You’ve No One To Blame But Yourselves

It’s been a busy few days and I had not planned time to sit down and blog today BUT sometimes you find a reason so good you’ll forget emptying the dishwasher and starting the laundry to dish out a righteous amount of snark.

sarcasmLast week I lamented about California’s “war on women” as Governor Jerry Brown seeks to limit the amount of time we can spend in the shower. Sorry, ladies, but you don’t have time to shave, let that conditioner set, or belt out that latest Taylor Swift chorus – you’ve gotta save water because the state is in a drought and suddenly it’s time to panic. Or something.

panicBut then the voice of reason steps in and presents SCIENCE! When your primary argument is “Save the Fish!” and the numbers indicate what you’re doing isn’t working, well, it’s time to stop saving the fishes the way you want to and think of something else.

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Malia Zimmerman published an article on Fox News today about California’s drought. Click here to read the whole thing. Her headline is very professional.

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Personally, I would have suggested something like this:

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That’s why Ms. Zimmerman gets paid the big bucks. It’s not that I am against saving the environment. I love the environment, with all of its animals and plants and trees. I’m for clean air and clean water. I recycle and clip 6-pack rings before I put them in the aforementioned recycle bin. Heck, I even use canvas bags at the grocery store (even though I don’t support a plastic bag ban, let’s be really clear about that). We can be good stewards of our resources without being ridiculous.

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AMEN! As we all learn in 6th grade earth science, there is a difference between weather and climate. Weather is the day-to-day activity: it’s sunny, it’s raining, look out the window and describe what you see. Climate is the long-term pattern that defines a region: it’s hot, it’s dry, it’s wet, it’s snowy. Remember the climate zones? Temperate, tropical, polar… (Thanks for being an awesome science teacher, Mrs. Gordon!)

you're awesomeSouthern California, even on the coast, is dry. Sure we get a nice layer of dew every morning, but there’s a reason people love the “perfect” weather here: it’s 70-something and sunny almost every day – it doesn’t rain. Oh, and the desert, well, that’s a desert so, honestly, why would anyone expect it to rain there?! Lack of rain in a desert should surprise no one. If you live in a desert and you know it’s not going to rain, common sense would suggest you plan infrastructure and resource management accordingly.

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Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 11.37.54 AMThe problem isn’t there’s not enough water. The problem is the water is being poorly managed. Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink because WE’RE POURING IT INTO THE OCEAN. “But, Ashley,” you say, “they have big water storage and transport thingies!” Yah, let’s talk about those… Next paragraph!

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1980 was 35 years ago, y’all. Can you imagine if we didn’t update our roads for 35 years? Water traveling through this system will cause excessive wear and tear on the network. Building new ones? Nope. Updating old ones? I mean, if we have to but definitely don’t expand them because SAVE ALL THE FISHES!!

As I mentioned earlier, I like fish. I like their contributions to the ecosystem, as well as my dinner plate.

Quotation-Molly-Harper-god-Meetville-Quotes-237278Here’s the problem:

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Dear Environmentalists: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! Seriously, if my goal was to save $10,000 over the course of 2015 and I get to December and only have $6 saved, I need to re-think my strategy because whatever I tried, clearly, didn’t work.

wrongCalifornia Congressman Republican (they’re evil, I know) Devin Nunes states in the article that, obviously, the environmentalists didn’t set out to destroy California’s water supply but they got a little carried away and *oops!* they did. He claimed that if the state had built only three new dams and stored water over the last 40 years (instead of allowing environmental zealots to shut down every proposed plan in court), California wouldn’t be in this mess. But we let the fish-savers win and here we are.

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Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 11.53.51 AMSomething about that fish is just creepy…

Do you want to know how carried away these people are, still? They are opposed to desalination (removing salt from ocean water) because it would require “too much energy”. They’re against building new dams and water storage facilities because it might tear down a tree. And, have mercy, don’t consider removing all the red tape they so carefully, and abundantly, put in place.

