Saturday, December 27, 2008


Augusta tried skating for the first time and we've all lived to tell the tale...

First Time Skating from Justine Larsen on Vimeo.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Is this affection from the two of furry children due devotion to togetherness... or is their food silo empty?


And, who knew that a new basketball could be such a comfortable pillow?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Saga of the Lefse Lineage

The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone and as we charge up the ramp to Christmas, I can say that a family tradition was demonstrated and our bellies benefitted.

Being somewhat Scandinavian, I hold in my possession old family recipes for that addictive annual appetizer know as lefse. I may call it an appetizer, but in reality it is a food of many callings. It is a Norwegian potato flatbread, made with cream and butter, that can be a snack before the turkey is out of the oven, can unite with turkey and cranberries as a main course, can sop up the gravy and dressing when the turkey and cranberries are gone, and can be buttered and sugared for dessert. Every midwestern-origin Scandinavian spawn can wax poetic on all the iterations of the loved lefse and finish the sentence with "but... it's a lot of work."

It is a lot of work. And, as I found out recently, can result in surprise and family politics when discussing the genesis of recipes. Last summer, I was in California visiting family when I saw my now 99 year old godmother. Viola lives on her own in a delightfully decorated duplex at the Lutheran Retirement Home. She still leads Bible studies, takes all her meals in the dining room and is proud owner of her fourth pacemaker. I don't exaggerate when I say she sparkles. Her mother and my daughter share the first name Augusta, which is just a happy coincidence and not by design. She and her husband, Hildor, began their lives in the Midwest and were part of the mid-1950s exodus to the promised land of the Golden State of California. My father, also from North Dakota, was part of that cross-continent drift as well and became a pet project of Hildor and Viola when they were all teaching in the Woodlake schools and he the bachelor chemistry teacher.

My mother, not Norwegian in origin but of Iowa English extraction, had passed on to me the two lefse recipes that have resided in her recipe box since marrying my father the half-Norwegian-quarter-German-quarter-Irish-off-the-boats-from-North-Dakota-by-way-of-Canada in 1965. One of the recipes is my grandmother Mary Madigan's, a distinctly not-Norwegian, but probably passed from, maybe, paternal great-grandmother Ingaborg Justad. Got that? It's that recipe with the cooked potatoes, lots of butter, lots and lots of cream and some flour. I've tried that recipe and it didn't work all that well. I overcooked the pototaoes, probably didn't use the right technique with the potato ricer and wound up with something closer to a oversized saltine cracker. The other recipe I have is attributed to Viola and uses (gasp!) dried potatoes. But it worked previously and was good. I have pictures of my daughter snacking in the high chair on lefse, so I know I'd made it at least once in the last few years here. I've passed the recipe on to a friend here, so I know the recipe and its use of dried potatoes has been a topic for discussion, but probably out of ear shot of the text book Norwegians.

I saw Viola for lunch in August. It was during that lunch that I told her, quite happily, that I'd used her recipe with the Butter Buds for lefse and found it to be a success here. You would have that I was questioning the parentage of that baby born in a manger by the reaction I got. I was told in no uncertain terms that it couldn't have been her recipe because she would have never, ever have used dried potatoes. I quickly changed the subject to tortillas, which actually worked, because we were eating at a nice Mexican restaurant with its own tortilla machine chugging away across from us.

With the memory of the lefse-tortilla-luncheon controversy fresh as hydrating potatoes still in my mind, I began looking for the recipes the day before Thanksgiving. I couldn't find them. Now, my house is small and disorganized, but I really should be able to find two recipe cards. But, after shoving this, stashing that and still failing, I couldn't locate them. I was ready to retreat, but I'd offered to bring lefse to the Thanksgiving dinner we were to share with my children's godparents. I looked on the box of Butter Buds in the off-chance that the recipe might be there; no dice but I did find some lovely instructions in Spanish that I was intrigued to try. Finally, I went to the computer. I went to, but a search for lefse was not fruitful in their gazillilon recipe database. I went to my old pal Google, bastion of obscure, untested and often wrong recipes to find THE BUTTER BUDS LEFSE recipe! There it was, in all its Midwestern resourcefulness and glory, on a blog. Hallelujah for the blog! The recipe was credited to two Minnesota Lutheran church ladies, so I figured that chances were high that is was a legitimate recipe and not submitted by some Samoan looking to win a cross-cultural recipe contest. I went to work.

