Tea party

Written by hootenannie on October 28th, 2015

For anyone who is a fan of the tea served at Aveda salons but doesn’t want to spend the the NINETEEN dollars for 20 tea bags, I have discovered an alternative:

Yogi Egyptian Licorice Mint Tea

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It tastes just the same, and you can get it on Amazon for $0.20/serving as opposed to the $0.95/serving Aveda brand. That is a 79% savings.

I am here for you. Namaste.

My cattle panel fence

Written by hootenannie on October 27th, 2015

This is going to expose me for being the spoiled brat of a consumerist that I am, but here it goes anyway: I still have an iPhone 4 and it’s RUINING MY LIFE. *throws self on ground to flail*

A rundown of my first world phone problems: It’s slow. I try to slide the bar to answer a call and it just sits there. Siri is broken; she sounds like a smoker from Boca Raton. When I use Maps for directions, there’s a delay that results in me being told to exit about five seconds too late. And the camera — you know, the 5 megapixel camera that used to feel so extravagantly advanced — is absolute crap.

So when it came time to photograph the finished product of the cedar-framed cattle panel fence I had installed, the iPhone just wouldn’t do. Nay, I say to thee. This was an occasion for a good old fashioned digital camera — just like the pioneers used.

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I love my fence so much, and in a way, it’s changed my everyday life. It’s absolutely luxurious to be able to throw Foxy outside in the morning and not have to follow her; she can hunt squirrels to her heart’s content while I make my coffee. I love the fact that the entire yard is enclosed, so if I want to sit on my front porch swing (because I have a front porch swing, just like I’ve wished for my entire life), Foxy can hang around. I may not have the most up-to-date phone — but damn it, I have a fence surrounding a tiny little dream house, and that means that life is pretty extravagant.

Tick talk

Written by hootenannie on October 19th, 2015

If Foxy had a baby book, yesterday would have been a new page:
Foxy’s First Tick

Ever since I moved to Minnesota, I’ve been worried about ticks. They’re much more prevalent here than they are in Colorado (I’ve actually never seen one in Colorado), and between my disgust at all things “burrowing” and my paranoia over enigmatic yet incapacitating phenomena such as Lyme disease, a tick is basically my worst case scenario. Throw in Foxy’s long fur, thus an unlikely early find, and my anxiety reaches a fever pitch.

The only solution? NEVER THINK ABOUT TICKS EVER.

I’ve been the human tick ostrich, burying my head in the sand and ignoring all possibility that my dog might draw one in through her fur to her skin like a magnet. I’ve let her run off leash in the woods like that proverbial absurd little bird (Cuckoo!) – because life is too short, right? Life is too short not to let your dog be a dog, and this dog was born to run free.

Until yesterday morning, when I felt that swollen jellybean on her side. I didn’t even have to look. I knew what it was. And that I was about to lose my breakfast.

But what choice did I have? This is my dog. It’s not exactly a marriage or anything – but I DID promise to take care of her til death do us part. So I grabbed my tweezers and… did it. I extracted an arachnid interloper from my dog’s flesh.

It was horribly disgusting, and yet surprisingly satisfying – not unlike popping a zit or ripping a weed out by the roots (which, yes, I find disgusting). And by impulse, I dropped it – head and legs and bulging body – into the toilet. Except I didn’t flush it.

I just stared at it.

There it was in the toilet bowl, fat and repulsive and everything I had feared, and yet… not that bad. I mean, I’m not suggesting you go and do a Google image search for “tick on dog” or anything (no really, don’t) – but honestly, it just wasn’t as awful as I thought it was going to be. It was a disruption in my morning. Nothing more.

It made me think about all of the things I think I’m better off ignoring: my fears and my bad habits and my shame. They seem so scary and appalling and unspeakably vile, and maybe if I just never, ever look at them, they’ll never really take hold. They’ll never become visible. No one will ever know.

I wonder if God looks at those things and thinks, “Ugh, gross. Whatever,” and can pluck them dead right there. Just because he loves me. Just because he wants me to run free.

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Brain crumbs

Written by hootenannie on October 12th, 2015

I haven’t had it in me to write something meaty. So here are some scraps of stories and thoughts from the last few weeks.

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Just once, I would like to hear a country song in which the woman is driving and the man is riding shotgun. Come on.

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I know that I’ve recently changed my entire life, city, job, house, everything, and this change is mostly exciting and good — but no matter where I live or what I’m doing, I think I will always fantasize about scrapping everything, driving away, and living out of a Scamp.

