Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tightening the Belt

We, like the rest of the nation, have been tightening the belt here at Mabel's House. And I have haven't enjoyed one minute of it.

I have not enjoyed skipping sushi meals or washing out/reusing sandwich bags. I haven't enjoyed 'going for a walk' instead of going to the movies. Whoever said the simple things in life were more fun lied. Renting a movie and getting a $6 pizza at Little Caesar's is NOT more fun than Red Lobster and going to the mall. It's just not.

But I'm learning to find joy in the small purchases. Buying brand new wash cloths (on sale) in fun Valentine colors made me happy.

Eating fruit everyday as a snack instead of spending money in the vending machines at work makes me happy.

And that super cute orange clutch (on sale for $10) is REALLY making me happy.

There once was a time when buying a few wash cloths, some fruit and a cheap purse would have been forgettable. Lost amid a hundred other things we did or ordered or purchased. But now, I notice. I appreciate.

Over the past few months, money has started to mean more to me. I don't plunk cash down on a counter without some serious talks with myself. When we eat sandwiches and watch That 70's Show marathons on Fridays, I smile at Matt and say, "We just saved ourselves $50."

And even though it's not as much fun, it feels good. It feels adult.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Coke Tsunami

Driving home from work, I saw the most horrible, most hilarious, most slap-stick event. Ever. And you know I had to write about it.

Picture this. I was leaving my office parking lot and came to a four way stop. When I stopped, I noticed a woman barreling along in a Taurus. She was chatting on a blue-tooth and it was obvious she didn't see it was a four way stop, so I just stayed there, waiting for her to plow through.

Taurus lady is going about 30 miles per hour and at the last minute, she spots her stop sign. Her head whips sideways as she sees my car. Her mouth forms a panic stricken O and her eyes widen as she realizes she's about to run it. And with that, Taurus lady slams on her breaks.

Now what I didn't tell you is that Taurus lady was holding a lidless Big-Gulp cup in her right hand. Full. To the brim.

And as she slammed on the breaks at 30 miles an hour, tires shrieking, the Big Gulp was subjected to the sheer inertia of the stop. And that's when I saw the tsunami. A big, dark brown wall of coke rose up past the rim of the Big Gulp in a wave-like arch... crashing into Taurus lady's blue-tooth, face, hair. A victim of the Coke Tsunami.

And there she stopped, the hood of the car sticking out past the stop sign, coke dripping from her hair as she sat, stunned and blinking. And that's when the cursing started. Of course I couldn't hear her, but reading her lips wasn't hard. I didn't really know what to do. So I gave her a little wave and took my turn at the four way stop, before the laughter started. Laughter that made tears run from my eyes. Laughter that followed me all the way to the freeway and halfway home. Body shaking, snort-inducing laughter.

I can still see this playing over and over in my mind. And I hear what you're saying, "LIZ! This is so mean to blog about that woman's misfortune." But the bottom line is... all bets are off when I witness an actual Coke Tsunami.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Survival Guide: Thai Food

If I'm going to survive this winter of icicles and low sunlight and my red cold nose, then my winter plans are going to have to branch out past my nightly routine of sweat pants and a space heater directly in front of the couch.

So in an effort to get creative, stay warm, and not succumb to the winter doldrums, we went out for some Thai food. Wonderful, yummy, fresh, so-spicy-it-makes-me-wipe-my-forehead-with-a-napkin Thai food.

And more specifically, there's nothing more warming that the most fantastic soup in the world. Tom Yum Goong, made by Miss Penne.

Who's Miss Penne? She's the adorable lady that runs the restaurant. She's 60'sh, tiny, petite and dresses in fantastic orange and pink silky outfits. She also flirts with Matt shamelessly and calls him "Honey" but that's OK. I'm willing to put up with a certain amount of flirting to get my hands on this soup. Horrible of me? Maybe. But I just slurp this stuff and resist the urge to ask for a straw as Miss Penne pats Matt on his strong, wide shoulders and says, "You hire me and I'll come be your cook." Whatever Miss Penne. Feel my husband's muscles. Just bring me some more soup.

Then we had Ginger Chicken which might be even better than the soup. And again, I just ate and smiled and sighed while Miss Penne winked at Matt. I ate this meal and forgot the ice outside. I forgot the short dark days. I forgot my bad mood. So that's my plan. Stuff myself with Thai food. I'll let you know if I come up with anything else. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some soup to order for lunch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spring on the Inside

Well, Mabel and I have been 'hunkering' down for the past few days during some nasty weather. Ice and rain and frigid temps drove everything around here to a stand still, but I can't say I minded.

