Minimizing Water Usage to Boondock Longer

As I’m planning out the build to turn my Toyota Corolla into a camper, I keep running into problems that challenge my creativity to find ways to fit everything I will need into the limited space.  My ultimate goal is to be able to camp for a week or more in beautiful, out of the way places that are so secluded they are unlikely to provide basic modern amenities like drinking water, electricity, etc.

That means I’ll have to fit everything into my Corolla I need to both enjoy and survive my trip.

Water — how much I need — and how to pack it, keeps coming up.  After researching how others conserve water while boondocking, I decided to break it down to see how little I think I can get away with.  I’ll experiment with this at home to refine the numbers.61nH6iqo7CL._SL1327_

Showers via battery operated garden sprayer filled with sun-warmed water:

3 per week — 1.3 gallons each = 3.9 gallons

Sponge Baths:

4 per week — 0.5 gallons each = 2 gallons

Handwashing:

2 times per day — 0.25 gallons each = 3.5 gallons61ujJtHkZzL._SL1500_

Drinking:

0.85 gallons per day = 5.95 gallons

Washing & Rinsing Dishes

0.66 gallons per time, three times per day = 14 gallons

Cooking:

0.25 per day = 1.75 gallons

TOTAL: 31.1 gallons

 

Do What You Can: Corolla Camper

***Okay, so this is about creative alternatives to a camper van, just bear with me.***  

Just like mine, only cleaner.

A couple months ago I saw this quote taped to the side of my mother in-law’s microwave:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

At first it pissed me off.  What fatalistic bullshit, I thought.  I’m not content to lay back and be happy with whatever life hands me!  I’m the one in charge here! I want to be more, do more, and have MORE!

That quote was like a rock in my shoe I couldn’t shake out.  And I was struggling at this point.  Feeling restless and itchy inside, dissatisfied with my life and not sure what needed to give.  All these old symptoms I hadn’t struggled with for ages coming up, and spending money like crazy, and unable to stop myself.

Every day I’d think of that quote.  I’d get more and more pissed.

And then I realized something.

When it comes to the things I want to be, to do, and to have — I really under-utilize my intelligence, creativity, and resources.

One of the things I’ve wanted to HAVE for years now is a camper van, or an RV of some sort.  But I’ve got to be realistic.  How many dollars do I have saved for this dream?? Zero.  I squirrel away my spare change and a few bucks here and there and start to feel hopeful (Yay! I’m actually working on my dream!!) and some unforeseen illness or what-have-you strikes and the money disappears.  I figure we’ll pay it back, but we never do.  If we can’t put $20 away here and there for a camper van, how are we ever going to afford monthly insurance, or gas, or up keep for that matter??

So, I’m going to do what that annoying-ass quote suggests and do what I can with what I have.  I’m turning my 2010 Toyota Corolla LE into a camper.  It still has to function as our daily driver, so I have to keep that in mind, but I’ve already removed the entire back seat and started working on figuring out some kind of convertible bed/storage system.

My promise to you is that I will do it with a minimum of skills and money (’cause that’s what I’ve got), and I’ll blog about it along the way.

 

 

I’m back!

So, yeah its been a while.

I’m going to be honest.  Life sort of fell apart for a while there.  I don’t even know where to begin.

Well, I got married (FINALLY!!) to the woman I’ve loved and been committed to for more than 18 years now.

We did a spur-of-the-moment legal ceremony in mid- June out of fear of what the Supreme Court might decide.  We stood under the shade of my in-law’s apple orchard and breathlessly and gracelessly pledged ourselves to each other.  We said what was in our hearts — that we loved each other, and it was about damn time — no wedding vows planned.  To my knowledge, there are no photos of the event.  And only our officiant (my wife’s mom), my dad-in-law, and three witnesses were there.  Oh — and our dog, Sunny.

DSC_0787Once the deal was sealed it was a giddy and reckless race to the wedding reception in October, where we reenacted the ceremony — only this time with vows planned.  The ceremony was short, meaningful and to the point.  I’d insisted we keep it to less than ten minutes, but as I stood gazing at my already-wife, surrounded by my closest family and friends, I felt time stretch out to cradle us.  The words of the ceremony were our sacred chant, the sunlight our incense, and the shining eyes of my bride magical flame.  Now, months later, I still feel part of myself caught, entranced, magically suspended in that moment.  When we finally kissed we didn’t even hear the cheers of our guests.

