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Nuptial planning includes huntin’ and fishin.’

What I said in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin this week:

I thought I would be writing about the final hour of wedding planning with this column edition.

There is more than enough to talk about, what with a zillion details to cover between now and then.

Stuff I’ve never considered in my life – should I try a spray tan? Should I wax (or “sugar” since that is supposed to hurt less) excess hair? Are sub sandwiches too cheap for the rehearsal dinner? Who’s picking up the rented chairs? More importantly, who is returning them? Will this crazy plan for people to bring food instead of gifts work out, or are we all going to starve? Are fake nails ridiculous? Will we have enough cake?

What should we do with those turkey feathers?

Wait. That’s not a wedding question, after all.

Nope, that comes from Camo Man taking Miss Tall and Blond hunting and fishing one recent Saturday.

Apparently it’s youth turkey season in Washington state. That’s what the hunting tag says anyway. Which comes during Fencing Season, previously whined about via a blog post.

Remember, Camo Man has been working to make hunters of us since last autumn. In fact, he took Miss TAB deer hunting in Dayton for hours, but she couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger.

Which was fine by me. The downstairs family room is becoming host to a zoo of animal heads as wildlife transfers from his house to mine. I know that should anyone else living here get that sort of “trophy,” there will be an expectation it be displayed in similar fashion. Frankly, I don’t know if I can have one more creature stare at me as I get sweaty on the elliptical trainer. I’m already too close to the world’s sixth-largest Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep as I strive to keep elliptically going 30 minutes, let me tell you.

I warned Camo Man that Miss TAB was probably going to repeat her earlier (lack of) performance. “Just leave her home and save yourself some misery,” I said.

He would not be swayed. That first nippy Saturday the two of them set up the hunting blind and sat out there on Uncle Jerry’s ranch. And sat there and sat there. Sure enough, Miss TAB simply could not resolve to committing to the shot. Not that she seemed very bothered by it, happily diving into the available movie supply when she came back into the cabin.

Camo Man would not give up and he took my youngest to Dayton again two weekends later.

The phone rang on Saturday about noon. “Guess what,” Camo Man said, nearly shouting.

A hunting victory was so far from my mind, I took the bait. “What?”

“Tall and Blond got her first turkey. Then she decided she wanted to catch a fish, and boy, she pulled one up the size of a salmon,” he replied.

It must be said, this was in Uncle Jerry’s stocked pond, so the odds were on TAB’s side. After winter, those babies are hungry.

I congratulated one and all, and waited for the hunter-gatherer duo to come back to town. And they did, bearing cut up wild turkey and a LARGE steelhead trout. Which, Miss Tall and Blond learned, would mean she had to follow the rule of hunter-gatherers everywhere – you take the life of an animal or fish, you use it to nourish yourself and your family.

Even fish. Even if you have to pinch your nose to eat it.

Camo Man and I set to grilling and baking. In the end, we had a fish that was just downright delicious – the teens ate all I heaped on their plates – and a turkey that no one wanted seconds on, what with the dark, dense meat of a wild critter that noshes on bugs. Such good protein, however, will be revisited in a soup on some early autumn evening.

Miss TAB wants to bring home the turkey’s tail feathers, to add to the dad’s collection. We’re in negotiation.

Really, when it comes down to it, I guess this is a wedding story of sorts.

Back when I was just beginning to think about what kind of man I’d want to share my life with, “wonderful father to my children” was at the top of the bulletin points. I planned to never settle until I could cross that one off the list.

Which, you know, made me think I’d never be planning another wedding. Huh.

I’ll go back to shopping for paper plates, plastic forks and tablecloths now. And should I get a garter? Should Camo Man get his hair cut a week before or two weeks before? Should we …?

Tall shot in the dark with a smile, please

Dear coffee shop people,

Can I just say something? We have a problem. And it’s not me, it’s you.

I’ve been coming through your door fairly consistently for nearly eight years and have been going steady with you for about four. Except when I’m out of town, and even then I check in with one of your siblings, most times.

Not only do I like your coffee — even when it’s popular to espouse that yours has a “burnt” flavor — I also turn a deaf ear when others call you too corporate and make fun of your founder’s book. Although, seriously, who advised him on that cover design?

And you know what? I like looking at all the schtick on your shelves and flicking through the CDs for sale. It’s not unheard of for me to buy one when a blue moon comes about. But the coffee mugs you sell? Yeah, I’m kind of addicted to those big, bold cups that meet my standard of a three-finger handle and room enough for a LOT of caffeine. I have four at home right now.

When I come see you with Camo Man in the afternoon, you seem like any of your brand in an urban setting. There’s a lot of chatter from the baristas, aimed at the consumers, and it feels like we’ve stepped into a party our friends invited us to.

But in the mornings, when I most need a smile and a verbal hug? Not happening. At all. I order my usual in a cheerful voice (I’m about to get my fix, so I’m excited), but all I get from you is sullen. Or snobbery — my reasonably-priced order seems beneath your notice and certainly not enough to get me a look in the eye.

You used to toss out cute jokes and quick wit with every order. You used to pretend to be my best friend, even when I only came in every other week. You used to act like my money was a gift to you.

Now it seems like you’d just as soon I end the relationship.

I could arrange that, even though the neighboring coffee shop doesn’t have the dark coffee that lights up my brain’s reward center. But they smile like crazy and still act like they love me.

Do you? Love me? I’m not feeling it at 7 a.m. when the world is waking up and I just want to be soothed by your elixir.

Think it over, would you? Get back to me.


