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.

Pink Chocolate Butterflies

When you're asked to make pink butterfly cupcakes, you make pink butterfly cupcakes because, well,  that's kind of your thing.

If I didn't enjoy the challenge, I wouldn't ask the kids what they wanted for their birthday cakes. And if I didn't have a daughter (with an equally willing sidekick of a BFF) to help with the baking, I wouldn't be quite so fortunate to pull off these little feats. An enormous debt of gratitude to Peanut and Totes Ameghan for their tasty chocolate cupcakes (and cake, for the actual factual birthday!) and delectable buttercream frosting. 

Chocolate butterflies.

The original source for these cupcakes came from a book, Hello, Cupcake!, which I have never read, but I have read the blog post at Annie's Eats that the book inspired, which also inspired me to create my own interpretation for our littlest person's birthday party this past weekend. It was the first time I'd done anything serious with chocolate, and it was actually pretty fun, once I worked out the kinks. And they were a big hit with the party goers! A++ would make again!

 

Nail Art For Beekeeping And Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi

When I'm not sure how to prepare for something, I meditate, and by meditate I mean do nail art—that's my version of meditation.

Beekeeping nails. I think I might be doing it wrong.

I hunt for just the right design for the occasion—what design would be most appropriate for a beekeeping class on a Saturday, for example—and set about selecting the colors and brushes to execute my plan. As I paint, I'm forced to breathe slowly, steady my hands, and remain in the moment. Sometimes I hum a repetitive little chant or sound as I work, probably not even audible to those around me, or maybe it annoys the fuck out of them. If it does, they've been kind enough to never point it out.

 

 

 

I also do yoga, but not with the seriousness I would like, and not with the passion of Brian Leaf, the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness . I was given a copy of his book to review, and I'll be honest; I rarely read anything in hardcopy anymore. I got so used to reading on my iPhone when Bob was in the hospital and going through chemo, and then I read Infinite Jest that way because IT'S SO DAMN HUGE, that I just can't go back to paper. So, to see if I was going to like this book enough to REALLY read it and review it, I cheated. (Don't tell the publisher, please. Or the author. Or Santa, because I've been pretty good otherwise.) 

Here's what I did: I downloaded a preview on iBooks to see if I liked it enough to BUY a copy of a book I already had in my hot little mitts. 

Guess what. 

It totally was.

With five kids cruising around this house a good portion of the time, we have a fairly hectic world, and it can be tough to find time to read, but this book sucked me in. Why?

  • Yoga is something I love, but I can't stand reading new agey, touchy-feely books about it. I don't want to be preached to. 
  • As somebody with a host of complex health issues that are intimately tied to my mental health, I appreciated reading a book by an author who was discovering that for himself.
  • If you don't make me laugh at you or at me, I'll probably put your book down. Brian has that covered in every chapter. I was poking Ed to read excerpts throughout the book, and finally stopped because I really want him to read it, which reminds me of my next point.
  • The New Jersey-ness of Brian held a special appeal for me. There's a culture in that state, and now that I am in an intimate relationship with a man who was raised there, I appreciate the unique nature of some very Jersey-specific traits. I don't want to reveal too much, and I'm not talking about fist-pumping Jersey Shore (the show, not the place) culture, because you really need to read it to see, but I plan to email Brian about one bit I noticed because it really stood out. If you read it, I'd be anxious to hear from you what you think.
  • It is a quick read, but not in a throwaway sense. You will have aha moments, and LOL moments, and highlighting passages to come back to them moments. It will make you want to be better and feel better, but also show you that the process to getting there is a journey, that it can be a fun journey at times, painful at time, and that we need to give ourselves permission to experience life. 

But, you know what you should do, see for yourself. 

You can read the first two chapters free right here.

And if you want to see one of the funnier book trailers I think I've ever seen/heard, then watch this. Or don't. Maybe go wash your cat. I'm gonna figure out what I'm supposed to wear to beekeeping class with this sweet black and yellow nail art.

