31 October 2013

Love Can be a Hamburger

One day, Angel spent his entire day off working on a very frustrating car problem. I wanted to let him know I loved him and appreciated his diligence. So, I went out to the grocery store, did all of our shopping (completing a chore that otherwise would have involved him) and then I gritted my teeth, walked into Culver's, and completed the very confusing process of ordering a burger.

I detest fast food and fast food restaurants. I rarely, if ever, go in one. But a long time ago, I asked Angel, "What would make you feel really loved? What should I do if I want to show you I especially appreciate you one day?" He told me he would feel most appreciated if I surprised him with a burger from Culver's. The man likes food. He may have poor taste in food, but he likes it.

I know my husband pretty well. I know that, although I could have planned any number of elaborate "Pinterest inspired" dates for that evening including "cute printables" and "sexy" themed costumes to proclaim my love for him...any day, given the choice, he'd pick a burger from a fast food restaurant over all of that romantic mushy stuff.

I don't know if my husband is just weird, but the vast majority of "date" or "surprise your husband" ideas that can be found online are the kind of ideas he would absolutely detest. He doesn't feel particularly loved by printed invitations or themes or being kidnapped or high-energy activities of any sort, as least not when surprised by them.

I think it's far more important to know your own husband and what would make him feel loved than to look up lists online of "date ideas." If it were purely up to me, I'd probably write Angel a love note every time I wanted him to feel special. If I based my gifts for him on my own ideas of what would be fun and exciting and make me feel loved, I'd plan weekend getaways and research new places to go explore in our area.

I still do those things, occasionally. Writing is my automatic reaction to life, of course I'm going to write to my husband! And I love new adventures and excursions so I plan them. But I have to take into account what Angel likes. He likes my love letters, of course, but doesn't spend the rest of the day in sheer bliss because I wrote him a note. He's up for adventure sometimes, but he puts a high value on sleeping in his own bed, watching tv in his own living room, and having time where he doesn't have to be doing anything (that's so weird!!!). So it would be selfish of me to constantly plan elaborate adventures and claim I was doing it out of love for him. I might love adventures myself, but they're not the most effective way of showing love to my husband. Because I know him, I know what makes him feel loved. He operates very strongly on an "acts of service" love language. He feels special when the house is cleaned, dinner's done, and the dishes are washed. He thinks he's getting spoiled when I tackle projects that are usually his job. He enjoys it when I give him peace and quiet (not two of my favorite adjectives).

Just something to think about. If your husband is truly the one who enjoys elaborate themed dates or feels most loved when you write him a mushy love letter, carry on! But if you're trying to love your husband purely by doing the activities you would appreciate the most if they were done for you...maybe you could use a little reality check. Giving a gift because it's something we would want ourselves doesn't tend to be effective. Maybe, just maybe, what he really wants is a hamburger.
30 October 2013

Back to the Beginning

I decided to do this vlog  assignment because I'm in love with reading aloud. And, upon re-reading my first post on this blog, written two and a half years ago, it cracks me up as well as  impresses me with how accurate it is to my blog today. I guess I tend to remain consistently myself.

*By the way, I didn't do the best job of explaining in the video, but I participated in dramatic reading competitions in high school, which means for months in advance I would shout "Casey at the Bat" and "Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion" every day until my entire family had memorized them by osmosis. I'm so helpful. And yes, I persist in saying vlog as "V-log."

29 October 2013

Goldilocks And...

The Bear Who Was Just Right.

Was that way, way too cheesy? I'm sorry. Sometimes a little bit of wordplay appeals to me so much that even though I know it's cheesy I simply can't stop myself.

Sometimes, Life Is Complicated.

There was nothing wrong with the original idea. The whole plan seemed innocent enough. Angel and I thought we'd introduce my grandpa to the  Sherlock tv series, because he likes mystery/crime dramas. We told him that it was just the kind of show he'd like, we told him we had it available for free on our Netflix account, that we could hook up a laptop to the tv and watch a couple episodes together.

The only problem was that we needed a cord of some sort to connect the computer to the television. Angel knew what the cord looked like, and Grandpa said, "No problem, I have a box of 100 different kinds of cables, there must be at least one of the kind you're looking for."

Famous last words.

(My grandpa, praying at my wedding. It's really hard to find pictures of that man.)

You've guessed it, there was no cable of the right kind in Grandpa's cable box. "Well, how much is the cable that I need?" he asked. Angel guessed about $10-$12. "Head out to Radio Shack and buy it!" Grandpa ordered.

By now he seemed pretty determined to watch his new show. Angel and Isaac, my brother, went out to the store, Grandpa and I expected them to be back in 20 minutes with a cord. They were back in 20 minutes, no cord.

At this point, I had given up all hope of watching Sherlock. Grandpa, however, had not. He asked Angel, "Is the only reason that you can't find the right cord because my television is too old? I got it as a birthday present ten years ago. Could a new television work with this "Netflix" you keep talking about?"

Angel and Isaac talked to him for a while, using strange vocabulary such as "HDMI" and "Smart TV."

Grandpa said, "Well, do either of you know enough about TVs that if I  went out and bought one right now, you could pick out a good one for me?"

Angel and Isaac immediately started backpedaling. No, they haven't been reading Consumer's Reports, no, they don't know the best tv models available at the moment. If Grandpa wants to buy a tv, he has to call our uncle, he'll know how to get a good deal on a good tv.

Grandpa is about to call our uncle and tell him it's time to go television shopping, when I have a great idea! "Hey, let's just call the video rental place and see if they have Sherlock."

I thought it seemed much more sensible to spent $5 renting two seasons of Sherlock than to go out and buy a several hundred dollar tv in order to watch Sherlock on Netflix for free. Angel found the phonebook, Grandpa found the number, Angel called, and nope, no Sherlock.

Since we were thwarted by the video rental store's poor stock decisions, Grandpa called my uncle and said he wanted to go on a tv shopping outing. This was when my uncle pointed out that it was already after 6 p.m. on a Sunday evening and all of the television stores would be closed.

Isaac suggested to Grandpa that maybe, if we all went into the basement, where it is quiet and dark, we could all watch Sherlock on the laptop screen. Yeah, it was small, and it wouldn't be as nice as watching it on tv, but at least this whole venture would not end in total disappointment. Grandpa agreed.

