Thursday, August 31, 2017

what would you do?

Earlier this week I posed a question on my Facebook page: What would you do with $141.94? 

It was a basic enough question: if you had this amount of money, what would you do with it? I didn't give any context for the question,but as my friends and acquaintances started to comment, I realized that I wasn't getting the answers I thought I was looking for. Most comments focused on giving back to the community through charity donations, taking care of essentials (bills, groceries, etc) or doing something nice for a friend.

Now, all of these ideas are great, of course! They are things that I myself have said or thought or done when I've had a little extra cash (or when I didn't have a little extra cash but wanted to help someone out or take care of my own family's basic needs).

Each month my husband and I have a designated amount of what we call "fun money." This amount is set aside for each of us to do with what we want without needing to check in with the other person or justify at the end of the month. This amount allows Braeden to get the comics he wants on his pull list, and lets me buy new clothes or get a massage, as long as it falls within our agreed upon amount.

I track my purchases in an app on my phone so I can make sure I don't go over, and as this is the last week of the month I checked in on my balance and realized I still had $141.94 left to spend, which is surprising as I've been known to spend most of my money much closer to the beginning of the month and rarely have much left this close to the 31st. Our agreement is that this money doesn't roll over so there's no benefit to spending under the amount so you can spend more the next month: the goal is to give us some breathing room so we can make some personal purchases and not feel bad about it.

So as I was, albeit opaquely, requesting ideas from the people I know for what to spend my "fun money" on, I was reminded of how good my friends are. How conscientious and charitable, selfless and practical they are. How not all of us are in a place where we can think about "fun money" and instead are just thinking about money, and bills, and responsibility.

All of this is to say that there is no wrong answer to the question ,"What would you do with $141.94." I'm proud to associate with so many generous, thoughtful, practical people. When the very first commenter said that she would donate that money to my own non-profit, how can you go wrong? But when another friend said she would buy herself a new hat, and another said she would take a class at a local craft shop, and a third said a new tattoo, I had to smile because those were the answers I was hoping for, the signs that even though we're all working to take care of other people and our community, we're not forgetting to take care of ourselves in the process.

So if you're wondering what I spent my $141.94 on, well, I still haven't spent all of it. But what I did spend went towards a new shirt and dress and a self-care visit with a health practitioner friend.

And I've still got $41.35 left to spend before the end of the day today.

... Any ideas?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I turned 30 today, which, as we all know, means I'm a real adult now.

I read more of the book we're reading for our podcast, answered emails I'd been putting off, had lunch with my favorite person from one of my favorite lunch places, did some relaxation floating, and had homemade tomato soup for dinner. I chatted with some of my favorite family and friends and enjoyed reading notes from well-wishers. It was a nice, low-key day.

I'm feeling optimistic about this new decade. 😊

Thursday, November 5, 2015

mistaken identity

I bought a horned melon at the grocery store tonight thinking that it was the same fruit I'd eaten when I was in Ecuador. It has seeds encased in weird, green, slime-like gel. Yum, right?! The texture wasn't at all like snot. Not. At. All. But, pretty much what I remembered.

Horned melon, courtesy of HyVee.
Later I got to wondering what the fruit was called in Ecuador because "horned melon" didn't sound familiar. So I looked it up on my blog and, sure enough, it was not called a horned melon. But, that's because it was not a horned melon. The fruit I was remembering is actually a granadia. Which is not Spanish for "horned melon," but is in fact a fruit in its own right. And, is not even spiky. Good one, self.

But it was fun looking through my blog again and reading all about my adventures. I actually made myself laugh out loud. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

getting stuff done

I feel like I always have a long list of things I need to do/want to do/should be doing/should have done. Well this weekend I finally did some of them.

The gate to our backyard has been catching on the cement walkway since winter started and things shifted. Finally this morning Braed and I went out there and moved it up so now, not only can we open it both directions instead of just one, but it also opens completely so we don't have to shimmy through a narrow opening. So satisfying.

We added this amazing geometric antelope head to our growing antelope collection. That spurred me to gather all the antelopes together and make a proper display instead of putting them on random surfaces in the front room. As soon as we brought it home I hung it right up because I knew if I didn't it would sit around and make me feel guilty for neglecting it for at least another few weeks. I like this much better.

Ever since we moved into our new house in August we've had our many guitars just sitting in the corner of our bedroom literally collecting dust. A lot of dust. This weekend I convinced Braed to move our clothes out of our closet to open racks so we could re-home the guitars in the closet where they will take up less space and make it easier to clean the room since I won't have to clean around the pile of instruments. I'm really loving the open look of the clothes, and especially being able to hide the guitars behind a curtain until we're ready to play them.

