Ireland, Politics and the feeling of Home

Is it possible for a place to call to you? To leave such an indelible imprint in your soul that you choke back tears just thinking about it?

sheep farm

#askingforafriend

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I was sucked in by the smell of it. The mist, the grass, the peat smoke, the green of it all. When standing on the shore in Waterville, staring at the ocean, I begin to realize I didn’t want to leave.

ring of kerry 2

That’s where it gets complicated. 

For several years, I have thought in earnest about leaving my country. The most recent Presidential campaign has only served to catapult that idea. Growing up in Europe, my idea of paying taxes means the result is great programs and it is something I could never really articulate to those around me. I have never really fit in here even among those who shared my political opinion. My experience of those theories in practice made me “feel” these issues deeply.

Fast forward to November 8, 2016. I cried every day for a month. I still cry sometimes. I weep for the destruction of our institutions and the fact that civility and professionalism aren’t honored. It is all-encompassing and heartbreaking for someone who studied and worked in politics as long as I have.

It won’t likely ever return to the same way it was. 

ring of kerry

Feeling Ireland deeply in my bones and hearing of the election of their first gay Prime Minister gave me pause. Here is a country rooted deeply in religion yet progressive. Isn’t that what we strive for? We should be able to honor everyone’s background and learn from all of them while still doing what’s best and most inclusive for the largest part of the population.

I might have found my new home. 

Coming home to the mess we have in Congress just further pushes me away. I don’t want to live in a place that hates who I am, who my children are, who seeks to take away from the poor. Who will it make us as people if we submit to that? Before you tell me I need to stay and work and fight, I do that. I have been doing that for 20 years in politics. I have walked blocks, served in positions and faithfully voted. I can continue to do that without being physically being here all the time. (Check out Democrats Abroad.)  The truth is that for a short, beautiful time, Ireland made me feel like I belonged there more than my own country does.

So now the hard part. 

The planning and plotting starts. A return trip in the Spring maybe? How will I learn to drive #overthere  ? Talk about stressful! Where will I live? What will I miss? Who knows…but I look forward to dreaming a lot, researching a little and getting busy making it happen.

barney the horse

For your trip, I have ideas!

There are many places you can visit. Many places you can stay but I would like to suggest to you that you stay in the Killarney area. It is just magical and I mean that in all seriousness. If you take a spin in a Killarney Jaunting Car, give Barney a kiss from me! Do not forget to sign up for a Ring of Kerry tour because you won’t believe how beautiful it will look and how amazing it smells. Tell them Michelle sent you!

What makes a book a classic?

Towards the end of every year I work on my list on intentions.  I do this no matter what and I work on those lists all year because, well, I just don’t want to be the kind of person with a larger list of regrets than accomplishments. classics

I know that over the next year, one of the things I was going to put on my list was “read all the classics.”  The more that I thought about that though, the more difficult it became to figure out WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?  What makes something a classic?  Is it the time that has passed in direct ratio to it being considered influential?  You can break it up into time periods: Pre-Civil War, Industrial Age, Antiquities, Vintage, Contemporary, Romantic, Greek, and on and on and on.  Is it if it became popular?  Or banned?  What about great YA or Sci-Fi?

See what I mean?  OVERWHELMING.

If you over think it, you can even be genre specific.  For example, a classic horror novel would be The Shining or Carrie, wouldn’t you agree?  Actually, you could do an entire list on Stephen King! the shining

What would be on your list of classic books?

There is a great Tumblr called Teaching Literacy and if you aren’t following it you should be.  They had great suggestions and a link to a starter list that you should check out.

King novels

 

But what if you are a book person?

My biggest issue is most of what people would recommend, I have already read.  I was lucky to have teachers for grandparents so a love of books was instilled early.  Growing up overseas, I got to visit so many inspirational places that many writers frequented all over Europe.  There is nothing like going to Stratford-Upon-Avon to study Shakespeare or reading The Prince before visiting Florence, Italy.