I boiled my water, melted the butter, dumped in the Butter Buds and fluffed to an ideal consistency. No overcooked potatoes, no ricer, and, thanks to a handy tip in the Googled recipe, no condensation from the cling wrap to make for soggy cold potatoes. Thanksgiving morning, my not-Norwegian husband took over the potatoes, adding the flour with the help of the dough hook on the stand mixer and rolled out a gorgeous dough that was griddled to perfection and flipped without much tearing with the help of the lefse stick that resides on our kitchen wall most of the year. The children sat at the counter, rolling and patting their own lumps of dough. Being a good techno-Mom, I captured most of it all on digital video and I've now uploaded the edited four minutes to Vimeo. Later that day, a heavenly match of smoked turkey, cranberry-pear sauce and lefse made its way to my delighted palate.

And, when the time comes, as I present myself to that particular saint at those particular gates, I will proudly say "I USED DRIED POTATOES!"

Lefse from Justine Larsen on Vimeo.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama Corner in Powell

I am hoping for change. I am ready for change. I wanted to do just a little something to express myself so... I mowed.

I mowed the yard full of cottonwood leaves to expose a blank but green canvas. I drove to the hardware store. I bought three cans of paint. I sprayed.

Here is to the hope for tomorrow and the changes, for the good, that I hope will result.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Unexpected Invasion

Due to unexpected and significant snow arriving in Powell early this year, residents are advised to be prepared for a Viking invasion.

Approach with caution. Offer lollipops as appeasement. Be on the lookout for inordinate amounts of lefse and lutefisk...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Listening to Jay Meisel

I just returned from a lecture by NYC photographer Jay Meisel at our local community college. He spoke of the photographer's relationship to light, color, content and luck. His presentation was titled "Bearing Witness".

It was pretty great.

He showed slides of his current work but also a long segment of his photographs of his daughter, Amanda, from before her arrival to today. I spoke with him afterwards and told him I felt good knowing I wasn't the only parent continually shooting pictures of the kid. I showed him this picture of Augusta. He was very complimentary.

Not My Dog, Episode 1

Not My Dog, Episode 1 from Justine Larsen on Vimeo.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No Get Out Of Jail Free Card, Thanks.

I woke this morning, listening to the radio with its report on the upcoming vote on the "bailout" to "help save Wall Street". I admit I was still bleary-eyed; full of Autumn congestion due to allergies, more than a little fuzzy-brained as I tried to get a clear breath of morning air but I had a feeling strong in my gut: DON'T DO IT. I knew I had to get up, look one or two things up on the innertubes, and then write to the current Senators from Wyoming. DON'T DO IT. Actually, I can't recall hearing a word in the two weeks from Senators Enzi and Barrasso. Are they around? What do they have to say about this mess? Did they know it was coming? Senator Enzi has been able to tell us in the past, as one of the few if not only accountants in the Senate, an accountant's perspective of the goings-on. Have I missed his statements? Would my accountant or any accountant in Powell, given the choice of this "bailout" plan, vote in favor of it? How about my financial advisor? Are all these decisions by our leaders based on current research or just a pass along of debt to my children so all involved can get home to campaign. Oh, holy moly I hope not.

I know I don't have any bargaining power here. I'm strapped for money like so many others. I want a strong future for my children. I want some of the financial pain of the last many months to lessen. But, I also want answers. I think that we all deserve them. I want culpability. I want someone in a leadership position to accept responsibility and come forth with a viable plan that doesn't sound like a scene from the game Monopoly with a "get out of jail free card". Stop calling this a "bailout" and start calling it a future plan. Show some realism and some pragmatism. Put away the tubes of lipstick to dress up a stinking pile of double-triple-and quadruple talk. Tell me what it, this pile of zeros that may or may not be enough, means for Wyoming.

