Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spice Girl

For years my spices have been shoved in cabinets.  Wherever I lived, they were crammed in baggies, jars, and tins, and stuffed in plastic bins.  Opening a spice cabinet was always an adventure.  You were sure to either be assaulted by an avalanche of cumin and cilantro, or have to go spelunking to find an elusive bag of cassia cinnamon.  It was scary. 

I never wanted a countertop spice rack (too inflexible, bad designs, and one more thing to crowd the counters).  For lack of a better solution, my spices languished in the cabinets.

No more.

Enter: my super budget-friendly wall-mounted spice rack.

This is based on a spice rack my aunt has used in several of her houses.  She is much more domestic, culinarily accomplished, and certainly wayyyyy more organized than I am.  But we are similarly creative/stubborn and want what we want, how we want it.  I knew if her spice rack worked for her, it'd work for me.

Aunt Karen's rack takes a more refined approach, with glass shelves and tinted glass spice jars.  For Cabbage Ranch, I went more modern and I love the results.  It cost me about $30. 

Here's the basic gist of this project.
1. Decide on the wallspace you want to dedicate to your spice rack, and measure width and height.  You can also probably guesstimate how many shelves you'll be able to mount.  I fit mine between the stove and the fridge, and left an inch or two top and bottom, as well as on each side. 

2. Find spice jars you like, and buy 'em.  Their size will dictate how many jars you can fit per shelf, how deep the shelves are, and exactly how high each shelf needs to be.  I found my jars at World Market for about $1.00 each. 

3. At your local home improvement store, pick out good-quality boards and have them cut to size.  Also grab some small L-shaped shelf brackets (the kind that screw into the underside of the shelf and the wall).  Btw, if you want glass shelves, you should be able to find a local place to custom-cut the shelves and sand the edges.

4. Throw a couple coats of paint on your shelves.  This glossy red is the same color I've used on side tables, chairs, and picture frames.  Because it's glossy, I know it's durable enough to skip sealing for this use.  As an aside, I love that all those matching pieces lets me mix and match through the house.  That can of paint is my friend.  

5. Screw the L brackets to your shelves, then to the wall.  Or, in my case, whine and plead until someone else does it for you.  Thank you, Cabbage!  (I do most things myself but I know my limits... which apparently includes wall-mounted shelves)

6. Label the spice jars.  I labelled my jars by scribbling on them with a Sharpie.  I'm fancy like that.  But I wanted the look to be casual and simple, and although I considered several options (paint pens, chalkboard paint, printed labels, etc etc), this worked just fine. 
If you are like 99% of people and 60% of chimps, your writing is neater than mine and your labels will turn out better.  Thanks to my fabulous organizational skills and steel trap memory, I accidentally labelled two jars Cinnamon.  I'm lame.

7.  Drag your spices from the depths of the avalanche spice cave, fill in jars, and stand back.  

8. Admire.

The rainbow of spices looks awesome hanging out on my wall, and it's the ultimate flexible spice system.  Checkmate!

A Tale

Once upon a time, I had some lovely plants in a pot.  It looked something like this.
 And then Annie snuck onto the back porch.

Now my pot looks like this.

The End.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quality Mothering

I let my baby eat cereal off the floor.  Does that make you question my parenting choices?
I'm strict about her table manners.
And just look at those impressive filing skills.  She's crazygood.
My baby's got skills...  I'm an awesome mom.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


You remember Annie, the self-employed wonder.
Annie is freakishly energetic, so we try to give her lots of exercise.  Enter: the frisbee.

This is a great nylon frisbee I found at PetsMart.  It flies forever, floats, is flexible and easier for her to catch and grab than the traditional plastic frisbee.  Plus it's been extremely durable despite Annie's best destructive attempts.

And it's pretty easy to pick cactus spines out of it.  Not that I would throw it into a cactus...  That must've been Beep.

Georgie likes to play with the frisbee, too.  And by "play," I mean stand by and watch someone else do all the work.


