Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze

Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze

With summer almost upon us (woohoo!) and our new patio done and decorated (stay tuned for a post all about that in a couple of weeks), I’ve been using our grill like there’s no tomorrow. I am proof that even vegetarians can love grilling, guys. There’s no better way to prepare food in the summertime, in my opinion. And the more I use the grill, the more amazed I am by all of the different foods you can cook with it. My current favorite (and my daughter’s too) isn’t unusual – corn on the cob. But the way I like to prepare it is actually pretty unique, and I wanted to share it with you today because it’s incredibly delicious, super easy, and perfect for any summertime parties you might be hosting or attending this weekend (and all summer long!).

Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze

Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze  

Serves 6

6 ears sweet corn, husked
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce
1 teaspoon Lee Kum Kee Chiu Chow Chili Oil
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2-3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat your grill to medium high. In a small bowl, combine Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce, Lee Kum Kee Chiu Chow Chili Oil, melted butter, and grated orange rind, and mix well. Grill corn for 2-3 minutes, turn, and grill another 2-3 minutes. Use a brush to coat corn with hoisin butter glaze, and continue to grill for another 5-7 minutes, brushing with the glaze every couple of minutes. Remove corn from grill and give one final brush of glaze, then top with chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze
Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze
Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze

Grilled corn on the cob itself is a summertime delight, but this glaze takes it up a serious notch. Regular grilled corn becomes rich and spicy sweet. It’s hard for me to even write about it without my mouth watering, to be honest. The secret ingredient here is the Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce, which is a sweet, slightly spicy sauce made from sweet potatoes, soybeans, and select spices. (And so good that I have no shame in admitting I would totally eat it with a spoon straight from the bottle.) The runner-up star ingredient is the Lee Kum Kee Chiu Chow Chili Oil which is prepared from the finest preserved chilies and garlic blended with soy bean oil, and gives it just the right kick. If you haven’t heard of Lee Kum Kee, let me just tell you that they make a huge range of all sorts of great-tasting, authentic Asian-style sauces and condiments that are so, so tasty – whether you’re doing everyday cooking or need a little help elevating your summer celebrations. You guys need to give their delicious products – and this recipe! – a try. You’ll be so glad you did.

Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze
Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze
Grilled Corn with Orange Hoisin and Chili Glaze

Happy summer and happy grilling!

This post is in partnership with Lee Kum Kee. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Can You Break In to Take a Dog Out of a Hot Car?

From the Animal Legal Defense Fund: Only 12 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Vermont, Oregon and Tennessee — allow “good Samaritans” to break a car window to save an animal. Almost all of those states require “good Samaritans” to contact law enforcement before breaking into the car. In 14 […] Dog Blog

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An Fun End of School Year Interview for Kids

An Fun End of School Year Interview for Kids

Some of you might remember at the beginning of this school year when I shared a fun “interview” I put together with questions for Essley, with intentions of asking her the same questions on the last day of school (which was last week). The post received a lot of traffic and was pinned quite a bit on Pinterest, so I decided to share the questions and answers here again. (And if you want to see the original post and her answers on the first day, you can do that right here.) Some of her responses were exactly the same, and others had changed. And once again, they were a combination of funny and endearing. It’s just amazing to me how much she’s grown since the beginning of the year. I can’t wait for all of our adventures together over summer break.

1. What is your name? Essley.
2. What grade are you in? Threes Preschool and next year I’m in Pre-K because I’m big.
3. How old are you? 4.
4. What is your favorite color? Pink.
5. What is your favorite thing to do at school? Play with the building blocks and play with my friends.
6. What is your favorite activity outside of school? Ballet, Tap, soccer, gymnastics, theatre and all activities but not swimming lessons.
7. What do you want to be when you grow up? A dance teacher.
8. What is your favorite food? Pizza.
9. How old is your mommy? 30. 16.
10. What is her job? Working on blog posts.
11. What is mommy’s favorite food? Salad and beer. You like beer mommy.
12. How old is your daddy? 19.
13. What is his job? He’s a Stage Manager.
14. What is daddy’s favorite food? Sandwiches. Sometimes he eats hotdogs.
15. What do mommy and daddy like to do? Go to movies and IKEA and to daddy’s work.
16. If you have brothers or sisters, what are their names? Crispy. (His name is Emmett.)
17. How old is your brother(s) (and/or sisters)? 2.
18. What is your brother(s) (and/or sisters) favorite food? Mac and cheese. He’s a little piggy.
19. What is your favorite toy My dolls and Owly. (Her favorite owl toy since she was a babe.)
20. Where do you live? By Chicago.
21. What is your favorite thing to do? Playing with my mommy.
22. What is your favorite place you’ve ever been? The Children’s museum and California.
23. Who is your best friend? Mommy and Livie and Kinsley and Madison and Harper and Sophie and Peyton and all my friends.
24. What is your favorite animal? Zebras and tigers and dogs.
25. If you could have anything you wished for, what would it be? To have tons of animals that I can take care of.

If any of you use these question to interview your preschoolers or grade schoolers, I’d love to hear some of their replies!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

Thank you Cameron Hughes for sponsoring this post. Wine and dine your way into summer and raise a toast to everyone’s favorite season!

