Spring

A blog you say? I have one, do I?

The Tile:

So spring has sprung and what that means is that I’m less apt to sit here on the weekends and more likely to be found gardening or cleaning. (It’s a “yay” response to that statement. I know that seems unlikely, but it’s true.) A few weeks ago I hand scrubbed 40 square feet of white subway tile from a stepladder on my counter.

I’d always hated that tile. It runs from our stove all the way to the 12’/ 16’/ “I should really measure this one day” ceiling. And it sounds like I shouldn’t have hated it. It, in fact, sounds right up my alley. But oh how it wasn’t. The people who flipped our house (aka Those Jackasses) did a pisspoor job on everything. Painting. Floors. Exterior Painting. Installing Cabinets. Wired in fire alarms that were wired wrong so THEY were a fire hazard. Jesus don’t get me started on the incorrectly installed french door that’s molding or the bathrooms that are going to have to be a complete tear out. So the Jackasses installed this huge counter to ceiling swatch of subway tile in the kitchen, and thanks to the open concept of our house there it was, staring me in the face every time I sat on the couch, ate dinner, cooked dinner, or peed with the bathroom door open when no one else was home.

And what was the problem with the tile? Well, as I mentioned it’s really hard to reach. Which explains why they never properly scrubbed the grout off. There was a mattifying haze of it left all over the top 4 feet. And just a badly cleaned job on the areas that were reachable. My husband and I had installed tile at our last house. We knew how to do it correctly. This was not.

And I CLEANED it before, don’t get me wrong. The thing got half assed wiped down a few times in the 2 years we’ve been here, we’re not monsters. But one recent random Saturday I just grabbed a bucket and a scrub pad and I LAID into those tiles. It honestly took hard scrubbing EVERY damn tile, all the way to the ceiling. And almost working by feel- you can feel the tile turn from gritty to smooth. I grabbed a butter knife for some excessively gritty corners. And I have NO idea how long it took to do. An hour? Two? Shorter than the two years I’d been hating it though.

And what do you know, I like that tile now. It no longer is a testament/monument to “you live in someone else’s house/ they did this” and made it ours. I felt that same feeling at the last house too- it took touching and changing literally every surface before it felt “us.” This is the same, just a dauntingly bigger place, and the beginning started out hugely pregnant and then dealing with an infant so we had no choice but to let it lie for a while. But now? We’re on a roll.

tile

SOOO carefully cropped to not show dirty counters…

And that has been what these past weeks have felt like. We’ve reorganized our bedroom. I cleaned out and organized my closet. We’ve gardened and gardened and gardened. We’ve put up a fence that almost caused an international event. (good fences make good neighbors my ASS, Frost. It’s fine. Yes a lawyer were briefly involved.)

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Texans be serious ’bout them property lines. Bless that we had a handy copy of the survey at the ready…

 

And now, there the tile sits, way up there. Gleaming. And I smile at it, because it is mine.

The Garden:

And… that felt like the end of the blog post actually. Bt the gardening… I just want to say we’ve gotten the side garden/ Japanese maple garden rocking these days. The husband and I got each other Japanese maples for our 14 year anniversary this week- brings the total to 8. We’re close to running out of space in the perfect high dappled shade of the pecan trees over there- but if conditions allowed the entire yard would be Japanese maples.

side garden

We hang out here a lot talking about how nice it is. Might be why the neighbors sold there house and moved. It’s better looking in real life.  *bare patch in the front left is a Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub that we cut to the ground when we transplanted it in the fall. It’s coming back. (Yes, that actually is it’s name)

A few weeks ago we dug up the entirety of this awkward triangle section of yard between the carport slab and house and made a garden of it- antique rose, white mistflower shrub, dinner plate dahlias, pineapple sage, coreopsis transplanted from the wildflower area, rosemary, a different colored may night salvia (not the standard pink or two shades of purple. This one’s fuchsia with flower stalks twice their normal size)…

may night salvia

Put up or shut up about the May Night Salvia, I know, I know.

native monarda, spirea, a Mexican Olive Tree, Mexican Mint Marigolds (aka Texas Tarragon aka not related to any plant in it’s common names…), and bronze fennel (my FAVORITE ornamental herb). The husband has a gift for rocks, so there is a cool stone border and a nice walkway through it. It’s a very “us” garden… what predominates is it better not have any of the standard garden center bedding plants we see around here. We like the unusual or old fashioned, or at least unusual for TEXAS (sure other regions do NOT consider pineapple sage or may night salvia unusual… I get it. They make the cut ’round these here parts though).