We live in the country.  Although Cabbage Ranch is not completely outside the boundaries of civilization, there is no such thing as delivery pizza in our neighborhood. 

We are not alone, though.  In addition to our human neighbors, we have many, many, manymanymanyMANY friends from the animal kingdom.  I love the horses in our pasture, our dogs and cat, and I can't get enough of seeing our resident deer herd evolve.  Especially our favorite, a doe named Tabor.

We have tons of wild birds, occasional rabbits, raccoons, and earlier this week even a wild turkey.  I'm cool with almost all animals and enjoy this cast of characters.  I do not, however, hold any love for the many creepy crawlies. 

Case in point: a couple of weeks ago I saw a snake crossing the road toward the edge of our property.  I got a good look from the safety of my vehicle (windows up, doors locked, foot hovering over accelerator).  I did not get a photo, because I was too busy demonstrating my flight response.  From my breathless and terrified description later, Cabbage assured me it was a copperhead.

How fabulous.

Ranch for sale.  I'm moving northward.  If I were to put this on the Moving Northward Scale, with 1 being I'm happy where I am and nothing gross is looking at me right now, and 10 being I have Wisconsin on the GPS, we're pulling out of the driveway now and you can send my bags later, this was a 9.8.

I don't belong in a place where attire includes snakeboots.  I prefer snowboots. 

We occasionally get scorpions in our house.  Naturally, I'm super brave around scorpions; I wordlessly point and squeal, or (if Cabbage isn't around and I'm forced to be the grownup) I shriek and run for the scorpion tongs, grab the evil little bugs, and kill them.  They're freaky and creepy and depending on where they are and the surprise factor, they rate between 7-8 on the MNS.

We also get these weird little earthwormy things that squiggle really fast.  I am told they are called blind snakes.  I prefer to think of them as worms.  They're tiny and, although hard to catch, they're not very creepy so they rate a 4 on the MNS. 

This is Fletcher, our cat, pondering the fate of a trespassing blind snake/worm.

Lizards live on the exterior walls of our house.  They're annoying because they dive through open doors and then require catching, but they're not creepy.  They rate a 2 on the MNS.

Thousands of Mexican Freetail bats fly around our home each night as dusk falls.  The bats are fascinating, don't bother us, and eat more than their bodyweight in bugs each night.  I like them, so the bats rate a -1 on MNS and thus help offset the relocation effects of some other vomit-worthy creatures that lurk on Cabbage Ranch in their quest to traumatize me.

Recently Cabbage insisted I come outside to see a moth.  I wasn't particularly interested in seeing a freakin' moth... but I went anyway.  I hate to admit he was right, but it was huge and stunningly vibrant. 

It rated a -1 on the MNS.  I guess I'll stay here at Cabbage Ranch...  For now.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tiny Rainbow Sneakers

Yesterday was Wednesday.

In case you didn't know.

It was also one of those days for Cabbage...  You know those days when you just miss your baby so badly you can't stand it anymore?   He couldn't take it.  So he didn't.  Rather than letting me pick up Beep as usual, he called our babysitter and texted me, telling us both he was on his way to get our baby.

I love his style.

He smothered her in kisses, then swept her away in his pickup.  He texted me to tell me he had her.  I said "Prove it."

I then received this text.

I'd know that bald head anywhere.  I gave birth to it... Thank God, it was smaller at that time.

So they were off to run normal, everyday errands.  With anyone else, this would be mundane, but with Cabbage, I knew Beep would have a great time.  Cabbage is just one of those people who's fun to bum around with.  I learned this via gin-fueled barhopping followed by lazy mornings in bed, and lunches eaten at stool-lined counters.  Beep learned it during noise-filled shriekfests, extended napping sessions, and late-night feedings.

I was a little jealous that I was stuck at my desk and confined by my commute, instead of hanging out with them.  I wanted to go to the baby superstore, too.  I wanted to be with them, buying diapers.  Weird, I know.  So naturally I retaliated by challenging Cabbage to find some new shoes for Beep... due, in part, to the Toadboots incident.

