Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Birthday Poem

Matt
You were there.  
And then I was, too
And now we are.

Can you even believe it?!

Oh, sweet, strange, unfathomable Universe.
Thank you.  
Thank you for this man.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Simple Scents - DIY Perfume

I cannot remember the last bottle of perfume or body spray that I bought.  It was just too long ago now.  Maybe back in college, I guess.  I've always tended towards either light-and-fruity or dank-and-musky scents.  No where in between.  :)

For years I've just been using dabs of essential oils for both perfume and deodorant.  A dab of tea tree in the pits and a drop of lavender on my neck is a fairly standard scent combo for me.  Sometimes eucalyptus in the pits and basil on the neck.  Sometimes patchouli smeared all over both.

Lavender is my overall favorite.

I don't know why it too me so long to realize I could dilute my oil with water in a little spray bottle and--bingo-bango!--I've got body spray.  One of my co-workers clued me in to this back on Earth Day--and boy!--am I pleased that she did!

My recipe, if one could call it that, is pretty loosey-goosey.  I put 15-30 drops of essential oil in a spray bottle with 3.5 ounces of water.  I play around with the number of drops as some scents and combinations are just more naturally potent than others.  An added bonus of making body spray is that my oils now last longer.

This homemade spray is also better for Matt, who has skin that is significantly more sensitive than mine.  Straight up, undiluted essential oil gives his skin a burning sensation and makes it red and irritated looking.  Naturally, he doesn't care for this much.  He doesn't have this problem with the dilute spray.

I am not brand loyal when it comes to my oils, picking them up whenever the mood strikes, the price is right, or my old bottle runs dry.  There certainly is a difference and you do get what you pay for, but I'm just not that sophisticated yet.  Maybe someday.  Reading online I see that lots of folks use distilled or RO water for their sprays, but I've just been using tap water and it works for me.  (I once when to a tea tasting session in which I was made to feel like a savage for using tap water in my tea pot, too!)

I still put a dab of straight tea tree in my armpits most days though.  In addition to its bold, clean aroma tea tree has antimicrobial properties which make it a keen option for an all natural deodorant.

I used to really worry about body odor, especially as I moved away from chemically-laden perfumes, body washes, and other such products.  Essential oils are the key for me.  Now I have one more trick up my sleeve.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Four Points of Concert Etiquette According To Beth

"One good thing about music--when it hits you you feel no pain.  Hit me with music.  Hit me with music." - Bob Marley
I go to a lot of concerts.  Live music is important to me.  It is a big part of my life.  I find it to be a positive influence on who I am. Live music makes me a brighter, kinder, deeper, more thoughtful person.  A really, really stellar concert can make me walk in the clouds for weeks, months.  An ordinary one sends me home with a heart full of contentment.
…and so perhaps I am just getting old and crotchety before my time, but I’ve noticed an increasing amount of annoying, inconsiderate, or downright rude behavior from my fellow concert-goers.  Things that rarely used to happen, namely non-stop chatter and streaming video, I find myself up against much more often in recent years.
I don’t really like to dog on people though.  I prefer to write and speak upful, positive words instead of criticisms.  I've found it to be more useful to focus on the things I love about people instead of the things that drive me up a wall about them. But after dancing the night away in the midst of an especially chatty crowd I decided it was time to start formalizing those thoughts into words.  So I did.  And then I sat on this post for about a year trying to decide if these thoughts were even worth sharing.  If they added anything to the conversation--or if it was just me griping.  I'm still not sure.
Either way, I’m not about to become the concert police.  I let people do their thing, even if I don't personally like it.  Shushing only leads to more shushing anyways.  I like to (idealistically) hope that people will recognize their self-absorption.  That they might realize the impact they have on other people's experiences, striving to make it a positive one.
I just want everyone to grow.
#1  Snap Happy Fools
Capturing a moment or two for posterity is one thing. Photos do help trigger memories years down the road.  Recording every single song the whole concert long and blinding everyone snapping photo after photo is not cool.  The people behind you don’t want to watch the concert through the frame of your digital screen--and it is hard not to.  Nor do they desire to shift around to find an unobstructed vantage point as you move about playing paparazzi.  And a flash is really, really, really bright in a dark, intimate concert venue.  Unreasonably so.

Make no mistake:  I take photos at every concert I attend, more or less.  I snap a couple of the whole band and a couple of my favorite member or if they bring out a special guest to play with them.  But 99% of the time my camera is in my pocket because I am watching the performers, getting my grove on, experiencing the music.