triangle

Did I oversell it? Because I feel like I oversold it…

But having worked in a garden center for a while, I HATE all the plants that are on the market for no reason other than that they’ll flower in six packs. Plants should do well in the GARDEN not on the shelf… I am very anti-standard plant offerings- if there was some kind of a walkout or march, or plant hat to crochet I totally would- this is an issue that speaks to me, dig? What I’m saying is if you EVER find a petunia or salvia greggii in my garden it’s because I’m DEAD and the next wife has no idea what she’s doing, the whore.

In the backyard this weekend the husband planted a new pomegranate tree, the needle palm we’ve had in a pot for years, and a vitex tree. They were big pots. They were HUGE holes. The toddler fell in one and almost couldn’t get out, if that conveys the concept… And I dug up a three foot by twelve foot section of the yard to put in tomatoes. I don’t think writing that out quite conveys the hours and hours we spent yesterday fighting the hard ground to accomplish those tasks… it was way more difficult than it sounds, promise.

tomato

Is that a 6′ T post driven into the middle of that 4′ tomato cage? You bet your ass it is. Sweet 100 cherry tomato is a BEAST. The T post still won’t be enough… grow my pretty, GROW!

Weirdly the section I dug up for tomatoes was super sandy (still rock hard? Not sure how that works, but it was). I feel like maybe it was the floor for some old pigeon coop that had been torn down or a sand floored shed. There are a couple of cut off to ground level cedar posts close by to give credence to that theory. And I unearthed a 70s astroturf doormat while digging. WEIRD to think there we were, mowing over a welcome mat buried 2 inches down this whole time. But again, it’s the same feeling: we’re slowly making it ours through blood, sweat, tears and the occasional demolished lower back. And FINALLY we can see the shape of the garden coming together… we’re well on our way.

front porch

Picture of front porch pots for no reason related to narrative whatsoever. Mint, Italian Parsley, and a tuberous begonia

 

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Caramelized Onion and Jack Cheese Chicken Breasts

Okay, see, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be giving these recipes more obscure names. Like, should I call this Arroyo Ojo Chicken and have you think it’s something I ate in an exotic location in the Southwest? Because the truth is this is one where I started yet another late afternoon staring into a fridge and coming up with something; in this instance it was 2 chicken breasts, some leftover jack cheese from another meal, and a whole heap of onions because I forgot I had bought a bag and then bought ANOTHER bag two days later.

So let’s give it a shot here and say I’m typing this next to an adobe hacienda, sitting in the shaded courtyard, eating this chicken, drinking a michilada and staring across at the Arroyo Ojo. There’s… cactus. Some lizards maybe? Sierra Nevada’s in the distance. And I, your ever vigilant author, am thinking I should adapt such an exquisite meal for my loyal readers once my husband and I are back from our three week vacation.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

southwest_navajo_native_travel

Looking at it right now. Swear.

Cooking time: neighborhood of 45 minutes

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch and cut into 4 pieces, total
1 and a half onions, sliced thinly
Jack cheese, either thin sliced or shredded
Cumin
Adobo seasoning (if you have it)
Mexican oregano
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Serve with sour cream, lime, and sliced avocado

Slice the onions and add to a pan with 2 glugs (about 3 tablespoons) of olive oil over medium heat. You’re going to want to cook these, without burning them, for 10 to 15 minutes. The good news here is that you don’t need to stir them constantly, just stir occasionally and make sure they’re getting brown, not black. Once they’re caramelized remove them to a bowl, wipe out the pan, and return it to the stove, turning the heat up to medium high. Pound the chicken while the onions are caramelizing to ½ inch thick. It will plump back up a bit as it shrinks during cooking, so really wail on it. Cut each breast in half to make a total of four pieces. Season liberally (how much? Free college and outlawing assault rifles liberal) on both sides with cumin, adobo seasoning (If you have it), Mexican oregano, and salt and pepper. Add another couple of glugs of olive oil to the pan as it heats, and once hot add the chicken in batches. Cook for 4 minutes (plus/minus) per side, flipping a couple more times if needed to cook through.