I then received another text.

YES!  I texted back.  Duh. 

A few minutes later:
This photo grabbed me with its simple, sweet statement about their stolen time together.  The little feet, kicking happily as she inspected her new shoes, riding in the truck with her daddy.  Sweet, tiny rainbow sneakers tied carefully in clean white bows by his calloused, neat hands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Smooth Moves

So there I was, killing a few minutes at a book store... I walked past the used record bin and there, I saw something that has changed the arc of my life. 


How could I gaze at this record cover and remain the same Before & After person? 

Take a moment to ponder.  I'll wait...

When was this cool?  Was it ever cool?  Why are these people on the cover?  How did these maniacs even get access to the "15 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Dance Hits"?  What did beige ever do to them?

It's just so.....  Incredibly.  Awkward.

Upon further reflection, I'm not sure our little friend Susie totally buys into this deal, either.

Someone please tell me they're mannequins.  

What marketing genius looked at this shot and thought "This will sell albums!" 

Oh, baby.  Check out that hip thrust, coupled with the tentative, crab-claw extending toward Susie's checked sweater. 
It really captures the feel of rock.

I was so profoundly affected by this album that I decided it's now my visual anthem.  I'm going to keep it close by.  It could be useful in so many situations. 

Around the water cooler, for example.

Joke falls flat?

Standing in front of my closet, trying to decide what to wear?
Or better yet, follow in Dan's fashion footsteps.
In a meeting, needing to seal a deal with a little fancy footwork?  You bet.

This totally made my day, and I hope it rings your bell, too.  So does Susie.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Holding On

Beep is almost 15 months old, and not yet walking on her own.  She toddles around holding on to a single finger, or the edge of the furniture.  There are plenty of babies who walk earlier than she has, but I don't mind at all.  This isn't a competition, though if it were she'd have everyone else beaten in vocabulary and rosy cheeks, not to mention baldness.  Really, though, I know that soon enough she won't want to hold my hand any more. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This Stuff is Freakin Good

I decided to try to grow herbs this year.  My first attempt, which included growing seeds in eggshells on my windowsill, was ultra Martha-esque but for unknown reasons resulted in abject failure.  Not a single herb made it out alive.  This experience encouraged me to forever swear off little cutesy projects that unnecesarily consume my effort.  [Cut to next scene]

For my second try, I bought seeds and plants and skipped the nurture-them-inside-like-you're-supposed-to step.  I dumped the seeds in pots and big stainless steel containers and put them in too much sunlight too late in the year.  I told them I didn't care if they lived or died and I watered them when I remembered and I was brutal to those little seeds.

I grew the heck outta those stupid plants.

I now have lots of basil.  I have a bevy of rosemary.  I even have some parsley and oregano, and I have more dill than I know what to do with.

On the other hand, some plants which shall remain nameless (purple basil) never even bothered to sprout, and I respect their choice.  I understand, because it is indeed hazardous for plants here at Cabbage Ranch.  Even the plants which survive the harsh environment are subject to be eaten by horses or deer.  Or dug up by Annie in one of her godforsaken fits of self-employment

Anyway, I decided I'd try to use the rosemary, which has been growing like crazy.  I was hankering to try it out.

I also wanted to use the word hankering.

In my quest to use rosemary for something deserving of my serendipitous herb-growing success, I stumbled across this recipe for Bakery Style Rosemary Flatbread on Tasty Kitchen.

It was the best.  The flatbread is simple to make, and results in the most flaky, crispy, fresh and herby crackers!  I must have them now and forevermore.  I ate them for dinner, and then again for breakfast. 

I did tweak the recipe as I went, just a little.  I increased the rosemary about a tablespoon, and slightly decreased the pepper.  I may try it again with other/more/mixed up herbs.

I would send you some of mine, but it wouldn't ship well.  Plus I have some kind of mental block about sending packages, so I would never actually do it. 