I've been lusting after wire baskets these days, but can't bring myself to buy any because they're so expensive. I found a tutorial on Pinterest about how to make your own and I finally gave it a try! Took a few different techniques before I found one I liked, but I'm pretty pleased with the results! The tutorial I found worked best for me was from Treasures and Travels Blog. I changed a few things, like folding down the top for a smoother, sturdier edge (like in this tutorial from Homemade by Carmona), using the wire itself to bind it together instead of additional wire (like in this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess), and I didn't add any handles. I found that the mesh in my wire was not perfectly even, but that didn't bother me too much. Over all I'm really pleased with how it all came together.

I also vacuumed the whole house, wrote back to all my pen pals, and put together a menu for the first half of this month. (We haven't gone shopping for any of the food yet, but that's another task to tackle...)

Feeling vaguely on top of life today. :)

Friday, January 30, 2015


I never know what to do with my hair. I feel like it's a constant struggle. These days I'm rocking, what Braeden would call "Florence-Henderson-as-Carol-Brady levels of cute."

Now, I'm not sure I'm a fan of this 70s mullet look. In fact, I know I'm definitely not, but I'm afraid he might actually be on to something...

I've definitely got that flippity thing going on in the neck region. Bleh. Luckily Braeden likes it.


Guess that'll have to do until I can convince myself to spend like $50 to go get it cut by a professional. #pinktax

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Normally I don't really make New Year's resolutions. I don't like them. I feel like by the end of January I'm already not doing any of the things I vowed to do for the whole year and that just makes me feel like a failure, and who wants to feel like a failure, right?

Regardless, this year Braed and I made some "goals" for the new year. I know I know, that's basically the same thing, BUT our goals are just for January, then we'll re-evaluate for February, etc. That way they feel much more attainable and are less of a commitment. Whatever works, right?

One of our goals for January was to make more food at home (which also tied in to one of our other goals: to take control of our budget and eat out less). One of the hardest parts of eating at home is deciding what food to make and having the ingredients to make it. To help with that I planned out a menu (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for every day of the week for two weeks at a time. I designed the menu so Sunday-Thursday dinner left-overs could be used for lunch the next day, too.

To make the menu I pulled out all our cookbooks...and then just used recipes I'd found on Pinterest. Somehow along the way I discovered this food blog called Budget Bytes.

Every recipe we've made from her blog has been AMAZING. Every. Single. One. Basically, I don't know why we go anywhere else for recipes. Some of them look a little fancy, but they are all really affordable (she breaks down each recipe into total cost and cost per serving so you don't have to take my word for it) and they're all actually really easy to make.

Here are some of our favorites:


(we've also made this with salsa instead of
 Rotel and it was maybe even better)

(we used rice instead of bulgur and it was great!)


So...yes. Go. Go make some delicious food of your own. And you don't even have to thank me for it. ;)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

puppy snugs

Two years ago this month we adopted our second dog, Liza Jane. She was our first pup we adopted from the Iowa City Animal Center and began our love affair with rescue dogs (we've since adopted two more, bringing our pack up to four). We'd adopted Loki just a few months before (from a friend of a friend) and we felt like he needed a furry companion to help him get his energy out and to keep him company while we were at school and work. Braeden spotted Liza on the website and he fell in love with her right away.

Here's one of her pictures from the website.
Even now I couldn't tell you what it was about this photo of a part Pug, part Boston terrier that drew us to her, but almost immediately we went and visited her at the shelter, first alone and then with Loki to make sure they were compatible. The workers told us that they'd found her as a stray, but guessed that she may have escaped from a backyard breeder as she was only four or five years old but they could tell she'd had a lot of litters in her short life. Once we took her home and saw her skills as an escape artist that just lent even more credence to that theory.

Here she is, tethered on a lead in the backyard. She figured out how to burrow under the fence and crawl through to the driveway in an attempt to get back inside. She would have made it all the way to the side door if her lead hadn't stopped her. The only fenced-in area she's never been able to break out of is the dog park off of Foster Road: she even escaped from another dog park in town and nearly gave us both heart attacks. We even keep her on a leash in our new yard while the other pups run around off-leash. She is one wily pup.
When we first met her, Liza was very stand-offish, not interested in playing with us humans at all, but totally opened up with Loki. They ran around the fenced in play area faster than I'd ever seen Loki run and the workers said they didn't even know Liza could move so fast. They clicked right away, something I took for granted at the time, but have since learned is pretty rare. I remember picking her up and her belly, which was still shaved from being spayed, was so cold from being outside. The whole time I held her she just ignored me, and as soon as I set her down she ran off.

