Friday, March 30, 2012

Easy Honey Mustard Chicken

My friend HC on twitter really wanted to hear more about my easy and yummy dinner last night, so as they say, a blog post is born.

While in sunny Florida, my Great Aunt made a version of this dish. I have to say there was more salt than honey, mustard or orange in her version, but it got me thinking, if I cut back on salt and amped up the other flavors, it could be really, really good. My biggest beef with most American cooking is that it lacks real flavor and relies too much on salt. We are lite on the salt around here, but big on flavor.

So I did. The beauty of my version is you can tailor it to your tastes and it is totally versatile. It will also likely be totally gone. The kids and H ate so much of it, only one small thigh was left. They dove in even before I could snap a picture.

What you will need:

8 bone in, skinless chicken thighs (if you can only find bone in with skin, no biggy just add 5 or so minutes to the cooking time and if you can only find boneless, skinless cut back on the cooking time.)

1/2 cup fresh OJ (about two oranges, from the cartoon is ok too)
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock or water if that is all you have
2 heaping tsp of your favorite Dijon mustard
1 Tbs good honey (darker honey has more favor as a general rule)
1/4 tsp Cayenne or chipotle  pepper (red pepper flakes would work, or hot sauce of your choice, that would likely work too...)
1 tsp favorite salt free herbal seasoning

 Flour, corn starch or potato starch in a ziplock bag. (I use potato starch, but honestly either will work.)

In a deep skillet heat some oil or some oil and butter over medium heat.

Add one piece of chicken at a time to the zipper bag and shake well to coat, shaking off the excess and put chicken on a plate.

When chicken is coated and the oil is heated place chicken skinside/topside down in the oil and brown for about 5-6 minutes or until browned (chicken should lift easily with tongs, if you have to tug, you have not browned it long enough.) Flip and brown the other side for about 4-5 minutes.

While the chicken is browning, in a small bowl mix OJ, chicken stock, honey and mustard and spices. (you can add some salt or wait until dish is cooked to adjust seasoning. I think you will find you don't need the salt.)

Turn the chicken so skin side is up and pour the liquid over the chicken. It should not drown or completely submerge the chicken, liquid should be about half way up the chicken.

Bring liquid to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover tightly. If your pan does not have a lid use foil (which is what I do, my deep skillet does not have a lid.) Cook for about 30 mins (or adjust based on the type of chicken thighs you bought.)

Remove lid, check for doneness and taste the sauce. Serve over rice or whatever!

So easy and so yummy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

unTangled up in Blue

H and I have become those parents and our kids each have an iPod touch. They inherited H and I's old ones. Part me loves the way the kids have embraced technology and the other part of me is contrary and thinks that technology is ebbing into their lives too quickly.

I will say, the iPod does make traveling with kids so much easier. They can bring their movies, tv programs, music and games with them. It does make the long car trip and the plane trips very pleasant for everyone.

The only hurdle for me are the ear buds. Where are they in the backpack, the panic attacks when the kids can't find them. This has been an issue. First I addressed it by being the party to carry the ear buds, then I taught then to wrap them around the iPod. Inevitably they get loose and sink to the bottom of the backpack or the far corner buried under books.

Before our trip to the sunshine state, I decided to address this issue.

Behold the fleece lined denim iPod pouch. The vintage buttons are a nice touch.

The process was very easy.

1. I used a pair of E's jeans. He has the uncanny ability to split the knees of his jeans in such a way, that I cannot patch or repair them. So I decided to put the latest casualty to good use. He wears a size 6-7 slim. These were 6's. I laid the iPod on the leg of the pants, even with the yellow hem stitching at the base of the leg. Once I cut it to the desired length, I then split the leg open at the inner seam. Measure or eyeball the desired width and trim accordingly. In my case I wanted a snug but not tight fit. Remember this is all about little fingers being able to execute the storage and removal process solo.

2. Find some fleece you like. In my case I used some scrap I had. L got pink and E got black monster truck. I used the denim piece as my pattern and cut the fleece to match. Stitch with coordinating thread all the way around. Wrong sides to wrong sides. Then fold in half and stitch following the existing yellow stitching. Making the pouch. I back stitched at the upper corner for extra security.

3. Cut a small strip of fleece. I find using the selvage edge is good way to go. Less stretch and you are going to get rid of that bit anyway, why not put it to use. Carefully stitch into the pouch, about 3/4 inches in. I doubled stitched and back stitched each time. This is going to get lots and lots of tugging and pulling. It needs to be tough.

4. Find a large and preferably slightly raised button and hand stitch it to the front of the pouch. Take your time and do this right. Using embroidery floss won't hurt. Remember this is going to get lots and lots of tugging too.

Then enjoy. This will easily hold your iPod and head phones. No more missing ear buds and your screen is protected.

E today at tea, had arranged the pouch in such a way that it acted as a stand, holding his iPod at the perfect viewing angle. Only my budding engineer could come up with that creative use for my quick denim iPod carrying case.

I would say this process took about 1/2 hour or so. It truly is a quick fix project.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Take one and call me in the morning...

It seem to me that alot of people, have alot of opinions about women's reproductive health, how women's bodies work and who should have the final say as to what is standard of care and what isn't. I have even read lately that many insurance plans, employers and legislatures do not actually feel that pregnancy is a medical condition and that many female problems don't actually warrant coverages. (do these men actually have female partners, daughters or sisters?)

Let me start by telling you a story:

Once upon a time, there was a young woman. Her monthly cycles started around age 15. By the time she was 18, having very painful menstrual cramps, cramps that interfered with normal activities were increasingly the norm.

