No Longer Only for Girls

I don’t know what kind of school my parents sent me to in the first grade but it was there that I learned to make friendship bracelets.  I also learned about swamps and saw my first Mexican peso.

Anyway, I distinctly remember being in the first grade, sitting at a table with a bunch of strings learning how to make my very own friendship bracelet.  I’m not sure why they were teaching me this but I will attest that of all the things I remember learning in my formative first grade year, this is something I still remember how to do.  What is 8 x 9?  I would have to think about it.  How do you tie a friendship bracelet?  Make a 4 with the strings, fold one under yadda yadda.

So anyway, in my personal opinion, friendship bracelets are off the chain.  And not just for people who are four feet tall.

And, friends, they are dirt cheap.  I mean, buy some string (you’ll want to make sure it’s the right kind), look up a pattern on the good old world wide web, maybe get some beads if you’re feeling risky and tie a knot at both ends.  The people love um.  Send one of those over to your bestie and she (or he – guys can wear them if they’re manly enough – I suggest using hemp, they seem to go for that best) will love it!


Living on Taco Shells

Guys.  Here’s the deets.  I can’t cook anything.  I can bake cookies and add milk to cereal but that’s about as good as you’re going to get it if you come over to my house.  Sometimes I worry about my future children if I ever have them.  Quesadillas and PB&J for them every day of their lives.

Anyway.  Because of this defecit, I usually just kind of graze.  You know.  Like no real meals.  I’ll just grab a taco shell when I head out the door in the morning or make scrambled eggs for dinner.  (I hope my mom is not reading this post).

For the most part, I think my friends accept this about me.  The reason I think this is because they make sure to feed me often.

Shrimp tacos, rice pilaf, pretzel dogs, stuffed bell peppers.  I usually contribute by bringing the ice cream or dicing the vegetables.  Anyway, as much as I kid about not following the food pyramid, I don’t know if I would have survived this long without the shrimp and poached eggs of my friends.

So there’s one way to show someone you love them – through meeting someone’s needs whether they have a shrimp deficit or something else.

For the love of spring!

Here’s what I love about spring:

–          I can wear my rainbows (the best leather flip flips in America)

–          It is almost summer and everyone seems happier

–          Sometimes there are baby animals running around

–          The dang weather warms itself back up and it stops feeling like Antarctica everywhere

–          The flowers

Here’s what I love about my friend Brenna:

–          Lots of things.  But for the sake of this post, I love that Brenna loves flowers.

Since I don’t have a green thumb myself, I rely on others for my gardening needs.  Actually I don’t know if I have a green thumb because I’ve never really tried to garden.  Unless you count weeding the garden that my dad “and I” planted.  Then I am an excellent gardener.

Nevertheless, daffodils and peonies and tulips – love um!  And so does Brenna.  That’s why she has been spending a lot of her free time getting her garden ready for planting.  In addition to planting in her own front yard, Brenna made me a mason jar (She didn’t make the jar.  I don’t think she’s that into glassblowing.) with dirt and seeds and some rocks.  I’ve been instructed to water it when it’s dry and to give it sunlight.  Which, let’s be honest, I think I can manage.

So there’s your thought that counts.  Everyone loves flowers (mostly) so why not give someone a flower that’s going to last more than a week?  Whip out your mason jars, seeds and soil and plant someone a peony.  Cheap, thoughtful and have you been on Pintrest?!  There are about 300,000 ways to decorate jars in a thoughtful and creative way.  So get out there people!  Spread the love of spring!

You don’t need a million bucks to make someone feel like a million bucks.

Guys.  I made it to 21.

It was questionable that I would make it this far, said my mother who found out that I don’t drink 8 cups of water a day and eat top ramen and chocolate covered Peeps regularly.

But alas, here I am.  A fully functioning individual.

Perhaps in celebration of this feat, Sondra (my mom/exceptional lady) got me some excellent shoes and 20 other things (like a lion Tupperware from the dollar store and a book about how to cook healthy things).  I haven’t used the book yet.  Probably because I’m too busy eating cotton candy Pop Rocks.

Sondra’s goofy 21 gifts were so much fun to open.  Lentil soup mix, Trader Joes gift card (do you see a pattern?), plastic crown, awesome hand sewn purse, accordion skirt, chocolate, loofah.  See what I mean?  It meant so much to see how my mom had thought about the little things and had put so much effort into making me feel loved.