There has to be a solution to this that doesn't involve an "old boy's network" of back-slapping and bait-and-switching. I am not asking for perfection but I can't settle for the tossing around of numbers that I can't fathom... billion trillion grumpzillion ... with no explanation, no paper trail, no ACCOUNTABILITY. "Do it now, buy it now, get the money now..." all smacks of high pressure sales and not thoughtful analysis of economic indicators and the black and white of a balance sheet. Why do the "little people" get locked out of the La-La Land of Wall Street when it comes to CEO payouts with buckets of benefits for bad management? Who is holding the ring of keys for these folks now? Who will have their futures piled on with mountains of debt to help these badly managed institutions? Isn't it time for the "little people" to stop answering the call for more, more, more money?

It is definitely time for change. Call your Senators. Call them today. Demand an explanation and their plan. If you don't get it, tell them to pack their bags and we'll get someone in that can and will explain. We all deserve a better future than what is looming on this unexplained horizon. We all need to trust our gut feelings on this one.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales From Sleep

Okay, so Scott has a cold and I have an impressive onset of allergy symptoms. We overate last night, I had a beer (shouldn't), the house was stuffy and we're just a little stressed... but all that must make for cool dreams.

Early this morning:

I'm at a political rally of some sort, and the crowd has moved away. I'm left behind, fiddling with my camera and trying to keep Charlie from wandering away. Just then, Barack Obama walks up, with a huuuuuuge security detail, and asks if everything is okay. Charlie says "HI! I got the BUBBLES!". He is picked up by Senator Obama and placed on his shoulders. Charlie looked as though he was 40 feet in the air. It was like a dream in HD — the vivid color, or lack of color, in Charlie's white hair on the shoulders of the sharply dressed Democratic candidate with a glorious wide, white smile and lush skin and black hair. Everyone was smiling, even the security guards. And I say, "but I can't get my camera to work!"

... just figures.

And no, Charlie wasn't wearing his "My Mama's For Obama" shirt. He was wearing his much loved Bob the Builder shirt. Figures as well.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Perception, Part Deux

In a week of near-disasters by nature and the gathering of people in the Midwest that I don't share a worldview, with "Maverick"-this and "Governor Mother"-that, I can't help but wonder if I'm the first to realize that the GOP candidates should be heretofore referred to as the "McPain Ticket".

November can't come soon enough... Can I get an amen?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Scott Did On His Summer Vacation.

While I was in California with the kids, Scott went to the Jackson Hole Music Festival to see the Avett Brothers.

Avett Brothers • Die Die Die from Justine Larsen on Vimeo.

A Stop In Los Gatos

On our return drive to Wyoming, we stopped for a brief visit with our good friend Beth at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beaches, Babies, Urban Birds & Belly Dancing On The Central Coast Of California

With a few hours on the the innertubes last Wednesday, I was able to locate a relatively inexpensive motel in San Luis Obispo and, with a quick repacking of bags that had just been unpacked after our arrival a few days ago, I headed off to the Central Coast with my mom and kids.

After a stop at the surgeon's office ( my mom was to have foot surgery last Wednesday but was canceled due low potassium level) for a new set of labs, we drove off through the wide Central Valley of California. I'd not planned on stopping in Paso Robles at my favorite winery, on the way west on Highway 46. As luck would have it, Augusta called for a potty break just as we came upon Tobin James. Old Cisco, the Australian shepherd that would greet us upon arrival has passed away since our last visit but Lance, the co-owner, did a great job pretending that he remembered the FromWyomings. Mom and I did a tasting at high noon, which is my idea of a good start to any vacation. Outside they are continuing to build a great patio-barbeque area that I had to take pictures of in an effort to memorize the design. I guess I'll just call it "inspiration" and not thievery...

We pressed on to through Paso Robles, which is having insane growth, onto Highway 46 towards Cambria. We took Highway 1 south to see the fog in Morro Bay and have lunch at the Hofbrau overlooking the water. And know what? NO FOG! There is almost always fog in Morro Bay...

The kids had a great time in the water. Gorgeous skies, toasty sand, an ocean breeze and happy children.

We drove from Morro Bay State Park to Baywood Park on our way to Montana de Oro — all the way to the end of the road. Back through Los Osos, (again, unbelievable growth) our next stop was the Rose Garden Inn in San Luis Obispo, to visit their swimming pool before going on to Farmers' Market downtown to meet Sharkartist, a not-so-imaginary online friend. Sharkey was a great sport, even when Charlie got cranky over being told no on going in the bounce house that was set up on the street. Yes, his mother mistreats him terribly...

