Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Peach Tree

In the front corner of my back yard, beside the house, there's a dying tree. It's a peach tree, but thanks to fungus, it's never made good peaches in the four years we've been here. It barely grows leaves anymore, just a few bushy bunches here and there. Mostly, it's branches are are bare all year. I've been thinking I'd cut it down, but haven't ever gotten around to getting someone to do it because it's not really a priority.

I can see this peach tree from my office window. That, a power pole, the juniper bush beside it, and the neighbors rusty barn roof are pretty much all I can see from that window. Since I work at 6:30am, I watch the sky grow light each morning from that window. While working the other morning, my house quiet, I began to notice the sounds of birds chirping and singing. The house is very solid and the windows are double pane, so I don't hear much outside noise and I've really never noticed this noise before. But, there it was, about a dozen little birds perching on the bare branches of the naked peach tree, hopping from branch to branch, chirping and singing to one another.

In the still of the morning, I took a moment to watch them and listen to their singing, and I felt so much inner quiet. I don't know what the little birds are, and I can't seem to capture a picture of them on the branches because my windows are dirty and when I open the office window they fly away. But whatever they are, out there, minding their own business, they gave me something I can't ever seem to find on my own... calm.

There was this thing, the tree, that I had planned to destroy without much thought about it, being of use to these cute little critters. And, to me, too. The tree of was of use to me, because seeing the little birds fluttering around it's branches made me happy. Such a simple thing and maybe it was the moment or the quiet, but I began to realize how much I take for granted and how many things I let pass me by without stopping to really see them. So many little things that could bring me a little bit of calm or peace of mind.

I won't be cutting down the tree. I'm starting to like it, even though it's not serving the purpose it was grown for. I think I may hang some bird feeders, instead.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Coffee and a Classic: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I've been getting this subscription box since last December and so far, I've read most of the books at some point before getting the box and have been happy to get the lovely collectors editions. July's box, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a story I haven't ever read yet. I'm pretty excited about this one because I feel like this is a book that most people have read. It's an American classic, so I'm a little bit embarrassed to say I've never read it... and honestly, Matt looked at me like I'd lost my mind when I told him I'd never read this one, so I feel even worse. 😆

So here's the lovely box in all it's glory. It probably wasn't my wisest move to take a pic of the box against a teal blanket when the book is sort of teal. Lesson learned. 

The book is the Papermill Press edition. Several other books from previous boxes have been from this company. I cannot say enough about the quality of the book. The cover is a sort of papery texture and the embossing is absolutely beautiful. The rest of the box is Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa, a lovely mug, Hay Straws, a cute puzzle, a denim bookmark, and huckleberry starlights in a little metal pail. 

See, the book is gorgeous! My one pet peeve with these books is that reading them is a little bit of a challenge. I don't want to mess up the spine because the book is so pretty, so holding it open without bending the spine back starts to be tricky after 50 or so pages. Otherwise, no complains. The inside of the book is just as nice as the outside, very high quality pages with print that's just the right size.

This bookmark is just too much. I love the denim and really like how durable it is. It doesn't look fragile and will look super cute sticking up out of the book. Hopefully the metal bookmark-style clip won't damage the book pages. As long as it doesn't hurt the book, it will be getting a lot of use because I think it's awfully cute!

I love the vintage cover look of this mug, it's perfect. Of all the mugs, this one might be among my favorites... do I say that every time? I really like the colors and the fact that even though it's not the same pic from the front of the book, the water and scenery on the mug is close to the same color as the book cover which really helps pull the whole theme together. Same with the label on the cocoa, the teal really pulls it together. 

I haven't tried the hot cocoa yet because, well, it's July/August so it's pretty warm. But, I'm going to try it in the morning. I'm sure that it'll be great as they have all been. While I've liked some more than others, I love all things chocolate. So no review about the cocoa just now, but I do love the packaging!

