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!!!
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.
This week has been one heck of a ride. Lot’s to be excited about and lots of future adventures on the horizon that I’ll be blogging about. I’ve been doing some “copying” lately with regards to recipes and, well, famous paintings. Learn from the best right? Sometimes creativity is playing around with other people’s ideas–make sure and give them ALL THE CREDIT, of course.
Another thing…I failed at a scratch banana cream pie. I noticed that I had extra whip cream and some bananas (about to go bad), so why not attempt it? It turns out that cooking custard and getting a desirable consistency is something only genius cooks with arcane culinary and mathematical skills can master.
Here is my pie. But I won’t ruin your moment and display the runny, slushy middle. It tasted AMAZING. Impeccable freshness with a deliciously thick homemade graham cracker crust. However, the consistency of the filling was WAAAY off–even after allowing it to set for 6 hours uncovered in the fridge.
Making a “firm enough” custard filling is one of those precarious situations. You better not undercook or overcook it and it has to be done accurately within 5-7 minutes on your stovetop. You have to stir rapidly during the boiling process (no distractions or multi-tasking). Oh, and don’t let your custard brown on the bottom of the pan during your 5-7 minute boil. It’s very difficult to achieve a decent result because the parameters are so strict. Don’t accidentally scramble the eggs either–you’ll get lumps.
I don’t want any liability or litigation, so I won’t be posting this banana cream pie recipe here. I will give the taste of this pie an A+ but the consistency an F–it was very creamy (no lumps) but it just wasn’t firm enough. My daughter keeps asking for more–so we’ll be eating it over the next couple days.
After my pie failure, I decided to go for something easier. How about cold brewed coffee? I had been skimming over the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and noticed her recipe. I basically followed her General Plan for iced coffee.
I used a very dark coffee bean (Rwandan Coffee beans) and ground them up. Then I scooped 3 large cups of my freshly ground coffee and dumped them into a glass bowl.
Next, I poured 6 cups of COLD water over the coffee grounds and gave it a quick mix with a spoon. Finally, I covered it in plastic wrap, set it on the counter top and let it brew for over 12 hours.
Once the 12 hours were up, I found a bigger glass bowl, a sieve and some paper towels. I strained the ground coffee mixture through the sieve and about 2-5 layers of paper towels (yes, this will take a bit of patience but I promise it works as a PERFECT FILTER and I didn’t get a single stray coffee ground in my final brew!
I poured the cold brewed coffee into a juice dispenser and let it chill in the fridge over night. My only regret is that I didn’t make enough!
Let me tell you, this is the BEST CHILLED/ICED/COLD-BREW COFFEE I’VE EVER TASTED!
Just fill a glass with ice cubes, decant your brewed coffee into the icy mix and dribble in some half and half and a spoonful of sugar (or don’t). Either way, its just luscious!
I thought that the dark roast would be too-overpowering, but it wasn’t at all. It just tasted rich…deeply flavored even after a splash of half and half.
Another thing that I’ve been doing this past month is trying to paint, “The Yellow Christ” by Paul Gauguin. The Yellow Christ has always been one of my favorite paintings of all time. I just find the color scheme breathtakingly original. Gauguin is definitely one of my favorite painters–one of his paintings sold for 300 million in 2015–just to give you some perspective of his classic popularity and talent.
Here is my version:
We’re also working on another acrylic painting (this one, 100% my own idea) with my little painting helper beside me!
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:
Use 2 boxes of brownie mix. I used this one:
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.
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?
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:
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.
Thank you for checking out my little blog. There will be lots to write about with all of our upcoming adventures.
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.
We’ve all heard it before, “Good writers write frequently, they practice and sharpen their writing skills by writing 500–sometimes 1000-1,500 words each day”. Practice makes perfect.
Stephen King makes 40 million dollars a year for his wordsmithing, and guess what? He writes 1000-2000 words every single day. He’s been doing this for decades, so if anyone’s getting practice writing, he certainly is! Is it any wonder that the people who succeed are getting practice daily?
Nothing comes for free. Not even talent– because it must be continually refined and updated and this takes time of course, precious time that you could be spending elsewhere. You’re going to have to get good at trying… attempting to write and doing it regularly. And you’re going to have to get good at being brave.
Now, here’s an idea, how about using your personal (or public) blog space to practice your own writing? You certainly don’t have to scribe your inner-most thoughts every single day or post anything too controversial that might turn you into a public pariah, but you can find something to blather about. I know you can.
If you haven’t noticed, this is exactly what I do here on this blog! I’ve committed myself to once-a-week blogging (which is writing, right?). My ultimate goal for this blog is posting 3 times each week. Do you have any long-term goals for your blog?
There are these random thoughts that come to me while I’m unloading the dishwasher. Sometimes they come while lying in bed just before sleep impales my brain. Perhaps a stranger makes a crass remark in a parking lot. More often than not, it is movement–physical movement–that triggers a cascade of thoughts. As writers, we all need a cascade of thoughts. We need a supply of input in order to have ANY output. Ironically, now that I have two children, I’m moving so much more and my thoughts are swirling but I have less time to write. These thoughts are the jewels that need to be mined.
In my mind I can think of the two most important things for bloggers:
HAVING CONTENT–you NEED something to write about, to babble about that has the potential to draw a reader or arouse curiosity.
People are unable to blog because of the 2 reasons I listed above. I promise. That’s it!
The content part is the biggie. There are far too many people out there who are worried to write because they HAVE FEARS ABOUT THEIR CONTENT. They worry about how they are perceived. They worry that:
A. they look like they complain too much.
B. they look like they’re bragging/being a show-off
C. they’re making too many (public) errors in their writing.
D. they’re writing is too inane.
E. they’ll leave some indelible mark on the internet so that people can, at some point in the distant future, point to what they wrote and say, :”hahaha, you wrote that piece of crap. You suck”.
F. People will think they’re mentally unstable
How about, who cares? None of these reasons are legitimate reasons for the passionate writer/thinker/creator. In fact, all of the above are great avenues for writing from time to time. Eventually you’ll find other topics to explore, but generating content is definitely going to be the thing you struggle with, so don’t let any of the thoughts above halt your progress if you happen to go into such territory.
Now how about a link with advice from an experienced writer to those of us beginners? Here you go:
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.”
Iweighed 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?
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 playwith. “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.
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.
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.
We found another amazing art deco building one day. Check out the stunning architecture and colors here:
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.
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.
One day I pushed the double stroller into the LAFashion 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.