Like most parents of young children, there is little in life I love more than going out on a date for some quality alone time with my husband. Dates don’t happen often, but when they do, they’re pretty great. Last month Robbie and I had plans to go out for some drinks and food, and when discussing where to go, we realized that since having our daughter four and a half years ago, we had not had a single evening alone in our own house. Not one. We’d gone out to movies and for dinner and to see live music with friends, but we hadn’t enjoyed time at home as just the two of us in close to five years. I mean, I love my kids with all my heart, but that’s a little ridiculous, right? So we decided to try something different. We made a call and rearranged our date night out so that the kids would go to my mom’s for a few hours while we had a nice evening date in. And you guys, it was glorious.

Since then, we had another stay-at-home date, this time in the afternoon to celebrate the fact that warm weather had finally arrived to the Chicagoland area.  It was so nice to just relax (both outside and inside with the windows wide open!) and have a casual evening enjoying our favorite wine and snacks, toasting to the upcoming summer season.

A couple of weeks later I was out with some girlfriends and was telling them what a wonderful time we had, and several of them mentioned to me that they’d started doing more date nights in as well. We ended up sharing our tips and ideas for stay-at-home dates with one another, and there were so many great ideas that I thought I’d share some of them here with you too – specifically summertime-inspired casual date-in ideas, since summer is (woohoo!) right around the corner.

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

1. Have a summer movie marathon. One of my friends has an actual movie screen set up in her backyard that her family uses to watch movies in the summer. (I am very jealous.) The first weekend it warmed up this year, she and her husband had a date night at home, snuggling on a blanket in the grass with popcorn and watching movies together. I thought this was a pretty fantastic idea, and although we don’t have a movie screen in our yard, we’ll be recreating it in our living room with our windows open and a marathon of our favorite summertime flicks.

2. Cook (and eat) a summer-inspired meal together. On our first at home date night, we made our favorite summertime pizza (pesto sauce, mozzarella, olives, and fresh tomato) together and enjoyed it together, slowly and blissfully uninterrupted! And it was so refreshing not to have to deal with reservations or noisy restaurants or overpriced bills. We just had a patio put in (you can see some sneak peeks in these photos; full reveal coming soon!), and I can’t wait use our grill and (hopefully!) have several summer date nights in cooking and eating dinner out there.

3. Enjoy a summer concert in the comfort of your own home. Because Robbie works in the music industry and works at well over a hundred concerts each year, when he’s off duty, he much prefers to watch them from home by live streaming. (As someone who has been to many hundreds of concerts and music festivals myself, it’s hard for me to admit this, but these days, so do I.) It might not feel quite the same as actually being at a live show, dancing on the grass under the stars, but I can confidently say that there is something pretty awesome about being able to stretch out on your sofa, cuddled up with your significant other, just the two of you. (And there are no lines for the bathroom!)

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

4. Take a long romantic walk. I guess this isn’t technically something you do at home, but after our recent afternoon stay-at-home date, Robbie and I took an hour-long walk around our neighborhood as the sun was setting, and it was kind of magical. There isn’t much more romantic than a sunset, and it was perfect for having real conversation away without the temptation of screens, while enjoying all of the things that make spring and summer so wonderful.

5. Have a backyard picnic. We have picnics with the kids all the time, but it’s been years since we’ve had one by ourselves. One of my girlfriends and her partner recently did this and said it was on her favorite date nights ever. They threw a blanket down in their backyard and ate cheese and fresh bread and olives in their bare feet under the stars. I mean, how romantic is that? It’s definitely on my summer to do list.

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

6. Open a bottle of your favorite summer wine and just relax. This one is my favorite, and it’s exactly what we did on our most recent stay-at-home date. Robbie and I are both constantly going (I’m sure most of you can relate), and even when he’s home and not on tour, we very rarely have even a few minutes of down time to spend together. When we were trying to decide what to do for our date, we both agreed that a couple of glasses of Cameron Hughes, some super easy summertime snacks, and some time to just hang out outside together sounded absolutely blissful. And it was! For us, there is nothing better than a casual, simple date. And we love Cameron Hughes Wine for the same reason – it’s all about what is in inside the bottle. There’s no fancy label, their website is simple and easy to navigate, and the wine is high quality and delicious but still affordable. And Cameron himself samples thousands of wine samples a year (they say “he tastes the bad stuff so you don’t have to” – love that) and only selects the best wine to bring to his customers. That’s my kind of wine company. And this is my kind of date. (Psst… Use code INEEDWINE18 for free shipping when you purchase 3 bottles of wine at Cameron Hughes!

6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In
6 Ideas For A Summer Date Night In

Have any of you done a date night in recently? If you have any other great ideas for summertime stay-at-home dates, I would love to hear about them. Happy almost summer, friends.

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Our Health As Women (And What I Did To Take Responsibility For Mine)

The Importance of Women's Health

This post is in partnership with Everlywell. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible.

As adult women – whether we’re moms, grandmothers, daughters, career badasses, students, wives, girlfriends, single babes, or all of the above – we tend to put ourselves on the back burner while we take care of other people and other things first. So many of the conversations I have with my girlfriends revolve around what we’re doing for our kids, our jobs, our partners, our homes, etc., – but only occasionally do we talk about things we’re actually doing for ourselves.