And while the rest of the state ran to grocery stores to stock up on canned goods, I was quite sure these heavenly smelling hyacinths would see us through just fine. And they did.

I also finally got the chance to use this thrifted bird cage (originally a garish gold, I used one of my cajillion turquoise spray paint cans to change it). It was one of those purchases where I thought, "Uh, yeah it's cheap. But what in the world will I ever do with it?"

And now I know. It's an official hyacinth cage.

But while I was sniffing the flowers and sleet pelted the roof, Mabel did the most sensible thing of all. She hibernated.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Little Turquoise Joy

Ok. In the middle of this gloomy January full of gray skies and frigid gloves and spiky black trees... a good thing happened. I won Kara's fantastic etsy giveaway this week. This is my 'winnins.' The designer can be found here. So THANK YOU Kara! Now I'm off to dream of this cheerful necklace and find a project to entertain me on a cold, frosty Saturday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Liz Quiz: Part II

Ok, I’ve done this before. I never thought I’d get enough questions to do it again, but over time they’ve accumulated. And I’m awful at answering them in a timely fashion. So here they are in one big dollop.

Does Matt mind sleeping in a girly bedroom?

No. As a friend once said, “When a couple gets married, the woman gets the house and the fella gets a wife”. And my fella also happens to have an entire man-room to himself with a giant tv, so don’t feel too sorry for him.

Do you take your own photos for your blog banner/header?

Yes. Yes. I do. It cracked me up last week when Shannon changed my blog layout and a commenter said (I’m paraphrasing here): “I liked your old look better when you used your own photo as a banner. This is professional, but not ‘you.’” It cracked me up b/c it was my photo. But thanks, anonymous, whoever you are. I guess that’s what I’d call a backwards compliment. So yes. I use my own photos.

What kind of dogs are George & Mabel?

George is half Yorkie and half Maltese. Mabel is actually half Schnauzer and half Miniature Pinscher. We're all about the 'half' breeds in this family. But since Mabel has eyebrows and a beard, it's just less confusing to call her a Schnauzer.

What’s your favorite song?

Begin the Beguine. And I just want to throw this in as a bonus, my LEAST favorite song is:
“I’m My Own Grandpa.” The Grandpa Jones AND Ray Stevens versions. I despise them equally.

Do you ever get mean comments? How do you deal with it?

Yep. I've been told not to have children. I've been told I'm a bad dog owner. I've been told I'm not a good Christian because I don't post about it enough. And I just delete the comment, blow a big raspberry at the computer screen and move on. When hateful commenters are brave enough to stop hiding under the 'anonymous' log in, then I'll be direct enough to address their comments. Until then; delete, raspberry, forget about it.

Any plans to move?

Not for now. We’re safely ensconced in Mabel’s House until the housing market promises to make us a lot of money. Or we win the lottery. And then we’ll be off like a shot to the gloriously green Pacific Northwest. Or at the very least to an older, more cottagy house on the other side of town.

I noticed you were reading The Shack from your sidebar. What did you think?

It brought me to tears. It made me feel ashamed of the cerebral, earth-focused life I’ve led. It’s a fantastic work of fiction that forced me to ask myself a lot of hard questions.

Why haven’t you responded to my comment?

I was for a while returning every last comment, every day, until I realized I was drooling a lot. Publicly. So I return comments when I can. But I do visit your blogs. That much I can promise. And I do return emails.

You seem to be very close to your sisters. Do you have any advice for having a closer relationship with a sibling?

First, let me just say that the three of us have fought like hyenas on and off for YEARS. Fighting is just part of the sister genetic code. But, my sisters are (with the exception of Matt) my best friends. I love them, would do anything for them. If someone was mean to them, I’d jump on said mean person like a rabid squirrel gnawing on a piece of bark. But I don’t have any advice on being ‘close’ to a sibling. In my experience, sisters either do or don’t get along. But I guess if I had to say anything, just be respectful. Don’t say hurtful things, or throw objects, or talk behind their backs. Sisters never really forget things like that. Even if you aren’t close with your sibling, there is no reason you cant have a mutually respectful relationship. Or you could just move to Guam and avoid them.

Has Mabel ever bitten anyone?

No, but if someone strange reached down to grab her, she'd probably take a plug out of them. She's not aggressive, just mouthy with a strong sense of self preservation. Hmmm... I may have just described myself.

Do you have kids?

