7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

It’s been too long since I’ve updated this old space… I’ve been meaning to quite a bit lately, but I haven’t felt like any of the random things I could think of to write were worthy of a post. So instead, I thought maybe I could come up with seven random things that could link up to the Quick Takes links lots of blogs do. Here it goes!

— 2 —

Most of the last few weekends have been pretty packed with all kinds of home improvement projects. We’d wanted to add some color to the living room for a while (it was all white with beige carpet and brown couches…), so we finally picked a green shade and took it on during one of our last snow days in late February. Once we painted that wall, it was obvious how badly the trim needed to be done. Of course we couldn’t stop at the trim on that wall, so we redid most of the house. We loved the green color on one wall, so we also painted the stairs wall. Then we painted another coat on the bathroom (we had used an eggshell paint leftover from the dining room a year ago and learned the hard way that bathroom walls need a gloss paint to handle the steam). We’re taking a break this weekend then eventually going to repaint some of the white walls in the living room, and eventually the ceiling.

— 3 —

Luther's Adoption Day

On top of the painting projects, this little guy has required that we also work on a fence extension project. Luther learned two months into living here that he could indeed clear our 4-foot fence pretty easily. Once he learned, he jumped nonstop, with no reason at all and even if we were standing right out there watching him. We spent one weekend attaching two feet of chicken wire to the top, which worked for about two weeks before he found a hole. Last weekend we bought more chicken wire still, and we’re hoping we’ve solved the problem. It’s really strange when he goes out there just desperate to hope the fence. He loves it here, loves us, loves Indie, but he still tries to leave. Luckily, he’s always come back easily so far. We even learned when we were repairing the fence for the second time that the neighbors had seen him hop the fence the day before while we were at work, but he proceeded to jump back in. Anyway, hopefully we’ve finally found a hole-proof solution.

— 4 —

Puss in Boots Collage

Luther’s very clever, though, and he balances his antics of fence-jumping and trash-digging with cuteness. I’m pretty sure he learned from Puss in Boots in Shrek. He can be running around being wild, then if you sit on the couch, he’s immediately in your lap snuggling as closely as he can, staring at you in admiration. He’s pretty much a cat.

— 5 —

I planted some lettuce seeds last weekend to get a head start on the gardening season. It was 75 or so last weekend. Wednesday night we were woken throughout the night with pouring rain and thunder. Water was rushing down the street by the time we left for work the next day, and there was flooding throughout the state. Anyway, as I kept waking up with the thunder, all I could think of was my tiny lettuce seeds being washed away. Between the super heavy rain and two black dogs obsessed with that part of the garden, it will be a miracle if they ever sprout.

— 6 —

Indie and Luther 2014 (3)

With the fence-jumping, barking at the neighbors, and a few other issues escalating, the time had come for obedience school. We opted to take both dogs to a private lesson with the same place Indie went to for obedience school (Doggie Do Right–highly recommend them). We wanted to talk about a few issues with how they’re interacting together, and both of them already know most of the commands that would be taught in a traditional class, so it was a better deal for us to do a private lesson. We got lots of answers for how to work on some of our issues. Mainly, the dog-sledding behavior every time we go for a walk is coming to an end! Indie has never been able to walk without pulling, and we thought he was the worst until we got Luther. We’ve tried various non-pull harnesses, and Indie just freaks out to the point that he’ll hardly move wearing them, and they don’t slow Luther down a bit. Doggie Do Right suggested that we walk them until they pull on the leash, then turn and go in the opposite direction. Keep doing that until they can walk straight. We’ve worked three days on it, and they’ve both improved incredibly. The neighbors within a two house radius on both sides must think we’re nuts, but we’re slowly making it further and further. Only thing is my arm muscles might deteriorate without having to withstand their pulling so much!