The last day of our honeymoon we let out a collective sigh of relief that all the stress was finally over and promptly got sick.

Since then we’ve either been sick, injured, or seriously broke.

We only spent about $4500 total on the wedding, reception, and honeymoon, but I went through three disasterous manic phases where I spent every cent we had (and quite a bit more) before we paid a single bill.  But if we (I) can behave ourselves until the end of May, we’ll finally be caught up financially.

 

Coconut Cherry Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting — Less Processed Sugar

My Grandma Elaine didn’t bake or cook often, especially as she got older, but when I was about 4 or 5 years old I remember her making one of her specialties — Carrot Coconut Cookies with Orange Frosting.  The recipe came from a Betty Crocker cookbook and was only made for fancy luncheons with her lady friends.

If I happened to visit while she was making them she strictly forbade me from stealing any of them or sneaking a bit of buttery orange frosting off of any of the finished cookies she had lined up like little soldiers on cooling racks on her kitchen table.  I’m sure she just didn’t want my cruddy mitts germing up her elegant cookies, but I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just scoop a tiny bit frosting off with my pinky finger.  So when her back was turned I did just that.  The creamy butter and orange frosting melted like manna on my tongue and I squirmed in my seat from sheer delight.  I didn’t want her to notice what I’d done, so I snatched frosting off of a different cookie to even things up, so the bald patch wouldn’t be so obvious.  In a matter of minutes I’d stolen frosting from a dozen cookies.  When she finally turned around I was busily swirling a finger I’d thoroughly wet with spit over the frosting, trying to smooth out the divots I’d made.

Grandma’s face balled up like a roiling thunder cloud on a hot summer afternoon. I sat in frozen, sticky silence.

Then, suddenly, she laughed. “Oh Meggie, what did you do?”

She cuddled me up onto her lap as I cried, trying to explain how I was just trying to fix what I’d done, but no matter what that delicately flavored frosting just wouldn’t smooth out! She gave me a squeeze and a cookie and sent me into the living room to play while the sweet scent of another batch floated from the kitchen.

Now on special occasions I make my own version of those delicately flavored cookies, but my cookies not shy or retiring. They’re bold, brash and brilliantly pink, stuffed full of the things I liked best as a little girl: Angel Flake coconut, maraschino cherries, and just enough butter for melt-in-your-mouth flavor.

I designed them with indulging the part of me that is still that sticky-fisted little girl in mind. I make them with my bare (washed) hands instead of a mixer, so it is a little like playing in a pink mud puddle.

There are three secrets to making them as fluffy, pink, flavorful and moist as mine.

The first is that I make them without eggs. Instead I use Ener-G egg replacer powder and extra maraschino cherry juice. You can make them with eggs if you like, but know they won’t turn out as pink or flavorful as mine. Being eggless also makes it safe to eat the dough, which I do, liberally!

The second secret is part-skim ricotta cheese. I use it to replace the shortening in the original recipe. This is what gives the cookies their chewy, moist and satisfying texture. Plus it makes them low fat – but your co-workers or kids would never guess!

And the last secret is the way I shape the dough and put it on the cookie sheet. Most people scoop a spoonful of dough and drop it on the cookie sheet when making drop cookies. Instead of “drops” that melt and cook out flat, I make cookie “stacks” that rely on gravity and the heat of the oven to shape them and lock in moisture to form soft, high mounds of yum-ness. I’ll detail how to make stacks toward the end of this post.

For her birthday Ana requested I make my Coconut Cherry Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting, if possible, without adding processed sugar. The cherries and coconut have processed sugars in them, but my new recipe uses agave nectar instead. The cookies turned out even better than my version with sugar, so I’m sticking with the agave!

I did successfully make something like frosting, but I’m not yet satisfied with the recipe, so I’ll include the recipe for the crave-able original powdered sugar cherry buttercream frosting and you can decide which to use.

So, enough chat and here you go:

Coconut Cherry Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting – No Added Processed Sugar

1 cup diced maraschino cherries (I cut mine into eighths)

½ cup agave nectar

½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 Tablespoons real butter, melted

2 eggs –OR—1 Tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 4 Tablespoons extra maraschino cherry juice mixed until smooth

¼ cup maraschino cherry juice

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 to 1 ½ cups real Baker’s brand Angel Flake Coconut

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 ° F and grease a cookie sheet.