I attended a show on Sunday where one gal videotaped almost the entire thing--flash on, elbows in my face holding the camera up.  Between songs, as she momentarily lowered her camera, I turned to Matt and asked, "I wonder what she'll even do with all that video anyway?"   I can't imagine the audio or picture quality is all that good.  Plus, it seems to me that in trying to capture everything a person is impeded from fully engaging in it--from really cutting a rug and letting the lyrics transcend your soul.  But, maybe that is just me.  This is most certainly a behavior that has increased in recent years and I don't see any end in sight since "everyone" has a camera in their pocket and social media account begging for new content.
#2  Chatterboxes and Karaoke Stars
I came to hear the band.  I don’t understand why anyone’d fork over $10-50 to stand around and talk to their friends while drinking overpriced beers.  To each their own though.  But if you are going to talk while the band is playing take it to the back at least!  I've seen shows ruined by this.  Literally ruined.  Todd Snider got so fed up with the chatty crowd--especially the girls at the front--that he decided there would be no second set.  And I doubt he'll be back to our town any time soon.

Now, I’m not saying I want everyone to be silent or anything.  Sometimes Matt and I will share a “wow,” mid-jam or exchange a few sentences between songs about how good so-and-so was or how much we dug that particular tune.   But we’re not here to talk about the dinner party we went to last night or my new bicycle baskets.  We’re not here to tell funny stories about our cats or what is coming up in the garden or where we're going on vacation.  We are here for the show.  To watch and listen and engage with every sense.

The same goes for belting out every song at the top of your lungs.  Again, I paid to hear the band.  You might be a fine singer, but I don't want to have to strain to hear the band over your, um, background vocals.  Sing to yourself if you want, but think about your neighbors while you do.  (I grant a belting-it-out exception to any song the band encourages as a sing-a-long.)
#3  Squeezing Seven More Sardines in the Can
Open dance floors and general admission tickets are my favorite.  I like the freedom of movement and the way the composition of the crowd evolves over the course of the show.  Being close to the front is awesome.  I love being able to see fingers dancing on the strings, smiles on the faces of the band when they're in the middle of an exciting jam.  But the laws of physics dictate that we can’t all be up there and throwing elbows and stomping toes to get there is plain rude.  There is a natural ebb and flow on the dance floor.  People come and go, the dancing winds up and mellows out again.  Crowd movement is natural, just go with the flow and you'll get a good spot.   Just because someone is cute or short doesn’t give them a pass to squeeze other people out.  Just because they're giant and burly doesn't either.  One person trying to find a little space for themselves along a packed stage rail is one thing.  Leading a small army of your closest pals there is not.  Besides, the music is just as good at the back, sometimes more so depending on the sound system and the venue.
#4 Mind Your Manners
If you spill your drink all over, step on some toes, or bang into somebody a little eye contact, a smile, or a quick, “sorry,” or, "excuse me," goes a long way toward keeping the mob of dancing bodies harmonious.  I've seen the dance floor get aggressive and that is no fun for anyone.  It seems common sense, but it is amazing the difference it makes when a group of relative strangers remember to be nice to each other, follow that golden rule, and maybe even say please and thank you.
There is a common thread here, I realized as I was writing.  It all goes back to folks being overly self-involved, self-absorbed.  I don’t think people are actively trying to be annoying, inconsiderate, or rude to their community.  They just are doing so thoughtlessly.  They’re likely not thinking about anything aside from themselves and their personal enjoyment.  That is the bottom line.

I just wish people would think about how their actions impact other people. That is the refrain to all of my complaints.  We're all in this thing together and we need to remember the ripple affect we have on our surroundings.
Of course, that applies outside of concert venues, too.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bear Lakes