Understand me: there are people in this state and country who would prioritize 6 fish over 319 million Americans. “Okay, Ashley, that is a serious overstatement. You’re fear mongering!” Before you go and accuse me of being an evil Republican, answer me this question:

Do you eat food?

Well, do ya, punk? I don’t care if you’re paleo, vegan, vegetarian, pescadarian, carnivore, omnivore, no carbs or all carbs. Do you eat food? Then this drought affects you, too.

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Forget “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!” and start chanting “NO WATER, NO FOOD!” because that’s exactly what is happening. If we have to save those 6 little fish that an expert says is probably going to die anyway, if we have to divert water away from farms to save a doomed species, then we will produce less food. Supply and demand isn’t hard.

Less Product + Higher Demand = Higher Prices
More Product + Less Demand = Lower Prices

Take a look at your grocery bills over the last few years. The cost of bread, milk, and produce has skyrocketed while the fishie population has dwindled. It’s not that we shouldn’t care about the plight of one of God’s creatures, but we have to be reasonable about it: people need food and jobs and showers, for crying out loud. Besides, do you really want to be represented by these guys? I can smell the patchouli from here.

damsignWhat’s that about jobs? Oh, yah. Fewer crops require fewer workers. Fewer crops require fewer truck drivers. Fewer truck drivers require fewer logistics coordinators. Fewer logistics coordinators require fewer bosses. As you can see, we’re all in this boat together and the boat is in rough shape. Like, “held together with a wine cork, bubble gum, and a paperclip” bad shape.

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So hug your tree-hugging neighbor, tell them it was a good try, clap ’em on the back and tell them that it’s time to get real. It’s time to re-align priorities and re-think strategies. It’s past time to build a few dams and store rain water. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to let my family suffer because a few fishes aren’t smart enough to find less-salty water to live in. Darwin was on to something…

fix stupidBy the way, this is the prized Delta Smelt. It’s really, uh, something…

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The Apple-lanche

There I was at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning pulling into Trader Joe’s for a little grocery shopping. After the first decent night of sleep I’ve had in a week, I thought, “Ya know, today is going to be a great day.”

bidenAnd then the apple-lanche happened. An avalanche of apples that had been beautifully and uniformly stacked. All because I took the one off the end of the top row, the linchpin apple.

applesFirst the one fell and I didn’t catch it. Then the second and I couldn’t catch it. Then three, four, five…I quit trying to catch them and just watched them fall.

Rolling-Avalanche-GIF-AnimationAaaaand then I felt the familiar sting of salt water in my eyes. Crap. I was about to cry. Cry?! I don’t cry in public! What is this nonsense?! “Oh my gosh, get it together, McCully! There’s no crying in baseball grocery shopping!” Right away, there was a Trader Joe’s employee by my side, laughing as he said in a voice similar to one you would use when reading a story to a child, “Oh no! It’s an apple-lanche!” I did the whole awkward laugh-sob thing. What is wrong with me??

it-okay-dont-be-cry“It’s alright!” He assured me. “It happens all the time.” I told him to put the apples in my bag, that I would gladly pay for the damage I had done. “No way! I’m not sending you home with bruised apples. Let’s find you some good ones.” He genially patted me on the shoulder and the tears doubled. Clearly, this guy was about to question whether he should have called in sick today because the last thing he expected at 8am was a rando-chick devolving into a hot mess over a couple of apples.

feel the awkward“Is this about the apples? Really, don’t worry about them. Are you okay?” What was I going to tell him, that I was getting off birth control pills so my hormones were 12 kinds of confused? Too personal. That my husband was flying from one country to another over an ocean and my worst fears are the unfathomable creatures who lurk in the sea, ready to eat you? Too paranoid. Maybe I should just tell him I’m having one of those mornings. Generic, vague, but to the point. Good one, McCully – glad you got in front of that crazy train… Oh, yah. Too late.

trainwreckTwo aisles later while I was comparing the lentil soup to the split pea soup, the friendly employee approached me with a smile. If it were me, I would have either skipped the aisle with an emotionally unstable woman in it or I would have approached in the manner of a scared dog who isn’t entirely sure if he’s being offered a biscuit with a cyanide pill in it. But kudos to this guy for his kindness.