I am very, very lucky.

But I know there are things I have missed.  While I have only finished sections of it, one of my first to finish this month is The Art of War.  There are a number of political theory books I want to revisit and Shakespeare plays I want to go through. I am thinking of going back through Rice’s Lestat series and then move on to more traditional things I may have missed.  When you have read most Steinbeck by the age of 13, it’s hard to find things to put on the list.  No matter how hard I try, most of what has ever been on Oprah’s lists, I just don’t care for.  Same for the Nobel Prizes…just didn’t love The Goldfinch the way I hoped I would.

 

leather bound

So tell me, what is on your list?  What is a book you continue to recommend to people?  Has it changed, as you have gotten older?  My tastes have always been crazy eclectic.  If you like horror, I again and again recommend The Historian.  I devoured that book.

In case you are interested, here are a couple of lists I found.  Enjoy!

Cult Classics

25 American Classic Books to Read

100 novels everyone should read

30 Books you should read before you’re 30

23 Books You Didn’t Read in High School But Actually Should

The 30 Comic Books You Should Have Read

Twitter Giveaway

So, I am continuing to pretend to set up my forever home and clean out my office and I have too much stuff.  Like bordering on ridiculous but not quite hoarder level stuff.  Its hard when you have a small place because you love things but don’t have room for all the things. I am going to pass some of those thing on to my Twitter peeps. Twitter has been very kind to me and the interactions always interesting.  In this, I hope to inspire others to swap old things for new friendships or repurpose, recycle or just have fun. First, here are the rules:

(come on, you knew there would be some kind of rules!)

Giveaway rules:

  1. I have no provenance for any of this stuff.  If it’s a fake, don’t freak out on me.  You get something for free so if that isn’t awesome enough, don’t play.
  2. You have to be willing to DM me an actual mailing address.  If you don’t want to give out your address, don’t play.
  3. You have to follow me on Twitter, place a note in the comments below on this blog, tell me your Twitter account name and that you are following me.  If you don’t want to follow me on Twitter, why are you here anyway?
  4. Don’t send me hate mail if its broken when it arrives or it takes three weeks to get there.  You are getting it for free so I am paying for the shipping I can afford and it won’t be overnight, mkay?
  5. I ask that you tweet me when the item is received with a picture and if so inclined, a thank you.  I come from a long line of paranoid mailers, started from Grandma Harper who would call me every year to say “Did you get my card with the money because the mailmen steal money from birthday cards?”  (Pretty terrifying for little kids and should explain a lot)
  6. Sometimes it will be a vintage item, a comic book, an old book or something funky I picked up somewhere.  There will be no method to the madness.  I will ship something on the first of each month until I have no more stuff to ship.  Check back often because if I get really crazy, I might send something out more than once a month.

Bonus entries:

  1. You will receive a bonus entry if you follow me on my blog and on Tumblr…also enter that in your comments.
  2. You will receive bonus entries for any time you retweet me during the contest time for ANY RANDOM JUNK up to 5 additional entries.
  3. Tell me a little known fact about yourself in the blog comment and you earn both my respect and an extra entry

At the end of the contest period, everyone’s Twitter handle will be put in a bowl and Angus the cat will choose the winner.  If he eats it before I can read it, I can promise you I am not checking the cat box after, I will just pull out another winner.  Sorry.  #notreallysorry

If you are the winner, you will be notified via Twitter and the item sent out on the first of the month.

 

Rejoice!

 

So this month’s item is…DRUMROLL PLEASE:

 

photophoto_1

 

At one time I was told this was an US Army compass, Civil War era.  I am sure that is a lie.  I would estimate this to probably be US Army era 1950-1970.  I have no idea if its worth $5 or $500, I just don’t have any where to put it and I think if you dig history, it’s just too cool to pass off in a donation box.  I thought one of you nerds might like it, so let me know!