Remove chicken to a cookie sheet, arrange onions liberally on top, then cover in cheese. Place cookie sheet in oven under broiler to melt cheese for just a minute or two- make sure you watch this step LIKE A HAWK! Serve with sliced avocado and dob with sour cream, then squeeze a lime on top.

Impress your spouse! Impress your mother in law! Boggle the minds of your friends! And your kids will eat it in spite of the vast amount of onions!

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

The NRA is SOOOOOOO powerful… how can we ever beat it? We can’t because they’re SOOOOOO powerful… right? Except, huh… not really? Because…

Screenshot 2018-02-23 16.25.07

NRA Spending in 2016

Dude. That’s WAY lower than I was thinking, right? One million in direct spending, in $8,000 increments per candidate. And 3.6 million in lobbying… do we just not have a concept of how far so little money goes? We could beat that with $1 a person in TEXAS who wants to outlaw assault rifles! What in the literal hell is stopping us?I mean Jesus… we could kick their ass with concerted effort and Oprah! Gun Lobby Influence Sminfluence!

What was that John Oliver said? There are more members of Planet Fitness gyms then there are members of the NRA!? I’m tired of getting pushed around by these assholes! Who’s with me!

John Oliver on the NRA…

 

Almost a Valentine’s Day Article…

So I entered a submission for “love stories pertaining to bodies of water” (specific, don’t I know it) from a Canadian environmental magazine. Now, I work for a Canadian manufacturer in the environmental field even though I am based out of Texas, so that’s how I can see these sorts of things. And lo and behold- I DO have a love story that pertains to a body of water… it just happened to be in Texas. Unfortunately the whole article concept was scrapped because I was the only one who submitted anything and a lone Texas story in a Canadian magazine wasn’t really what they were after. But I’ll be damned if I won’t share it here! So I give you… a love story.

At Lake Travis in the early years.jpg

Judging by my penchant for wearing a bandana instead of a cap I peg this as 2000 or 2001.

 

I love rivers. My husband loves the ocean. It makes perfect, if slightly ironic sense that we met at a lake.

I had moved to Austin for college and was going through water withdrawal. I grew up in a town with 2 rivers running through it; I was never more than five minutes away from jumping in cool water on a hot summer day for all of those early years. And Austin is a green city, with a river running through the middle… but water you don’t want to jump in was a new one to me. Town Lake (inventive name, Austin) is the section of the Colorado River that runs through town, of course. I crossed it every day on my way to and from school. But there would be no swimming in Town Lake… it wasn’t THAT kind of lake. In fact, today I’m impressed with the courage of folks who paddle-board on it. What if you fall in, people? That is more faith in balance skills than I have, personally. So I saw water every day… but I couldn’t touch it, and I thought it was the only water around. I felt like I lived in a desert, honestly, in those early days in my new home.

Then one spring night my brother and I went camping at Lake Travis, just outside of Austin, with a large group of waiters from his work and their friends. There was a campfire. A guitar. Laughing. Talking. Stars overhead and a lake near at hand. It was too cold to go swimming, but THIS was water you could touch if you wanted to. It was a revelation- I hadn’t even know about this lake before that night! Driving home the next day, with classes to try to make, my brother turned to me and said “That Luke would make a good brother-in-law.” I do believe my response was to ask which one was Luke? But once a name was put with the handsome face… I didn’t disagree. Now mind you, I hadn’t said much to this stranger, it wasn’t like we stayed up all night talking and staring moodily into each others eyes or anything. He was just the shining star on the other side of a campfire, lighting up that night on top of the cliffs overlooking Lake Travis.

Soon afterwards this stranger with the wild bachelor reputation and I met again. And I can be forgiven for asking “which one was Luke” considering he called me Beth on our second meeting. He redeemed himself enough for us to wind up dancing that night, outside of the show we were both at. An official first date would follow, after some cajoling on his part. I was 19 and he felt like destiny- to say finding him so young wasn’t in the plan would be an understatement. And I was right about that too, because at the end of that first date he picked me up and swung me around and said he was going to marry me- and I told him that yes, he most certainly was.

And so it went- we spent many of our next years living in Austin and driving to Lake Travis every chance we got. I never got used to the fact that it took us 45 minutes to get to swimmable water, but at least there WAS water to swim in! We cooked, we swam, we camped, we laughed, and we lived… and 4 years later, exactly on the cliff overlooking Lake Travis where we met, he asked me to marry him. He seemed quite nervous honestly, considering the answer would have never been anything but yes.