Cute, right? I don't have a single surface anywhere that's clear of clutter, but I may have to make space (cleaning, yuck!) so that I can put this little puzzle together. I love the soft watercolor-like image.

So far, the treats have been fairly spot on. The only one so far that I've flat out disliked was last month's savory trail mix, which I passed on to Matt. This month's treat has been a lovely surprise. They're huckleberry starlights. Though they look like mints, they absolutely aren't. I was a little bit concerned about putting it into my mouth because I am allergic to mint, it gives me migraines. But. it didn't smell like mints and I was so thoroughly delighted at the flavor. They are so good and look at that gorgeous purple color. This one's a win. 

I saved the best and, perhaps, most confusing thing, for last. These are long and short Hay Straws. They obviously fit the box's theme perfectly. What I love about them, once I figured out what they are, is that they are eco-friendly and biodegradable straws. They're not plastic (which is destroying the world, just sayin'). They're natural, compostable, and can be used in either hot or cold drinks. Very cool. A nice touch that's environmentally friendly. 

Overall impression of this month's box: Wonderful!! Just like all of the other boxes, it's beautifully curated and came in a lovely, deep blue photo box. From the treat to the bookish goodies, this box is a winner. I cannot wait to jump in to the book and mark it off my reading list. I will soon no longer be the only English major in the world who hasn't read Huck Finn.

**Absolutely not a paid endorsement, I pay for this subscription every month. I just love the product. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Birthday Recap : 41 Years Old

I turned 41 last week and I feel pretty okay about it. I expected when I turned 30, then 35, and 40, that at some point I would start to feel horrible about getting older. My mom was absolutely inconsolable on her 30th birthday and struggled with 40 years old, too. There's a picture from her 30th of her sobbing while everyone sang her happy birthday. But this hasn't happened to me. I don't feel bad about getting older yet. I still feel young most of the time, aside from the occasional ache.

As mentioned in my last post, I drove out to Arizona to see my family for my birthday. That was an adventure. It was nice to see them for more than a few hours. I hadn't seen them for more than two hours at a time here and there for 3 years. I also got to see my Aunt Sandy who, except for Facetime, I haven't seen in more than 15 years and my Aunt Pam. My cousin also happened to be there.

On my birthday, my folks took me to Torrid so I could buy some clothes, which I badly needed, and to got me my free birthday shake from Del Taco. We spent most of the day after that hanging around and enjoying the afternoon. My little sister baked me an amazing pink lemonade unicorn cake.

Believe it or not, she wasn't happy with how it came out. She's a perfectionist, even when it's crazy obvious that the cake was amazing. She said it was "too short." The cake was very dense and had a very strong lemon flavor (my favorite!). She made it from a recipe I sent her from Pintrest, which I would imagine she won't be making again. The frosting was homemade buttercream. Girl has some mad baking skills. I brought about a quarter of the cake home with me, which involved freezing it solid and putting it in my Igloo in hopes it didn't thaw out on the 15 hour drive (it didn't). Matt enjoyed it.

For my birthday, my folks got me a 25 pound weighted blanket. This is a pretty big deal, because I've been wanting one for a long time. My mom has heard me talking about it and remembered. She's great at picking gifts. I've been using it for the last week since coming home and it's made me feel so much better. I have less anxiety in the mornings and I've been sleeping quite a lot better. I absolutely love it. I also got a stack of vintage records, the A&E Romance Collection DVD set, the crown jewel of which is the A&E Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Elhe, and a Red Copper Pot for my collection... that stuff is the best!

