TRYING STARBUCKS SALTED CREAM COLD FOAM BREW & VISITING CLINE FALLS NATIONAL PARK, OREGON

TRYING STARBUCKS SALTED CREAM COLD FOAM BREW & VISITING CLINE FALLS NATIONAL PARK, OREGON

I love blogging. It hits the spot. It’s like my little punch of dopamine. Some play video games; I try and weave a blog post together. And neither of us will judge the other, okay? It pulls me out of the daily monotony and displaces time doing physical labor–something I’ve grown to DESPISE.  Unloading dishwasher…diaper changing…folding clothes….putting things away constantly….cleaning out the car…cleaning up after meals….grocery shopping….weeding the front flower bed….putting things away….picking things up….bathtime….getting up throughout the night (for almost 3 years now) to feed screaming babies….and never enough rest or time to do the things I desire to do.

Someday people will look back at our current time and instead of saying “There’s an app for that”, they’ll be saying “There’s a robot for that.” Imagine how much more free time future people will have for video games and surfing the internet while ignoring 3-D humans by enslaving semi-humanoids/Robots? Bonus, we won’t need to go to college either. There will probably be some way of downloading information straight into our brains…perhaps some attachment device to our brains so specific kinds of knowledge integrates and adds to our own minds! Why bother studying when you can just BECOME MORE AWARE, MORE knowledgeable with just the press of a button? BYE BYE AlZHEIMERS, BYE BYE  Double Digit IQ.

Today has been hot. HOT. I think it’s 102 degrees and we don’t have an air conditioner. Instead of enjoy the balmy 87 degree house temp, I thought getting out and hitting some air conditioned stores would be best.

We began with Tuesday morning Storytime at the library. If you live anywhere near Bend (Oregon) you can appreciate all the FREE CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES here! Summertime is dense with activities, everything from parks galore to free lunches, free crafts and games with terrific staff. There’s also free music (but not free food) at Drake Park on Thursday evenings. Don’t forget Farmer’s Market downtown on Wednesdays!

MY CHILDREN AT TUESDAY MORNING LIBRARY STORYTIME

 

After Storytime, we headed over to Target to try a SALTED CREAM COLD FOAM BREW offered by Starbucks. WHAT A SUPRISING CONCOCTION! Delectably creamy, deeply-brewed with a tingle of salty aftermath. If you don’t mind a bit of salty flavor, you’ll really enjoy this drink! My daughter also requested her first CAKE POP upon spotting a row inside the glass pastry shelf. In case you needed to know, we actually went to Target to purchase baby food and my daughter’s first set of underpants. Milestones are underway.

I WANT SALTED CREAM COLD BREW COFFEE MAMA! PLEEEEEEASE!!!

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Trying her very first CAKE POP! What an irony for such a hot day.

 

 

We also spent a chunk of the hot day at Cline Falls State Park. This is a very beautiful region in central Oregon near Redmond–like the quintessential ‘oasis in the desert’. You’ll see the usual scrubby evergreen trees and earthy terrain and suddenly you’ll spot the river and it’s grassy green banks.  It will settle your soul, akin to taking a deep breath on a hot, parched afternoon.

Since I had little one’s we didn’t make it to the Falls section, but we did find multiple “beach spots” to play along a calm section of the river. I highly recommend it here–especially for little ones. There are so many gentle wading areas and deeper, yet easy flowing areas for a nice float.  There are plenty of picnic tables too! Just make sure to go on a weekday and earlier in the day too. You’ll easily find a spot to enjoy the river. We found some nice companions there who offered us freshly picked cherries. 

Enjoying the Deschutes River near Cline Falls:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THINGS TO DO NEAR BEND, OREGON. RAINFORESTS and OLD GROWTH GROVES with MY CHILDREN!

THINGS TO DO NEAR BEND, OREGON. RAINFORESTS and OLD GROWTH GROVES with MY CHILDREN!

Do you ever just pack up your kids, get in your car and start driving? You have a general idea of where you’re going, but nothing more. That’s what I did this Wednesday. I’m becoming increasingly less timid taking my 9 month old and 2 year old out on “adult-like” adventures by myself.

I wanted to revisit the Willamette National Forest (a lush rainforest–almost tropical) and also the Santiam River.The Santiam River has been whispering my name since our last visit. We crossed the Santiam Pass back in May on our drive to the Oregon coast and drove right next to the Santiam river.

Perhaps, one of the most inviting rivers I have ever seen. Sparkling water of various depths weaves over a rock and clay river bed. Every twist and turn of this river has interesting features, like deep blue pools of water (perfect swimming holes!) or stretches of river with a smooth, clay covered bottom. It is densely vegetated in this rainforest and the trees that flank the banks are cloaked in moss.

