Monthly Archives: October 2016

Simple Shower

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The image below is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it to shop, I will receive a commission from your purchases.

Portable Camping Shower - Simple Shower
  As a camp host at a remote campground with no running water, keeping my body clean has been a challenge. (To read about my showers during my first season as a camp host, type “cleanliness” in the search bar. To read about my showers during my second season as a camp host, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/21/my-shower-system/.)

In response to my August 2016 post about my shower system, one of my readers left a comment with a link to a video of the Simple Shower. (Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve4VdhtkXyY) I watched the video and decided the Simple Shower might work for me.

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This photo shows the funnel screwed onto the 2.5 liter bottle. The cap with the holes is not on it.

The Simple Shower consists of three pieces of plastic: an airtube, a funnel, and a cap. The funnel screws onto the bottle. The cap is the part with all the little holes from which the water flows; it screws onto the funnel. The airtube displaces the water in the bottle with air. (The setup comes with two airtubes, one for a one-liter bottle, the other for a two-liter bottle. The instruction sheet says,

[s]elect one tube for use, as continued switching will lead to damage to the cap.)

I contacted Rainburst, the company that makes the Simple Shower and requested a free one for review purposes. I was told the company no longer offers the product free for review, but I was offered a 50% refund of the purchase price once my review ran on my blog. Score!

Yes, I am receiving a consideration in exchange for my opinion, but I promise, I will write down exactly what I think!

At the end of the Simple Shower informational video, the announcer says, The one thing we absolutely guarantee about using the Simple Shower is you will get wet! I can vouch for that. I got wet using the Simple Shower. Success! But there’s more to the story than just getting wet. img_7420

First, I’ll tell you the things I don’t like about the Simple Shower.

My main problem with the device is that it didn’t fit on any of the jugs I already owned and was using in my shower system The video clearly states it works with one and two liter bottles, but I thought maybe it would fit something I already had. No. No it didn’t.

The Rainburst’s FAQ (https://www.simple-shower.com/pages/tips-faqs) suggests

[s]imply cut the neck of the milk jug in a spiral manner until the opening is wide enough to insert the Simple Shower, and then jam the Simple Shower into the cut opening…The Simple Shower will remain in place during use.

But I didn’t really want to cut plastic jugs. I don’t want even one janky, cut-up plastic jug with sharp edges floating around in my van, sure to get smashed by some falling something. Besides, I use the jugs I have to hold water. I want all of my jugs to hold water. A jug not holding water is a wasted jug, IMHO.

Rainburst seems to think it’s really easy to pick up a two liter water bottle. The aforementioned FAQ says,

Currently, Rainburst does not provide the bottle.  We want you to be like us, thrifty and environmental minded.  Use a bottle you have lying around (or ask for a free one from somewhere).  Be sure to clean the bottle out prior to use.

Unfortunately, I did not have a two-liter bottle lying around since I don’t usually drink soda. I didn’t find any two-liter bottles in my campground’s trash, and I didn’t see any campers with two-liter bottles, so there was no one I could ask for two-liter leftovers. Granted, this problem would be easier to solve in civilization. The moral of this part of the story? If you plan to get a Simple Shower and you don’t regularly drink soda, start working to line up your two-liter bottle NOW!

I ended up buying a 2.5 liter bottle of grape soda at the Dollar Tree. I forgot I’d have to pay a deposit because I was in California, so my $1 bottle cost me $1.19, and I poured the soda down the toilet. Sigh. If my Simple Shower fit on a gallon jug, I could have drunk the water, then reused the bottle.

Another reason for wanting to use a gallon jug is the handle. Handles make jugs easy to hang onto. The lack of handle on a two-liter bottle worried me. Would I be able to hold a two-liter bottle (or in my case a 2.5 liter bottle) of water without a handle?

By the time I learned about, ordered, and received my Simple Shower, it was late in the camping season and too cold for me to want to be naked and wet in my privacy tent. I didn’t get to try the device until almost two weeks after left I the forest. I tried it in a shower stall, in a bathroom, in a house, not in a privacy tent in the woods.