Friday, after a huge breakfast at Margie's Diner, we headed off to the Pismo and Shell Beach areas to marvel at the growth. It was then off to Avila Beach for a snack and splash for a few hours. Again, it was just unexpectedly gorgeous weather. We'd located a couple of toy Yellow Submarines and some cheap sand buckets at a Pismo grocery store, so we were streamlined, sunscreened and set.

Leaving Avila about 2 pm, I made a quick U-turn at See Canyon, telling Mom that in the time I'd lived in SLO, I'd never driven that road. See Canyon is the apple orchard area between the coast and San Luis Obispo. We stopped at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards for a tasting amid the peacocks and old dogs in the driveway. Very nice and we came away with an Apple Merlot and a bottle of their Syrah. Mmmm... mmm...mmmmmmmmm.

The drive through See Canyon was incredible and as remote as anything in Wyoming. At the summit we could look over clear skies and see San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Montana de Oro - all areas stunningly beautiful for a second day in a row. The road took us back through Perfumo Canyon and into the Laguna Lake area of San Luis Obispo. I stopped, while the kids napped in the car and Grandma listened to KCBX, for a platter of sushi and a cheesecake to take to our friends' home for dinner before the Beijing Opening Ceremonies on their big screen. It was at our friends' hillside home in southern San Luis Obispo that we met "The Girls".

The Girls, two very sassy hens, keep 4 humans and a parrot for pets. In exchange for their accommodations in the chi-chi custom built coop, they provide 2 eggs a day. Unless they are feeling broody, that is...

The Girls' pets, Doug and Lori, are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year. And, that lovely green structure in the garden is The Girls' Urbane Roost. Augusta played with their daughter, Sarah, and Charlie idolized their 10 year old son, Jake. It was a really nice evening to catch up and have some laughs. Scott and Doug go way back and Doug was one of the groomsmen in our wedding. It's so nice to know they are back to San Luis for 5 years now and raising some great children in addition to their services to the household hens.

On Saturday morning, we headed back to downtown San Luis Obispo for breakfast at The Big Sky restaurant after a recommendation from Sharkey. Many, many moons ago it was DK's West Indies Bar and the place I saw Robyn Hitchcock in a fantastic acoustic performance. Scott could give you a laundry list of the bands he saw there. But, times change and I went there for coffeecake instead of a witty songwriter's between-song banter.

I then walked the kids down Garden Street. I poked my head into a very pricey children's boutique. Augusta was complemented on her outfit of a dress lovingly made by her Fairy Godmother Martha and her thrift store pink plaid Chuck Taylor's. Needless to say, I wasn't inclined to puchase an $80 skirt with 36 yards of hot pink and cocoa brown tulle. We walked passed Linnea's Cafe, the coffeehouse that was a big chunk of the inspiration for Parlor News Coffeehouse when we opened in 1996. While walking past, a brightly dressed woman was getting out of her car. Charlie said, "oh, PRETTY!" when he saw her.

She was going to belly dance at the Mission Plaza as part of the Day With Creative Women, which was where we were headed at that very moment.

Augusta had her face painted for the first time. As a princess, of course...

We watched the dancers and I took a ton of pictures. Charlie wandered around and was a little confused by what had happened to his sister.

We sat and watched and listened at the amphitheater overlooking San Luis Creek.

Charlie enjoyed the show...

After a drive through the Cal Poly campus, where I started at KCPR and met Scott more than 20 years ago, we drove back to Woodlake with a dinner stop at In-N-Out Burger in Visalia.

It was a nice couple of days and I was glad for the great company, entertainment and the chance to watch the ocean while squishing sand between my toes.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Road Trip

What do you get when you mix three National Parks, two small children and 1260 miles to Grandma's house? A road trip with 3 of the 4 FromWyomings!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

From the Fair

I just picked up all the canned-pickled-jammed-jellied entries I put into competition for the Park County Fair.

Some of the items I entered this year:
pickled asparagus
raspberry jam
pear bourbon jam
plum jelly
ginger peach jam
pickled lemons
brined and pickled California olives
Fuyu persimmon chutney
peach jam
orange chutney
pickled peppers

Overall, I entered too many pickles. I guess this last year was heavier on the pickles than the sweets. I wonder what that says about my attitudes this last year.