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The problem with this river– and perhaps why it’s so pristine– is that it fairly hard to find a spot on the side of the road to park. Even more, it’s difficult to find any trails to navigate down to it. It’s not accessible in most places. I guess you could forge your way through a densely vegetated drop-off to reach the river–but with a baby in the front pack and a toddler, there was no way I was trying that. Honestly though, the day was so hot and the bright sunshine was cajoling us to the river so we found another, safer spot to splash:

 

I also wanted to scamper into the Hackleman Old Growth Grove with my children. And we did. These Old Growth trees were unreal… simply magical. I would highly recommend taking your children (of all ages) on this trail–its even (partly) wheel chair and stroller accessible. Even on a hot day you have plenty of shade from all the trees overhead and a nice breeze too. It feels cool in the forest on a hot day!

The best part? We basically had the hiking path to ourselves. What a glorious day seeing nature, past and present.

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The Willamette National Forest:

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Boxed Brownies For Imbeciles!!!

Boxed Brownies For Imbeciles!!!

I apologize if my brownie blog post conjures up feelings of oppression or triggers anxiety. I’m happy for you if you’ve already mastered the astute skill of boxed brownie making and I’m not sure I can offer anything in this post.

This post is actually for ME! Because I’m incompetent when it comes to brownie-making. I’m posting it here so that I can refer to it for my future brownie-baking endeavors.

I’m 37 years old. I’ve never, ever made decent brownies to save a squirrel. I’ve tried baking them from scratch. I’ve tried making every possible boxed brownie mix I could find but never any success. NEVER.

Like many, my problem isn’t with flavor (who can’t add a few marshmallows, chocolate chips, nuts or whatever–as if that’s brilliant?). My failure has always been with texture…consistency…how they swim and melt on my palate. In the end, the brilliance is in the baking.

I always make brownies either A. Undercooked or B. So hard and tough that you feel like you’re eating beef jerky.

THE TWO THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT MAKING BOXED BROWNIES?

Over the past few months I’ve been doing some brownie research. Why does this ALWAYS happen to me? I’ve discovered that there are a couple reasons.

The first thing that I kept coming across was that in order to achieve a chewy, gooey texture with adequate density and thickness (but still baked properly) you need to make a double batch (2 boxes of brownie mix) and bake in a 9×13 aluminum pan!

The second thing is to mix the wet ingredients separately, add them to the dry ingredients, and let your mixer swirl the ingredients for just a few seconds–just until they are imperfectly wet and mixed. If you beat the ingredients too long, your brownie batter develops air pockets and makes the texture more like a cake than a brownie.

Today I finally made brownies that tasted delicious, but even better–had the correct “brownie-texture” once I followed these simple rules:

  1. Use 2 boxes of brownie mix. I used this one:

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2. Double all your ingredients as per your box (obviously, you’re using 2 boxes).

3. Mix the wet ingredients separately and completely.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and beat with mixer just until mixed.

5. Smear a decent layer of vegetable oil all over a 9×13 aluminum pan.

6. Pour brownie batter into super greasy pan.

7. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

8. Bake the brownies for 50-53 minutes. I baked mine for 51 minutes and they turned out perfectly gooey inside with a crackly top.

8. Let your brownies cool (and continue to cook in pan) for over 1 hour after you pull them out of the oven. I cut mine after about 2.5 hours.

They are still gooey inside but sufficiently baked! This has been my struggle!! Finally I have a decent brownie plan for future brownie creations.

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Refurbishing Vintage Baby Shoes with SPRAY PAINT for less than $4.00!!!

Refurbishing Vintage Baby Shoes with SPRAY PAINT for less than $4.00!!!

Not long ago I was at my Mom’s house, rummaging through a box of one of my brother’s “keepsakes” and “baby items”. This box was no younger than 38 years old and wedged tightly on the cement floor of the storage room–at the bottom of the shelves. As you know, I’m always looking for an interesting, useful find and wanted to see if there was anything that could be salvaged and used for my little ones.

Sure enough, I found the perfect pair of baby shoes in all their aged radiance and splendor! I think these are much, much older than 38 years, but who cares? 

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I decided that I would take these little cuties on a 5 hour drive back to our house in central Oregon and see if I could fix-them-up.  After all, they would still be sitting in that box in the basement for the rest of their existence, so why not? I decided on glossy white spray paint. Here is the one I used:

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MY METHOD:

First, I used a very fine grained sand paper and sanded the rough areas of the shoes. Next, I washed them with soap, water and a toothbrush. I allowed them to dry over night. The next day I applied painters tape to the parts of the shoe that I didn’t want to be touched by paint.

