About Me

My photo
Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dark Days

Today is my parent's 37th anniversary. I'd show you a photo, but I lost my digital scans of the originals when my hard drive crashed the week of our wedding.

Thirty seven years. Sometimes I think they've made it this far only through stubborn resolve not to quit. The years immediately after dad was fired were hard on all of us, and especially hard on their marriage.

They seem to have come through it though, and both of them take a quiet, deep pride in the accomplishments of the other person. They are good people, and I am grateful to have them in my life.

Today is the winter solstice; the shortest day of year. The longest night. We woke up this morning to a snowstorm, and I told Dusty and the dog "Guys! It's the shortest day of the year, which only means that tomorrow is a little longer, and the next day even longer. Spring is on its way!"

I think I've been mildly depressed this fall. There are many potential causes: the shortening days, the health of my grandparents, the post-trip blues and the impact the trip had on our finances. The Next Big Thing on the horizon, but a difference of opinion in when and how to get there. Career expansion that's both thrilling and intimidating.

I just haven't felt very sparkly, you know? It's manifested in two drinks a night (more on the weekends), falling into tears easily and serious apathy at work.

It finally poured out to Dusty last night, and he asked all the right questions. "Do you want to go talk to someone about it?" (No, I think once we get through Christmas and the days start to get longer and I'll be so busy that I don't have time to be sad it'll lift).

DJ mentioned that he's always thought that January and February sucked too, and asked "what we can do during those months as a preventative measure?" (Since a trip to Mexico isn't possible, date nights, using our new cross-country skiis on sunny mornings to get me outside, getting big projects done around the house).

My family has a history of depression. Whose doesn't? My grandpa gets particularly owly in the winter, when he's cooped up inside and its dark out. I suggested a light box for him a couple of weeks ago, and now I think it might be on my post-Christmas purchase list.

I've told Dusty about this many times, and given him permission to ask probing questions if I start getting overly crabby at any time. He asked all the right questions last night. He kept asking, "are you okay," to which I kept replying "I will be."

Because it gets brighter from here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cheer

Inspired by this post by one of my favorite bloggers, I tried my hand at photographing our Christmas tree tonight. Harlow-dog was, as usual, a very excellent helper dog. She especially excelled at being the dark dog head-like mass in front of the camera.

Like Linda (the blog attached above), I like Christmas ornaments with stories. As such, when I give an ornament as a gift I try to link it to something I've experienced with the person.

This is from 2009, when I was working for Montana Gift Corral.

My parents have a long tradition of giving my sister and I an ornament every Christmas. They say its because in their first Christmas as a married couple, they had no ornaments. I received my ornaments as a wedding gift. I'm not entirely sure, but I think my dad is the ornament-buyer. He usually gives pretty sentimental gifts.

My dad gave me the doll-house ornament below when I was 15 or so. Its a reflection, or, almost an exact replica, of the doll house that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was two or three.

It even opens in the back like my childhood dollhouse did.

I try to buy an ornament for Dusty and I every time we travel. This one is from our Hawaii trip in the spring of 2009.

And, I think my mom gave us this one, a photo from our wedding.

This is another parent-gift ornament. My parents were trying to sell their house when I was three, but had mice in the kitchen. Apparently a would-be buyer arrived, and I was giving them a tour. I asked them to "come see my kitchen, where my mices live!"

This isn't really an ornament. But I'm making it one. My parents are hugely generous this year, which is humbling. After wanting a road bike for nearly a decade, my dad insisted on buying me one as a Christmas gift. I can't wait to ride it on the bike trail at the lake, and have promised my dad (a road biker for over 20 years now) that we'll go together.

It seems to me like the Holidays are mostly about channeling your inner child, aren't they? Kind of a time of nostalgia and looking forward. All of the ornaments on our tree make me smile.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I want a new car. Today.

I purchased my 2005 Nissan Altima in 2004 (yep, brand new) during my senior year of college. It's the first major purchase I ever made, that I ever paid off (early!). The odometer just rolled over 80,000 miles. In reality, we "should" own the vehicle for another 5-6 years/ to 200,000 miles.