I must have been more tart than sweet, overall.

The jar of tomato eggplant pasta sauce won a blue ribbon and a reserve grand champion ribbon. Maybe, I'm just meant to be saucy...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Everyone Needs A Fairy Godmother

There are some lucky children in our house.

Augusta has become a fashion plate with the help of her Fairy Godmother Martha. This afternoon she received FGM's latest creation of a flour sack dress. This was made most inventively with a remnant of fabric that was originally made into a shirt for Fairy Godmother Martha's son, Schawn.

Everyone really does need a fairy godmother.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day

The weekend following Friday the 13th has been filled with kind and genuine remembrances of NBC’s Tim Russert who died suddenly, at work and surrounded by colleagues, following a family vacation to Italy to celebrate his son’s graduation from university. I, too, respected and appreciated what this talented man has contributed to our nation through his directness, ethics and opinions. I could relate to the pain and astonishment that a young person can feel upon losing their parent in such a sudden and distressing fashion because I’ve been there myself. The media coverage, though I haven’t seen much more than a smidgen of it, got the memory wheels in my mind to turning as a Friday of bad news rolled into a Saturday morning of e-mails reminding me of the approach of Father’s Day. I’ve had a few years to get through a Father’s Day without the benefit of my father but this will be the first for Tim Russert’s son to be without him. It’s going to be a difficult one.

My father was the son of an immigrant and homesteader. He lost his father when he was 12, from a sudden heart attack. His father, Rayder, died in the front yard as he returned home from the butcher shop he owned in Parshall, North Dakota. My grandparents had moved to town from the farm. They had homesteaded in Raub where my grandmother had delivered four sons, of whom the youngest was my father, Jon. A fortuitous remarriage to a “bachelor Norwegian farmer” saved my grandmother from losing the farm and gave my father a wonderful stepfather in Hans Monson. My father went on to Carleton College before attending what is now the University of Northern Iowa. he enlisted, having padded his age by a year, in the Navy at the outset of World War II. He spent his Navy days on a medical ship in the Great Lakes due to a double nuisance of flat feet and a tendon injury from boyhood football. He wasn’t so much a risk not to be taken in to the service during the war, so I’m sure his remaining stateside was a relief to my grandmother Mary. Her other son, Mickey, had been reported as lost in the Battle of the Bulge. My uncle was able to escape through Russia to return to the Midwest and open the first drive-in movie theater in Austin, Minnesota. Eventually my uncle moved south to Arizona and my father made his way to California in the mid-1950s to teach high school chemistry and physics in the land of milk, oranges and honey that was Woodlake.

Zipping forward to another decade, my father was in his twenty-fifth year of teaching at Woodlake High School when I had finished eighth grade and was heading for high school. Both my parents taught at my high school and I was destined to have one or both for a teacher. I was being a typical surly, overly independent teen as that school year wrapped. I was trying to spread my wings in the incoming freshman fashion; sassing my parents, teetering on the edge of curfew, drifting defiantly between sullen and more sullen. I was a migraine walking about my parents’ house. We took a long vacation to Carmel to celebrate the ending of the school year, in the new convertible my parents had purchased that spring. My father had always wanted a convertible and he enjoyed it in a town he adored, even with sourpuss me in the back seat.

We returned home and went back to life in the summer for a family of teachers. Both my parents worked on projects that they’d not had time for during the school year. My sister and I swam in the backyard pool. I went to ball games and flirted with boys. I don’t remember a great amount of detail about those days following our return from vacation other than having a particularly nasty spat with my father, most likely about not being home before dark. I do know I never said I was sorry for being a jerk. One afternoon he moved a heavy bookcase, even though I was in the house and could have been of some help. He spent the rest of the afternoon taking Alka-Seltzer for what he thought was indigestion. I came home from a ball game and he had gone to bed early. I started a bath, could hear my mother going into their bedroom to check on him. I soon heard strange breathing patterns and her return to the bedroom saying “Jon.....Jon?” and then yelling for me. I got out into a towel, ran into the bedroom and found him collapsed. He’d had a massive heart attack and was dying. I yelled for my mother to call the ambulance, which arrived with past students of his as the EMTs. He was transported to the hospital in Visalia, but was never revived. He would have been 60 on that next New Year’s Eve. Some of what happened that night is relatively clear while much of it seems to be a different life lived by another family entirely. I guess that may be the effects of twenty-five years and trying harder than not to dwell on it all.

