Thursday, December 31, 2015

Going to Mexico - Capsule Wardrobe

Happy New Year!

I'm heading out for an adventure in Mexico! I've never been before, but I'll be visiting folks who are living there and having a great time. They have some things planned, such as: exploring some ruins near Tulum, cave swimming, swimming at the beach, shopping in the plaza, and checking out all their favorite restaurants. I'm excited to see them and I'm also really looking forward to a break from the chilly Seattle weather. 

So, packing for these adventures... serious business. My goal is keeping it light and breezy, like this vacation, and not packing too much or too heavy. With that in mind, I'm only bringing my carry-on duffle and a purse. 

This is what I'm packing -
Capsule Wardrobe For Mexico

Item Breakdown -

(Brands included on items I adore)
  • Lace Bra from Caciqe (Layne Bryant) - Lace dries fast and this is a comfy yet breezy piece!
  • Sports Bra from Panache - To all the larger busted ladies, try this sports bra out! Yes, it is pricey. No it is not super sexy. But you know what else isn't super sexy? Sore shoulders, wearing two bras, busted wires, and that just-punched-in-the-chest feeling when you are running / jumping or being very active. Larger busted ladies can sympathize. I love my Panache sports bra. It holds 'em in, has wide shoulder straps, is easily convertible to a racer-back, wicks away moisture, and is just a tough-as-nails bra.
  • Lace Skivvies - Again, lace dries fast and is pretty while still feeling comfy.
  • Makeup Bag: Tinted and SPF Chapstick, Benefit mascara, SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50 tinted base, First Aid Beauty Eye Duty (eye brightener / depuffer), Armani Si perfume, two bandaids, Advil, a small container of toothpaste and floss, travel toothbrush, and a small container of Dr. Bronner's Castile Peppermint Soap, two elastics, a hair clip, and my cheap but chic Zenni prescription sunglasses.
  • Credit Card - Check your card's fees for international transactions and always bring a back up payment option. A friend's sad experience of having lost his wallet reminds me - don't carry all your money / cards in one place. Always have a back up!
  • Passport - yay!
  • Shorts - I never wear shorts, but hey, this is vacation!
  • Black Capri Leggings - can be worn alone or under shorts or skirts depending on the weather. Also good for sleeping and on the plane.
  • Tankini - Apparently tops are optional and rarely seen on the beaches I'll be headed to. Extra sun block here I come...
  • Full Bathing Suit - Because two is better than one, and a girl needs options.
  • Royal Robbins Discovery Skirt - This was an awesome find! I was thinking of buying it on Amazon as I was looking for a good outdoor skirt for summer, but it was over $60 and that was just too much for me. So I put it in the back of my mind as a gift or something for later.  Then, just a few days ago, I found one in my size at Goodwill for $7!! It looks brand new, is lightweight, wrinkle resistant, the materials is slightly stretchy, and has zipper and flap pockets. I lucked out on finding this skirt. If they ever go on sale, or I get massively rich, I'll be getting more. :-)
  • Simple Blue Charm Necklace - When you have a limited wardrobe ( I live in a tiny house with no closet ) it can sometimes work better to let your clothes be the canvas and your jewelry be the paint. I like buying and wearing jewelry and I'll probably buy some in Mexico, but I'll wear my blue charm necklace for most of the trip since it goes with most anything.
  • Blue Maxi Dress - Comfy, beach wear that can be dressed up or down as needed. This one rolls up easily and doubles as a towel if necessary.
  • Black Hoodie - Mostly for the plane and evenings but I can get cold anywhere!
  • Tank Tops x 3 - The black spaghetti strap is tunic length and can easily be worn over leggings. I'll also be bringing my trusty black wide-strap cotton top and a grey exercise top that fits loosely and is great for hot weather.
  • Shoes - Sketchers Go Walk - Super comfy for long walks on the pavement in town and hiking all those stairs. 
  • Shoes - Sanuk Women's Yoga Sling Flip-Flops - These fit great, don't cause any friction, are flexible, and actually stay on my feet. The cotton straps hold everything in place without causing pain between the toes and the yoga mat bottoms are cushy while still being light weight. These are my favorite summer shoes.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Travel Tips!

With the New Year coming up it's time to refresh our travel tactics!

For short trips of 2-3 days I can get away with a small duffle or overnight bag. Longer trips of 4 days or more with lots of different activities generally call for a carry-on; not because I need to cram it full of clothes, but because I will generally be bringing gifts back with me. I'm trying to pack lighter though - my goal is to move from my larger hard-shell carry-on to a more flexible small duffle type or backpack type carry on.

Below are my tips and tricks for before packing and suggestions of what to bring -

First off - where are you going, what are you doing, and what's the weather look like?
Take note of the places you intend to go and what activities you'll be doing.
Swimming? Don't forget your suit!
Fancy parties? Maybe pack a set of heels or a nice blazer.
Hiking? You'll need appropriate footwear and long layers.

Make a list of the items you know you'll need - medicines, charging cables, specific clothing, prescription glasses, etc.