On Friday morning after I got back and had had a whole night of sleep, Matt hugged me for a long time. Then, he forsook sleep and took me to Salt Lake for my birthday. He'd been awake all night, but "wasn't tired" so we went. He got tired about mid-day, so we pumped some coffee and conversation into him and he made it. We went to City Creek Center, which is a gorgeous mall, where I got Rocky Mountain Chocolate. We had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (our new favorite) and then went to Game Night Games and got ourselves some dice. The road construction and traffic were a struggle after the long drive the day before, so my nerves were a little bit shot. But, we had a great day and really enjoyed ourselves. He's been an absolute prince to me since I got back. It's true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder. 😂

The last thing to cap off my birthday celebration was my birthday Kickstarter. I think I've mentioned this before, but for the past few years, I've backed a Kickstarter for my birthday. This year, my birthday Kickstarter is Time Traveling with your Octopus by Brian Kesinger. I adore his work. I also backed one of his Kickstarters for my birthday during a previous year. He's a former Disney animator and his work is absolutely brilliant.

All in all, my 41st birthday was pretty damn good. Here's to being another year older gracefully and a picture of my cute little car during my birthday road trip--on the way home--just because I love her. I was in Searchlight, AZ right before I hit a monsoon. I survived to enjoy my 41st year, even though the weather had other ideas!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Questionable Choices: The Solo Road Trip

Have you ever done something, just to prove you could, only to regret being so damn hardheaded? Yeah, that's me. I sometimes make questionable decisions to prove that I'm not afraid (even if I am) and that I'm just as capable of doing these (sometimes difficult) things as anyone else. That's what happened this week when I drove from northern Utah to central Arizona... alone. It was a rough drive both ways. For reference, It's about 15 hours one way, accounting for stops, down some pretty tough highways. A flight would have taken about an hour and a half.

See, Matt isn't terribly keen on me taking solo road trips, and neither is my mom. But, this isn't the first time I've done this. I drove alone to California to see my family a few years ago. And when we lived in Texas, I tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to get Matt to let me drive alone to California (about 25 hours one way). If it was up to him, I would fly, but I am absolutely petrified to fly, so my anxiety goes absolutely crazy and I break down. I cannot even stand the smell of airports.

The really significant thing to note at this point is that I have a sort of moderate agoraphobia. I struggle to go out alone and when I do, I sometimes have trouble going into buildings alone. On more than one occasion, I've gone to Walmart, sat in my car for a half an hour, and unable to talk myself into going inside, have gone home. But, I don't want to be afraid to go out. I don't want to be so riddled with anxiety that I'm not able to function. I work overtime to reject what my body is telling me, to push back against the fear, and it results in things like this, where I do something drastically out of character and cause myself harm.

On the drive there, I was absolutely overcome with nausea. So, on top of the trip being a little bit tough, I was sick. Because I hadn't slept enough the night before and because the anxiety was trying to shut me down. I pushed through and kept going. I ignored the fear of the highway (I am terrified of traffic and road construction, I'm not much of a driver in general), the overwhelming fear that something terrible was going to happen to me, and the anxiety I always get when Matt and I are apart. It happens every time of us takes a trip. My brain goes to that place where I start to think that we will never see one another again.

It was actually an okay drive if you look past the road construction, major city traffic in Vegas and Salt Lake City, and the five or so hours I spent on the 95 South. That highway is narrow and has terrible visibility, the road winds and dips, and jackasses pass without being able to see if cars are coming. I am not a fan. This particular thing, the passing, caused me to come about ten feet from a very serious head on collision on the way back home. Passing is never worth your damn life or the lives of other drivers... just sayin'.

When it was time to leave, I was completely daunted by the prospect of having to make a 15 hour drive home and on the way back, I hit a monsoon on Hwy 95 North in Nevada. In my flurry of bad decisions, I decided to go to central Arizona during the hottest part of the year, during monsoon season. For forty miles the rain poured down with no visibility. The water on the road was so deep, my car was making waves as high as the side of my windows. It was absolutely the most terrifying part of the trip in either direction. I was never so happy to see anything as I was to see the inside of my garage when I pulled in at 11:30pm.