For a period of time in college, her cycles were not regular and honestly thru self medication (Mary Jane was the drug of choice) she managed to keep the worst of the cramps at bay. After a pregnancy scare and traumatic break up, she invested some time in herself, sought professional help and stopped self medicating.

By her senior year the first ten days of her cycle (the 4 for the actual menstruation and then the following 6 were blissfully pain free.) Immediately prior to ovulation and the days following, the pain was so amazingly intense, it became common place for her to vomit in between classes or as the months went by to flea class to vomit and come back. She carried a tooth brush and saltines in her backpack. (Doesn't everyone?)

Luckily her school had a health center and there was an actual OB/GYN on staff part time. Otherwise you were stuck with a GP or family medicine doctor. Dr. R in the beginning of the fall semester senior year diagnosed dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps.

Armed with pamphlets and proper Motrin dosing, she resolved to cut out caffeine and exercise more (which is hard when one is vomiting regularly, but she was an ever determined one.)

Dr. R had floated the idea of the birth control pill. Studies at the time where showing it to be very effective in regulating and lessening the severity of menstrual cycles. The girl rejected this idea. She had a strong family history of hypertension, blood clots and stroke and was very much convinced that natural therapies would be better. Plus the pill can cause weight gain and the girl had worked very hard to shed her freshmen 15 and was very vain to the point of obsessive about her weight.

The Motrin was slowly eating a hole in her gut and the exercise and other non-chemical treatments weren't working either. At about the same time she was becoming intimate with her now husband, her painful periods were so bad that she was missing classes regularly, in too much pain much of the month to actually think about sex and weighing less than was advisable. (Not to mention that regular vomiting can cause electrolyte imbalances and is very damaging to the teeth. Google bulimia if you are curious.)

It might be important to mention that her roommate was often not actually at their apartment. He had a boyfriend in the closest big city and spent almost all of his non-class time there.

One night, she awoke to the most gut wrenching pain ever. After depositing the remains of her dinner in the toilet and dry heaving for what felt like an eternity, she passed out on the bathroom floor. Dehydrated and feverish, this is where her roommate finds her, when he runs in before class on a whim, to check his stack of mail. It is 10 am. When he tries to help her sit up, she screams in gut wrenching pain.

He takes her to the health center on campus, because according to the insurance coverage, all care must begin there. Luckily the OB/GYN can see her and immediately calls for transport to the local hospital.

After a trans vaginal ultrasound and a regular pelvic ultrasound, it was determined that she had a larger than normal normal functional ovarian cyst and a newly ruptured functional cyst. She also had what appeared to be endometriosis.  While it appeared that the ruptured cyst had not caused any permanent damage, she might not be so lucky the next time. Also vomiting to the point of passing out regularly had inherent risks also.

Now it gets fun.

She went back to the health center doctor for treatment, as the insurance would only pay if she did that. In the short term she got shots of a synthetic narcotic, two in the ass, please and thank you. She also got a stern talking to about the risks of letting either condition going untreated, even though neither had any solid treatment options.

Long story short she went on birth control pills. These as a matter of fact. Luckily they were on the health centers formulary and they were a low dose, low hormone pill, which were generally tolerated by women with family history of high blood pressure and heart disease.

The doctor also wanted her to have a second opinion at the hospital in the nearest big city.

A very expensive prospect. You see, this girl did not have mommy and daddy's money paying for school. She was paying for school, borrowing some money and then working 2-4 jobs, in addition to shouldering a full load of classes.

The copays and "out of network charges"  alone would equally nearly what she paid in rent for 2 months. After some pavement pounding she located her father and he agreed to cover the medical costs.

The second opinion agreed, yes she had cysts, yes she had endometriosis and yes the only really viable treatment was birth control pills.

She could obtain them at the health center for $10 per pack. She was able to get a few extra packs prior to graduation.

Now this girl was a "lucky" girl she landed a job and a job with benefits. Comprehensive coverage the HR rep had claimed.

Her health insurance cost her $65 a pay or $130 a month.

Imagine her surprise when her comprehensive coverage did not cover her pills, her OB/GYN visits or her annual pap smear.

Her insurance cost her $1560 a year or 8% of her annual salary and it did not cover any of her medical concerns. Beyond these pesky "female issues" and seasonal allergies, which she did not take medication for, she was basically healthy.

Her local Planned Parenthood only offered birth control subsidies if you were at a certain income level or unemployed. Sadly, she made too much and had a job.

Ironically the pills cost more in 1995 as they do in 2012. Today 3 months cost $60. In 1995 she paid around $36 per month.

So while she is paying 8% of salary towards an insurance policy that covers basically none of her health care concerns (I guess the older, white men, who owned the business were just padding the insurance pool at the expense of healthy young women, their health concerns were covered and hers were not.) Then and now it sounded like a money grab to her.

She now also has to spend, out of pocket and post tax, $36 a month on medication, that she takes to stave off debilitating cramps and heavy bleeding, hopefully staving off the spread of the endometrial tissue, which will damage her future fertility and functional cysts, while they seldom do damage, can and a damaged ovary is a useless ovary.

For the math challenged - $36 a month is $432 a year or 2% of her annual salary. Not to mention the cost of the doctor's visit to obtain the RX.

She didn't feel this was very fair. Why should this medically recognized treatment for a very real chronic medical condition get special treatment? Is it really any less of a disorder than say diabetes, high blood pressure or thyroid imbalance? Are the possible long term health consequences really any less impactful?

