Monday, July 30, 2007

Do It Yourself

I've been on a bit of a do-it-yourself kick, lately, and I am not sure what has inspired it. A. being away and the surprising amount of free time I find myself with? The impending budgetary shift that will arrive this fall when A. goes back to grad school full time and the rising necessity to be a tad more frugal? An increasing lack of any discernable attention span as I get older and the need to keep busy with something new, all the time? I suppose, more than anything, it is a combination of these factors.

Over the past couple of years I've been learning enough skills in the kitchen to make more and more food from scratch. Last night I made enchilada sauce from scratch, and I was pleased with it.

A couple of weeks ago I made my own whole-wheat bread, with wonderful results. Woo hoo! I have since made two more loaves for my own enjoyment and even sent a loaf to my parents with my sister, T., when she passed through town last week. By itself, the heavenly aroma that fills the house is addictive. Happily, the delights promised by that lovely smell ring true! The bread is hearty and satisfying, and so far I haven't had any dry, tough loaves. I love that I know exactly what ingredients go into the bread. AWESOME. It makes for great sandwiches at lunch. I've noticed I am not nearly as ravenous by the time I get home from work. Which, by extension, has meant that I don't start shoveling all sorts of immediately-available foods (i.e. CHEESE!) into my mouth the minute I walk in the door.

These are all good things.

Last week I completed a project I'd been mulling over for a while: I made my own laundry soap!!!! (T. looked at my accomplishments last night and lovingly (??) rolled her eyes.)

It seemed impossible to find washing soda, the primary ingredient, anywhere near my hometown. Having the $2.00 box of washing soda shipped by an internet supplier was going to cost $16.00. That seemed a tad absurd, but I was starting to obssess over this project and was starting to consider it. So much for the frugality of doing things myself!

Before I paid a ridiculous amount in shipping, I decided to try local resources one last time. (Plus, I feel more and more guilty to have anything shipped to me - oh, the jet and diesel fuel!) I asked one of the local grocery stores to see if they could order it from their warehouse during their next shipment of goods, and if so, I'd love two boxes of the stuff. After three weeks I hadn't heard anything, so I called to see if any inquiries had been made. They assured me the supply clerk would call me that Monday and let me know if this was going to be possible.

I didn't hear anything until that Wednesday, after I dragged my ass home from work. I had a message on my machine explaining that the store manager forgot to call and say that not only could they indeed order it, the supply clerk when ahead and did so and the "baking soda, oh, I mean the washing soda" was waiting for me to pick it up. So, I giddily hopped into my car and drove the seven miles back into town to retrieve my long-awaited sodium bicarbonate. Yay!! I was finally able to make my own laundry soap! The object of my obsession was moving closer to my sick, twisted grasp!!

Um, the supply clerk could only order the washing soda by the case. That little parcel of information was suspiciously left out of the phone message. I had a rather startled look on my face when I saw a GINORMOUS BOX with my name on it.

After all the trouble that I and the folks at the grocery store went through, I came home with 12 boxes washing soda. By my estimate, two boxes of the stuff would make enough batches of laundry soap to last A. and I a year. Yippee - clean laundry for the next six years!!! So, if any of you, my Five Faithful Readers, are at all inclined to try this yourself, I'd HAPPILY send you a box of washing soda for a couple of bucks postage -- not $13 shipping!

As I was melting soap shavings in hot water on the stove, A. called. He was as thrilled as I was to finally be trying this out. I'd asked him to look for washing soda in whatever town he happened to be in while gallivanting across the state and I think he was sick of explaining to clerks just what was washing soda. ("Washing soda? Do you mean backing soda? Oh, no I don't think we have anything like that." Over and over.)

The batch of laundry soap I whipped up never congealed to a goo-like consistency, but it seems to be working very well.

Over the weekend A. installed a clothesline, so now I can even harness the Western Wind to dry my clothes instead of depending on our electricity-gulping dryer. I love the smell of laundry dried outside. SO GOOD.

WOO HOO!! I am officially the weird lady that lives out of town and acts like a survivalist!!!!


