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Monday, October 7, 2013

"Remembery" Card

I'm the one with the camera.


Whether it's my "big camera" (a Canon) or my phone and "Addictagram" (Instagram), I'm always taking pictures. I used to scrapbook more, and have the room full of supplies to prove it, but I still love capturing memories, from the major (birthdays, vacations) to the mundane (hey look, there's a frog in the pool!)

Except yesterday. Hubby and I took the princess over to Thorncrag, a local bird sanctuary, for a walk on the trails. Viv has ben learning about leaves in pre-K, and wanted to collect some colorful ones to share with her class. I didn't feel like carrying my camera, and the battery on my phone was running low so I left in the truck to charge. We go to Thorncrag all the time, I thought. I won't need to take pictures this time.

We walked through the quiet woods (well, as quiet as they can be with a rambunctious 4 year old who has two volumes: loud and deafening) and pointed out the things we were seeing to each other: a cool tree, a colorful leaf, some mushrooms sprouting from the base of the tree. Dave taught Viv how to make a whistle from an acorn cap, how to determine the wind direction by licking her finger and holding it up.

And I was fine without my camera.

And then we got to the Old Homestead. For those unfamiliar with Thorncrag, it's an open field with some old foundations -- presumably a home and a barn. There's a bench for resting, and surrounded by trees and fields, it's easy to sit there and imagine what life was like 100, 200 years ago.

We sat on the bench, and suddenly, we were silent. The only sound we could hear were the leaves falling in the trees around us, the gentle rustle of the branches above. Suddenly, from one of the trails, another couple burst came into view.

"Family photo!" the man shouted. "That would be a great picture!"

My heart sank. The one time I don't bring my camera.

My daughter, who has had just about every day of her existence documented in some form, must have sensed my regret.

"It's okay, mama," she said. "I have my camera." She started digging through her princess backpack, which she insisted on bringing to carry her water bottle and two Barbies. She found a pair of Little Mermaid sunglasses and handed them to me.

"But these are sunglasses," I said, not sure what she was thinking.

"No mama," she said. "They are a camera. Put them on, and you can take pictures."

I shrugged, and put on the sunglasses. Viv pointed to my forehead. "That's where the remembery card goes."

So yeah, I got a little teary. She was right. That is where my "remembery" card is. As much as I would have loved to have a great family photo of that moment in the forest, I have the memory of that day. In 10, 12 years when the last thing she will want to do is go for a walk with her parents and collect colorful leaves, I'll have the memory of the time when everything in the forest was magical, when mushrooms might be houses for fairies, and something exciting was around every bend in the trail.

I'll have my "remembery" card.

      My girl and I from a different hike this summer.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Have You Ever Swam Through the Trees?

Okay, so here's the thing. I'm not athletic. Not at all. Usually, my attempts at sportiness end in some sort of injury and/or humiliation.

And yet that doesn't stop me from trying. My complete and utter lack of coordination and skill usually doesn't stop me from doing ridiculous things. Case in point? Yesterday I participated in the inaugural Dynamic Dirt Challenge held at Pineland Farms here in Maine.

The Dynamic Dirt Challenge is exactly what it sounds like -- a race/obstacle course that involves getting dirty. Very dirty. (Those of you who follow the Real Housewives of Orange County may recognize this type of event, as Gretchen, Tamara and Heather participated in one earlier this season.) I figured if the Botox crew could do it, so could I.

My friend Betsy talked a few of us into joining and we formed a team -- The Filthy Pink Pumas. We aren't old enough to be Cougars, you know. I started running, and was actually making progress until my already dysfunctional treadmill broke.

Training Tip #1: When training for a 4 mile race ON HILLS, be sure to add some incline to your treadmill. Otherwise, on the first hill, YOU WILL DIE.

As race day approached, I became more apprehensive. Most of the obstacles didn't look all that daunting -- except for the swamp and the culverts. I figured I could talk my way out of the culverts, and the swamp? It's Maine. How bad could it be?

Training Tip #2: Read the obstacle descriptions carefully BEFORE you sign up. The night before the race is not the time to discover that you have to face your most major fears.

Anyway, a few days before the race, the weather report did not look promising. The day of the race, the weather forecast turned to monsoon. In the 24 hour period leading up to the starting time, it rained something like 679 inches. We had buckets set up all over our dining room to catch the water, and roads were closed all over due to washouts. I figured the event would be cancelled.

I figured wrong.

