Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas In the Trailer Park

I'll admit it: I spent too much time relaxing over the long weekend.  You guys were definitely on my mind, but as far as posting goes, I just. couldn't. find. motivation.

So, while I nurse my motivation hangover (because it's oh-so-hard to get back into the swing of a normal workday right now!), I'll give you a clip of some Christmas Day hilarity, brought to you courtesy of Beep and a great cardboard playhouse. Oh-and at about 45 seconds, the title of this post will make sense.

Love the cardboard playhouse? I had memories of a similar one from my childhood, so I took a chance somebody still made them. I snagged this one online from Kohls for less than $20 with free shipping (thanks to stacking a couple of coupon codes!), and although I don't see the exact same one anymore... boo!... there are similar ones at Walmart. A quick google search will reveal the cardboard playhouse is alive and well for $40 or less. I wasn't compensated for this post, I just like cardboard playhouses and thought you might, too.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last-Minute Christmas Goodies

Hi guys!  Everything is in full Christmas crazy mode around Cabbage Ranch, and I'm sure your life is the same.  I did want to share some fabulous little (free or cheap) Christmas things that have been lifesavers for me this year.

Living Locurto is one of my new favorite sites, especially during the holidays!  Amy has posted fabulous- and free!- downloads for gift tags, wish lists, last-minute letters to Santa, and even thank you cards.  So simple, and very pretty!

Givers Log is always chock full of great DIY ideas.  AmberLee has tons of ideas useful for mailing cute presents on the cheap, because they weigh thirteen ounces or less (which would also be great gifts or stocking stuffers).  Add to that her super cute ideas for ornaments wearing upcycled tights, and I'm practically giddy.  And that's not something people see every day.

Paint chip ornaments.  Free and easy, just like a hippie at Woodstock.  Thanks to Say Yes to Hoboken for this great idea, which is a perfect project to do with kids.

Table settings, anyone?  Young House Love is always an endless source of inspiration, and the holidays are no exception.  Oh- and if you never thought you'd get inspired by a tube of cheap-o plastic animal figurines, think again, because Sherry made them into super chic ornaments.  And that, my friends, is a true story.
Have a great day, eat some cookies, and godspeed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Gifts

People like me run around in a blur this time of year, frantically trying to finish up Christmas, work, laundry, everything. People like me do not complete shopping by Thanksgiving. People like me do not have the house fully decorated by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. But at least...

People like me.

Moving right along.

For those of you whose holidays are under better control than mine, I offer up to you a way to take these last few days totally over the top.

Beep received a box from her Grammy filled with adorable little gifts, each package labeled with a date.  Every day she gets to open another present to reveal some little tidbit of pre-Christmas fun.

Advent gifts really are the most fun if they're inexpensive or homemade, and the possibilities are endless.  Think about:
A pomegranate
$1.00 bill to buy a 99 cent smartphone app
Paper dolls printed from here (Free download!)
Pack of gum
A homemade treat
Fun socks
Fresh pack of hair bands
Bundle of crayons

Take a spin through your craft box, grocery store, or the dollar aisle at Target.  Then wrap those little babies up and dole them out over the next few days! 

You're organized.  And gosh darnit, people like you.

A Very Muddy Christmas

Remember this summer, when I was convinced it would never rain again

I was wrong. 

It's been raining here, off and on, for the past couple of weeks.  We are so incredibly grateful.  We are also so very muddy.  The drought this summer wiped out all the grass, and the rainfall runs everywhere and soaks the bare earth.  It's not cold enough to freeze the ground, or to freeze the precipitation, so it just works into the vulnerable bare earth and becomes a slick, gummy mess.  Words really fail me here, so instead I'll just show you.  By the time I took these pictures we were starting to dry out- and then it rained more and it got even worse- but you'll get the idea.

(And as I do so, allow me to remind you I grew up in the Midwest, where this time of year brings blankets of pristine white snow, frosty grass underfoot, frozen outdoor ice rinks, and sledding.  Got your mental image?)

 Beep didn't let mud stop her from feeding her deer.

Stop! In the name of love...

The other day, Junior spent some time hanging out while Cabbage stripped his stall.  He's looking good these days, though he's still on rest following his surgery in July.

The front of Junior's big stall is a pen open to the sky... as evidenced by the muddy morass it's become.  Cabbage has been layering it with straw and sprinkling lime powder on it in an effort to dry it out a little.  The mess laughs at Cabbage.  I heard it.  It's evil.