I have been trying to think about the meaning of Father’s Day as it applies to my husband and father of my children. As my son grows I cherish what is to come for him and his father but I struggle to put aside melancholy that tries to surge, especially when the news of a son’s loss of his father on this particular weekend began to overtake the television. Tim Russert has successfully put into his book Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons those many words I wish I could verbalize every day of the year to my father. I would especially like my father to hear from me that I’ve somehow managed to get over my teenage jerkiness. I wish he could have known me as an adult and I could have shown him my children. He would certainly have enjoyed their energy and the sass that is now starting to come my way. He’d be the first to laugh and say that he remembered what it was like.

As I woke this morning, I looked at the small, damaged picture I have of my father as a three year old with a shock of blonde hair and I saw my son. I’d like to think that the missing of my father might have diminished over the twenty-five years that he’s been gone. I wish I could tell Tim Russert’s son it is possible to overcome the shock, but I don’t know that I can. I will hope that the memories of their last weeks together will outweigh the grief.

Even with missing my father greatly, I found a little gift in the last couple of weeks. My mother was here visiting and having headaches with the gardener back home. She had to find, via telephone, a new gardener. As it turns out, the new gardener is a former student of my parents. He had recently emigrated to California from Mexico when he came to the high school. He didn’t have the money to attend the Junior Prom. My father paid for him to go. He still remembered Mr. Justad and was, I think, happy to help out my mother. I’d never heard that story before and I’m happy to know that my father may have made a small difference in someone else’s life. I know I’m grateful for the time my father was in my life and I hope I can share with my children some of the spirit that was his.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Charlie Mud Puddle

It's been raining here.

A lot - much more than we're used to, but there are no complaints for we need the moisture.

Really, though, could anything make the little boy happier than a big mud puddle across the street from the house?

Have boots, will splash...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hey, Lady...

I saw a big, happy, healthy Ladybug today.

I just thought I should let you know...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Setting Free The Stuff

As spring break wraps up and my daughter relishes her return to school, I find myself puttering about the house with many projects swimming around my head. Of course, Easter holidays usually signify the onset of true spring-like weather but the the actual observance of Holy Week and Easter came early - really early- this year. The gooey snow of last week guaranteed a lot of time in the the house looking at the accumulation that accompanied this winter and many winters past. Magazines, dvds, toys, mismatched mittens, extraneous crayons and markers... stuff, Stuff, STUFF! It was too cold to overlook the cluttering of the stuff in the house to go prepare the yard or drag out the outdoor distractions of the hammock for the warm afternoons. I was stuck. That pestiferous voice in the recesses of my mind nagged "Enough! Clean this mess up before you're outside all day in the yard for the next half a year." I went with the directive as best I could with two small children in the house. I got the tax information in, filed through the piles, tackled dust bunnies and did a victory dance as I backed up the computer to dvd while uploading long forgotten pictures. Unfortunately something then happened that hijacked my whole grand scheme with one failure: the refrigerator expired.

Deader than dead was my 2001 Whirlpool side by side with many month's fresh meat defrosted. I called for repair, I Googled for a part and crossed my fingers; I prayed to the kitchen gods of goodness and frugality but it was all for naught. I begged a loaner fridge, spent a couple of days cooking, marinating, and packaging while I began the search for a replacement. Many things have changed over the last few years when it comes to replacing a major household appliance, many for the better and a few not. I began the search for an Energy Star unit that would be efficient, affordable and capable of going back into the space that the Whirlpool would be vacating. I looked. I read customer reviews. I got nervous. Am I the only one to notice that in a world populated by the tiniest of technologies, refrigerators seem to get bigger and bigger? A laptop that can fit in a manila envelope? Sure. A mobile phone that is smaller than a pack of gum? No problem. A t.v. that can snug up against a wall? Yes, yes, yes! A refrigerator that isn't 30 inches deep. Good flippin' luck. The only thing getting smaller on a refrigerator is its compressor and it's that one fact explains why something that cost a grand at the beginning of THIS century didn't make it a decade. Yes, I looked at repair, but the sad news is a new compressor would run in the neighborhood of $600 and the fridge I finally located is $700. What would you do? Needless to say, the new one isn't a Whirlpool.