It was nice to see my family this week and I had a very nice 41st birthday (more about that later). But, I also learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes, it's better to listen to the people who love you. Sometimes, it's important to take self-care and listen to the voices inside that say something isn't a good idea, or that it's not a mentally healthy choice. Sometimes, doing something just to prove you can isn't a good enough reason to put yourself at risk. Next time, despite the fear, I'm going to fly. Because an hour and a half of anxiety is a heck of a lot healthier than the alternative.

The view south from Searchlight, Nevada just before I drove north into a monsoon

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Coffee and a Classic: Don Quixote

Better late than never, right? My Coffee and a Classic box for June came at the very end of the month and I'm just getting around to sharing the pics. I particularly like this month's box, though I'm a little bummed about the treat. But, we'll get to that. I cannot believe how absolutely blown away I still am with these boxes, even after 7 months. I'm still so thrilled when they come each month. Even Matt's interested in the unboxing each month. The Christmas subscription he got me has long expired and I've renewed twice more since then (3 months at a time). And, while I'm canceling a lot of unnecessary subscriptions right now (including FabFitFun), I will certainly not going to be cancelling this one. As you can see, June's book is Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

This month's box included a lovely Word Cloud Classics Flexibound edition of Don Quixote. The lovely card that says what's in the box, of course, a bookmark, liquid absorbent car cup holder coasters, a mug with a quote from the book, a notebook, spiced cocoa, and a spicy trail mix treat.

The box is a gorgeous burnt sienna kind of color and has one of those sinky leather-ish covers. I absolutely love it. When I cracked the book open, the print is absolutely minuscule. It's 840 pages long and the print is so tiny, I'm not sure I'll actually read this one. But, I read it in college, so if I don't get back round to this edition, that's totally okay. If you haven't read this book, it's a must. I recall it making my best friend really sad, though.

The bookmark in the box is very thinly sliced wood. I got one of these one of the other books, they look so fragile, but are actually quite sturdy and make a nice addition to the book. I love the picture on this one, it really expresses the feel of the book. I have it stored inside the book, on my shelf, as I've done with almost all of my books.

This cocoa is so great. It comes from McStevens, as some of the others have, and made about mugs of cocoa. I'm not sure what the spices are, but it was a nice way to warm up on a cool June evening. It's been struggling to warm up here this year, we're just getting up to around 80 degrees in the middle of the afternoon. As with all things about these themed boxes, the picture on the outside of the cocoa packet is such a nice detailed touch to the box's theme.

"Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind." That, I think, is about how every avid reader hopes to go! Ha! The mug is so neat and not like anything else in my cabinet. Getting these mugs is seriously one of my favorite things about these boxes.

I actually had no idea what this was when I first saw them. Thankfully, it says what they are on both the back of the package and the neat little insert from the box. They are coasters for the car! Since my cup holders in my car always get sort of gross, I love this. I put them in my new car and they look great!

See, that's pretty neat, right? Please disregard the mess in my cup holder. The car only has 400 miles and yet, somehow, I have managed to get the cup holders gross already. I hope that it helps keep it from getting any more gross.

As a person who collects journals, even if I rarely write in them, this was a neat surprise. It's hard to tell in the picture, but the cover is bright teal. I love the embossed picture on the front. The notebook has lined pages and, in the back, there's a pocket. It's made by JournalBooks, who makes custom embossed notebooks.

I didn't actually eat the last thing in the box. I put one Spanish peanut into my mouth and then spit it out, it was so spicy! So, Matt ate the goodie from this month's box. He says it wasn't spicy, but he and I have different ideas about what's spicy. It did smell good and the picture on the front, like with the cocoa, is a lovely touch.

Overall impression of this box, very nice! I really liked this month and so did Matt. The July box sneak peek is up on their website, if you're interested in. No spoilers here. I'm looking forward to the next box, but there's nothing new there.

I have all the boxes, which are very nice photo boxes, stashed in a book shelf. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but I can't see throwing such sturdy, lovely boxes away. There will be a lot of them around here soon, I hope I figure it out before I'm overrun!

**Absolutely not a paid endorsement, I pay for this subscription every month. I just love the product.