Frostbitten Snowbirds Out in the Cold

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Sunshine and cacti tends to conjure up images of sunbathing and margaritas.

Unfortunately, that’s far from the reality we’re experiencing this week.

Cold temperatures and high winds in the Arizona desert mean we’re stuck inside trying to stay warm, hoping our water tank doesn’t freeze.

Come on Mother Nature, quit messing with us! We don’t make the effort to pack up our stuff and fly south for nothing. Bring it on, we want some heat, darnit!

My Chuckwagon Veganista Lifestyle

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To me, eating super healthy and dairy-free is just a little easier when your homestead is in one place.

Something about having room for lots of ingredients and odds and ends spices makes living a semi-vegan lifestyle a lot more enjoyable.

But here in the chuckwagon, where cabinet space is at a premium, and your Dr. Bronner’s competes for space with your underwear, it’s tough getting enthused to make a loaf of bread when the ingredients are scattered in just about every corner except the water closet.

We bought these insta-vegan sauces at an all-vegan grocery store in Portland, Oregon. But honestly, they kinda suck. At least in comparison to what we can make on our own.

When it comes to convenience, few vegan foods are better than what you can make on your own.

I’m trying to live the vegan lifestyle, but as we approach the holidays (oh wait, they’re here…damn), it’s getting more difficult. When I go home for Christmas, it’s gonna be even worse as Mom looks at me with a perplexed look because she just can’t figure out why I would not want to eat her Mexican dinners smothered in cheese and sour cream.

But I’m gonna stand my ground, and do my best. It’s all anyone can do.

Commit to doing the least you can do. Then commit to doing at least that much.

Veggie Queen Meets the Carnivore

A long time ago, an uppity veggie queen girl met a carnivore boy and despite their culinary differences, they fell in love and got married.

Through the years, veggie girl discovered that it wasn’t the end of the world if a piece of meat touched her food. And carnivore boy learned that having a meal without meat could be a satisfying experience. Sometimes veggie girl had fish, and she couldn’t give up that love of cheese or dairy products, even though they made her farty and she always felt guilty about eating them.

As the years went by, and carnivore boy’s health became compromised because of his love for sweets and meats, veggie girl knew that something had to change. So she bought a veganazi cookbook that a hippie friend told her about, and she’s been on a cooking frenzy ever since.

She’s not the best cook in the world, but she tries. And thankfully, many of the vegan recipes are simple and even if she screws them up, it’s hard to tell because the meals are, well, vegan, you know? Vegan meals, being what they are, are forgiving when it comes to lackluster chefs.

Carnivore boy is being very cooperative with this new vegan thing, and sometimes he even seems like he likes the food she cooks. Veggie girl is happy about that. And she’s even happier now that as she moves to a more animal-free diet, she doesn’t have to feel guilty for the things she puts in her mouth.

She’s not saying she’ll never eat another animal product again, just not as much as she used to.

Just don’t expect her to wear cruelty-free shoes. Even a vegan cowgirl can’t give up her boots.

Ode to My Yard Sailing Obsession

With a homestead comes a yearning to make it complete somehow. But that’s the irony of owning a house. It’s never done. No matter how many things you fill it with, you’re always finding other stuff that you think will make your life easier.

But when you’re frugal and on a shoestring budget, compulsive shopping for new things isn’t only stupid, it’s boring. What fun is it to shop when everything you could possibly want is located under the roof of a stupid shopping mall?

Instead, I prefer the hunt of a Saturday morning yard sale.  When we lived in Eureka, it was a small enough town that I could map out the sales and walk or bike to most of them.

But here in Fort Collins, we hunt down yard sales like most people, in a motorized vehicle. Parking is a little more hassle, and I do hate wasting fuel, but we can cover more ground and bring home bigger items than we can strap on the back of our bicycles.

This of course, has its good points and its bad points, but overall, the size of our tiny home today still puts a limit on what we can comfortably fit inside these four walls.