It also lacks Anti-Lock Brakes, All Wheel Drive and has $5,000 worth of hail damage. My ride, it ain't so pimp.

DJ and I are pretty financially conservative people, though you might not see that from our decisions over the past two years. We've jumped from one big purchase to another: a house, a wedding, a Europe trip. In almost each situation, we anxiously awaited our Tax Return to pay off the credit card which funded said Big Purchase.

Neither of us "like" to do things this way, and we're breaking the cycle with this tax return. Seriously. Our plan is to be consumer debt free by March, and then start stockpiling away money for a hefty down payment on a new (to us) vehicle that has AWD (or front wheel drive with studded snow tires), ABS and will last us for the next decade. If we could make my car last long enough, we might be able to pay cash for such a vehicle.

Except that my car doesn't seem to be lasting long enough. I've gone through 5 headlights in the last 18 months. Assuming it was just the bulbs, we kept replacing the damn things. I finally called last Tuesday and made an appointment with the shop. And then the other headlight went out on Wednesday. No headlights during literally the darkest part of the year. >>>Enter four letter word here<<<

It's apparently a wiring problem, but the shop hasn't figured it out yet.

I also mentioned to them that the fuel door is getting harder and harder to open and close. It had a big ding from hail damage, and I swear, the wind speed from interstate driving has sculpted the thing closed. Is that possible? Because I practically need a pliers to open my "auto-open" fuel door. The dealership today said they'd have to replace the entire fuel door, and custom paint it to match the car. Oh hell no. I'd rather buy a $10 set of pliers for the next 9 months.

I haven't told DJ that little jem yet.

I hate spending money on a car we're going to be getting rid of. But more than that, we don't have the kind of down payment we are comfortable with to purchase a new vehicle. So what can you do, right? Grr.

I wonder if we should re-evaluate the "Single Car Family" model?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hard to find the words

Sometimes I fall off the blogging wagon and struggle to get back on.

There have been a lot of things going on lately, and yet... not much to write about. Or, not much I can adequately put to words. Maybe a good way to do it is go through the recent cell phone photos and tell you the stories behind them?

Lets start with this one: of my mom's birthday dinner at my grandparents house.
It's a blurry cell phone picture. If I could set up this picture again, I'd have a nice DSLR camera, with a timer on it. I'd put the camera on a shelf facing the dinner table, set the shutter on continuous mode, and the camera would capture images of the lit candles, the smile on my mom's face, and my grandparents singing "Happy Birthday" to her as she blew the candles out. Somehow the camera would capture the sound of my Grandma's light (alto? soprano?) and my Grandpa's deep baritone.

The camera would not remember the shit storm of an argument Gretchen and I walked in to that Sunday afternoon, as we came over to make a Sunday birthday dinner for my mom. I think all families have this argument at some point; failing health, elderly grandparents, working adult children, lack of in-home care in rural America, the difficult decisions that must be made. What we don't talk about is the fear of losing the ones we love, losing the traditions and memories and institutional family knowledge that comes with their impending death.

It is hard.

I was in eastern Washington that weekend, over Veteran's Day, to visit my sister for "Dad's weekend" at Washington State. Since dad was a little busy playing at Sacramento, I was the stand-in. We ended up down on the field before the game, due to Gretch's participation in a student booster group. My mom was in the area too, so we were able to snag tickets from a friend on the WSU coaching staff and all sit together for the game. In a snowstorm that looked like this:
Pretty epic. The best part was the come-from-behind victory.

And... less than a month later, 'Cougar football has reminded me why sometimes college football can be cruel. You see, the 'Cougs head coach used to work for my dad. He stayed on at Eastern Washington University when my dad left for MSU. After his first wife died of a brain tumor, he remarried and now has a son and a stepdaughter. In 2007 WSU fired their football coach (whose wife, ironically, had died of ovarian cancer the year before) and our friend was hired at his alma mater and where he played, WSU. Four years later, and about 3.5 weeks after this picture, Paul was fired from WSU.

