Monday, October 1, 2012

Maybe a Bigger Job Than I Imagined

Last year I made one measly jar of apple sauce from a $12-ish bag of organic apples from Whole Foods.  I canned the dumb thing, then opened it the next day.  It was incredibly delicious, but a lot of work (and a lot of money) for such a small harvest.

Determined to one-up my applesauce performance, from last year, I made tentative plans to head to an apple farm outside of town and pick a bushel of my very own.  My tentative plans were thrust into reality when a friend invited us to join her in a day of apple picking.  Awesome!  The fact that the apples were a) in town and b) free, made it all the more appealing. 

But, I didn't exactly realize what I was getting myself into. 

And what was I getting myself into, you ask?



Before we could address the cooking and preparation of said apples, we had to pick them.  The trees live in the front yard of a woman who works full time and hasn't the time or inclination to deal with ten gazillion pounds of apples.  We were doing her a favor, as she was, us. 

I'll admit that I had brain-pictures of a darling scene: me, basket in hand, casually reaching up, placing apples delicately into said basket.  I reach to a grocery-store quality apple at shoulder height, I look at it, I smile.  I gaze at my children, as they happily fill their baskets.  We smile.  We are grateful.  Our lives, complete. 

In reality, it was a ton of hard work.  We picked by hand, picked with a telescoping picker, climbed the ladder to pick, shook the tree, gathered, and each of us were beaned in the head at least once.  Then we gathered, cleaned and raked and gathered some more.

It was a long morning of work, but we came home with at least 100 pounds of free fruit!  A blessing, and a lesson, and a day of hard work, all in one.

Stay tuned for recipes, canning shenanigans, et al.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Online, All Day

I think most of us have written a list of things we'd like to accomplish in our lives.

Back in 2003, my first list was inspired by the website  2007 brought us the term "Bucket list" and one of my favorite bloggers Mighty Girl calls hers a Life List.

My list has seen many incarnations.  Today's lives on Pinterest, you can probably hunt it down there if you'd like to have a look.  It is silly (Tie John Elway's shoes), sentimental (Write letters, like I used to), over ambitious (Kiss an elephant) and everything in between.

I've had my sites set on accomplishing a few of my list items this summer and one of my most simple list items was a pleasure to tackle:

Hang my clothes on the line. 

Why did I want to hang my clothes on the line?  Clothes on the line are so beautiful.  The practice of hanging clothes relaxes me and reminds me of my grandma.  And using electricity to dry clothes when I have a breeze outside that will make them smell amazing and dry them for FREE, is maybe a little wasteful.

So one day this June, the children and I got into our sneakers and walked to our neighborhood supermarket.  At the market we procured the supplies to create our very own clothesline.  Simple clothesline specific rope and wooden clothes pins. The line strung up between the fence and tree as soon as we arrived back home. 

Then, underpants and all, we clipped it to the line. 

Our double line can accommodate a single load of laundry perfectly.  Summer warmth and breezes dry a load in about 45 minutes in our dry climate.  A perfectly peaceful pace.  Easy enough to wash a load or two per day, fold and put away before you even have time to let it pile up again.

But, I'll admit, it didn't last long.  The heat came, and brought with it my laziness, and swimming days, and worrying about the automatic sprinklers.  Suddenly the dryer didn't seem so silly after all.  I haven't hung a load out in quite some time, I'm ashamed to admit.  I do a better job of over-complicating my life than I do of simplifying it.  That's the whole truth.

But writing this post has inspired me.  How about a fresh start?  There are plenty of warm days left this month and next.  I commit to myself that I'll hang at least another load or two before the winter comes.  This is me, simplifying, then de-simplifying, then re-simplifying.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To Vacation Simply

The other day my husband and I had this talk about how we seem to have lived our vacations in reverse.  We started our marriage with a stupid-expensive 4 day honeymoon to the Bahamas.  It was only in the last year that I realized we could have stayed stateside, for twice as long and half the price. 

It was lovely, we wouldn't change it and all that, but my goodness!

