Archive for November, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Veteran’s Day was first celebrated in 1919 to commemorate the first anniversary of the armistice of World War I. Fighting ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – November 11, 1918. President Wilson proclaimed Veteran’s Day a national holiday intended to celebrate and honor the American service men and women for their bravery, patriotism and service. You can learn more about this holiday by visiting the US Department of Veterans Affairs online.

The Wilderness Girls all have special veterans in our lives – people we love who have loved and served this country, protecting us from dangers most people can’t imagine. Nobody knows what it is like to serve unless they have taken that oath and lived that life. Today Christina and Rachael are honoring two veterans in their lives by telling their stories.

Christina’s Grandfather: Jack E. Grant

My grandpa Jack E. Grant (1924-2011) was a veteran of World War II; he served as a pilot in the United States Navy. Jack was a handsome, charismatic, outgoing man with lots of stories to tell. Only he rarely said anything about his time in the service – I can only assume his silence was a result of the tragedy he experienced at such a young age. He was a larger than life figure and so much of what we know about his service feels fantastical and after so many years the truth and myth have blurred together.


One of the last conversations we shared is one that I will hold close to my heart for as long as I live. It took place during a chaotic time for our family. My grandfather, faced with losing his home and independence sat with me in the rehabilitation wing of a hospital in his small Montana town. It was one of the first times he’d opened up about that part of his life to me. As we reflected on the many ways technology has changed pilot training I asked him how he learned to fly. His eyes as big as saucers, “they put me in the plane and made me fly”, he replied matter-of-factly. He went on to admit that he could still see the faces of the friends he’d lost at sea; images burned into his brain long ago. One of those friends was lost off of the end of the carrier they were stationed on together and he attended his funeral in the middle of the ocean. Behind his watery eyes I could see the open footlocker that held all of those excruciating memories for so many years close. For my grandpa’s generation (the greatest), service wasn’t a sacrifice; it was simply what you did. You didn’t regale your family and friends with stories from the front lines, you locked those memories away and carried the burden on your own.


Next July will mark three years that he’s been gone. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t give him nearly enough time while he was here with us on Earth. When I was younger I thought him old fashioned and stubborn. I resented the fact that I knew so little about the head of our family, that he expected me to be the one to reach out. But, now I reflect on the result of my reaching out – he opened up, and I have the memory of one conversation that I’ll carry with me always. We’re rapidly losing the men and women of our greatest generation to death, it’s estimated that we lose someone from their generation every two minutes. If we don’t ask, they might not share, leaving those memories gone forever.

Rachael’s Father-in-Law: Bobby Ruelas

My father-in-law Bobby Ruelas served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He was stationed in Thailand and later in Vietnam as a supply clerk for 3rd Air Marines. His primary duties were moving supplies and jet parts and making sure they were available to the Marines where and when they were needed.


He was fortunate in that he was never sent into active combat at the front line out in the bush, but the base at which he served was deep within the jungle and it was bombed often. There were three major targets at the base: the ammo dump where missiles were stored, the revetment where the jets were parked and the supply huts where he worked. When I asked him about that he told me one day a M-105 (missile) came through the tin roof of the Quonset Hut he worked in and landed about 20 feet from him but it didn’t explode right away. All of the men immediately dropped to the floor and crawled toward cover. The bomb squad was called in and the missile was a dud, but that kind of danger was part of their life every day.

Even toward the rear of the fighting there was really never a moment of safety. In the line of duty he was exposed to Agent Orange, which was a chemical defoliant used to clear the jungle of trees and plants so the enemy couldn’t hide under the lush foliage. In the years after it was shown to have terrible health consequences and he is living with those effects today. When the Marines of the Vietnam era came home they were greeted with hostility instead of respect. There were protesters at the airport when Bobby arrived back in the US after his tour and they spat on him and called him murderer and baby killer. And then there were the nightmares. Still, to this day Bobby identifies as a Marine. He says once a person is a Marine there is no going back. His service changed him, in some ways for the better and in other ways for the worse. When I asked him if it was 1970 and he had it to do all over again what he would choose, he didn’t hesitate when he said he would enlist again. Semper Fidelis.

If you have veterans in your life, take a minute today to let them know how important their service is and how much they are appreciated. We would love to hear your stories in the comments below. You can also share photos of your veteran(s) on Instagram and use the tag #ilovemyveteran.