I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that one area where this especially holds true is health. I am constantly focused on my kids’ health and my parents’ health, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and doctor check ups and all around wellness, when in truth, I very rarely think about my own health. When your daily to do list feels endless and involves taking care of multiple tasks and people, it’s not easy to prioritize yourself, and things (like your health) don’t feel like immediate concerns. But just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly important. I do go to the dentist twice a year, and have my annual visit to the gyno, and (eventually) go to my primary care physician if I’m sick. But as I get older (I swear I blinked and suddenly entered my 40s), I am realizing more and more that my health is just as important as the health of the rest of the people I love – even my kids. In fact, if I want to be the best mama I can be to my little ones and continue to be active with them, one of the most crucial things I can do is own my health as a woman.

This week is Women’s Health Week, so I thought it would be the perfect time to share my personal story with you about something I did (and am doing) to take responsibility of my own health as a woman.

The Importance of Women's Health
The Importance of Women's Health

My hormones have been all over the place for over 5 years now. This is because since April 2013, I have been either pregnant, or breastfeeding, or both. Yep. 5 years. (As I type this, I am at the very end of my breastfeeding journey, as Emmett is almost fully weaned. But it’s been a long one.) I always had regular menstrual cycles before getting pregnant, but after years without periods due to pregnancy and breastfeeding, when I finally began getting them again, I noticed they weren’t as regular as in the past. They lasted for less time, and did not come at regular 28 day intervals anymore. My PMS also seemed to be much more intense than in the past. On top of this, I know that while it is likely still years away, menopause is on the horizon. Since even a slight hormone imbalance can affect how you feel, your menstrual cycle, your metabolism, your libido, your sleep, and your overall mood, I started to think that it would be in my best interest to take charge of my health and to check my hormone levels. So I ordered Everlywell’s Women’s Health Test.

The Importance of Women's Health
The Importance of Women's Health

Everlywell‘s Women’s Health Test is a comprehensive hormone panel for women at all stages of life, that can tell you if different hormones are balanced in your body, or if there are imbalances that could be preventing you from feeling your best. It tests for a variety of hormones known to be instrumental in women’s health: Estradiol, Progesterone, LH (Luteinizing Hormone), FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone), DHEAS, Testosterone, Cortisol at four times throughout the day, TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone), Free T3, Free T4, TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies). I’d taken Everlywell’s Breastmilk DHA Test last fall, and was impressed by how easy it was to take and how quickly I got my results (which fortunately were in normal range). I couldn’t wait to get this one in the mail.

When I got my test, I registered it online and read over the directions. The test itself began with my taking a blood sample (super easy; just a prick and a few drops on a piece of paper) at the beginning of my cycle. Then a couple of weeks into my cycle, I took another blood sample, as well as saliva samples at four different times throughout one day. I filled out a simple form, packed it into the provided box, slapped on the return shipping label, and dropped in the mail. About a week later, I got an email that my results were ready.

Twelve of my levels were in normal range. Three were not. First, my FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone) level came back slightly high. This usually indicates a decline in ovarian reserve, which was not surprising to me considering my age. (And I’m fine with that, as we are 100% done having kids!) Next, my Free T3 (a hormone made by the thyroid) level showed as being slightly low – but so very slight that it’s likely not enough for any sort of concern. There was one hormone level though that was a little more out of normal range than the others – my Progesterone/Estradiol Ratio, which was 80 and should be between 100 and 500. I had no idea what this meant, so I read more about it on Everlywell’s site. It explained how reproductive hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, maintain a delicate balance, and that both hormones can affect fertility, as well as your metabolism and mood. Estradiol is the primary estrogen, and your progesterone to estradiol ratio can help assess whether you are more predominant in estrogen (which apparently I am, as my ratio is low) or progesterone, if your ratio is high. I actually have an appointment with my OB/Gyn next week and am looking forward to bringing my results with me to my appointment and learning more about this imbalance, and what (if anything) I need to do to correct it.

The Importance of Women's Health
The Importance of Women's Health

After a long time of putting my own health toward the bottom of the list, I feel really good to be doing something proactive (taking the Women’s Health Test and discussing the results with my doctor). I am empowering myself (so important!), but I’m also doing the right thing for the people in my life (especially my children) by taking responsibility for my health so I can be at my very best. I chose to share my specific results of this year with you guys in hope that that it will inspire you to take the test as well, in honor of Women’s Health Week. If you do take it, I’d be happy to talk with you about the test or share more specifics about my results. I’d also love to hear some ways you’ve taken responsibility for your health (it will motivate me to continue to do the same!). And if you’d like to take a Women’s Health Test (highly recommended!) or another of Everlywell‘s tests, you can take 15% off your purchase with code BUBBYANDBEAN.

The Importance of Women's Health

Thank you for letting me share my personal women’s heath journey with you!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Our Babe’s Hospital Stay + the Power of the New Baby Scent

This post is in partnership with Dreft. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible.