As I feared, it was difficult to hang onto that wet and slippery 2.5 liter bottle.  Two and a half liters of water weighs five and a half pounds, which was lot for me to handle when I couldn’t get a good grip.

Perhaps a two-liter bottle would be easier to use. I’m going to keep my eyes open for a free one I can snag so I can give it a try.

On my maiden Simple Shower voyage, I washed my hair and did a full body soap and rinse. My hair hangs above my shoulders, but it took nearly all of water in the bottle to wet my hair then rinse after using shampoo sparingly. Still, the Simple Shower got the job done.

My most challenging moments of my first use of the Simple Shower came when it was time for me to wash my lower private areas. The front wasn’t so difficult; I used a sort of pour and splash method. Washing my back-lower-private-area was quite tricky. I wasn’t sure how to hold the bottle in one hand while twisting my arm behind my back and bending over enough to get the water down in there. Perhaps I need to do some arm stretches to increase my flexibility and reach.

Now, onto all the things I like about the Simple Shower.

The Simple Shower doesn’t take up much room. Since there’s no cover over the holes in the cap, I don’t want to leave it on my bottle while traveling, but the whole setup can go back into the small box it was mailed in. The box will be easy to tuck away somewhere in my van. I’ll fill the 2.5 liter shower bottle before I hit the road, and it will travel with the rest of the water bottles. These two items take up significantly less room than the garden sprayer I used as a shower during my second camping season.

Along with being small, Simple Shower is light. The company FAQ says,

The Simple Shower weighs less than an ounce (it’s been weighed at .9 ounces).

This photo shows the funnel with the cap on it. Water flows out of the holes in the cap.

This photo shows the funnel with the cap on it. Water flows out of the holes in the cap.

The Simple Shower provides quite strong water pressure. The water doesn’t just dribble out of the holes, it really flows.  According to the company FAQ,

The Simple Shower has a 1.8 gallon per minute flow rate, slightly less than a water saving shower head. Unlike one of those shower heads, though, the Simple Shower feels like being under a real shower, due to its unique design.

This means a 1 liter bottle will last 18 seconds, a 1.5 liter bottle will last 27 seconds, and a 2 liter bottle will last 36 seconds. While that may not sound like a lot of time, remember that the guarantee of the Simple Shower is “we will get you wet.” As such, you’ll get wet fast and be able to rinse off fast (unlike solar showers, which have a completely wimpy spray).

I’m also pleased by where and how the Simple Shower is made. Again, the FAQ:

We manufacture and assemble [the Simple Shower] in Washington State, using recycled materials. It’s assembled by a non-profit organization that employs the developmentally disabled and disadvantaged. We also have all of our packaging made in Washington State.

We make the Simple Shower out of recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE). It’s BPA free..

Our packaging is also made from recycled cardboard.

Overall, I am pleased with the Simple Shower. I definitely plan to use it in my shower system next summer. I’ll be on the lookout for a two-liter bottle in hopes something smaller will be easier to handle, and I bet with practice, washing my private areas will get easier.

To order the Simple Shower, you can click on the very first photo in this post, which is connected to my Amazon affiliate link. If folks shop through my Amazon affiliate link, I receive a commission.  I took all of the other photos in the post.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a 50% refund of the purchase price of my Simple Shower from Rainburst after this blog post ran. Regardless, I only review/recommend products or services I use personally. This review reflects how I honestly feel about the product. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The George Bush Tree

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I was looking for a waterfall the day I found the George Bush Tree.

According to the Sequoia National Forest’s website (http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sequoia/specialplaces/?cid=fsbdev3_059108), the President George H.W. Bush Tree is part of Freeman Creek Grove (4,192 acres), also known as Lloyd Meadow Grove, which is

the largest unlogged grove outside of a National Park. This grove is the easternmost grove of giant sequoias and is considered to be among the most recently established. The sequoias are mainly south of Freeman Creek with approximately 800 large trees (10 feet in diameter or more). There are several large sequoias to see in this grove. Foremost among these is the President George H.W. Bush Tree.

