Total Pageviews

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

So a day before my boys prepare to fly home...I fly away.

Leaving our newly scrubbed home and not newly scrubbed menagerie in capable hands.

I'm very excited to be heading to the Bay Area for the wedding of a very dear friend.
And so excited at the opportunity to spend some quality (maybe even leisurely?) time with her and another wonderful friend, the person I've known longest in my life outside of family. Not just to dash in for the wedding, but hopefully to pamper C. a little, walk in the city, stay up late talking with K. and C., and help take care of whatever last minute details may arise.

In the meantime...whoo-hoo! I'm off call, and can leave my phone in another part of the house without worry or fear. Not to mention having more than a 3-minute conversation.
Or a glass of wine.

And my sartorial jitters (my wardrobe runs more toward ratty gardening gear and casual business/professional togs than formal wear) were soothed by the unconditional generosity of another very dear friend H., who overnight Fed-Exed me two gorgeous little black dresses and some elegant jewelry as wedding guest clothing options.

I feel very, very blessed with friends. I am not always the best at keeping in touch from a distance, but these individuals (and many others) live in my heart. Always.

As do those three boys/men that will soon be continent hop-scotching back to me.
From southern France, to Paris, to Dublin, to NYC, to San Francisco, then back on home to our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. I can't wait to hold and squeeze them (resistance is futile!) for a long, long time.

Friday, August 26, 2011


There is a hint of fall coming evident in the later mornings--stunning sunrise at 6:15 this morning--and earlier evenings. Dusk fell around 8:15, while I was still chatting with my neighbor and gearing up for some garden projects after work (oops...they will still be there tomorrow). The changing season is also evident in the flurry of back-to-school mailings and requests for school fees and donations arriving daily. This is an expensive time of year, even when trying to live simply. Photos, school supplies (reuse/recycle is the way to go...), program fees...we live in a state with a sadly underfunded public education system. I am very grateful, however, for the quality of the public French language immersion program both my boys are part of. And happy that I've been budgeting for these once-a-year expenses throughout the year.

Other changes on the horizon...trying to find a dress (via beg/borrow/barter) for my dear friend C's San Francisco wedding coming up so soon. Sadly, the one I had hoped to wear no longer fits. 15 years has added 15 pounds--darn it. Luckily, all eyes will be on C., looking lovely as always, so I'm trying not to worry too much.

And finally--can't wait to welcome back Minou and my boys. I'm in a tizzy trying to finish projects, clean our slightly neglected home, pull weeds, and stock the pantry. No time for West Wing episodes now! I have to stop and remind myself that if everything doesn't get finished according to my idealized vision, it's okay. Being together, appreciating each other,  is what is important.

I know that they (the boys) will be excited to be home and unfold their wings, as well as see their friends and (maybe?) return to school, moving on to the adventure of high school for G1. It was not one of my favorite life transitions,  but he has a strong group of friends from many years back and is part of a smaller program within a larger school. There isn't much turnaround time for either one, jumping back into their regular activities right away. They are hoping to get in one overnight family nature outing since we will miss our traditional Labor Day camping at gorgeous and serene Waldo Lake, one of my favorite spots on earth.

Any traditions for the changing seasons?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week, Weekend

Happy weekend, everyone! I really enjoy and feel grateful for the time to relax and pursue home projects. I am happy to say that my home feels clean and organized due to a little company's-coming inspiration this past week. I'm not sure why I need that, but it's effective.

I find myself posting less as the summer goes along. I'm not sure if it's from being busier or...lacking some inspiration with my family gone? I have settled into a groove (and am now sleeping just fine, thank you) but I am so, so, so excited that I will have them back with me in just two short weeks. I would say that I can't wait, but I need the time to prepare! G1 was asking me on the phone if I could have some of his American favorite foods ready for their arrival. Of course! For those vegetarian boys, favorites include tofu dogs and veggie burgers... not standard fare in France. With the garden and berries and fruit trees all producing a lot right now, I have also been trying to harvest, bag, bake, and freeze all I can. (blackberries, zucchini bread, plums for jam and pies...)

