A Week With the King

Full disclosure: I miss my Butter. I can't wait to get back to him, even though I won't get to see him until we pick him up from the pet motel Monday afternoon. (Nicely bathed and clipped, of course.)

I can't help it. I'm such a dog person now it's ridiculous. And I'm going through Butter withdrawals.

But, fortunately, there's a fellow here in Georgia with us that is saving me from my doggy despair. And no, it's not Conservative Boy. He'd just make fun of my doggy despair.

It's King Walker.

Isn't he a beautiful boy? He came down to Reynolds with Conservative Dad last week and was here to greet us when we arrived Monday night.

He's been very good, except for the time or two he attempted to escape because he's not accustomed to the fact he just can't run out the door into the yard.

Oh, and did I mention he's a doggy model? I did not do anything to get him to pose for these photos. I swear.

Actually, I tried to take Walker's photo in the kitchen, and he ran away. I thought he didn't like the paparazzi, until I followed him and discovered he just wanted to show his best side. He jumped up on his parents' bed and proceeded to pose. Like this.

And pose. Like this.

Lovely, isn't he?

(Butter, don't get jealous. I still love you more. Promise.)


Thanksgiving at Reynolds

This Thanksgiving, we left L-Town behind in favor of a new, warmer location: Reynolds Landing in the Lake Oconee area of Georgia. It's where Conservative Dad and Conservative Mom recently purchased a lovely vacation home and where My Mom and My Dad actually purchased their future retirement condo too. (Entirely independently of one another ... crazy, isn't it?)

So here we are—my parents, Conservative Boy's immediate family, and Kid Sister's honey—having a lovely time. Last night we gorged ourselves on way too much Thankgiving dinner (including something you absolutely must try should you ever visit the area: buttermilk pie ... it's indescribable). We've also done quite a bit of relaxing. And, of course, golfing.

That's why, without further ado, I present some scenes from my round at Reynolds Landing (don't ask about the score though ... I was rusty).

The green of hole #2 and hole #3 (and a peek at the lake):

Looking back up hole #4 (and My Dad!):

The green on #14:

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!


The Field Museum

Last weekend Conservative Boy had a school board convention in Chicago (go ahead and laugh at the fact he's on the school board; I still do). So I made a quick trip to the big city for some fine dining and a trip to the Field Museum, which I'd never been to but had been dying to go to since, oh, I can remember.

The main reason I wanted to go? So Sue and I could meet again.

And we did.

Sue is the largest T-Rex ever discovered, and she occupies a prime spot in The Field Museum. But prior to taking up residence at the museum, she spent a loooong time in the ground near Faith, South Dakota. And that's where she was the last time I met her: In pieces, as she was being excavated. I was in elementary school at the time and met Sue on a SOAR field trip. And years later, when she appeared at the Field Museum, I knew I had to go see her again. But I didn't have the chance to, until last weekend.

You might laugh when I say this, since she is the largest T-Rex ever discovered, but I thought Sue would be bigger. I guess those massive bones seemed a lot larger when I was in, oh, fourth grade or whenever it was that we last met.

But she is pretty massive, isn't she?


Mary Marie Candles

I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for the chance to write this post and now the time has finally come:

My good friend Cara, aka the Failed Feminist, has opened her own Etsy shop where she sells her handmade candles! The wonderful thing about these candles is that they're not only made with recycled wax, they're made in reused glass containers Cara finds at garage sales, thrift stores, and such.

You can learn more the candles from Cara herself here.

And then go over to her Etsy shop to see some of the candles yourself. Last time I checked, that cute yellow mug above was still available.

Full disclosure: I bought two for Christmas gifts (er ... maybe for myself) this morning, so you won't see the sunny yellow candle in the vintage juice glass or the cinnamony candle in the Mason jar (with the cute fabric in the lid). Sorry! (Only I'm not really ...)

And check back often, as I'm sure crafty Cara will add more wares to the list soon. (She also makes fabulous yoga mat bags, but you'll have to get in touch with her about that because I haven't seen them in her Etsy shop yet.)


Galactic Pizza

Full disclosure: I have not actually tried Galactic Pizza. Yet. It’s in Minneapolis and I’m in central Illinois, and that’s an awfully long way to drive for a pizza. But I’m dying to try it someday soon.

That’s because I haven’t been face-to-face with a superhero in a long time. Or, come to think of it, ever, unless you count the 6-year-old trick-or-treaters on my doorstep a few weeks ago.

What does that have to do with pizza, you ask? Plenty, when it’s Galactic Pizza.

That’s because my pizza will arrive in style: in a tiny electric car driven by a superhero delivery person clad in colorful spandex. Really. No joke.

Who wouldn't want Captain Awesome showing up, delicious pie made with organic toppings—many of which are sourced locally—in tow?

See for yourself in this video from Planet Green. And be sure to check out their website too to learn all about how Galactic Pizza is a socially responsible company. They purchase renewable wind energy credits for 100 percent of their power, use as much organic and locally sourced produce as possible (without selling the pies at sky-high prices), incorporate hemp products into everything from the menu to the dough, opt for recyclable and biodegradable packaging, recycle nearly everything that comes into the store (they produce only about a bag of garbage every 2 days—pretty amazing for a restaurant), and donate 5 percent of their profits to charity. Cool, huh?

You can bet when I make it to Minneapolis, I’ll be hunting down Galactic Pizza—or, at least, placing a delivery order with them.

How much do you think I’d have to tip the delivery person to get him or her to let me take the electric car for a spin?


Letting Butter Talk (Part 7)


Julie, there's something I've been meaning to tell you. I've been trying to figure out the best way to say it all week but I'm just not sure. So I'm just going to say it.

I want your friends to come back.