We all got settled downstairs, started the show...and quickly realized that the combination of British accents and the less-than-powerful speakers of my brother's laptop meant that we couldn't understand a word. "No problem!" my brother said, "I'll go get a set of speakers out of storage, it'll only take me two minutes!"

He got the speakers, brought them into the basement, started setting them up, and we were finally ready to begin!

Only...a key cord to connect the speakers to the laptop was missing. It hadn't been stored with the speakers, where it was supposed to be. Angel and Isaac went back to Grandpa's box of random cords and cables--the very place where this whole fiasco began, and found the cord.

Could this process have been any more complicated? Even after the show started, I felt like I was waiting for the internet to randomly disconnect, or for Netflix to claim that Angel's credit card had expired and they needed a new card for payment before we could proceed. But there were no further complications.

Sherlock better have been worth it. In my opinion, it was.

Have you watched this show that caused my Sunday afternoon to be so complicated? I hear a rumor the next season will be available on PBS in late January...I'm waiting impatiently...

P.S. The role I played in this persistent quest to watch this show may be made somewhat more apparent if you knew that I took a college class on Sherlock Holmes (perks of a liberal arts school)...and wrote an essay on the relationship between Holmes and Watson (found here)
28 October 2013

Borrowed Finery

Once upon a time, I was in beauty school. One of the great tragedies of beauty school was that I was required to wear solid black clothing.

I owned very little in the way of solid black clothing and my darling sister Lizzy said, "Hey, I just bought this skirt at Salvation Army, but you have have it till you're done with beauty school, because you need it more than I do right now."

I took it gladly. As you may be aware, I haven't been in beauty school since August, so technically I suppose that my lease on this skirt is up. Yet I'm still wearing it, and I'm surprised at how much more fun it is to wear when I'm not constrained to wearing it with a black top and black shoes as well.

If Lizzy wants it back now, well that's all right, she'll just have to come over here and get it. (Yes, I'm not above bribing my relatives into visiting me. I'm quite talented at it, actually.)

Do you ever borrow clothes instead of buying them? 
25 October 2013

Who's in Your House?

I grew up in a home where the door was always open to visitors. We had relatives and friends stay with us for week-long visits many times, and my Mom was quick to volunteer to host holiday dinners and family parties. There was a season when we lived in Texas when I think we had an average of 3-4 company dinners a week over the course of 4 months.

To this day, I rarely Skype my family at a time that there isn't someone who doesn't technically live in our home spending time there. I'm impressed with my Mom for all the times she's accommodated an unexpected guest at the dinner table--and all the times she's put up with my friends spending time at my house till 2 in the morning or later. In high school, my house was the one where everyone congregated, where movie nights and game nights and parties for whatever reason were always held. I loved that.

 Domino cookies for my Domino-themed 18th birthday party.

Some of the food at our engagement party. About 100 people were in our house that day!

All this to say, hospitality is a very strong value for me. I love being able to invite people into my home and to host parties for friends and family. When I lived with my grandparents, I no longer had the freedom to invite friends over for a movie or dinner or games, and that was frustrating. Whenever groups of us were trying to figure out a place to hang out, I couldn't volunteer my home.

As you can imagine, one of the things I was most excited about when I got married was the prospect of having my own home so that I could host guests again. Angel and I pray for opportunities to show hospitality and the wisdom to take such opportunities when offered. Three weeks after we got married, my relatives asked us to host the Christmas dinner at our home because the aunt who was going to host it was sick. We had nothing to host with, but we said "Yes!" It was a "bring your own table and chairs" kind of party but it was fun! A few weeks after that, a volunteer speaker at a Bible study meeting we went to suddenly found out that her accommodations for the night had fallen through. She had travel arrangements for the next day, but she needed somewhere to spend the night. We brought her home, and she slept on our living room couch, because at that time we didn't have a guest bedroom.

In the past few years, it's been my pleasure to throw my own college graduation party and my 21st birthday party, along with a number of New Year's Eve, Summer, and Fall parties. We've had plenty of friends over for a game of Apples to Apples on the living room floor or grilled tandoori served and eaten on the picnic table. Those are my favorite memories of living in this house--those when I was sharing it with the people I love.

 My grad party cookies. Putting that B.A. to work.
 Just, ya know. Pretending to cook in my cheongsam. (Everybody knows you don't change into your party clothes till the cooking is done!)

This fall and winter, I've got big plans. There's rumors of another event requiring a piƱata and my parents and siblings will be spending some time staying with us. Technically, we don't have enough beds for all of those bodies, but we've got a couch and plenty of floor space. 

Let this be an encouragement to you: your home doesn't have to be completely furnished and decorated before you can invite people in. You don't have to spend tons of money on decor or food, and you don't have to spend countless hours on preparation (my go to main dishes for parties of 20-30+? hamburgers, chili, or tacos de carne asada). Parties don't even have to make a big mess (if at all possible, I host outdoors:  no crumbs to sweep up.)

I'm passionate about hospitality. Maybe I should rephrase that. I'm passionate about imperfect hospitality. It may not be everyone's thing. Inviting people into your space might not be fun for you at all. I know people who are happiest when they invite people over for 3 course meals complete with place mats, a full setting of silverware, fine china, and fresh flower centerpieces. There's a place for that, and I would love to be invited to a fine dinner party someday, but if lack of perfection is stopping you from inviting friends over, maybe you ought to give imperfection another chance. It could be fun.

What's your favorite type of get-together to host? (And was it overly crazy that we let a complete stranger sleep on our couch with no warning ahead of time? I still think that's a little outside-the-box, even for us.)
24 October 2013

The Bear Says Just Dance 2014

Just in case it wasn't obvious before now, I'm no gamer. However, Angel talked me into getting an Xbox Kinect last year for Christmas, using the reasoning that it would be a good way to exercise during the winter when neither of us wants to be outdoors. And I have to admit, Just Dance 2014 is a significantly more fun workout than an old-school aerobics video--primarily because of the record feature where, after you complete a song, you get to watch snippets of your own dancing skills. I'm pretty sure the laughs burn as many calories as the dancing.