If you are interested and are still reading this far along in this silly post: Because I have hard, mountain well water, I have to add water softener to the laundry soap recipe. All told, this laundry soap costs between $0.05 and $0.06 per load. Frugal indeed, for the next six years.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Missing the Point

Today, as I walked across campus to drop off proofs for the printer, a sight so, well, silly, had me grinning my ass off. I looked like I was high in the middle of the afternoon.

Interior campus is blocked off to vehicular traffic but is pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Yay! (This was, and still is, a very sore spot for many of the I-drive-everywhere Western folks with whom I share my darling little campus.) It is not uncommon for me to hear little bells alerting me of a nearby cyclist. This particular little chime alerted me to a rather peculiar sight.

I noticed this courteous man riding the singing bicycle was middle-aged, athletic and appeared to be faculty. He had cute, curly, graying hair, except for the top of his head, where he was completely bald. Completely bald and completely sunburned. His shiny head was a very dark shade of red. I winced in sympathy; when I sunburn my scalp at the part in my hair I am miserable. Then I noticed something else.

The very bright white visor he was wearing.

A visor.

Not a hat. A visor.

To protect, you know, his eyes and face from the sun? It was hard not to giggle out loud.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I grew up in southwest Wyoming, running across landscapes that few people call beautiful. This land is not the Grand Tetons of the tourism posters. It is a harsh landscape; few plants and animals manage to survive the challenges of this high-altitude desert.

Except sagebrush. It thrives.

Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) cover the hills, the prairies, and the mountains. The wind, the sun, and the lack of moisture do not intimidate these shrubs. They've lost neither the battles nor the war that has been waged on them for decades by rangeland managers, armed with chemicals and a zealous hate for the stubborn brush.

These scrappy little shrubs pepper the land, giving it a rough, rugged look. The pale blue-green leaves fragrance the air the few times it rains. This smell brings me back immediately to those wild delights of my childhood, of my bare shoulders in the blazing sun and my feet landing confidently on the hills as I ran and explored. My longing for this distinct smell brought me to tears more than once when I lived in Washington, DC. Now, this smell makes my heart swell every time I step out my door first thing in the morning, the air perfumed by the dew and sagebrush.

Some of my favorite memories are of my sisters and I scampering across the hills. We'd spend our summers leaping over sagebrush in pursuit of tiny lizards or wild skunks, our feet stirring up dust from the utterly dry dirt. My father loves to tell the story of me fishing as a young girl: I’d get so wound up when I caught a fish that I’d run through the sagebrush with my fishing pole firmly in my grasp, instead of reeling the line in. I’d tangle fishing line through the shrubs for yards and yards. The smile and laughter that accompanies this story makes me think my father didn’t mind untangling that line.

I didn’t realize how much this landscape—and the elements that define it—was a part of me until I left it. Don’t get me wrong: the heavy, swampy musk of DC brought thrills of its own. But nothing was quite like the smell and presence of the sagebrush.


Ms. Pershin was my favorite teacher in elementary school. She was the art teacher, and she always critiqued my little art projects with such enthusiasm. I still remember how proud, and simultaneously humbled, I felt when she selected my watercolor landscape for display in the school showcase.

My mother encouraged and facilitated my love for art with equal enthusiasm as Ms. Pershin. She never insisted that I learn to cook, help her in the kitchen, or that I fold the family’s laundry (hence why I had to teach myself to boil water and why my clothes are perpetually wrinkled). Instead, she bought me my first set of oil paints when I was about 11 years-old. When I was 14 years-old, she bought me my easel that I still have today. The money for that easel wasn’t easy to come by, and it proclaimed her belief and commitment in me. She never trivialized my love for art; instead she spent countless hours with me as I agonized over improving my paintings. I am certain that she never saw the minute difference I made to the paintings, one viewing to the next. But she always gave me her full attention.

My father still encourages me to move forward with my art, and it is his own work ethic that taught me perseverance. He’s never doubted me, or wished me to be anything but what I am.