I love you and all. I always will. I mean, you're my mom. You saved me from those smelly dogs and those smelly cages. And you feed me way more people food than dad does. And spend way more time with me during the day. (Even though he does have you beat at night.)

But the thing is, your friends are way more fun.

When your friends were here, I didn't have just one woman petting me and chasing me around the living room. I had five. And I didn't have just one woman saying how cute I was. I had five.

Sometimes, they even let me climb onto their laps. And I had more people to sniff. And sniff them I did. It was awesome.

And don't tell dad this, but I like them way more than his friends. When his friends come over, they always go one of two places: to stand out by the grill or down into the basement. Every time. It gets kinda boring. But your friends were all over. They'd sit at the table and pet me and sit on the floor and pet me and sit in the living room and pet me. And we even all hung out in the guest room and whoever wasn't looking at pictures would pet me. Oh, and did I mention they'd pet me?

And they laughed a lot too. I like that. Laughing is great.

But now they're gone.


Won't you tell them to please come back?



If you want to know if our children is learning, I recommend reading the local shopper. You will have learn-ed all you needed to know in no time.

See? I told you that you'd get educatid!


Writing for Lawn & Landscape

I know the topic might not be all that interesting to some of you, but I thought I'd share anyway. I recently started contributing to Lawn & Landscape, a magazine for the original "green" industry (in other words, lawn and landscaping contractors, golf course groundskeepers, etc.). I'm writing an occasional profile for them (when I have time—ha!) about businesses that are doing great things.

I don't do a lot of profile writing in my full-time job so it's a nice change of pace.

Here's the first one: Bright Days for Bryant

And the second: The Road Less Traveled

Another nice thing? I get a byline and a writer bio. Not that it's necessary, but a lot of the writing I do is byline-free, so it's nice to have a few clips that have my name on them!


A Brief Celebration

I am not going to gloat. I promise. I said to myself long before Nov. 4 rolled around that should the outcome that seemed likely actually occur (because you really can never tell when it comes to these things, as anyone who has a memory that last oh, the last eight years or so, can attest), I would not gloat.

And so I won't.


I do have to say, I'm excited. Very excited. I'm not trying to be cliche, although this is cliche because "change" became the buzzword for the campaign, but change is good. Very good. And I'm ready for it.

Even if I do live in a town where the majority of the population wanted a change of face, perhaps, but not a change of party.

Even if I live in a town where, despite the fact Obama easily carried the state, I still voted in a room full of Republicans.

Even if I live in a house where Conservative Boy only finally today stopped pouting and sighing and making comments about he needs to move to Mexico or else quit his job because we're going to become socialists and Uncle Barack will take care of us. (Don't look so aghast. I could not make that up. He really said that.)

Even if I know I'm not going to stop hearing about how terrible the Democrats are for at least the next 4 years.

I don't care. It's worth it.

(And the houseful of liberal women I will be hosting in approximately 24 hours will back me up on that. Watch out, L-town. I'm about to double the Democratic population.)


Green Entertaining

Last week I wrote a post on The Home Know-It-All about green entertaining. Now that it's November and the holidays will be here in no time, why not check it out? It provides some pretty easy tips for throwing a great holiday party without contributing too much to the 25 million tons (yes, you read that right) of holiday waste Americans produce each year.


A Rant About Customer Service

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, when I was in Des Moines last weekend I spent some time in Valley Junction with friends. We were on a mission to help our good friend Lo make a necklace with the gift certificate we gave her for her birthday months before. The gem store is this fantastic shop absolutely filled with strands of beads and precious gemstones (there's one whole room of different pearls—it's outrageous!), and you get to make your own jewelry from all the pretty baubles.

Great idea. In theory. Not so great in execution.

The problem was ... well, there were a few. First of all, it's a fun spot in which to go and wander around. But when you're actually trying to pick out gems for a necklace, it's overwhelming. It took five of us almost two hours to figure out what to make for one necklace. No joke. And the women working there, who were supposed to be helpful, didn't really help at all.

But, finally, the gems were selected. And we sat down to actually string them on the necklace ourselves. Again, cool in theory. Until you realize that even though you did the work of making the necklace yourself, you get charged $5 a strand (there were three) just for stringing the beads yourself.

But we didn't know that until after the fact, when Lo put on her lovely necklace (and it really did turn out really well) and went to pay. And the bill was double what we estimated based on the prices of the beads. Yes, that's right. We got charged a ridiculous amount for twine and clasps, got charged for stringing the beads ourselves, and then had another service fee because it took the woman working there 30 seconds to attach the clasp. We were all horrified at how much it cost.

Oh, and let's also talk about the fact that we were in there for almost two hours and they didn't even offer anyone a beverage (and, much to our chagrin, the only coffee shop in Valley Junction is now closed). And they weren't very friendly to us anyway. In fact, a couple of times they looked at us like we were going to steal gems. Excuse me? Are you kidding?

That's why I have a bit of customer service advice for the owner of the store (as if she's reading):

1. Your store is filled with incredibly expensive beads, and you do a nice job of clearly stating on each stand how much they cost. The least you could do for customers is display—clearly, where everyone can see it—the other charges. They have a right to know that the prices marked on the beads aren't indicative of the final cost.

2. Don't be rude to your customers who are spending a lot of money to do all the work themselves. I shouldn't even have to say that.

3. You have to get people into your store all the time who are absolutely overwhelmed by the bead selection. Hire a staff who can provide real, genuine advice on how people can narrow down their choices, rather than just telling them to "bring in a shirt they like" or "just wander around."

4. If you're running a business where people are spending a couple of hours wandering (and a couple of hundred dollars leaving, in some cases), provide them refreshments. Make it an enjoyable experience, an event. There's a store in the East Village in Des Moines that, on Saturdays, provides complimentary champagne for shoppers. You could even offer water and tea and we would have been happy.