This week I....

  • photographed a lovely calendula heart, which I can't take credit for noticing

  • had something delivered for a mystery project

  • had to pull this cute yet sneaky dog off the bed multiple times in the night

(why did I ever let him sleep with me?!)

  • finally said goodbye to the comfy, dusty, old red couch (and then felt sad)

  • had a great dinner and ice cream with some very good friends and my mom, and viewed their work-in-progress bathroom remodel, which they are general contracting theimselves (and which Minou designed!!)

  • No, that's not their bathroom! Just a temporary solution and place to enjoy the full moon.


  • had the pleasure of a dear friend passing through town and getting to catch up with her

  • absorbed some challenging news at work

  • hosted a small dinner gathering

  • Started to watch this TV series from the library and was predictably hooked (the colors!)

  • How about you? Tell one thing about your week or weekend!

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things...

    Raindrops on Roses and Birds and Blueberries....

    Today I wanted to burst into song! My friend K. and I headed out bright and early for our favorite local, organic, family-owned blueberry patch, where last week we had each separately been greeted by this sign:

    Picked Out

    This morning, however, the patch was open for business...and already hopping at 7:50 a.m.! We found a parking spot right away and commenced to picking. It was a perfect day, a bit overcast and not too hot.

    Look at K.'s wonderful picking contraption! She was faster than me, for sure. We also differed a little in technique. Since I often get lazy about processing and just freeze the berries right in their liner bag (it works), I'm a little pickier about trying not to get stems, green berries and mummy berries (not mommy berries) in my bucket.

    Professional Picker

    Predictably we saw several people we knew at this popular site close to town, and we were both excited to hear at least four other languages spoken besides English (Spanish, French, Mandarin, and an Asian language I wasn't familiar with). The berries were so big, blue, beautiful, and abundant that there was ample picking for all and any competitiveness about finding or guarding the best bushes turned into friendly helpfulness among fellow gatherers.

    For those of you who have never experienced it, I wish I could convey to you the joy of picking blueberries when the picking is good. K. kept saying that she wanted to contact the Oregon Blueberry Grower's Association and encourage them to come up with a song, or perhaps sponsor a competition for lyrics, about the experience. Though we couldn't get very far in our musical endeavor (too focused on picking...and eating! it's hard to sing with your mouth full) it was fun to imagine the entire large, humming-with-people blueberry field bursting into song (and maybe dance) together.

    These pictures make it look like the field was empty, but actually the whole hillside was full of people, and the road below was lined with cars. This patch doesn't even advertise these days. Their berries are so good and so well-known that they don't need to.

    Big Berries

    Industrious Gatherers

    I turned into a Mama Bear (K. said Mama Squirrel, which might be more appropriate since my cheeks were  full of blueberries), completely focused on gathering food for my family for the winter. I achieved a personal picking best: three heaping two-gallon buckets in under three hours, each weighing about 12-14 lbs. For $45 that's a pretty good deal! As we picked, I heard a little one in the next row listing all the things she wanted to eat with blueberries, and I had to smile since I had been thinking about the same thing: blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, blueberry cheesecake, blueberry jam, blueberry smoothies, blueberry pie....I could go on...

    Now I'm looking forward to baking blueberry things for my boys. I'm also enjoying the smell of the delicious cinnamon-walnut zucchini bread in the oven that's wafting up the blueberries in it because they're all in the freezer already. After all that great picking, I was tempted to just keep going this afternoon and find a farm with green beans, but reason prevailed and I spent the afternoon working in the garden and mulching my own blueberry bushes instead.

    Tonight I am feeling very, very fortunate for food and space to grow food. Also a climate that permits it. It is so basic and so important.

    What are you grateful for today? What fun thing did you do this weekend?