I’m still getting the kid questions. No. I do not. I do, however, have a niece that is the cutest, bestest, smartest little girl in the whole world. Oh yeah, and her name is Elizabeth too, so that appeals to my vanity. Did I mention she's beautiful? Yeah, I'll shut up now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dog Who Could Not Be Trained

I love Victoria Stilwell. I love everything about her. Her no nonsense British accent, her severe ponytail, her a'la Steven Segal all black wardrobe; love it. There is no dog she cannot train. At least that's what her tv show leads us to believe.

Mabel is not the best trained dog in the world. She shrieks at visitors in our house, the postman, and anyone who gets near us on a walk. So I decided yesterday to channel a little Victoria into the situation. After all, Mabel is a smart dog. I could train her not to attempt to eat every passer-by we encounter on our walks.
So I did what Victoria said. I brought a big bag of treats. The plan was to calmly insinuate myself between Mabel and the joggers/walkers/children-on-bikes and give her treats, thereby making her associate other people with something positive. Her little ferocious mouth would chomp the treats and not bark. I would smile at Matt and he would smile at me and we'd be one big happy, calm, not-embarrassing family.

And so we began our walk. Halfway to the lake, a pair of joggers approached. Before Mabel could catch a glimpse of them, I stepped in between and pulled a treat from my pocket. Her eyes lit up with a happy glow, she kept eye contact. Until the joggers trotted into her peripheral vision.
I held out the treat and she glanced frantically between the treat and the joggers.

Treat, joggers.
Treat, joggers.

I held it closer and she put it in her mouth. And now she had to make a decision. Chew the treat silently while the scary people came too close? Or do her duty and try to eat them.
And with that, she spit the unchewed treat out of her mouth. "Bloowey" right into the side of my leg. And then she went nuts, her normal foaming toe-nail scratching version of dog crazy. The joggers went from smiling at her cute furry face to frowning as they scooted far away from us.

It was the same for the rest of the walk. Treat spitting, barking, salivating chaos. So Victoria, I gotta say... a little of my absolute faith in you died yesterday. I'm getting a shocking collar. KIDDING. But I've decided that a dog who loves me, is perfectly potty trained, hilarious, cheerful, and yes... a crazy barker, is OK with me. There really are worse things.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cold and a Little Cranky

Does cold weather make anyone else grumpy? It's almost as if the chill in the air seeps through my skin and into my bones and I cannot, no matter how many pairs of socks I put on my feet, get warm. I blame it on the wood floors.

And perhaps the fact that our bedroom is done in shades of cream, white, and icy blues doesn't help either. It's fantastic in the summer, but here lately it just makes me shiver even more. So I stole the colorful bedding from the guest room. It's hard to be grumpy and goose-pimply when you're wrapped in orange and pink and red.

I also outfitted the pillows with some vintage pillowcases from Linda (my sainted mother-in-law).

Because it's also hard to be snappy and cranky when I'm resting my head on pink flowers.

So I'm surrounding myself with springy colors. I'm trying to focus on sunshine and flip-flop weather and not snapping at Matt, "WHY dont we live in southern California?!" I'm also making short work of a space heater and electric blanket. And then there's Mabel's little face. That always, always helps.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dragon Fly Memories: A Little Taco Sauce

Sometimes the past just flies out of nowhere. It buzzes from a corner and dive-bombs you like a horse fly. Ok, maybe not something so stingy as a horse fly. Let’s say it buzzes you like a lovely, green dragon fly. Yeah, that’s what I meant. A dragon fly.

I celebrated MLK day by starting the day with French toast and coffee. Just me and the early morning light and Meredith Veira. Then I proceeded to run errands and bask in the general loveliness of the day. It was filled with sunshine and I was by that same token, filled with energy.

So mid-afternoon I decided to clean out the kitchen. I was rifling through drawers and taking count of the silverware when I ran across a stray taco sauce packet. And so the dragon flies of my memory leapt from the corner and swarmed my head. I found myself holding an old sauce packet and laughing like a crazy gal, all alone in the kitchen.

I was suddenly 13 again. My family was on a road trip on our way to Galveston Island. We were packed and stuffed into our blue and white suburban, pop-up bursting and hitched to the back. Road trips were at best a tedious thing; me hiding in the very back seat blaring my walkman, my little sisters fighting and slapping each other in the middle seat, and my parents in the front, just trying to survive. If I were them, I’d have worn earplugs for 10 years straight.

Late afternoon, we pulled into a Mexican food restaurant somewhere in Texas. Daddy was bleary, exhausted. Mom went to the counter to order food with my sisters, and Dad and I claimed a booth. And I was antsy. I was sick of riding. I was 13 and entirely too cool to be on vacation with my family. So I did what any hormonal, annoying kid would do and grabbed a taco packet from the condiment holder. I began to roll over it back and forth with my fist.