And we are water folk to this day- fishing, paddling, camping, tubing, and swimming. When life picks up speed and it goes too long without it we feel it in our bones- and getting “on the water” becomes a priority. Our toddler loves her life jacket so much she wears it around the house and our older girls learned to swim against the current of the clean and clear San Marcos river. Water runs through our life like…well. You know.

And so we love the ocean. And we love the rivers. And we also still love one very special lake… where it all began all those 19 years ago.

Major League Gun Control

major-league-pic-3

“Politicians… I go to you. I stick up for you. And you no help me now… I say fuck you Politicians. I do it myself.”

 

Here is to voting out EVERY goddamn worthless politician that fights harder to save embryos than our children. Who thinks outlawing the means of death for one will stop it but outlawing the other isn’t even worth trying.

Here is to ANYONE that can spend the infrastructure money to make our goddamn schools fortresses so I don’t have to glance sideways to just double check that a crazed gunman isn’t stalking up the elementary school steps where my 8 year old goes EVERY. FUCKING. TIME. I. DRIVE. BY. IT. Just you know, let’s at LEAST do that while we talk about fixing the problem itself.

Right to bear arms was instituted when we had muzzle loading guns- so go back to that. Everyone can have a muzzle loader. AR fucking 15s… not so mother fucking much.

And I am SORRY- we have pussy hat marches… and yet this keeps happening in our country?! Our marches should be bigger for this issue. What would those hats look like? Can you crochet a head wound?

My government doesn’t protect my children. They don’t protect your children. They. Don’t. Protect. Children.

What stone can I throw, what effort can I make, what horn can I blow…I guess lets recall that the walls of Jericho were felled by a horn (In that made up story) so maybe, if we blow the horn often enough and harder…

And so I say fuck you Jobu. I do it myself.

Question

So if Republicans won’t outlaw assault rifles because “outlawing guns won’t stop people from getting them and killing people” then what the hell is their point on outlawing abortions?

Because fucking seriously.

 

Random

Some random thoughts that can’t be fleshed out to full blog posts:

  • Goal for 2017 was to lose 10 lbs… only 15 to go!
  • The concept of taking no shit while not being an asshole about it is a knife edge to walk and might very well end up being my life’s work.
  • I often wonder if other adults still show up for appointments with toothpaste on their shirts. Or have such messy closets. Sometimes stuff like that can feel adolescent… but maybe it’s just human… I’m really not sure.
  • Somehow we ended up taking away the bottle, potty training, and taking the 2 year old out of her crib all at the same time. And by god- what felt like it would end in disaster has turned into the easiest transition on all of those. Third times a charm I guess? I think we as a society wait too late to potty train these days- we started at 25 months… you gotta start these toddlers before they hit the defiant stage- because early twos they still want to be super helpful.
  • What are we going to do with the extra $100 a month we now are saving on diapers? Buy all the food this growing toddler is sucking down… it’ll be a wash, methinks.
  • I should paint more. I should write more. I should cut and color my hair on a more frequent schedule. I should read more actual books. I should clean… I should I should I should I should. I should also probably stop beating myself up over it…
  • The girls were asking what the cats’ names would be if they didn’t have their current names. I suggested they all be named Stoppeeingonthebathmat.
  • The dog is scared of the fire alarm and now every time I cook he frantically jumps over the baby gate to get into the other side of the house. You freaking burn something ONE time around here…

 

 

 

Mussels in Wine Sauce Recipe

My, how I love me some mussels; and not JUST because you don’t pay for just a TON of shell when you buy them like you can with other shellfish! Can we talk about this issue for a second? I love clams. Love them. But when I go to buy them they, as are the lovely mussels in this recipe, are sold in the shell, by the pound. And that’s all well and good, but clams have extremely thick and heavy shells… so I feel like you’re paying a LOT for the packaging. Alright, here’s an analogy. You know when you go to buy software (you internets pirates wouldn’t understand…) and it’s in a box almost the size of a cereal box? And then you open it and it’s just a normal sized CD? Why so much packaging?! That’s your clam right there. And then you know how old school incandescent light bulbs are packaged in just thin sleeves of cardboard? One of the most fragile objects and it’s in this insanely thin, lightweight, and easy to open package? That’s your black mussels right there. So clams are QuickBooks and mussels are light bulbs.

clams

Look you jerks, I need that space in the recycling bin for beer bottles!

ligtbulbs

I have a bright idea…

I made these mussels for years in just the wine, garlic, and butter sauce- and oh my are they good like that. But the addition of the diced tomatoes, basil, and parsley really takes this recipe to the next level. Crusty bread for sopping up sauce a must.