I spray painted the shoes 1x and let them set and dry for over a week. Then, I spray painted them a second time. I separately washed the shoe laces with soap and water and then put them in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons bleach, 1 tablespoon of baking soda with about 1 cup or so of water. I allowed them to sit for a couple hours and then rinsed them and let them dry on the window sill. Finally, I laced up the shoes and voila, here is my result.

These shoes looked rejuvenated and ready to wear when baby boy is a little bigger. Not perfect, but certainly much better than before. I’m excited how they turned out and even more excited that they can be used again instead of sitting in a box, buried in a basement somewhere in eastern Oregon.

 

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Thank you for checking out my little blog. There will be lots to write about with all of our upcoming adventures.

 

Please Invent MOM APP, to Track Household Work Done Each Day!

Maintaining a household for a family of 4 (or more) is hard work! It’s endless, constant, menial, laborious and non-intellectual–and the worst part? It’s all invisible work. Nobody really knows how much physical labor you’re doing as a mother. There’s no hidden account keeping track of all thoes hours BOTH of your hands were tied up, holding children and putting various items away.

And…if you dare to say anything regarding the amount of drudgery, and brain-shrinking, incessant clean-up, you immediately are castigated for “complaining” and “you know what you were getting into….maybe you should have thought twice before having children”.

Yes, yes. This is all true--except the part about “knowing what you were getting into before having children.”

Who knew that you actually never get a break unless you’re fortunate enough to have an occasional babysitter, grandparent, older helpful children, daycare or nanny nearby?!

But society needs future tax payers and we need people to raise them. So mothers are still a very important part of this process. We’re not outsourcing our childcare and housework to mother-nanny robots yet.

There are pedometers, there are apps out there for “daily steps walked” and there are apps that keep track of your health. But what about an app for all the moms who want something to show for all of their constant, childcare and clean-up around the clock with no breaks?

Someone needs to invent a way of calculating the precise amounts of weekly time spent on childcare and housework. Mothers need to have a way of recording and proving all of the time spent trying to prepare meals and “feeding” unwilling-to-eat-a-bite toddlers.

We need to know how much laundry our hands have spent folding and putting away as we dealt with a screaming baby and toddler constantly obstructing our path to the closet.

We need to know how much time we’re spending vacuuming floors and wiping off counters and faces and hands and re-puting dirty dishes into the dishwasher and unloading clean dishes and picking things up every second of our waking hour.

We need to have a documented account of all the time spent cleaning the front and back porches, weeding the flower beds, doing diapers on two children and removing all the garbages and diaper pails and scrubbing the bathroom shower and tubs and toilets.

And don’t even get me started on every single grocery shop for our household–ALWAYS–with 2 children in the cart. And bringing every single heavy grocery bag in every single time and putting ALL groceries away EVERY SINGLE TIME. Grocery Shopping is literally a 3 hour ordeal every time– and we’re talking 2-3 times each week.

We need to know how little time we spent doing any activities we enjoyed throughout the month– compared to others.

I think that a handy phone app that somehow tallied up all of our invisible work done by mothers each day–all day, ALL NIGHT in my case (with an 8th month old who wakes up every hour and half throughout the night, no kidding) –all the work that kept us from scribbling a half-ass blog post in 3-4, weeks would do some justice.

Our Downtown Los Angeles Trip, April 2018!!! With all my Pics. :)

Our Downtown Los Angeles Trip, April 2018!!! With all my Pics. :)

My husband said we could come with him on his trip. He had a week-long educational conference in Los Angeles, a city I had never been to before. The hotel was already booked and his flight paid for long in advance.

“Are you sure? Don’t you want a reprieve from screaming children who interrupt your sleep? We would all be sleeping in the same hotel room after all. Why don’t you just go alone this time?”

“Why don’t you guys come? The hotel is going to be the same price whether you all come or I go alone. It would only cost me a couple extra hundred bucks for your plane tickets. The baby could sit on your lap.”

I weighed the pros and cons. I knew how much work it would be to pack for both myself and the children. But I’ve done it multiple times before, right? I knew that lugging all the extra baby stuff around– car seats, car seat bases, a double stroller, baby carriers, diapers, bottles, formula, baby cereal, bibs and cloths and tons of extra baby outfits would be overwhelming. Of course, this doesn’t include all the contraptions I would bring for myself.