National Geographic’s Sierra Nevada Geotourism webpage (http://www.sierranevadageotourism.org/content/freeman-creek-grove-and-the-george-bush-tree/siea23e7b3325782095f) elaborates, stating

[t]here are a couple trees with a diameter of 20 feet, more than 100 with 15-foot diameters, and over 800 with 10-foot diameters.  There are estimated to be over 2,000 sequoias with a diameter of over 5 feet in the grove.  The largest tree in the grove measures 255 feet high with a diameter of 23 feet.

img_6506The aforementioned National Geographic website explains how this tree came to be named after the 41st President of the United States.

This tree was named for President George H. W. Bush in response to the proclamation he signed to protect all of the sequoia groves throughout the Sierra.  President Bush himself signed the proclamation at this site.

On the day I was trying to find the waterfall, I drove and drove and drove on Lloyd Meadow Road. I never saw the waterfall or even a sign marking the trail to it, but I eventually saw a brown sign marked “George Bush Tree.” I figured I should go see the tree since I was there anyway.

I turned down the decent dirt road (20S78) to the left of the brown sign. I drove about a mile down the road to the small parking area. There was no attendant and no fee to park. The start of the trail was marked with a carsonite. There was no indication of which way to go on the trail. The trail is a loop, and I started off in the direction that brought be around the back of the George Bush Tree. Since I didn’t see the stone plaque identifying the special tree, I didn’t realize it was the tree I had come to see.

The first thing I noticed about the tree was a sort of Hobbit hole at the bottom of it. I went right over to investigate. img_6485Yes, it was just large enough for me to crawl into the hole and sit down, so I did. I felt very safe while I was inside the tree, as if the tree were protecting me. I spent some of my time enveloped by the tree enjoying the quiet of the forest. I sat still and listened to the birds and the breeze high above me. I sat in the tree and simply was myself, without moving or talking or thinking.  I spent the rest of my time in the tree taking selfies.

When I exited the tiny hideaway, I walked around to the front of the tree and realized this was the tree I was looking for!

img_6502It is easy to identify the George Bush Tree from the front, because of the large stone marker. The aforementioned National Geographic webpage tells us what the plaque says.

THIS GIANT SEQUOIA TREE IS DESIGNATED THE GEORGE BUSH TREE IN CELEBRATION OF THE PRESIDENT’S ACTION AT THIS SITE ON JULY 14, 1992 TO MANAGE GIANT SEQUOIA IN PERPETUITY AS UNIQUE OBJECTS OF BEAUTY AND ANTIQUITY FOR THE BENEFIT AND INSPIRATION OF ALL PEOPLE.

While the George Bush Tree is very big, it doesn’t even make the Wikipedia list of the 48 largest giant sequoias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_giant_sequoias). According to the list, at least two other trees in the Freeman Creek Grove are larger than the George Bush Tree. The first of the two larger trees is the Great Goshawk at 255.2 feet (77.8 m) tall with a circumference of 90.2 feet (27.5 m), a diameter of 28.7 feet (8.7 m), and a bole volume of 32,783 cubic feet (928.3 m3). The second of the larger trees in the grove is the Bannister at 195.0 feet (59.4 m) tall with a circumference of 95.0 feet (29.0 m), a diameter of 30.2 feet (9.2 m), and a bole volume of 25,047 cubic feet (709.3 m3).

The trail to the George Bush tree is unpaved, but I found it very easy to walk. I visited on a Monday morning, and I saw no other people on the trail or in the parking area.