This review is sponsored by Ubisoft, and if you're interested in a video game for non-gamers, you can buy the Kinect version of Just Dance 2014 here. I don't listen to pop music, and after playing this game, I remember why. It's rated 10+, so, apparently vulgar pop songs are acceptable for anyone 10 years old and older as long as the curse words are left out. Personally, I'd rather choose songs that were appropriate for all--there are also songs in Spanish and other foreign languages, and well as older, clean, well-known songs that are very conducive to silly dancing: "YMCA" and "Prince Ali" are a few of those. There is a karaoke mode...but because I don't know the songs, I don't sing while dancing. The feature that Angel and I decided we liked the most was that some songs have partner dances, so we're able to dance together and compete with each other (because the game scores you on the accuracy of your moves). The game can account for up to four people dancing at once, and definitely don't skip past the playback video after you've finished dancing. That's my favorite part. Even when I'm at home alone while Angel's at work, I'll dance a few songs in order to stop shivering in my 60 degree house--and the recorded videos of my awkward, confused dance moves send me rolling on the floor with laughter.

I can't wait to make my parents and siblings play this when they come for a visit. It will be hilarious.

*For your information, the Kinect apparently doesn't recognize you as a dancer when you're wearing a bear costume and mask. I thought poor Bear did a very good job dancing the whole way through "Flashdance...What a Feeling." but he got 0 points. The video of him dancing was even funnier than the videos of me dancing, so it all worked out for the best!

It was snowing over here for the first time here yesterday, so this game came at the perfect time! What's your favorite way to exercise when it's too cold to go outdoors?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
23 October 2013

Recent Creative Ventures

The other day, I was craving apple crisp. My occasionally sweet husband went on an extreme Google search and declared there were no restaurants that served apple crisp in the general vicinity. (For the record, I don't tend to be a big fan of desserts of any kind, but fruit crisps NOT fruit pies are my weakness).

At first, I sat indoors and bewailed my lack of apple crisp. I didn't want to go to the grocery store to buy the apples I would need, because that would involve driving and parking and spending money, and other unpleasant activities of that sort. But then I remembered that I had a much easier access to apples...

Angel in the wilderness this summer. 
Have I ever mentioned that I seem to live in a fruit wilderness? We have a nearly endless supply of wild black raspberries in the summer, and there are a few pear and apple trees in the woods behind our house as well. I walked out back, picked a dozen or so apples, and got to work.

Honestly, the apples were basically the worst apples ever. They were small and kind of wormy. But I cut around the worms and the bruises--telling myself that these pesticide-free, wild, fresh picked apples were a rare privilege. Besides, they were free, so what did I have to complain about?

I eventually had enough chopped up for apple crisp--and I have to tell you, it tasted amazing. Better than I expected. I ate 3/4 and generously shared the last 1/4 with Angel.

Also, a few days ago, I decided to try my hand at piecing a quilt made with little scraps of fabric from previous projects. It was an experiment. This quilt is for my dollhouse, made according to the 1 inch=1 foot scale, and it will go folded up and lying across the crib in the nursery.

What creative things have you been up to lately?
22 October 2013

Getting Dressed is Hard to Do

This seemingly innocent dress has a notoriously sticky zipper.

Come on, I'm sure someone out there shares my dilemma--getting dressed all by yourself is really hard! Be honest. Oh sure, jeans and a t-shirt, that's not too difficult. But a dress with a sticky zipper on the back? Those are tricky!

When I was growing up, I always shared a room with my sister, and therefore always had a dressing companion when needed. Then, I lived with my grandparents for a short time, and that was when I had to tackle the problem of getting dressed on my own. Once, I was going to wear a sari to a special event. It had a tightly fitting silk sari blouse that had hook and eye closures in the back. There was absolutely no way I was going to be able to get it on. So I gave up and wore a black t-shirt under my sari instead of the matching blouse. Now that I'm married, Angel's in charge of fulfilling all, "Will you please zip this up?" requests.

It's not just about the physical impossibility of putting certain articles of clothing on, either. We also need an extra pair of eyes to check our outfits. "Hey, your bow is crooked." "The pattern on the left leg of your tights is all twisted." "Umm, you left the size sticker on those jeans.""Your shirt is on inside out." That kind of stuff. Angel often works weekends, so I get dressed and go to church all by myself. A few weeks ago, I found, to my horror, during the time of worship, that I'd neglected to zip the side zipper of my dress. I tried to zip up my dress as subtly as it is possible to zip up one's dress in the middle of a crowded church during worship. That was bad. Pretty bad.

I left church that Sunday feeling extra grateful for my husband. Even if he's not always around to make sure I'm decently dressed, he does a good job of it when he's there!

Do you have any stories of embarrassing situations that getting dressed alone has led you into?
21 October 2013

Why You Shouldn't Bargain When Traveling

The #1 piece of world-traveling advice that I detest? Any variation of: "Be sure to bargain. It's the only way to get a reasonable price and you need to bargain: merchants won't know what to do with themselves if you don't bargain."

I would have to disagree.

For one thing, I dislike how this advice perpetuates a me vs. them mentality. It's almost as if it would lead the traveler to think that all the locals are out to cheat him, so he needs to protect himself and his wallet at all times.

For another thing, it's simply not true! There is no way that it's possible for a guidebook or a list of travel tips on a blog to claim that tourists should always haggle over the prices of services and goods when traveling in Southeast Asia, or in Africa, or in Central America, or any other large general region of the world. There may very well be specific communities in which this is true--it's just that I've never yet experienced them. But I have traveled in and lived in places where this is emphatically not true.

For example, we wouldn't expect to bargain for bangles in my town.
Because of this bargaining advice, tourists come into my town in Malaysia, and go to the night market and start bargaining over a plate of fried rice. And the lady who makes the fried rice is simply confused, because dozens of locals have already unquestioningly paid their fried rice bill that evening, and suddenly this foreigner is making a big deal about getting 10 or 20 cents off? Or they go to the wet market for groceries and want to pay a couple less ringgit than their fruit bill adds up to. (These are real cases, not hypothetical.) And I want to shake them. Foolish tourists--don't you know that nobody bargains for fruit?? Yet, you read online you have to be careful about Malaysians trying to cheat you of  your money, so you're trying to get the vendor to take less than she would take from even her best friend? That's how much value you place on her family business? I'm embarrassed for you, and you know what, I'm angry at you too. I don't like the way you treat the people who sell my groceries--I know those people and I don't want them treated badly by foreigners.