— 7 —

I only devoted three out of seven parts of this post to the dogs, so that must mean I’m not officially a crazy dog lady. In other news, we’ve seen two awesome movies lately. Last week was the Muppets, which is one of my all-time favorites. I think the first of the reboot was better (one of my very favorite movies), but this one was still highly entertaining. Love the humor of the Muppets, and I’ll never outgrow that. Thursday we went to see the new Captain America. I thought it was really good. Everyone else thought it was the best superhero movie ever. I wouldn’t ever say anything so bold in case I offended Jeff and Batman, but turns out Jeff thought it was the best too! (He says Dark Knight isn’t a superhero movie…whatever.) Anyway, highly recommend both movies!

Hope to be back around this place before another two months is up!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Four Attributes of Other Cultures for Americans to Steal

ImageI’ve traveled a decent amount, and I must say, whenever I leave the U.S., I usually find bits and pieces of new countries that make me jealous that my home country isn’t like that. Don’t get me wrong–our country does a lot of things right. But we could all learn from a slower, more intentional life pace. If I could, I’d choose a few things to bring back to the U.S.:

  1. Walking as the Primary Transportation: You’d be hard-pressed to find a country more spread out than the U.S. Yes, there are plenty of nations bigger than ours, but not many whose individual towns and cities are so spread out. I live in a relatively small metro area, in the nearest suburb to the main city, and I have a 20 minute drive to work downtown (when there’s no traffic). On my drive there, sidewalks only exist for a total of about 10 blocks. There’s no public transportation. When I lived in Spain, I had a 2+ mile walk to school each way, and I walked there twice a day (everything closes in the middle of the day for lunch). I also had the option to take a bus, but why would I do that when so many other community members were walking alongside me.
  2. Value of Quality, Healthy Food: There’s a reason why many countries won’t allow U.S. food inside their borders–the standards of food quality are much less strict. We’ve made food so efficient that it doesn’t taste good anymore. I’ve never even been to France to taste its famous bread, but I can tell you that bread anywhere in Europe is anything you find here. If you want to eat bread today, you bought it this morning. You wouldn’t think of buying it earlier or it wouldn’t be fresh. Going to the market is often a daily task–otherwise your produce isn’t fresh. But it’s not a burden–the small, frequent trips are part of routine. Plus, they usually involve walking a block or two away (see #1).
  3. Emphasis on Family: In many other countries, it’s common to see multiple generations living under one roof. I’m not advocating for that personally, but there is something to be said about the importance of family and the joy of spending time together. Gathering with the extended family isn’t relegated to one holiday a year. Instead, many families gather all together every Sunday or even more often.
  4. Slower Pace: I already mentioned–in Spain, every single person went home for two to three hours in the middle of the day. You’d also spend most the day Sunday resting. You didn’t really have a choice since everything was closed. It’s a common site to see people just sitting on park benches for hours, enjoying the company of their neighbors. In Mexico, you’ll often see people just resting in the afternoon, not worrying about all they need to accomplish. In the U.S., so many people don’t even set aside a 30 minute break for lunch.

It’s easy to focus on these things and wish that things were different in our own culture. But what if we tried to change them instead?

ImageI can walk everywhere I can (which isn’t many places in my current city, divided by a highway with no sidewalks). Even if I can’t walk to my destination, I can enjoy walking just to enjoy my neighborhood and those around me.

I can grow my own food whenever possible. I can avoid packaged foods with ingredients I don’t understand. I can make other things from scratch. It tastes better and honestly isn’t much harder most of the time.

I can create a culture with my own family to value each other and the time we spend together. Even if the miles separate us, we can find ways to stay a part of our daily lives through technology.

I can choose the slower, more intentional life pace.

It’s not always easy and may not seem natural, but we can choose which parts of our culture we base our lives around and which we choose to break the norm on. I’ve been reading “Notes From a Blue Bike,” by Tsh Oxenreider, where she talks about how this played out in her own life. Through her beautiful essays including stories from her own life, she challenges us to make changes that feel natural to us. It’s not a weird self-help book (not a fan of those). It’s just a glimpse into how one person started living more the way she was intended to.