When we hit the road in a few weeks, yard sale season will be over and garages will be closed up tight for the season. I’ll be sad that I won’t be spending my Saturday mornings on the prowl, but the fun of being on the road will more than compensate for my yard sale obsession.

Ode to the Yard Sale

Gary Soto: New and Selected Poems.

A toaster,
A plate
Of pennies,
A plastic rose
Staring up
To the sky.
It’s Saturday
And two friends,
Merchants of
The salvageable heart,
Are throwing
Things onto
The front lawn –
A couch, a beanbag,
A table to clip
Poodles on,
Drawers of
Potato mashers,
Spoons, knives
That signaled
To the moon
For help.
Rent is due
It’s somewhere
On the lawn,
Somewhere among
The shirts we’ve
Looked good in,
Taken off before
We snuggled up
To breasts
That almost made
Us gods.
It’ll be a good
Day, because
There’s much
To sell,
And the pitcher
Of water
Blue in the shade,
Clear in the
Light, with
The much-handled
Scotch the color
Of leaves
Falling at our
Shoes, will
Get us through
The afternoon
Rush of old
Ladies, young women
On their way
To becoming nurses,
Bachelors of
The twice-dipped
Tea bag. It’s an eager day:
Wind in the trees,
Laughter of
Children behind
Fences. Surely
People will arrive
With handbags
And wallets,
To open up coffee
Pots and look
In, weigh pans
In each hand,
And prop hats
On their heads
And ask, “How do
I look?” (foolish
To most,
Beautiful to us).
And so they
Come, poking
At the clothes,
Lifting salt
And pepper shakers
For their tiny music,
Thumbing through
Old magazines
For someone
They know,
As we sit with
Our drinks
And grow sad
That the ashtray
Has been sold,
A lamp, a pillow,
The fry pans
That were action
Packed when
We cooked, those things
We threw so much
Love on, day
After day,
Sure they would mean something
When it came
To this.

“Ode to the Yard Sale” from Gary Soto: New and Selected Poems. © Chronicle Books, 1995.

Cowgirls, they’re the gypsy kind

“She’s a rounder I can tell you that
She can sing ’em all night, too
She’ll raise hell about the sleep she lost
Even cowgirls get the blues

Especially cowgirls, they’re the gypsy kind
Need their reins laid on ’em loose
She’s lived to see the world turned upside down
Hitchin’ rides out of the blue
Even cowgirls get the blues sometimes

Bound to don’t know what to do sometimes
Get this feelin’ like she’s too far gone
The only way she’s ever been
Lonely nights are out there on the road

A motel ceiling stares you down
There must be safer ways to pay your dues
Even cowgirls get the blues

Even cowgirls get the blues sometime

Bound and don’t know what to do sometimes
Get this feelin’ like she’s too far gone
The only way she’s ever been
Even cowgirls get the blues sometimes

Bound and don’t know what to do sometimes
Get this feelin’ like the restless wind
The only way she’s ever been”

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
by Emmylou Harris

Where am I Again?

We’ve been back on the homestead for over a month, and my brain is already churning out ideas about where we’re headed to in the fall. I’m making mental lists about what needs to get done, and beat myself up over the fact that we’re more than halfway through the year and there’s so much I haven’t checked off my list.

Then I look at my dog. He’s a reminder, that all that matters is right now, this very moment.

I have to stop myself, and remember that this is today, and right here is what we planned for and dreamed about for years.

Living in the now is easier said than done but I’m working on it.

“Live can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Ask a Mexicana: Is that Eye-Talian?

Growing up in the ’70s, it wasn’t cool to be Mexican (well, I guess it’s not exactly cool now either, especially in Arizona).  In my mostly white suburban neighborhood, light skinned Mexicans would pass themselves off as Italian to avoid hassles. Down the street from my house, there were families like the Garcias, who would pronounce their names like “Gar-sha.,” and totally deny their ethnicity.