At 9:40 am, our team took off to tackle the obstacle course. First obstacle? A waterslide down a large hill. With freezing water. 

Soaked, and shaken from the pileup at the bottom of the hill, we took off. Obstacle #2? The swamp. What would normally be about 6 inches of icky gunk was a thigh-high pool full of bullfrogs. I was doing fine until someone behind me mentioned leeches, and I took off like a shot. Probably the fastest I've ever run in my life.

The next few obstacles were fairly benign -- hay bales, a muddy trail through the forest, a steep drop to a stream. The organizers helpfully changed that obstacle, allowing us to go  over the bridge instead of through the river, since the rain had turned a normally placid stream into Niagara Falls. I figured I was in the clear. I figured wrong.

Training Tip #3: If doing an obstacle course, bring a life jacket. Or paddles.

Not far from the bridge cross, we encountered a lake. Now, there is not normally a lake in this part of the forest. There is normally a nice, groomed trail with some pine needles and maybe a happy little squirrel scampering about. On this day, though, there was a lake. A lake that, in some parts, was up to my neck. It was over some of my teammate's heads. As I backstroked through the trees in icy cold water, I reflected on the absurdity of it. It was 50 degrees out. I was wearing cat ears and leopard print socks. I was swimming in flood waters, and I still had about 2 miles to go to the finish line and the free beer and pizza that would be the reward for completing the challenge.

After the swimming, the remaining challenges felt as if they were harder. I almost skipped the climb over the stacked hay bales, but forced myself up and over. I did skip the culverts, since I decided that having a psychotic break in the middle of tube was not a good look for me. I managed the spiderwebs, the rope climb, and the random staircase in the middle of the field.

The last mile was the longest mile of my life. With every step I was convinced I couldn't go further. At one point in the forest, I had slipped and when I tried to right myself, I overcorrected and pulled a muscle in my lower back that sent stabbing pains up to my shoulder with every movement. My team pulled away, and I figured that I would just cross the finish line on my own, sometime around Tuesday evening.

But then I rounded the last corner and saw them all standing there. We were going to cross the finish line as a team. Exhausted, winded and in pain, I thought I was going to throw up, but Kimberly, one of my teammates, grabbed my hand and talked me through the last few yards of the course.

And then it was done.

And here's the point in these kind of stories where it gets inspiring, and you get the whole "I learned so much about myself spiel." If you don't want that, then stop reading, because it's coming.

The whole Dirt Challenge was part of my self-prescribed mission to get out of my comfort zone, to try new things and experiences. It was about as far out of my comfort zone as you could get. Did I enjoy the experience? Parts of it, yes. The camaraderie of the team was great. I loved proving to myself that I could do things I never thought possible (swamps? um, no) and going further than I ever had before.

And parts of it I didn't like so much. I hated the feeling of being SO out of shape in spite of all of the work I've done in the past few months. I hated being injured, and being the one to bring up the rear. I'm not exceptionally competitive by nature, but that felt pretty crappy. 

My team is already talking about doing it again next year, and I'm not convinced I'll be on the team roster. Part of me wants to spend time getting into better shape, to go back and prove that I can do it. The other part of me wants to let a sleeping dog lie, to just accept that I did it, treasure the memory and move on to something else. We'll see. Maybe when my back isn't throbbing and I've gotten all of the mud out of my ears, I'll feel differently.

If I do join up next year, though, I'm bringing my life jacket.

Photos courtesy of David Damon, Matt Tardiff and Monique Hebert.

Friday, June 1, 2012

50 Shades of Apparently I'm a Literary Snob

Hey there, been ahwile. Lots of reasons why, so let's just go ahead and say I'm back now and leave it at that. :-)

Anyway, so yeah.. This "50 Shades of Grey" thing. Like pretty much everyone, I'd heard about the book, and decided to check it out. After reading the description, reviews, rants, etc., on Amazon, I decided it's not for me.

But then my book club picked it for June, and well, I kind of had to read it. And my initial reaction? Yeah, spot on. I HATED it. It's not that I'm a prude (although after reading the book I realize I might be more than I thought).

The number one reason was that, well, the writing? Not so good. On Facebook the other day, I posted a mini rant in which I basically said that the fact that this book is SO popular and making SO much money is insulting to all of the writers out there who have spent years honing their craft, writing draft after draft only to get piles of rejection notices. And yeah, I fall into that categoriy, so it's easy to chalk my irritation up to sour grapes, which admittedly might be some of the story.