Eating out for all 3 meals (even if only “cheap” fast food) would add up fast. On the plus side, we would get room service every day. The children and I could explore downtown in the double stroller and experience the city-life, albeit temporarily. Meals would be no- fuss, no preparation or clean up– just throw away the packaging and wipe off the kids’ hands and faces. Finito.

“Oh, all right. If you insist. We would love to come.”

On my “list of minuses” I didn’t factor in the flight. What could possibly go wrong on a short two-hour flight with two tots?

THE FLIGHT

My husband and daughter sat next to each other on one row and I clutched onto our 6 month old across the asile. We sat next to an over-sized lady who was spilling over into our space.

Unfortunately for her, this meant my son would be thrusting his little feet into her fleshy sides throughout the flight. She didn’t appear to be the child-loving type either– as she squeezed herself against the window, hoping to merge into the the airplane wall and disappear from existence.

This doesn’t even begin to describe the misery my son inflicted upon this poor woman. Picture, if you will, an intensely high-pitched, screaming intermingled with an annoying whine, that lasts for almost 1 hour straight. It wasn’t just our airplane neighbor who experienced the cacophony of the flight. My baby’s screaming was enough to inspire the agitation of everyone on board.

Even the flight attendant tried energetically to distract the baby–offering him crackly packages of pretzels or crinkly plastic cups to play with. “Won’t he take one?” She pleaded, as he threw the items onto the center aisle.

The baby refused to breastfeed. No matter how many times I tried, my efforts were met with even louder squeals as he pulled away. He’s not a pacifier baby either. My daughter was the same way.

On the other side of the airplane aisle, another battle was ensuing. My 2 year old was furiously trying to unbuckle her seat belt and jettison herself out of the seat. She was vigorously kicking her legs on the back of the seat in front of her. I’m sure a mild amusement to the passenger seated here. *Sarcasm*

My tot was requesting that the overhead light be turned on, then off. On, then off. She wanted the window shutter open, then closed, open, then closed. Repeat 693 times. My poor husband.

Once our flight from purgatory landed, we piled the taxi high with suitcases and baby equipment. Thankfully paradise was waiting for us.

We got to stay in the luxurious Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown LA among all the skyscrapers. This is a gorgeous hotel that is infused with art deco architecture. Shiny marble floors greet your feet. Bell Hops jump out of no where to grab your belongings and make your dreams come true.

There are towering ceilings in the lobby and hallway that lure the eyes towards paintings and sculpturesque adornments that flaunt every surface. For a fraction of a second, you feel like you’re in a European cathedral.

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The next day, I took the kids outside our hotel for a spin in the stroller–something I would do every single day, all-day, until the day we left.

Clementine is California ready! Now to explore outside our hotel 🙂

One of the first things you notice about downtown LA–besides the exquisitely beautiful buildings, palm trees and perfect weather–are the bums. Demographics are ALWAYS the first thing I notice anywhere I go.

And you guessed it, I noticed right away that these homeless individuals were disproportionately MALE.

Throughout millennia, men have been more likely than women to fight in battles; many becoming wounded veterans. Men have been the ones to work in some of the most physically unbearable jobs like building cathedrals or castles with heir bare hands until old age, and then dying with little more than a legacy of brutal, laborious hardship (at least in Europe, that is). If you haven’t noticed, the male gender is ALSO more likely to be in prison or homeless– at least compared to their female cohort.

Does this reflect some sort of over-arching social inequality for males in modern society? Homelessness occurs for a variety of reasons of course–criminal history, physical disability, poverty, mental illness, a history of laziness or bad luck–and let’s not forget one of the biggest reasons–ADDICTION–but the gender issue is clear. I SAW MANY MORE HOMELESS MALES THAN FEMALES ON THE STREETS. Does mental illness disproportionately affect males? Many questions and thoughts like these were assaulting my consciousness.

I wanted to check out Skid Row and find out if my male-to-female ratio suspicions regarding homelessness were accurate. I pushed the double stroller in every direction within a 3 mile radius all over Los Angeles this past week and became familiar with the names of every street, but we never made it past Main Street (the tough area, let’s just say).

One evening, my husband was out for a conference related dinner, I strapped the kids in the double stroller for a night ride. We explored more territory and came across an incredible bookstore called, “The Last Bookstore“–I highly recommend taking a peek at this charming spot if you’re in the area. It’s quaint and stuffed with splendid books–both new and old. The cashier countertop is propped up by hundreds of old books. I even purchased a couple of books for the kids and came out with one for myself called, “The Perfect Nanny”, an international bestseller.