I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to people we know being fired. Seriously, all last week I was weepy and had a chest ache every time I think about it. It makes me sick.

And so, it seems the only thing to do is come home and cuddle this furball, who never fails to make me laugh:

(Don't fear, she punished me for this indignity by eating one of the glass ball ornaments the next day). 

At least the doggie knows how to hang out and roll with the punches.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How I feel

Sorry to leave that post up for so long. Not exactly a warm and cheery greeting when you come here.

I haven't posted in a while because I fell out of the habit. Because I haven't been sure what to say. Because there is a lot to say, and nothing to say, at the same time.

My grandma is dying. My grandpa is... hanging in there, though he's not all there, you know? I drove over to see them over Veteran's Day weekend in a visit which was simultaneously too short and too long.

I developed a cold on Thursday afternoon, and spent Friday home on the couch. We had wonderful houseguests for the weekend. They were here for the annual rivalry football game. We had a lovely visit.

Thanksgiving is in two days, and we've been whipsawed back and forth about the plans. First we're hosting, then we're going to grandmas, then we're hosting, now we're going to my parents. Someone just make a damn plan and stick with it.

I seem to have become pretty crabby and morose as the days have gotten shorter. I'm short tempered, quick to say something biting, crabby, petulant. And this cold has kept me from the gym, my usual coping mechanism. So now I feel grumpy, crabby and fat.

Dusty's brother finally got engaged, and I'm so happy. For them, of course, but for me too. As Brian seemed to drag his feet, I started to worry about how I'd keep his girlfriend as a friend if they broke up. So yes, I'm selfish even in that aspect.

I mentioned to Dusty last night that between Veterans Day and New Years Day is hard for me. Lots to do, and sometimes nothing to do, all at once. Short days, snowy weather, the stress of holiday shopping, etc.

Man, this cold needs to clear so I can get back to the gym!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's THAT weekend.

My sister and her boyfriend are headed to Bozeman this afternoon. They're visiting to attend this weekend's MSU football game, which is against the team our dad currently coaches, Idaho State. 

I've been dreading this weekend for the last year. Dusty has considered going fishing or hunting instead of to the game. 

After MSU threw dad under the bus, he was out of football coaching for four seasons. For a guy who's entire persona is tied to what he does as a profession, it was torture. It was a really, really difficult four years for him, and all of us by extension. It finally feels like things are getting back to "normal"; whatever our new "normal" is. 

And of course, Montana being a small town, there have been stories in all the major newspapers. The Great Falls Tribune had one, the Billings Gazette had this one on Wednesday and this one today. People comment on those newspapers. The internet chat rooms have been all over it. I've had three calls and two emails at  work from people trying to contact dad, or asking to interview me about how I feel about it. 

The party line this week is "no comment." 

How do I feel about it? It's too painful to drag up. The wound has finally started to form scars; I'm not ripping it open only to invite the internet trolls and their uninformed comments to further infect the re-opened wound. No thanks. I'll go along privately licking my wounds. 

Overdramatic? Maybe. But tell me how I'm supposed to feel about having my dad publicly flogged for shit he had absolutely no control over?

Theme song of the week might be Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Dad was fired on the cusp of really doing something amazing at MSU. I'm talking lots of wins, playoff games, national championships. 

The scars of your love remind me of us
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless
I can't help feeling

We could have had it all

Instead of having it all, dad's coaching at a school that's never had three winning seasons in a row. That's down scholarships and practice time because of Academic Progress Rating issues. It's a total rebuild; a resetting of the institutional persona. And he'll get it turned around, because he's done it twice before. Because he's good at this. And because we're all so damn grateful to have him back where he belongs. 

Hell, he's so proud to be back in football, even with only two wins this year and few prospects for another, that he's cried at three different press conferences. CRIED. Had to hold back SOBS. 

(I tease him about being speaker of the house John Boehner). 