But honestly, even if I hadn't just spent four years and many thousands of dollars on a writing program, I would still feel this way. It just wasn't good.

Well, apparently my opinion raised some hackles, because someone indirectly (because it is Facebook, after all) called me a literary snob. Really? Huh? Hardly. I decided to prove my point by devoting today's post to some of my favorite books. Some literary, some not so much. But these are books inspired and entertained . . . and not one of them had an "inner goddess" or a "Red Room of Pain."

So here it is -- "Kristen's List of Favorite Books that Quite Possibly Make Her a Literary Snob"

1. The All Time Favorite - Gone With the Wind

The first time I read this, I was 15, and enthralled to the oint where I literally walked around the house reading it. I've re-read it about 15 times since then. I just love it. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor.

2. The Book that Made Me Want to Be a Writer - Little House in the Big Woods

When I was about 6 or 7, one of my relatives gave me a boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilders' classic books. I loved that set, and re-read all of the books over and over. But my favorite was the first, "Little House in the Big Woods." It made me want to be a writer when I grew up, and I can't wait to share it with my daughter.

3. The Book that Changed Everything - Bridget Jones' Diary

It's no secret that I love me some chick-lit -- and this is the original, the gold standard. I read it on a plane to Denver when I was 22, just starting out my "adult life" and I laughed out loud so much people thought I was nuts. I read each age thinking "finally, somebody GETS IT." Still a favorite today.

4. The Book that Made Me Glad to be an American- A Thousand Splendid Suns

Just yesterday I shared this book with a friend who has not read it yet, and challenged her not to be moved. This was a "read in one sitting" book, that made me cry and want to do something to help these women. I was never more glad to be an American, and a woman in America, than I was after reading this book, and appreciate that every day.

5. Books that Made Me Want to Write Better- The Cider House Rules, Poisonwood Bible, The Help

I put the three together because they all did the same thing: kept me up at night, turning the pages, wondering how the heck these people could write so well. Literally from the first page of "The Help" I was in awe -- I actually said to my husband "THIS is how you write." The others had the same effect. Good stories, amazing writing, and, in the case of two of them, pretty decent movies too.

So there you have it, the first installment of my Literary Snobbery list. Stay tuned next week for part 2 of the list . . .  a riding crop may appear, but only to be used in the traditional way.

In the meantime, what do you think? Literary snob? What's your opinion on "50 Shades of Grey"? What's your favorite book? I'm always looking for recommendations!

Until later . . .

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pinned Down: No-Sew Ruffled Tote Bag

So I've been seeing several versions of ruffled tote bags on Pinterest, and think they are the cutest. With a little one, even though I don't generally bring a diaper bag anymore, I still have to carry around wipes, clothing changes, snacks, random toys and found objects . ..  you know, preschooler "stuff."

After seeing several versions, all varying in complexity, I decided to make my own no-sew version of a bag. I have a sewing machine, but it usually just ends up frustrating me, especially when I'm trying to do ruffles.

To make my version of the bag you need:
Plain canvas tote bag (I got one at Hobby Lobby for about $3)
4 different, coordinating fabrics, cut into 3" x 24" strips (I used De-Lovely, from Cosmo Cricket)
Hot glue gun

After cutting the fabric using a rotary cutter, I "hemmed" the pieces using the glue gun. I folded over the short ends and adhered with glue, and then folded over about a quarter inch on one of the long sides and adhered with glue.

Starting at the bottom, I added a line of glue about 3-4 inches long (don't work too far ahead, since the glue will cool and harden). I adhered the unfinished edge of the fabric along the glue, gathering every few inches to make the ruffle. Continue to glue and gather across the bag, until you have a full ruffle.

Repeat the same process with the remaining fabric strips, hemming and gluing, overlapping each layer. At the top, I covered the unfinished edge with some recycled twill tape, and embellished with a rolled fabric flower. The whole thing took about 45 minutes.  In fact, it was so easy that I think I'll make a few more to give as gifts. They would be so cute as an alternative to gift baskets!

Until later . .. happy pinning!

Linked at:
Positively Splendid

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pinned Down: Best Stuffed Peppers Ever

Happy Monday! Hope your week is off to a great start!

So when I was a kid, my mother used ot make Stuffed Peppers for dinner every now and then. Her recipe was fairly traditional -- ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, cheese. They were delicious, and I loved them   . ..  so much that I added her recipe to my repertoire when I started cooking.