    2. In a large bowl, mix diced cherries, agave nectar, ricotta, melted butter, eggs (or egg replacer powder plus extra maraschino cherry juice, and ¼ cup maraschino cherry juice.

    3. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Angel Flake coconut.

    4. Mix well (I like to squeeze it with my hands to mix).

    5. Take about 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons of the dough at a time. Form into a 3 inch tall “stack” that is wider at the bottom and slightly narrower at the top. Place wide bottom down on the greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. Just before putting in the oven double check that no “stacks” of dough have tipped over.

    6. Bake 10-14 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched with a finger. There should also be slight browning on some spots. The cookies should feel pretty firm and not at all squishy.

    7. Remove from the oven. Immediately remove cookies from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.

    8. Cool completely.

    9. Frost, using one of the recipes below. Personally, I like the one with all the powdered sugar, but Ana likes the corn starch version. Then top each frosted cookie with ½ of a maraschino cherry cookie.

    10. Serve. If necessary, store in the fridge, but allow them to warm to room temperature before serving. (Usually they all disappear before I need to store them!) Do NOT microwave or they will dry out and the frosting will melt

Maraschino Cherry Frosting — No Added Processed Sugar

1 ½ cup corn starch

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1 pinch salt

1 Tablespoon maraschino cherry juice

  1. 2 Tablespoons agave nectar

    1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a fork or stiff whisk until smooth and no lumps are visible.
    2. If the frosting is too dry add extra maraschino cherry juice or agave nectar one teaspoon at a time.
    3. If the frosting is too wet, add corn starch a Tablespoon at a time.
    4. Adjust the sweetness and flavor level by adding more agave or cherry juice and cornstarch until you get it as sweet as you like and is a good, workable texture.
    5. Frost the cookies and top each with a maraschino cherry half.

Maraschino Cherry Frosting – With Processed Sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Pinch salt

2 Tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

  1. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients until smooth and no lumps are visible.
  2. If the frosting is too dry add more maraschino cherry juice.
  3. If it is too soft, add more powdered sugar.
  4. Spread on the cookies and top each with a half maraschino cherry.


Homemade Cat Food For About $0.54 Per Day!

Years ago I only fed our cats homemade pet food. I used the cat food recipes found in the 1995 version of Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. Most of our krids liked it okay, but one wouldn’t eat it at all and another would only eat it if we didn’t add any of the supplements. Of course without the extra vitamins and whatnot it wasn’t a complete OR balanced diet so we couldn’t do that or our krids would get sick. After a while it just got to be too much work chopping and grinding and cooking only to throw away more than half of what I put out for them every day. Plus I didn’t really feel good about feeding our cats all those grains and veggies.
They’re carnivores
, after all, and that means they only eat other animals – or does it??

Since we changed our diet I’ve had a TON of extra energy and felt so good I want to help the rest of our family – the fuzzy critter kids – feel just as good. So the idea of making and feeding homechow has been knocking around in my brain again. But I didn’t want to go to all the effort of making homemade chow only to feed them something that they really aren’t designed for, so I did some research, and it turns out I was right – cats really are carnivores and they really are designed to only eat other animals – meat, organs, bones, etc. The technical term is obligate carnivore. Yeah cats will occasionally munch on grass (or beg for a few bites of apple, like our Binni) but they lack the ability to derive nutrients from plants.

After finding out how grains are actually harmful to cats, I decided to find a good recipe that didn’t include them. By “good” I mean it provides all the nutrients cats need in the proper proportions, only contains ingredients appropriate for obligate carnivores, and was something I feel comfortable feeding my dear little fuzzy krids.

I searched the internet for hours, only to keep coming back to one recipe in particular. It calls for finely grinding chicken thighs with the skin and bones included, but she was kind enough to include alternate instructions for people who don’t yet own a meat grinder. And believe me – we’ll be getting one as soon as we can because I want my krids to have the full benefit of a homemade diet that includes fresh bone marrow.

The reason I decided to dive in now and start before we have a meat grinder is simple – meet Bean.
Yes those really are her hip bones jutting out.
She is 17 years old and has hyperthyroidism. My mom and sister have hypothyroidism, a condition that (untreated) causes a lack of energy, a sluggish metablolism, and weight gain. Sweet little queen Bean has the opposite – her thyroid is over producing hormones that cause her to be nervous, hyperactive (we call it Ritty – she acts like she needs Ritalin), and lose weight. She used to be a plump 15 pounds, but is now barely tipping the scales at about 5. We’ve been working with our vet to try to manage her condition, but she just keeps getting skinnier and skinnier because we haven’t been able to keep her thyroid from working overtime with pills or the expensive prescription diet that treats it.