We could have had it all
Rolling in the deep
You had my heart inside your hand
And you played it to the beat
Could have had it all
Rolling in the deep
You had my heart inside your hand
But you played it with a beating

Throw your soul through every open door
Count your blessings to find what you look for
Turn my sorrow into treasured gold
You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow

(Now I'm gonna wish you never had met me)
We could have had it all
(Tears are gonna fall, rolling in the deep)
We could have had it all

He'll beat MSU again someday. It won't be on Saturday. It might not be for a few more years. But he will. In the meantime, I still have more than enough to say.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Security Blankets and Whatnot

I ma, or may not, but  most likely totally do, have a not so small obsession with having food stocked away in the freezer. Preferably in single serving containers:

Also, we have an abundance of half-eaten ice cream boxes. I think one of them dates to last Christmas (for serious!).

My obsession with single-serving soups comes down to this: LUNCHES PEOPLE. That right there is like 3 straight weeks of don't-even-have-to-think-about-it lunches. Plus leftovers from dinners that will randomly pop up. 

I feel a weird sense of relief at having a refrigerator stocked with grab and go food. It's my security blanket. 

Anyone else want to share their secret security blanket?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Year of the House (Fluffing)

On our way back from Pocatello a few weekends ago, DJ and I discussed our financial goals for the next year or so. We've spent the last three years (of a four year partnership) saving for One Big Item each summer. In 2009 it was building the house. In 2010 the wedding sucked up most of our cash. 2011 was all about Europe. 

We've declared 2012 to be another Year of the House. I'm calling it Year of the House Fluffing. 

We've lived in our house for two years now. I don't think a house is ever "done", but I would like it to feel more finished. We need to finish the tile around our fireplace... if I can't convince DJ that we should really rip our entire mantle off the wall to have it rebuilt with built-in bookshelves flanking the fireplace. 

We need to insulate and sheet rock and organize the garage. Which means putting some kind of heat source in the garage. 

We need insulated blinds for the two windows in the office and two windows in the guest room. While we're at it, I'd also like to have the same roller shades in our bedroom installed in the windows and dining room windows downstairs to block west-facing light in the summer. 

Most importantly, we need a new queen mattress for our bed, so that we can shift our old one into the guest room. We're hosting Thanksgiving this year, and need all the bed space we can get. It would also be nice to fill out our bedroom furniture with a amoire or extra wide dresser and nightstand

Annnd maybe start saving for a new vehicle. My Altima is wonderful- the first "grown up" purchase I made, but it doesn't have ABS brakes or all-wheel drive or snow tires. While the vehicle runs fine, we should probably start preparing to replace one of our vehicles so we avoid the two-new-car-payments-at-once issue... 

It also wouldn't hurt to beef up out savings account too. 

We've got a ways to go before being able to spend money on these items. We need to pay off Europe, and they won't be all at once purchases. But it's fun to browse!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


We are alive over here. All is well, I just fell off of the blogging bandwagon for a bit.

In the near month since we've been back, we've been busy each weekend. First it was just getting settled back into the Bozeman routine. Then it was Homecoming weekend in Bozeman, with friends and tailgating and football and a wedding reception in Helena. Last weekend we sprinted down to Pocatello to see one of dad's games at ISU. It's a quick four hour drive if the weather is nice, which is probably is only three months of the entire year. There was snow on the ground on each side, but not on the road.

This weekend was another home MSU game, friends staying with us, dinner in Livingston with friends. Friends who make me laugh, whose husbands make me laugh, and all of whom I admire. I am lucky, very lucky in the friends department.

In between all of that, I've sewn a duvet cover for a bed at the lake (shams, bedskirt, second set for other bed to follow), a cushion slipcover for the chair at the lake, processed probably 20lbs of tomatoes (all in the freezer), harvested crookneck squash, zucchini squash, spaghetti squash, made squash lasagna, done the usual vacuuming, dog running, etc.

It's been busy, for sure. But we've been lucky to have a nice fall. It hasn't frozen yet (probably Monday night). It's been sunny. It hasn't snowed. I've been able to wear sandals. I'm mentally bracing for the crappy weather that's sure to come our way.

