skin covering the breasts.
  4. Put prepared chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it on to high. There is no need to add any liquid.
  5. Cook for 4 – 5 hours (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Don’t forget to make your homemade stock with the leftover bones ! (I fucked up this part, because, well, I did. Shh…don't tell. I'll get it right next time.)

I used this recipe, with some modifications, because rules are hard. Anyway, once the chicken was done, it fell right off the bones as promised. I served it with spanish rice, beans, and tortillas. It was so moist and delicious. To die for yummy. The kids loved it, too. So easy.

I have been playing with some new apps you might enjoy. One is called Typic. It allows you to add typography to photos. It includes a few in-app filters, as well, and exports photos to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, or your phone's camera. Here are samples of a couple of shots I've created. 

Drive

Autumn #typic

Kind of fun, right?

The next apps are actually my secret to a paper-reduced world. I've used them for a while, but they keep improving, and I don't know what I'd do without them. I am severely paper-averse. I hate filing. I hate managing paper. I hate trying to search through the mountains of paper produced by a large family. Our answer is making sure as much of our paper as possible is converted to searchable PDFs and, unless we absolutely need to keep a hard copy, it's shredded/tossed. Better yet, it never becomes a piece of paper. How do we do it? 

First, we use an app called SignEasy (available for iPhone and Android). This allows us to sign and fill out any forms or paper we receive without having to print them out. I know, crazy. SignEasy is my BFF. Once I have signed the forms, I convert them to a PDF or JPG, save them to DropBox or another service of my choice, email them, "fax" them, or print them wirelessly to my Epson printer (God forbid). If it's a document that doesn't arrive in an online format (like something the kids bring home from school or a something received via snail mail, I simply take a photo to "scan" it using an app called TurboScan. TurboScan and SignEasy work well together, and both communicate with DropBox and email. I can literally fill out contracts, sign them, and return them without touching a pen, paper, fax, or envelope. Plus, they're legible. Bonus!

Alrighty, that's all the wisdom and beauty I have to impart on you today, kids. Go stick some words on your pictures and sign some stuff with your phone. Maybe toss a chicken in the crockpot. Until we meet again.

 

 

Phoning It In WIth Faux Toes

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We went for a short run during Peanut's riding time this week. So nice to get our run in early before the heat hit.

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My cabana boy does good work. He's passionate about his job. Also, easy on the eyes. 

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Sometimes you are left questioning the budget of certain retailers whose catalogs arrive in your mailbox. Way to buck that economic downturn, Needless Markup! 

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Life. Lemons. Vodka.

Thank you for stopping in for this installment of "Phoning it in with Faux Toes."

It's All Good In The Garden

Garden Porn #organic #garden #stuffigrew #noms

The garden is in full swing. We have tomatoes on the verge of ripeness—my first foray into the heirloom varietals, and I can't wait! Our snow peas have been producing just enough to keep the kids picking and eating them before we can get them to the house, which makes my heart all melty. Honestly, I'd be happy if all of the garden treats were eaten by the kids before they make it indoors. Isn't that the fun of having a garden? (Plus, I'm just as guilty of picking and eating when I'm out there tending to things.) Today's haul was a basket full of zucchini. The kids were ready to eat it raw, but I held them off with strawberries.

Fairy gardens #casabestogether

The fairy gardens are holding their own, too. Each one is unique and shows a little bit of the personality of the child who created it. 

 

Nearly Bilingual

So, I bought this house, as you may recall. And because I descend from a long line of people who can't leave a kitchen alone, I decided this house needs a new kitchen, which means I'm learning Swedish.

I'm learning Swedish for #mothersday. They don't have any words. Or women.

In Sweden, there are no women or words. There are only men, sinks, and directional arrows. 

It turns out that these arrows MEAN SOMETHING. 

Back to Sweden. #ikea #kitchen #casabesttogether

This is a "before" shot. Before I spoke Akurum.

I know this now. I know this after building SIXTEEN cabinets. (I still have six to go, but I'm fluent now, so it'll be fine. Also, I discovered how to stay hydrated with beer/water, aka Bud Light.)

Five More #ikea #kitchen

I swear not all of the cabinets are the same, just these five. I think. I hope. Shit.

Eventually, we'll have a sparkly new kitchen, but right now we have a fuckton o' cabinets. Really awesome, well-built cabinets THANK YOU VERY MUCH. 

Oh, and if anyone needs to know how to install IKEA cabinet hinges, I'm your girl. Also, drawers. Oh, and shelves. Akurum. Rationell. Ädel. See? Bilingual. 