Plus there is an added problem – she started refusing to eat her medically necessary canned diet and won’t even sniff kibble anymore. We’ve tried every brand of canned cat food we can get our hands on and she’ll take a few bites of a new kind, but then won’t eat any more of that type ever again.

The only thing she will eat is homemade dog food. She eats it like she’s starving to death, which, essentially, she is.  But dog food doesn’t provide the nutrients or high protein and fat diet her body is craving. If I let her keep eating it she’ll die of nutrient deficiency before she can starve.

There is a procedure that offers a cure for hyperthyroidism in cats – it basically kills the thyroid with radiation, but it is expensive and at the rate of her current weight loss, she’ll be gone long before we save up the necessary money.

****Update 6/8/2015****** Bean is doing great and has actually gained a whole pound!  She stopped throwing up 4-5 times a day and meows much less.  She is jumping up on the bed and climbing all over the place so I think her arthritis is hurting her less.  She loves the homechow and eats about 1/4 cup 4 times a day, so I’m feeding her a lot more than I thought I would, but she is happy and feels better, so I don’t care!

So I decided, even though we don’t have the money right now, to go ahead and order the vitamins and other supplements necessary to make the chicken thigh homechow for Bean in an effort to improve her quality of life and maybe even prolong it until we can afford the cure. This means we got an overdraft fee on the purchase, but I consider it well worth it.  Those supplements will allow me to feed her a healthy, complete and balanced diet for about $0.54 per day!

After comparing the price of the supplements on Amazon.com and iHerb.com, I found iHerb much cheaper overall, so if you’re considering feeding homemade cat food, too, I suggest checking them out. You can even get $5 (or more) off of your first purchase with this coupon code:
SMQ135

Now I’ll just dive in and give the basic recipe. Please note that this recipe ONLY provides all of the nutrients necessary for a cat’s good health if you follow it EXACTLY! If you get chicken breast meat or boneless/skinless thighs or even ground chicken instead you are risking the health and life of your cat!

I’ll explain how I made cat food specifically for Bean’s needs after the recipe.

Chicken Thigh Cat Chow – Made for Obligate Carnivores

3 lbs chicken thighs with skin and bone included (or remove the bones and add 7 teaspoons bonemeal powder). The skin provides necessary nutrients so be sure to get thighs with skin!

1 cup water

2 eggs

5000-10,000 mg Fish Oil (do NOT use cod liver oil)

400 IU Vitamin E (need the natural (d-Alpha tocopherol NOT the synthetic dl- type)

50 mg Vitamin B complex

2000 mg Taurine

1 teaspoon Morton’s lite salt with iodine (or regular salt with iodine if you can’t get the light salt)

4 oz chicken liver

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Remove some of the skin from the chicken thighs and discard. For healthy weight cats remove skin from half (50%) of the thighs. For overweight cats remove skin from 75% of the thighs. Do NOT remove the creamy-yellow fat from around the meat. Cats need some fat in their diet.
  3. Remove 25% of the thigh bones and discard.
  4. Place the chicken thighs skin side up on a baking sheet and bake lightly to kill surface bacteria. The idea isn’t to cook the chicken, but to heat only enough to kill surface germs.
  5. Soft boil the eggs and remove the shells.
  6. Use a pin, scissors, or knife to pop the shells on the liquid supplements (fish oil and possibly  vitamin E if you’re using liquid). Squeeze out all of the oil into the cup of water.
  7. Grind the solid supplements (Vitamin B, and possibly taurine) to a fine powder. I used a coffee grinder I purchased just for this purpose. I didn’t want anything contaminating the food.
  8. Lightly cook the chicken liver.
  9. Grind the lightly cooked thighs and liver together.
  10. Add the soft boiled eggs and supplements and water and mix well.
  11. Serve 4-8 oz per day per cat. Split it into two meals for the best results.
  12. Store in the fridge or freeze for a longer storage time.

The following is how I made the chow for Bean.