My great household meltdown of '08 started more than Spring cleaning for me. I hadn't been able to put a name to what I wanted to do until today when I was on the internet looking for ways to disinfect a dishwasher, which I thought might be a good idea after this winter's cold and flu onslaught. Yes, that is precisely the random stuff I look up in my day to day interactions with the Internet. I ran across a blog of helpful cleaning strategies (hints don't work for me, I need strategy) that succintly described what I'd been trying to communicate to my inner neat-nick. It's called "Discardia" and it's described this way: Discardia is celebrated by getting rid of stuff and ideas you no longer need. It's about letting go, abdicating from obligation and guilt, being true to the self you are now. Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load. It's viewed as a holiday by some, but I don't need another holiday. I need clarity. I need organization. I need ease of locating what should be in my house, not another reason to send out a greeting card that I may or may not have bought but now can't find in the paper stacked next to my computer. So, I began. I went through stuff. I disposed of what I'd not used in 5 years. I filled the dumpster with all the stuff I promised myself I'd repair myself 7 years ago. I tried shoes and clothes and socks on the kids and myself, passing on the outgrown items. I cleaned toys to take to St. John's Thrift Store. I put all the photographs in their own organized box. I listed usable but unwanted things on eBay. I even dusted... a little. After a winter of feeling crowded by the stuff, I began to breath easier. I've been emptying out the cupboards, cooking the food I have on hand. I've been reminding myself, whenever I caught myself saying "I'm almost out of....******..." to refrain from running to the store. I've let my Costco membership lapse. I no longer see buying in bulk as a necessary thing. The reality of food sitting on a shelf for a couple years, just so I can save 19 cents when I buy twenty boxes, isn't very appealing to my palate. And, more importantly, I simply don't have the room. If I can't buy it at my local grocery, I don't need it. A walk to the farthest grocery in town for me is a two mile round trip. There's no reason I can't walk to pick up a little something to round out dinner and I won't have to shove and cram to make its super-duper econo size container fit in my cupboards.

Simplicity is what I want; a streamlined life with the help of my households sprites saying "no, you don't need that" when I linger at a website showing that latest whatzit at a steal of a price. I want what I have to last. I know, finally, there is no such thing as retail therapy. Happiness comes only with simplicity. I truly appreciate anyone who can produce an item that is useful, miniscule, and long-lasting. I sure don't like throwing things away, but I do like being able to live with less stuff. I guess "Discardia" isn't just a particular day, but a mindset for which I'm finally ready.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Truth About Leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day

The Truth About Leprechauns ... According To Augusta from Justine Larsen on Vimeo.

The corned beef is in the oven!

Here's what I do, after a number of years of trial and error:

Drain corned beef from brine in the package (yes, it's packaged. Someday I'll do my own brining, but not until my attention is a little less divided)

Place in roasting bag in roasting pan, fat side up. Schmear with a good few squirts of Gulden's Spicy Brown mustard. Sprinkle seasoning that arrived in the corned beef package on top of the mustard. Chop an onion and put it around the beef n'bag. Add chopped or small carrots. Add 1 cup chicken broth or stock. Tie up bag and roast in 300 degree over for approximately and hour a pound.

I'll be making acorn squash potato cakes as a side dish and some boiled cabbage and onions. I'll let the spouse write the food review. A friend is coming to eat with us and she's bringing the dessert and Guinness. SlĂ inte Mhath!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Enough Already...

I just received ANOTHER phone call asking who I plan to vote for in tomorrow's Wyoming caucus. I don't know whose list I'm on right now, but I must be on speed dial. Why do I feel I have to be polite to these folks calling? Even though they call me "Justin" when they call, I've remained polite. What I've been saying, though, is I'll decide when I get to the caucus. Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow is another day, to invoke Miss Scarlett. I'm going to the caucus. I'll do my best to get over the stack of mailing from Senator Obama's campaign, and hope that some printer in Wyoming saw a big chunk of pay for the full-color press time. I do realize that Wyoming is in play this year, really for the first time since JFK needed Wyo delegates in his bid for the White House. I KNOW!