Make Bakery Style Rosemary Flatbread today.  You're gonna love it so much you'll just shove it in your mouth till its gone.  Just like Beep.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Half Saturday Down...

Saturday is my favorite day.  This morning we were up early, and after a quick breakfast for us and the animals, we are out the door.  Two vehicles, headed in roughly the same direction.  Cabbage took Beep to the racetrack, and I headed for the barn to ride Sam.

At 8:00 this morning, the outdoors were just starting to heat up.  The light was soft and bright as Sam and I walked to the outdoor arena.

We had a great ride. 

And by "great ride" I do not mean perfect.  We are flawed, and definitely imperfect.  We are both lacking condition, have stiff spots, and have skills needing sharpening.  That's to be expected after the last couple of years, which have been pummeled by emergency surgery (his), career (mine), lameness (his), and pregnancy (mine).  We are just getting back online, and are not exactly a well-oiled machine.   

Today, Sam was hyper and took too much...ummm... creative license with his canter.  There was hopping, and head-throwing, and unruly behavior.  He was generally a butthead.  He got in trouble.  He was in good company, though.  I cursed myself for my overweight butt and my slow reaction time.

But we are partners, so we get through it.  Even a disorganized, off-kilter ride is a great one, because it's always going to be challenging and interesting, athletic and exciting.  That makes it fun. 
After our ride, Sam had a bath and some grazing time.  I look at him during quiet moments like this and simply think "What a lovely horse."

(Of course, that's not exactly what I'm thinking when he's hopping, head-throwing, and generally being unruly.  What I think then would make this blog NSFW.)

Anyway.  I then took my sweaty, horse-hair-covered self to the racetrack to find Cabbage and Beep.

I found them cleaning stalls. 

Beep was picking up poop.  Does this violate some kind of child labor law?

What about wheelbarrowing?  Is that bad for toddler development?  She only had about 8 stalls to clean.

Next, clean shavings.  "Are these the right ones, Dada?  How many bags?" 
We expect our child to toil.  Preferably in hot sun.

We also expect her to spread the shavings in the stalls.  After she gets them clean, hauls away the dirty shavings, scrubs the floors and polishes the silver.  Hello, my little Cinderella.
 Nice job, Beep.  You're hired.
And for your reward, you get to ride Junior!  Good thing you did all the work for Daddy and Papa, so they had the energy to hoist you up there. 
(No toddlers were actually expected to work in the making of this post.  And Beep did not ride anywhere, but don't tell her that.)

We also met the vet to have a look at the inside of Junior's throat (more on that in a future post).  Then a quick lunch of Chipotle burritos, complete with Beep shrieking at the top of her lungs just for the sake of the echo... and on that note we headed home for Beep's nap. 

Now, I can hear Cabbage down the hall, sweeping and mopping the floors.  How cool is he?  I'm sure he's wearing his cowboy hat, which might make him the only cowboy in the universe that is mopping floors, in his hat, right at this moment.  He rocks.

All this, and the day's only half over.  This afternoon we will find some kind of adventure...  To be determined.

Achtung, Baby!

Of course I love U2.  I'm a child of the 90s, so it was pretty much a prerequisite.  High school found my friends and me driving to the barn in our boots and breeches, with She Moves In Mysterious Ways cranked up till it blew out the car's woofer.  We were, like, totally rad.

U2 was the soundtrack to my high school years, but it also moved to college with me, where my roommate loved that group even more than I did.  In our ultra-cool (!) dorm room with a loft and mini-fridge, Bono and The Edge were always welcome.  Driving through our college mountain town, we'd roll down the windows in my crappy college car, crank up Achtung, Baby!, and wind up canyons, over passes, and around reservoirs.   

Fast forward.  A few months ago I said something to a friend about the Joshua Tree album, and she had no idea what or who I was talking about.  I said, "You know, the U2 album." 

She then looked at me blankly.

I looked back at her. 