Tourists come in, knowing very little of Malaysian culture, but they realize that everything is "cheap" according to their standards, and because they've read that they need to bargain, they do, and try to get everything even cheaper. Clumsily and horribly and not according to any Malaysian rules of bargaining I've ever heard of.

You know how to get good deals in Malaysia? Relationships. Relationships are far more important than any of your so-called bargaining skills. While you may save 3 RM here and 8 RM there by some hard bargaining at the night market, you lose any possibility of building a relationship with the vendor. At certain types of shops, you don't bargain. There's a set price, and you pay that price. You don't frustrate the shopkeeper and teach him to disdain you by asking for a discount when there's none to be had. You don't bargain for fried rice, I guarantee you that. At other types of shops, when you're buying something a little pricier, or when you're buying something in bulk, you can ask, "Best price?" They may give you a better price than the one on the sticker, or they may say no discounts allowed, depending on the shop's policy. If you can't afford that price, you walk away. Loyalty is very important. My family has been buying their groceries from the same families for years. These days, the lady selling fruit always slips an extra apple or an orange into the bag. That's the loyal customer privilege, you see. The average tourist coming in from the street, who doesn't know her by name or recognize her family members is not going to get 10 apples for the price of 9. My family always goes to the same silver jewelry store. All we have to do is walk inside and we're immediately recognized and offered a 15% discount. My Auntie has been taking me to the same sari shop for nearly a decade, and she's been taking her own family there for a few decades before me--we don't pay sticker price there. Auntie doesn't because she's built a relationship with that shop over many years, and I don't because I'm part of Auntie's family.

 Angel's beloved pewter cup was discounted because the shop owner apparently loves my dad.

So, what's the traveler who neither wants to throw away money nor alienate all the local people to do?

1. Keep your hands where your money is. Do this no matter what country you're in (including your own). Don't be an easy target for thieves.

2. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. I've noticed tourists usually want to buy some sort of locally made art or handicrafts. Some of these are reproduction, cheap knick-knacks and it's pretty obvious that they are by looking at them--they should be priced accordingly. But, if you'd ever seen the beautiful, time-consuming, difficult process that goes into creating a well-done handpainted batik, you'd stop haggling over the price of that scarf or tablecloth and pay the price that it's worth.

3. Be aware of your surroundings. If the 3 people checking out ahead of you were locals who didn't bargain, don't be silly and start bargaining.

4. Build relationships. There often is a "friends and family" price, but let me tell you--if you aren't "friends and family," you don't deserve the price. Think about it. In your home country, a small business owner may well charge her sister less for her services than she'd charge the random stranger. But as a random stranger, you don't think you deserve the sister price, do you? Ask friends who know the area what prices to expect. There's a taxi driver or two out there who might want to fleece you, but if you know that it ought to cost 15 RM. to get from your hotel to the mall, you're not going to risk exasperating the honest driver who asks for 15 RM with unreasonable bargaining.

I'm not saying that there's no region in the world where you should always in every case involving some kind of expenditure try to drive a hard bargain. I've yet to see such a place, but it could exist. However, consider that it's possible that that's not at all true in the country you're planning to visit, and show some respect to the small family business in a country that's not your home. What if, while you were traveling, it was not your goal to get as much as possible for as little expenditure as possible, but, instead, to be a blessing to the people who live in the country that you're blessed to visit? How could you act in such a way to make them glad you came?

What do you think about this matter of bargaining while traveling?
18 October 2013

Until You're Married, You Don't Understand

So, I'm all happily dressed like this the other day when my cousins start telling me, "You know, I remember you saying years ago, 'I have to wear my purple jeans now, because I won't wear them anymore after I'm married.' "

Now, I have no recollection whatsoever of saying any such thing. I suggested that maybe I actually said that I was wearing my purple jeans all the time back then because I wouldn't be able to wear them when I had a job, or when I had kids, but no, they insisted that I said I wouldn't wear them after I got married.

I then suggested that maybe this was when I was single and I thought I wouldn't get married till I was like 25. And my aunt chimed in, "I'm pretty sure you were engaged at the time."

That rings true, because I remember buying these jeans about a week before Angel and I became 'official.'

So, I have no idea what I was thinking when I said that. I vaguely remember that Angel may have told me he really didn't like my purple jeans early on in our relationship, and perhaps that's what motivated my plan of swearing off colored jeans once I officially became a matron.

And then I didn't stick to it, because obviously, I constantly alternate between green and purple jeans.

Basically, I didn't know what marriage would be like. I think I may have had some generous idea that I'd only wear clothes Angel liked after we were married. But a girl can't live in shorts and t-shirts!

The moral here is either that us married women can wear colored jeans if we want to or else that it's really hard to know what something is like when you haven't experienced it yet.

Did you make any crazy statements about marriage that you've found to be untrue after experiencing the real thing?

delirious rhapsody
17 October 2013

Did You Learn Anything?

 Back in college days, when I occasionally got bored while studying philosophy.

Sometimes, when I think about how much time I spend reading and writing blogs, I think blogging should be a little more educational. I know that some blogs devote a lot of time to creating educational content in the form of crafting or technological tutorials, but my own blog is sadly lacking in that regard.

I have neither the patience, nor the inclination, nor, really,  the knowledge to invent recipes and tutorials. However, today, I hope you will leave here having learned something new. Here are the educational tidbits I have to share with you.

