Monday, June 29, 2015

Here in the Real World

This morning, I awoke to our hot water heater spewing water onto the floor. The metal pan that Hugh situated the tank on when we remodeled the house was filled to almost overflowing, and, had we not caught it when we did, the living room and front entryway would have flooded, which, might have ruined the carpeting and most certainly would have ruined the hardwood.

The problem was thankfully not in the tank itself, but rather a result of corrosion in one of the hoses, and Hugh was able to replace it with a minimum of fuss or expense, so, it could have been a lot worse. Still sucks, of course.

You know what doesn't suck?

I got to spend three days with my best friends in the world this past weekend! That's what!

The six of us-Jules, Phoebe, Tee, Di, Reese, and I- journeyed to the cabin on Friday. We traveled from four different directions and met at a local bar and grill for an early dinner and a pitcher of margaritas prior to heading to the cabin. Cue the hysterical laughter; which started around that table and didn't let up until we parted ways on Sunday afternoon. Typical of our time together.

I love my time with the girls, but it was especially nice to be able to spend our time together at the cabin, considering the fact that it was surrounded by a raging inferno just a couple of years ago. Happily, the wilderness surrounding the cabin has rebounded from the fire and the cabin was unscathed.

The bar and grill was also very lucky to emerge from the fire without damage, although, more of the financial variety than the structural type (the cabin is located outside of a tourist town that really depends on the summer traffic, one bad summer could devastate a small business there,) and we toasted to it's longevity during dinner. Then, when we had licked the last bit of salt from the margarita glasses, we jumped in our cars and made our way to the cabin, convoy-style.

Now, anyone who has ever traveled with a group of females will tell you that there is no such thing as traveling "light", and, we are certainly no exception to that rule.

In our defense, one out of every two boxes, bags, or suitcases contain alcohol. That is a suitable defense, right?

Yes. Yes it is. How else are you supposed to toast to almost thirty years of friendship?

More often than not, when I mention that I am going to spend a weekend with my friends from college, people react with shock; apparently, there are not a lot of people in this world who maintain friendships for life, which, really? Trust me, I'm just as surprised to hear people say that they don't have those kinds of friends as they are to hear me say that I do.

The other question that people ask when I say that I am going to spend a weekend with my girlfriends is "What are you going to do?". The answer varies, of course, depending on where we are going, but, I can always answer three things with confidence: We will laugh. We will cry. And we will laugh some more. This trip was no exception.

We also cooked, watched a truly horrible movie (I'm looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey), took long walks (where we experienced 99.999% of the laughter), caught each other up on our various lives, reminisced about the past, and, when the spirit moved us, we took a long 4-wheeler ride, after which we each required a hot shower to remove the dirt.

In a lot of instances, we are the least girlie girls that I know.

We do, however, clean up well...

We don't, however, do serious very well. At least, not for extended lengths of time. Thank God.

I love these girls with my whole heart, and, that's what I tell people when they ask the third inevitable question "What keeps you all together?"

Everyone should be so lucky.

Shortly after these pictures were taken, we packed up our cars, said our goodbyes (often, this is where the tears come in), and went our separate ways for re-entry into the real world.

As I mentioned earlier, my reality includes laundering a pile of wet towels and mopping. At least I had a good weekend, right?

Thanks, Girls!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday Throwback: Play Ball!

Last night, the Man-Cub umpired his first little league baseball game. He was the behind-the-plate ump and word on the street is he did a great job. I'm not surprised, the child has lived and breathed baseball since he was strong enough to hold a bat; I am, however, ridiculously proud.

The parents currently running the little league are saints (I say this with no small degree of certainty, having been in their position once upon a time) for offering the Cub the position, and I know that he will think fondly of them as he spends the $30 that he earns at each game.

Also, that's $30 less that he will request from his poor, broke parents. That right there is what we call a parenting homerun, folks.

Darren and the Man-Cub, back in the day...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

You Never Call, You Never Write

Life is busy, y'all.

Summer finally arrived and, with it came yard work. Just this past weekend, I spent two hours tearing the bindweed from a large flower bed, an additional two hours uprooting weeds from my (pitiful) garden, and, a couple of hours supervising the planting of nine rosebushes around the porch.

Then, yesterday, I paid the Man-Cub, Darren, and Mikey to haul a ton of wood mulch from Pixler and to spread it neatly on the flowerbeds. The yard has never looked better, but it was labor-intensive and a little bit pricey even though I purchased the roses on clearance at a local nursery, where I got a hell of a good deal (I just totally had to re-write this whole paragraph; it was like one long, run-on sentence. Run on, sentence, run on!)