The fine-ish print: I was given a free copy of the above-reviewed book with no other strings attached, folks. Anything else I did or said or painted on my fingernails was my own choice and my own opinions. 

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.

 

 

Butt Hut Door Installation Badge Unlocked: AKA I Like Power Tools

So, my cat's shit stinks. If you have a cat, his/her shit probably stinks, too. Most shit does. 

Anyway, since she's an indoor shitter, her litter box resides in one of our bathrooms in an unused closet. But, herein lies the problem. The closet has a door. Sometimes that door gets inadvertently closed. And then Toonces is left wandering about with her legs crossed trying to get our attention. Also, litter boxes, no matter how frequently you clean them, don't smell nice, and I've yet to see one that's cute.

Toonces says Happy Caturday.

Solution?

A kitten-sized door in the closet door. 

You know what that meant?

POWER TOOL TIME!

First, I ordered a cat door from Amazon, because, well I have free Prime shipping, and I like to use that option to order things, have them arrive in two days, and then let them sit for two months. Don't judge. I got this one:

 

It did not come with that cat. It did, however, come with a handy dandy template I used to trace the area of the door I needed to cut away, complete with a bit of sticky tape at the top to hold the template in place while I ran around looking for a pen that would show up on the dark oak wood (a Sharpie ended up being the right pen for the job).

After a couple of 1-inch holes drilled to get the jigsaw in place for easier cutting, the wood was out of the way for installing the flap. I did have a hard time believing they really wanted me to drill such big holes for the screws (3/16"), but the screws aren't meant to grab the wood of the door you're going through, just the cat flap itself. Essentially, you're sandwiching the wood between the pet door halves, so you want holes big enough for the screws to slide right through and then grab the opposing side of the flap. Once that was done, I popped the screw covers on, and shoved Toonces through the flap to show her where she needed to enter to access her butt hut. Since her litter box already has a similar flap style, I don't think we'll encounter any issues with flap phobia.

Butt hut door installation badge unlocked.

Our Showgirl

Saturday was Peanut's horse show. She took 1st in walk/trot equitation, 6th in walk/trot pleasure, and 4th in walk/trot/canter equitation. This was her first time showing in walk/trot/canter. Not too shabby. So very proud of all of her hard work.

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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. 

 

Things What I Enjoy: A List Of Sorts And Kinds

  • Teaching tiny humans to spot bovine and equine on grass-covered hills.Hill bovine = hovine
  • The sound of traffic rolling up to and away from a four-way stop from my bedroom windows.
  • Excited children picking snow peas and strawberries to eat from our garden, before we can even get them to the house.Garden porn. #strawberries #organic #casabesttogether
  • A child sniffing the bark on one of our Ponderosa Pine trees to see if it smells like vanilla or butterscotch, but deciding it smells like cookies—I'd never thought of cookies in all my tree-sniffing years in the Sierras.

Clearly a sign from God. #Hangar1Vodka #blimp

Visitors From Jersey

We've had the best time these past few weeks with our house guests. I don't think they were expecting to be thrown into a mad mix of moving and new house fun, but they've been great sports about it all, and I don't know how we would have done it without them.

In the middle of it all, we managed to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a trip to Sasa:

The Anniversary Couple #45Years

Checking out the koi pond.

And even got Judy up on the Loubis for a quick spin to celebrate 45 years of marriage.

The Loubis, as worn by Judy on her 45th Wedding Anniversary

We figured out the mystery of the hedgehog on the cock fairy tale at Corners Tavern. (Thank you Interwebs; I don't think we or that poor waitress will ever be the same now that we know the story of Hans.)

Toad on cock? What Grimms' fairy tale is that from? Help me out, Interwebs!

Then it was onto a holiday and birthdays—the fourth of July, Judy's birthday and then mine. 

Finaleworks #fireworks

Heart-shaped finale over Martinez.