  • If you're ever reading pinyin, currently the most commonly used romanization of Mandarin Chinese, Q is pronounced the way English-speakers would pronounce CH. Crazy, I know, but believe me. Now say: Qing Dao, Qin Dynasty, Qi Pao, and Qi. Previously, that would have been totally confusing, but isn't it easy to say Ching, Chin, and Chi? Yes, there are tones to be grappled with, but if you get the basic sounds right, you're nearly there. 
  • And here's a whole post on how to properly pronounce Beijing.
  • Orangutans are originally native to Malaysia and Indonesia, and their name sounds very much like orang hutan, which translates to something like forest person. I've found that fact very interesting every since seeing orangutans at the zoo in Malaysia and realizing that their name pretty much identifies them as the people of the forest....
  • It is possible to make tacos without using packets of "taco seasoning" on your meat. In fact, I recommend that you don't use such packets.
  • Anna Leonowens of The King and I fame was a real person.
  • Michigan boasts two cities that repeatedly end up on most crime-ridden and most deadly cities in America: Flint and Detroit. I've traveled to both more times than I could count.
  • Michigan is also home to Bronner's--probably the world's largest Christmas supply store which sells Christmas themed products all but 4 days out of the whole year. That makes you more inclined to visit, doesn't it?
  • Kool-Aid hair dye can be really, really permanent on blondes especially. Some people still insist that it's not, but I say don't do it unless you know you can live with colored hair until you get it cut off or colored darker. I've seen a lot of Kool-aid regret cases.
  • IVs, when they're in you, don't actually have a metal needle sticking inside your vein the whole time. I just learned this from Angel last week. I never knew! I always imagined you had to keep your arm perfect still and straight when you had an IV or the metal needle would poke through your vein and cause a big mess of things.
Now, what do you have to teach me today? We all have our areas of expertise, and they're all different! (I'm clearly no expert in nursing. For that matter, I'm also no expert on HTML, engineering of any type, quilting, the German language, and a variety of other subjects).

So, tell me something I don't know!
16 October 2013

Fashion to Laugh At


Do you remember looking at pictures from your parents' and grandparents' generations and giggling and teehee-ing at some of the styles they wore?

It's interesting to see which styles still look good after all these years, and which ones just look kind of goofy.

My grandma's cat eye glasses, the button-up blouses tucked into full skirts, leggings with too-big sweaters, classic high heeled pumps....none of those are anything to laugh at, and in 2013, are items that you might well see worn on a walk around town, and not only by the 'alternative' crowd.

On the other hand...the short shorts that my dad and uncles wore? Or the huge glasses with clear plastic (yellowed) frames that covered half of your face? Matching acid-washed denim jackets and pants? The gaudy color-blocked polyester windbreakers and the excessively puffy shoulder pads? Looking at them from the 2013 perspective, these trends automatically tend to look dated and slightly laughable.

Yet at the time, I have a feeling that all of those people in their red, blue, and yellow windbreakers and their shoulder pads were not looked upon as oddities.They dressed appropriately for their time.

Sometimes, I wonder what, in 20 or 30 years, will be considered the great unfortunate fashion trend of the 2010s. Will it be chevron? Will it be sequins?

I doubt it would be polka dots or chambray, those come around so excessively often, I don't think they're ever out of style for more than 3 minutes at a time. (I've had at least one denim shirt or shirtdress in my closet for the last 22 years, I think)

I'll wear sequins and colorful skinny jeans all I want, but I also like to take the strategy of wearing clothes that aren't particularly stylish, and then I'll never look totally out-of-date. Take this lovely outfit, for example. It's the one Auntie Letchimi bought me on our last outing together. I definitely don't look like I stepped out of the pages of the latest magazine, but I love the color and patterns and I have a feeling that tunics, pants, and scarves will never look up-to-the-minute trendy, and they'll never look out of date either, so it's a win-win situation.

Cast your vote below for which 2010s trends we might just look back on in a couple decades and think, "Man, we sure thought we were hot stuff...but we look kinda funny now!"

delirious rhapsody
15 October 2013

The Bear and the Bees.

Bear Honey
The nameless Bear's internet research told him that local honey could help ease his symptoms of seasonal allergies, and decided it was worth a try.


(I'm actually pretty sure this is a wasp nest, however, I guess the Bear is not as smart as I am--so, let's allow him to keep thinking that he's found a great source of honey and let's just take cover to avoid the imminent wasp stings!)
14 October 2013

"How Do I Open the Door?"

A lifetime ago (for me, anyway), my Dad was the proud owner of a '72 Cutlass. This is the car that he and my mom brought me home from the hospital in. It wasn't too long thereafter when it was discovered that cars with only two doors are not the most family-friendly vehicles, and the Cutlass gave way to the station wagon, the conversion van, and, finally, the green 15-passenger van (nicknamed, "The Giant Pickle") that were to come.

My uncle bought the Cutlass. It hasn't been seen much in the past few years, however. I suppose it's a little grumpy, it's not appreciating being in it's forties as much as it might. But he had it out this weekend to drive my cousins to their homecoming dance, and I asked for a few pictures with the car that brought me home from the hospital. I mean, how often do you get the opportunity for a photo shoot like that as an adult? And how often do your parents use a sports car from the 70s to take their infant home for the first time?

* The title of this post is what I asked when I was inside. I didn't want to break anything, ya'll!

p.s. I'm wearing a purple shirt, blue jeans, brown boots and am highly fashionable and therefore this is a fashion post and I'm linking up with Fall Fashion Week. (as everyone should). And because the leaves are red, yellow, and orange, I'm linking up with Katie!
11 October 2013

The Crazy Cat Man

A lot of people have asked me to talk more about our cats.*

Narcan and Morphine are our 5th and 7th cat respectively. Let's not talk about the others. They spend their lives catching mice, staring at me through the window while I work on my computer, and continuing to come when Angel calls in spite of his weird treatment of them.

We call Narcan a snob, he's highly anti-social and runs away from children and my uncle, who feeds the cats when we're traveling. Morphine is significantly more friendly and much better at escaping indoors if given the opportunity. (Cue my brother, while cooking dinner at our house a few weeks ago: "Umm, why is there a cat in the house?")

Every day, Angel tells the cats, "Son los gatos mas bonitos de todo el mundo!!!" approximately 15 times. I'm actually pretty sure he tells the cats that they are the prettiest cats in the world more often than he tells me that I'm the prettiest woman in the world, and I think that perhaps that shows skewed priorities.