Are you remaining in civilization? Then don't worry about under-packing. The people who live in the place you are going to will probably have similar toiletries, clothing, and basic needs as you. You can always pick up a cheap pair of socks or an extra T-shirt when you get there. Also, they do wash clothes in other places...if you need to, use the laundromat.

If you are leaving civilization - be more mindful of weight (hauling a heavy bag isn't much fun) but also do more careful research on the things you'll really need. If you are camping for two weeks in the backwoods - do you need 5lbs of chunky jewelry and 4 sets of shoes? Is there much use for your laptop, or can you just have your cellphone or Spot?

Pull your clothes into outfits, don't just throw stuff in for fun.
Two or three bottoms and 4-5 tops should get you through the better part of two weeks. Use layers to your advantage and make your outfits adaptable. Bandanas and non-infinity scarves are great multi-taskers.

Also consider the customs and practices of the place you are going to. If they are a more conservative culture and you show up in booty shorts and a tank top, yeah, you might get some unwanted attention. At the very least you'll be screaming 'foreigner.'

I'm not saying you have to give up your personal style, but if you want to get access to the local venues, it pays to look like a local.

Luggage - What are you going to haul?
Backpacks are the best. They count as a carry-on, they are collapsible when not in use, they move fast without ruining your posture/ grip strength / shoulders.

Second would be the small duffle. Cross-body straps mean you aren't dragging your clothes through the streets, if the duffle is small it can count as your carry-on, it is collapsible when not in use, and - like the backpack - washable.

Third would be a rolling luggage. Make sure it has 4 wheels!! It really puts a drag on your trip to have one of the two wheels break just after landing at the airport when you know you are taking public transport to your destination.

If you can avoid checked bags - do. If you can't, seriously try. If you really, really can't - make sure your checked luggage is sturdy. I used four-wheeled hard-shell bright orange luggage with a green luggage strap for myself when I went for a year to Japan. It had four wheels so I could roll it around easily and it stood on its own, it was weatherproof with the hard shell, and the luggage strap gave me piece of mind that if the zippers popped it wouldn't explode everywhere. It was bright flaming orange and visible a mile away and the luggage strap wan neon green. I looked like I was rolling a pumpkin to the State Fair - but I still have the carryon sized piece years later and I still love it for all those reasons.

Toiletries - 3oz or less and one bag max.
This will be hard for some people, but let's give it a shot.

Grab a sandwich bag. Look at it. That's your toiletry allowance.
 
This is all the liquids you should have to pull out for the baggage inspector. I even pack my baggie and any electronics in my purse instead of my carryon so I never have to open my luggage until after security.

What you put in there is entirely up to you, but I do have a few suggestions:

- Dr Bronner's Castile Soap: Use it for your face, body, hands, laundry - it really is super versatile.
- Chap stick or lip balm
- Moisturizer with SPF ( I like SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50. It works well and has a tint to it. )
- Toothpaste
- Dry shampoo (make your own with arrowroot powder / cornstarch, add cocoa powder if you have dark hair)
- Mascara (Benefit mascara is awesome AND they make a .14oz version which is tiny!!)
- Deodorant (Check your local 'mart for travel sizes)
- Powder make up and any brushes you use. (store your powder brush in its own baggie or saran-wrap)
- Floss ... seriously, don't forget it!

Handy Hackables

Water Bottles - Stay hydrated, it's some of the best travel advice I could ever offer. Look for bottles that are BPA free, have loops, wide openings, secure lids, and (for the ultrapacker) are collapsible.   Some come with water filters or you could pack some water tablets if you think you may need them.

Travel Towels - These awesome fabrics pack light, can be used multiple times, can be worn as a scarf or bandanna, used as a blanket, beach towel, are super absorbent.

Hair Ties - Guys and Gals, hair bands could save your trip. Use them to organize your cables, group your tools, and of course - tie up your hair. Buy metal-free or make your own using a pair of tights!

Roll or Fold - Roll your clothes if space is at a premium, fold them if it isn't. If you do decide to roll, consider turning them inside out and using a hair tie to keep them wrapped tight. Balling things up and tossing them in your bag expecting them to look good later is insanity.

Dryer Sheets - Toss one or two in with your luggage - you'll thank me later.

Black Binder Clips - Use them to cover your razor, organize your cables, and hold onto your ear buds. These things have a million uses!

Tic Tac Dispenser - Great for your bobby pins or a small sewing kit.

Zip Ties - When things break zip ties make a strong temporary fix. Luggage lock, zipper pulls, cable ties, water bottle loop, broken purse strap, zip ties have saved my day so many times!

Inflatable Neck Pillow - When you want a pillow / seat cushion / knee support - this awesome invention is there for you, as firm or soft as you choose. Bonus - the covers generally come off and are washable. Double bonus - when you don't need it, let the air out and fold it up to save space!

Reusable Shopping Bags - Lightweight and easily collapsible, these bags are bonus for storing your shoes, picking up a few items from the local grocer, or holding dirty laundry. Some even have little clips so they can attach easily to a purse or a backpack.