When I was cruising Pinterest, though, I found this recipe, boldly labeled the "Best Stuffed Peppers Ever." Curious, I pinned the recipe. I'm a sucker for anything called "best ever."

Then peppers and sausage went on sale at the Hannaford, and I decided to try them out. And holy moly, sweet fancy bananas . . . these weren't my mom's stuffed peppers.

Sorry, mom. I think I have a new recipe.

The recipe comes from the blog Cut Out + Keep, and calls for sausage instead of ground beef, and adds a delicious little spice called Sazon. Why I have never tried Sazon is beyond me. I found it in the international section of our sad little grocery store (which means it's probably not all that hard to get, since I actually had a hard time finding coconut milk at that store a few weeks ago). It's made by Goya, and has a nice little kick to it.

The only change I made to this recipe was to use regular Italian sausage instead of the hot, since the hot tends to be mean to me and aggravates my reflux issues. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter . .. and as the blogger says, total pleasure overdose. These really were the Best Stuffed Peppers Ever.  Here's how they looked:

Looks delicious, no?

Of course, the picky little one wouldn't touch these, so we had plenty of leftovers, which were just as delicious the next day. So I would call this another Pinterest winner!

Until later . ..  happy pinning!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Obsessions this Week

Happy Sunday! Hope everyone is having a super wonderful weekend -- I got to spend some fun family time yesterday, and we're headed to a snow tubing park today to take advantage of the foot of snow that fell the other day. Fun!

So here are my obsessions this week . . . and two of them are actually rather housewife-y. Go figure.

Purex Crystals
So I have a front loader washing machine, and if you have a front loader, you know about "the stink." Something about the design of the machines makes it easier for mold and fungus to grow in the machine (eew) causing the machine to stink -- which makes your laundy stink too. I clean my machine every other week with bleach, but I still notice an aroma, particularly on my towels. Maybe I'm just super sensitive?
Anyway, these little miracle crystals have pretty much solved the problem. A capful of these babies tossed in the wash (in the drum -- not the fabric softener or soap dispenser) makes everything smell nice -- and it lasts. Love!

Big Oven

Have you discovered Big Oven yet? It's kind of like, another favorite. Users submit recipes, other users rate them, you can store your favorites . ..  it's a super resource when you're like "What the heck do I do with this chicken?" I found a meat loaf recipe there last week that was A-mah-zing (as Penny on "Happy Endings" would  say)  . ..  especially considering I don't like meat loaf.

Considering the amount of snow we got this week, flip-flops might be a bit premature, but I don't care. I'm a flip-flop girl, and as soon as it gets near 50 degrees, I lose the socks and clogs and bust out the flops.
Last year I discovered Switchflops, and my life was changed. I probably have about 30 pairs of flip-flops (I'm not exaggerating) but with these, you really only need one pair. The straps are Velcro, and you can switch them whenever you want to match your outfit or your mood. And the straps are adorable (I have my eye on Carlouel -- it has a mermaid on it!) and vary from super simple to fancy-schmancy. Lindsay Phillips, the genius designer, has created several styles of shoes that all take the interchangeable straps, but my favorite are the Lulu. They are actually comfy -- I wore them for hours walking around Epcot last summer and didn't feel like I was going to die. I definitely plan to pick up a few more pair this year!

So those are this weeks obsessions . .. what are you loving this week?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Blog of the Week: Chick Lit is not Dead

Chick Lit is not Dead

Like so many people, I fell in love with Chick Lit when I read "Bridget Jones's Diary" back in the late 90's. I actually read the now-classic on a plane from Boston to Denver, and literally lol'ed more than once. I was 22, just out of school, and thought "Finally, a book for me!"

Since then, I've read literally hundreds of books in the genre -- some better than others. For every Jennifer Weiner or Emily Giffin, there's a JW or EG knockoff, a book so fluffy and lacking in substance that I'm afraid it will blow away in a strong breeze.

And then the rumors started, the eye-rolling accompanied by the phrase "Chick Lit is Dead." No one wants books about girls about town, looking for love and happiness. No one wants pink covers and happy endings.

To them, I say "Whatever."

Which is why I LOVE this blog, "Chick Lit is not Dead." Liz and Lisa are awesome, highlighting the best in chick lit books and authors, proving without a shadow of a doubt that chick lit is not, in fact dead. It's just evolved.

I love this blog for so many reasons. The interviews, the highlights of new books, the insights into other thigns in the chick lit universe. If you like this type of book at all, you owe it to yourself to check it out.