Because this very real medical condition only affects women. Because women's health issues aren't really medical issues, they are "female problems." Because the only known treatment happens to be hormonal treatment which also happens to prevent pregnancy and we all know that preventing pregnancy is wrong, sinful and/or unnecessary.

This girl got a second job. In part to cover her out of pocket medical expenses.

Shortly thereafter she quit all together, what good was a job with a medical "benefit"  that did not cover her medical issues. She made more at her second job in one night than she did all week at her fantastic career building job with "benefits."

Then she got a job, which had a health plan, which covered "female problems."

As it turns out she could have kept her first job and petitioned the partners to cover her medical condition-- if they felt it was warranted? After she asked around and found out only young women seeking birth control had to submit to such nonsense was around the time she told them were they could shove that job. Any other medical condition seemed to be covered.

You know this girl. She is me...

I was lucky, I had already at 21 a ton of work experience, I started working when I was 15 years old. I was a hustler. I worked hard.

And yes, I was poor, I was less than one paycheck away from being homeless and that first year post college, I doubt I could afford the USDA basics at the grocery on a regular basis. I get it that a lot of people mistake my current home address and my manners and the experiences I have with that old money. Sorry, but no. I grew in a pink collar/blue collar household. We could afford a middle class lifestyle until my parent's marriage imploded.

Then I woke up 19 and holding a big ass tuition bill. I went from working for book and spending money, to working for the whole nut. I shelved dreams of graduate school for that career building job with f-ing benefits BECAUSE I HAD BEEN SO VERY VERY SICK. I was being a responsible adult -- only to get slapped by the hand of misogyny pretty damn hard.

Trust me it wasn't the last time either.

I do however think it was the MOST unfair.

Our medical system only truly serves those with insurance. It is easy for a simple injury to nearly bankrupt a family with out insurance. Not having insurance, unless you are very poor is simply not an option. That second opinion at the BIG medical center. I had to pay cash up front before the doctor would see me. He didn't want to get stiffed and the hospital had a payment plan for the tests, he did not.

On top of that... workers in the US have zero say in what their insurance covers. That is bullshit. It is not a benefit if it does nothing for you and you have to pay for it. If it were 100% funded by the employer, then yes, they can pay or not pay for anything they desire. That insurance policy at my first job cost me 8% of annual salary and did nothing for me. I was literally flushing money down the drain, no wait, that would have been great... at least it would have been my choice. Instead I was funding some partners diabetic medication, high blood pressure meds, when trust me he could afford those on his own. Talk about getting fleeced.

It isn't a benefit if it does nothing for you.

I am not convinced that ObmaCare is going to fix that. I am convinced that we are starting to see some people's true colors. Birth control isn't just about women being empowered to have sex. It is about their ability to control their fertility. This girl's story could have turned out a different way. She could have lost an ovary or had so much scaring in her fallipian tubes that she would never have been able to have the babies - which she treasures above anything else. What if she had made a choice so many young women make and forgo treatment due to cost concerns?

So next time you feel like siding with those who are waging war on women and their health care choices. Please remember, I too am ONE OF THOSE WOMEN.

All in the Family

It is hard to believe that Catty NKA Snickers has been a member of the family since late 2009. I really can't imagine not having her as part of the family.

She really has grown on me. I can also say that my cat allergy or my allergy to her, has waned significantly. Either the near daily exposure to her for 3 years or perhaps me finally getting my health issues in check, has meant less trauma to my immune system and has lead to a significant change in household protocol.

Snickers comes in now.

In the early months with us, she never tried and we never offered. This continued until last fall. In part the reason we kept her out was my allergies and my mother's allergies. If mom was to come spend her last days here, there could be no indoor cat action.

Over the winter, mild as it was, Snickers seemed to want in more and more. To sleep. She just wants to curl up, with all of us around and sleep.

The other day, I swear she was passed out on a dinning room chair like a frat brother after a weekend long kegger. I clocked the sleep time at roughly 5 hours.

I really do want to keep her off the soft furniture and out of the newly remodeled family room. I also think the basement and the first floor are domain enough for her, no being on the second floor. So far she has gravitated to the morning room and the dinning room. She seems to like the big windows and the sun light. She loves to jump up on a dinning room chair and hide under the table or be in the corner. In the morning room, she favors a corner, under the plant stand, near the register.

This is not at all to say that she isn't testing those boundaries. This past weekend she hid in both of the children's closets on two separate occasions. When she burst out of E's closet, she scared me to death.

I think once we put the patio furniture on the deck, she may stay out there more, as she can hide on a chair under the table, which seems to suit her just fine. Last week our neighbor and L's BFF took care of the food and water patrol and predictably Snickers got huffy and ran off, as we were not home. I suspect she would have returned on her own, but the storm Friday might well have gotten her in a state of affairs. She also is minus a bit of fur and her collar.

On Saturday, I dispatched L and her BFF and H to a house up the road a bit. For whatever reason, after storms, she hangs on this family's deck. It is possible, that that house used to be her home or she just goes there when she has lost her way. I theorize that perhaps she did live there, because that house changed hands at about the same time we acquired Snickers. Maybe they didn't want her making the move or perhaps she ran off and they never found her. Either way she favors this house. H carried her home and other than some loud meows and haughty stares, she allowed the in arms transport. Happy to be home, but reminded H not to make a habit of this transport method, thank you very much.

Snickers is one of the most social, pack minded cats I have ever known. When we are outside, she is right there with us. She often "stands guard." I will joke that she is our vicious attack cat. I am only half kidding. I think if she thought someone was threatening us, especially the children, she would do her worst to protect us.