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I hired a company to install a custom fence all the way around my house. I was VERY particular about the type of fence I wanted, and it turns out that while this style is found in abundance in Seattle, Portland, and Denver, apparently it doesn’t exist in Minneapolis; I contacted multiple companies to get quotes, and only found one who was open to even trying to build it. It feels good to be a local trailblazer, and based on the fabulous almost-end result (it should be finished by the end of day today, tomorrow at the latest), I have a feeling that Minneapolitans are about to be circling my block, inspired to copy this crazy-wonderful cattle panel (also known as hog wire) fence. I’ll be sure to share pictures when it’s finished.

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Latest letter from my Compassion International kid (7-years old):

Dear Miss Annie Parsons,
Hello, Miss Annie! I received your letter. I enjoyed reading your letter.
I don’t like music. I want to be a soldier. Please pray for me that my dream will come true. This is my letter for now.
From, Nathanael

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This weekend, I made a quick trip to Madison, Wisconsin. From my limited time there, I’ve decided that I love it and would definitely go back for further exploration (so much beautiful water!).

I kind of forgot to take pictures, although when I got home, I did find two back-to-back shots that made me shake my head.

Here’s the first:

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Never mind that I cut out the image of the UFO hovering over the words. As one for whom faith is hard-fought (“faith like a child” is not my strong suit), this felt like a heart-cry.

The very next picture was this:

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I FOUND THE STONE TABLE, cracked in half, with Aslan nowhere to be found. If that isn’t irony/happenstance/a gentle prodding, I don’t know what is.

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Sending hugs and brownies your way this Monday. You can do it!

My first trip to a casino

Written by hootenannie on September 28th, 2015

When I moved to Minneapolis on July 3rd, if you would have told me that I wouldn’t leave again for 84 days, I would have keeled over dead.

In the last five years, I’ve gotten used to the pattern of skipping town roughly every other week: some business, some weddings, a lot of adventures. My suitcase was always packed, I had a separate set of travel toiletries, and both airline and hotel status. So it simply didn’t strike me as a possibility that the journey from Colorado to Minnesota would be my LAST TRIP EVER.

At least, that’s how it’s felt. After nearly three months of remaining within an hour radius of the city, I was going stir-crazy. It’s a cool place and all, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out.

Even if it’s to a casino.

My good friend Joey drums for Scotty McCreery (you know him, you love him), and a few weeks ago he let me know that they were playing a show in Minnesota at the end of the month. “Too bad it’s four hours from Minneapolis,” he said.

My escape had arrived. “I AM COMING.”

Which is how on Friday afternoon I found myself driving north on little back highways en route to the Shooting Star Casino. Have you heard of Mahnomen, Minnesota? Me neither – but I’m here to tell you that it exists, and I’ve been there.

This was my first real experience of a casino, and it was everything I feared it would be, everything I hoped it would be, everything I dreamed it would be. Smoking is allowed (it seems like everyone knew this to be true: casinos allow smoking. But I DIDN’T KNOW! Life is full of wonders). The food was wretched – avoid the Whispering Winds restaurant – and the people-watching superb. The drinks were weak, but hey, they were $4.

When I looked at Mahnomen on a map, I couldn’t understand how this show would draw very many people; there just isn’t much up in that area of the state. But I sorely underestimated the devotion of Scotty’s fans: the place was packed.

Women young and old go crazy for Scotty because 1) he’s talented, and 2) he’s darling. Throughout the show, he would occasionally fling a guitar pick out into the audience, at which point there would be a mass stampede of estrogen toward a tiny sliver of plastic. At one point he threw a pick in my general direction, and I got body-slammed by the woman next to me, her head straight to my clavicle. She never did find it, and after the show when the lights came on, every woman around me dropped to their knees to crawl all over the carpet looking for the missing pick.

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After the show (which was FUN – these guys are so good at what they do), I got a front row seat to the drunken-fan malarkey that reaches beyond Scotty (tucked away on the bus) to his backing band (out amongst the casino commoners). From the relatively harmless girls wanting to take selfies with each band member to the older woman in a Shania t-shirt making gauche jokes about the name of her town (Climax, Minnesota) to the sad man who bumped into my barstool moaning, “I’m fat, I’m lazy, and I just lost it all,” Mahnomen was impressively inebriated.

But the thing I will always remember about this night is how much I laughed. There was so much to laugh about – and it made me realize how little I’ve been laughing lately. Between the combination of my quick-witted company and our comical surroundings, I just got to sit there dissolved by the funny, like Alka-Seltzer in a glass, bubbling until there was nothing left except feeling better.

The guys left on the bus at midnight, and I stayed in a questionable but free-of-charge room at the attached hotel. I awoke to the faint smell of urine (not mine) – a most appropriate ending to the most bizarre adventure – and drove home with a smile on my face.

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We all juggle a lot of things – our jobs and our homes and our families and our health. We watch our weight and our bank accounts and our mouths in certain settings. We work like crazy with the promise of vacation only to have a hard time powering down our minds and our screens, leading us to wonder if time is the new money. Life can feel like our own personal snow globe, turning and shaking and making it tough to remember which end is up.