After living in Turkey for a while, Tsh returned to the U.S. and found the drastic differences of societal pressure regarding food, work, entertainment and more. Then she realized she could actually choose not to pay attention to those pressures.

One step at a time, we can shape our lives more into how we were meant to live. Not with pressure from society or to be perfect, but just in ways that feel right to us.

P.S. I’m only 2/3 through the book, but I’d totally recommend it. A quick, worthwhile and inspiring read.

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. Grab your copy here.Image

Lil\'Luna

A Taste of Spring

8421004210_a5bd3ff53fPhoto credit “Winter Fragility”

The surprising warmth in January brings flies buzzing around lamps again, neighbor boys playing basketball all day in the street while wearing shorts, and a backyard so soaked with melted snow it’s now an oozing brown sponge.

One week ago, this was our reality amidst negative temperatures:

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As super fun as snow is to an energetic puppy, we all welcomed the reprieve from the frozen world.

In Portland, a surprisingly sunny day (of course all sunny days are surprises there) brings the entire city outside. You’ve never really experienced communal joy until you’ve walked along a path in a Portland park on a sunny–or even partly cloudy–day in February or March. When you don’t see the sun for weeks on end, you never take it for granted. The entire city lives by that motto, which makes you swear that all one-million people in the metro area are at the same park you are on that sunny day.

Here in the middle of the country, we tend to take the sun for granted. It’s blindingly sunny almost every day all winter long, with the sun deceiving you from the frigid temperatures.

But every once in a while, the thermometer offers a little more mercy, and the coats are hung in the closet for a few hours. Midwesterners don’t have the same carpe diem sense that Portlanders do on these blessed days, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find a few grateful weather-enjoyers.

The kids always seem to catch on first, riding their bikes outside, pretending it’s not January. Some grownups take advantage of some time to rake some forgotten leaves. And if you head to a dog park, you’ll have to park outside the overflown parking lot in the street, and dozens of four-legged friends will chase you around and around until you’re foaming at the mouth and dripping with mud–if you’re four-legged as well, that is.

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With a face like that one, you can imagine that Indie won us over and got to spend the sunny, 60+ degree Sunday at his favorite park. He chased around the perimeter of the park again and again, forgetting that at least two more months of winter still lay ahead of us.

Meanwhile, I followed suit and embraced the joy of the unexpected gift.

One warm winter day at a time, I’ll do my best to teach these Midwesterners about the potential of a surprising day.

A Year

Hard to believe it’s already been a year since I’ve been married to this guy. Here are some of the highlights:

ImageStarted out pretty well :)

ImageBest honeymoon ever in Cancun

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We hadn’t been back from our honeymoon for a week before we got this cute guy. He’s a great dog who makes us happy every day. Don’t let the innocence fool you, though. He acts out picture #2 much more than #1.

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Fall was home improvement time. Yes, that’s wallpaper on the ceiling. There’s now not a trace of wallpaper in the house. Yay!

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Had a great Christmas with the family in Oregon. We met a giant sea otter at the coast who turned Jeff into a unicorn.

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Got snowed in for what seemed like the entire winter. It was super awesome according to Indie because his humans were home more and he got to chase snowballs.

Apparently didn’t take many photos during the spring. There were happy times then too!

8.27.13 Denali (15)And just got back from a great trip to Alaska. It was for another friend’s wedding, but it coincided as a nice celebration of one year for us.

Here’s to an awesome year and many more!

8.24.13 Shannon's Wedding (4)

Still crazy after all these year.

Some notes from the South

Hay House

Giant bugs, mansions and accents. Two short days in the South, and a few photos and stories.

In South Carolina, shrimp platter with loaded mashed potatoes is a pile of fried shrimp and a platter of mashed potatoes with more sour cream and butter than potato. The side salad is covered in bacon bits, cheese and creamy dressing, and it’s of course served with a croissant on the side. The waitress brings out a box before you can even ask for one because there’s no way a human can eat all that food. Too bad I’m traveling from out of town and can’t store it anywhere because, yes, it was delicious.