This was St. Patrick's Day. I was watching the kids ride their bikes, while waiting on my BFF to come over for dinner. Snickers was one part protecting me and keeping a close eye on her small charges.

Look at that determined face. I wouldn't cross her in a dark alley.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Now I know, that last week I was a posty-post-a-lot, but I was really on the beach. No really, it was smoke and mirrors. I prescheduled the posts, so you wouldn't miss me so much.

We journeyed to Englewood, Florida. A lovely community of mostly older folks, snow birds, with a fantastic public beach and quaint old downtown section. A distant cousin and his wife make their winter home in Englewood. Growing up, I always thought of him as an Uncle and that has stuck.

E woke me the first morning, as we were bunking together on the screened in porch, ever so excited to see the sunrise. I am glad he did, it was the only proper sunrise of the trip.

About an hour later, I snapped this one. Their community is on a creek/river/inter coastal waterway. It is a brackish mixture and the boat dock is a stones throw from their porch.

Sunset was around 7:30 pm, a perfect time for the kiddos to see their first ever sunset. We played on the beach every day we were in Florida, but only on Tuesday - the first day of spring, did we watch the sun sink into the ocean.

A highlight of each trip to Englewood, has been the boat ride. They have a great pontoon boat and it is always great fun to take it out on the water. This time was extra special, as we saw an amazing amount of wildlife. (That is H, he was letting the spray cool him off.)

My favorite are dolphins. They were all over and not at all shy. I got very up close and personal with dolphins when we were on Jekyll Island and I really do love the playful energy of dolphins. This is one of the first groups we saw. In all, I think we say at least two dozen on our way home from RumBay, a fantastic seafood place. Dock parking is a plus.

We also saw some nesting Osprey. They make a peculiar noise.

Everything was very dry in Florida, as they have not had much rain this winter. Only two serious storms since October.

Everyday gave us a lovely sandcastle. Both L and E are on building kicks. This is L's effort on our first day. Very pretty.

 We collected about three times this number of shells in all. So many different shapes and sizes. Both L and my Aunt distracted H, so I could pack them up. He was adamant we leave them behind, but I was equally as adamant they were coming home with us. We found one Mom would have loved and we plan to take it to the cemetery and leave it with her.

It was a bit bittersweet being on the beach. Mom loved the beach. Seeing E finally not at all afraid of the ocean, would have made her so happy. E is just now embracing the beach. L has loved the beach from the first time we took her there.

The sky was amazing every single day we were in Florida. The weather was near perfect everyday too.

I have added this to my "I am going to try this before I die" list. They were way high in the sky at certain points.

The combo of sun, wind, sand and hard water did weird things to my hair.

On a palm tree, this sign makes zero sense. I got nothing...

I highly recommend Englewood as a quiet family vaca spot. The older folks are nice, welcoming and honestly there was no bad spring break beach behavior and zero crowds. My kind of peaceful vacation spot.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Silent all these years...

I have been silent too long. In college I was a passionate advocate for women's health care. I stopped. It is my fault and every woman like me's fault that the GOP has decided it is ok to fundamentally wage war on women and women's health care. It must be stopped. They must be stopped. I won't go back. I will not allow my daughter to be denied access to medical procedures and therapies and treatments, based on the bigotry and stupidity of 55 year old white men.

Let's get this out of the way...

Fundamentally I am 100% pro-choice. I am 100% pro-birth control. Furthermore I am 100% woman controlled birth control. On the other end of the spectrum I am actually a passionate believer in hospice and frankly I am fine with euthanasia and physician assisted suicide - as long as the person making that choice is of sound mind and not being pressured.

I am no longer pro death penalty. We are so far from having a fair and balance court system. There are simply too many examples of botched test results, ignored evidence, and a gender and racial bias.

I used to waffle on later term abortions, with the advances in medicine, premature births can happen  earlier and earlier with amazing odds of survival. That said, after this relentless war on women and OUR fundamental right to have a voice in OUR health care and the adoption of state laws that really do border on rape at worst and emotionally abusive at best, in order to be eligible for a medically safe, FDA approved MEDICAL procedure. I have decided, that even later term abortions should be up to the woman and her doctor. Period. End of discussion.

I am happily the mother of two beautiful, busy, intense, energetic and wonderful children. I lost a baby at 13 weeks. I miscarried at home, a week after my doctor failed to find a viable heartbeat via ultrasound. I passed the entire gestational sac. It was amazingly painful, extremely bloody and totally soul crushing. I was very sad for a very long time.

I also had a miscarriage in college at about 6 weeks. Had I not been granted a free pass by the Universe, I was ready to have an abortion. I had already called the clinic and I was stressing about where I could come up with the money for the procedure. At the time I was an emotional mess, I was drinking more than I should, I was smoking pot regularly, I was also cutting on a very regular basis. I also was not eating right, at all. My boyfriend at the time was older, likely gay, and our break up had not been what one would call amicable. I didn't love him. My parents had just split up, my father was on again, off again MIA. My mother was pissed at the world, was verbally taking it out on me regularly and frankly my life was one big pile of shit. I did manage straight A's somehow that semester, but I think that was a freak accident. (and as messed up as I was, we were using two forms of non hormonal birth control. Those are not the most effective choices and there is a higher than average failure rate...)