As one of only three females pursuing a BFA in Art in college, I became enamored with Art History. I would dream about paintings the nights before exams in my survey courses. To this day I remember waking up trying to remember the date the ceiling fresco of the Camera degli Sposi in the Room of the Newlyweds was painted. (It was 1474, by Andrea Mantegna.) I discovered that a regular yellow—not neon yellow—highlighter seared dates and characteristics of paintings and periods into my mind better than any other. Suddenly, the texts in my U.S. and World History classes came alive as I imagined the artists I loved painting and sculpting their experiences.

I suppose I just needed a history book with pictures.

It was in my art history classes that I discovered Artemisia Gentileschi. She painted scenes that were not for the faint of heart. She painted bravely. She employed Caravaggio’s manner of dramatic lighting, and her figures were accurate, animated, and exquisite. She was not sequestered away, painting flowers in her bedchambers. Her Judith Beheading Holofernes features a Judith with strong arms and hands, who might not relish the task at hand, but whose face clearly communicates her resolve, no matter how messy. She leans into her work, to finish it properly. Artemisia painted women who were stong and persevered, regardless of their circumstances.

Compare that to Caravaggio's painting, where Judith stands far away, her hand hardly holding on to the man whose head she is cutting off, her arms tender, not strong. I mean, really?


I’ve been trying to decide for a couple of weeks now what my online moniker should be. T. seemed kind of, well, not quite what I wanted.

Artemisia. That’s it.

Monday, July 16, 2007


The house smells sooooooo good! I am waiting for my very first loaf of bread -- homemade from scratch, and whole wheat to boot -- to emerge from the oven. I can't believe how good the house smells!

This may not seem exciting to the rest of you, my Five Faithful Readers, but I had to teach myself how to boil water.


Yeast is involved. And we know that yeast intimidates the hell out of me. Too much science in the kitchen when you involve yeast.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Different Inspirations

I wish I had the camera. When Buster scratches his chin he makes the FUNNIEST, twisted face. I think his skull morphs into an elongated, asymmetrical brain-casing of Play-Doh. Seems appropriate, seeing as how his brain itself is Play-Do. But his heart is pure gold and angels' kisses!

When he scratches his belly, however, he looks like a dirty old man.

Since I don't have a picture of Buster scratching himself, (how disappointed are you?), here are some examples of the kinds of photos A. is taking while he struts across the state, all sexy and stuff. Looking for prairie dogs.

I am really jealous of the land he gets to see and experience.

I am not jealous of everything he sees, though.

I suppose we have different inspirations; ridiculous, mundane dog behavior or breathtaking vistas. And breathtaking rattlesnakes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Must Stop the Bullshit

Um, wow. I never had much of an opinion about Hillary Duff one way or the other. Her character annoyed me in Cheaper by the Dozen and Cheaper by the Dozen 2. (I unapologetically love those movies. I have a HUGE CRUSH on Steve Martin.) I felt she played her character consistently enough for me to dislike it, anyway.

Maybe this character required less acting ability than I had thought? Check out this interview with the actress in The Observer. I really thought this was a parody.

I have an opinion now.

This girl needs to wake the fuck up. Oh, and I hope she is dumbing herself down, because if that is the case then she can stop that bullshit immediately.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sunday Blues

More and more, I just hate Sunday nights.

I get so sad when A. leaves to go back out in the field. Tonight is especially pitiful because I know I won't see A. for a month, maybe more.


I hope you are all near those you love and that the universe is smiling on you!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Super-cool, Totally Rockin', Nina Totin' Bag

Oh yeah! I’d meant to post this a couple of days ago when I ran across it and was just reminded of it when I heard an add for this super cool little tote on NPR.

How freakin’ awesome is this Nina-Totin’ bag?

I usually catch Nina Totenberg’s report in the evening as I am driving home from work. I would love to get my groceries in this bag (hint, hint).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fuming, again. But for different reasons.

Oh, for fuck's sake.