Tall shot in the dark



So, it’s hours before Thanksgiving

and I am at work, stressing about the half-thawed turkey, the home work that comes after work work and how I’m going to cover the Black Friday shopping story (Really, American retailers? Midnight?).

But in between those thoughts, I’m flooded with the realization this is the first Thanksgiving for Camo Man and myself. And that just makes everything squishy and warm in my heart. We’re going to work together to produce a meal and a memory for our families. We’ll look back on tomorrow and remember when we were pilgrims in this land, newly landed and still finding our way on almost everything.

It all makes me smile. Widely. Happy Thanksgiving, Camo Man.

Not all junk email is created equal

Sometimes, rarely, I receive something that’s useful in my inbox. This week I’m busier than a one-armed barbecue chef, but I got this and thought “perfect” for all of us — on this holiday or another. You’re welcome, my lovelies.


Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune,, and CBS News-Houston.


Aunt Jean is coming to town. You’ve known about it for months, but you’re days away from her camping out in your guest room with a plethora of denture accessories. And she knows just how to cook your turkey. Face reality and get a game plan, because compensating with bourbon refills can get pricey.

Sharing your home can be an awesome experience, even for folks who prefer themselves to non-resident relatives. But it just wouldn’t be the holidays without stuffed turkeys or stuffed houses–so cozy up with these sanity-saving tips.

1. Make a meal-sharing spreadsheet.
After a decade of gathering for Thanksgiving with my mother’s extended relatives, we finally wised up and started assigning cooking and cleaning to each family. We went OCD on the plans and made sure each group knew what they were responsible for. Make the most of Facebook to send out small group messages.

2. Stock your guest’s area with necessities.
Include two towels, an extra blanket and enough toiletries to get them through a weekend–then let them know where they are. Don’t forget to leave a few bestsellers and magazines on the nightstand for late-night reading.

3. Practice sharing a room before guests arrive.
Most of us don’t have spare rooms lying around throughout our house–your guests will most likely need to encroach on current inhabitants. If those evicted youngsters are under three, let them share a room with their older siblings a couple nights ahead so they will sleep well when company arrives.

4. Plan family walks.
Two big ideas here: you will eat far more than you should (despite your steely resolve) and cabin fever leads to badness (as dramatized in The Shining). It’s not an option. Everyone goes, rain or shine. This year, your clan can even walk to the nearest Best Buy or Walmart to protest early Black Friday deals. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

5. Make a list of things to do in town (and not in your house).
If taking a brisk post-turkey walk outside isn’t an option, have a list of fun activities read to suggest for weekend guests. Think movies, bowling or, for the thrill-seekers, Black Friday shopping. Free is good, but it needs to be done away from the house at times.

6. Text or email directions ahead of time (with a map included).
While many of us have good access to immediate maps with our smarty-pants phones, older folks would rather have clear, printed directions before taking to the road. Rather than playing GPS for multiple parties on the night of arrival, send out an email with a map of your place and typed directions on how to get there. Include other need-to-know stops nearby, like grocery stores and pharmacies.

7. Invest in a good air mattress.
If you aren’t a fan of air mattresses, you haven’t slept on a good one. But you’ll have to pay more for a bed that doesn’t leak. They will run you over $100, but if you buy a discount gift card to Sears from sites like GiftCardGranny, you’ll save around $10 on a queen-sized bed.

8. Ask about food allergies.
It seems most of the world is now deathly allergic to at least one food (or food group), but as the host, you have the responsibility of accommodating for preference and allergy. Eating With Food Allergies has a fabulous guide to preparing a quality Thanksgiving meal sans EpiPen.

9. Buy several plastic-lidded cups.
Unless you’d like a mass of unidentified cups sprouting around your house, watering the carpet, get a batch of souvenir cups with lids to contain the mess. Let each guest autograph their own cup with a permanent marker and let them take a piece of the holidays home with them.

10. Ask big groups to bring their own pillows, blankets and towels.
Yes, this is normally understood, but everyone needs a reminder. If your overnight guest list is really long, suggest bringing towels and sheets as well. Put a hamper in a central location near the bedroom so guests who strip the sheets don’t have to wonder where to put them.

11. Make plans for visiting pets.
Our furry friends seem to be more than just four-legged friends these days. If your cat-crazy relatives can’t make it through the weekend without toting Whiskers along, address it ahead of time. Consult this list of Thanksgiving safety tips for dogs, and make sure you, as the host, know if the animal is quiet. A barking dog can kill the holiday cheer in five minutes.

12. Enjoy the moment and don’t stress over plans!
These holiday memories won’t roll around forever–have some perspective and be a gracious host. Be thankful you have a generous space to share and let your cooky relatives enjoy it as well!

We do not endorse

this sort of carbohydrate-laden drinking, but if you have to indulge, this would seem like an excellent way to do it. Despite the addition of honey, this should not be construed as healthy…just out of your mind yummy.

And now, straight from the press release…..heeeere’s the National Honey Board!


Prep time: 5 minutes
1 cup coconut water
1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 cup banana chunks (1 small banana)
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
Toasted coconut
Optional: 3 tablespoons rum or tequila
In blender, combine all ingredients except toasted coconut. Blend on high speed until frothy; pour into 16-ounce glass and sprinkle coconut on top. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 serving
Nutrition Information Per Serving (without alcohol): 287 calories; 1 g fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 51 mg sodium; 865 mg potassium; 74 g carbohydrate;  3 g fiber; 2 g protein

Blogger’s note: 74 grams of carbohydrates, people!! Drink with caution.