Kid created, tested, and approved. #4thjuly #independenceday

 Red, white, and blue cookies made with the grand kids.

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Wine tasting at Retzlaff.

Country Sedan

Cool cars spotted while wine tasting in Livermore, including a TR3 like Ed had back in the day.

Remembering when…

Country Sedan

1947 Mercury

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Tomorrow they head back to New Jersey, and we'll miss them bunches. Seems like we just picked them up at the airport. Certainly there are still more fairy gardens to build and cocktails and desserts to be had!

Birthday Shortcake

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We love you! Thank you for making this time so special for all of us. We are blessed to have you in our lives.

One Address

Two PODS in the driveway, which is, thankfully, enormous. But just one address. Amen.

We have moved out of the rental house and into the house with the mortgage, and the pool, and the well, and the work to be done, but it feels SO GOOD TO BE HOME.

It feels so good to be creating OUR home—a place for all of us to fit. 

Time to swim.

It feels good to have a pool to dip into on a hot day and at the end of a hard day of work.

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It feels good to have a place to entertain friends.

Kid created, tested, and approved. #4thjuly #independenceday

It feels good to have space to define in the way that makes sense for our family.

It feels good to get sweaty making something our own, to see our progress, to know we did it as a family.

It feels good to see the kids grow and learn new things, already—how to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Their pride in accomplishing new things is so cool to watch, for all of the ages and stages. Even the adult "kids."

And it feels good to have a place that is uniquely new to us as we are uniquely new to each other. All of our quirks become part of it—all of our beauty and flaws; all of our perfections and imperfections. It is us. It is ours.

It is an absolute joy to wake up every day and work with the person I love. All day. Every day. I wouldn't change a thing.

Celebrating 45 years with his mom and dad. #happyanniversary

On Comparing Loss

Should we? It's done. Divorce gets compared to death. I have opinions about that.

We are even fond of comparing how we grieve our losses and their scale of impact in our lives—was my loss greater than yours? Did I grieve the same as that other widow; was it long enough; was it too long?

I do know one thing: it's not a contest. Everybody experiences grief differently.

How I experienced the loss of my husband to cancer is going to be different from how another young widow experiences her loss of her spouse to an unexpected traffic accident. It's going to be different from the widow who loses his partner to suicide. What about the widow of the murder victim? Or the man who was estranged from his wife at the time of her death—what does that grief look like?

So. Many. Things. Affect. Grief.

I had time to say goodbye to my husband. I had time to grieve WITH him. I had a lot of years WITH him. I was never angry with him. I never felt like he left me on purpose. I wasn't surprised. Nothing was left unsaid. Our marriage wasn't an unhappy one.

But, I absolutely understand how that kind of pain and grief exists. I have cried with friends in that kind of pain, who have that kind of confusion and those unresolved feelings and questions. 

I also had children with him. Does that make it easier or harder? I don't know. It just makes it different from not having kids together. It makes it different from if we had grown children or an infant at the time of his death.

So. Many. Factors.

I wasn't left penniless or in a mountain of debt. I wasn't left without a will or specific instructions about his funeral and final wishes. 

I was left with some other weird shit to deal with, but that's pretty normal from what I can tell. If you make it through the loss of a spouse at a young age with ALL of your exact same friends and family members still by your side in the same configuration, I want your name and number—and so will a bunch of other widows, because it is NOT the norm. 

When life changes you, there is often a changing of the guard around you. Learn to roll with it and life will be so much easier. You can't control their grief process any more than you can control your own, and quite frankly, it ain't your job, Scarlett. 

What I was left without was my best friend, somebody who knew me better than I knew myself, and my compass in the world. THAT was some scary shit. I was vulnerable to being taken advantage of by opportunistic people who could smell blood in the water, and that sucked. 

But I was also left with a wonderful new world of opportunities, friendships, family, and LIFE, which I keep living. Every day I chip away at a little bit more of this thing, and it's been good. 