Because I can’t afford organically raised chicken right now, I bought the basic Foster Farms chicken thighs from Walmart. Because I don’t have a meat grinder yet, I removed all of the bones and added 7 teaspoons of bonemeal powder to the recipe. Bean is really underweight, so I only removed about 10% of the skin from the thighs. Then I baked them at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, then broiled them for 3 minutes just to be really sure the germs are dead, since I’m making this for a cat that is already in a weakened state. I ground them up along with the juices that collected in the pan using my food processor then put them in a large bowl for mixing.

I put the eggs in a pot of water and brought them to a boil. I immediately took the eggs out (so they were soft boiled) and put them in cold water to stop the cooking process. The whites were nice and firm, but the yolk was basically raw, which is exactly how they should be for this recipe. I put the 1 cup of water into a pot, added the chicken liver, and boiled it until almost all of the pink was gone. Then I peeled the eggs and put them in the food processor. I added the supplements and chicken liver and processed until smooth and creamy. Then I stirred this nutrient egg and liver puree into the ground chicken.

Even before I got all of the chicken thighs deboned and on the cookie sheet my cats were trying to carry them off and Bean (who isn’t well enough to attempt drive-by thievery) was meowing at my feet. When I finally presented her with a bowl of the still-warm chow she ate with gusto and keeps asking me for more!

Overall, it only took about 1.5 hours to make a double batch — including the time I spend removing bones and fighting off marauding kitties.

So how much does one batch of homemade cat food cost?  About $5.57 for about 3.25 lbs of premium quality, species appropriate chow!  That’s about $0.54 per day!

How does this break down per batch?  It cost me approximately:

$3.90 for chicken thighs

$0.25 for eggs

$0.21 for fish oil

$0.08 for vitamin E

$0.07 for B vitamin complex

$0.15 for taurine

$0.03 for lite salt with iodine

and $0.25 for chicken liver

None of those expensive, grain-free commercial cat foods can beat that!  And look how happy she is!!

DIY Wedding Favor Boxes – Quick, Easy & Cheap!

When Ana and I had our commitment ceremony, years ago, before we ever thought we’d be able to get legally married, Ana’s Grammy and great-Aunt Sis came all the way to Idaho from Pennsylvania to celebrate with us. Even though Grammy has passed on since then, the memories of that brief time with her and Aunt Sis are so precious that I wanted to be sure we included something in our wedding that would remind us of them. I remember one hot, lazy afternoon during their visit when we pulled the patio table out under the trees to catch the shade. We sipped lemonade and laughed at all the crazy stories Grammy had to tell about the hijinks Ana’s dad got up to as a child and teen. While we were passing the time Grammy had Mom pull out her collection of old calendars and seed catalogs so we could learn how to fold decorative paper boxes just for the fun of it.

As her wrinkled hands turned and creased the paper, she told us how she learned to fold them to hold mints and other candies for her High School graduation dinner and celebration.

Remembering that time, I knew how we should honor her and include a little bit of her memory at our long-awaited wedding. I wish she could be with us in body, but I’m sure she’s peeking down at me even now, as I smooth the folds of paper, making her favor boxes.

Here are simple illustrated instructions. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I have! If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Dutch Puffs Served with Blueberry Compote Sweetened with Maple Syrup & Agave Nectar

Ana got some frustrating news on Sunday concerning her master’s degree program and I haven’t felt like myself the past few weeks, so we were both in the mood to do a little emotional eating last night. But we’ve changed our diet so much that we can’t just go out and buy a box of brownies without physically feeling like crap afterward, so we put our heads together to come up with a tasty desert (really a meal in itself): Dutch puffs with warm blueberry compote.

2015-05-28 17.46.10The first time my step mom, Konnie, made Dutch puffs I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, but I still remember the warm, eggy aroma and the awe I felt watching the batter climb the edges of the pan as I watched through the oven window. By the time she pulled it out of the oven the batter had risen past the edges of the pan and formed a high golden ring that looked something like a flower. Whenever my siblings and I visited my dad and my step mom we always begged her to bake Dutch puffs for Sunday breakfast. Sunday morning Dutch puffs are a nurturing tradition Ana and I have continued, with duck eggs because of Ana’s allergy. Even though I’ve made them dozens of times I still can’t get mine to rise as spectacularly as Konnie’s. Next time we’re down visiting them I’ll have to ask for a lesson!

So, without further ado, here are the recipes. I suggest heating the oven while starting the compote and then starting the Dutch puff. You’ll find these simple and delicious – even if yours don’t climb sky high!