I've been pissed off since yesterday when I heard the news that President Dipshit commuted Scooter Libby's prison sentence. I've had a headache since yesterday, and I am certain raised blood pressure has something to do with it. I've waited to post in the hopes I might come up with some eloquent thoughts on the matter. Nope. Still just pissed as hell and spouting off expletives like a sailor who drives a truck on my time off ...

My dad would be so proud. Really, he would.

I know I should no longer be shocked at how thoroughly corrupt and unabashedly lawless the current administration is, but I can't help but get completely worked up by this. The rule of law means nothing! (Let alone the Constitution.) Ethics? Ethics schmethics! These smug sons-of-bitches really think they are above the law. It is as simple and as complicated as that.

Seriously - how the hell do we impeach these bastards? Current efforts are UNACCEPTABLE.

Bitch Ph.D. brings attention to Brad DeLong's post that includes a submitted (but rejected) op-ed by Jeff Lomonaco to the LA Times, predicting that President Dipshit would commute Libby's sentence rather than grant him a full pardon. An interesting read.

Over at Acephalous, SEK researched previous discussions on perjury. A very interesting read, as well as a more productive, thoughtful way to vent than my current display of name-calling. What can I say; I have quite a temper.

I think my head is going to explode.

UPDATE: Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville beats me at the name-calling and has won my undying admiration as a result. Oh, and she makes some good points, too (as always!). I'm envious of her abilities...

Monday, July 2, 2007

16 Hours and Fuming

I am finally back home after more than 16 hours in my car this weekend. My butt is bigger AND has been molded to the shape of a Honda Civic car seat. SWEET!

I think I am going to futz with stuff in my house, all day long, on the 4th. It’s been a while since I’ve been there for any length of time…

As you, my Five—yes, Five!—Faithful Readers already know, A. and I went to the wedding reception in Gillette via Worland so that A.’s mechanic in Worland could do some work on the truck. What a relief to know the truck is going to be running better, even if it means another bill. Right? Right?!?

Um. Yeah. A $420 bill later and THE TRUCK IS RUNNING WORSE THAN BEFORE.


I hate, HATE! owning vehicles. They are stinking, stressful, environmentally heinous, money pits. Every last one of them.

So, the truck is still in Worland because it is in no shape to travel on a highway. For 250 miles. So, A.’s mom dropped it back off to the mechanic today and A. took her car down to L-town2 for the next couple of days. So, we are soon to be parted with how many more hundreds of dollars?


Now – before anyone lectures me about riding a bike to work and around town, let me explain my situation. Because I would LOVE to rely on a bike. In fact, I would love to be a full-time pedestrian. But.

A. and I live in L-town (which is very spread out, just like any other western-state town), but over the summer he is working in L-town2, 250 miles away. There is no reliable, affordable or mildly convenient public transportation across this big square state, so he does indeed require at least one functioning vehicle.

Why do I require a second functioning vehicle, at least while A. is away? Well, because, A. and I don’t actually live in L-town but seven miles north of it. And I do actually work in L-town, as well as buy groceries…etc. (Please don’t get me started about the possibility of moving into town.)

Between our house and L-town sits the campus of a huge automotive technical school. A school that holds staggered classes around the clock. That, thus, has school days starting and ending around the clock and lunch hours in between. This school gives their primarily 18 year-old, male, first-time-away-from-home-and-have-to-show-off-how-powerful-
my-custom-built-car-is, (unfortunately, many times meth addicted) students a whopping 30 minutes to drive into town, eat lunch, drive back to campus, and be back in class. If they are just one minute late to class, these testosterone and meth-driven students are expelled. Because, you see, this big box of an automotive technical school is ALL ABOUT THE PROFIT and not at all about its students.

You can see how this combination of factors results in a resurfacing of my faith in Saint Christopher, who, according to years of Catholic CCD classes, has the power to pray on my behalf and keep me alive and safe from danger whenever I encounter this stretch of highway.

But I doubt that Saint Christopher will waste his time praying for someone little ol’ me, who would so stupidly, so stubbornly, insist on riding my bike and playing Frogger™ with the crazed kids going to and from school.

He’d say I should know better.