Those of you who have been following along for a while likely remember late in the summer of 2016, when our family went through what remains the most difficult time of our lives. For those who do not, our son Emmett, who was a 7 month old baby at the time, had started doing an occasional subtle movement (imagine a little shrug and slight head bob that looked a lot like reflux) that just seemed a little “off” to me. After a few days of this, we took him to his pediatrician who, while not overly concerned, referred us to a neurologist, just in case. Long story short, less than 24 hours later we were in the children’s hospital with a diagnosis of Infantile Spasms, a form of childhood epilepsy that is labeled as “catastrophic” and comes with a very poor prognosis for the vast majority of children who have it. There is, of course, much more to the story. But miraculously, after a week in the hospital followed by several months of intense medication and therapy, Emmett was one of the few (5-10%) who not only beat IS, but has been assessed as completely healthy and developmentally on track. You can see by the photos in this post that he is now a happy, healthy, active, fun, funny toddler, who makes my heart swell beyond words. And for this, I am filled with gratitude.

I’ve gone into more detail of Emmett’s journey with IS here on the blog, especially in the months after his initial diagnosis (if you search for “Emmett” you can find many posts about it), but today I wanted to share something I haven’t gotten into yet; and that’s the emotional experience of our time in the hospital, mainly how the power of scent (yes, scent) – specifically the scent of Dreft baby detergent – helped us cope during that heartbreaking time. Before I get more into details, I want to be completely transparent and say that while this post is in partnership with Dreft, everything I’m about to share is legitimately what happened – and Dreft just happened to play a part in it. One of the things my husband and I most remember about Emmett being separated from us in the hospital for countless MRIs, EEGs, blood tests, lumbar punctures, etc. was how the smell of his clothing and blankets – which were always washed in Dreft – brought us comfort. (In fact, after working on this campaign, we started using Dreft to wash the kids’ clothes again – specifically plant-based Dreft purtouch – because we remembered how powerful that scent was in terms of feeling comforted and bonded with Emmett. But more on that in a minute.)

After the neurologist sat us down to deliver the devastating results of Emmett’s EEG, we were instructed to go home and pack enough belongings to be in the hospital for a week. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and, as my husband describes it, going through the motions, almost as if we were watching ourselves on a movie. It was surreal. We frantically grabbed things and threw them in bags. I was mainly focused on Emmett, and packed his blankets, lovey pacifier, and other things I hoped would bring him comfort. Then we headed to the children’s hospital.

Within minutes of checking in and getting our room, a doctor and several nurses came in. We were asked countless questions and had to fill out pages of paperwork, and Emmett was sedated and whisked away for his MRI. That was one of the hardest parts of the entire experience. From the second the neurologist gave us the bad news in his office, I held Emmett. I even rode next to him in his car seat to the hospital. I was overcome with a biological urge to protect him, so having him taken from me (even for something that was in his best interest and meant to help him), was devastating. During his MRI (which took over an hour), a kind nurse encouraged us to go try to eat something. Sitting in the hospital cafeteria, force feeding myself crackers, I broke down in tears. Right in the middle of that crowded cafeteria, I ugly cried until I was gasping for air. I reached into my diaper bag for a tissue and instead grabbed one of Emmett’s muslin blankets. And as I raised it to my face, I smelled Emmett. Emmett’s clothes were always washed in Dreft, and the scent of that blanket instantly made me feel better, like he was close. I remember telling Robbie to smell it too. As silly as it sounds, that blanket brought me great comfort in that moment, and reminded me of the special bond I had with my babe, regardless of whether or not he was physically with me at that moment.

For the rest of our hospital stay, I made sure we had that blanket with us every time he was taken away. And while I mostly slept in the hospital chair holding and nursing him during the nights, when he napped in the crib and I napped on the hospital couch, I slept with it right next to me. I’m telling you guys, it was amazing how keeping that item close helped me (and my husband) feel bonded with and connected to Emmett during that time. While his comfort was obviously our number one priority, having those moments of comfort for ourselves as well genuinely helped us through one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. I’ve always known (from reading about it and from personal experience) that scent is incredibly powerful, but this was the ultimate proof. And here’s something crazy – the day we were released and took our sweet boy back home, he insisted on having the muslin blanket that I’d hijacked wrapped over him. He couldn’t talk, of course, but I imagined it was because he felt the same bond we did.

Now that I know more, when I think back to how powerful the scent of that blanket was, it all makes sense. In fact, a new survey discovered that Dreft‘s iconic scent actually helps parents feel more  bonded and connected to their little ones. (Here are some stats… 8 out of 10 parents feel that using Dreft can make them feel more bonded with their baby. 94% of parents say that the scent of Dreft reminds them of baby. And when they are apart, 87% of parents agree that the Dreft scent helps them feel more connected and closer to their little one. We are proof of this!) We were always very careful with our kids as babies when it came to scents, and preferred unscented products – but because Dreft is hypoallergenic, it is so gentle on baby’s skin, and has such a sweet, subtle scent (one that has been specifically formulated to resemble the indescribable smell of babyhood), we purposefully chose it over unscented detergents. I actually got my first bottle of Dreft at my baby shower while pregnant with my first, and after it was recommended to me by so many friends and family (and I learned that it was the #1 dermatologist recommended detergent for baby clothes and the #1 pediatrician recommended baby detergent!), it was a no brainer to use it. The fact that Dreft has been created exclusively for babies to take care of their delicate clothes and fabrics for more than 80 years is pretty darn reassuring too. And I mean really – if a detergent can make us feel bonded, nostalgic, happy, tearful and grateful just by smelling a load of laundry, I am in.