I also know the money being spent is OBSCENE. And, I said that before Jon Stewart did the other night on The Daily Show. Seconds before he said it. I am that voter that will vote, wants change, but is horrified at the amount of money being tossed around as I sweat over whether my last check to buy food at local grocery store is going to clear or send me spinning, yet again, into overdraft. 35 million raised by the Clinton campaign last month? 50 million for Obama? Gross, gross, gross.

I want change. I want experience. I want accessibility to health care coverage. I want a future of promise for my children. I want the debacle in Iraq to be ended. I know it won't be stopped, but I want it ended. I knew what I was getting when the criminals moved into the West Wing nearly 8 years ago. The scandal, the deceit, the 3 trillion dollar (Huffington Post) debt hangover... all portrayed as "compassionate conservatism" so none of what's resulted has come as a surprise to me. I realize, being the origin of the current Vice-President, Wyoming has a lot to answer for and it's time for some serious make-up. I will do my part. I will caucus. I will stand for Bill Richardson on the first vote. After that, I will make my choice.

Mostly, I just don't want to be disappointed by the second choice I make. Bill Richardson's departure was a big disappointment. The Democrat that goes to Washington has such profound work to do, and I hope they bring Bill Richardson along to help clean up the mess that awaits them.

And, from this point on, I will only take calls from The Daily Show.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


I had an odd situation crop up this last week. A friend, who is still certainly a friend though our orbits are now quite far away from each other, stopped by the house. She said "I have some ideas for you. First we need to get you into a bigger house..." I stopped her there. I said "I can't buy a new or different house. I'm not working right now. Until my son is eligible for daycare (meaning out of diapers) I can't work full time. Period" Not working has been a big deal for me. I'm not the best stay-at-home mom and I know that. Our life, as a family, has had some real uncertainties the last couple of years. We are up against a big uncertainty right now, finalizing the sale of our old business. All of that seems to be unknown where we are living now. I don't broadcast a sense of doom but I also don't understand how I give off a sense of trust fund-driven wealth. I do my best to portray a calm, but I also live in a house that is less than 800 square feet and drive an old car with nearly 160,000 miles on it, neither of which I can replace right now. I had another friend - one who has her own business and a large house for one person - say that the church I attend is the one that "rich people like you" attend. What? I lined her out but still said thanks for thinking I was just dripping in wealth. It must be the clothes I bought last year on the Target clearance rack that gives off that vibe of Carnegie cash running through my blue veins.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I remember hearing similar assumptions when I was a kid. A few times I was referred to as a "rich kid" and was always puzzled by the accusation. My parents were school teachers. Yes, we drove a Cadillac, but we also had a Gremlin. We had to sell my dad's beloved Cadillac off shortly after his death because he died in July and my parents didn't get paid in the summer and the $2100 it garnered all went to the ambulance bill when he had a massive heart attack one night. Our house was comfortable but it's the house I was brought home to as newborn. My mom still lives there. Yes, I've seen Paris but it was with a back pack on and a flat pillow awaiting me at the next youth hostel.

Often my daughter asks me who lives in the big houses that are being built near us. I'll tell her, "Mr. and Mrs. Soandso". She'll then ask how many kids live in that big house. I have to answer truthfully and say "none." She'll then ask when we are going to "trade houses" and I have to say, again truthfully, "not anytime soon". Even if I had the means, I wouldn't want to follow that path. I try, on a daily basis, to simplify my life; to have less stuff, to have less worry, to consume less. As much as anything, I don't want the big ol' house because I couldn't deal with the perception issues; I want to live simply and I can't stop thinking that with more stuff comes more worries.

Point? Non-existent, really. Perception is a bigger thing for me than I wanted it to be, I guess. I want to be perceived as someone without pretension, without clutter, without inaccuracies, without complications... but not without complexity. Do I want too much or not enough?

If nothing else... no huge house, big car, or bulging mutual fund... I do have some appreciation for the rarities. I found one today in the first strawberries of the season, on sale, in the grocery store. I honestly do think they taste better when they are two boxes for five dollars...