This kind of bad behavior didn’t do a lot for a Mexican’s self-esteem. I could get into the politics of it, but suffice to say that there are generations of us that grew up hating our ethnic identity and trying desperately to blend in.

If a ‘can happened to be “lucky” enough not to “look Mexican” they could escape instant judgment from the racists out there. My family and I happened to be  those “lucky” ones. And with a last name like mine, that ends in “ano”, it was easy for a lot of people to assume I was Italian. My parents never talked about this, but they hated it when people would assume we were Italian. They never denied we were Mexican.

But me, being an insecure kid, would get subjected to grown up’s inquisitions and not know how to handle it. Some nosy people, especially teachers on the first day of school would ask, “Is your last name Eye-Talian?”

Sometimes I would just say “uh, yeah,” to shut them up. As I grew older I realized that what these people were doing was summing me up based on my last name (because they couldn’t do it based on my skin color). My answer would subconsciously determine what reading group I got into, or whether or not I was “gifted.”

By my senior year in high school, whenever some fool would ask me that question, I had enough confidence to pause, take a deep breath and say “no, it’s Mexican.”

That’s when I’d watch the look on their face, or hear the tone in their voice. Their look of surprise would always be followed by “Oh…” And the worst of them would say something as idiotic and rude as “You don’t look Mexican.”

The funny thing is, decades later, some people still ask. At least here in Colorado. In Cali and Tejas they don’t. In fact, I’m the outcast because I”m a pocha and don’t have a typical Mexican last name. But here, twice in the last two weeks some honkey crackers have asked me that question I’ve dreaded since I was old enough to answer it.

Today, I answer with, “No, it’s not.” If I’m feeling uppity and confident, I’ll shock them and tell them it’s Mexican. If I don’t feel like dealing with their bullshit, I’ll just say “No.” and drop it.

And whenever these morons say “Oh, you don’t look Mexican,” I like to reply with,

“So, what does a Mexican look like?”

Prayer Flag Ponderings

I throw my prayers up into the sky, and hope the universe wraps her arms around them tightly.

Life keeps moving right along and I’m chasing it from behind, trying to hang on to the tails while shouting “Wait for me! I’m not done with today!

Catching up is such an illusion. The key to not driving yourself nuts is, I think, is to believe that in the last 24 hours, you really got done what you needed to get done, and anything else is icing on the proverbial moon cake.

Tomorrow is just another opportunity to create a new reality.

Never a dull moment.

The Wheel of Money

They say money can’t buy happiness, but….well, you know how the rest of it goes.

These last few years we’ve been watching our savings dwindle down faster than we can replenish it. Sometimes it feels like we’re treading water, and other times I’m floating on my back without a care in the world.

There are days like today, when all I want is to be able to go to a restaurant because I’m hungry, without worrying about whether or not we can actually afford it. I want to buy the simple things, like food and fuel, without subtotaling in my brain what my American Express bill will look like at the end of the month.

I know we’re really fortunate and there are loads of people who’ve got it worse than we do. I feel like a schlepp for complaining at all.

But just once, I would love to buy the best brand at the supermarket, or that $20 bottle of wine and enjoy eating and drinking things without fretting over what I just paid.

Is that too much to ask, Universe?

Your Money or Your Life?

Freedom always has its price, and it’s usually not having enough money to do the things you really want to do.

Living on the road is a great lifestyle, but the problem with it is, when you arrive in new places and there’s lots of cool stuff you want to experience, these things usually require spending money. As a permanent road tripper, we’re not exactly loaded. But that’s our choice, I’m not complaining.

It’s just that when you’re so tight on funds, even a five-dollar museum requires careful consideration. That five dollars could go toward another night at an RV park, or it could be applied to a dinner out. Since food is essential to our survival and museums are not, usually, food wins.

Striking a work / life balance when you choose a vagabondish lifestyle can be almost as tough as looking for that balance when you’re chained to the conventional life. In that case, you usually have more money than memorable experiences.

So what shall it be? More money? Or more experiences? Only the individual can determine what makes her ultimately happiest.