Here’s how to get to the Freeman Creek Grove and the George Bush Tree, according to the Forest Service:

 To reach the grove by paved road, you must travel from the south end. From the San Joaquin Valley Highway 99 take County Route SM56 east about 20 miles to California Hot Springs. At California Hot Springs, turn north on to SM50 (Parker Pass Road) continuing about 7.5 miles to Johnsondale. From the Kern Valley, take County Route SM99 (Mountain 99) northwest about 20 miles to Johnsondale. At Johnsondale is the junction with Forest Road 22S82 (Lloyd Meadow Road). Take FR22S82 right about 16 miles to the eastern end of Freeman Creek Grove.

Another route from the San Joaquin Valley Highway 99 is on State Highway 190. Take Highway 190 east about 15 miles until the junction with Western Divide Highway (County Route SM107). Quaking Aspen Campground (GPS NAD 83: 36.12083, -118.54722), and the trailhead for FT 33E20 are also at this junction.

The day I visited the George Bush Tree was a good day of exploration; not only did I see a named tree I hadn’t seen before, but I was also able to add Freeman Creek Grove to the list of giant sequoia groves I’ve visited.

img_6499I took all of the photos in this post.

(Guest Post) A new way of living

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Today’s guest blog is by my friend Nina. I met Nina a couple of years ago at a gathering for people interested in van dwelling. We don’t see each other often, but we stay in touch electronically. Nina has been very supportive of my life and my writing. Today you can read her story.

Thank you to my dear friend Blaize for having faith in me and asking me to write an article for her blog!

Two years ago, being 50 years young and having to resign from a full time permanent position with a government environmental agency was the beginning of a new way of living for me. This same agency had been my employment with seasonal, term and lastly a permanent position for a total of about 11 years. It was my planned career and retirement until fate intervened. The stressful permanent position was an office job, unlike the prior office/outdoor Nature dominated tenure.  The stress had been building through the years and I was researching various other options.

RVing full-time and van living was on my radar. I had come across a website, www.cheaprvliving.com by Bob Wells, which resounded with my unique ideas and philosophy.  It was a great source of information and I started bookmarking articles that were important to me! It seemed that the RV life would be feasible after I retired.

A renovation had started in our work building and certain floors were being worked on two at a time. When it came time for our floor, the tearing out and replacing the carpet, plastic baseboard, paint and the various glues, dust and cleaner smells were too much for my body to endure. Accommodations were made by moving my desk, files and phone onto another unrenovated floor until the work process was complete.

When I returned to my new cubicle, the smells and chemicals were causing headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea as I tried to tough it out. My symptoms were discussed with my supervisor and off I went to my Naturopath Doctor (ND) in another city. The ND and I had a good relationship for several years prior. My prior positions had involved herbicide and pesticide applications along with my other outdoor duties.  Chemical sensitivities, allergies and various intestinal issues appeared that had me turn to natural medicine and eating healthier.  Meeting her had changed my life! She helped me understand the antibiotics and drugs the regular Medical Doctor (MD) had given in prior illnesses only dealt with symptoms not the real problem.  A wide array of blood tests that included the liver were run and compared to my prior tests. The ND discussed the results which showed my liver was overwhelmed with toxins and was dumping them for other organs to try to handle.

The agency then put out canisters designed to detect dangerous chemicals and sent them to a lab for testing. After reporting the ND results to my supervisor, the agency decided they wanted my tests redone by a qualified MD in order to accommodate me. In the meantime, the canisters came back with no harmful toxins or chemicals in the air. It was discussed with my ND and decided that for me to recover as much as possible, exposure to the area was to be limited. Choosing between money/career vs. my health was made. Resignation was the hard, but clear choice.

It was then the realization of how full-timing, van living could possibly improve my health!  A van was chosen, because of my financial situation. Each day afterwards there have been many adventures, challenges and new people, both good and bad. It would have been harder without the wonderful support of many people including Blaize!

Teaching Children Since 1878

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I’ve written before about the sculptures on Main Street in Mesa, Arizona. (Read about The Big Pink Chair here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/07/the-big-pink-chair/ and Booked for the Day here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/15/booked-for-the-day/.) Today’s featured sculpture is called Teaching Children Since 1878.