As I mentioned earlier, since starting work on this campaign, we’ve been using Dreft again, specifically Dreft purtouch, which was introduced last year. It is a 65% plant-based baby detergent that is hypoallergenic and made with naturally-derived ingredients to be gentle on skin. It still has that special scent we love, and gently yet effectively cleanses (removing up to 99% of baby stains, which is mandatory with a toddler). It’s really nice to have it back around the house again, as we share new (and, thankfully, much less intense) bonding moments with our little ones.

To this day, both Emmett and I love that special blanket, by the way. I am constantly reminded (especially now that we wash it in Dreft again) of how it bonded us during the most challenging time. I’ll never throw it away.

Do you have any special scents that help you feel connected to your little ones? Who else is a Dreft fan?


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Our Master Closet Before and After

Affordable Master Closet Renovation Ideas

Thank you California Closets for sponsoring this post.

Back in January, when we moved into our new home, I was excited beyond words about the master bedroom closet. It’s not a huge space but any means, and it just came with a simple hanging bar and a shelf above it, but after many years of sharing a tiny closet with my husband, the thought of a walk-in was absolutely thrilling. I had all sorts of big ideas about how I’d organize it, fueled by perfectly styled Pinterest photos. But in reality, once I got everything in it, it was a hot mess. And because it wasn’t organized well and we didn’t really know how to best utilize the space, over time it just got more and more cluttered and less functional. In all honesty, it was starting to bum me out that we had finally had a walk-in closet that looked so terrible and was so difficult to navigate. It was time to get some help.

I decided to reach out to California Closets for advice, and also to learn more about their services for future spaces in our home. I’d heard great things about them, and knew that their professional design consultants collaborate with their clients to create custom designs that not only work with their needs, but also incorporate personal style and budget. My consultant, Jessica, was like my organizational guardian angel. She not only explained to me in detail the different services California Closets offers, she also gave me invaluable tips and suggestions for my own space. Robbie and I ended up  taking a couple of days to use these suggestions to completely redo our closets. And the results were pretty incredible.

But before we get into all of this, feast your eyes on these glorious before photos…

See? It wasn’t a very inviting space. In fact, it genuinely gave me anxiety to walk in there.

I’m going to share the after photos in a minute, but first I want to tell you more about what a typical at home consultation with my California Closets consultant Jessica entails. First is an introductory call or email to confirm time, day, address, and details of the meeting. On consultation day, Jessica shows up with a clip board and begins jotting down notes right away, asks whether the client has worked with California Closets before, and talks a little more about what to expect during the meeting. Then she gets to work checking out the space, taking specific measurements, asking a variety of questions, and trying to determined what is most important to the client. When working on a closet project, she usually measures how much hanging space the client is currently using, and the quantity of things like shoes, hand bags, drawers etc. She then takes a round of before photos for her portfolio. After this, she does a recap and goes over everything with the client – from their specific wants and needs to timing to budget. She then uses her iPad and the California Closets app to share examples of similar spaces they’ve installed, possible accessory and design enhancements, and presents a box of wood samples to see what color scheme the client prefers. She then refers to budget examples in the app, comes up with a preliminary design, and she and the client review it together and make adjustments. Sometimes Jessica also sets up a follow up appointment at the nearest California Closets showroom to present more detailed time and costs. Once designs have been presented and costs have been discussed, she sends the clients the 3D images of their design and asks how they would like to proceed. Pretty cool, right?

As for the specific tips Jessica gave me based on my closet (as seen in two images above), the first thing she suggested was to look into adding more shelving and drawers. We didn’t have a lot hanging from the beginning, so she felt that there was still plenty of space to maximize the closet with double hanging sections, full height shelving units, and deeper drawers along the back wall. She also suggested either hanging all of our clothes along the back wall or at least gathered in the same vicinity, like the back left corner, instead of behind the door swing. (You couldn’t even open the door the whole way because the shelf/clothing bar was behind it!) She also recommended that we get some smaller canvas lined storage bins to store and categorize items, and get rid of the big tubs and boxes to create a cleaner, crisper overall appearance. And finally, Jessica encouraged us to practice The KonMari Method of organization. This entails removing all clothing from your closet, going through each piece, only keeping the pieces that spark joy, and donating the rest. (I love this!) It also entails hanging heavier/longer garments on the left to lighter/shorter garments on the right. She also recommended trying The KonMari folding technique (which is amazing, you guys.)

And now, our completed closet:

Massive difference, right? And it looks even better in person. It has such a clean, airy feel, and we’ve been able to keep it neat because it’s so much easier to locate and grab what we need. If you have a closet or space that needs a makeover, I highly suggesting scheduling your own California Closets consultation. California Closets offers custom organizational solutions in closets like ours, but they also help throughout the home. So even if you have pantry, media center, mudroom, or garages that needs some help, they can work with you to enhance both purpose and storage potential, and make the space look beautiful. And many locations offer seasonal promotions and financing options (contact your local California Closets for details). They’re the best.

Now that our closet has been whipped into shape, I want to reorganize my entire house. I see a California Closets garage consultation in my near future…

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Tom bird

tom bird

The early weeks of May begin the age of green pastels. The soft greenery of foliage pokes its way out of the gray smudge of the canopy, and the pastures are thickly verdant in the revived grass.

