Happy Halloween!

Consider this a bonus post. I just couldn’t let Halloween pass without any notice here on ourNWlife. When I was a child my parents used to spend weeks crafting extremely detailed costumes, which they would then debut at no-holds-barred Halloween parties that they hosted in my dad’s shop-turned Halloween wonderland–every wall covered with black plastic, the entrance a tunnel (through the dog kennel) crawling with glo-spiders, extravagant and themed costume contests.

Trevor and I have not yet reached that level of Halloween craziness. This year, we’re just excited to finally live in a neighborhood where we actually have a fair likelihood of seeing any trick-or-treaters. So we prepared for them in the best way we know how:

Yes, that’s right. We are giving out candy-wrapped toothbrushes. It’s all about balance. Have a little candy, brush those teeth. We’re just hoping that the kids in our neighborhood see these toothbrushes as a “treat” and don’t start strategizing on how to “trick”us.

They will have fair warning at least, Trevor’s pumpkin openly depicts a cheerful toothbrush-wielding tooth!

And for the this momentous occasion, I am planning on bringing out one of my most prized homemade costumes: the Tillamook baby loaf. High in protein, low in sugar, what could be a more oral-hygiene appropriate costume for the wife of a dentist? I still can’t believe this little gem didn’t win a prize at the dental school costume contest several years back.

Happy Halloween everyone!

DIY Dot Art

One component of our new life here in Central Washington is that, due to the local economy, we are able to rent a very large house. I mean, really, really, big. It’s probably at least triple the amount of space that we had at our townhouse in Portland. Our newly expanded environment came not only with increased floor space, but also increased wall space. Since we most certainly were not in possession of enough of anything to decorate these numerous walls, and because living in small town means that there are not sufficient retail options for purchasing home decor (oh, that I could just run over to Target and peruse the always-trendy selections of affordable decorations…), I had no choice but to re-awaken my crafty side and tackle the project myself.

Before I dive in, let it be known that I am not a naturally artistic person. I envy those for whom a pencil or paintbrush will magically bring to life the images dancing in their mind’s eye. Therefore, the projects that I share here may require supplies, patience, or tracing paper (or tracing off a computer screen with printer paper, in a pinch!), but they do not require any innate artistic ability. If I can do it, you can too.

1. Pencil-eraser Dot Trees. The inspiration for this project came from a blog that provides very detailed step-by-step instructions; the author even includes a shopping list with exact paint colors and a print out of her tree shape. But that would be too easy, and I prefer to complicate my projects–so I loosely followed her idea, but created my own tree shape, selected my own paint colors, and decided that it would be part of a two piece set.

This project was very time consuming, but extremely simple and the repetitive dotting even had a soothing, mindfulness-meditation aspect. To be honest, and I will always strive to be honest here, I am not 100% in love with my final product and wish I had spaced my background dots further apart to allow the first coats to show through more. However, considering that I used pencils I already had in my desk, paints that were purchased for a different project, and two used canvas boards (I painted over some oils from a MUCH earlier era in my life), the cost for this project was almost zero. I hung them in frames I bought at Hobby Lobby for 50% off and I do think the overall effect really improves the atmosphere in our newly formed guest room.

2. Fading Metallic Dots. This one is basically a copy cat from another blog, though instead of using a 30″x40″ canvas as that blogger did, I used a 4’x4′ canvas that my husband built ages ago and has been plaguing our garage (and admittedly plagued his sister’s garage for many years; thanks Colprons!). Since our canvas had been through several moves and was rather dirty, I painted the entire thing with white house primer before starting. Yes, I do mean the type of primer you would use on a wall, because trying to cover that enormous beast with a tiny artist brush and acrylic paint was taking far too long. Once I set to it with the primer and a correspondingly beefy brush, the canvas was covered and gleaming in no time. Conventional? No. Effective? Extremely.