She shook her head, and said "I don't know who U2 is." 

I then did what any reasonable person would do: I screamed, tore my hair out, and ran down the hallway in terror that the world was coming to an end. 

Ok, so maybe not.  But I did find that the age difference- the one I usually denied existed- had suddenly yawned open in a deep crevasse between us.  I felt old.  I was also reminded that I am not from this area, where everyone knows the local artists but maybe not the national ones.  It's usually kitschy and charming, but sometimes it's... suffocating.

My point (and I do have one) is that U2 enriched my life in a lot of ways, including teaching me one of two German phrases I know. 

Achtung, Baby!  And it's only half German, so I guess it only counts as half a phrase.

But it's the best I can do on short notice, when I look at my stats for this blog and see someone(s) from Germany has been visting.  So, hello new German friend(s)!  I hope you keep visiting, and would love to hear from you.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time To Get Up

I am not a good napper.  I either can't get to sleep, or I can't wake up.  When I do wake up, I am grumpy, lethargic, and unpleasant.

Sunday afternoon, however, found me exhausted from a head cold, a busy weekend and not enough sleep.  Leaving Beep with Cabbage, I finally succumbed and went to lay down.  I slept for an hour and a half, and awoke to this.

An Open Letter to the Fair Trade Marketing People

Dear Fair Trade Marketers:

I understand your interest in  marketing products as Fair Trade, and I applaud these types of efforts.  Fair Trade products make me feel better about what I purchase, consume, and enjoy.  When I see the Fair Trade logo, I am more likely to buy it, and even may pay a little more for it. 

This brings me to my lunch at Whole Foods.  I love Whole Foods, which is not only filled with healthful, affluent, organized people but also seems to promise to make me the same.  I enjoyed my salad, my tofu, and my time with friends.  I also thought my iced tea (with a hint of mint) was delightful.

I was not delighted, however, by this picture on my can of iced tea.

This is reality for these people, even under Fair Trade conditions?  The lady looks undernourished, overworked, and (is it possible to look) undereducated.  She looks tired, and burdened, and old before her time.  And I'm pretty sure her 8+ kids aren't in a regulated daycare.

She reminds me of the millions of people all over the world who live this way every day, when they're lucky enough to find work.  Much less find a farm involved in fair trade and become a poster-child-mint -tea-uncompensated-celebrity for third world agriculture.  She reminds me about my good fortune in being born when, where, and to the people I was so I could seek education, purchase big things, and build a careful career.  Instead of, oh, say, pick tea leaves by hand with a basket strapped to my head.   

Thanks for the Whole Foods buzzkill, Mr. & Ms. Marketer.


Not Cool

Dressing Beep the other day, I grabbed her pink boots from where they were hanging in the closet organizer.  I peeked inside them, as I always do with our shoes, to make sure there are no bugs (read: scorpions) inside.

In this case, I saw something dark and rumpled in her boot.  What's a sock doing still inside there? I wondered as I reached my hand inside.

It. Was. Not. A. Sock.

Luckily, it was also not alive.

There was no shrieking, hysterics, or cussing.  There was an inquiry made to Cabbage to be sure he wasn't playing a sick joke on me.  He wasn't.

There was much hand-washing, plus a few threats to move northward, where toads do not infest the boots of darling babies and their unsuspecting mothers.

And those boots, by the way, were verging on too-small, and have now been suddenly retired.  And shall evermore be known as the toadboots.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Things Heard in Our House Tonight

Oh, I'd like to eat about ten pounds of lobster right now.

How do you like how I single handedly crashed the housing market today?

Please don't eat that dog poop.

Don't they know if you say literally, it means it's actually going to happen?  Response: Then watch, cuz he's about to blow up.

Oh, you uptight sonuvab*tch, go write another article. [Directed at the tv]

I wish I had a Bloomin Onion.

Is that the guy with the pegleg? [ok, not really.  I just thought it fit in]

I love you, Baby. Ni-night.