Storage Alternatives - Altoids containers, tea canisters, contact lenses cases, sunglass cases - all these things make for great storage alternatives. I do not recommend using old pill bottles for jewelry storage. 1.) They have personal information on them, and 2.) they are bright orange 'come steal me' signs.








 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Another Trip to the Zoo!

I love going to the zoo! Every time I have been since getting my pass I've been surprised.

Do you see the two ostriches? Well the one in black made the most throaty bass-note noise with its throat. It put its head up straight, widened its throat, and warbled a deep guttural croak of a noise. I got some of it on video but the audio didn't quite catch it. It was amazing and kinda scary. I'd never heard an ostrich before...didn't know they made noise, did you?
Next was the hippo pool. When I have gone to the zoo in the past there are usually too many people trying to cram around the pool and the hippos have mostly been asleep. Well, go in the winter just after the park opens and every animal will be up and waiting for you. Even the squirrels!


Hippo yawn


The giraffes mostly stay in their shelter - a big heated bay like overgrown horse stalls. I can't get as close to them as other animals. This one seems to like to tease me about it by sticking out its tongue :-) It would come out to the outer edge of the stalls and watch from a distance, chewing contentedly and standing back just far enough that I can never seem to get a good photo.

Instead, I chose to follow around some little birds in the bushes. I followed them with the camera mind you, the bushes are not a place to humans. The zoo uses choice pricker bushes, snarly roses, and thorny shrubs to discourage anyone from wandering off the path.

The birds find this situation quite comforting and I'm sure that in summer with and abundance of dropped crackers and sandwich crumbs they do just fine setting up housing in the briar patch.


Warthogs - always sleeping...


Lions - being lions...


Komodo Dragon - being scary and awesome...

It had just eaten two white mice that had been placed up near the window. The salvia was thick and dripping off the dragon's muzzle...I was thankful for the glass to protect me from the dragon and what must be a very particular odor.



Asian small clawed otters - being the cutest most adorable chirpy water-weasels ever!





Tiger - being lazy...like a tiger - yawn!



Harris hawk - during the flight show. They have a bird show at certain times and I had a front row seat.


Peacocks - wandering the grounds...



Waxy Monkey Frog and a Gecko - hanging out...


























And lastly, the Boa, lounging in the pool and watching my hand (red fingernails maybe?) as I traced it across the glass. No tapping!

Where does your Christmas come from?

At SilverMoon house we celebrated our very first Holiday Party on December 19th, Winter Solstice on December 22nd, and our very first Winter Moon is tonight, December 25th (also, Christmas).

I, like many other people, love decorating for holidays. It gets me in the spirit and changes up the energy in the house. It builds up the anticipation and keeps things looking fresh. Yay decoration!

The drawback there is the push to combine decorating with consumerism. Companies market to consumers what their idea of a full table looks like, what the walls should look like, what you need to get to make it "feel" like the holiday season.

Well, that's just rubbish.

Companies market cheap, brightly colored, trinkets which we use for a few weeks on our trees and tables and wreaths and then we throw it all out come January 1st. I've walked around the city a few days after New Years and noticed the sad, dried out, wasted Christmas trees - some with lights still on, lining the streets waiting for a garbage truck to take them away. There will undoubtedly also be broken angels, cracked bulbs, and glitter shrapnel choking the gutter drains creating a twinkling twilight zone on a still post-holiday evening.

So much waste.

I find myself wondering where is the joy in these days? If you are religious - what God / Goddess / Spaghetti Monster sanctions such bingeing? If you aren't religious - where is the logic in excess consumerism that seems so prevalent in the winter months?

There are articles and documentaries that speak to the true cost of Christmas Culture. Factories in China have long been targets of investigative journalism. Information about workers being fined for using the toilet, being rushed through training and working with dangerous tools, chemicals in a country that doesn't necessarily care about the health hazards faced by the workers who use them, the list goes on and on.

Who made your Christmas ornaments? Seriously, who made them?

I want to be mindful of our use of ornaments and decorations. No, that doesn't mean we won't decorate, or that we will only DIY things. It does mean that I'll be checking out some DIY crafts, taking a look at the country of origin on the purchases I do make, and trying out places like Ten Thousand Villages and Etsy for  new things and Goodwill for others. Also, there are sustainable tree farms and mom'n'pop side of the road home businesses that could use a little cash for the holiday season more than a Walmart CEO.

Just before Christmas I went to check out the Urban Craft Uprising for good holiday ideas that support local artists and artisans.


There were lots of interesting folks- makers and artists with interesting gift ideas. D and I bought T's gift there. A laser cut wooden model for him to build. I can say that now 'cause we opened gifts earlier today. :-)

We are trying to be mindful this Yule. Mindful of the push of materialism, mindful of the time and privilege we have been given to be able to enjoy the holiday, and mindful of the meaning behind the season.

Happy holidays!





