Sunday, April 24, 2016

What's Springing Up Now

After years of gardening and micro-farming, you'd think we would be desensitized to the debut of new buds and veggies each spring, but I tell ya it gets us every single time. Each year when our first artichoke pokes up its head, we cheer. When we uncover the red of a strawberry hiding beneath the plant's leaves, we get giddy (which, lately, is quickly squashed when we find that the chickens have eaten the berries...). The most fun of all is seeing growth we've never seen before—like the emergence of almond fruits on our young tree. Here's a springtastic look at what's going on at our house right now:

So many Meyer lemons. And a mockingbird nest in the tree. Watching Papa bird ferry twigs over all week has been my favorite break from writing marketing copy.

We've been eating a lot of artichokes. There are dozens in the front yard right now and we just can't keep up. Mr. W decided today that we need to make spinach-artichoke dip with them, so that's on the dinner list this week.

Buddha-guarded basil tastes extra good.

A friend kept bringing me chard from her garden because she had so much. Then Mr. W decided to plant some and we have such an abundance I'll probably start giving it away soon.

One of our first almond fruits! Woo hoo!

Sweet onions mixed with a couple marigolds to try to keep the bad bugs away.

A half-eaten strawberry. It would have been our first one of the season but someone else got to it first.

Buds breaking on one of Mr. W's many grapevines.

Purple broccoli. We tried to eat a fair amount but it goes to flower so quickly, it's hard to keep up.

Funkytown purple broccoli. I have no idea what happened here but it looks like a caterpillar took over the plant.

These suckers had been in their box for months but they still turned out ok and tasted quite good with a little sea salt, olive oil, and rosemary.

New plum tree (we was a freebie from Mr. W's dad).

My sweet little cactus flower that bloomed and fizzled out in 3 days. So pretty while it lasted.

Baby tomato plant that I so badly want to grow and start gracing us with the fixins for Caprese salads.

Each season is a delight and I'm hopeful that we'll have more time to devote to the garden-farm (farden? farmden? garm?) now that our major renovation projects are winding down.

Wait, what am I saying? The construction around this place never stops. In fact, just this weekend we started building a new fence in the side yard because those feathered little wienerbeaks Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha kept breaking out of the "fence" we had. Yes, the quotation marks are more than necessary because the "fence" consisted of one of the closet doors we ripped out of our bedroom + a piece of the previous fence propped up by 4x4s and a metal pipe + a scroll of chicken wire, under which the girls kept escaping. It was a sad, sad yard barrier.

Naughty, naughty sneaker-outers.

The new fence should be a heck of a lot prettier than the ramshackle one we had, and will hopefully do a far better job of keeping the chickens where they belong. You know, in the planter boxes, eating all of our strawberries...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Turning 40 with a Different Take on Life Accomplishments

26. I took a helicopter flight once. And didn't pee my pants.

The milestone birthdays are always a little tricky, aren't they? They're the ones where you find yourself kind of taking stock to see if you met the goals you set years ago.

I can remember sitting down with a pen and paper many times in my 20s, listing out everything I wanted to accomplish by 30, 35 (never beyond because hello, that was WAY too old). I wanted to be married by 30. A homeowner. And of course, a published author.

None of that happened.

Single at 30 was a hard one to swallow. And it's no coincidence that my husband and I got hitched the month before I turned 35. The house came with that. The book... Well that one gets to haunt me now that I'm officially 40.

It's really easy to want to beat ourselves up when we don't tick the boxes, isn't it?

Sure, I have a whole lot of amazing things in my life, but as I sat alone on my couch Monday night, watching the fleeting minutes of my 30s tick away, I started thinking about that unwritten book. And I decided that instead of dwelling on its non-existence (or not-yet existence) I would start counting up all the other achievements I've made over the years. The ones that didn't make my gilded life to-do list. Stuff I had no idea I would be glad to accomplish, and yet I am.

I think it would do people wonders to spend time thinking of their own forgotten triumphs in this way. I mean, what could be more important than feats like these...

1. I still have all my teeth, including one baby tooth.
It ain't in good shape and I'm going to have to get it pulled so I can have a dental implant installed, but I've kept it in my mouth this long. Score one for Team Maris. 

2. I can still do the same step aerobics workout I did when I was 19. 
Kathy Smith, circa 1995. Used to own it on VHS, now on DVD. I still do it at least once every 2 weeks as part of my living room workout rotation.