Downtown Anderson

In middle-of-nowhere Georgia, there really are peach stands everywhere with hand-painted signs drawing the speeding highway travelers toward their juicy fruit. Unfortunately, it’s before 9 a.m. when I’m rushing off to the next work site visit past these peach stands, and even the fruit stands aren’t open at that hour.

Confederate monument (1)                Confederate monument (2)

Downtown Anderson, SC has a monument for “Our Confederate Dead.” I suppose it’s simply memorializing the soldiers who gave their lives for a cause they believed in, but nonetheless, I’d never seen a monument like this one before.

Anderson 1

We go out for a real Southern lunch, and my gracious South Carolinan hosts say it should be a “meat and three” restaurant for me to get the true Southern experience. I’ve never heard this term in my life, but they laugh when I ask what it means. Obviously enough, it’s the name for the genre of restaurants where you pick a meat and three sides. When we get to Mama Penn’s, two of the ladies I’m with say they usually order the “veggie plate.” I’m still feeling about 10 pounds of fried shrimp from the night before, so some veggies sound good. Turns out all it means is you pick an additional side instead of a meat. That’s still a win in my book, plus how could you not win when macaroni and cheese is considered a veggie. Don’t worry–I also had green beans and turnip greens, but I think the amount of salt and bacon grease that these were cooked in made them rival the macaroni. Nonetheless, I happily passed the salt as soon as our food arrived and the rest of the table felt the need to salt their meals even more.

Bug

I was excited to find one of the largest bugs I’ve ever seen outside my hotel. I figured that these dead bugs were all over town. A couple hours later, I realized that the only place I’d seen these bugs was outside my hotel. I’ve never been too squeamish with bugs, and none were in my room itself, so life went on.

House

Giant old mansions filled every block I saw of Macon, Georgia. Granted, I was there for five hours including a four-hour meeting, so the photo above, complete with the photographic structure of the power lines and stoplight, was taken from my car.

Church

I’m feeling good following my two days in the South because in only two days, I think someone said “Bless your heart” at least a couple dozen times. I’m feeling quite blessed.

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I’ll have to write it for myself

Lanterns
I’ve been considering it for a while–starting a real, grown-up blog. I tinkered around in the early days of blogging with an infrequently updated blog in high school, but I’m starting a new venture in this slightly more grown-up stage of life.

Despite spending most of my day writing in my job as a communications coordinator for a nonprofit, I haven’t written much for myself lately, so this is my new effort do to that. Plus blogging is so different now than it was a few years ago (or at least different from how I knew it a few years ago)–such a fun way to share recipes and ideas. Not that I have too many exciting and creative ideas, but I’m looking forward to joining that community and sharing my adventures dabbling in the kitchen and with crafts. Mainly, I’m looking forward to capturing this segment of life and choosing to see things in a joyful way.

Josh Ritter, one of the most talented songwriters creating music these days, has an awesome song called “Lantern” that’s about rallying together as a community. It starts off with a blunt description of what the world can seem like these days:

It’s a hungry world out there
Even the wind will take a bite
I can feel the world circling
Sniffing round me in the night
And the lost sheep grow teeth
Forsake the lambs and lie with the lions

But the tone changes as the song notices the positives of joining together, choosing joy and providing light for each other:

So throw away those lamentations
We both know them all too well
If there’s a book of jubilations
We’ll have to write it for ourselves
So come and lie beside me darling
And let’s write it while we still got time

Every time I listen to this song that line catches me. Since the first time I heard the song, I’ve loved the idea of a book of jubilations. Not that I have anything against the book of Lamentations. In fact, you could make a theological argument that the entire Bible is a book of jubilations when you look at it as a whole. But that’s beside the point.

I’m beginning a journey to create my own book of jubilations to make the most of the joyful moments of life. Feel free to walk alongside me by the light of this lantern.

Photo credit “Lanterns”