cautious dog“You okay?” I think he knew better than to ask if I was going to cause a canned-slide (like a landslide, but with cans…get it? Yah, I came up with that one myself). I assured him this aisle was probably safe for the time being. After I checked out, I stopped at the manager’s desk and commended the employee for his gracious behavior. He certainly didn’t have to be so nice about everything, but he was and that was awesome.

mindhugMoral of the story: You never know what someone is going through, what kind of day or week or month they are having. Be kind to one another. Offer grace, even when you think it’s unwarranted or unnecessary. Don’t skip the aisle to avoid the weirdos like me – it’s okay to take care of each other. We’re all in this nutty boat together, and thank goodness.

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Did I Shave My Legs For This?

Ladies, let’s be real: hairy legs are gross. Sure, we all go through some times where we are too busy or too lazy to get the job done, but we eventually take the razor and get to it. Because eww.

ewGentlemen, y’all know what I’m talking about. You like your lady to have smooth legs, right? Right. (If you don’t, never speak of that and don’t pretend like we’re friends.) No one likes climbing into bed with their wife and getting the Prickly Leg. Wives, if you are an offender of the Prickly Leg, seek help right away: the razor will be in the shower, next to the soap.

shaving-legs_2976110bNOTE TO CALIFORNIANS: Y’all might have to deal with the Prickly Leg from here on out. It sucks, I know, but Governor Brown wants to start fining people up to $500 a day for not conserving water. We all know ladies can’t shave their legs well with cold water or in less than 5 minutes – that’s a lot of real estate to cover! Are they going to have a Shower Police Task Force or something to enforce these mandatory water restrictions?

aloneLook, I don’t leave the water running when I brush my teeth and I don’t even wash my hair every day, so can’t I please be permitted a 12-minute shower so I can not give myself the Prickly Leg? I can see how you’d think with my husband away for 5 months, that would be prime opportunity to be lazy but eww.

grossWe can be good stewards of our natural resources and still be well-groomed human beings. I mean, can anyone tell me why we have potable drinking water being used to flush our toilets? That’s some high-quality stuff going right down the pooper. And California uses recycled water to maintain the gardens along the highways. They even have pretty tax dollar-funded signs to let motorists know they’re being responsible – why can’t we have that same process for our yards?

catwaterAnd the 840 miles of coastline California has? That’s access to a lot of ocean water. Desalination would give Californians access to unsalty water, but that’s not in any of the proposals I’ve seen to “solve” the drought crisis. Probably because it’s super expensive thanks to cumbersome and unnecessary red tape imposed by the state government and EPA. It’s like my favorite Californian said:

ReaganGovtProblemYa know, ladies in Phoenix and Las Vegas don’t have to suffer from the Prickly Leg, and they live in the desert! They’re in drought all the time. I wonder if California has talked to Nevada and Arizona about this water conundrum. Seems to me a meeting of the minds would yield some long-term solutions. No Prickly Leg there… some nice muscle tone, though. New goal: Show girl-quality quads!

showgirls2But, hey, if California wants to mandate water restrictions, they should subsidize Swiffers. I’m totally willing to do my “fair share” of saving water by not mopping. I hate mopping. I mean, I really, really hate it. Lugging the bucket of water around, wringing out a gross mop, trying not to leave streaks… it’s all just a hassle. No water, no mopping, no problem, just give me a Swiffer, Governor Brown, because nasty floors are just as offensive as Prickly Leg.

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Review: His Girl Friday (1940)

Around 9pm last night, a case of the Insomnias caught me totally unaware, although not entirely unprepared. I put on the 1940 flick “His Girl Friday” and pick up my latest crochet project under a cozy blanket in my favorite chair. In other news, I like to practice being 80.

grammaIf you don’t want any spoilers, quit reading now. No, right now. Seriously. The plot is in the next paragraph. Don’t scroll down! Can you even have spoilers for a movie that was released 75 years ago? Anyway, you were warned.

he-warned-you_o_1436191So Walter Burns (played by Cary Grant) and Hildy Johnson (played by Rosalind Russell) used to be married, but she divorced him because, apparently, he was more interested in his career as a newspaper editor than he was in being a husband or father. While I would say, “Good onya, Hildy!” she had to have known her dear Walter was a workaholic, cut-throat, manipulative guy to begin with because she worked for him (that’s how the met) and something about a tiger and stripes. Speaking of stripes, check out that ensemble she’s wearing!