I'll post photos at some point in time, but, the selection included the following varieties: Tropicana (deep coral), Marilyn Monroe (creamy peach), Fragrant Plum (lavender), Chicago Peace (bi-color, pink and yellow), Chrysler Imperial (red), Miss All American Beauty (hot pink), Bella Roma (bi-color, red and yellow), John F. Kennedy (pure white), and, Ink Spot (there was no picture on the tag and no open blooms on the bush; I am assuming that it will be dark red, but time will tell).

I chose roses because I am a lazy-ass gardener who can't be bothered with anything that can't be plopped in the ground and then basically ignored. And, yeah, roses are pretty.

Speaking of being a lazy-ass gardener, my vegetable garden is, as mentioned above, pitiful this year. I know that it has a lot to do with the massive monsoon-level rains that we had just after planting, but, that doesn't make me feel any better. While the tomato, cucumber, zuchinni, and pepper plants appear to be doing ok, I did not manage much of anything from seed-a few random green bean sprouts, a handful of beets, and a smattering of carrots. There does appear to be enough lettuce to cut for a salad or two, but, with the sudden spike in temperature the past week, I am concerned about bitterness.

And, I mean bitterness from the lettuce-my bitterness toward Mother Nature is already pretty well documented on this blog.

Anyway, much busy, much yard work, little blogging. I am going to make an effort to do a better job in the coming days and weeks. Or, I will go completely radio silent whilst I enjoy the company of The Girls (headed for the cabin this weekend!) and our trip to Lake Powell.

It really could go either way.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Favorites: My Girls, Part Three

This is becoming quite the series! What can I say? I am blessed with a plethora of amazing women in my life. Today's amazing woman is Jana, Jana Bo Bana (it's an illness).

Jana and I have an unlikely friendship, to be sure; she is ten years younger than me, super-sweet, always positive, and nice to a fault. In fact, I'm pretty sure that she would rather her tongue burn out of her head than say a bad word about someone, and, trust me, I've been trying to break her of that for years.

How many years? Sixteen, or thereabouts. We first met through her ex-husband, who was a new friend of Hugh's. We had just moved to town and the kids were small. Jana was pregnant with Darren at the time and we hit it off. We started doing things together with the kids and soon found ourselves sharing confidences and a mutual love of wine (although, I drank the real stuff while Jana dabbled in Zinfandel. That changed for good once I introduced her to a glass of good merlot alongside a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie; she has not lifted a glass of the Zin since. And, I digress).

When Jana and her husband split, Jana got us in the divorce (she's so lucky!) and we included her and the kids in family outings and events for a while before she met and married Chris; we were the baggage she took into her new marriage but, Chris has never complained.

Jana and I can say that we have raised our kids together, we have taken them to pumpkin patches, Disney on Ice, plays at the community theater, dance recitals, sporting events, the local Corn Festival, swimming pools, lakes, forests, and everything in between, and, we always had a blast doing it.

Jana has an infectious laugh and just about the biggest heart in the world. She is also the best Rice Krispie Treat maker in the free world and The Teenager would be lost without her mad skilz (so would I; I can't make a Rice Krispie Treat to save my life. True story).

She is a phenomenal friend and I am damn lucky to have her.

Winter with Jana and Co. is always a blast and that's saying a lot, considering the fact that I hate winter. But, our annual New Years Day sledding trip would just not be the same without Jana.

I mean, who would help me drink all the peppermint schnapps? The kids aren't allowed to put it in their cocoa.

Jana is also a great sport when it comes to my crazy insistence on wearing funky glasses on New Years Eve. She and the crew have joined us in ringing in the new year more often than they have missed and we have almost always remembered the glasses. Almost.

Sometimes, I make her wear goofy headgear, instead. Depends on my mood.

Jna is also a lot of fun to have around in the summer. She has always been my go-to partner for nature walks, raspberry picking, roasting marshmallows over campfires, making s'mores, catching bugs in jars, stargazing, staying up all night to watch meteor showers, suntanning at the lake, and, of course, Porch Night. It isn't hard to see why my kids also love Jana; she put a lot of the fun in our summertimes over the years.


We are headed to Lake Powell in a couple of weeks and I am so excited about spending the Independence Day holiday with this woman. And, I'm not just saying that because I know that she will gladly don the Lady Liberty sunglasses and star spangled, rhinestone-covered cowboy hat that I got her to wear.

But, she totally will.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday Throwback: Hair Today, Blond Tomorrow

If only it hadn't been for all that gray...sigh.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer So Far

I heard on the news today that June 21st is the first official day of summer. Well. I'm glad we haven't missed it after all.

Due to the rain, it just feels like we have already been gyped out of half of the summer; I am so happy to hear that it hasn't actually started yet.

Of course, Summertime in Colorado is brief under the best of circumstances; losing five days out of every week to thunderstorms means that we will get about two weeks of sunshine, if we are lucky.