According to http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID:siris_ari_316604,

The sculpture is the central piece of a larger plaza setting, which includes 16 bronze or brass relief plaques on surrounding stucco wall with inscriptions on the history of education in Mesa and 4 columns from the original Mesa High School (formerly known as the second Abraham Lincoln School).

The brochure (https://res-5.cloudinary.com/simpleview/image/upload/v1/clients/mesa/DMA%20Sculpture%20Guide%203-2015_7bd31763-551d-4e7d-8dac-5cdcc56c8d24.pdf) with information about the self-guided tour of the Mesa’s sculpture collection lists the sculptor as James Avati, but the img_5842aforementioned Smithsonian Institution website lists three people as sculptors of this piece: James  R. Avati, C. L. Harding, and Dennis Tidwell.

While writing this post, I learned James R. Avati is from a family of artist. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Avati,

“His [grand]father was a professional photographer in New York City and his father was “James Sante Avati…an American illustrator and paperbackcover artist. ”

James R. Avati’s biography on the Utah Artist Project website (http://www.lib.utah.edu/collections/utah-artists/UAP-James-Avati.php) refers to Teaching Children Since 1878 as a “major commission.” It also says,

James R. Avati of Redbank, New Jersey, and Salt Lake City, is an excellent and sensitive sculptor who img_5845studied at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, at the Arts Students League in New York City, at Ricks College in Idaho, and at Brigham Young University. He was also a graduate student in the Department of Art at the University of Utah where he earned his M.F.A. in 1988. While there he worked with Angelo Caravaglia in the development of his frequently powerful art.

This life-size bronze sculpture is located on the south side of Mesa’s Main Street, on the corner of Sirrine Street.

I enjoy the juxtaposition of the fashions worn by the teacher and her students against the backdrop of modern buildings and cars, motorcycles and traffic lights. The teacher reminds me of a statue of a pioneer woman in Austin, TX a friend and I once used as the star of a short film.

Next time you’re strolling in downtown Mesa, be sure to checkout these scholars.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Little Free Library (Los Gatos Edition)

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I’d heard of Little Free Libraries before, but I’d never visited one.

If you haven’t heard about Little Free Libraries, here’s what https://littlefreelibrary.org/faqs/ has to say:

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called “mini-town squares.”

Little Free Libraries are examples of gift economy. There’s no buying or selling, no bartering or trading. People leave books they want to share, and other folks are free to take any of the books from the library. The aforementioned FAQ says,

…anyone may contribute or take books. The more the merrier! If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside.

I was visiting my friends in Las Gatos, CA, and The Librarian casually mentioned the Little Free Library within walking distance of their house.

What? Where? I wanted to know. This was my very first chance to visit a Little Free Library.

I got vague directions from The Librarian, but almost didn’t go because it took me forever to get myself ready to leave town. But I managed to pull myself together just in time to visit the Little Library before I had to hit the road. I grabbed a couple of books I had finished reading, as well as a couple of books The Librarian was giving away and headed out to find the Little Free Library. I asked a woman pushing a baby stroller if she knew where it was. She did! Just keep going straight, she said. 14639584_197335864038529_3193993963841986859_n

Then I saw it in the distance. The closer I got, the more excited I became.

The box had a door with glass windows and two shelves. There were probably twenty books in the library, including one by James Patterson, on whom I’d been ragging just the night before. (Poor James Patterson. He’s the author I make fun of when I’m discussing not very good books read by the masses. On the other hand, James Patterson must be hella rich, so I don’t actually feel too bad about making fun of him.)

I added the books I’d brought to the library, then carefully looked through the offerings to see if there were any books I wanted to read. I found two, The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham and The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

When we were discussing Little Free Libraries, The Librarian told me there has been controversy surrounding them in some cities. I was indignant! How could anyone be against Little Free Libraries?