This age of green pastels is the harbinger to the age of photosynthesis, high summer, when the days steam long and hot and all living things in this temperate zone play out the business of growing, reproducing, and laying store for that long winter darkness that will return someday– but not soon.

This is the time of the cottontail doe kindling her kits in a bowl nest made from weaving the fur plucked from her belly with the furrows at the bases of the rising orchard grass. This is the time of the resplendent red cardinal cockbirds and their wild singing to ward off their rivals from the best nesting grounds. Testosterone rushes in them hard, as it does with all those of the avian kingdom, who are now at that season when procreation is the main consideration.

Just as the spring turns the “redbirds” into their state of lustful madness,  the wild turkeys turn their attention to these same carnal pursuits. Not pair-bonded in the way that most birds are, the big toms woo the hens with their gobbling and fanning and turning their light blue heads deep warrior red.  The spurs get thrown on occasion, especially for those foolish jakes who try to sneak a tryst with a hen in the undergrowth.

This time of green pastels is also a time when the shotguns go blasting.  Most other game beasts are left to alone in the spring time, but the wild turkey is one species where the hunt comes now. The camouflaged hunters, armed with their turkey calls and 12 and 20 gauges, braved the early spring snow squalls and bagged a few jakes and naive lustful toms.

But this big tom has survived the slinging of lead wads. Most of his rivals now reside in freezers or have already been fried as a fine repast.

The big bird has the hens mostly to himself, and when he hears the kelp-kelping of a hens on a distant ridge on a May morning, he lets loose a few loud gobbles.

“Come, my beauties! Behold me as your lover and protector!”

And the gormless hens kelp-kelp and wander in all directions, searching with their exquisite eyes for the big tom’s fanning form among the undergrowth.

The naive toms and young jakes will often go charging towards their calling, but the turkey hunter uses these exact same sounds to toll in the quarry.  The naive ones come in, and the shotguns have their number.

The big tom has seen his comrades dropped so many times that he hangs back and listens. He gobbles back every ten minutes or so. He walks in the opposite direction for about 20 yards then gobbles at the hens.

They kelp-kelp and meander around, but eventually, they line themselves on the right trail and wander over to meet the big tom. He fans for his girls, but none crouches before him for a bit of mating. They are just here to check the old boy out.

But sooner or later, they mate in the spring sun, and the hens will wandered to their nests in the undergrowth and tall grass. They will lay speckled eggs, which will hatch into speckled poults, which will carry the big tom’s genes into the next age of green pastels.

Someday, a skilled turkey hunter will work the old boy over with the hen calls in just the right way, and he will stand before the hunter’s shotgun blast. He will be taken to town and shown off to all the local guys, the ones who shoot jakes in the early days of the hunting season.

He will be a testament to the hunter’s skills, for real hunting is always an intellectual pursuit.  It is partly an understanding of biology and animal behavior, but it is also about the skillfulness at concealment and mimicry.

21 pounds of tom bird will be a trophy for the hunter, but they will also be the story of a bird who outwitted the guns for four good years and whose genes course through the ancestry of the young jakes gobbling and fanning in his absence.

A century ago, there were no wild turkeys in the Allegheny Plateau, but conservation organizations funded by hunters brought them back.

In the heat of July, the hens will move in trios and quartets into the tall summer grass of the pastures. They will be followed with great parades of poults, who will be charging and diving along at the rising swarms of grasshoppers and locusts. They will grow big an strong in the summer.

And someday, a few may become big old toms that will gobble on the high ridges, calling out to the hens to come and see them in their fine fanning.

And so the sun casts upon the land in the spring and summer, bringing forth the lustful pursuits among the greenery, even as mankind turns his back on the natural world more and more each year.

And fewer and fewer will feel sweet joy that one hears when a big tom gobbles in the early May rain that falls among the land dotted in green pastels.

Natural History

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Towards a New Model for Dog Domestication

German shepherd mating Carpathian wolf

Original crossbreeding between a German shepherd and Carpathian wolf to found the Czechoslovakian Vlcak.

If you have been reading this blog for a long time, I used to post historical and indigenous accounts of wolves, coyotes, and dingoes being used as working animals. I also would post accounts different breeders of domestic dogs crossing their stock with wolves to improve their strains.

I have long been critical of the Raymond Coppinger model of dog domestication, which posits that wolves scavenging from Neolithic dumps created the dog as an obligate scavenger that then became selectively bred for human uses. In this model, the tropical village dog is the ancestral form of all canines, a position that has emboldened the “Dogs are not wolves” theorists to suggest some tropical Asian Canis x is the actual ancestor of the domestic dog.

This model also posits that all dogs are just obligate scavengers, and unfortunately, this obligate scavenger designation means that what could be otherwise good books and research on dogs essentially denies their predatory behavior.

Last year, I kept hearing about a book that took on Coppinger’s model head-on. This book took Coppinger’s task for having distinct Eurocentric biases and that Coppinger essentially ignored vast amounts anthropological data on how different human societies relate to wild and semi-domestic canids.

So I finally ordered a copy of this book, which is called The First Domestication: How Wolves and Humans Coevolved by Raymond Pierotti and Brandy Fogg. I do recommend this book, but I readily admit that I don’t agree with quite a bit of it. I agree with it more than Coppinger, though, because they rather clearly show massive holes in Coppinger’s model.