We've secreted away our tax refund each year and taken ourselves on a vacation.  Most of those years we spent every last penny on an all-too-brief visit to Disneyland. 

Here we are so many years later, after having stepped our goals into our new reality and all we ever want to do is go camping.  Our National-Park-to-visit list is growing and we  have become insatiable in the matters of national park camping.  Read on, I'll share the financials of the two options below.

I love Disneyland and I'm confident I'll visit it again someday, but when we first set our eyes on Zion National Park, far off in the distance, after a full day of driving, we were forever changed.

 and the view just keeps getting better.

I really hadn't even looked at pictures of Zion before we went.  I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I booked it because a book I'd bought many years ago about the Grand Canyon included a small section on Zion.  I'd always thought that whenever we decided to go to the Grand Canyon, we'd go to Zion as well.  When we arrived and set up camp none of us could believe what we were seeing.   

Best trip anecdote?  How about how I forgot my camera battery charger at home?  Luckily, my family was just behind us and was able to go into our house and get it for us.  My camera was only dead for half a day.  We don't have the number of Zion photos we'd like, but the photos don't do it justice either way.

Vermilion Cliffs - We didn't make the side trip to actually see Vermilion Cliffs, because I didn't even know it existed until this moment.  So amazingly beautiful.

Our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.  We came in at sunset and stopped for a moment, before we went to our campground.

Our second glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
wait for  it . . .

The fog came in and out all day and it was beautiful.

Bean burritos over the fire = our family's favorite dinner in all of recorded history.  So smoky and delicious!

Moments before I took this photo a woman with a European accent stopped and photographed us sitting by the fire.  She smiled, gave me a thumbs up and said, "very good."  The novelty of our tent and fire pleased her in the motor home laden campground, I think.

So here's the math:

We camped for a total of 4 nights at $18 per night.

We had to purchase a new tent, which when divided over the number of nights we've camped in it so far cost about $8 per night.  The rest of our gear we already had or borrowed.  I'm not calculating the cost of food because whether you're traveling or home, you have to eat.  Camping food is simple and cheap.  (I think I spent about $120 at the grocery store including tons of ice, sodas, chips and other luxury items.  Add that number to my total at the bottom, if you wish.)

Our trip ran a loop of  over 2000 miles (we went to my cousin's wedding afterward), but for the sake of this exercise, I'm just including the camping portion of the trip.  That is 1558 miles of driving at 22 miles per gallon which is $283 in gasoline.

Cost of admission to our national parks varies from park to park.  We purchased an annual family pass for $85.  We were able to use it at least three more times before it expired.  I'll add the whole cost of it to this trip report.

Each of our children chose a souvenir at Zion for a total of $30.  I also sent quite a number of post cards which cost about $15.

We ate out twice while camping (once because of an extreme, sudden downpour), two meals while in Vegas and fast food on the road home as well.  Total cost of those meals: $129

We also stayed in a hotel in Las Vegas on our way home, which was a mere $24 for the one night we stayed.

Everything else we did was entirely free.  Hiking, whittling, et al.

So for our 5 day family vacation, full of fun and memories we spent $662. 

Now, I'll calculate the cost of a similar amount of time on a Disneyland vacation.  We'll consider two travel days and three in-park days, an off-site hotel . . . here goes:

Round trip from my house - $178 in Gasoline

3 day tickets for four: (Disney considers age 10 and up to be adult, so I have to pay adult price on all four tickets now.  Just for the sake of argument, I'm using the cost of two kids tickets and two adult tickets.  I'm also only going to count the price of the 1 park per day tickets, which saves us $120 over park-hopper tickets.  There are sometimes sales or discounts if you buy your tickets at Costco or some other Southern California retailers, so that could save you a bit more) $850

Food: Assume you packed a cooler for the drive both to and from.  Assume you also ate all breakfasts at the hotel and had no extra drinks or snacks.  For the three in-park days you'd spend at least $300 for lunches and dinners.

Souvenirs: That's up to you, you can go crazy or not buy anything.  Assume we didn't buy anything for this trip.

Hotel: Super 8, mid-week, shoulder season, 4 nights at $68 per night

Grand total: $1600

This is what Disneyland would look like on a budget, obviously, you could spend much more than this as well. 