Monday, December 14, 2015

10 Tips To Keep You Bright Through The Rain

 
1. Turn off the TV, turn on the music, and dance!
 
2. Clean and organize your home.
 
3. Aromatherapy - cloves, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, orange - happy smells!
 
4. Goloshes and a good walk.
 
5. Eat blue and purple - blue berries, beets, trout, blue potatoes, concord grapes, and eggplant.
 
6. STRETCH - either with yoga or on your own.
 
7. Plan your spring - are there places you'd like to go? Research them! Things you'd like to do? Prepare for them!
 
8. Write letters to friends and family - when was the last time you got something better than bills or junk in the mail, it feels great to get a letter, give it a shot.
 
9. If you work during the day and don't get a lot of light - improve the lighting at your work space and take breaks to go outside and face the sun. You may look weird, but it's better to be happy and a little weird/quirky, than depressed and sad.
 
10. Pay attention to yourself. The message of this season tends to be all about giving - giving money, giving time, giving presents, donating coats and socks, and all of those things are great - just make sure you also give to yourself. Listen to what your body needs and act accordingly. Maybe you need a little more sleep, a good foot rub, a long bath, a salad instead of another piece of cake - pay attention to your body and mind.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Rainy Day Adventure at Woodland Park Zoo


My Cyber Monday gift to myself was a membership to the Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle. I went with D on a rainy weekend when it was just miserable outside. I figured that most of the animals wouldn't care about the rain and that there wouldn't be a crowd - I was right! Walking with D through the zoo was like having my own private day in a personal menagerie!

The hippos were active and grunted and made low purring / growling noises. I've never heard a hippo before! They seemed interested in my bright red and white Starbucks cup. Don't worry, I kept it on my side of the fence at all times, but the hippo certainly seemed interested.

Can you see the hippo swimming towards me? As always, you can click on an image to see it in full size!


The lions were staying out of the rain...


The wolves didn't care either way about the rain...


My favorite part of this adventure was the Trail of Vines exhibit. That's the indoor area of the orangutan zone. The orangutans were all indoors, hanging out, nibbling on lettuce, and finding various things to curl up with. There was a volunteer there, but that's about it.

One of the orangutans was close to the window, curled up in a blanket, and staring out at us, the humans. She tapped the glass with two fingers. She tapped again at us - just under the sign that read, "please don't tap the glass." The volunteer told me she was about 49 years old and that she was trying to tell me she wanted to see my ears.

Well, I'd never had communication with an orangutan before, so who was I to refuse!? I crouched down on my hands and knees and showed the lady orangutan my right ear. Then, at her bidding, I showed her my left. Then back again.

D was laughing the whole time...or perhaps she was jealous that she didn't seem interested in his ears.



We continued through the rest of the exhibits - playing with the otters, talking with the volunteers and guides, and doing hide'n'seek with the giraffes. They stayed mostly in the stable, but they came out for a little while to check us out and peer around the trees at us. We were more on display than the zoo creatures!

At the end of my adventure I went back to the membership booth to pick up my calendar. They were kind enough to hold onto it for me while we were walking around so it wouldn't get wet. It hangs in the house now reminding me to go back soon!

Can't wait! :-)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Victory is Mine! (End of Mousewars?)

Warning - eww ahead -

It has been quiet at night. Too quiet.

  • I wrapped my clothes in brown paper so I could easily tell if they'd been disturbed. 
  • All guitar cases that had been stored under the bed were removed 
  • ALL on-the-floor storage was cleared out and lifted
  • The grass was cut super short
  • Counter tops were cleaned and sprayed with peppermint
  • Floors were mopped with peppermint soap
  • Original live traps were replaced with glue and snap traps 
  • Door seals were added to all doors so that you couldn't put a dime under them
  • Orkin put a bait box outside
  • All food was put in glass jars or in the fridge (no more fruit on the counter)
  • Peppermint oil was dabbed along the corners of the floor (smells like Christmas!)
  • I started burning peppermint oil in the house

Besides smelling like a freshmint commercial - I thought these tactics might work to disinvite our little guests. Things were quiet.
Then I caught a wiff of something off.

I was laying on the floor getting a calf rub from T who was on the couch ( I know, lucky ) but then something made me wince. The scent made me choke a little it was so unexpected. It was the smell of rotting meat.

I've dealt with the scent before in sorting carcass barrels at a wolf sanctuary. There was no refrigeration. Let's just say I'm mostly immune to the effects of corpse smell and I can sense it a mile away - but this was unexpected and in my own house.

You couldn't smell it everywhere either. It was very faint and came in little wisps on the air.

I freaked out. 

I checked the compost bin - bananas, the fridge - rice, the dog's bed - dog, the carpet - baking soda and peppermint, the sink - dish soap, the couch - cotton, I crawled around like a mad woman sniffing the air and trying to figure out which way the air was flowing that low in the house. There was nothing.

I thought maybe I was going crazy. Perhaps my nose was going haywire, or I had a sinus infection, or my imagination was inventing it? But now I couldn't get the smell out of my head. I kept sniffing and narrowed it down to someplace near the sink and under the cabinets - but I couldn't see anything under the cabinets. Ty got a flashlight and I couldn't see anything but it was definitely coming from that area.