I will go through October 31st accepting entries and on November 1st, Angus and I will choose a winner and ship it out when the address is received.  Unless you DM me at some stupid hour of the night, use your brains cause there isn’t going to be a trip to the Post Office at 2 AM.

I hope I covered everything.  If I didn’t, I know one or more of you will tell me FOR SURE.  GOD BLESS THE INTERNET!

 

 

 

My Alaska Adventure

It is not common to get an offer of a trip to Alaska, for free, within thirty days and in accepting such, there was a great deal of juggling put in place.  I kept coming back to the “HOW CAN I SAY NO?” aspect of that.  To me, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, even if I am ever able to return, because I don’t know that I can do that.  Not going was never an option and I am so glad I did!

Many thanks to the folks at Samaritan Lodge and Operation Heal Our Patriots who put a great deal of thought into a well-rounded experience and enrichment for wounded warriors and spouses!  It is a hard road to travel and it is encouraging to find people committed to helping weather the storms.

If you ever have the chance to visit Alaska, your only response should be “YES!”

Otis
This is Otis, a 20-something yo, 1000 lb bear with a floppy ear and little interested for fishing unless one hits him off the falls…VERY FUNNY to watch him lumbering around

mama bear pink flowers panoramic Port Alsworth 2 Float plane Alaska still life 2 toadstool Alaska still life beach bear Michelle fishing Kevin Pike dwarf dogwood Angus bear Katami brown bear M & K Katmai salmon Kevin waterfall Tanalian

 

 

 

 

Ring in the New Year

rings

For those of you that know me, I am not big on resolutions.  I just don’t believe they work.  What I do at the beginning of every year is set intentions.  These are things I intend to do in the year and more often than not, I get through the list quite nicely.  This year, my hubs and I both wanted to set the intention of honoring ourselves.  We are so busy and our schedule is VERY much dictated by a child that wants to be an Olympic athlete.  We never found the rings we really wanted when we got married but when we saw these, we knew those were the ones!  The bands are from monkeysalwayslook on Etsy.  The outside shows the longitude and latitude of where we got married.  On the inside we took pieces of a Viking quote for both.  The full quote says “Love conquers all, let us yield to love” so mine is inscribed Love Conquers All and his is Yield To Love.  They were just perfect for us.  My engagement ring is also from an Etsy vendor, silvercoinrings and is a Dime-On-Ring.  It is a dime melted onto a ring and stamped with initials.  We had K & M stamped in.  I would highly recommend both vendors as they were easy to work with and all about making sure everything was perfect!

So what intentions do you have for the year?  I STILL need to get busy on learning to sew!

End of the World Baking

No, not that kind of baking.  Get your head out of the gutter.

I had some requests for my recipes from the other night so I thought I would post them for you guys.  We made sure to stay close to home the last few days just out of concern for the crazies exercising their last-day-on-the-planet desires.  As a result, I figured with Christmas coming, baking needed to get done and if some how the Mayans were accurate, what would be a better last meal than desserts?  Remarkably, I actually got a few other folks to do the same and now we are all a few pounds heavier and, well, happier!  So here we go:

Cake

Best Ever Banana Cake lives up to its title.  I found this on Pinterest, have made it a few times and I SWEAR it is actually super easy and comes out looking like you bought it at a bakery!  It is a lighter banana bread with cream cheese icing.  You can top it however you like (it calls for nuts) but I have done variations that include chopped dark chocolate, coconut and sea salt chopped almonds with great success.

Cranberry Upside Down

Cranberry Upside Down Cake is a Martha Stewart masterpiece.  A great bake & take to an event, it is an unexpectedly delicious combo that never lasts more than 24 hours.  I am serious.  It is that good.  What’s awesome about it, aside from being super fast to make, is that if any makes it to the next morning, it is SO good for breakfast with your coffee.  Growing up in Europe, it is the kind of not-to-sweet cake I miss living back here in the US.