*Do you ever get that suspicious feeling when bloggers start off a post with, "I've received many requests for a post of this sort..." that maybe they haven't received any requests at all, and they are simply trying to justify writing a post of that type, or am I the only cynic out here? Well, this post is to prove that yes, sometimes bloggers do use the "A lot of people have asked me..." line as an intro, and there's not always any truth to it. Case #1: Me. No, no one's ever asked me to talk about the cats, but I did anyway.
10 October 2013

Why Don't I Make Money Blogging?

You may or may not have realized that I'm currently not working outside the home. Right now, the primary 'work' filling up my time outside of home and family duties is either writing on this blog or writing articles to submit to magazines.

I love the opportunity I have right now to devote significantly more time than usual to writing for the public. However, I hear about all these other bloggers who also devote a significant amount of time to writing, and who accordingly seem to be making a sizable amount of money while doing so. And I wonder--why am I not making money like they are? Don't get me wrong--various blogging ventures occasionally pay me. I have made more than $0 since beginning my blogging career. But I also haven't made $$ worth speaking of, and that's what I'm wondering about. I believe that I write well, but I'm learning that writing well is not really what it takes to earn a living as a blogger.

So, why don't I (yet) make money blogging? I suspect that these reasons could be factors:

1. I haven't been blogging long enough. I'm at about 1.3 years right now, maybe it takes a little longer than that for a blog to kick into business gear?

2. I don't have high enough pageviews. I hear that Adsense makes some bloggers a regular income, but I'm guessing they have 100s of pageviews to every 1 pageview of mine (more pageviews means more people, more people means more clicks). Add to this the fact that I don't even qualify for a number of ad networks or review opportunities till I reach a certain pageview/follower level, and the problem becomes evident--my blog is relatively small.

3. I don't like stuff enough. That's a big thing. I don't accept all of the product review opportunities that come my way, and I don't pitch post ideas to brands because there isn't all that much stuff out there that impresses me enough for me to get excited about it. I've been known to say that I like a nice, clean, empty cupboard in my house and that's true, I tend to like empty spaces more than I like to have stuff stored in them. Sure, I love my dresses and my Doc Martens...and potato chips with french onion dip...and color-changing nail polish gets me pretty excited--but not everything does excite me, and for that reason, there are plenty of  sponsored post opportunities that I don't even apply for because--stuff in general really isn't my kinda thing.

4. I don't really do affiliate links. Maybe it's just because I haven't figured these out yet. However, what really happened is that I'm making the mistake of thinking that everyone else in the world is just like me. I don't shop online and I never click on product links on other blogs--therefore, no one else in the world shops online or clicks on product links. False logic, right there.

5.  I don't make anything to sell. There are plenty of talented crafters in the world. I consider myself relatively talented at crafting, but I don't have a world-revolutionary invention that needs to be produced and sold. The only thing I want to sell is words. Yet--I don't have an eBook or book of any kind. At the moment. Doesn't mean I never will, but I'd have to get a great and revolutionary eBook concept, and then it would have to be in a field that I'm an expert in...and that definitely limits things. I mean, How to Live with the Man in the Bear Costume doesn't really sound like a best-seller, does it?

Why do you think you do (or do not) make money from blogging? Do you want to? I can analyze my blogging behavior all I want, but if I'm too stubborn to change the way I do things, it's unlikely that the results will change. So the answer remains to be stubborn am I?
09 October 2013

The Controversial Things I Do

I must warn you, this is a very incomplete post. I'm only talking about the controversial/scandalous things I've done so far this week. This picture captures both of them:

(I hate selfies. But my photographer was at work.)

Monday: We set up the Christmas tree. This might make a little more sense if you read about our new plans. Trust me, I have a good reason here. We are working towards moving overseas, and that means major downsizing. Because of that, we're getting rid of our lovely 7 ft. Christmas tree by packing it up before Christmas and giving it to some relatives. Because I won't get to enjoy our tree all the way till Christmas, I convinced Angel that we should have the fun of setting it up one more time. So you can complain all you want, but that Christmas tree is staying up in our home till we pack it up in December. 

Tuesday: I added a little blue back to my hair. It's not yet as bold and as striking as I was looking for, though when I was doing the coloring I was purposefully going for a more subtle look than last year's blue streak (For a review of my hairstyles last year, see this post). I guess I'm just not the biggest fan of subtle when I see it. (Why are we talking about subtle and blue hair in the same sentence?) I may change it up a bit to make it more dramatic or I may not, we'll see. Anyway, the reasoning behind this was also related to our move. I'm applying for and passionately looking forward to landing the type of job where blue hair won't be welcomed. Therefore, I thought I'd make the most of this period of hair freedom and finish up my bottle of blue haircolor!

Now, seeing as that's how the week started out, I can't wait to see what Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday will bring. Have you done anything scandal-inducing in the last few days?
08 October 2013

The Return of the Bear

It's the first bear sighting in months!

Or is it??

What. Is. That????


(This is why you should never go to Target during the month of October. The gorilla masks are just too irresistible to certain individuals...)

P. S. If you are new to these parts, and find this post revolting, terrifying, and ultimately confusing, please check out the Bear With Me tag for further explanation.
07 October 2013

A Dress Fairytale

I got a new dress recently, and the story of how I obtained said dress is quite a miraculous one.

Some months ago, my younger sister Lizzy was shopping at the mall, and she saw a mannikin wearing a beautiful red dress. She saw the price tag on the dress, $99, so she knew she wasn't going to buy it, but she decided to try it on anyways. After trying it on, she decided that it was indeed a lovely dress....but, it didn't seem proportioned right for her height. She thought of her older but shorter sister Rachel, and thought the dress would fit her a little better.