So, how are we spending the sunny days that we do get? Thanks for asking...

...we are sitting on the porch...

...we are enjoying the flowers that have blossomed in the rain...

...and we are organizing the items that we will need for our upcoming trip to Lake Powell. This  includes cleaning out the tents, designing an all-weather cover for the boat, creating menus, and making lists of grocery items to be purchased at Sam's Club.

That last item was actually accomplished by Jana, myself, and another friend, whose family will be joining us on the trip, while drinking wine on the front porch this past Sunday evening. We have adopted the Divide and Conquer method for vacation food preparation, which, when you consider that there will be eight adults and twelve children in our group, seems like the sanest way to go.

We have also decided that the adults will get first choice of sleeping arrangements, depending on how hot it is at the lake; our options include tenting, sleeping in the motorhomes, or sleeping in the boats on the water.

I can tell you right now, this girl don't tent it; I don't care how nice the tent may be.

Once we had an idea of what we would need to take to Powell, I got to thinking about our cooler collection. Hugh and I agreed that we needed to purchase a new outdoor cooler since our largest one is not really that large, nor does it have functioning hinges. So, off to the Hellmouth we went. While Hugh was in the Sporting Goods aisle, perusing the Colemans, I was in the summer section, agonizing over a replacement for my beloved soft-sided cooler. 

I have had the cooler since the kids were quite small. I purchased it at Target with the intention of using it when Jana and I took the kids to the pool during the summer. Because it is lightweight, easy to clean, and roomy, it quickly outgrew that sole purpose and became my go-to cooler for spring picnics, pinecone gathering in the fall, camping trips, road trips, and, later, volleyball games, baseball tournaments, basketball games, tailgate parties, and boating trips. In short-I used the HELL out of that cooler.
Unfortunately, all that use started to show. The side recently ripped out of the cooler and I had no choice but to retire it.
Also unfortunately, I have had a hell of a time finding a suitable replacement. Every soft-sided cooler that I have found has lacked the roomy pockets of the original. I finally settled on a slightly larger cooler that has one fairly large storage pocket on the front. I doubt that I will love it like I loved the old cooler (we have a lot of memories, cooler and I), but, at least our drinks will stay cool. 

Wow, four paragraphs about cooler shopping. I hope the excitement hasn't been too much for you.

Let's move on, shall we?

Speaking of excitement, Katie and The Teenager had a blast in California. They got to play in the ocean, sun themselves on the beach, fight rush hour traffic on the freeway, and choke on smog. All in all, their first road trip was an unparalleled success.

The most exciting part for me was the part when they made it safely home, as I'm sure you can imagine.

After all, I need them around to entertain me through the summer; it starts on June 21st!

Monday, June 15, 2015

DIY Vanilla

We had a very busy weekend at Casa de Chelle, with our time being split fairly evenly between work and play, and, I intend to write about that later in the day.

Right now, I want to write about the homemade vanilla extract that I bottled on Sunday. This project, while incredibly easy and simple, was seven months in the making, and I am beyond happy with the results.

I first learned about DIY vanilla from Pinterest, because, all good projects come from Pinterest (as do some really crappy projects, but, that is a post for another day).

The process required only two ingredients: alcohol and vanilla beans. I purchased a mid-priced bottle of vodka for my extract but it is my understanding that you could use a cheaper version and still end up with a quality bottle of vanilla at the end. You can also use bourbon, rum, or brandy, if you choose.

I did spend a bit more on my vanilla beans (Lord! Can they be expensive!) because I wanted a good, strong vanilla flavor. I found my beans on Amazon and I have more than enough for several more bottles of vodka.

Grab a handful of beans (I use about ten per bottle), split the beans lengthwise down the center of the pod, exposing the vanilla bean paste...

...and plop them in the bottle of alcohol-you might want to take a good swig of the liquor, in order to make ample room for the beans-then, screw on the cap, give it all a good shake, and store it in a cool, dark place for four-to-six months, or more, depending on how dark you want your extract to be.


This is my first attempt, which made enough extract to fill four smaller bottles, which I labeled and intend to give to friends and family. I used six ounce hot-sauce bottles (also purchased on Amazon), and there was enough left over to fill a fifth bottle three-quarters of the way full. I'll keep that bottle for my own baking.

Also, I am a total spaz when it comes to pouring liquid, so, as you can see, I didn't get the bottles filled quite evenly. I'm sure you'll do a better job.

I plopped a couple of beans in each bottle, both for flavor and for presentation.

And I took a super-blurry picture of the finished project, which, probably had nothing to do with the giant swig of vodka that I took in order to make room for the beans in the new batch.


Anywaaaay...there you have it, homemade vodka vanilla extract. Tasty, cheaper than store-bought, and no artificial flavoring.