BLUEBERRY COMPOTE SWEETENED WITH MAPLE SYRUP & AGAVE NECTAR

2 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or any other berry)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

3 Tablespoons agave nectar

2 Tablespoons real maple syrup

1 Tablespoon real butter

1 pinch sea salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons water (divided)

1 Tablespoon corn starch

  1. Over medium high heat combine berries, lemon juice, agave nectar, maple syrup, butter, salt, spices, and ½ cup water. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half (or until the Dutch puffs are all done!)
  3. Right before serving, in a small cup, mix 2 Tablespoons water with the corn starch and stir until smooth. While vigorously stirring the berry mixture, add the cornstarch all at once. Cook 1 minute (will become quite thick), then remove from the heat and serve over Dutch Puffs!

2015-05-28 18.24.19

KONNIE’S DUTCH PUFFS

6 eggs (or 4 if using large duck eggs)

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons real melted butter

1 Tablespoon shortening (for the pan)

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F and generously grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ round or 9″ square cake pan. (I used four small 9 oz casserole dishes here).
  2. Add all ingredients except shortening to a blender and blend for 30 seconds.
  3. Scrape the sides and blend again.
  4. Once the oven is at temperature, put the greased pan in the oven and heat for 5 minutes.
  5. Blend the egg mixture once again, then pour into the hot, greased pan.
  6. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 20 minutes or until the batter puffs* and is golden.
  7. Immediately cut and serve hot with compote, or lemon and powdered sugar.

    *NOTE: If after 20 minutes your batter hasn’t puffed up, it probably won’t. In that case, cook until the edges are golden and enjoy – it will still be tasty!

    2015-05-28 18.28.13

Writing Down the Demons

I hear the voices whispering to me – those neglected characters inside my head, begging me to pick up the pen and start writing their stories again.  But when I do – when I put my fingers on the keys or hold a pen — my muscles tense and my mind seizes. Why can’t I write on my stories? What am I so afraid of? This – this blog — is easy. But when I’m writing “for real” on something I care deeply about instead of just doing for fun, I freeze. Why am I so afraid? And when did I decide my stories are “work” instead of “fun??”

I know I tend to hold myself up to impossible standards. I feel like if I can’t blow the competition out of the water on my first try I’m a failure and it is better to never try than to fail.

But those voices, those characters speak to me — a constant murmur of discontent and anticipation underlying everything else in my life.

I know what I should be doing – what I was meant to do, what I love to do. I should be writing. Writing like a fiend, like a woman possessed. I should feel possessed – overwhelmed by my characters and my ideas, like my stories are just as real as my everyday life. I know how that passion, that craven hunger for writing should drive me, how it should leave me exhausted and haunt my dreams. I remember the panic of realizing I didn’t have a pencil with me – how I was sure inspiration would come at any moment and was terrified of not being ready. How the writing ruled me. How I’d jerk awake at night and fumble in the dark for the pencil and paper I always kept next to my bed.

I wonder what happened – what stemmed the flow or out-shouted the roar of torrential words. Where did it all go? Did it disappear word by word as my illness crept into being? Or did it vanish all at once – raped out of me? I’m terrified to know. I don’t want to know. Don’t want to remember that chaotic time before I challenged my helplessness. Is it time to stare down the demons again? Do I need to flush them out, drag them squealing into the light? Rip them and defeat them, turn them inside out so they can become my friends. Allies. Is that what I need again? Is it time to remember what happened in the half-lit dark when I ran away from my mind? I think it is and I think I have to.

The demons – they are different this time, smaller with pin-needle teeth and barbed hands to fit themselves into my tiny crevasses and broken places where I think I have healed, but have not. Tenacious they cling, they skitter and hide like cockroaches confronted with light. Wriggle their way into the narrow gaps in my armor. They’ll suck the life from me if I don’t hunt them down. I must force what is weak to become a strength.

Stop. Stop with the vague and bloated similes. This isn’t a frickin’ parable. It is my life. Come back to the question and try again.

I stopped writing because I was sick and because I didn’t want to face the truth. I was in survival mode. If I wrote I’d have to reflect on my life and I wasn’t ready to do that at the time. Then I just got in the habit of ignoring the gnawing urge to write. Then, the longer this went on the more convoluted my excuses became. And at some point the excuses and avoidance became fear.
I’ve always been afraid of failure. Remember in 5th grade how well I did the first time in the long jump, even though I wasn’t really trying? Then, when I saw that girl with the tight beaded braids fly, I knew there was no way I’d beat her. So I gave up.  In fact I stumbled and jumped short on purpose so I wouldn’t have to compete.