And, I look bitchin' in a tool belt, I'll have you know. At least, that's what the 80s throwbacks tell me, because they're the only ones who use bitchin' to talk about how cool they look in a tool belt. Whatever. My man digs it.

Oh, and I planted a tiny organic garden with a little help from the kids. We went with the square-foot approach in the raised bed. For the rest of our plantings, we just worked things in where we could find sunshine and space. With all of these giant pine trees, sunshine is a rare commodity. We managed to squeeze in four tomato plants, a few varieties of basil, some oregano, and some seeds for a few things to see how they do this first year. Oh, and strawberries. You have to have strawberries. I think we'll end up doing a greenhouse at some point since we have a well for water. We'd love to be able to grow goodies year-round and the sunniest part of the yard has a perfect spot for a greenhouse.

Growing things. #garden #herbs #squarefootgarden #raisedbed #organic

Sneaking food into the corners. #maters #herbs #organic #garden

Maters planted. #garden #tomatoes

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Gonna wrap it up with some fig porn. Our fig tree is just so darn happy. Now, if I could figure out why we have only four food-producing trees out of the fifty-plus trees on this lot, I'd be so very happy. Time to fix that. I do not like watering things I can't eat. Gotta get these citrus trees in the ground before we get another heatwave! Mama needs her fresh-squeezed citrus cocktails!

 

 

Bunnies And Birthdays And Such

We had a rather action-packed Spring Break. I forgot to tell y'all what we did, so I've decided to show you, instead.

Have eggs. Let's hunt. #easter

Eggs were hidden

Happy Easter #bettertogether

by sly Easter bunnies.

Another birthday. Another cake. Finishing touches not yet applied. #birthday #cake #butterfly

A birthday girl celebrated her birthday with a specially requested butterfly cake.

Pale Moon #nofilter

And as we returned to our work week, we enjoyed a quiet moment together,

Water—Rockridge

then a lunch of crispy chicken tacos at Cactus (still not a taco truck at the dump, but hey, it's hard to compete with that kind of ambience).

 

 

Here! Raises Hand.

I'm here. Spring Break, 2012. Buried between the dust of new-home preparations and two-year anniversaries and Easter bunnies and taxes that might actually be filed without an extension OH MY WICKET STICKS WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ABOUT?

Totally phoning it in between it all with some photos for you guys since that's what I seem to have at hand even when I'm buried by life:

Mail #photoadayapril

This is our old mailbox at the new house. I installed it next to the playhouse so the kids could get mail. It's been getting non-stop use. We won't discuss how the post-hole digger kicked my ass. No worries about me getting a career building fences anytime soon.

Still the mayor. #dump

I remain Mayor of the Dump on Foursquare. It's astounding just how much crap we throw out, but I'd rather toss it/recycle it than move it. Also, found the worlds best taco truck at the dump. Don't laugh. I know my Mexican food. I know my taco trucks. This one has nearly 5 stars on Yelp. It earned them. SO GOOD. I now salivate when thinking about going to the dump, which is all kinds of disturbing and not what Pavlov had in mind, methinks.

Gardenia down. #casabesttogether

Spring has thrown up all over the place, which includes more gardenias than I can count at the new house. I do so love them. They smell like happiness and not like the dump. I wonder if they'd look strange shoved up my nose.

I'm glad we had this chat. Let's do this again in a few weeks. Maybe I'll find great sushi in a bathroom!

 

 

Treasures In Our Midst

Have you ever been to Treasure Island? We had some business out there yesterday, so we took a little detour around the island and I snapped a few photos I thought you might enjoy. Interesting place. Interesting history. Read about it some time.

Dandy Dogs?

Doggie Diner

Genetic Reclamation Area

Genetic Reclamation Area

No one was watching as she danced. #treasureisland

No one was watching as she danced.

She loved all of him—the tattered and torn bits most of all.

She loved all of him—the tattered and torn bits most of all.

Try, try, again.  #treasureisland #baybridge

Try, try, again.

Before And After Photos

When I look through my pictures, I define them all in my head as before and after photos.

Before Bob died.

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And after.

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I wonder, like one wonders if she looks different after losing her virginity, if I look different to other people after Bob's death. Can they tell I'm a widow? Does it show in my face?

Before.

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After.

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The pictures of the kids, of the house, our pets, everything in our lives—they are all defined as before and after.

There is not a single photo that I see that I do not know where it falls on that continuum. I might not know the year, month, or place, but I do know where that one defining event lands in relationship to that picture. Always.

Before.

After.