I think both vacation options have their merits.

BUT COME ON!  $662 for a 5 night family trip?  Seriously, that's a screamin' deal!  Try it.  You won't regret it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Boho Tween

It was time for a major clean out of my daughter's boho meets hippie chic bedroom.  She's 10, she's crafty and she likes to hang on to a lot of stuff. 

We carried out 6 laundry baskets of clothes, toys and various flotsam and jetsam.  We brought back only what would fit into the 3 small baskets, one IKEA closet stacker and bookshelf we already had.

She's mostly replaced the daily usage of toys with nail polish and vogue magazine.  But the stuffed animals and American Girl remain.  She's on the cusp of learning to build her own life, still cataloging the remnants of the one I built for her.  So while the deep clean needed to be done and wasn't an act chosen out of sentimentality of any kind, I found my sentimental self within it.

Here is her room, refreshed and lovely.  Frosted in signs of a girl on the edge of being a grown-up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


It's apple season.

Today I commemorated the occasion with web-surfing related to a theoretical apple picking excursion.  How 21st century of me!  Imagine my elation when free apples were offered by two different people - and the opportunity to pick them on the very day I had planned to make into apple picking day.  I'll call this a small miracle, and be wide-eyed and thankful for it.

                                                                                                                                 Photo courtesy of flickr user msr

I haven't posted in months.  I was on such a roll there for awhile, but everything sort of got set aside.  My parent's separation and ultimate divorce was the cause. It was (and in many ways, remains) a brutally sad time in our lives. 

But it's time for me to move forward.  Building up our lives from where we left them.  It's the first day of autumn and I'm going to start my building with apples.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'm back . . .

It's been a super crazy few months. I think I am finally shaking off the ick of the past few months and I'm ready to get back to my normal/strange self.

I have a little random, minimally planned, overly ambitious, craftiness to share. It is my hope that this post will refresh me! I plan to get back in the groove, and move forward with all my household projects, which have all been sadly neglected since February or so.

So here it is: When we first moved into this house, I immediately had a plan on how I would be decorating the entry way. I wanted it to be eye catching and interesting and fun. My plan involved repurposing some ledge shelves from our previous home, framed photos and Fiestaware. It would have been great.

But then, a friend and I (during a night of home decor, via text message) came up with a different idea.

We found this wallpaper online and admired it, heartily. I thought it over. $45 a roll, plus install. Not too bad. It's not that large of an area. But something else struck me pretty quickly, "What if I just drew it on the wall with a sharpie?" Yes! That's what I'll do.  Since, you know, that's how sharpies are meant to be used. 

And that is what I did.

I started with a fresh coat of white paint and then went to town with a medium point sharpie. I started out using various sizes of books as templates, but eventually threw that plan out the window and freehanded it. It's intentionally imperfect, because perfection is outside of my realm.

I didn't take any photos during the process, so I'll just share the finished product with you. 

Entry 1

All the decor and accessories are things I already owned, and for the most part it's the same stuff that was here before I redid the wall.  I am considering replacing the books and bookends with a vase and single large flower.  We'll see.


I decided not to fill the entire wall in, yet. I might go back and finish it someday, sometime. But for now I like it a little asymmetrical and unfinished.

From living room

Looking back

That's it.

I used a little over a half gallon of off-the-shelf white paint from Lowes, and one medium point sharpie.  My calculations say this was about a $10-ish project.

There you have it! A short and sweet little something.  I'm here, just plugging away.  I bought a cool chair for $7 at the SPCA thrift store yesterday.  Maybe it will be the material for my next post!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

re: Sundance

Someday I'll get to go to the Sundance Film Festival, and actually be able to discuss new documentaries with those in the know.

For now, I'll watch shorts and previews, online. I will also discover that some movies at Sundance are just beyond my personal comfort level. But we can talk about that another time.

Quite possibly the most wacky and maybe bizarre short film, ever:

SO SO SO amazingly beautiful:

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom Trailer from Tsunami Blossom on Vimeo.