I’m a woman now. I have built a life that is beautiful now. There is no reason to hide from self-reflection. As for competition and fear of failure – I need to face those fears, stare them in the eye and write anyway – every day.

Like I read on Pinterest – I need to write until not writing makes me anxious. I need to live life drowning in words.

 

 

Less Than $2000 For A Wedding & Honeymoon??

I am finally marrying my sweetheart in October and I am EXCITED!! I say “finally” because up until recently it was illegal for Ana and me to tie the knot because, well, I’m a chick, too. But this post isn’t about the social, political, or religious ya-ya surrounding gals getting hitched – it’s just about how Ana and I plan to pull off a beautiful wedding for about a hundred people for less than $2000 – our honeymoon included. Most couples spend about of $10,000 for their wedding (not including a honeymoon), but some weddings are so grand that the average cost in the USA is currently more than $25,000 according to Google. I say to each their own, but I would never spend $10,000, let alone $25,000 on a one-day event. I’m just too much of a cheapskate. Even if I had unlimited funds or my parents were helping out with the cost I still wouldn’t go hog-wild. I know me – if I spent $10,000 I’d feel pressured to make the day perfect and have the hap-hap-happiest time of my life that I’d be miserable and make everyone around me miserable, too. With pressures like that it’s no wonder even perfectly reasonable women turn into Bridezillas.

Here is the breakdown of our budget*:

* You’ll notice some traditional wedding expenses are conspicuously absent.

My outfit & jewelry $200:

I already have my awesome outfit. I purchased it online for WAAAY less than I could have ever gotten it here, if I could have found anything like it. The dress was about $175 with shipping and the accessorizing jewelry was $25. I looked at literally thousands of traditional white wedding dresses online and in stores, but just didn’t like any of them enough to pay what they were asking. I figured it was the lack of color that was the problem, so I started looking at prom and other formal dresses. I liked them a lot more, but just couldn’t find anything that popped out at me as “the dress.” So I started looking at wedding garb from other countries and finally fell in love with the wedding wear of brides from India. After perusing a dozen or so Indian clothing web sites, I finally happened upon my perfect dress. It literally took my breath away. I felt just this rush of emotion as I looked at it for the first time. I just can’t imagine anything more perfect for me at my long awaited fall wedding. Some of my wedding guests read this blog, and I want it to be a surprise, so I’ll just give you a little peek. I wish it wasn’t blurry – but this is the only photo with the colors right.

If you’re in the market for inexpensive Indian clothing and accessories, check out TriveniEthnics.com – they literally have thousands of items, many of them for much less than $50 and some for less than $5 (just be sure to change the currency setting from INR to US dollars). I’ve ordered from them a few times now and am impressed. Their items come carefully packaged – way better than some of the stuff I’ve gotten here. Their shipping rates are very reasonable and come pretty quickly, especially considering they are all the way on the opposite side of the globe. I will say that all of the embroidered items I’ve ordered had stray threads here and there as well as a few thread ends that needed snipped, but I consider the added effort on my part a fair trade for the astounding prices.

I purchased my jewelry from ArtisanGilt.com and am very pleased for the price. They have a better selection of jewelry than Triveni, as well as a broad selection at low prices. The plastic box on top of the folded fabric in the picture is how my order came packaged – with about 2 yards of bubble wrap around the outside! Each item was packed in its own plastic bag and separated by bubble wrap. I felt like a spoiled kid on Christmas going through my treasures!  The only thing with this site is they only show prices in Indian rupees, so you have to convert them to US dollars to know what the prices are.  But they are easy to purchase from by using paypal as payment.

Ana’s outfit & accessories $250:

I’m pretty sure it is going to take just as much work and time to find Ana’s perfect wedding garb. She is quite androgynous and wants a look that fits with her personality, but doesn’t feel the urge to scour stores and the internet just yet. Because of this I’ve budgeted a little more for her, so she has a little more financial leeway with her choices.