The best part was that this was a finished-in-a-single-afternoon type of project. I think Trevor was extremely surprised to come home to find a piece completed in the span of a single day, especially after the sluggish progression of the pencil-eraser dot trees. Again in the name of honesty, I admit that I do wish that my gold dots hadn’t turned out with the apparent orangey tint, but overall my husband and I are both very pleased with the outcome and it looks great in our bedroom.

3. Festive Outline Dot Greeting Cards. I get all the credit for this idea. These greeting cards were actually a way for me to test this dotted outline method for some future projects I have been scheming about. The first ones were not pretty, not pretty at all. But later generations were cute enough that they will be sent out into the world via my old friend the USPS.

The lesson here is that dots are easy! Dots are fun! Dots are very forgiving to work with! And, unless the shopping possibilities shape up around here, there are very likely to be more dot art projects in my future.

Northrup Canyon + a bonus brag

This post is going to be about our most recent, and fabulous, weekend adventure, but first I have to brag a bit about myself. Let me reframe that: I would like to confidently share about some accomplishments from last week.

As anyone who has been reading along will know, my husband and I recently moved to a small town, a town where we had no friends or family, and our closest acquaintances were our landlords. For the past several months my husband, my books, and our German Shorthaired Pointer were my only companions. I really did want to make new friends, but finding opportunities to meet people became a bigger challenge than I realized and, after years of enjoying the built-in community afforded by various forms of education, I was out of practice.

Finally, after almost three months here, things started coming together last week. On Wednesday morning I toured the county mental health department. On Wednesday evening I attended a book club meeting at the library. On Friday morning I visited the young women’s small group. And on Sunday, Trevor and I went to the home of one of the small group members for a football party.

Now, for all of you out there who lead busy lives with jam-packed schedules these fledgling forays into our social environment might not seem like much write home about, or blog about, more precisely. But I was nervous about putting myself out there and relying  on the graciousness of total strangers in new situations. Very nervous. From my vantage point this  week I am feeling very proud of myself; I endured the  stomach-turning and anxiety-sweating that, for me, are an inherent part of trying new things, and I’m now that much closer to building community here in our small town.

Okay, now on to the actual point of this post: a recap of an awesome day trip that we took last Saturday. We picked a trail on the Washington Trails Association website (for all you Washingtonians, this is and AWESOME way to find trails that are nearby and to screen them for your preferences) and drove North.

On the road, headed North.

On the road, headed North.

We planned to hike Northrup Canyon and then hit the Lenore Lake Caves on our way home, but Northrup Canyon was so beautiful that we spent much more time there than planned. I was overjoyed (and very surprised) to find myself among tall pine trees and brilliant fall foliage. Reading an informational pamphlet later on in the day, we found out that we had unintentionally discovered the “only natural forest in Grant County”. My enthusiasm for this place is such that, despite the long drive, I have already requested a repeat trip as soon as possible to hike even further into the canyon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After our hike Trevor convinced me that since we had already traveled the majority of the distance from our house to the Grand Coulee Dam we might as well capitalize on our position and drive the additional 20 minutes to check it out. We were both sufficiently impressed with the enormity of the structure and very amused by the 1970’s area interpretive videos at the visitor center.

Grand Coulee Dam!

Grand Coulee Dam!

It was a great day, and we finished it off by with a platter of fried appetizers called “The Pounder” at a hole in the wall restaurant in one of the tiny dam towns. No shame. (And also no picture, because it was devoured without regard for documentation.)

Sunset on the way home.

Sunset on the way home.

Scooped. Part II.

Directly following my rant from last week about how the world has been at work harvesting my personal ideas without my knowledge or consent, I came across another article along surprisingly similar lines. So, perhaps my brain-child was not all that novel after all, but I do take consolation from my thinking being so ‘on trend’. I was able to put aside my sense of indignation long enough to read said article and, though it was quite long and I’ll forgive you if you don’t possess the stamina to steam all the way through, I found it worth my time.