Obviously, boots are required footwear around here these days. 

I won't show you pictures of our mud room, but let's just say it's aptly named. I'm on strike from cleaning the floors until the mud dries up, or we grow old, retire, and sell the place to move to Boca Raton.  Whichever comes first.

Goodbye from the mud pits.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dog Hair and Other Delicacies

Yesterday, while in the throes of a few parentally listless minutes, I posted a deep and soul-searching question on facebook: Exactly how many times can I let my baby dump, then eat, her Cheerios before I'm obligated to pick them up? 

My friends dusted off their child rearing manuals, cracked their knuckles, and dove in.
"I wait until the reloaded bowl has at least six dog hairs in it..." [mother of 2]

"I wait until my child's gagging on the dog hairs... unless of course said dogs eat the Cheerios before the bowl can even be reloaded once." [mother of 1 with 2 dogs]

"If you don't watch her so closely, you won't worry so much." [mother of 2]

"You are doing everything you can to build her immune system. If it makes you feel any better, I let my kids eat Cheerios they drop outside.  Look away..." [mother of twins]

These are precisely the qualities I appreciate most in my friends. A ready sense of humor, self deprecation, practicality, and above all: flawless parenting.

I am not a fan of pretending things are perfect.  Perfect is plastic, and fake, and totally not interesting.  Fortunately for me, by those parameters my life is kale-certified organic, uber real and ultra fascinating.

I don't mind editing my life for public consumption on this blog or social media, but I don't want it airbrushed beyond recognition.  And I'd rather relate to other people than try to be better than them.  That's why I often mention here that my house is underdecorated and overly messy.  My horse misbehaves, even though I know better. My baby is bald. (but she's perfect anyway. bad example.) 

I've only been a parent for a short while, but the struggles with striving for perfect, or even feeling "good enough" started early. Pregnant women are judged more, and more harshly, than any other demographic I've been part of. Infants invite endless advice and nonstop comparisons. Toddlerhood and its accompanying emergent personality suggests to the world in general that you are riddled with parental incompetence.   

It's in defiance of this seeping sense of inadequacy and our society's obsession with perfection crap that I posted the Cheerios question, and thereby try to keep perspective and balance in my life.  (Through a question about dirty Cheerios?  Weird, I know.)  Anyway, I find that laying bare these particularly minute inadequacies is one of my small joys in life. Based on the responses, my kid's not the only one occasionally eating unhygenic cereal. Cheers to that.

Rose colored glasses?  No thank you, I'll just keep working toward making my peace with imperfection and take ownership of my own real, gritty, dumped-cereal life.  La vie en rose.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Request From Cabbage Ranch

Please... while you're caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle...

Take a moment to let go of wishing for a clean, fully decorated house.

Let the baby get her clothes dirty, let the dog get hair on the couch, watch while your husband doesn't load his ice cream bowl in the washer...

Get messy.  Make some memories.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Things Heard in Our House Tonight: Yuletide Edition

Yes, we do actually have to watch this.  Let me explain this.  It's our obligation to watch stupid made-for-tv Christmas movies.  And they can only have two themes: some spin on A Christmas Story or two people about to marry the wrong person, finding each other on Christmas Eve. 

Oooohhh! Piddy!

What exactly were we thinking when we picked out this tree? 
It looks fine.  Just keep putting ornaments on it.

Whoever the hell invented popcorn ceilings should be taken out back and beaten. 

Are you the biggest, baddest dog?  Will you bite em for me?  Atta girl.  You're mean.  Mean. 

Man, this is the best pizza you ever made.
You say that every time.
Yes, and it's true every time.

I love egg nog.  Just don't remind me it's got raw-ish eggs in it or I'll gag.

Merry Chistmahanuschwanzakah.  That should cover it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2000 Miles

Two years ago, Cabbage and I drove to Denver for Christmas.  It was a quick turnaround over a long weekend, and we planned to log about 2,000 miles round trip. 

We started after I worked a half day and drove all afternoon, through the scrubby hills of Texas and northward to the plains as darkness fell. We reached a town that marked our decision point; either stop for the night or push on.  Tracking a winter storm on our phones, we decided to push through and barely stopped for food and fuel.  Georgie, always an excellent travelling companion, peed quickly on a light dusting of snow and loaded up again in the back seat.

It became colder as night fell and the wind picked up.  Cabbage drove with a firm grip on the wheel and held the truck against the wind.  Pheasants hurtled across the road, thrown from their roosts by the gale and powerless to chart their flight. 