Pierotti and Fogg have produced a model that relies heavily upon humans and wolves encountering and then benefiting from a hunting mutualism. Humans have a long history as scavengers, and even today, there are people who follow large predators, including lions, to rob them of their kills. Dholes are targeted by certain people as well, and it is very likely that humans entering Eurasia would have done the same with wolves.

The difference between the lions and the dholes and ancient wolves is that the lions and dholes resent having humans come near their kills.  The ancient wolves, however, came to work with people to bring down more prey. These wolves and humans came to be the dominant predators in Eurasia.

Pierotti and Fogg’s model posits the domestication process as beginning with ancient hunter-gather societies. It relies upon the wolf’s predatory nature as an important catalyst in allowing this partnership to thrive.

Further, the authors are rather clear in that our Eurocentric understanding of a clear delineation between wolves and dogs is a rather recent creation. Most cultures who have existed where there are wolves and dogs have a much more plastic understanding of the differences that separate the two or they have no separation of all.

The most compelling analogies in the work are the discussions about the relationships among hunters in Siberia, their laikas, and wild wolves and the relationships between indigenous Australians and dingoes.

In the Siberian laika culture, the dogs have extensively exchanged genes with wild wolves, enough that laikas and wolves do share mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. The laikas (or laiki, as they are known in Russia) do hunt the sable and other small game. They also protect the camps from bears, and in some areas, the laikas are used as not particularly specialized livestock guardian dogs. The authors see these dogs a very good analogy to describe how the earliest people and dogs would have lived. These dogs would have been cultured to humans, but they would still be getting an influx of wild genes as they lived in the wild.

In the dingo example, the authors discuss how these hunter-gather cultures would keep dingo pups and treat them almost exactly as we would our own domestic dogs. They also would use the dingoes to hunt kangaroos, but during mating season, they would allow their companions to leave the camps or stay.  They often would leave, but some would go off for a time in the bush and return. This suggests that early humans might not have forced their socialized wolves to stay in camp and that relationship could have been a lot more libertarian than we might have assumed.

These relationships are very different from the scavenging village dogs that Coppinger contends were like the original dogs. These animals are not obligate scavengers. They are hunters, and what’s more, it is their hunting prowess that makes the relationship work.

Further, the authors make a convincing argument that we can no longer use the scientific name Canis familiaris, because many cultures have relied upon wolf-like dogs and dog-like wolves for survival.  These animals are virtually impossible to distinguish from each other, and therefore, it would make sense that we would have to allow dogs to be part of Canis lupus.

The authors contend, though I think rather weakly, that dogs derive from multiple domestication events from different wolves. I remain fully agnostic to this question, but I will say that full-genome comparisons of wolves and three dogs that represent three distinct dog lineages suggest that dogs represent a clade. They are still very closely related to extant Canis lupus, especially Eurasian ones, and still must be regarded as  part of Canis lupus.  Therefore, one does not need multiple origins for domestic dogs from wolves to make the case that they are a subspecies of Canis lupus.

I am, however, quite glad to see that the authors reject this Canis familiaris classification, even if I think the reasoning is better explained through an analysis that shows how dogs fit within a clade called Canis lupus than one that relies upon multiple origins.

Also, one should be aware that every argument that one can make that says dogs are wolves can be applied to coyotes to suggest that they are wolves. Wolves and dogs do have a significant gene flow across Eurasia, but coyotes and wolves have a similar gene flow across North America. The most recent ancestor between wolves and coyotes lived 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, which is far more recent than the proposed divergence between Old World and North America red foxes and the divergence between Qinling and other giant pandas.

I really have no problem thinking of coyotes as being a form of Canis lupus in that a pug is a form of Canis lupus. All the acceptance of this classification does is allow for a positing that this species Canis lupus has thrived because it possesses both phenotypical and behavioral plasticity.

The authors, however, would have a problem with my classification. They make regular reference to red wolves, which have clearly been shown to be hybrids between coyotes and wolves, which themselves are probably better regarded as divergent forms of a phenotypically plastic species. They also contend that coyotes and people have never formed relationships like people have formed with wolves, because coyotes are too aggressive.

However, I have shown on this space that coyotes have been trained to do many of the things dogs have, including pointing behavior. They also have ignored the enigmatic Hare Indian dog, which may have been a domesticated coyote or coydog.

But that said, I think the authors have clearly shown in their text that dogs and wolves are part of the same species.

The authors also make some controversial arguments about dog paleontology and archaeology.  One argument they rely upon heavily is that wolves could have become behaviorally very much like dogs without developing all the morphological changes that are associated with most domestic dogs. Some merit certainly does exist with these arguments, but it also puts paleontology and archaeology in a position that makes it impossible to tell if a wolf-like canid found near human camps is a truly wild animal or creature on its way to domestication.

This argument does have some merit, but it still will have problems in those fields of study, because it becomes impossible to tell semi-domesticated wolves from wild ones in the fossil and subfossil record.

However, the authors do make a good case, which I have also made, that argues that the original wolf population had no reason to show fear or aggression towards people. The best analogous population of wolves to these original ones are those found on the Queen Elizabeth Islands of Northern Canada. These large arctic wolves have never experienced persecution, so they are quite curious and tolerant of the humans they encounter. Wolves like these could have easily been the basis for a mutualism that would eventually lead to domestication.