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We found another amazing art deco building one day. Check out the stunning architecture and colors here:

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I also took the kids to the LA public library. These were the murals on the walls inside the library:

…and the library courtyard garden was a delightful space for honing those Zen moments of contemplation.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without an arm load of goodies from the library bookstore.

We also spent an overcast day at the beach in Santa Monica.

And I made sure to take the kids to any park I could find in downtown LA anytime we encountered one.

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Finally, on one of our walking excursions we found this neat HUGE antique shop, “Olde Good Things“. I regret not buying the cool antique globe I found.

We also went to Hollywood where we walked along the famous path of stars and Universal Studios too. What fun! I just LOVED the Simpson’s ride. Los Angeles was much better than I had expected it to be.

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Surprised it’s not destroyed!?!?

One day I pushed the double stroller into the LA Fashion District where there are material and fabric shops galore.

Pushing the kids around in the double stroller was entertainment for everyone. People stared in partial disbelief combined with surprise. Everywhere we went people were EXTREMELY KIND to us and made whatever necessary accommodations for the children.

FASHION DISTRICT, DOWNTOWN LA

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Notice the kitty cat sleeping beside the sewing machine.

How To Stop Being a Perfectionist (when you become a Mom)?!?

How To Stop Being a Perfectionist (when you become a Mom)?!?

It’s difficult, I know. Maintaining general order in as many areas as you could attempt was that one thing keeping you sane, giving you some sense of comfort and control. You didn’t realize the sense of relief you derived from an organized, uncluttered, esthetically pleasing environment. You are a type A, an ambitious, non-time waster. You accomplish things and make plans. You’re not one of these people who allows messes to build-up. You don’t follow the crowd but chart your own course through life.

Alas, no more. Messes are strewn throughout every corner of your home. Whenever you make a laborious, time-consuming initiative to straighten one space, you’re being taken down in another– often 2-3 steps back. Your tot is creating havoc in every possible dimension with the help of a pair of gooey hands.

Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the non-stop screaming chorus put forth by your 6 month old. You’re frantically trying to remove objects that could trip anyone. You can barely think.

You’re not embarking on any kind of major “spring cleaning” adventure. You’re only trying to make your surroundings safe and prevent an ER visit. That’s it. If you had any spare moments you would be doing the have-to’s: diaper changing 2 kids, meal preparation, folding laundry, taking out all the garbages, vacuuming the entire house, filing the baby’s (longish) fingernails, taking a shower, …even these activities would provide a glimmer of hope that you’re succeeding at something.

Tony Robbin’s aptly said, “Happiness is Progress”. But it’s so hard…because you’re not getting this feeling of progress. Ever. And to make matters worse, you’re a perfectionist so this is kind of your M.O. You live for the feeling of progress. Here is a picture of our mantel: This is how I think of perfection…or, my-kind of perfection, at least. Ahhh, this is what I like.

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And this is my kind of imperfection–our house when we first moved in. Stuff everywhere, in disarray. And, to be honest, there are many days where it looks like this ALL OVER AGAIN. This is what I don’t like. My cortisol levels

I often like to joke, “How does one torture a modern, western woman?” ANSWER: You prevent her from accomplishing anything. No career for you, young lady. We will just give you some money “to get by on” and you can clean up all these messes over and over again and you won’t have to learn anything new. Bonus, we’ll bring you fast food and prevent you from exercising.” NOW THIS IS TORMENT.

Joking aside, How can I ever get away from this incessant, mind-overtaking need to be a perfectionist…to get things done and done perfectly? I honestly don’t know. I’m trying different strategies right now. .. everyday. What to do…what not to do.

I guess what I’ve learned about myself is that I do many things for my own psychological comfort– not because they are that necessary. I want to learn as much as a I can because I want to have the skills and education to fall back on if I were to need them. We all are lucky and unlucky at different points in our lives. It’s easy to assume that you’ll always be lucky or that you’ll always be unlucky. You’ll probably cross back and forth on that road a few times in life.

I’ve recently decided to turn down my perfectionism a few notches. That is, I pick one (maybe two) areas where I allow myself to be a perfectionist. It’s important for us perfectionist-types to have at least 1 area where we can still manage our perfectionism–otherwise, things seem so chaotic to our brains that we can’t even think. For me it’s floors. I hate dirty floors. So I let myself vacuum frequently; every other day for sure…sometimes every day. The other area that I’m committing myself to (besides occasionally taking care of the children) is exercise.

So that’s it. I had to set some limits. I give myself 2 areas to be a perfectionist and try to let the rest go until I have more time in my life. Once I get more time, you can bet that I’ll be crazy.