I reached back to stroke Georgie's head, offered her a drink of water, then tried to rest.  My feet were swelling so I propped them up on the dash.  Not usually a napper, I'd discovered the bliss of drifting off.  I was sleeping for two. 

In my belly, our baby-to-be stirred, then frog-kicked me.  "Hi, Beep.  You're awake?"  We had called the baby Beep practically since conception.  "Oh, Baby, not there.  Don't stop there.  Can you move, please?"  A massaging rub, then a few pokes, and the baby was still sitting directly on my bladder. 

We had just stopped for a bathroom break not twenty minutes earlier.  "Beep...Please move?"  Still nothing.  Shifting in my seat, drinking cold water, nothing persuaded the baby to move again.  There was nothing else for it. 

"Cabbage, I'm sorry but I have to pee again.  I know we just stopped, but your child is sitting directly on my bladder."

"Sure, no problem."  Thank goodness he understands, I thought.  We found another restroom. 

We drove through a string of tiny towns and found ourselves battling a nasty storm.  The snow was flying horizontally, driven mercilessly sideways in blinding sheets by a vicious wind.  It slowed us to a crawl, but there was no place to pull over.  We pushed forward, finding our way foot by foot by following the lines painted on the road.  After a time, the wind quieted and we picked up speed again.

I was driving when we slipped through a bit of New Mexico and into southern Colorado.  My baby squirmed inside and then stilled again, napping.  Over my shoulder Georgie slept, and to my right Cabbage had finally closed his tired eyes and fallen into a deep sleep. 

The sun was rising as we rounded a curve and descended a steep incline.  The plains stretching to my right and mountains to my left were revealed as familiar.  I'd spent my childhood visiting southern Colorado, and this stretch of road was well known to me.  The landscape was scoured clean and glittering with virgin snow ruffled by sage.  Everything was icy white with the palest of blue winter skies above.  So clear and beautiful that I felt pity for all those warm and cozy in their beds, missing that singular moment. 

I pressed play on the CD and turned down the volume, just barely able to hear the lovely song I knew would become the soundtrack for this memory which so captured that time of my life.  2000 Miles by Coldplay.

My family surrounded me and slept, and I laid a hand on my unborn child.  I welcomed the beauty of the new day as I traveled through memories, over the road, and toward Christmas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Joy to the Freakin' World

Here's a random montage of Cabbage Ranch doings and goings-on, just for you.  You're welcome.

I found the best gift bags ever at World Market.  Owls?  With coordinating wood grain tissue paper?  Si, por favor.

I can really make some little crap seem special with those.  Sign me up.

Ready for my magic act?  Now you see it...

Now you don't.  Astonishing, I know.

Now you don't see it...

 And now you do.

A credenza in the bathroom?  Sure.  Why not.  Martha doesn't live here.

The credenza was moved out of the living room to make room for an armoire we inherited from Cabbage's mother.  It's awesome.  I'll show it another time, because I can only handle so much furniture arranging.  You know that's not my thing.

Beep got an awesome hat.  Hilarious, right? (especially when her dad puts it on her backwards and the face hole gets even smaller)

We put Christmas lights on the gate.  It's the sum total of our outdoor lights, because lights wouldn't be very visible from the road.  Or we're too lazy.  It's one or the other.  We'll go with visibility.

Cabbage and Beep had a pretty good time helping with the lights.  They're really two peas in a pod: on the right is Cabbage wearing two kinds of camo, and on the left is Cabbage's baby wearing two kinds of [polka dot] camo.

Having a toddler sift through the lights really helped the untangling process.

She did help by passing lights to me through the gate.

When I put Christmas lights on the gate, I know it's really the holidays.  And until I buy a timer for the lights, they stay on all night.  So I'm pretty sure our neighbors across the street are also aware it's the holidays. 

Oh, good.  Katie put Cabbage Ranch's gate lights up.  And now they'll stay on 24/7 until January 1.  Joy to the freakin' world.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gum Drop Bars

Every family has its favorite holiday treats, and Gum Drop Bars top our list.   They're a little cakey, a little chewy, and just sweet enough.  Every bite is warmed by cinnamon, studded with bits of softened gumdrops and slathered with a fresh orange glaze.  This recipe was my grandmother's... to find roots any earlier than that, I'd have to go through 

These bars aren't trendy or sophisticated. They're kinda retro and they make me think of one-car garages and tomato aspics.  Excuse me while I go pouf my hair.  In the meantime, try making these for your family this holiday season.  You won't regret it.