Venue Rental $500:

I was worried we were going to have to have our wedding in the decidedly 1970’s orange gym at our local church, but my wedding planner friend suggested Liberty Hall. I checked it out with my Maid of Honor and was thrilled with everything I saw. The place is HUGE, so we’re just going to use the downstairs, but the $500 covers the whole place, plus time to set up and rehearse the day before! And a huge part of the awesome is that they’re gay friendly.

Save-the-dates & Invites $0:

Something like this!


For a few years I was big on scrapbooking, so we’re lucky to have plenty of “free” (already paid for) supplies to make awesome, quirky stationery for the wedding. I got TONS of ideas from cruising Pintrest.com. I seriously have an addiction to that site. They have an exhaustive collection of DIY wedding projects and ideas, may with direct links to instructions and websites. I’m going to be decorating the venue with projects I’m making. I’ll be sure to include some photos and ideas in future posts.

Postage $16:

As much as I like to DIY, I can’t hand-deliver every invitation with my have family and friends as spread out as they are. I already have some stamps on hand, so that off-sets the cost a bit. If necessary we’ll use text and email (how geeky of us)!

Flowers $49:

I won’t be using many fresh flowers, mainly because they’re expensive and I prefer to spend my $$ elsewhere. So, this category will mostly pay for my bouquet and corsages and boutonnieres for VIPS. I plan on getting any fresh flowers needed from Fred Meyer’s, a local grocery store that always has a great selection of flowers, ferns, and other botanic beauties.

My bouquet will probably be DIY. I have a few adorable idea on Pintrest that involve satin ribbon and pearl-headed pins. I’ll have to experiment, but they look pretty straight forward.

Reception with Meal & Dance $500:

This is where my DIY-obsession is really going to save us money. Depending on the cost, I might get some of the décor from my wedding planner friend, but much of it I’m making and storing in an army of bins in my basement. Our theme is the written word and Star Wars, so I’m ripping apart books (wince) to make many of the decorations and Ana will be lending me her nerd-tastic collection of Star Wars toys and coloring books.

At this point the plan for the meal is a serve-yourself potato and chili bar with salad. Dried beans are cheap and I love cooking, so I’m going to go nuts with different chili recipes. I live in Idaho, the land of “amazing potatoes.” Here in September and October spuds are almost given away at the grocery store – and sometimes actually given away by farmers, so that helps out with money, too! We won’t be serving alcohol – yay for savings!

An amazing friend of mine has offered to buy the cake as a wedding gift. If we decide not to do cake, CostCo has gigantic pumpkin pies for less than $7 that are perfect for an autumn wedding.

As for the dance, our venue is wired so we just need to dim the lights and connect an MP3 player so we can rock out with 100 of our closest family and friends. I plan on dancing all night!

Licence $37:

Getting married in Idaho is pretty cheap – what more can I say?

Officiant $0:

This is our sweetest wedding gift. Ana’s mom, the amazing, wonderful, wise and loving woman, got her official pastor’s ordination through the Universal Life Church just so she can officiate our wedding. She creates beautiful, transcendent poetry and has an everyday kind of spiritual wisdom I admire. I’m looking forward to working with her to create a brief, meaningful ceremony that efficiently gets the job done, celebrates our love, and doesn’t put anyone to sleep.

Honeymoon $379:

Ana and I are actually going home for our wedding night and that is just perfect for us. We just don’t see the point of spending $ for an unfamiliar bed, uncomfortable pillows (I’m beyond picky), and a breakfast we won’t eat anyway. We don’t want to have to worry about making noise, and once we’re falling asleep, we’ll miss our cuddly fuzzy krids, too.

We’re planning on day time fishing trips and coming home each night, but if (by some miracle) we have a camping vehicle by then, there are dozens of free or low-cost camp sites within 100 miles of us. If you’re planning on doing some free or low cost camping in the USA or Canada, I suggest checking out AllStays.com/campgrounds. They have tons of good places for boondockers in every state and territory.

We’ll probably spend our $ on gasoline and fishing and picnic supplies.

So what about the unlisted expenses – rings, photography, videography, etc??

We bought our rings years ago and neither of us want new, so that’s paid for and done.

As for photos and videos – we have talented family and friends and will ask one of them to take a few posed photos. We also have a little camcorder, as well as a Nikon DSLR that takes videos, so we’ll probably just set one of those up on a tripod to film the ceremony and call it good. Beyond that, there are tons of apps that let your guests easily share the pics they take.

Beyond that – we just aren’t concerned and won’t miss the expense!