However, no matter that the dress reminded her of me, because it cost $99. That's a lot of money for a dress.
Lizzy worked at the mall, so she had plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on the clothing situation in the stores surrounded her shop. Sometime after initially finding the dress, she saw that all of the red dresses were now on a 60% off sale. So, the dress would cost $30+. Lizzy considered--the dress really wasn't all that Rachel-ish. It wasn't, after all, the kind of dress you only come across once in a lifetime. Actually, she thought, it's more of the kind of dress that Angel would really like to see Rachel in. (Angel's fairly open about the fashion he prefers for his wife. The more fitted and the shorter the skirt, the better. Such a man.). So, $30  also seemed a little excessive for a very pretty, but not terribly unique, red dress.
A few weeks went by, and on her way to work, Lizzy saw just one, lone, red dress left, and it was on a $4.99 rack. She ran to check what size it was, and it was an XS. Now, a $4.99 dress for her sister, she could afford. But the line for the checkout counter was too long--she had to get to work right away. So she left it, fully expecting not to see the dress again. Who leaves a $99 dress on the $4.99 rack for long?
The next day she arrived at the mall a few minutes early for work, and to her surprise, the dress was still hanging on the rack. Upon looking at it closer, she noticed some deodorant stains on it, which, she figured had helped the dress make it onto the $4.99 rack in the first place, but she decided to mention something about the stains to the cashier anyways, just to see if they would drop the price a little. The cashier said, "Well, let me see what this rings up for." He scanned the dress, and it rang up for $1.99!

The cashier offered that they could possibly give an extra 10% off for the stains, but Lizzy decided that $2 was good enough of a deal for her, bought it, and rushed off to work. She threw the dress in the washing machine the next day, and it came out looking as if it had never been stained.
And that is the story of how my sister bought me a $99 dress from Sears for $2. I'm spoiled to have a family who understands my fondness for clothes, because I'm not nearly that brilliant at finding good deals.
When Lizzy told me this whole story of how she found the dress for me, I told her, "This is a real life fairytale!"
And she said, "Yeah, so that makes me your fairy godmother."
*As you can see, I'm wearing the dress with a skirt in the pictures. This dress is from the Sears Kardashian brand, and the skirt, to me, looks like the type of skirt more flattering on a Kardashian-shaped body than on me, so while I contemplate how to alter it for me, this dress makes the perfect top for this slightly gypsy-ish ensemble.
04 October 2013

Summer Vacation Changed My Life

Up until we left on our trip to Malaysia in July, I had a general idea of what the rest of my life would look like. I even had a blog post written out entitled "Plans for the Future," one I've since deleted. I'd graduate from cosmetology school and get a part-time job until Angel finished grad school.  When he got his nurse practitioner license, we'd move to a new state and have a few kids. I'd be a stay-at-home homeschool mom and teach children's church, we'd go to homegroup twice a month and make some new friends. Eventually, we'd be able to buy our own house and we'd gradually settle down into suburban American life. I knew I'd always write, and I knew Angel would always be good at his job.

It's a perfectly fine future, nothing wrong with it, but I felt a little sad whenever I thought about the years to come in my own life. That's not how I wanted to feel, but I had a hard time accepting that this very normal life was what I was made for. I didn't have a very normal childhood, and I didn't grow up with the desire for a two story house with a two car garage on a cul-de-sac. Both Angel and I felt directionless. We knew that Michigan wasn't our permanent home, but we didn't feel any particular desire to move anywhere specifically.

I clung to the belief that all God's plans for his children are good, that even if the prospect of my future didn't look appealing to me at the moment, it would be good and there would always be opportunities to serve God and to use the gifts I've been given.

That was what I thought about my future until August hit. Suddenly, life looks completely different.

Because we went on a summer vacation.

Angel spent a week and a half in Malaysia in July, and when he returned to America, he emailed me saying that he was convinced that we should live and work in Asia. That's kind of a surprising email to get from your spouse. Never before that moment had he shown real interest in living anywhere outside the U.S., though in my mind that had always been an option to pursue (except, ya know, I'm married, so I couldn't simply do something like move to China on my own--Angel was the reason I didn't spend a semester in China when I was in college). I questioned him a little, to see how serious he was. Over next couple days, I was surprised to hear him say he'd already told some of his family, and some of mine. He'd already decided what to do with possessions that we wouldn't be able to pack up and take overseas. He was serious.

Here's the thing about Angel: when he gets an idea, he sees it through. Our love story could be summarized as: Angel got the idea that his friend Rachel would make a good wife, and he made it happen. Let's be glad he doesn't get crazy ideas as often as I do.

In the space of a few weeks, our life looks completely different, and to me, it looks brighter. Angel has dropped out of his Master's program. He was only a couple classes in, we've faced roadblock after roadblock from school administration since the beginning of the program, and nurse practitioner is a position that does not widely exist in the countries we're looking at. For these reasons and others, it seemed clear that this wasn't the right plan for us.

Now we're exploring all manner of different options. The hardest part in any plan to live overseas is getting a visa and getting a job in a country that's not your own. 

This process could take up to a year or even longer than that. Right now, our life is focused on choosing how best to invest the time we have right now to get the experiences and the finances we need to get ready for a future that doesn't look quite as settled as we thought it did a few months ago. Lots of crazy plans and timelines are flying around. We need to cut back on expenses. No more buying anything that we can't take with us. If one career option doesn't open up by a certain time, we'll start investigating another. Would an M.Ed. help open doors for my overseas career? Does Angel need any further non-medical certifications or education? We've got resumes to update and people to contact--and man, I'm so glad that we've never bought curtains and that I didn't let Angel's convincing arguments talk me into buying a loveseat for the living room.

So, we're moving. We don't yet know when or where, but we're planning on it. I'm already in sorting and packing mode when it comes to our house, though that's really not the most practical thing for me to do right now. We're both excited about what's coming, and trust me, when I know for sure what that is, I'll let you in on it!
03 October 2013

So, We Tried AirBnB

As I've mentioned, perhaps too often, Angel and I went to Influence Conference last weekend. When planning for our little roadtrip, the main goal was to accomplish the trip as cheaply as possible. Because we were both going, we couldn't really share a room at the Westin with other attendees (Because Angel's a boy. Ewww! Who wants to share a room with a boy??).

We looked up all hotels and bed and breakfasts in Indianapolis, and discovered to our shock and amazement that it is not cheap to get a room in that city. (And by that, I mean that there was nothing under $50 a night. I don't know what your standards of cheap are).

At this point, I told Angel that I'd heard of this really weird concept called Angel hadn't heard of it before, but I knew the theory of it--that people rented out houses or rooms in their houses to complete strangers as an alternative to traditional hotel stays. After spending a few minutes on the site, we found someone offering a private room and bathroom with internet access and free parking available for $45 per night, located 1.5 miles away from the conference hotel.