 

Sweet and Saltines from Trisha Yearwood is what I would qualify as a candy.  It is so simple and you make it in a total of about 30 minutes start to finish.  A layer of toffee is cooked on the tops of Saltine crackers then smothered in chocolate and popped in the freezer for 15 minutes.  I use dark chocolate chips and it is just DELICIOUS.Sweet and Saltines

 

Cashew Brittle is a take on my friend Kari’s super easy microwave cooked peanut brittle.  Like I NEVER use the microwave to cook so this made think twice about it.  However, trying it, I am hooked!  I doubled the nuts and choose cashews but the possibilities are endless!

 

Cashew BrittleMISS KARI’S PEANUT BRITTLE

 

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light Karo syrup

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp margarine

1 tsp baking soda

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray ahead of time.  Mix sugar, Karo syrup and salt well.  Microwave for about 4 minutes or until amber-colored.  Take out and add peanuts then microwave for 2 more minutes.  Quickly add vanilla, margarine and baking soda and mix well.  Will set up fast so spread quickly on previously greased sheet.  Wait until completely cool, pry up and break into large pieces.

 

Enjoy!

 

Any really awesome recipes you baked this week?  SHARE!

 

My Nerdy Kitchen

BEFORE Kitchen cabinets and Little Monkey being goofy
BEFORE Kitchen
BEFORE Kitchen wall

Living in a 100 year old tiny house is difficult.  There is always something breaking, not working or needing updating.  While I have advocated down sizing before (and still do) it can pose quite a problem for a cook.  There are many things I don’t need in other rooms of the house but the kitchen is one of those where I still don’t have every thing I need, much less every thing I want.  One of the problems posed by this little space was where to hang our nerdy artwork.  Because there was an empty wall in the kitchen placed where nothing could go against it if you wanted to maintain any sort of emergency exit plan (read here:  between two doors) it ended up this was the art wall.  From there the kitchen project began.

For most people, I am sure I don’t have to explain the importance of paint colors. You CAN use dark colors in small spaces but it has to be the right dark color (see my bathroom below).  This tiny house was painted on the main floor in awful pink tinted beige with dark burgundy accent walls.  The result was a house that was dark and depressing at best.  Marry this with really badly done mint green cabinets and it just got worse.  When we first moved in, we weren’t really sure where to put all our pieces because clearly cooking had to take place but there was so little prep space that it became a chore.  We tried several configurations, none of which helped.  We finally started a couple of months ago, one project at a time, until we finally arrived at the finished project this weekend.

AFTER Kitchen wall

Yes those are comic books and Daleks.  You don’t have to like it but it is quite representative of our household. While the old table we gave a facelift isn’t quite Tardis blue, its close enough for you to get it.  Someone, solely the fault of Halo, we went down a deep rabbit hole into very specific nerdy art with candy and/or cupcakes involved.  It’s sad.  I have added a great print from Amy Houser and I fear I will never stop looking for them.  Currently paint and glittering a sign to hand that says “Make Cupcakes Not War.”  See what I mean?

As a side note, the master tiny bath was redone as well.  It was previously a God-awful shade of blue that did not “brighten” anything.  Combined with a poorly hung mirror and a light fixture above it hung 8 inches too far to the right made for a depressing bathroom.  Though I went with a darker color, it ended up looking much richer and simply repositioning the light and mirror properly, results in far more light reflecting and a happier room.

AFTER bathroom, Darby approved

Shades of orange, chalkboard paint, take some cabinet doors down, add Big Foot fabric and BAM!  Shouldn’t all rooms be happier?

Politics, Smut Peddling and My Year of Ups and Downs

Politics and My Real Life

I will go ahead and get it out of the way.  For those that know me, I know you are surprised that I have been silent on the matter.  That is strictly because I have been so damn busy.  Here goes–I am not sure why people even CONSIDER voting against their self-interest.  To say that I am continually dismayed by the state of civil discourse in this country would be an understatement.  If in my own family we so oppose each other’s opinions that the topic is off limits, I don’t have any hope for any change nationally.  So let me just give you some facts:

1.  I was married to a service member during the initial Iraq invasion.  While he is my ex and turned out to be a jerk, personally, I think it gives me some credibility to speak to the fact that the soldiers were lied to about their reason for entering that country and the result has been catastrophic for both our countries.