Then Ty put the flashlight under the fridge and I saw a tail. There was something with a tail stuck to a glue trap.

eww....

Some shrieking, and getting D out of bed, and clearing off the top of the fridge, and careful rolling of the fridge later - the offending smell was exposed. It was BIG.

I was too grossed out to look at it long but it was bigger than I expected. I had imagined a tiny house mouse, the kind you might keep as a pet, but this was a beast. Not quite rat-sized, but the idea crossed my mind.

No wonder the live traps didn't work - it couldn't get inside!

So, with the mouse war possibly over, we aired out the house and disposed of the ex-creature. I feel sad about the casualty, but now I can sleep better at night.

Also, fyi, my house doesn't smell icky now. It still kinda smells like peppermint and I might keep it that way for the season. The smell of victory...







Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Photo Update


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We enjoyed the first Thanksgiving at SilverMoon with a feast, games, movies, a concert, and walks to burn off some of those calories!

It was pretty relaxing. 4 days of friends and family, cooking, some cleaning and organizing, and we even went out into the crowds - not to buy, but just to observe the chaos and enjoy the decorations.

Early on Wednesday morning, very early, we woke to screaming and gunshots coming from outside. We couldn't see anything but it was just to the other side of our neighbor's house. Generally our street is pretty calm (yes, just our street) so this was very unexpected and upsetting.

I was not a happy camper at work on Wednesday. Thank you to my bosses and co-workers for being awesome. Wednesday was rough.

Thankfully, after work I was able to focus on preparing the menu - getting the veggies chopped, fruits washed, and sides made took my mind off the violence. I searched for the police report just to see what the story was - but they don't publish reports on open investigations so I let it go.

I assumed no one died as there were no news stories or news vans in the area. I made a pie and cranberry sauce since those things taste better after 24 hours and they took all of my attention.

Thursday I made the ham - Alton Brown style - finished the potatoes and the sides and we enjoyed a feast with friends and games and so-bad-it's-good TV.

The Menu -

::Main & Sides::
Glazed Ham
Maple Syrup baked Sweet Potatoes 
Braised Carrots and Parsnips
Corn
Biscuits
Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
 
::Snacks::
Grapes
Carrot sticks and Garlic Humus
Little Oranges
 
::Desserts::
Chocolate Truffles
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Bread with home made Whipped Cream
 
::Drinks::
Ginger Ale
Apple Cider
Mulled Cider
 

When we finally got restless and dared to venture outside - the weather was lovely...cold, but lovely. We walked around Greenlake and into the stores to enjoy the throng and excitement and energy without feeling the need to buy anything.



Also, my scarf matches the Japanese Maples in Waterfall Park - who knew?!
 
On Sunday we found out what the shooting was about. Apparently someone was walking their dog in the early morning hours and another dog, a dog known in the neighborhood as being very aggressive, jumped the fence and attacked the dog walker and their dog. The screaming was the woman being attacked and the gun shots were someone shooting the attacking dog.

Lessons learned -
My neighborhood is interesting.
Keep an eye out when walking you dog.
In my neighborhood folks pack poop bags AND loaded guns when they go out in the morning.  
 
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hello Musty!

During the Halloween Holidays, while T, D, and I were visiting my family and friends along the East Coast, my grandfather gifted me his 1966 Mustang.

Thank you grandpa!!!

I call her Musty...well, for obvious olfactory reasons. The goal is to make her Lusty over the summer :-)

She runs, which is wonderful, but she hasn't been water-tight for quite some time. There's a laundry list of things to do with her, firstly, installing the cowl covers and cleaning the drain getting her thoroughly detailed to remove the musty from Musty.

Hello Weekend!

Musty, just off the shipping truck
 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Enter BattleMouse!!

I spent Veterans' Day doing another deep clean of the house, scrubbing the countertops and resetting the laundry. This started after I followed a little trail of pasta sauce from the prior evening's lasagna as it went across the counter, leapt from the counter to the stools, and leapt again from the stools to the top of the dresser. Then the trail of sauce went behind my plants, behind the picture of the dog, and squeezed on the dresser and the wall where the mouse brought the noodle to rest on my white jacket. I've never been so mad at a rodent. Brazen little devil!

This time I wrapped all my clothes in brown shipping paper so the mouse will (hopefully) make noise and will (hopefully) stay out of my drawers. We also reset the live traps and moved them closer to the trail the mouse made with the rogue noodle.

The ultrasonic plug-ins are fired. The mouse would have been standing next to two of them - one on the counter and one in the socket behind my drawer. Didn't seem to bother it at all.

The dog is also fired. He can obviously smell the mouse, but has yet to catch it or bark at it or anything. He did find my sauce stained jacket very interesting and sniffed all around my dresser and tried to get under the cabinet (which I cleaned and re-cleaned) which was futile but hilarious to watch.

Next step - borrow a friend's cat.