Cary-Grant-and-Rosalind-R-001After the marriage ended, Hildy quit her job working for Walter, even though she was the top-notch reporter, and the movie begins with her coming back into the office to tell Walter she’s getting married to a calm, predictable insurance salesman named Bruce because he treats her “like a woman.” Why she felt the need to tell her ex-husband that, I don’t know, but she did. The problem is Walter still wants to be with Hildy, and I don’t think it’s because he loves her or anything, but because he isn’t used to being told “No”.

hisgirlfridaygifWalter then goes on an absolutely ridiculous spree of lies, cheats, set-ups, and manipulations to keep Hildy from getting on the train to Albany with Bruce. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be a comedy, but this is psychotic stuff: setting Bruce up to look like he’s accepting a hooker’s (Marion Martin, below) proposition in front of a bunch of cops, stealing Bruce’s wallet, providing Bruce with counterfeit money, kidnapping Bruce’s mother, and hiding an escaped convict.

Marion-Martin-1Hildy isn’t much better, though. While she tries to protect Bruce from Walter’s shenanigans (because she knows them all too well), she does take part in hiding the escaped convict, but not because she wants the exclusive interview; I really believe she felt the man was innocent and wanted to help him get away from his troubles. That, ladies and gents, is a whole ‘nother can of worms on the Character Flaw Aisle.

hisgirl2In the end, Bruce manipulates Hildy into staying on the job and reporting while Bruce gives up trying to regain the attentions of his fiancee, but Hildy once again picks up on his schemes only to be duped again. But was she duped or did she decide to stay with Walter? It turns out Miss Hildy Johnson is just as addicted to fame, fortune, manipulation, and drama as her darling Walter. That’s right: Hildy and Walter get back together and poor Bruce gets the short end of the stick.

fridaysmile-790x444As you can ascertain, I did not like this movie. And that’s a big deal. I love old movies. I love Cary Grant (Arsenic and Old Lace! Madame Butterfly!). I love Rosalind Russell (The Trouble with Angels is a darling movie, Gypsy, Auntie Mame…) Perhaps that’s why I’m so perturbed by “His Girl Friday”. For a comedy, I didn’t laugh once, but I did give half a chuckle.

mehThere were a few moments with Hildy where she showed some depth of character, mostly when she was talking to the convict, but the rest of the time the characters were so shallow, so ethically outrageous, it really made me question whether this was 1940 or 2015. That’s why I love old movies – they’re so much more than sex, violence, and CGI (computer-generated imagery). The humor was less shock and more wit. I’m not saying that all movies made today are awful or that everything made between 1920 and 1960 was amazing, but something about the films of yesteryear just make me happy.

oldmoviesSo there you have it: His Girl Friday got 2 out of 5 Ashley-approved stars. One star because of the stars who were in it, and one star for my resolve to sit through it.

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Easter, Springtime, and Cobbler – oh my!

Sorry for the sporadic posts last week. As a general rule, I avoid the internet at all costs on April Fools Day and Good Friday is a dearly-held, technology-free time for me to spend reflecting on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

But I come today bearing strawberry-flavored gifts! ‘Tis the season for potlucks, cookouts, and general gatherings. Yesterday I made both a roasted vegetable and kale salad, as well as a gluten-free strawberry cobbler. The strawberries at the market were beautiful, but you can make this recipe with just about any cobbler-type fruit: peaches, blueberries, cherries, apples, pears. It’s gluten-free and delicious, even for the most gluten-loving among us.