2.  Currently, I am married to a disabled Army Veteran.  His experience has been in the wonderful international destination that Afghanistan has become and later, Gitmo, Cuba.  I have held his had through PTSD episodes, nightmares, night sweats, tests, more tests, emergency visits, counseling appointments, frustrating goose chases that VA appointments can turn into.  I do think this gives me some credibility to speak on the subject.

3. President Obama signed a bill that allowed uninsured (like me) and those with pre-existing conditions coverage (my kids) and a number of other amazing things.  He also signed a bill that allowed me to become my husbands Primary Care Giver through a VA program.  This stipend allows me to facilitate every single thing necessary for him to get all the appointments, treatments, etc. that he needs without the fear of how to navigate a part time job and his critical care.  President Obama signed the Fair Pay Act and supports the right for me to make the decisions I need to for my own body.

Democrat or not, I can tell you that President Obama is the one that has done the most to directly impact my family.  Met with a crushing debt instead of what President Clinton left for President Bush, he has had a nearly insurmountable task.  He has begun a drawn down from two countries that we shouldn’t have occupied in the first place, trying to relocate prisoners in Gitmo that THEIR OWN COUNTRIES WILL NOT TAKE BACK, and some how try to help calm the fears in this country that our economy is permanently broken.

I wouldn’t want to be the President for all of the money and power in the world.  He was handed a Congress that lauded the fact that their job was to get rid of him and block his every move.  That should embarrass us all.  We can disagree but there are MANY things that could have been done to help us further along but simply because they were Democratic lead and sponsored, they were shut down.  It’s disgusting.

I support President Obama.  I hope you will too.

Smut and Those who write it

Whether you approve of Fifty Shades of Grey or not, there is no doubt that by now, you have probably heard of it.  I think that, overall, is a good thing.

I have been writing erotica since 2007.  My first piece was published on a The Erotic Woman blog and later, I had a relationship with the wonderful people at Love You Divine.  In both situations, I used the pseudonym (Mistress Cassandra) because at the time, despite many great literary pieces of erotic being accepted, working as a “smut peddler” was not a common and socially acceptable role.  What previously drew whispers, hushed tones and outright shut down of discussions now elicits endless questions and interested parties.  Since the popularity of Fifty Shades, everything has changed.  Overall, I think this is good.  Or at least I think that, until I see something like THIS.  There will be constant discussion now to define what one thing is versus what another is.  While I may personally think the BDSM subject matter is not reflected correctly, the author however is able to write whatever the author wants.  Clearly it’s sold without anyone having concern for the way it is perceived so who am I to pass judgement.

We have such antiquated opinions in this country about sex and about the human body in general.  I grew up in Europe and seeing someone partially clothed in a shower gel commercial there was not uncommon.  No big deal.  Here, we get ridiculously excited over “wardrobe malfunctions” but also have a society that supports a Jersey Shore culture and new shows like Honey Boo Boo’s.  You can’t have it both ways America.  Stop telling people what kind of sex they can have, what they can read about it and what kind of person you are if you write it when you have shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and send people on “private dates” where they can spend the night with each other.

I don’t get it.  So I keep writing.  This year for my Nanowrimo project will be an erotica novel under my own name.  Hopefully Fifty Shades gives me a little better chance of not getting hate mail and ostracized.  Or not.  Either way, I will keep writing.