But for now, I'll go walk the doggie in flip flops (and a sweater).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We're back!

The regularly scheduled posts over the past few weeks probably tipped you off to our Europe trip, huh? I'm not very sneaky.

I have a lot to say about the trip-- it went beautifully, with only unavoidable glitches like the unseasonably warm weather in Rome. It was in the low 90's every day, instead of the upper 70's/ low 80's like we planned for. Lets just say my husband posted a lot of facebook comments about sweaty balls.

I'm still trying to process our trip photos, all 1,030 of them. I promise I won't subject you to all of them. In the mean time, I thought I'd start with the highlights and lowlights of the trip.

Highlight (for me): Day 1- D-Day Tour. I'll post more about it later, but a couple of quick images:
German guns overlooking the Normandy beaches. 

Omaha Beach, looking towards the east. 

Overlooking Omaha Beach. 

American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. 

Really, I have so much more to say about this day. The short version of it is, GO THERE. If you can swing it. If you're in France. GO. 

Now, for the lowlight. I'll explain more of it later too, but the lowlight was the Vatican Museums/ Sistine Chapel. Check out these photos and tell me if you can figure out why:

Yeah... The Vatican Museums host 20-40,000 people in one day. We didn't know that. They also don't make you set up an appointment (like at the Borghese Gallery) so they can send everyone in waves. It was  a giant mass of people shuffling in one direction. It was alos 85 degrees outside, and either they don't have AC, or it couldn't keep up with the masses.  By the time we reached the Sistine Chapel I just wanted OUT. OUT OF THERE RIGHT THIS SECOND. OMFG GET ME OUT OF HERE. And someone brought a baby. And yes, I took a picture of the screaming kid, because I'm an asshole like that. The poor kid was expressing exactly how I felt at that exact moment too. 

If' you're in Rome, don't go to the Sistine Chapel. If you really want to see it in all it's beautiful detail, buy a coffee table book and enjoy it (for about the same price). 

Also: Jet lag is kind of awesome. I've been up since 3:45am (having gone to sleep at 8:30pm). I've gotten a ton done! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guilt over leaving the pupperoni

My friend Emily is house/ dog sitting for us while we're in Europe. It'll work well; Emily grew up with golden retrievers and she's headed home to the family farm for a long weekend while we're gone, so Harlow will get to be a temporary farm dog. Emily will also be able to haul in the bushels of ripe tomatoes  I'm sure to get while we're gone. I have big plans for those tomatoes. 

But in the meantime, I feel a certain sense of guilt for leaving our dear pupperoni. She's been getting extra loves and treats for the last few weeks. She's seen the suitcases out, and I think she know's something is up.

Cuddling this morning in bed; nothing like hanging out with your wang out.  

Muddy paws?

Favorite hanging out position.

Snoozing in the morning sun while Courtney works in the office.

Someday I'll catch that tail!

Oh gosh we love this doggie. 

Friday, September 9, 2011


The whole point of gardening, for me, is to be able to bring flowers inside. Check out my gladiolus! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Landscaping: What's not working

Overall I've been really pleased with our landscaping and veggie garden this year. Last year was so disappointing, but this year things are doing really well. I've even held off on purchasing new plants, which is amazing considering my obsession with perennials last year. 

There are, however, a number of things not working. 

Like this aster plant. I think it suffers from a number of maladies; including no water, being overtaken by weeds and being a favorite place for the cats to poop in (thus making yanking the weeds out not so fun). 

Or how about the plants near the back step? They have to be hand watered, and I forgot to point them out to our neighbor when he agreed to water our plants in later July. Darn.

The trellis-less sweet peas are also not really working. They kind of just build on themselves and then flop over.

Or how about this vacant spot on the north side of the garage?

The hanging baskets are just not thriving either. I have my doubts about the soil in the baskets (which we scavenged), and because there is no mulch on the top, the baskets dry out really quickly.  We'll see what we can do next year.

You know what's really had a rough summer? The Adirondak chairs on our front porch. A wind comes up and knocks them over, usually into a post, and off goes an arm. Damn.