The authors also contend that the reason wolves in Europe are reviled is the result of the Western church’s propaganda that was working against traditional totemic animals of the pagans. Wolves were among those totems, and the church taught that wolves were of the devil.

However, I think this argument is a bit faulty, because Europeans are not the only people who hate wolves. Many pastoralist people in Asia are not big fans of wolves, and their hatred of wolves has nothing to do with the church. The traditional religions of the Navajo and Hopi also do not hold the wolf in very high regard, and these two cultures have been in the sheep business for centuries.

Further, we have very well-documented cases of wolves hunting and killing people in Europe. These wolf attacks were a major problem in France, where notorious man-eating wolves were often named, and they were not unknown in other parts of Europe as well.

The authors focus heavily on the benign relationship between wolves and people, including the wolf that hunted bison calves and deer to feed survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre, but they ignore the stories that do not posit the wolf in a good light.

The reason wolves in Eurasia have sometimes taking to hunting people is really quite simple:  Eurasia is a land where people focused much more on domesticating species to create animal agriculture. Agriculture has a tendency to reduce biodiversity in a region, and when people kill off all the deer in an area to make room for sheep, the wolves turn to hunting sheep. If you live in a society in which people do not have ready access to weapons, then the wolves start targeting people. Feudal societies in Europe would have been open target for wolves living in such ecosystems. By contrast, the indigenous people of North America, did not domesticate hoofed animals for agriculture. Instead, they managed the land, often with the use of fire, to create biodiversity of which they could hunt.

The authors do show that dogs and wolves are intricately linked animals. They show that dogs and wolves are the same species. They use many wonderful anecdotes of captive wolves and wolfdogs to make their case, and in making this case, they have made the case clear that dogs are the produce of hunter-gatherer societies and still are conspecific with the wolf.

I do, however, have some quibbles with some of the sources they use in the text. For example, when they discuss Queen Elizabeth Islands wolves, they focus on an account of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas on Baffin Island. She was on Baffin Island for one summer and observed one wolf pack. She is a fine observer of animals, but much of her analysis about dog and wolf behavior is still controversial. The authors also regularly make reference to Cesar Millan as a dog expert, when virtually no credentialed dog behavior expert thinks he is, and to the notorious website, which is of even more contentious. These authors are making serious and well-reasoned arguments about dog and wolf behavior and relying upon these sources detracted from the work. I would have liked if they had referred to L. David Mech’s wolf observations on Ellesmere or to John Bradshaw as an expert on dog behavior.

I also had some issues with their contention that the Ainu people of Japan are Turkic or Altaic. No one knows exactly who these people are, but they are interesting in their relationship with wolves. Traditional Japanese society, distinct from the Ainu, was actually quite similar to the Siberian cultures that have produced laika dogs that still interbreed with wolves. However, I don’t think anyone still thinks that the Ainu are Turkic or Altaic.

Finally, the authors do make a good case against Coppinger’s model, but they go on to accept Coppinger’s fixed motor pattern dependence model to describe breed specialization. It is certainly true that Coppinger was Eurocentric in his understanding of dog domestication, but both Coppinger and the authors are Anglocentric in their understanding of dog hunting and herding behavior. The authors think this is Coppinger’s strongest argument. I think this is among his weakest.  This model states that pointing, herding, and retrieving are all just arrested development of a full predatory sequence. A dog that can point just stalks. It never learns to use its jaws to kill. A border collie stalks but also engages is a type of chasing behavior. It will also never learn to kill. A retriever will run out and grab, but it lacks the killing bite.

The biggest problem with this model is that everyone knows of border collies that have learned to hunt, kill, and eat sheep. I had a hard-driven golden retriever that would retrieve all day, but she would kill rabbits and even fawns.

The Anglo-American concept of specialized gun dogs affected Coppinger’s understanding of their behavior. He never really looked into continental HPRs. For example, Deutsch-Drathaars, the original German variant of the German wirehair, are bred to retrieve, point, track, and dispatch game. Such an animal makes no sense in this model, for it would suggests that an animal that would point would only ever be stuck in that stalking behavior. It would never be able to retrieve, and it certainly would never use its jaws to kill.

A better model says that dogs are born with a tendency to show behaviors, such as exaggerated stalking behavior that can be turned into pointing through training. There are countless stories of pointing dogs that suddenly lost their pointing behavior after running with hard-driving flushing dog. The dog may have been born with that exaggerated stalking behavior, but the behavior was lost when it entered into social interaction. Indeed, much of these specialized hunting behaviors are developed through training, so that what actually happens is the dog’s motor patterns are refined through training rather than being solely the result of being arrested in full.  This is why all the old retriever books from England tell the sportsman never to allow his dog to go ratting. As soon as that dog learns to use its jaws to kill, it is very likely that this dog will start using its jaws on the game it is sent to retrieve.

Despite my quibbles and reservations, Pierotti and Fogg have made a convincing case for the hunting mutualism between wolves and humans as the basis for the domestication of dogs. I was particularly impressed with their use of ethnography and non-Western histories to make their case. I do recommend this book for a good case that we do need a new model for dog domestication, and the questions they raise about taxonomy should be within our field of discussion.

Natural History

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Loyal to the End

So sweet. Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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