I mentioned that we'd gone backpacking back in July.  When I'd been scouting online for places to go in the Bozeman area I only found some pretty bare bones info about Bear Lakes.  So, with that in mind I though I'd write up a little something about it.  Not only will it will help me remember the experience better but, hey, maybe some other hiker will find it helpful, too.
The hike to Bear Lakes was a steady upward climb of about 4.5-5 miles.  There was only one bit that was steep enough to necessitate switchbacks, but it was up, up, up pretty much the entire way.  The consolation to this is that the hike back out was gravy.  What a sweet downhill cruise that was!
The trailhead is located at the end of Bear Canyon, right outside of the city of Bozeman, MT.  This close proximity to town, as well as the fact the trail is multi-use (bicycles, ATVs, horses, and hikers), gave us some reservations about the hike, but in the end it was just fine.  We didn't expect it to be wilderness--and it wasn't--so we were satisfied.  Yellowstone has taught us to be more open minded about "sharing" our lovely natural places.
And we did share the trail with bicyclists and a handful of dirt bikes and four-wheelers, but again, it all worked out well.  We shared.  The bicyclists were kind of cool even.  There was a race going on and so they were just flying downhill, catching air on the small dips and rises of the trail...it was nuts.  They were hooting and hollering and clearly having a great time.  Just like me and Matt.  The trail was wide enough though and we could see them coming so it was never an issue to share the trail with them.  And the motorized vehicles were there and gone, only causing 45 seconds of their noisy disturbance.
We picked wild raspberries along the trail and enjoyed the flowers--including quite a few Pinedrops, those odd parasitic plants that don't make their own chlorophyll.  Matt and I have been fascinated by them since we ran into an Indian-Pipe back in 2006, wandering the woods with Adam.   The flowers were quite lovely--paintbrushes, lupines, blanketflowers.  No birds along the trail really, but with the relatively heavy use of the trail we weren't too surprised.
After passing the smaller and scummier of the Bear Lakes....
...we arrived at our destination.
The larger lake was in rather distinct contrast to its fauna covered neighbor.  The lake glimmered emerald, but the water remained strikingly clear.  We could see fish swimming well out from the shore.
We climbed a small rise overlooking the larger of the Bear Lakes and set up camp back in the forest away, for privacy.  The lake was a popular place to be during the daylight hours.  Folks fishing mostly.  We hiked around the lake and hung out hammocks, spending the afternoon lunching, reading, and chatting.  We could see other people, but were in our own little secluded thicket of trees.  The occasional ATV traffic thinned as the day went on.  The fishers went home.  In time it was just us.
We tried out some sparkling wine in a can--a new product for sale at Matt's work--and enjoyed our view of the lake below.
Come night it was so still and silent it was baffling.  No wind rustling the trees.  No insects singing, even.  There was one other couple camped out at the lake--arriving on their ATV shortly before dusk--but we had enough space between us that we never heard a peep from them, even with the dead quiet.
We'd intended to stay up and do some star gazing, but after five miles of up, up, up with a full pack and bodies not conditioned to such use we were too tuckered.   Which was interesting since we can easily do 10 miles in a day hike.  Carrying everything--gear, food, wine--really makes a difference.  So after a game of Scrabble we called it an early night.  We left the rainfly off as a compromise, so we could still watch the stars twinkle at least a little bit.
We both woke in the night and drank in the sky.  And the quietude.  It was perfect.
The next morning we lounged on the small bridge by the lake--reading, snacking, basking.  We found the nest of a busy mama Robin and watched her go about her business.  Those mama birds really have their work cut out for them.  All mamas, I suppose.
As already mentioned, the return trip was a breeze.  The packs were lighter, too.  Though the trail was much, much quieter in the morning hours we still saw few birds.  That was compensated by the crazy number of frogs we encountered though.  They were all over in the pools of water along the trail.
There was also an abundance of butterflies dancing from flower to flower down the trail.  They came in quite a number of colors, patterns, and sizes.  With all the flowers, butterflies, and the sweet mountain air it felt more like spring than smack dab in the middle of summer.
When we made it back to the car we were happy, refreshed and tired at the same time, and super excited to find backpacking just as awesome as we'd remembered it to be.  Even if we didn't go far afield.  Even if it was just one night.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Blessings for a Marriage - A Wedding Doubleheader


Excerpts from Blessings For A Marriage  
by James Dillet Freeman

May you always need one another - not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less, but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you.

May you need one another, but not out of weakness. 
May you want one another, but not out of lack. 
May you entice one another, but not compel one another. 
May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another. 
May you succeed in all important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces. 

May you look for things to praise, often say "I love you," and take no notice of small faults. 

If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.

May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy.

May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.
I had the joy of attending two wedding ceremonies this weekend.
They were both so different and both so brilliantly suited for the happy couple.  It was a splendid illustration of how a wedding can be whatever you wish it to be, whatever suits you and the life you're building together, of the astonishing variety of forms love can take.
It is always a delight to me, being a part of such an occasion.  An entire day (days!) of love and family, where hugs and tears of gladness abound, where friends new and old gather, where cooperation is key and teamwork so evident, where love is so obvious and in-your-face it is hard not to get carried away in the tide of beauty and promise and hope.  My heart is overflowing with happiness.
Love.  The world can always use more open, unabashed demonstrations of love and devotion.  Of people caring for each other.  Of life and community being built right before our very eyes.   What a glory to behold!