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Water Conservation

    I live in an area with apparently abundant water (it rains a lot here).
    Water is also relatively cheap.
    As a frugal person, I love this, but as someone who wants to protect our environment and natural resources, I think it should be more expensive. A LOT more expensive.
    Though of course, I would also like financial incentives for those who conserve.
    One kilogallon of water--thats 1,000 gallons, folks--costs $1.28. Does that seem a little crazy to you? It does to me.

    This last water bill (July) I was happy to note that I used only 5 KG. This includes watering the flower and vegetable gardens, but it was an exceptionally rainy month so daily watering was not necessary. It was down from 7 KG in June, and down from 18 KG last July!

    I find it much easier to spend time doing little things to conserve while living alone. First, there is the time and thought that goes into building new habits, and then there's no-one to notice or comment that what you are doing seems odd or extreme in their view. However, as I have talked to more people about my water-conserving ways lately, I have found that many other friends, coworkers and acquaintances have similar water-saving practices.

    Could we share ideas?

    Here are some things that I have done.
    • "Navy" showers: Jump in, get wet, water off, soap up, on to rinse, etc. No more lingering under the hot water.
    • Turn water on, wet hands, off to soap up (sing the alphabet song), on at low pressure to rinse.
    • I still wash dishes by rinsing under running water (plan to get rinse tub soon!) but I use low-flow water.
    • Don't flush the toilet every time. You know that old saying for those with septic tanks: If it's yellow, let it mellow (do need to scrub the bathroom more frequently).
    • Wear clothing several times until it is visibly stained or sweaty/smelly to cut down on laundry. For things that are bound to be stinky like exercise clothes, throw them in a distant closet and launder weekly.
    • Drip irrigation system for the veggie garden (thank you Minou).
    • Put out water for the chickens twice daily istead of the constant-water hose to watering tray system (leaks from the hose were responsible for last July's huge consumption, I believe)
    And a trick my friend & neighbor taught me: Gather shower water in a bucket and use it to water the plants in the summer of flush the toilet in the winter.

    What other tricks do you have for reducing water consumption?

    Sunday, August 7, 2011


    Hello, hello...a brief update.
    There's not too much going on in my neck of the woods these days.
    Sometimes that's a good thing, however.

    I'm really, really excited that my boys will be back with me in less than a month.
    I can't wait. Though a month would once have seemed unbearably long, in relation to the time we've already had apart this summer it's short. The weekdays and weeks do fly by. Suddenly, I'm reminded of the ambitious to-do list I had prepared before their departure.

    Garden steps. Sparkling woodwork. Extreme declutteration (if that isn't a word, it should be).

    Hmm...well, I have soaked up the quiet, read several books, and discovered a new TV miniseries from the library that I'm hooked on (The West Wing, which my family ironically just began watching on TV in France). What else?
    • I've started jogging again.
    • I have successfully conserved lots of natural resources--water, gas, and electricity (cutting our standard usage of all these by more than half, and trimming the yearly-averaged bills).
    • I've managed to go an entire month without buying fruits and veggies by eating straight from my garden (hello, delicious blueberries, salad, kale, beans and zucchini!).
    • I've picked up lots of extra shifts at work to help fund my Roth IRA and pay down mortgage principal.
    • I've sold and donated two large boxes of books (I LOVE books, but we really have no shortage...).
    • I've started a little "family fun fund" from egg sales and bottle returns to get us to beautiful Crater Lake, Oregon this year.
    • I've enjoyed spending more time with my mom.
    • I've tried to sleep 8 hours each night (so wonderful).
    • And yesterday I completed a bi-yearly training that always feels good to revisit.

    body count

    sad, sad baby


    Now (as she pointed out) if anyone collapses at my dear friend C.'s wedding later this summer, I will remember exactly what to do. Let's hope there will be no need!

    How about you? What have been the themes of your summer?


    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Oregon in France

    Because I can't resist, here are some little glimpses into the enchanted land my sweet boys and Minou visited with M1 and some good friends last weekend. A hamlet northwest of Montpellier that the boys dubbed "Oregon in France" (for the green & mountainous landscape).

    It never hurts to dream....right??