Angel and I decided that we weren't afraid of adventure, made an account, and reserved the room. And then we wondered how everything would turn out...

 A lovely out-of-focus picture of our temporary home.

Our host did a great job of staying in touch with us before arrival, and was home to let us in when we arrived at 3 in the afternoon. Our 2nd night staying there, the hosts were had some friends over, and invited us out into their backyard to chat and drink margaritas (except, you all know I don't drink margaritas, but I appreciate the friendliness of the offer). We had originally reserved the room for 3 nights and paid in advance, because that's how the Airbnb system is set up, but at 7 p.m. Saturday night, we decided that we might as well head home instead of waking up early for a long drive on Sunday. We told our hosts that we were headed out, and they immediately said that they'd refund us for the night that we didn't stay. To my perspective, that was not at all necessary, because we'd already paid, and besides that, we didn't even 'check out' or decide to check out until 7 p.m., but that was a much appreciated kindness that I definitely wouldn't expect from the typical budget hotel.

The very nature of means that every stay will be different, but we had such a good experience this first go-round that now Angel thinks we ought to use Airbnb for every vacation to come!

Have you ever tried Airbnb or other non-traditional places to stay when traveling? I'd love to hear your story!
02 October 2013

5 Bad Hair Day Solutions

Here are 5 tricks I employ on a regular basis:

1. Fedora. Sure, technically any old hat will do the trick, but only a fedora can change a simple bad hair day into a, "Did you notice how awesome I am? I wear a fedora." day.

2. Wet it all down and start over. This isn't an option for everyone, but my short wavy/curly hair is highly influenced by the way in which it dries. If I go to sleep with my hair wet, I will wake up with every hair on my head dried into a semi-permanent stand-up position. But it's nothing that dunking your head under a faucet can't fix.

3. Lots of hairpins. The long-haired version of this is probably a ponytail. But if you have short hair, lots of pins it is. If I don't have time to wet and air-dry my unruly curls, 5 minutes and 10-15 bobby pins can turn a bad hair day into an "artistic" updo that isn't going anywhere for the rest of the day.

4. Use your hair as an excuse to stay indoors. Your hair looks bad, and your home needed a little TLC anyways. Might as well put on that oh-so-ugly but oh-so-practical stretchy headband, turn on the radio, power-clean the house for a couple hours and then treat yourself to a little at home relaxation with a movie or a good book. (The only risk to this plan is the likelihood of unexpected visitors, inspiring doorbellphobia.)

5. Get a haircut. I hate the experience of getting my hair cut, but I do like having short hair. Most of the haircuts I do get stem from waking up, looking in the mirror, and screaming, "Ahh, my hair is awful!" and spontaneously going out to get 4-6 inches chopped off. So far, I've never regretted it.

What's your go-to solution for crazy hair?


In case you're new 'round these parts, this is yet another episode in my irregularly occurring "Worst Beauty Blogger Ever" series, which has it's basis on the fact that, unlikely as it may seem, I'm a licensed cosmetologist.
01 October 2013

Influence Conference

Recaps of any type are typically my least favorite thing to write, ever, but because I've included you all in my mission to learn more about blogging and get serious in this business, I consider it my bound duty to write a little about our weekend adventure! Aren't I just a dutiful little blogger?

Angel and I took a detour en-route between our home and Indianapolis, and visited a dollhouse museum (for me) and Panda Express (for Angel). It was only then that we arrived, and walked 1.5 miles from where we were staying to the hotel at which the conference was held. We found a very interesting memorial fountain on the way.

I'd previously heard that one fun aspect of conferences is the random stuff they give you to take home, and Influence Conference definitely exceeded my expectations when it came to the gift bags and random gifts that seemed to keep showing up throughout the conference.

I may not be a big fan of spending money often, but I'm known for being easily impressed when people give me interesting things that I didn't expect to receive. Here are a few of my favorite books and other pretty things from the gift bag:

To put it simply, the conference was jam-packed with activities and speakers. I think, if I counted correctly, I listened to at least 10 speakers over the course of two days. That's a lot of info. Some speakers were more geared towards blogging, while others simply seemed to be of a generally inspirational sort. I'm still contemplating how I may and may not adjust my blogging strategies based on information from speeches--but rest assured, I'll definitely be remaining very much myself.

The highlights of the conference for me were probably the evening spent getting together with a couple other young wives to chat....and also the after-lunch session when a bunch of blogger husbands got up on stage to speak. Turns out that Angel isn't the only funny husband of a blogger--these guys really kept me laughing.

And I think the highlight of the conference for Angel was getting recognized by a couple ladies as "Rachel's husband."

As far as logistics go--this is the only conference I've ever been to at all, so I don't know how it compares to others in practical aspects. I found the overall tone of the conference to be very laid-back, the organizers were approachable and friendly. I would say that there wasn't quite as much food provided for breakfast and lunch as I would have liked--but perhaps I forgot I was going to a women's conference. I'm guessing that women in general don't tend to be known for eating excessively large meals?

There were definitely moments when I felt like I was standing with a frozen smile on my face, surrounded by a sea of women who all seemed to know someone else in the crowd. I have a feeling it's somewhat of a disadvantage to attend an event like this without already having a very close relationship with a couple other bloggers in attendance. Of course, I'll honestly admit that when I'm not on my own home turf, when I'm in a completely new environment surrounded by lots of people I don't know, it's a big stretch for me to not attempt to run away. Angel can attest to the fact that when he dropped me off at the hotel every day, I was whispering silly things to myself: "I will be brave. I will be friendly. I will smile and say hi to people. I will not be scared." Leaving the conference, I am proud of how brave I was, even if my version of bravery isn't nearly as outgoing as other peoples' versions. I'm very grateful for the ladies who did adopt me, who invited me to sit with them at meals and to come and chat during breaks. I'm not that great at inviting myself into existing conversations, and I'm grateful for the people who saw that and took it upon themselves to invite me in.

This conference was a growing, stretching experience. A weekend of identifying myself as a writer and coming out in public and admitting my word-filled plans to the world at large. I may not have learned anything earth-shattering from the speeches, and I may not have returned home saying, "Oh my goodness I met my new best friend in the whole wide world!!!!"....but I'm glad I went. It was an exercise in courage.