Our losses aren't the same—none of them, except to say that we are missing something that is no longer there. In my case, the loss is permanent. I wouldn't change it, though, because it would mean not having had him, and I cannot imagine giving that back. Our lives are too enriched by that experience. Loss makes room for something else, even when it hurts like hell. The memories and the love and the awesome that he and I shared fill in all around the life that comes next, at least that's how it works for me. 

I can't write your story.

Don't Know Where To Start: Here's A Picture

So much weird stuff, good stuff, busy stuff, I don't even know where to begin. 

My monkeys.

Until the dust settles, and I can put it all into some sort of cohesive order for your reading pleasure, here's a picture of those two humans I created. This was an evening out to celebrate Peanut's academic achievements for the year and the boyfriend's birthday. Bug was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to frown. 

New York Times Best Boob Is Too A Thing

I know some Jennys. One lives near me, and we amuse each other greatly. Occasionally we amuse other people. 

Last week we made the trek to Corte Madera to see our other friend, also a Jenny, at her book signing because, HOLY FUCK WE HAVE A FRIEND WHO WROTE A REAL LIVE READABLE BOOK. Also, we love her. And it's rare to see this particular Jenny outside of a bathroom.

Waiting to get my book signed by Jenny.

Seriously. It is. That's where I first met her. In a bathroom. It's less abnormal the longer you know her. I've now spent more time with her in a bathroom than out, I think, and this seems completely normal to me.

Private Party with The Bloggess

Hanging with @TheBloggess and my girl. #awesome

Anyway, when Jenny and I got back from seeing Jenny at the book signing, we sat down to make a video homage to our friend, her book (Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), and our road trip, but this happened instead. 

 

I think Jenny will understand. Also, you should totally buy Jenny's book because The Bloggess is a seriously funny person, and it turns out that we aren't the only two people on the planet who think this. (You need to understand that this totally makes my autographed boob incredibly important by association, like New York Times Book List important. That's really important. That's more important than that stupid Who's Who crap they try to get you to pay for in high school, which it turns out is just a giant scam that anyone can do, so I'm glad I didn't do it.)

Taking my @TheBloggess boob to the pool. As you do.

Oh, and Jenny is one of the few people who spells my name correctly. I think that's important in a friendship.

Finally, somebody spelled my name correctly. Figures it'd be @TheBloggess

 

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).

 

 

In Just One Year

A year ago, I posted this story about a guy I met on St. Patrick's Day.

Today, a year later, I am 365 days happier than I was on that day.

I am 365 days more in love.

I am just as sure now as I was then that my instincts were right.

Every day I get to spend with him has been a gift.

Happy anniversary, babe. You make my world better.

Date night. #americandrink #bettertogether

I Bought Something

Nope, not a DJ PaulyD Talking Pen. That was a gift. And it's awesome, although I'm convinced the child in China who made it for me messed up because it clearly says, "Crabs are here!"

And I didn't buy the Sephora gift card, technically. I earned it. Also, it might be a bribe for a friend who NEEDS TO BRANCH OUT AND TRY NEW THINGS.

I did buy keys. A bunch of keys. A whole purse-full of them. They came with my new house, along with my new swimming pool, and my new garage, and my new playhouse (totes have a fort!), and and and I'm a little excited. It was a bit of work to make it all happen, but we did it. Pictures of the awesome will be forthcoming.

Breakfast In Bed

Every morning. Not just special occasions like my birthday or Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. Every day.

That's when he makes me breakfast in bed.

Every single day.

Coffee. Eggs. Fresh fruit and whole grain cereals with greek yogurt on top.

All brought to me while I snuggle under the warmth of the covers.

And every single day that this happens I am the most grateful, thankful, appreciative woman there ever was, because I don't know how I got so lucky, so blessed, or so fortunate to have found this guy who wants to do this for me.

Every day.

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