14720475_197336020705180_7340245597807035176_nAccording to the USC Marshall School of Business website (http://librarysciencedegree.usc.edu/resources/articles-and-blogs/the-crackdown-on-little-free-libraries-and-what-it-means/),

in some cities, [Little Free Libraries are]…illegal and those cities are spending scarce resources to clamp down on them. Why?

The issue seems to be that the libraries are considered “obstructions” and “that you can’t do anything that might block emergency vehicle access, obstruct motorists’ views, impede pedestrians or make it hard to open car doors” lest you be subject to fines and penalties. And moving the libraries from city-owned boulevards to the private property immediately in front of a house doesn’t help, as it would then require zoning permits. A city spokesperson said, “that if there is no clear obstruction, it might be possible to keep the library where it is if [the owner] is willing to apply for a permit. And it’s possible that city arts funds could be tapped to pay for the permit.”

Scarce city funds being used to pay for a permit to allow what residents were willing to do for free must be the height of myopic absurdity. Thankfully, however, some residents are fighting back. 14713664_197335954038520_8200205731003869874_n

The Los Angeles Times reports of at least one instance where a resident who was served with a citation will be taking the case to court. And in Shreveport, Louisiana, public outcry and civil disobedience led to city council rewriting zoning ordinances and granting an exemption for what would have otherwise required a commercial permit.

I hope the stewards of Little Free Libraries in other cities will fight against foolish bureaucracy, because I want to visit more of these places of community sharing.

 

Questions and a Contest

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I’ve been wanting to do a question and answer post for a long time. Surely my readers have questions, and maybe I have answers.

Here’s how it will work: Post your questions–about me, my life, van dwelling, my jobs, whatever–in the comments section of this post. Folks will have a week to submit their questions. At the end of the week, I’ll compile the questions and try to answer them in a post. (I do reserve the right to refuse to  answer any question. I also reserve the right to give snarky or silly or sarcastic answers.)

To make this a little more fun (and because the last contest went so well), everyone who submits a question will be entered in a drawing to win something I’ve made with my own two little hands. An individual can ask as many questions as s/he wants, but will only be entered in the drawing once.

The contest will end on November 1st at whatever time I leave a comment on this post saying the time for entries is over.

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(Guest Post) Three Vignettes by Laura-Marie

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Today it is my great honor to present as a guest blogger my friend Laura-Marie. Laura-Marie is a sweet person and an awesome poet and writer of personal prose. Today she is sharing with us three vignettes that are part of a forthcoming zine called lost child 2.

eclipse
We were in Reno visiting a crazy friend, the one who kept broken mirror fragments in his pockets and read difficult books.  He found things on his late night walks, looking in dumpsters.

His sister, the house they shared, a meal made with dumpstered veggies.

We woke up and I needed to pee, so we walked to the In & Out but it was closed.

Later that day there was an eclipse.  We went back to the In & Out and people were in the parking lot looking at the sun.  We ate grilled cheese sandwiches.  It got dark for a moment then light again.

manic

When I had my first manic episode, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought I’d have a lot more manic episodes.  So I took a ziplock bag and stole a lot of Benedryl from my mom.  The pills were hot pink.  Then I put that bag into a tin, like a tin for mints.

I thought when I started having another manic episode, I would take some Benedryl and it would help me sleep.

This was ten years ago.  I still have the Benedryl, bright enough to burn your eyes.  I never took any of it.

soap

Mom had a glass jar in her bathroom with pink soaps in it.  The soaps were shaped like seashells.  I wanted to wash my hands with them so badly.  But they were for decoration only.  They smelled perfumey, and my longing for them was mixed up with my longing for all the childhood things I was denied.

Lite brite.  A certain kind of bedside lamp the neighbor kids had.  When my brother was being potty trained and I was banished to other rooms.

I feel sure that color of pink will always be with me.  The soaps got dusty.  She must have thrown them away when we moved.

Laura-Marie is a zinester and peace activist living in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She likes cold brew tea, writing letters, and visiting friends.