Live trap or a cat
Life, or death if you choose
MouseBattle is on!
-mouse haiku

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mouse in the House

Oh Crumbs! There's a mouse in the house!

Last weekend, while putting some laundry away, Mr T found mouse droppings on top of the clothes already in the clothing drawer. YUCK.

Upon closer investigation, it seems a mouse had been hiding in the clothes for only a few days at most - not many droppings, no chew marks in any furniture or to any clothes, no nibbled drywall, and no issues with the dog's chew toys.

Still, it was a major sanitation project over the weekend and we have yet to capture our unwelcome little guest.

We did ALL the laundry, washing all the clothing and bedding in the house. Pulled out ALL the ground-level storage and found new homes for it throughout the house. This included Mr T's guitar cases, the board games we generally store under the dresser, and the cookie sheets I was storing under the kitchen cabinets. Everything was lifted up. I did a deep cleaning on all floors mopping with Dr Bronner's Peppermint Soap and crawled around inspecting the floorboards and hunting for any cracks or gaps where a mouse might hide. I also inspected along the ceiling thinking perhaps a mouse might run along the cables and pipes through the ceiling.

I noted some gaps and that the seal at the bottom of the door had broken - so those things will be fixed.

We bought ultrasonic deterrents and live traps that I baited with a mix of maple syrup and peanut butter...which Fams had to have in his treat ball too in order for him to leave the traps alone. Poor dog thinks I'm stashing toys and treats on him!

Mr T also spent some time in the yard hacking down the tall grass and wild sunflowers that we'd been letting grow free. Mr D took the cardboard pile we'd been saving for the yard and tossed it all into his truck for a dump run.

So, I feel we've done some serious mouse-deterrence over the weekend. Hopefully he or she was just house-watching while we were all away over Halloween and won't come back now that we've all returned. Here's hoping!
 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Winter in the PNW

Holidays!
 
It has been a wonderful fall at SilverMoon and we are now starting to get excited about the winter and winter holidays. Winter in the Pacific NorthWest generally means rain, long dark nights, short grey days, continual scarf-wearing, and galoshes. Unfortunately, for a lot of folks this is also the start of SAD season, it is a horrible season to be homeless in (if ever there is a "good" season), and it is a time of great consumerism. Perhaps it is related to folks choosing indoor spaces like the mall to walk around in because it is warmer than the park, but people will often spend more money in winter than in summer seasons. Some folks even get into debt over the holidays with the intention of paying it off after the New Year. Talk about New Year's Resolution! :-(

So, in thinking about this winter season, my first winter in my very own home, I wanted to set some ground rules to establish our very own set of traditions and celebrations that felt true to us.
_______ ... _______ 

Rule 1. Go Outside.
Yes, it is grey and chilly and wet for most of the winter in the Pacific Northwest. No, that doesn't give you an excuse to hibernate inside all season.
Get outdoors, work up a sweat, take in the view from the top of a mountain. Get some sunshine even if it is only brief.

Thankfully, folks in the Pacific Northwest are great outdoors enthusiasts. There's plenty of camping, hiking, kayaking, and neighborhood events to go to even in the winter.

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." - Sir Rannulph Fiennes

Rule 2. Plan for Spring.
What's worse than day after day of grey skies? Thinking it will never end.

Instead of being sad that there is no garden at the moment, I'm actively using this time to plan out the garden in spring. Thinking about those clear blue skies and looking online at all the flowers and veggies we could set out in the yard really makes me smile. If you have a garden, then right now is the time to think about what plants have worked well for you in the past, what seeds you have stored, what plants you'd like to grow in the spring and set your schedule so you know when to start sprouting those tiny green wonders!

Another great aspect of this climate is that it actually allows for winter gardening if you are so inclined. Winter pansies, primrose, hellebore, and camellias are great flowers to keep the winter blues at bay. I even brought an amaryllis and primrose indoors to brighten up my other indoor plants that are currently wintering-over.

If you don't have a garden, think about what events or things you can look forward to in the spring. Is there a place you'd like to visit? Someone you are hoping to see? Make those plans over the winter to pull yourself out of the grey winter mindset.

Rule 3. Eat well.
Winter is the season of Yum! Mashed potatoes, collard greens, beans, fresh baked breads and other goodies - the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, all that baking, butter, and  curling up with good books can attribute to the New Year's Resolution Syndrome of body shaming and sadness.

But eating well doesn't mean eating just whatever, it means eating what's good for you - both for your body and your mind.

I could write a whole post on great winter meals and ingredients, and maybe I will, but for now here's a list of some of my favorite winter-friendly veggies and fruits that keep the blues (an the pounds) at bay.
  • Pomegranates
  • Oranges, lemons, tangelos, and other citrus
  • Winter Squash - acorn and butternut are my favorites
  • Dark Greens like kale, collards, and mustard greens
  • Beans and lentils
  • The three C's - cabbage, cauliflower, and carrots
  • Oatmeal
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts - macadamia, walnut, pecan, and hazel roasted over a campfire (YUM!)
  • Mushrooms
  • Persimmons - check your ethnic grocery store
  • Edamame - steamed with a little bit of salt this is a great movie-at-home snack
Rule 4. Do good.