So there's our dirty little secrets about what's not working in our landscaping. Anything you need to get off your chest?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Home made salsa

I love home made salsa. Having the ingredients out in the garden makes it so easy to throw together a batch of yumminess. 

First, tomatoes: Juliet and cherry tomatoes (left over from a pasta dish from last week).

Hungarian hot wax pepper. 


Cherry bomb pepper. 

Cilantro. For some reason I am unable to grow cilantro. I think it gets too hot and goes to seed before it really grows leaves. 

The big green bell pepper is also store-bought. Same with the red onion. 

Salsa is so easy to make! you just chop everything up, toss it in a seal-able container, throw in salt, pepper and a few squirts of lime and you have a delicious snack! 

I'll admit it, sometimes I have chips and salsa for breakfast in the summer. 

What's so wrong with that?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Back in the game

This afternoon my dad retakes the football field as a collegiate head coach. After three years of being out of the game, he'll lead the Idaho State Bengals onto the field at Martin Stadium in Pullman, for an afternoon showdown against Washington State University. 

Man, there is so much emotion wrapped up in those two sentences. Dad is finally actually coaching again. He and my mom grew up 12 miles from Pullman. He was recruited by Washington State, but chose to start at the University of Idaho as a freshman. WSU drubbed Idaho so badly in 1975 that my dad's brother Pat, who was being recruited by WSU, refused to speak to the 'Cougs coaches. Pat signed with Notre Dame instead, married a girl from the east coast and has lived in Massachusetts since.  

Football is a game, don't get me wrong. But sometimes it has life-changing consequences.

Dad was on the staff at WSU last year. Let me make it clear: he made $24,000 as the glorified water boy. He couldn't interact with college athletes. He wasn't coaching. But he and my mom had fun being 'Coug fans. Even if the 'Cougs only won two games last year; one of them an overtime victory against Montana State. 

A long time assistant, and good friend of his, is the head football coach at WSU. Paul's WSU teams have won five games in three years- he's on the end of a one-year contract extension. Saying he's on the hot seat is like saying I've got small fingers. Duh. 

My sister and her boyfriend are seniors at WSU. It's amazing how much this university, which I didn't attend, has been in my life lately. Can I call myself a bandwagon 'Coug fan if I became a fan when they sucked? 

The sportswriter for the Spokesman Review out of Spokane has been a longtime favorite writer of mine. His article this week gets to the amazing irony and sometimes gut-wrenching coincidences that come with college athletics. You can, and should, read it here.

Don't get me wrong, it won't be a close game. The 'Cougs have been terrible, but the Bengals have been worse. But it's awesome to see dad get another chance to do what he loves, and is so damn good at. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Toiletries for Europe

When packing for one of our first trips, DJ had a list of things labeled "Toilet Trees". He knows that's not the proper spelling of all the gear one packs to deal with their body, but since then we've always referred to things like shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. as Toilet Trees. Sometimes just "'Trees".

Given our carry-on only travel plans, the 'Trees need to be pretty light. They'll also have to be divided into liquid and non-liquid items. 

First, the non-liquid items. Below is a combination of personal care items and first aid items, including two kinds of blister relief pads, Drammamine (in case DJ gets train-sick), probiotics (for me and my sometimes unpredictable GI tract), Tums, UTI pills (I haven't had one in a while, but I don't want to deal with that uncomfortableness in Europe), deodorant/ antiperspirant, two kinds of anti-chafe stuff (I'm packing skirts and want to wear them to walk around in without having the "OMFG OUCH my thighs!" issue), Dove sensitive skin soap, which I use on my face and body, My red nail care kit (any idea if they'll let me fly with little tiny scissors?), and the scraper thing for when I get calluses on my feet (Gross to share, but important to have). And floss. 

The liquid bag is still a little uncertain. Packing contact solution is the biggest pain in the ass thing; I wish I'd been able to have laser eye surgery last winter! Also: hand sanitizer, various types of sunscreen (won't be enough for the whole trip, but will at least get us started), moisturizers, Tide packets for washing clothes, 2-in-1 shampoo/ conditioner (takes less space!), eye makeup remover and toothpaste.