Never have a gotten better birthday presents than this year (besides when I got one of those fluffy, white life-like mechanical dogs in elementary school) and it was all because of one thoughtful, awesome lady.

Sending Soap Through USPS

It was the summer of 1999.  I had just successfully completed the second grade and was looking forward to three months of wearing Winnie the Pooh overalls and having Lemonade stands with my best friend.

I was not looking forward to swim practice every day.  But that’s a story for another day.

Anyway.  This summer my family decided to take a camping trip to Calaveras Big Trees for nine days.  Why do I remember that it was nine days?  I don’t know.  Why do I remember that I wore a navy blue windbreaker to TGI Fridays on my 11th birthday?  I don’t know that either.  Nevertheless, for nine days, my family camped.  And when we camp, we do it right.  None of that sissy camper trailer nonsense.  Just us, campfires, dirt, no showering, the open road and singing songs from the Forrest Gump cassette tape that played in our Ford Aerostar.

I remember learning to fish in the Stanislaus River, hearing my dad tell us the story of how a bear tore up his brother’s t shirt when they were kids, gold panning at Beaver Creek and the Lava Trail.

The Lava Trail is a legend in my family.

Why we hiked it, no one knows.  In fact, you will still strike a cord with my family if you bring it up.  Sometimes we blame that hike on Dad.  Sometimes on Mom.  Either way, there is a lively debate.  Kind of like the ones we get into when we try to decide where to go out to dinner.  It’s all Hannah’s fault for not liking Mexican food.

Anyway.  The Lava Hike.  There was no lava.  Or lava rocks.  Unless we repressed the memories of them.  I’ll tell you what there was.  There was a poison oak sanctuary.  So we retreated.  But it was too late.  Because we had all been in it for long enough.

The time following it was a blur.  Mom was putting all of our clothes in plastic bags.  We were yelling about whose idea it was to go on this hike where we didn’t even see any lava.  Hannah was only 3 and was not pleased to be losing her pink Keds.

We needed Fels-Naptha.

Fels-Naptha is some sort of weird soap that takes stains out of clothes.  It also works for treating poison oak.  Who figured that out?  Someone just got poison oak one day and was like, “Oh, I’ll rub laundry soap on myself”?   Anyway, it works.  Except apparently not on my mom who got poison oak anyway.

The Lava Hike, while terrible at the time, and still not a resolved debate, is one of the things that my family can still laugh about (sometimes).  So that’s why when I saw some Fels-Naptha in WinCo, I sent it right on down to California to my mom.  She’ll get a kick out of that stuff, after she recovers from remembering the incident.

That’s one of my favorite things to get in the mail.  Quirky presents or things that remind me of inside jokes.  It means that someone has been thoughtful and that you are important to them.  So that’s my thought that counts for today – send a joke present.  It can be Fels-Naptha, an exact replica of the Mayflower from Goodwill that you and your friend used to play with at your family’s house etc.  Go forth and get creative – the USPS can be your best friend.

For the puzzler who has everything

I’ll confess, I’m not a huge puzzle enthusiast.  I take after my dad in more ways than just loving Guacamole and baseball games.  We don’t really have the patience or desire to spread a million pieces of cardboard on a table and stare at them for hours not knowing what to do.

In essence, I’m only going to bust out a Thomas Kincaid if I am really in the mood.  I mean, if I want to see a picture from the “painter of light”, I’ll probably just Google it.  Nevertheless, this January I had a change of heart.  I stated to puzzle.  Now this may be because it was too cold to go outside or because I am an avid homework procrastinator.  Or it may be because my dear friend, and extreme puzzler became even more of a puzzle fiend and because we spend almost all of our time together, I picked it up.

Now, my puzzling days are largely over.  We had a good run but I had to break it off.  Spring semester is to blame.  As we speak, I’m in the library staring at the 40 pages of primary Aztec sources I need to read.  There’s just not enough time to puzzle anymore.  And I’m not a flippant puzzler, I like to commit.