Choose something that's important to you and work on it. Doing good is about engaging those things that feed your soul or sense of self and feeding the spirit of others as well

For me, its homelessness. America and Seattle in particular have a huge homelessness problem. Seattle ranks 4th in the nation for homeless population.* There are lots of reasons for it, and each person (yes, these are people not just statistics and that's an important thing to remember) has a story of how they ended up on the streets. The city has lots of reasons for why their 10-years to 0-homeless plan fell through, but the fact remains that there are so many homeless people in Seattle that the city just announced a state of emergency. You can't walk two blocks in this city without coming across a homeless person, a tent, a tarp, a cardboard box that someone has been using to try and get shelter in.

Suggestions:
Go through your closet - as you get ready to store those summer tanks, take a look at your sock drawer as well. Homeless people spend a lot of time on their feet and a pair of clean socks in good condition is one of the easiest and greatest gifts you can give.

Say Hi. Acknowledge that they exist just as you would anyone else on the street. Pretending you don't see them doesn't make them go away. If you can't or don't feel comfortable talking to strangers - a smile would be nice. :-)

Your time - volunteer if you can, donate to an organization you believe in if you can't. If you can't volunteer know, no worries, lots of people try to volunteer in the winter months and some organizations have a hard time managing all of the well-meaning volunteers, consider signing up to volunteer in the summer months when it is often harder for those organizations to find the volunteers they need.

Study by US Department of Housing and Urban Development

 
Rule 5. Celebrate.
Fight off those long dark nights with merriment and reflection. If you are religious, then celebrate your gods and traditions. If you aren't religious or don't have traditions - find what calls to you and make your own path.
 
I fall into the 'make your own path' category and making these 5 rules for winter is part of forging my own way through the season. There are some upcoming things I'm looking forward to -
 
November 11th - Veterans Day is also Free State and National Park Day (see Rule #1)
November 11th - 15th - HUMP!
November 26th - Thanksgiving - Seattle Turkey Trot
November 27th - Parade and Star Lighting
November 27th - Jan 3rd - Wildlights at the Woodland Park Zoo
November 27th - Dec 28th - The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall
November 28th - Magic in the Market at Pike Place
November 28th - Jan 2nd - Garden d'Lights in Bellevue

Want to go for a walk but it's rainy and cold outside? Not interested in fighting holiday crowds and consumerism at the mall? Check out the museums! Many even offer free-visit days so you can just go and enjoy yourself without the signs, hawkers, and crazy crowds. Check out freemuseumday.org for your local listing.
_______ ... _______

These are the rules that work for me in making the winter a holiday rather than a horror. What works for you? What are some things you look forward to as the temperature drops? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Easy-Peasy Meal Planning

Does this ever happen to you?
You go to the grocery store, walk around for way too long, find a bunch of deals and things that look yummy, pile everything into your cart, pay way too much money, then get home to unpack everything only to discover that you have no idea what you are going to make for dinner. To top it off, you've spent so much time in the shopping center that you feel rushed to try to make anything moderately edible!

...this has happened to me more than once...

So - to change things up, I made a grocery list, started planning meals, and it has been wonderful!

When you go to the store knowing what you are planning to eat for the week and knowing what items you need to buy - you get into the store, shop, and leave. It saves time by letting you skip unneeded browsing, and it saves money but making sure that the food you are buying wont be wasted.

In a tiny house with a small fridge - everything needs a place. I don't have acreage of refrigerator shelves for left overs or random groceries. I don't have extra money for bread to go moldy or veggies to go limp from want of eating. I don't have extra time to stroll casually from aisle to aisle browsing cereals and pondering what to make for the evening.

If you have and excess of these three things, well, enjoy (or come over to my house and I'll put you to work) but if you don't have an abundance of space/money/time, you may find this helpful:


You'll notice that my list is vegetarian but you can edit it for your own use. If you absolutely never eat peas, then having peas on your grocery list is just a waste of ink. Remove it and add parsnips or something else you love.

How I use it -

1.) Make a meal plan.
I give myself 10-15 minutes to think of or find recipes for meals for the week ahead.
I'm a big fan of: Post Punk Kitchen, The First Mess, and The Food Network for ideas and resources.

Things I look for in a recipe - one pan / one pot recipes, crock pot options, and things I can grill.
They also need to have easy to understand directions, simple lists of ingredients, and bonus points for nutritional breakdowns.

Of course, I love trying new cakes and fancy stews with 25+ ingredients, but I save those for the weekend and focus instead on healthy, simple, and fast meals for the week.

Print or write these out and attach them to the list so that everything stays together.

2.) Analyze the meal plan for ingredients.
Have two recipes that call for half an onion each? Great! Chop up the whole onion and save yourself having to chop again the next day.
Mark down the ingredients you need and take stock of what things you already have in your cupboard.