Obviously I'm not showing you my toothbrush, my daily multivitamin, my makeup and all of the regular stuff I use which will go along. I've found that packing the daily stuff is usually pretty simple, since I really don't wear much makeup!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gear for Europe

As we near our departure date, I'm pretty certain we've finished up our For-Europe purchases. I told DJ last night that I have the same feeling I did in the last week before our wedding: damn the price, if you think you're going to need it, buy it. The good news is, I think I'll have a lot less buyers remorse about Europe than I do about our wedding! At least all the Europe stuff will be used again, unlike say... the 12 tiki torches we bought.

I've shown you my shoes for Europe and most of the clothing I'll be taking, but now let me show you most of the gear I plan to pack.

As I've said before, we're planning on traveling light, with carry-on sized baggage. I'll have the Samsonite roll-aboard I bought with the remainder of our wedding gift cards, and DJ will have his tiny little roll-aboard. DJ has a messenger bag he'll use as a personal item and I just purchased a purse/ small day bag which will be mine. It's been a kind of fun challenge to work through exactly what it is we want to take.

First, a sort of fanny-pack for the most important documents. There are pickpockets in Venice and Rome, and at train and air travel locations. It's inevitable that our pockets will be picked, so we might as well prevent loss of important items. Bastards better not steal my chapstick, is all I'm gonna say! Anyway, thus the purchase of the silky fanny pack, which you wear around your front and tuck into your pants/ skirt waistband. Into it will go the passport (duh), wallet (the little green flip'n'fold wallet is from Target), and any other important paperwork. My only concern with this item is that clearly I can't wear a full-length dress if I'll need to be getting into my pouch...

While it'll probably pretty warm in Italy, I'm anticipating cooler weather in France. The weather forecast for Normandy right now calls for highs in the upper '60's (F) and lows in the upper 50's (F), with wet weather a possibility. On the left is the North Face Venture rain jacket I purchased this spring. In the middle is an underarmour pullover I've had for a few years. The green square to the right is a big green scarf which I'll wear with my black Patagonia dress on the plane. The scarf will be a cover-up, blanket, etc. while in flight. The crimson 'Cougs hat will be just an accessory- I'm looking forward to seeing if anyone comments on the hat!

Below is my carry-on items. From left to right: inflatable pillow, new Jon Grisham paperback, the day-bag I bought, a bottle for water, eye mask, Neutrogena makeup-remover wipes, travel journal, goldfish crackers and granola bars. Both DJ and I are planning on sleeping from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, so the inflatable pillow, eye mask and ear plugs (not pictured) will be important. We've both also debated taking a Tylenol PM, just to make sure we're not miserable for the lengthy flight. The paperback and goldfish are my go-to plane entertainment items. I'll fill the waterbottle once we've cleared security. The granola bars will go with us because I get really bitchy when I'm hungry, so they'll be our first line of prevention for that.

Other gear not pictured includes guidebooks (we'll separate those between our rolling luggage), a file with all of our rental car, hotel, and flight reservation information as well as tentative train schedule information for Italy. Of course, camera, camera charger, extra camera memory chip, DJ's droid phone (on which we'll turn the phone mode off and just find wireless hot spots to use it as a small computer), phone charger. I'll want to have my glasses case/ contact stuff handy, as I'll take those out pretty quickly into our trip. We've also got handi-wipes, small packets of laundry detergent for doing laundry in hotel sinks, a mini-clothes line for laundry, shout wipes (I'm taking 3 white shirts to a country that eats pasta, you know how this story ends).

The spreadsheet for this packing is actually pretty detailed, but small, since we're trying to pack so lightly! I'll go over toiletries for Europe later.

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26 Friday Farming

Sigh. It's a Friday Farming post, as Friday is about over. I have photos for last week's Friday farming post, but never got around to actually posting them. Summer flies by so fast! 