If literature, imagination, or empathy are at all important to you (and they should be to everyone, in my opinion) then take some time to read this article from Neil Gaiman on “Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming.” Since I do know that these things are important to you, and I also realize that many of you will not read the whole article, I have copied a few pertinent quotes below, both to whet your interest and to highlight the main points.

“Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.”

“Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”

“Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Libraries are extremely important to me, as the librarians at the local branch of my public library have found out over the past months. I have frequented their fine establishment at the minimum of one time per week since our arrival in this town–in fact I’m headed there in half an hour for a book club– and the kind women who work at the check out counter are beginning to recognize me as the girl who checks out inordinately long books at an astonishingly regular rate. Living far away from friends and family has resulted in my relying more than ever on the companionship and ‘mental travel’ afforded by any well-written book.

Come back again soon and I’ll put my blog where my mouth is, so to speak, and share about a recent series of books I have been enjoying. What are your favorite books?

Scooped.

About a year ago, while I was deeply smothered in the unpleasant reality of writing a thesis on top of full-time grad school compounded with a nearly full-time internship in a town a 45 minute drive away, an idea occurred to me. It was one of those moments when a fully formed concept just appeared in my mind and proceeded to expand upon itself until I had quite unintentionally just created a five point outline for a marvelous speech that I would now sit on until being invited to give a speech sufficiently important to be worthy of my sharing this idea. That’s right. A great idea materialized in my brain and rather than share it I made myself an audio note on my phone and squirreled it away for a later, unknown speaking opportunity.

And there my idea has rested for the past year or so. Until last week. I was working away on a DIY wall canvas project (which may be shared here at a later date) and listening to NPR — must keep up on those current events, you know. And while I was working and listening I heard a story about a recent research study that very closely mirrored my own personal fabulous and presently-in-storage idea! I was outraged, heartbroken, and very curious to learn more about the results of their study all within the scope of a second.

Before I share the link to this scalawag study that unknowingly scooped my original idea, let me provide a bit of background on what said idea consisted of in the first place.

Simply put, the primary tenet of my speech was that reading books helps to develop excellent therapists. My reasoning follows this trail: while devouring a book (okay, maybe that’s just me, I hear some people savor them) the reader is exposed to a minimum of two new perspectives, the intentional narrative perspective(s) through which the author conveys the story AND the inherent and underlying perspective of the author, which naturally pervades the creation that is a product of their unique mind. This exposure to another point of view contributes to the development of empathy, which is a crucial trait for a mental health therapist. Further, while consuming a book (right, right, or nibbling it) the reader is transported to another world, and hopefully encounters cultures, characters, and situations that are far outside their own realm of normal. In these encounters with strange lands and people the reader develops knowledge of, and openness to, differences in others, which is another crucial trait for a therapist.

Okay, that’s the overview. I can’t give it all away otherwise there will be nothing novel when the time comes for me to give my prestigious speech. I believe this idea was born as a way for me to rationalize my desire to spend time reading “pleasure” books despite the absolute absence of any time available to do so during my graduate education.

And, here is the link to the article at NPR, it’s called “Want To Read Other’s Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction.” The basic finding presented here is that participants who read literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction, non-fiction, or nothing, were more successful at identifying other’s emotions in black and white pictures. The distinction between types of books highlights their argument that the character development typical in literary fiction, but not other types of literature, increases the reader’s sensitivity to other’s internal states.

I know, it isn’t exactly my idea, but it IS a bit too close for comfort.

Inclement weather

This past weekend our little family set out to uncover the majesty of the Wenatchee National Forrest. Neither of us had any experience with this stretch of woods, but since it is now the nearest forrest to where we live we were determined to familiarize ourselves with our camping and hiking options. We used our a brand new, but already well-trusted Forrest Service map, selected a stretch of road that appeared heavily populated with campgrounds and trailheads, and headed out for a long weekend beneath the pines. Well, it was meant to be a long weekend, as you’ll see.