But then we kick off early on a Friday afternoon, and drive like mad to the middle of nowhere just to see some familiar faces – because our people are what matter. And to me, that’s what friendship is: taking the time, buying the gas, and heading to Who-Cares-Where just to see your friends, just to laugh really hard for just one night. Just to be reminded who you are.

And if it can happen at a northern prairie casino with bad drinks and horrid lighting, it can happen anywhere.

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Doxology in darkness

Written by hootenannie on September 22nd, 2015

By nature, I’m a worrier, a worst-case-scenario projector, a catastrophizer. I have an extra hard time trusting that everything (or anything) is going to be okay. Last night I tossed and turned with about ten million anxieties on my brain, and woke up feeling like my life is a disaster (I suppose I’m a wee bit dramatic, too).

Then Foxy came and nudged my hand, telling me to get up. We went on a walk before work, like we always do, and I prayed the prayer of the sad and the weary and the meek and the small: “Help.” I came home and had a cup of coffee and an egg on toast, and put the miracle that is smoothing creme on my flyaway hairs, and dragged myself into the day.

Then I read this quote:
“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
―Brennan Manning

A doxology in darkness. Holy shit, that is beautiful. Strength enough for today, hope enough for tomorrow.

How to save money and still be fabulous

Written by hootenannie on September 18th, 2015

Here in Minneapolis, my financial situation is slightly different than it was in Colorado. I’ve always kept a pretty strict budget, but because of a few decisions I’ve made (with eyes wide open – none of this is coming as a surprise), these days I’m needing to batten down the hatches. And you know what? It doesn’t feel constraining.

Because this is not deprivation – it’s purposeful planning. I designate a little bit of fun money like it’s an allowance, and enjoy spending it. But it’s absolutely freeing to know where every single one of my dollars is going. By creating and sticking to a budget each month, I don’t have to worry that I’m going to overspend and not have enough.

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Without my initiation, several people have recently asked about the logistics of how I manage my money. Some might find that question invasive, but I LOVE PERSONAL FINANCE. Ever since I got out of debt, I’ve discovered the empowerment that is fiscal intentionality, and I am more than happy to discuss what works for me (and what doesn’t) with the people in my life.

I could share about the ins-and-outs of how I stay on track (quick version: cash envelopes – actual paper money divvied out by category), but today I just want to tell you about some of the helpful ways I’ve been cutting costs.

Let’s get thrifty.

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HAIRCUT
This week, I skipped the salon and went to the local Aveda Institute to have my hair cut by a stylist-in-training. Given that a head massage, shoulder massage, hand massage, shampoo, cut, and style was $19 and I’m used to dropping at least $60, I figured that saving $41 was worth the risk of being a guinea pig.

The short story: I got a decent haircut, and would do it again.

The other part of the story: the 23-year old cutting my hair told me about all of her dramatic Tinder dates, ending with, “It’s fine – I’m not worried about it. As long as I’m not single in my 30s.” To which I responded:

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WORKOUT PANTS
So many gals in my life swear by lululemon. They claim that these pants make their butts look better – and for $100, I SHOULD HOPE SO.

I admit, I don’t own a single pair of these pants – and maybe if I did, I would join the throngs of believers. But while my friends DO look awesome, here’s my thinking: if you don’t like the way your butt looks, no pair of skintight yoga pants is going to change that. All workout leggings are going to slurp onto your body like a fish sucking on algae, lululemon or not, great booty or not.

With that in mind, I recently bought a pair of black yoga pants at Costco for $16, and they’re my favorite of any pair I’ve owned. Voila – there’s $84 back in my bank account!

[Word to the wise: when at Costco, avoid Snappers and Toasted Coconut Cashews. They are crack and you will never stop eating. This will not bode well for your new workout pants.]

HOMEMADE CHIPOTLE
Chipotle makes me happy when skies are grey. But each $7 starts to add up. Given that it’s the simplest meal of any fast food (actually, I believe they’re calling it “fast casual”), I’ve started making my own.

I cook several chicken breasts in the CrockPot – just chicken stock and fajita seasoning. When it’s finished, I throw the meat it in the food processor for a few quick pulses, and there’s my shredded chicken.

Then I sauté bell peppers and onions in one pan, and simmer black beans and corn in another. A bag of microwavable brown rice later, and I have everything I need for a delicious burrito bowl. I can usually get six meals out of this.

CURB THE DRINKING
I recently found myself drinking a little more than I felt good about – as in, not thinking twice about drinking wine with dinner more nights than not. Not a huge deal, I guess, and it wasn’t exactly interfering with my life or anything – but a couple of bottles of wine a week is basically tossing away $100/month.