Refreshing Vintage: Chair Makeover

Friday, November 8th, 2013


In the past few years, an increased demand for vintage has left prices up and inventory down. It’s harder to find that diamond in the rough. So, when I found this chair for less than twenty dollars, I was excited. It reminded me of the Circle Chair designed by Tony Paul.


The chair was in rough shape, the seat had been poorly recovered, one of the legs was missing a cap and the paint was chippy. When you find a piece of vintage furniture with great bones, be sure to consider the added cost of materials if you plan to give it a makeover. This can quickly drive up the price. With some vintage inspired fabric and a poppy paint color, I knew that it would be a cheap and easy refresh.


I searched Etsy for weeks looking for the perfect fabric but came up empty- handed. With all of it’s thousands of listings, the site can provide too many options making it hard for me to choose. (Am I the only one with this problem?!) I’d been searching for something in vinyl or oilcloth so that it would be durable. Thank goodness for my crafting stash; I found the perfect fabric buried in a pile of fabrics I’d purchased for my art space makeover.

I prepped the chair for paint by removing the seat and wiping it with a wet rag to remove years of dirt and debris. Next, I used a piece of steel wool to roughen up the surface and remove the shine. I sprayed the chair in Oatlands Daisy from Valspar’s Color Radiance line.

Next, I removed the black vinyl seat cover and used the remnant as a template to cut the new seat cover. I covered the seat with the new fabric and secured it with staples. The new fabric that I’d selected was a simple cotton quilting fabric, for added durability I chose to cover it with a layer of clear gloss vinyl. Finally, I let the paint cure overnight and reattached the seat cover.


I’m in love with my new chair! I spent less than twenty dollars on materials and put in about two hours worth of work. It just goes to show that with patience, a little digging and the willingness to invest some elbow grease you can still get great vintage at a great price!

Love Your Library

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library.
The only entrance requirement is interest. — Lady Bird Johnson

When was the last time you went to the public library? Maybe it has been a while.  Maybe you haven’t been since before you heard your last commencement address. If that is the case, it is time to rethink the library.

FINAL_RR_Love Your Library_1

Burton Barr Central Library
Source: Phoenix Public Library, Photo Credit: Bill Timmerman

A couple months back I shared a post on Sustainable Home Economics and one of our lovely readers, Laura M, commented with a tip about baking her own fresh bread daily. She recommended a book with her recipe and I was immediately intrigued so I popped on over to where I learned that an available copy was on the shelf at a branch near my office. I picked it up over my lunch hour — easy as pie.

Why the library?
Why didn’t I just buy it from or download an electronic version to one of my many devices? I have a couple reasons. First, baking my own fresh bread sounded like a pretty cool idea but I wasn’t ready to make a commitment. I’m a busy Mama and while I like baking I’m not sure it could happen on a daily basis in my home. Second, I’m about making sustainable choices and saving money wherever I can. This means borrowing beats buying in almost every matchup. Finally, I believe in the power and importance of the public library and using their services shows my support.

You will find so much more than just books at your library; CDs DVDs, books on tape, toys and more are available at every branch. There are art exhibits and opportunities to learn about local art and history. The library supports the community by offering computers with internet service for those who don’t have access to these tools at home. Library patrons can even take free computer classes so they are better able to use the technology.

Is it convenient?
Some will argue that the library isn’t as convenient as buying/downloading your own copy. I’d say sometimes that is true, but not most of the time. Let’s look back to the bread book example I gave a moment ago. What if there hadn’t been a copy available at a branch near my office? No problem! If the library branch you use does not have the material you need you can join a waiting list or have the book transferred from another library. Intra-library transfer is an awesome and underutilized service. The library will move a book from a faraway branch to the one in your ‘hood with other transfers.  You remember those 4R’s of Sustainability we talk about – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink. This is Reduce at its finest. Instead of fifteen people criss-crossing the city on fifteen trips to get the books and materials they want, the library consolidates shipments through their inventory management systems and patrons stop by their nearby branch to collect their items. Another advantage to using holds/transfers is that the book is waiting for you on the hold shelf, arranged alphabetically with your name on it. I’m all for the Dewy Decimal System but finding your name alphabetically on a shelf is easier any day.