August has been, well, rather stressful. Working to get all of the work items taken care of, personal items attended to, and trip thoughtfully planned before we leave has just been a lot of...work. It feels like Monday through Friday has been an absolute sprint. 

But in between all of the to-do lists, and the waking up at 5am with thoughts of things-to-do running through my head have been a couple of really good things. My friend Alli, the one of the the great hike, and who did the awesome pamphlet map for our wedding invites became engaged last weekend. I'm thrilled for them! But even better is that Alli and her almost fiancee Bill are visiting us for 'Cat-Griz weekend (rivalry weekend in college football, the weekend before Thanksgiving). I'm so excited to have them here! 

Along the wedding lines, I had a chance to loan out my wedding shoes to my "little sister" in the sorority, Jenni, who is doing her engagement photos next week, and getting married July 7, 2012. I'm so excited to get to pass along these great shoes which are apparently now not available. It makes me happy that Jenni will get such joy out of them too. 

And holy shit, did you know we're going to Europe?! Gah, I have so much to tell you :)

But let's focus on the purpose of tonight's post: Friday Farming. Because man, this yard/ garden is doing really well right now! Who in their right mind scheduled a major vacation in early September, just as all of the peppers and tomatoes were coming in? Oh... me.

First, Hydrangea. Specifically: twist and shout hydrangea. Makes me smile every time! 

Know what else makes me smile? Sunflowers, which FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY bloomed!

I mean seriously, I've only been waiting for this since, oh, March.

Um guys, I may have overplanted the garden. There are areas I can't really access because vines are going every which way and there is nowhere to step. Oops!

My gladiolus are blooming!

And the early girl tomatoes are ripening.

We've been consistiently picking early girl tomatoes off the vines for a few weeks now. They're delicious!

I think this pumpkin has evil plans. Plans to grow over the house and strangle us in our sleep. Seriously. This thing grows like 18" a day.

There is supposed to be a walkway in there, somewhere.

Winter squash!

Pumpkin! Question: I think I once read that after getting a pumpkin vine to set fruit, I should snap all of the other flowers off of the vine in order to direct all of the nutrients to the existing fruit and make it big? True? Not?

Zucchini! I see zuch bread, muffins, stir fry, etc. in our future. :)

Roma tomatoes! Wayyyyy bigger than last year's Roma's. I'm pretty certain they'll all ripen while we're in... Roma. Thankfully we have someone house/ dog sitting who can pick my tomatoes and save them for me to process.

Summer squash, some of it destined for our Saturday night pasta.



More pepper!


Spaghetti squash!


Gladiolus (apparently I'm really proud of these...)

Clematis on the top, sweet peas trellising up the bottom.

Front yard.

So I seriously thought these sweet peas weren't going to do much this year. They start so damn slow!

But clearly they come on late.

And man they smell good.

My Autumn Joy sedum is starting to turn pink. I think that means fall is around the corner...

Bell peppers!

Cherry Bomb bell peppers. So funny story. Wednesday night I was making salsa for an event on Thursday night, and I had a ripe Cherry bomb. I chopped it up, tossed it in the bowl. Then I chopped up a tomato and tossed it in the bowl, but a little into my mouth. HOT!!! Hot! WTF why is that tomato HOT! Ohh... these little suckers pack a punch!

Hungarian wax pepper.

Black-eyed Susans.

The herbs.

The mint (currently in my mojito).

My bee balm, which is getting powdery mildew from being directly sprayed by the water.

Bed along the driveway.

Snapdragon! Starting to bloom. Guys I grew this from seed!

Fern gully.

What's not shown: that I've harvested all of the garlic and it's in the coat closet drying. That we've got a pile of juliet tomatoes on our kitchen counter. That I'm seriously sad to be missing the best part of summer gardening while we're in Europe; everything is just about to start being prolific. That by the time we get back, it'll be well into fall. That I'm a bit scared/ intimidated by winter this year. That I want to plant evergreens by our front steps. That I can't wait to spend 17 days trapsing about with my husband.

Life, my friends, is good right now. Busy, incredibly busy, but good.