So now I’m sticking to the “no drinking on weeknights” rule – which is probably how it should be anyway. Instead, I drink half a La Croix a night, and save the other half in the fridge for the next night. It’s flat by the time I get around to drinking the second half, but whatever. I have a Benjamin in my pocket.

BUNNY EARS
I don’t have cable. I have ABC, CBS, PBS, and FOX.

NO CREDIT CARD
I don’t spend money I don’t have. This one always seems to strike people as the most radical, because what about the points? – but points don’t pay the bills, folks. Money is finite, we can’t spend whatever we want, and to only use the money I have just makes a lot of sense.

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Being intentional about my spending is allowing me to pay all of my bills each month, save for retirement, set money aside in savings, and prepare for car repairs, Foxy emergencies, and that stretch of April/May/June when half my family has birthdays – all the while living in a little house that I adore. I even allow myself the occasional latté and pedicure – out of the “Personal Care” envelope, of course.

If you have any ways you’ve figured out to be thrifty, I’d love to hear them. Together, we can save the world money.

Solid Gold giveaway

Written by hootenannie on September 9th, 2015

This is the last week of Foxy’s trial run with Solid Gold food, and I’m happy to report that she’s continued to eat every single day. The past two days, she’s finished her bowl both in the morning and in the evening – and while she’s no Annie Parsons (breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, popcorn), she seems to be getting the nourishment she needs.

Her coat is extra soft, she’s been a little more playful, and when I come home from work, she’s back to greeting me at the door. I don’t know how much of this might be due to the food she’s eating, but I’m going to guess a good amount – because if you’re hungry, how happy can you be?

The folks at Solid Gold have generously offered up a prize for a giveaway, including:
· One 4 pound bag of food (winner’s choice)
· A t-shirt
· A bag of treats
· A tote bag
· Some coupons
· A few other goodies and surprises

I’m hosting the giveaway over on my Facebook page – to enter, just hop on over and upload a picture of your pet in the comments section of the post. In a few days, I’ll use Woobox to pick the winner at random. So easy!

A huge thanks to Solid Gold for including Foxy in their Free Spirit Challenge. We’ll be sticking with their food.

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My top 5 favorite songs

Written by hootenannie on September 4th, 2015

Even if better songs are written in the future, I will always love these best.*

*Not a guarantee. Except for the first one, which will never, ever be unseated.

Lori McKenna, “The Luxury of Knowing”

Jonatha Brooke, “Because I Told You So”

Court Yard Hounds (w/ Jakob Dylan), “See You in the Spring”

Lee Ann Womack, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”

Gretchen Peters, “Circus Girl”

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Runners up:

Gretchen Peters, “Five Minutes”

Patty Griffin, “Trapeze”

Sugarland, “Want To”

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Just ignore some of the YouTube videos, mmmkay? Just listen to the songs.

Also, I recently updated my About Me page. It’s nothing you don’t already know. But there it is.

The baby squirrel, and all that followed

Written by hootenannie on September 1st, 2015

My sister Becca has this story. And I’ve asked her to tell it to me, like, three times because it’s so good. Now I want to share it with you.

Awhile back, Becca found a baby squirrel alone in her driveway. Here it was:

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Her dogs were barking, and she knew she couldn’t leave it – so she did what any animal lover would do: she wrapped it in a towel, brought it inside, and put it in a puppy kennel.

She called Animal Control, but got a voicemail message. “If this is an emergency, call State Patrol,” it said. So she called State Patrol.

A gruff man answered: “State Patrol.”

“Um, is this where I should call if I found a baby squirrel?” Becca asked.

Silence.

State Patrol was obviously no help, so she did an internet search and got the contact information for a wildlife sanctuary called Squirrel Creek. She got in touch with the nicest man, who told her to yeah, sure, bring the squirrel on down!

So she and her husband Mike drove down to Littleton after work, and pulled up at a huge lodge. They were confused because it looked like a business – a restaurant, even – but when they knocked on the door, a lone man answered. “Come on in!” he said.

They walked into a huge, empty banquet room, complete with a full bar and everything. “So, what is this place?” Mike asked.

“Oh, it’s a wildlife refuge. Also, a restaurant and a bar and a swing club and an events center.” With visions of swing dancing happening on the dance floor, Becca and Mike left the squirrel and headed home.

Becca posted an update on Facebook, telling her friends that the baby squirrel had been taken care of, and gave a shout-out to Squirrel Creek for being so great. They told all of their friends about this cool place down in Littleton – and maybe they should all go sometime?

Until one of their friends googled it. And they found this:

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They’d invited all of their friends to a 50,000 MEMBER SWINGERS CLUB. (Also a wildlife sanctuary. Of course.)