Now you may be wondering, “What do Aztec sources and puzzles have to do with giving people nice but cheap stuff?”  Well, as I was reflecting on the January puzzling marathon of 2012, I had an idea.  My good friend, Kayla, was turning 21 and I had yet to get her a gift.  So, with the online shopping skills I refined in high school, I hit the interweb.  After enough Googling, I came across a teacher resources website that had a variety of blank puzzles for sale in bulk.  Perfect.  I’ll give the biggest puzzle enthusiast I know ten puzzles decorated with messages from her closest friends.  That beats a Starbucks gift card.

So, one night while Kayla was in night class, her friends gathered up to draw picture and write messages for her 21st birthday.  The puzzles, about $2 each (shipping included), were cheap and meant so much to the birthday girl.  Check them out:


Flours For Valentine’s Day

Alright. If you will, tell me what’s better than gooey style, warm, just out of the oven chocolate chip cookies? For me, it’s being able to cuddle with a puppy or getting a free year supply of Taco Bell. But since those seem to be on the distant horizon, I’d take the cookies.

This year for Valentine’s Day, my wallet and my creativity were on hiatus.  Since I didn’t have time to run to Target to buy holographic Valentine cards, I put my foodgawker iPhone app to good use.  One of my favorite recipes (in my favorites section) is the Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.  Now, I have no idea who Jacques Torres is, but s/he had the right idea with this cookie.  I’m not kidding you.  If ever you’re hungry for sugar, just had a bad break up, need something to impress your friends with or have the last name M-Z and need to bring a dessert to a potluck, this is the recipe for you.

These babies are 100% perfection when done right.  Leave them in the oven for 8-10 min and they’re soft, but not too gooey, sweet but not overwhelming and the perfect texture.  Heaven will hit ya, that’s for sure.  So.  It should be no surprise when I say that these were my Valentine’s day cards.

After a little over an hour of baking on Monday night, I had a few dozen of these wrapped up in foil, ready to run over to my friends the next day.  Or that day, seeing as it was past midnight.  I know, I didn’t tell my mother I was up that late.

The only curveball with these cookies is that you need bread and pastry flour.  If you’re a flour connoisseur then it should be no problem.  But for the rest of us who didn’t even know there was more than one kind of flour, a Safeway trip might be necessary.  And it will be worth it.  Between 7 boys and 4 girls, the cookie were gone in a snap and were part of what I think was a pretty good Valentine’s Day.

Try your luck:

When life gives you tuition bills, make things out of wood.

In September of 2011 I found myself in a predicament.

My summer job of copying, filing, alphabetizing, eating candy, filing was over.

Sure, I was happy to once again be migrating north for the school year but knew that after a few months of paying for gas and 10 pound bags of frozen chicken, I would be back where I was in May.  Penniless.  Of course this is not literal.  I have pennies.  I’ve been to Taco Bell enough times to have accumulated a large sum on change in a pink tin I got from a foreign exchange student circa 2009.

Nevertheless, my money supply would soon be gone and here I would be, offering my family once in a lifetime bike riding trips with me for their Christmas presents.  Since that didn’t go over well in December of 2010, I decided it was time to get creative.

In my 20 (almost 21 years), I have excelled at a few things: eating Taco Bell, identifying dog breeds, using carpentry tools (courtesy of Dave, my handy father), getting pneumonia at the worst time in the semester, swimming faster than the average human and baking chocolate chip cookies.  These skills, while obscure, are all mine and I intend to use them for good.  This is why over Christmas, I decided to whip out the old chop saw and get to work on cheap but meaningful Christmas gifts.

Since I live on the wild side (hence Taco Bell), I decided to forgo my safety goggles and get to work on creating plaques with hymns on them for my friends.  11 plaques later (with inspiration from, I had hammered and painted the verses to four different hymns on plaques that I wrapped up and gave to  the people I love for Christmas.  Each one might have cost about $6 to make (maybe more if I hadn’t stolen Dave’s nails and sandpaper) but they were worth so much more to the recipients.  Gifts like these aren’t expensive and they’re not perfect, but they mean a lot and that’s what matters.  When I look back at the macaroni Christmas ornaments my mom hangs on the tree every year, I think about how much cooler those are than the crystal ones hanging next to the 15 year old pasta and cardboard creations.

I think we should let people we care about know they mean something to us. What better way to do it than paying for a haircut in Chocolate Chip Cookies or a nailing a bunch of 1″ X 4″‘s together?  This blog is a smattering of crafts and such that prove the old saying “It’s the thought that counts”.

The final product was $6 and a real crowd pleaser.