I should probably mention that my mother, and her friendly sex talk, didn't fill me in on many details about sex, but she was very clear, "that if I got my ass pregnant, she would kill me." While I was dubious that she would actually kill me, I was 100% certain that she would NOT be helping me, in any way for any reason, should I find myself pregnant, not married and 19.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure. There are a myriad of reasons women seek to have an abortion.  Unlike many anti-abortion activists claims, most women do not simply wake up one morning and think, "Oh, I think I will stop by Target, hit the post office and have an abortion on the way home." Many make a very difficult choice. Many make a choice they would rather not be making. Do some women use abortion as birth control, yes. Then again, unlike what many people have been lead to believe, hormonal birth control is neither cheap and all that easy to get.

Some women seek an abortion after having all the children they think they can manage and their birth control fails. Some women have been the victim of rape or incest. They have been forced to have sex against their will, I do not think they should be forced to bear the child of their rapist. They already had their right to consent taken away once, the state should not do so a second time.

Some parents choose to end a pregnancy where it has been determined that the child is likely not going to survive to birth or after birth. It isn't that the child isn't wanted, but when the outcome is so very likely not going to be positive, I think we allow them to make the choice most comfortable for them. Some parents might choose to see the pregnancy through, while others might make a different choice.

Some women are not in a place to be mothers, don't want to be a mother. Being a mother is a full time job. I am a wonderful mother now, at 19, I would have damaged a child permanently for life. I was not mother material and given my choices with respect to chemical substances, I was not incubator material either.

Look, I get it, women's ability to bear new life is a unique and incredible gift. Some women want to have as many children as they can. Honestly, I loved being pregnant with L. I felt amazing and powerful. Giving birth, naturally both times, absolutely in the top 10 most profound experiences of my entire life.


Just as it was my choice in college, to decide, that in that moment, I wasn't able to be a mother. Nor were my lifestyle choices likely to bring about the best outcome for the said new life. In the end the Universe decided for me. Had the Universe not stepped in, I would have been keeping that clinic appointment.

The reality is, women have been making this choice since the dawn of time. In many cultures, the decision to keep the child, was made after birth. Infanticide was the leading killer of children until the last 200 years or so. It is still being practiced today in parts of the world.

Make no mistake, women have also been ending pregnancies since the dawn of time. Has it been as safe, no. Has it meant sacrificing future fertility, yes. Has it lead to both the death of fetus and the woman. You betcha. Anyone remember seeing Dirty Dancing? Penny nearly died after a back alley, illegal abortion. She was in love with someone who was using her for sex, made promises and had no intentions of keeping them. She was left to deal with the consequences.

Is abortion a risk less choice, no but neither is child bearing and child birth. The entire process has inherent risks.

This is a complex issue. With lots of emotional landmines, but the reality is, abortion is not new. It is safer now than it ever has been. It should remain an option. Birth control first, but abortion is and should remain part of the broad spectrum of reproductive health choices on the table.

And lest anyone thinks I am only poking at the GOP. I am not. I would hazard a guess that just as many of the men on the other side of the aisle have a kernel of misogyny in his heart. The reality is when men and the government accept the fact that women are equal and have an equal say in their lives, in the government and over their own bodies, those same men lose power. The easiest way to control women and limit their choices is through reproductive control. If the GOP in many states get their way, I see us moving closer and closer to a Handmaid's Tale type environment. A society that bases female worth on her ability to breed for the ruling class.

I am not saying that everyone has to have an abortion. I am not saying one should be able to have one at the local CVS. I am not even saying that a Catholic Hospital has to offer them. I am saying that the Federal and State government have to stop creating artificial road blocks. I am saying that women who seek this type of care should have access to it. Abortion should be on the menu of reproductive choices.

I might think that the GOP was truly concerned about the rights of the unborn, if they were as equally concerned with seeing that maternity care, well baby visits, and other vital standards of care were easily available, federally required standards of care, and affordable. Many employers don't offer maternity care and frankly maternity leave, paid or otherwise is not a federal requirement. Hello GOP -- how are women supposed to care for all these children you seem to think they should be forced to have, if they have no jobs to return to?

But they don't. They seek to block at every chance presented, to cancel these programs, defund them, and limit women's access to care or at least limit her ability to gain access to this care at a price they can afford. The employer's rights have been highlighted as being superior to that of the female employees. Why should I be buying an insurance policy, selected by my employer, that does not cover the types of care I need?


The fact is my body can do something that no man's can. That is what makes me a women. It is 2012 and frankly the only person, who has a right to decide what is best for my body is ME. It is my right to determine how and when I will bear children. It is my right to decide what I eat and what medical procedures I will allow to be carried out on my body. I also happen to think, that I should have some say on how and when my final days will play out, should I find myself facing terminal illness.

It has been a mistake, that I have been relatively silent all these years.

That stops now!

Music Monday - Collarbone

Today is a new to me artist. I had never heard of Fujiya & Miyagi before, but the other day I was sewing and listening to Pandora. I am building a station around Peter Gabriel and Death Cab for Cutie and then lo and behold along came this catchy little tune.

I love finding new to me music. Sometimes it leads to a new musical obsession like Of Monsters and Men and sometimes, it just leads to a mild love affair with a particular song. I haven't decided yet where Fujiya & Miyagi will land on that sound continuum.

Take a listen to Collarbone and let me know what you think.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Our house is a very traditional neo-federal style house. It has very simple lines and not uncommon to this simple house style, a market or tradesman's door. It is the first door you come to along the front walk.

This door leads into the hallway and nearly directly into the kitchen. Hence the name, Market door or Tradesman's door. At our house this door has another wonderful feature; it is covered.

Let's recap. The market door is closest to the driveway and covered.