I’ve found two inconveniences to using the library. First, the hours aren’t the same every day due to funding cuts and budget constraints. Second, you have to remember to take their stuff back to them on time or you will incur fines. Granted it’s only $0.20/item/day ($0.10/item/day for Children’s materials), it’s better not to be in hock with the library. Fortunately, a smartphone can solve both of these little inconveniences. The library’s mobile website gives each local branch’s hours so you will never arrive to locked doors. In addition, you will receive email reminders when your materials are coming due. You can even renew online if a trip to the library doesn’t fit your schedule that day. If you happen to drive by during closed hours you can slip those literary treasures in the book return where they’ll be safe and sound until the librarians pick them up in the morning.

What other services do they offer?
The library is truly a community institution offering a wide variety of services. There are sixteen branches in Phoenix and each one offers a place for neighbors to gather, kids to learn, students to research and families to explore culture and the arts. The library branches are full of free public art exhibits. Some are permanent pieces and others travel between branches or are featured for a short time.

Classes and programs at the library are a huge advantage to the community. They offer everything from infants story and play time to homework help for grade school age kids, to teen poetry slams and basic computer skills classes for all ages. Library programs help adults build resumes and advance job searches. They have community programs, special bilingual family story time to help break down language barriers and even English as a Second Language classes free for anyone who has the interest.

One of my favorite library features is the Culture Pass. Each library has a set of cards that can be checked out in exchange for free admission for up to 2 people at a local museum, zoo, park or art exhibit. There is no cost and there is no catch. The only thing you have to do is go to the library and choose from the available options OR decide where you want to explore for free and go to the branch that has an available Culture Pass. Culture passes are one of the few items that can’t be reserved or transferred to a local branch but most often the special trip is worthwhile when you don’t have to pay at the museum’s admission desk.

What about e-books and digital materials?
As if books, movies, meeting places, homework help, Culture Passes and story hours aren’t enough, the good folks at the library know how much we love our digital devices. That’s why there is a whole section of their website devoted to digital services. A little exploration here will lead you to e-books, audio books, apps and more that you can download for a pre-set borrowing period. You never have to leave the house and late returns are a thing of the past because the transaction is 100% digital. We live in the future and the future is pretty stinkin’ cool.

I’ve given a lot of love to the Phoenix Public Library here but the same story is true everywhere. No matter where you live or how small your town is, chances are you have a quality library that offers many of these valuable gifts. The bottom line: Go to the library. Take your kids. Take your friends. Take your time. Discover all of the treasures within and share them with the ones you love. There are bountiful resources out there so make sure to enjoy them. When you do, please be sure to share your favorite finds and the ways you love your local library.

Preparing for the Holiday Road Trip

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

There is a certain feeling of freedom I get from being behind the wheel of a car and driving down the open road. Along with that freedom lies a certain responsibility, and for me that means making sure my family is safe.

We live in a pretty harsh climate in Arizona and when we travel to California to see family for the holidays or take weekend road trips we travel through some pretty desolate areas, especially in the summer.

Coming up with a plan to make sure you and your vehicle are prepared is essential so I would like to share a few things I do before taking a trip. I am by no means a mechanic but here are a few very simple checks you can do before loading up the car and hitting the road.

1. Check the tires. Make sure they look to be wearing evenly. Also check the air pressure. Most tires will have a recommended air pressure on the side. I use an inexpensive air pressure I gauge I purchased at my local auto parts store for about a dollar.


2. Check your oil. It’s best to do this on a level surface and when the engine is cool, you don’t want to accidentally burn yourself. Your car’s dipstick will have lines or dots that indicate low and full oil levels. Be mindful of your oil level, you never want to let your car run low. Add oil if needed. Check your owner’s manual for oil type and filling instructions.


3. Make sure the air filter is clean and isn’t black from sucking in too much dust. A little is ok but the dirtier it is the lower your gas mileage gets and the harder it is for your car to breathe. Most modern cars are set up the same way and house the air filter in a black box secured with three or four metal clips. It easily pops right off and you can pull the air filter out. Now that you know how to check your air filter you can save money by buying and replacing it yourself.


4. Now that you have your hood up, why not take a look around? Are there any damp areas or loose wires? Check the other reservoirs and make sure they are full. For example the windshield wiper fluid always seems to be low in our car. If you see anything questionable it might be a good idea to take it to your mechanic before going on any long trips.


5. Tool kits are always great to have in an emergency. I keep a simple kit in the car with a few extras. A pocket knife, zip ties and a flashlight are essentials in my book. Kinda seems like a MacGyver setup but a lot can be done with these things in an emergency.