My Year of Ups and Downs

Some of you know I had some serious stuff going on at the beginning of the year.  What went from a little test to a bigger test, to a procedure and then a bigger procedure nearly broke me.  As a Mom, the hardest thing in the world for me is the idea that I can’t take care of my family.  I try to let the older ones find their way and not intervene but having one still at home filled me with panic and anger.  It doesn’t make sense why things happen to people that try to do the right things and walk the path of good intentions.  I thought I was that kind of person so for me, anger often took over much of my days that weren’t filled with profound hurt and sadness.  It affects everything you do.

The result was this:  after a particularly horrific week in which I thought my husband was having a stroke and I had a huge problem resulting from the stress I was told I was having an emergency hysterectomy.  Although I have had all the kids I intended to, the finality of it was not lost on me.  I am not sure that is something anyone can really grasp unless it has happened to them either.  For the record, there is a lot of horrible crap on line about hysterectomies.  (Health situations are generally not the best subjects to Google, for sure.)  I have to give a shout out to Hyster Sisters, a great site/forum where you can get real information about what is happening and join a group of people going through the same crap.  I found it to be the What to Expect When Expecting of surgical procedures.  It answered questions I desperately needed and calmed me the hell down.

I am nearly six months post surgery now.  I feel SOOOOO much better.  You don’t realize sometimes how something that makes you sick can affect all parts of your body and mind.  Do I feel I deserved to go through what I did?  No and I am still damn angry about it sometimes.  Am I better off now?  OH YEAH.  Full speed ahead!

Archery Madness

Thankfully, I healed quickly because my year literally went nuts shortly there after.  Most of you know Little Monkey has been competing in archery competitions but mid-year, she decided to take it to a whole new level.  Rather than me writing about her, I suggested she use her journaling she does during archery class as a prompt to chronicle her experiences.  Monkey has met some amazing people and formed friendships with international archers as well.  She has set some lofty goals, started writing blog posts and will only be busier next year.  For now I am handling her linking and photo uploads but she is learning and loving it.  If you are interesting in following her journey, she has her own site, Tumblr and Twitter.  While I have a Pinterest where she hosts “Little Monkey’s Board” it is largely nail polish and crafty related so be forewarned!

Wrap Up

So I migrated to WordPress because iPage became so restrictive!  I am happy that I could pull in the posts from my old Blogger page but sad that I lost my iPage content.  WordPress gives me some cool features and I can post multiple links and pictures that I needed so YEAH!  Thanks for sticking with me through the changes.

I am still writing at Almost Nerdy, hanging out on G+ and Twitter as well as handling a Tumblr page of my own, one for grad school and one for our newest pet/internet star.  I am on month 4 of a 12-month Masters program with Fullsail University for a Masters in Education Media and Design Technology and getting to try out some new emerging technology.  My research blog I have to maintain for that program is here and my emerging technology reviews I had to do are here in the event that you are interested in either.

Tons of DIY projects are ongoing right now so you will see that stuff posted soon!

Later peeps!

Catastrophic #FAIL or Why Texas Weather Hates Me



if you look closely, you can see the bug who met his maker after eatting all my leaves



Admitedly, it has been a crazy weather season.  I think anyone who may watch television any where could say this year has already been nuts.  This has wreaked havoc with the Beekman seeds I planted.  While my onions and potatoes have done well (except for in this picture where you can see a nasty fat catapiller stripping the leaves) but in the bins further out, the Beekman seeds, well, they got the hell beat out of them.  We, for several odd weeks, alternated between ridiculous hail storms out of no where, then tornados, culminating in a storm that combined the two.  The first four seeds planted, grew to various heights and one by one died a glorious death.  Only the French Breakfast radishes eeked out tiny little bubbles of what they could grow to be…sad indeed.

Now we are facing record breaking temperatures and severe drought.  I am debating planting the next four batches.  We have been trying to move for some time to a more moderate climate and lately, there is finally a bit of action on that effort so I may hold off.  Surely there is some where on the planet thats not over 95 degrees everyday? 

For next year, regardless of where I am, I know I will need some sort of shelter, even if temporary to keep them safe.  So the experiment continues!