3 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup finely diced onions (shallots if you want to get all uppity about it)
2 cups white wine
2 diced tomatoes
2.5 lbs black mussels
small handful mixed fresh parsley and basil, chopped

In a high sided sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and onions to melted butter and sauté until aromatic. Add wine, bring to a simmer. Add mussels and diced tomatoes and cover pan. The mussels are cooked when they open- don’t overcook till they’re rubbery BUT WOE BE TO THEE WHO UNDERCOOKS so like, walk that knife edge, okay? Serve over pasta of your choice or just in a bowl by themselves with crusty bread on the side. Garnish with a generous amount of fresh parsley and basil.

Don’t eat the unopened mussels or risk… unpleasantness. I’d have put ACTUAL pictures of mussels in this post, but I’m writing this while still recovering from the stomach bug I wrote about in the last post and thought that a google image search of shellfish was probably bad idea in my current state.

The Reason Not To Put “Lose Weight” On Your Christmas List…

Why should you not do that, I ask? Why should you not throw a stupid, off the cuff thing like wishing to lose weight into the ether? BECAUSE SANTA HAS A FUCKING SENSE OF HUMOR IS WHY. So yeah, I lost weight on Christmas… 4 days of not eating much of anything and violently puking will do that to a person.

So here’s the story: I ended up in the emergency room at 4am on Christmas Day. Got a shot (NOT IN THE ARM) for pain. Had to swallow Lidocaine for such intense, stabbing stomach pains. Writhed in agony from 8pm to 4am due to (I am about 80% sure here) the insane acid reflux from all the puking having irritated my esophagus and weird esophagus nerve pain transferring to my upper back. Didn’t know that was a thing, but Google says it’s rare but possible, and considering the back pain went away with swallowing the Lidocaine it seems to be the case.

Now, originally I thought it was food poisoning, and it might be. But it also looks like my husband and 8 year old got a lighter (SO THANKFUL WAS LIGHTER) bout as well, so might be norovirus. The description of women with it saying they’d rather be in labor than suffer through norovirus again is spot on considering I said that EXACT thing at least twice. And that it goes away… and then can come back. Because the abject horror of having another night on Thursday like I did on Monday was insane. I thought I was better.

And here’s the weird part. That second go round I KINDA had pegged what the back pain was about. So while I couldn’t do anything for the violent puking, alternating hot and cold water from the shower onto my upper back… it kinda tricked the transferred nerve pain into going away. I’m sure my husband checking on me facedown in a running shower was weird. The choice to ask me “Are you asleep?” instead of “Are you dead?” must have taken some back and forth for the poor guy. I wasn’t either, but was pretty close to both. He wouldn’t have worried so much if he had seen the Cirque du Soleil move I’d pulled of turning the water from cold to hot with one leg while not moving my upper back off the marble shower tile floor. Flexibility is all in your head, turns out. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

So yeah. Remind me not to ask for someone to declutter the house next year so Santa doesn’t send a goddamn house fire my way.

 

 

Dominoes

So, the public figures have been tumbling, one after the other, as I sat over here and stalled on a blog post for most of the month. (Combination of 3 weekends away from home capped off by a family shared cold. Damn you, worn down immune system!) But here’s what I can say about recent events: Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, sexual predators… mostly because I bet you’d like it.

And today I read about that most annoying and insufferable public journalist… Garrison Keillor. Writer’s Almanac… BARF. So breathy and over emoted! Prairie Home Companion… so under emoted and full of off key warbling and just boring story telling- I’d open my veins before I have to listen to it. And yet, people bought his schtick! How in god’s name I don’t know, but I saw this comment on an article earlier: “Not Garrison Keillor! Who’s next, Santa?!” And I have numerous problems with that comment, but my main one is to ask if the guy who makes you sit on his lap is the best example to use there?

Anyway. Tumble away, dominoes.

Tumble away.