3. I'm friends with people I've known since kindergarten.
With so many burned bridges and ended friendships in the world, I take immense pride in the fact that I'm still close with people I knew in elementary school, junior high, and high school. Particularly when I've given them plenty of reasons to dump my body in a river over the years. 

4. I (mostly) wrote the script for an Auto Club TV commercial in my 20s.
I believe it aired in 2003 and involved a guy sitting in a giant balance scale. It would totally make you buy Auto Club car insurance if you saw it now.

5. I was a single mom to two cats...and resisted ever getting more than that.
You get one cat because you want a low-maintenance pet (good joke now when I have a geriatric bank account-drainer...) then you get the second cat to keep the first one company. But there's no reason for a third. Unless you're a crazy cat lady. Which I, according to my cat parentage, am not.

6. I can make marinara sauce from scratch. (Know the recipe by heart.)
And I'm sorry but the stuff in the jar—even the really good stuff—just does not compare.

7. My family is still all speaking to me.
Like the friend accomplishment, I feel like this one is pretty significant. We've had some good knock-down, drag-outs, and no one has cut me off. Yet.

8. I've never been arrested. But I have gotten out of speeding tickets twice.
It's amazing how effective a smile and some jokey jokes can be with the policemen. I literally made a CHP double over with laughter once when he pulled me over. #winning  

9. I've seen U2 in concert 10 times.
Five tours from 1997-2015. I never threw my panties on stage, but did once hold up a sign for Bono that said "Make Me Move in Mysterious Ways."

10. I've run 6 half marathons.
Which, in my book is equivalent to running 3 full marathons. 

11. I peed at the top of Half Dome.
Some people only climb it. I conquered it and marked it as my own. 

12. I survived being laid off, twice.
It was so scary the first time. And yet, I didn't end up in a cardboard box under the freeway overpass. I even ended up enjoying the time off. The second time, I think I went on 3 vacations in the first two months.

13. I breathed the same air as George Clooney.
Friends, this was 100% as magical as you would expect it to be. Probably the highlight of my Hollywood living. 

14. I fell on my butt rollerskating last weekend and didn't even get a bruise.
Full left cheek land and miraculously, no bruise. Pretty good for a 40-year-old. I may have had a special beer cushion that settled in my posterior to break my fall. Not sure. 

15. I've survived a tonsillectomy, a gum graft, and basal cell carcinoma.
And a really nasty mountain biking accident that I still have dirt in my knee from. Makes for good conversation at parties. 

16. I got to go to a taping of The Bachelor: The Women Tell All.
And I ended up on-screen at least twice. For sure it was my 15 minutes of fame and I didn't even have to get publicly dumped or accept a rose.

17. I've gone to the movies alone dozens of times.
This may not seem like anything big but I know plenty of people who have never gone to a movie by themselves. I think it's kind of a cool rite of passage into official adulthood. That said, I've never rented a car on my own, so it may be a wash. 

18. I bought a car without taking my dad/boyfriend/husband with me to the dealership.
I wasn't planning to do it; I was just going for a test drive. After it all went down, I felt like I'd officially become a grown-up (and I was 32). 

19. I went topless in Italy on my honeymoon.
Now, this was actually on a "Things To Do Before I'm 40" list I once wrote. And although I was supposed to go to a topless beach and only went topless in a boat near the beach, I'm counting it as a win.

20. I've eaten pizza in Naples.
Nothing compares, my friends. Nothing compares.

21. I've drunk Guinness in Dublin.
All authentic-like, while listening to U2 music.

22. I've savored fondue in Switzerland. 
And Gruyére in Gruyéres.   

23. I've had a waffle in Belgium.
I think it was chocolate and it was delish. 

24. I've toasted with a glass of burgundy in Burgundy.
Pretty sure I invited a teenage waiter to come visit Mr. W and I in California on that trip. Wine is always the catalyst to great friendships.

25. I have a half-baked outline for a book that maybe, someday, will be published. 
But when I consider that I also have a full manuscript for a chick lit novel I wrote in my late 20s sitting in the closet, my hopes fall a bit. We'll see.

No matter what, no matter how many boxes I check, I know that I'll be able to find important accomplishments scattered throughout my life before and between each and every big birthday. And I think every person reading this can do the same. If you feel like sharing, I'd love to know what's on your I DID IT list!