And yet - this is how Fedex keeps addressing the delivery of packages on rainy days:

FedEx and the USPS are the only ones who choose a plastic bag over the covered porch.

As we can all see here, even on what had been a very rainy and windy night and morning, the covered porch is nice and dry.

So that begs the questions, which is superior? My covered porch or the the thin as can be, won't stop a serious rain, plastic bag?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Umba Box: My Review, Month 2

Last month, I blogged about Umba Box and indicated I would commit to at least three months with them. This month, I got in the mail a surprise collection of body products, all homemade and very generously sized.

Rinse Bath & Body are homemade body products, which based on this box, stack up with their chemical laden cousins. I have had the box for about 10 days, but did not have time to really focus on the contents until the other night.

The cute bath Truffle I am saving for this weekend but it smells divine as I sniffed it and I am dying to give it a try. We are huge fans of LUSH bath bomb in this house and I am excited to see how it stacks up. Price wise they are equivalent and the plus, they are wrapped like Hersey kisses, making them easy to store.

I have been loving the skin stick. Basically a giant sized chap stick made of shea butter and beeswax - with some essential oils. Fantastic. I have been using it on my lips, hands and elbows. I love that it moisturizes and isn't at all greasy. I also love that it isn't basically scent neutral. I am a light on the fragrance girl.

The item I was most skeptical about was the Cafe Mocha facial mask scrub. It smells like burnt coffee. I used water to form the paste, but next time I am going to try yogurt or maybe even soy milk. I made the paste, slowly adding small splashes of water and then put it on my face. I let it dry, for at least 10 minutes. It was good and dry by the time I got in the shower.

While I was not thrilled with the Starbucks like smell which at that point permeated my bathroom, I am sold on the results. My skin was noticeably smoother and brighter. In short it worked - it is salt free and no harsh chemicals. It is also not oatmeal based. I worry about oatmeal based skin products.

In generally, while I am very careful about what I eat, I am not as picky about my skin products and their level of gluten freeness. I probably should be. I am careful to avoid things at LUSH or other places which contain beer or oatmeal.

Rinse uses all natural components and they also have some vegan products.

The story card enclosed was very informative and again this is a woman owned and operated business. Heather started making soap as a hobby in 2002 and then expanding. According to the card Rinse products are available at over 200 boutiques nationwide and online.

I love this, a small woman owned business, making quality body care products.

I also love that I can pronounce all the ingredients, pronounce them and actually could probably buy most of them at Whole Foods. I like the back to nature skin care approach. More to the point, I think my skin responses well to gentle cleaning...

While when I initially opened the box, I wasn't completely sold on the idea of a coffee mask and a giant chap stick, after I tried them out, I am really enjoying the products. In terms of making a purchase, I am more likely to buy the skin stick. It is something I have never really tried before, but really like and the stick makes it the perfect way for me to take my lotion along in my purse or gym bag or writing desk for that matter.

So I wonder what Umba Box will have in store for me next month?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DIY wall Mural...

H and I redid the master bathroom at the same time we redid the kitchen, because we are crazy people. We added a bathtub, which we both love. Above the tub is a great old mirror, which used to be in the kitchen. The frame of the mirror matches the new cabinets very nicely. I bought this mirror while shopping with my mom right after we bought the house. This is my decorating go-to, a mirror.

The other wall is blank. Totally blank, which I think suited H just fine. He is such a minimalist. He loves white and empty. To me this space above the tub just looked empty. When we went to Michigan I shot some pictures, which I thought might really be perfect for the space. While the photos might well have filled the space nicely, I could never find the right frames.

Before we continue, I have to tell you about a website that I just adore Fab. Fab features curated shops ranging from furniture to jewelry to clothing. Mostly indie and always with a focus on design. I have actually been shopping with them for awhile and I love everything I have ordered and the customer service is outstanding.

The first time Fab featured wall clings, I passed. I did not love any of the designs and I was a little worried about the application process. The second time, well I fell in love with a botanical motif and I decided it was worth trying.

This item took a bit of time in shipping, which was a good thing. It gave me time to talk myself into giving this a try and when it arrived, I was at a place time wise to go for it.

Inside the box was a tub. Honestly, do you want to know what the hardest part of this project was? I mean the one part that I thought I might never accomplish?

Getting the sheet out of the plastic tube. No kidding, I had to work and work at getting the rolled sheet out of the tube, it was in that protective sleeve but good.

The clings are on a single sheet of this special blue backing, covered in a clear cover sheet. They are manufactured in Canada, Montreal to be exact by a firm called ADzif. The designer is Lotta Jansdotter. I love Lotta's sensibility. Very modern and fresh and natural.

The second hardest part and the scariest part was cutting out the clings. You have to cut out every leaf and the two trunks. Cutting is the skill I am lacking in. I am not a good cutter. I had to give myself a pep talk for about a half hour and admit my fear twice on twitter and once on Facebook, before I actually had the gumption to slice into these babies. (I had washed the wall the previous day. The directions do not say this is a necessary step, but I think it is prudent.)

Once I had the leaves cut and sorted by size and the trunks cut, I did as directed and taped the trunks to the wall. Careful to measure and make sure my design would be centered over the tub. (This was easier than one would suspect, because I used the wall tiles as a guide.)

I should mention that I found my rotary cutting mat a very helpful tool for this process. It gave me a flat and solid surface to work from. I marked on the wall carefully where my trunks were to go and then took them down from the wall.

Now began the easy but tedious part.