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Gluten-Free Fruit Cobbler

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box gluten-free cornbread mix
  • 1 pint strawberries, rinsed, de-stemmed, and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk (substitute water for dairy-free)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 disposable 8×8 baking dish
  • Butter (or bacon grease if dairy-free) for pan greasing

IMG_7748Preheat the oven to 375. Set aside 15-20 strawberry quarters. In a tupperware, put the rest of the strawberries and the white sugar, then seal the lid and shake it around to get the sugar evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator overnight or let it set on the counter for at least an hour if you can. If not, it won’t be the end of the world, I promise.

In a large bowl, combine the box of cornbread mix, egg, milk (or water), cinnamon, and brown sugar. You’ll only really need half of the batter, so put the rest in a zip-top bag and freeze it for later use. Chop the 15-20 strawberry quarters you set aside earlier, as fine as you’d like, then add them to the batter. Stir to combine, and no lumps, people!

IMG_7750Grease the baking dish. Need I remind you how much I love using bacon grease for this kind of task? Coconut oil would also be good. Pour the strawberries into the greased dish. Spoon the strawberry-infused batter onto the fruit. Put the cobbler into the oven and check it at 28 minutes; it should take between 28 and 32 minutes. You’ll know it’s finished when you insert a toothpick in the middle of the batter and it comes out clean. I like to turn the broiler on to get a little bit of color on the top; you can sprinkle sugar on top to brûlée it if you’d like, but it isn’t necessary. Ice cream isn’t necessary either, but it’s good!

And there you have it: a relatively guilt-free dessert. No gluten, no dairy, not that much sugar. I like to keep these easy recipes on hand because it’s so easy for the gluten-free crowd to be overlooked when it comes to potlucks. While some people avoid gluten by choice, others (like my brother and one of my best friends) have a serious allergy that can make their lives miserable for days. There are some allergies worth suffering for and I’d say dessert would be one of them, but why suffer if you don’t need to? Friends don’t let celiac friends eat gluten.

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Looking for a gluten-free chocolate dessert? Try these no-bake chocolate-peanut butter cookies!

Let’s Get This Party Started

So many of my friends look at throwing a party as this big, expensive, overly-logistical nightmare. And it’s easy to see why: Perfect is often the enemy of the good and over-thinking usually leads to mountains out of mole hills. What other fortune cookie-esque things can I throw in there? Bottom line: you don’t want your party to be like ol’ Bambi here, do you?

bambi icePart of the on-going process of becoming Mrs. McCully is learning how to host gatherings in our home. Our small group at church usually meets on Wednesday nights, so I offered to have people over for burgers, hot dogs, and fellowship because why not? We have a small house in a laid-back neighborhood and an awesome deck, so why wouldn’t we have 25 people over to take advantage of it?

gruNow, looking back on the great success that was my first-ever Mrs. McCully party, I have some newly-found tidbits to share. [Cue the trumpets!] Presenting….

Ashley McCully’s 7-Step Guide to a Family-Style Party
(If you’re looking for a frat-house rager, you’ve come to the wrong place.)