I honestly felt pretty neutral about the whole thing, but Braeden was sold on her so we filled out paperwork to adopt her. We ended up having to wait a whole week before confirming our interest as Braed's parents were coming to visit and we couldn't have a brand new dog to focus on for their brief visit. The center's policy is that they don't hold animals for anyone, and if you don't call back before 10 am the day after your application is approved you have no guarantee you'll be able to adopt the animal you want. When we called back almost a week later we were told five different applications for her fell threw in those few days, so we were able to claim her. Crazy to think how close we came to never seeing her again.

When we first brought her home we joked that she was our zen puppy. She would find a high place, like a couch or chair, curl up with her back to an armrest, facing out so she could always see what was going on. She was not interested in being touched by anyone, but wanted to be able to see you from where she was at all times. When we'd take her on walks she would freak out whenever she saw another dog or human or motorcycle. We'd pick her up to help calm her down and she would thrash around, sometimes scratching one of us so badly we'd bleed. She ruined my first real winter coat the next winter, shredding it with her back nails until the stuffing all came out.

Thanks, Liza.
We didn't see her smile until we'd had her for about three months. Braeden pulled out a rope toy to tease the pups with, and after several big jumps trying to get it and failing, he looked down and she had the biggest grin on her face: we didn't even know she could smile at all! It was adorable.

See? Love this grin!

Around this time last year she had definitely warmed up to us, but would still rarely deign to crawl into anyone's lap. Snuggles from her were a very rare treat. If anything, she would curl up near you on the couch, but that was always on her terms and if you tried to get too cozy she would get up and leave. We called her our cat dog.

But now that we've had her for two year this has become a typical end of day situation:

I like playing with her ears: when you hold them up she looks so much like a Boston terrier.
I camp out in the front room on one of the big armchairs and Liza crawls up and snugs right next to me, kind of on top of me sometimes, head on my lap, often falling asleep and gently (or not so gently) snoring. While she's still a bit tough on walks, she is learning to manage her stress and anxiety so much better and if we need to pick her up to help her calm down she actually does calm down instead of thrashing around violently. She even does a great job at "leaving it" when she hears another dog bark in the neighborhood and will only bark once or twice in response, but keep walking and not get thrown off by the fact that other dogs exist in the world besides herself and our pack. I'm so proud of how far she's come.

We just love her to pieces, quirks and all. I would even say she's my favorite of our dogs, probably because of her anxiety and craziness. While Loki is the dog that made us love dogs, with his friendly nature, and quick smile, Liza is the dog that taught us patience, problem solving, and that dog obedience classes are a smart thing to do.

I am so glad she's a part of our crazy, furry family.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

numero quatro

Don't be deceived: he actually hates snuggling.
So we did it. We got little Trapper. We renamed him Lisek because a) all our dogs' names start with "L" and b) it means "little fox" in Polish (and as we've established, he looks like a lil' fox).

He's been a great addition to the pack. He's super chill and what Braed and I call a "low impact, high reward" pup. Since he's so old his energy level is pretty low, which means he does a lot of laying around in different parts of the house.

In front of the stove.

At the foot of the bed.

On top of clean laundry, because, why not?
 But he also has secret old man energy, especially when it comes to food. The reason he's such a chunkster is now clear to us. The first week we had him he figured out how to knock down the containers of the other dogs' dry food (remember, he has no teeth so he only eats canned food) and found him down in the basement sniffing around in their kibble trying to gum it down.

At night we don't keep him in a kennel like we do with the other pups (we tried it the first few nights and he would wake up at about 2 am and bark for an hour) and at night he'll wander around the house a little. One night Braeden woke up to him trying to knock over our puppy basket tower to get at the sealed treat bag he knew was up there. None of other other dogs have ever done that, not even our wiliest Liza pup.

He's not the snuggliest pup (that award goes to Lilly for sure) but he does love head scratches and if you stop scratching him he'll nuzzle your hand back on to his head to let you know he's still into it. Sometimes he and Lilly will play together and while she's our strongest dog for sure she's super gentle with him and it's cute to see them pawing and waving their open mouths at each other, his just empty gums and hers full of strong teeth. And, if Lilly ever does get a little too aggressive in her play Liza is always right there to jump in and save Lisek. I really love how our little pack has expanded to accept him into it.

Basically, we just love this little guy and can't remember a time when he wasn't with us. He's such a sweety and when we're out in the yard and he gets all revved up into a little trot while the other pups zoom around, it's basically the best ever.