Using a used up gift card, I had to place each decal face down on the rotary cutting mat and apply firm and equal pressure to the blue surface, following the grid printed on the reverse of the blue backing paper, to transfer the decal from the blue paper to the clear over cover. The directions were very clear and concise and this process went very smooth.

I have to say this is an instance where I think one can see the quality of the materials and the care in the manufacturing process. This product performs as it should. 

And there began the slow process. Once you have the decal transferred you remove the blue backing carefully, position the decal on the wall, and then repeat, only this time you are using the used up gift card to carefully transfer the decal from the clear cover to the wall, very careful to smooth out any air bubbles. Once set, you carefully pull the clear coversheet off the wall, leaving behind the white decal.

Each leaf is placed separately. I basically  followed the leaf pattern from the enclosed picture and then decided to free hand the falling leaves.

Instead of a pile of leaves, I wanted to create the illusion of the leaves falling into the tub.

From start to finish, with one short tea break, this took me about two hours. It is tedious. Placing each leaf with care and the stops to transfer the leaf from the blue backing to the clear coversheet and then to the wall.

I think it was worth it. The white design looks great with our white subway tile and the mural really does fit the space well. The design is also minimalist and white.

For the investment of about $35 and 2 hours of my time, I have a custom looking mural. Not a bad investment all around.

It was so worth it. I love the results and it fits the space just perfectly.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Music Monday - Little Talks

Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men

If I had to pick a song of 2012 that really speaks to me, this is it. So far this year. I like the sound, I love the lyrics and I love the fact that it is a conversation between the two singer.

I will tell you a secret, which maybe won't surprise any of you. This blog started after my MIL died. I was lost. So much had changed for me and so fast. I had go from working full time on a career path that I was good at but largely felt ambivalent about. Other than being a passionate advocate for my clients and enjoying the fact that I made really decent money for someone in her twenties. I could have cared less.

I started MBA school as a way out. I felt stuck and I knew that the soul sucking really couldn't continue much past my 30th birthday if I wanted to get out alive and whole.

Then that terrible day happened, that lovely Tuesday morning was shattered and we as a nation shattered with it. I don't think we have really gotten over it.

I got pregnant. After a year and a half of trying...

And I was trying to be a working mom and frankly, I was sucking at both some days. It is really hard. I resented my soul sucking job every single day. I wanted to be home with my baby, and felt guilty about that too. I was a modern woman. I had worked hard to get my degree and I had worked hard to prove myself to the world (of men in suits) that I was worthy.

I wanted to tell the world to f-off most days.

I left the corporate world to spend the summer with L and then return to MBA school full time. One year and I would have my degree and I would be ready to seek the next challenge.

Have I introduced you to E? He is a blessing and a treasure...

Having the kids changed my life...

As have the passings of my MIL and my mother this fall. My 30s have not been about what I thought they would be about.

Losing a baby, too...

I have felt, over the course of my 30s a bit like the female lead singer in this song... like I am losing my mind bit by bit... This ripping apart went soul deep. I started on a journey after my MIL died which has lasted until now. This shattering has been a boon to my creativity, if not a bit too much sometimes. I have learned new skills for managing this process and still being present in the day to day.

So much growth and accommodation, love and discovery.

The ship does indeed come to carry you safe to shore...

And I will say this, this group hails from Iceland. The strangest thing is, I felt at home in Iceland. Never mind that the sun is in overdrive in the summer and then hibernates nearly the entire winter. Never mind the land is flat and you can see for miles, until bam, there is a massive hill, or ravine or waterfall.

Below is a picture of a house in Iceland. They are built to withstand the mighty winds. I also think that they do actually talk... there is magic in the air all over Iceland.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lady Liberty's Closet

The first grade classes at E's school do a monthly special share. It varies from writing a few sentences to making a how to video. This month we had to make something that involved the Statue of Liberty. E could choose to write a story, a poem, make a poster or build something.

Naturally he wanted to build something. I have to say my building talents are not the strongest and H was slated for a lot of traveling. E and I kicked around Lego creations, foam sculpture and paper mache and chicken wire.

L kept reminding us that we only had a week and that all of those ideas sounded great until you actually got started. She was lucky, in 1st grade her classroom got to do the Flag and we wrote a story and drew a picture.

Then while watching reruns of Bravo's Top Chef, it hit me. We could do a deconstructed Lady Liberty. It is all the rage in food, why not in national symbols?

While we are used to seeing Lady Liberty looking a bit like this:

E and I have transformed her and we proudly present Lady Liberty's Closet:

and inside her closet:

She really is very one note when it comes to color. I think she may need a fashion intervention.

E and I crafted all of her items using stuff we found around the house. The box we got from a neighbor's trash pile. It was exactly deep enough and in very good shape. E and I covered the "doors" in duck tape. JoAnn's has piles and piles of colorful duck tape. The door nobs are drawer pulls from a table I got from my mom but immediately changed the drawer pulls out.

For the closet bar, E and I measured and cut some old pvc pipe we found in the basement. I used a hack saw. H was in the kitchen and yelled down, "Are you cutting PVC pipe." I yelled back, "Like a pro."

For the sandals, we traced E's feet and then cut a top strip. The tablet was easy, just free hand a gravestone shape and cut.

For the torch we used a plastic cup and part of a paper towel roll and duck tape. (on the day of the presentation, we have gold tissue paper all prepared to act as the flames.)

While the building was fun, I think E enjoyed dying a length of old white sheet, using hot water and Rit Dye. He got to pour and stir.

The only part of Lady Liberty's outfit, which we bought was her crown. It was a 99 cents foam crown, which came in grey sparkly. The down side is it only has five points and the real one has seven points, but we are working with what we have and seriously, the crown is sparkly. (Even after we painted it.)