Gum Drop Bars
4 eggs
2 c light brown sugar
1 T cold water
2 c sifted flour
1/4 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 c chopped pecans
1 c cut-up gumdrops (not spice drops, and no black gum drops), use kitchen scissors dipped in flour for easiest cutting

2 T butter
2 T fresh orange juice
1 t grated orange rind
6 t powdered sugar (more if needed), sifted

Beat eggs thoroughly.  Add sugar and water.  Beat again. 

Sift flour with salt and cinnamon.  Sprinkle a little of flour mixture over pecans and gum drops and toss to keep them from sticking together.  The flour coating will also help suspend them in the wet batter so they won't sink to the bottom of the pan.

Add remaining flour mixture to egg mixture.  Fold in pecans and gumdrops.  Spread batter in greased and floured jelly roll pan.  Bake at 325* for 35 minutes. 

For frosting, start by melting butter in a small bowl.  Add juice, rind and enough powdered sugar to make a thin frosting.  Spread over bars while they're still warm and allow to harden.  Cut into 1 x 2 inch pieces and enjoy!  These bars get stale quickly but they do freeze well.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Dishwasher. Reborn.

When we bought our house- or to be more exact, when we bought Cabbage Ranch- it was really a dream come true.  A few acres in a nice neighborhood, a little shop to make into a barn, and a spacious family house.  Yes and please.

Our home was built in the 70s, and had a pretty decent renovation sometime along the way.  Although it's all a bit dated now, those updates included some really thoughtful upgrades to the kitchen cabinets.  The appliances were less than stellar, though, and the fridge was not included with the property. 

When we shopped for appliances, I knew I wanted black.  I'd chosen black appliances in my previous home in Colorado, and I loved them.  Stainless was too expensive and prone to fingerprints... White was not my thing. 

When we bought our fridge, Lowe's was running a great special, so we opted to also get a new stove (the old one was scary!). 

We did not buy a new microwave or dishwasher... The existing ones were white but worked fine, and it wasn't a necessity.  We figured it wouldn't be hard to save for new ones in a year or two. 

Four years, one baby and a pile of horse bills later, we still have a checkerboard of kitchen appliances.  But I've gotten used to my black/white appliance mash-up.  No biggie.

However.  It just hit me that the "hopefully someday" black appliances were still too far off and I couldn't stand it anymore.

What to do about the big, huge, glaringly white dishwasher?

I know that with the right primer you can cover just about anything. 

So this is my extremely long and wordy way of telling you I painted my dishwasher.  I primed it and painted it black.


Am I brilliant?  Am I a total whack-job?  Will it really work?  Nobody knows...

And by nobody I mean me

I figured it would be the perfect place to have Beep play while I get dinner going, and any stray chalk dust will be easy to wipe up from the (wretched pink) tile floor.

So here's how I did it. 

I bought a quart of deep base, all-purpose, super duper primer.  I carefully cleaned the dishwasher, got out my trustiest paintbrush, and painted the main panel and sides.  I paint enough that I have a steady hand and I didn't tape, but the primer was verrrrry drippy so I definitely needed floor protection.

I left the top part for last because it required the most detail work, and I wouldn't be able to open or close the unit when it was wet.

I rocked it out carefully cut in around the edges. 

And around the front, always watching for those pesky drips.

Then I started on the vent.

A little time, and careful work with a steady hand around the control panel, and it was primed!

We then left the house to allow it to dry... And went to a local festival, where my baby proceeded to eat corn on the cob like the Midwesterner she is (by proxy).

Look at those maniac eyes. 

After we got home I put a coat of paint on.  This part is not documented because 1. it exactly mirrored the steps above, and 2. my photographer (Cabbage) deserted me and my nutso project and went to bed. 

I followed up with a second coat a few days later. 

Finished product! 

There's no way around the white control panel, unfortunately, but we now have a (mostly) black dishwasher that coordinates a lot better with our other black appliances.  Hooray!

It's been about three weeks since I painted it, and so far it's holding up perfectly.  I haven't introduced Beep to its magical chalk powers yet... mainly because I haven't bought chalk.

Now I have a mostly-full quart of chalkboard paint, and I'm wondering what else will fall victim to my paintbrush. 

What projects have you been working on lately?  Any ideas on what I should chalkboard next?

I just made a noun into a verb and my day is complete.  Over and out.