  1. Invite your neighbors: It’s a lot harder for them to get mad at your for a smokey grill and shrieking kids if they know they’re invited to take part in the fun and chose not to. Besides, it’s good to know your neighbors; you don’t know when you’re going to need to borrow an extension cord or something random. Plus, they might just have the best weaponry stash to defend against the zombie apocalypse. You just never know.
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  2. Let people help: Sure, it’s easy to make it seem like you have everything under control by saying, “Oh, no, it’s fine – just show up!” but if people offer to bring something, let them bring something. Make your shopping list and as people ask “Can I bring anything?”, give them an item off the list. By party day, you’ll only have a few things left to pick up at the grocery. If not, don’t hesitate to ask your friends if they can pick up a couple of bags of ice on their way, or if they could bring some chips.
    Note: I said “friends”, not some rando stranger or the neighbor you just met the day before, but people who actually like you.
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  3. Plan for the kids: It doesn’t have to be much. I can tell you that $0.87 sidewalk chalk is worth the investment. I might be vacuuming pink chalk off of our couch, but that’s okay – it’s just chalk and our couch is a nice clay color. Totally not the end of the world. Also, remember when you’re seasoning food to leave some plain for the kiddos. And to have a knife on hand for moms to cut off the “black” parts of the hot dogs. One day they’ll learn char is flavor, but that day is not your party day so get over it.
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  4. Clean up the place, but not the floors: Deck parties require clean deck furniture. Don’t ask your friends to sit on a chair so dirty you won’t even sit on it. Scrub pollen off the tables and railings. (Don’t forget sunscreen! Unless you like the farmer tan look…) Put a clean hand-towel in the bathroom, but DO NOT clean the floors. You’re wasting your time. You’ll just have to re-do them the next day. Maybe it’s because mopping is my most hated chore, but I’d rather only mop once a week and definitely not two days in a row.
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  5. Say “Please” and “Thank you”: It may be your house, but that doesn’t mean your manners can go out the window. Remember, they are guests and you’re the host(ess) – they don’t have to do anything other than show up, eat, and leave. You need to be okay with this before saying, “Hey, why don’t y’all come over?”
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  6. Be a good neighbor: Make sure the festivities end at a reasonable time, the trash is picked up, and the sidewalk chalk is removed. I recommend, if you live in California where the government is trying to incite panic over this drought, that you rinse off your driveway in the middle of the night so no one can throw stones at you for “wasting” water. This state… *sigh*
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  7. Don’t expect everything to be perfect: As long as nothing important breaks, no one requires medical attention, there’s not a brawl in the middle of the street, and nothing catches on fire, count it as a success. Don’t set the bar too high, otherwise you’ll just be stressed and disappointed and that’s not the point of a party. Seriously, find the lowest threshold of success you can and use that as your expectation.
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And there you have it: 7 easy steps for a kid-friendly cookout. Not everything has to be gourmet or hand-made, and that’s saying something coming from me – I love gourmet and hand-made. My next party for Book Club will probably be more like that, so stay tuned!

Pins and Needles

I’m going to start today by being as honest as possible: Acupuncture is weird. I am now a total authority on the subject because I went to my first-ever acupuncture appointment yesterday. Everything from the tests for identifying problems and solutions to the actual sticking of the pins to the laying there as stiff as a board with pins sticking in you try to relax is weird. But, hey, just because it’s weird doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Lots of things are weird. Look at cauliflower, giraffes, venus fly traps…

weirdNot willing to deal with the pain in my knee and not ready for cortisone shots, MRIs, or surgery, this seemed like a good middle ground. This Chinese medicine thing has been around for a long while; I would think, by now, it would be widely known as a scam if it didn’t work for most people who try it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It’s worth a try.

mehIn my 90-minute appointment yesterday, I had a thorough conversation about my concerns, eating/drinking habits, lifestyle, and goals. While I was advised the 13.1 training might not be the best idea, I wasn’t told to not do it; she encouraged me to try other, less jarring activities (get ready for some hilariously awkward yoga posts!).

panda-yoga1Fortunately, I didn’t have a panic attack or cry when it was time for the pins. Have you noticed I refuse to call them “ne*dl*s”? Makes it less creepy. Honestly, I didn’t feel most of them, but some of them felt like a tweezer pulling out a hair and only one legitimately hurt. I tried to pretend like it was no big deal, but I’m pretty sure no one bought it.

confused smileI was totally going to reward myself for being a big girl by going to Trader Joe’s and buying some pretty flowers, but this happened.

IMG_7700Why have 1 blow-out when you can have 2? Everyone and everything is fine, but the Jeep did take a tumble through a pothole the size of New Jersey. Have I mentioned how much I admire the high quality of California’s roads? Seriously, of all the stuff this state spends money on, “Roads” is not on the list. Oddly enough, roads are one of the few things the states should actually spend money on, but I’ll spare y’all the soapbox today.

ron-2USAA has been wonderful. They took care of the claim, towing, rental car, and everything so quickly. From disaster to home on my couch in two hours. The more interactions I have with them, the more I appreciate their company. Now, I get to ride around in this beast. I think I’ll name her Dolly.

IMG_7703Who has something that needs hauling??