3.) Take the thing to the store with you! Remember the reusable bags! :-)
Of course while you are at the store you can keep an eye out for discounts and those fancy special ingredients, but try to limit the cursory shopping to a minute or two and no more than two items. Even if there is a great sale on frozen sliced carrots - do you really have room to store all ten boxes? Instead grab one or two and start your meal planning for next week by looking up a carrot soup, carrot cake, and carrot and lemongrass curry.

4.) Save your work!
All that planning and shopping won't do you any good if you look in the fridge on Wednesday and can't remember what you were going to make. So, save yourself the stress and smack the list and recipes to your fridge with a magnet. That will keep it handy and visible for the Wednesday you had to work late and can't even remember your own name by the time you got home.

So - good luck darlings and happy cooking!
 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tiny House Update - First Fall At SilverMoon House

Welcome to Fall at SilverMoon House!

We've been comfy cozy in our 296 square foot abode and learning with our house all it's little quirks and personality. We love the way the doors creak like the Addams family on the storage cabinet, and the way it feels light and happy even on the darkest rainy grey days.

There have been some minor changes to the layout - moving the bed and the bookshelf around to provide more privacy and separation of the spaces and caulking the tub (who knew you had to caulk around the tub?) and sealing some gaps in the floorboards. The repairs and improvements have all been pretty minor though and easily done.

Remember the before?



Check out the now!






Hanging Pots and Pans

This is one of the little projects in the house. I wanted a place to put pots and pans but there was no available storage in the drawers and so...we looked up. There are holes in all the beams from old electrical wires and old plumbing that was removed during the construction. The majority of the new wiring is aligned in straight lines along the ceiling and bundled cables. We used the existing holes  used 3/4" PVC pipe (it's flexible!) through three of the beams. Once through the beams the PVC pipe held firm and straight even with my steel and cast iron!

The hooks came from Ikea and we just bent them 45 degrees so that the items hung would be in profile.

Yay storage!


Where are your clothes?

Part of living in a tiny house is realizing you might not have as much clothes storage as you had before. There are no closets in our space. Instead, we bought a set of cabinets from the Ikea kitchen in the shallow European depth but with the same drawer fronts and we use that as our clothes storage.

Having the cabinet fronts the same in the kitchen as in the bedroom area keeps the flow of the space and makes the whole area seem larger.

T gets the drawers in the middle and I get the wire baskets on both sides.

I know it doesn't seem like much, but proper folding and capsule wardrobe theory really help. I have a drawer for each category - dresses, pants, skirts, shirts, fancy / special occasion, and gym / construction clothes. It is actually more than I need - but to conserve space I always try to think before I buy. It is important both to your budget and to your space to consider why you are buying new clothes. Is it replacing something your already have? How long do you expect it to last? How often do you plan to wear it?

Once you have those questions answered you can really see if you need that new top or those new slacks. Also, because I take out the whole basket to fold and put away the clean clothes, I can rotate and "shop" through the clothes I already own.


Where do you sleep?

In a bed, silly!
We moved things around a bit to provide more privacy and separation between the living room and the sleeping area. Now the rolling bookshelf hides the bed from plain sight during the day and at night it still opens up providing plenty of room.

There are little cubbies and drawers for socks and sundries on the "sleeping" side and those translate to flat surfaces for hanging art on the "living" side. We even put in some wire shelves so I can pick out my outfits for the week and not have to search for things at 6am. Yay! Snooze button!

Because the bedroom is cordoned off from the rest of the space, I use the walls there to hang a bunch of the art T and I have collected and made through the years. i love waking up in the morning to the bright and shiny image by Mikeatron of Deadpool killing rainbow-blooded unicorns with sparkle-glitter automatic weapons and a sword. Makes me laugh every day! We also have a print of Judith and Holofernes by Klimt, a Mastodon misprint, some wedding pictures, and some paintings made by yours truly. 




Is that a new couch?

Why yes, yes it is. Bonus, it's a HUGE sleeper-sofa, so come stay over! :-)


It is another Ikea find...can't fight the modular, but it really works in the space and when it is all made up it makes a queen size bed and is wonderfully comfy. We've had a few guests stay with us overnight and they really enjoyed having so much room.

The part that sticks out into the room is also a large storage drawer perfect for stashing our motorcycle jackets and guest supplies like extra blankets and pillows.

The last item I'd like to find would be a movable ottoman with storage that also has locking wheels so I can actually rest my feet on it. The requirements are pretty exact - no higher that 18", firm yet comfy top, soft rounded rectangle, storage and locking wheels - so we may have to build it over the winter.


I'm kind of looking forward to it though. It gives us reason to focus on the next project - the shared work space over in the garage.

So, I hope you have enjoyed this Fall tiny-house tour! We feel pretty good about the work done so far getting it livable and welcoming. Of course there's more to do, curtains, upgrading the dog bed, utilizing every inch of space under the kitchen cabinets, but we really like hoe far we've come from bare walls and ratty (literally) wiring.

Have a great fall everyone and 
Happy Halloween from ghost-Fams!