Winding our way up through the Icicle Gorge area we ‘discovered’ some really great campgrounds–beachfront on the rugged river, spacious and thick massive trees, and best of all: almost completely devoid of any other human beings. We knew that this privacy was due to the lateness of the season and the unwelcoming weather, but we boldly assumed that four years of camping on the rainy Oregon coast would have uniquely prepared us for any unwanted precipitation.

View from under the Superbrella.

View from under the Superbrella.

It started raining soon after we selected a most premier campsite, but we remained calm, set up our Superbrella, and made a fire. Everyone we’ve talked to has been cheerfully adamant that the weather in Central Washington is much more sunny and dry than what we were accustomed to in Portland, so we remained confident that the “showers” would pass, if not by nightfall then certainly by morning, and we would be able to enjoy our planned hikes the following day. I settled into my camp chair beneath the encompassing Superbrella with a novel and a glass of cheap red wine, ready to wait it out.

 

Boy were we wrong. It rained and it poured all night long. And it persisted on into the morning. We woke up to this:

And we promptly decamped, tossing our drenched tent, tarp, and Superbrella helter-skelter into the back of the car and tearing away down the mountain. We managed to somewhat relieve our disappointment at having our first ever Central Washington camping trip rained out by stopping at the Fred Meyer in Wenatchee (I do SO miss my good old friend FM…) and treating ourselves to coffee and maple bars. I’m not saying that the maple bars made up for the lost hours that were meant to be spent hiking along scenic gorges and camping beneath towering trees, but they certainly helped.

I believe a good maple bar can go quite some way in assuaging many of life’s upsets.

WEEDS

Now, just so we’re clear, this post will NOT be regarding the popular television drama, nor will it address a more-popular recreational substance. No, this is about a different type of weeds. The kind that insidiously spread through a backyard, slowly but insistently converting acreage of fescue into fields of dandelions and clover. I expressly name dandelion and clover here because they have become two of my worst enemies, combining with their compatriot crab grass to form an arch-nemesis trifecta that haunts my mornings.

dandelions

They may look innocent enough, to some, perhaps, they look like the tender makings of a foraged dinner salad. But to me, a renter who lease specifically states that lawn care will be “at the sole expense of the tenant”, these dandelions are a waving banner of war.

Let me give a little background, set the stage to help you all understand how a nature-loving, live-and-let-live person like myself has been transformed into an Ortho-Max yielding maniac. When we moved in to our new place we noted the presence of some weeds and, thinking it only typical in any lawn as large as the one we had just assumed responsibility for, didn’t think of it again. (For those of who who haven’t heard my pitiful moanings of complaint or seen the atrocity with your own eyes–this yard is a literal acre…of nothing but grass.) As the days passed a transformation began taking place before our eyes: the weeds were growing, spreading, threatening our sanity and our reputation with the neighbors. Trevor suggested that we purchase 50 million bags of “feed and weed” and spread it the poison over the entire lawn. I gasped at the expense and instead took it upon myself to visit revenge upon these weeds with a sprayer, insisting that I had the time and the determination to kill each one.

Ahem. After 6 hours of porting around a 2 gallon sprayer (which needed frequent refilling from the deadly-smelling concentrate in the garage) in the baking Central Washington summer sun the weeds seemed as heart and endless as ever and I was beat. I admitted defeat to my husband, begging for the quick and universal application of the “feed and weed” and consumed with bitterness over the futility of my attempts.

So, now you know why I hate weeds. On a lighter note, I harvested several cups of unbelievably sweet and juicy grapes from our neighbor’s vine this morning. She assured us that we were welcome to collect anything growing  on our side of the fence and I took her word for it.

photo (1)It seems that this fertile land and sun-soaked climate are good for growing ANYTHING–both succulent grapes and maddening weeds. Perhaps I should have called this post “Pros and Cons”.