While many people thought me using a hack saw was the scariest part of this project; it wasn't. The scariest part of this project was allowing E to spray paint the props. We found, at JoAnn's, blue spray paint that is pretty close to the correct color.

So last Saturday and again on Sunday for touch ups, I placed the sandals, torch, crown, and tablet on newspaper and shook the can of paint and handed it to my six year old. Crazy I know. It was not lost on me, as he began spraying, that this was a spectacularly poor idea.

Although with some coaching, he actually did a pretty good job.

So for about $15, E and I have built something for his project and he is excited to share his creation and the fun facts he has learned about the Statue of Liberty. He has note cards all set, with each clothing item on it in big letters and 1-3 sentences about that item on the back.

I hate to be cliche, but sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is it a scarf or a necklace?

For the last few weeks I have been very busy with DIY projects. Some smaller than others in scope, nonetheless the creativity has been flowing in full force. Pinterest is the place I go when I am looking for a tutorial lately. There are so many wonderful DIY/craft bloggers out there... Pinterest makes it so easy to find them.

I have been experimenting with fabric necklaces/scarves on and off for a year. I had an old t-shirt I thought would make an interesting necklace/scarf. I found two tutorials for making one with braided lengths of fabric. I was drawn to this, because it creates a more scarf like weight to the necklace. It makes it more of an infinity like scarf.

The first tutorial was on this old dress and I liked it, but I was seeking more weight so I when I found this tutorial on tip junkie via nette, I broke out my scissors.

Since I was using cotton t-shirts, mixed with one poly blend tee, my braids have a very different feel to them. What appealed to me about nette's version is it has a weight and body to it. After my Pinterest post, a friend and I were tweeting back and forth and he accused me, in jest, of being a magpie.

I don't deny it. Sometimes I am inspired to try something and even verbatim based on a tutorial. More often than not, I like to use a variety of tutorials to shape my thinking. It is creative inspiration. I have accepted that for knowledge, I can read from a book or listen to a lecture. That works for me. If however, I am physically creating something, well then I learn best by doing. I don't seem to be able to translate something that should be in 3D form from a flat page.

But if I can walk through the steps or as in the case of french seams last year, if I can watch a video, I seem to pick up the new skill very quickly. (After watching the video like a million times.)

So after the back story, I know you are all wondering what I came up with.

So here it is... 

After this photo, I have tweaked it a bit and cleaned up the edged just a touch.

My process:

First I cut the t-shirt strips. I used three shirts. The stripped one was a cotton long sleeved shirt from Old Navy and was over 6 years old. It was way stretched out. The purple, was a tank top, size 1X from my mom's closet. It was faded and had very little stretch left in it. The grey is a poly/cotton blend from my mom's closet. It was newish, but had a stain in the middle. I love the feel of this shirt and it curled beautifully when I cut my strips, something the other two did not do.

After I had the strips, I gathered them in a variety of groups, so I could braid them. I knotted then on one end and then using a pin, pinned them to the office chair, so that I could make nice tight braids. In total, I braided three ropes. (I did this the other night when the kids were having a sleep over. The girls jumped in and "helped." I let them make bracelets using scraps of fabric, similarly braiding the strips together. L even made a key chain with some of her braids for her backpack.)

I also used two wider strips of the grey shirt as a base.

Building the scarf was a bigger challenge than I thought. I tried a few methods and settled on making one rope out of the three braided sections. Then I used the two wider grey strips as my base and attached the rope using a smaller braid to wrap.

The result is a long infinite type scarf that I can them double over and arrange to suit myself.

While it is not as neat as Nette's version, it does have the weightiness I was hoping for and it fits nicely. I have a few more t-shirts on the pile, so I may try it again. I think L would like one too...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Music Monday - Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra)

Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra) 

 It was decided yesterday evening that E really likes this song, as do I. I am not sure why E likes it, given that the lyrics are fairly complex and the subject matter even more so. It is haunting, the melody. I think that is purposefully. I also think E likes haunting melodies.

I think this song reminds us that nothing lasts forever, our friends, our loves, they do not stay static. There is movement in so many directions. Things do change. Even if we don't want them to...

I also think that the truth is very subjective. We all have our own personal truth and there is the collective truth and someone who has moved through the same experience as we have, their truth may well be very different from our own.

I also think there are people we have known, who fall into the category of "somebody I used to know" and those people may haunt us for years to come. Some people who cross our paths, may leave us wondering, what was that I thought I knew?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Music Monday - All Along the Watchtower

The great Jimi Hendrix and the ever fabulous Bob Dillion


The lyrics

"There must be some kind of way out of here,"
Said the joker to the thief,
"There's too much confusion,
I can't get no relief.
Businessman they drink my wine,
Plowman dig my earth
None will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey"

"No reason to get excited,"
The thief, he kindly spoke
"There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late"

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too

Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl
*buisness man there, drink my wine,
Come and take my herb.

I have always liked this song. I love Bob Dillion and not because I am a poet and suppose to like Bob Dillion. I think he is a master with language.

What made me think of this song for today's feature is my editor played it on Thursday at the Read A Loud. As the song filled the room, I watched a crowd growing in the Oval. I am not sure what the protest was all about, but the crowd grew and clearly speakers would speaking.

I think this was not a coincidence. There is great power in our words. Poets, writers, thinkers.

Freedom of the press and our ability to gather and share our words. That is the bed rock of liberty. Sadly I think that is fading quickly from view.