Game Review: Rewordable

This was something fun and new for me.  Instead of another book to review for Blogging For Books I was able to choose a new game to review.  What a swell turn of events!!  I love games.

There were two games to choose from, actually, but of course, I went with the word game.  Word games almost always rank at the top for me.
Rewordable came about following a highly successful Kickstarter campaign.  The game is card based with each player creating a set of words in front of them.

It had a couple things that stand out as particularly amusing components and which make it a unique take on a word game.

Players can steal words from each other.  You don't have to, but you can.

Players can focus on collecting reward tokens for specific types of words (5+ card words, words made just with pink cards, words with 6, 7, or 8+ letters) OR players can focus on just making (and stealing) a lot of long, high-value words.

The value assigned to the word segments is based on their actual frequency in common speech.  Which means, in theory, that is is easier to make high point words.  Whereas in Scrabble the high points are assigned to the J and X, say, that isn't the case in Rewordable....which is an interesting twist.  As a frequent Scrabble player this is actually a little extra challenge, I think.

You can change the words as you go.  If new cards you draw build on your word (or an opponent's word) you can make CHAT into CHATTER into CHATTERING.  This sort of piggybacking is pretty much my favorite thing to do in Scrabble and Rewordable is just made for it.
The cards are attractive in a bright and bold sort of way.  The whole game is rather small making it highly portable.  The instructions were direct and well written.  At only one point were we uncertain (it was the common-pool cards) after reading them, but it became immediately clear once we started playing.  That is so often the case with new games.

The first game was a little slower as we got used to building words from the fragments on each card.  Some word fragments are certainly easier than others--and the point values seem to change accordingly.  But, then we played several games in a row, once we got the swing of it.  All three initial testers gave it very good marks.

Rewordable is designed for two to eight people.  I like a game that can scale up like that, but which is still enjoyable with only a few.  Most of the time it is just Matt and me playing, but I do love a rowdy game night with my friends, too.  Matt and I are glad to have this new addition to our game-playing repertoire.
Disclaimer:  I got a copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program.  The review and opinions here are my own and were not influenced by that fact.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

America's Test Kitchen Local Vegetarian Eats

We're in the produce sweet spot right now.  There are so many yummy gifts to be picked from the garden daily.
It is a thick, riotous jungle of vegetables and flowers back there.  The bees are buzzing on the blossoms.  Each day my plate is full of bright, glossy peppers, luscious  and beautiful eggplants, tender green beans, magnificently aromatic garlic, and so on.  It is just delightful.  And delicious.  And tremendously satisfying.
We've been using this abundant variety of veg to work through this rather fantastic book--The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen.  My dad had a friend who didn't want it and so he snagged it for me, because he's a thoughtful fellow like that knowing how I like my vegetables, books, and cooking.
Now usually I'm not much for plain ol' vegetarian cookbooks these days.  I've got enough vegan cookbooks and recipes under my belt and enough family recipes to veganize that I don't actively seek out non-vegan cookbooks.  Too much cheese to work around more often than not.  My dad actually commented on this when he offered it to us.  However Matt and I both appreciate the scientific approach taken by America's Test Kitchen so we opted to give it a closer inspection--and man, oh, man....what a great cookbook!
Everything we've tried has been incredible.
The lo mien, tempeh tacos, fried tofu fingers (so chewy and delightful in their light dusting of cornstarch), fideos, vegetarian fish sauce (which really takes our Drunken Noodles recipe up a notch, I gotta say), sweet potato fries, Thai-style curry over these magnificent little fried rice cakes....every single thing we've tried we're excited to make again and again.
Except the sweet potato fries which Matt said were too much work to fry.  (I'm devising a method to bake them instead.  The crispy coating was perfect, but I can see Matt's point.  I want more sweet potato fries in my life, but I don't care if they're actually fried.)  We also refuse to use anything but extra-firm tofu.  We don't care what the Test Kitchen says.  We find the texture much more pleasing.
Of course--full disclosure--we're only partially following the directions on some recipes because that is how we roll.  
I mean, so what if the curry doesn't really call for cauliflower?  We love curried cauliflower and we have cauliflower so curry with green beans, peppers, and cauliflower it is.  And sometimes they're just a little too fancy in their preparation methods.  I'm sure their way is marginally superior--taste tested as it is and all--but my way is still fantastic and considerably fewer steps so....
It is a swell cookbook--tasty, flexible recipes, instructive tips and techniques, and helpful and appealing photographs.  I highly recommend it.
...now I gotta lay hands on the Test Kitchen's Vegan for Everybody collection!