“Elizabeth, don’t do that, it will burst.” Dad admonished tiredly.

“No it won’t.” I insisted, pressing my fist harder onto the gushy packet.

And then, it burst. Red hot sauce exploded in one steady shot like an oil strike. It hurtled through the air and splattered like a gunshot. Directly on Daddy’s glasses. The left lens to be exact. One moment I was looking at him, and the next he looked like a pirate with a red eye patch.

“Uh oh,” was all I could think to mutter.

“Elizabeth!” Daddy’s voice always went really high and screechy when one of his daughters did something irritating and slightly dumb. Like mashing a taco packet with their fist and shooting sauce directly at his eye.

He worked for an hour trying to clean that lens. You see, taco sauce leaves quite the oily residue on glass. In fact, it will hardly come off.

It was a memory I had not thought about since that day 15 years ago. And yesterday I stood in the kitchen and laughed like it had just happened moments before. I love those dragon fly memories.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I had planned on doing a fun post this weekend about all the exciting things I was going to do. But frankly, the only pictures I've taken are these two...

... both of which were taken from my reclined-couch-tv-watching position. I've been here for two days. No plans to move. Stay warm out there.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: Who By Fire

I recently received an email from Diana Spechler, author of Who by Fire, in which she offered to send me a copy of her book. I won’t lie; I started to giggle in excitement and snorted a little in front of a coworker. Of course he was a gentleman and purposely ignored my snorting zeal. Thank goodness.

So when I received the book in the mail from Harper Collins, I swooned a little. I’m a book nerd at heart and all of this actual dealing with an author really made me happy. And nervous. Like when an upper-classman asked me to prom one time. But, I digress.

Anyway, back to the book. Here’s the summary:

Bits and Ash were children when the kidnapping of their younger sister, Alena—an incident for which Ash blames himself—caused an irreparable family rift. Thirteen years later, Ash is living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, cutting himself off from his mother, Ellie, and his wild-child sister, Bits. But soon he may have to face them again; Alena's remains have finally been uncovered. Now Bits is traveling across the world in a bold and desperate attempt to bring her brother home and salvage what's left of their family.

Who by Fire is a story in three parts (in my opinion). Each chapter is written in first person, rotating by chapter between Bit and Ash and their mother, Ellie. They are three very broken people; all trying to fix each other when they cant seem to fix themselves. And somehow, it works.

I have to say, I don’t normally love character driven books. But I loved this book. I loved how I knew each character like a friend. I hurt for them, rooted for them. I loved the way Diana opened up the world of Israel and Judaism. I loved the way she broke my heart in dealing with a missing child and the scarred family left behind.

Was there anything I didn’t love? Well, there are some graphic parts to the book. Bits’ character is a wild girl, and well, there are some wild details that go along with it. I do understand that was part of her character development. I’m just one of those people that watches HBO shows with one eye covered. Take my squeamishness with a grain of salt.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a dramatic, moving, character driven book, I recommend this one. Thanks so much to Diana for giving me the opportunity to read and review it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

George & Mabel

* photo session courtesy of my super talented mom

Meet George. Mabel, well, you already know.

He's my parent's dog, my dog. They brought him home when I was 16 years old. He was so tiny Mom hid him in the collar of her coat.

Mabel and George have a somewhat complex relationship. Mabel takes away his toys and butts him with her nose. George uses his powerful passive-aggressive skills and hides his bones from her.

But the one thing they agree on is the misery of having their pictures taken. Note the ducked heads, cartoon eyes and slouched posture. Pure misery.

But Dad decided to coax them out of their picture-taking-depression.

Paul Newman Treats. Their little ears perk up at those three tantalizing words and miraculously, the camera is forgotten.

They become animated, vivacious, perky. The star quality comes out.

Their eyes never blink as they stare intently at the prize.

And as the hand-held treat moves directly behind the camera, we get the 'money shot.'

Both alert and looking at the camera. Ur, I mean Paul Newman Treat.

But they're not dumb. Eventually, they figured it out. Their tiny yet robust brains detected the lie. And with the treat-trickery came two seriously bruised canine egos.

And so they shunned the photo session altogether.

Mabel turned her back to us in disdain.

George stared aloofly out the window.

This was animal cruelty at its finest.
And Mabel would like someone out there to adopt her. She's pretty hacked.