Along with snacks food and plenty of water those are the basic steps I take to get ready for a road trip.

**A few things to remember. Be sure to turn your engine off and let it cool before performing any maintenance Always park on a level surface and make sure the vehicle is in park with the emergency brake

Healthfully Surviving the Holidays

Monday, November 4th, 2013


One of the biggest challenges is getting through the holidays healthfully. I am not a proponent of cutting out all splurging between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, as I don’t think it’s realistic to do. Any time I have tried, about one week in, I give up, and then go overboard in consuming as many cookies as I can get my hands on.

There are so many options around the holidays between dinners, parties, seasonal lattes, cocktails, and the dozens of cookies, cakes and other baked goods that people bring into the workplace.

The key to successfully navigating through it all is making smart choices.

Here are my tips for keeping a healthy balance during the holidays:

Start each day with a healthy, protein-based breakfast.
Most of the goodies around the holidays are carb-based, so by eating something like a spinach and egg-white omelet in the morning, you are getting in the protein that you need to fill you up and energize you for the day. I am also a fan of Christina’s Berry Yogurt Breakfast Smoothie.

Limit the amount of parties and events that you go to.
Keeping your schedule under control will not only keep you away from overindulging too often, but it will also provide you with much needed down time. Give yourself some time to be home, relax, and watch your favorite holiday movie, taking a little break from the craziness.

Treat yo’self, but plan it.
When faced with those tempting cookies in the office, think about what other plans you have for the week. Is there another night where you are going to a cocktail party with amazing appetizers? Or a day you are going to brunch with friends and getting gingerbread pancakes that make your eyes roll back? It makes it easier to skip the so-so cookie when you know you have a better treat coming to you later in the week.

Lighten or limit the lattes.
Have a holiday latte you like? Get it with skim or soy milk, or get it less frequently. I often find that the holiday lattes end up making me feel groggy anyway, so normally I get my favorite once during the season, so that I feel like I got my fix. So don’t deprive yourself but find ways to space them out, or make them healthier (many are available as sugar-free now).

Eat at home when you can.
Plan your meals for the week and do all your grocery shopping in one trip. Make sure to load up on lean protein and veggies. Ever feel hungry beyond belief after overdoing it on cookies? It’s because your body is hungry for the nutrients it needs. Cooking at home and focusing on the food groups you are missing will help keep you full and your body happy. Sites like Skinnytaste have lighter versions of higher-calorie items, so you can still get all the flavor, while keeping it healthy.

Stick to the basics.
Drink plenty of water, rest when you can, and maintain some semblance of an exercise routine. The holidays are a busy time, and the more run down and dehydrated you get, the worse you feel. There is a reason every nutrition plan includes this trifecta – because they work. So, remember to keep them as part of your routine all year round.

“But what about parties? How do I survive those?” Keep an eye out for an upcoming post where I will give you some quick tips on holiday parties.

What tips do you have that help you to splurge responsibly during the holidays? Share them in the comments below.

Friday Finds: 11/1/13

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Ever find something on your trip down the internet rabbit-hole that you just have to share with the world? The Wilderness Girls do! Every week we will link you to our favorite bits of the internet right here on Friday Finds. Click the links below to check out this week’s selections!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes: Not sure what to do with all those leftover peanut butter cups? (A problem I have never had.) You can make cupcakes like Joy the Baker.

Creepy Cocktail: This drink is at the top of the list for next year’s pumpkin carving party. Soo gross, but I love it.

Candy Cocktail Rimmers: For all you adults in the house, I suggest you stash some of your kid’s candy and save it for these fantastic candy-based cocktail rimmers. Cheers! (There are also some links at the bottom of this blogger’s post with candy bar cheesecake recipes.)

Sweets for Soldiers: This Halloween candy donation program is designed for kids with food allergies and soldiers on deployment. For many kiddos with food allergies, the end of a night of trick-or-treating means much of their haul goes in the trash. With the Sweets for Soldiers program those treats go to brighten the day of a service man or woman spending the holiday far from home. Oh, and the drop offs are dentist offices. Less candy = less cavities. Win-win-win!

Don’t forget to check out our blogroll in the menu bar to see more sites that we are addicted to. Find something that you would like to see shared on Friday Finds? Send us an e-mail at and you could be featured on