**** A BIG special thanks to Shannon at Eightcrazy Design for the new layout. I'm super excited and loving it! For some great examples of what Shannon can do click here, or here, or here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Soba Soup Slip-Up

In my opinion, ginger is sent straight from heaven. I adore it. With sushi, in tea, soup; it's such a wonderful flavor. And even thought it's not for everyone, Matt and I both jumped up and down when we spotted a good recipe for Soba Soup.

And like the rocket scientists that we are, it was deduced that we should make the soup the night before so it could soak and 'season' overnight. That's where the slip-up came in.

You see, we underestimated the noodle-soaking-capacity. And overnight our heavenly, ginger-flavored soup became an oozing, conglomerated mess that bore a close resemblance to Slimer from The Ghost Busters, complete with a greenish hue.

Every noodle was huge, most of the liquid soaked up and it tasted bizarre. Lip-puckering-salty-slimy-textured awful. Matt took one bite and his hand shot out as he yelped, "GIVE ME YOUR BOWL! WE'RE GOING OUT TO EAT!"

Anyway, it didn't work for us. But you can bet we'll try it again, hopefully without the overnight soaking grossness added in.

Soba Soup with Spinach

- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12 ounces shitake mushrooms (stems removed), caps thinly sliced
- 4 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (we used more)
- course salt
- 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced sodium chicken broth
- ½ package (4.4 ounces) soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
- 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, torn
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 6 minutes

2. Add broth and 3 cups water; bring to boil. Add soba; reduce to simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook just until tender, about 1 minute. Add lime juice and soy sauce. Serve topped with scallion greens

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eleanor's House

I get so excited when I'm in other people's houses. Especially Eleanor's house.

It's an older house, full of character and weathered doors. Colorful fabrics and artwork and travel memorabilia fill all the rooms and I just want to walk around sighing. Actually, I walk around thinking, "Sheeze, I've GOT to clean my house." Cause you know. There's nothing like a gorgeous home to make me remember the dust bunnies under the tv cabinet and the soap scum in our 1952 bathtub.

And, just in case you were wondering about my etiquette, I did ask permission to take these pictures. Of course, I didn't pull my normal, "Hey, let's move this lamp over here so it will shine on the cactus." I do have some sense of propriety. Stop laughing.

No amount of magazines or decorating shows can really compare to the inspiration of actually stepping inside a well-decorated home. Especially when the entire house reminds me of Anthropologie. It makes me smile and daydream. Thanks Eleanor.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Old Mill

I'm sentimental. Sometimes, even to the point that the past becomes overly glorified. I've forgotten the social stresses of high school and now smile at the memory of my best friends. I've forgotten the two jobs and finals of college, and instead remember only the fun; playing cards in the dorm, sliding down hills in the snow on cafeteria trays with Matt.

But when I remember my childhood, I don't glorify it. I'm fairly certain I see it clearly, because my childhood really was a fantastic place. It's dimmer now, details hazed over and dulled down. But the important things I still remember. I remember sandwiches after school and art projects on the floor beside mom. I remember chasing my dog Gus in the backyard and heeding the warnings not to get too close to the geese down by the lake. There were camping trips and picnics and Saturday mornings at the MacDonald's playground with Dad.

This weekend I ran away. I jumped in the car and grabbed my camera and took a trip back to childhood. I visited a place that I remember being so magical. And it was a comfort to find that it still is.

My parents used to bring me here, to climb among the gnarled sculptures of branches and toadstools. I would race across this bridge and pretend trolls lived beneath it.

I would peer over the edge to the water below, the ducks quacking and swimming as we dropped bread down to them.

Things haven't changed much. The waterfalls and mill still trickle and flow.

The crows still call in the winter stillness.

The air still feels colder down by the water wheel.

I still fight the urge to run around in laps, skipping and trying to pet the ducks.

But people would stare.

So I just walked around. I people watched and climbed the old bridge.

I sat on this spot and missed being little. I missed the spring, when everything around the mill erupts in pink azaleas and white dogwood trees. And I missed my friend.

I think about her often. Only a few hundred times a day. And I thought about her as I looked at the bridge. As children, we both spent summers here, although not together. Our paths criss-crossed, but we weren't to meet until adulthood. But as I looked around, I realized she probably played here as well. She probably imagined the trolls among the concrete toadstools.
And so I spent an hour in that spot. Smiling as I thought of Angela. Smiling as I watched a little boy holding his father's hand as he squealed and pointed at the ducks. Smiling as a young couple discussed having their wedding on the lawn beside the mill.
Because even in sadness, there are always things to smile about.
There's always something happy to remember.