Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bring Back the Awesome--The Un-Funny Post

A break from funny.  If you're here for humor--skip this one.

It's been a hard year for a lot of people, and I feel like I need to take a moment to say that, yes, I joke about everything, but behind that, it has been an exceptionally difficult year for us.  Permit me to wear my heart on my sleeve, just this once, and we will then return to my regularly scheduled nonsense.
I don't know why, but our family and friends have gone through more in the last 12 months than in our whole prior life combined.  We have collectively weathered bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions, judgments, lawsuits, and job losses.  We have seen the close of blood-sweat-and-tears businesses and the death of dreams.  We have seen people we thought were friends…choose to not be there for us when we needed them.  My brother was hit by a car while riding his bicycle.  A business associate/friend was involved in a double fatality accident which also rendered him unable to work and unavailable to our business--both accidents have still not been untangled. 

We have watched friends and loved ones suffer painful and deadly medical diagnoses, dismembering accidents, marital problems, infidelity, divorce, infertility issues, unplanned pregnancies, frighteningly wayward adult children, and drug addictions. We have lost close friends and family to deaths due to illness, accident and suicide (including two on the same day, on Easter weekend).  I have been to more funerals this year than ever before.  Three more in my circle of loved ones are at death's door as I write; basically the next call we expect will be the one saying they're gone. 
Our business, which thankfully has no lack of customers, has had one mechanical breakdown after another, literally weekly.  It's cost us thousands extra per month to try to maintain working machines so we can keep our business producing.  It's always just enough to give us hope that next week might be better, but somehow also never quite enough to get back to feeling solid ground underfoot.  Then something else will break, and another $500-2000.00 will be needed for repairs, and I'm sitting at my desk again, wondering whether to pay the mortgage or get the equipment that is our lifeblood running again (like some kind of morbid "income roulette"). 
We have experienced unrelenting blow after unrelenting blow weekly, if not daily, and they keep coming, right up to yesterday, when we heard that two more much-loved people might have serious medical issues, both under 39 years old. We find out more soon.  Hopefully it's nothing.  We're praying that it's nothing.  It has to be nothing.

I thought of writing a detailed list of everything we've weathered this year, in chronological order, as a recap of what we've survived and watched our loved ones go through, but even mentally tallying the last 12 months up took me so long and was so depressing that I gave it up.  And there's certainly no humor in any of it. 
Usually my blog is just about my funny slant on life, or shallow and sarcastic rants about whatever, and I don't share anything too personal or real on it, because many acquaintances read it, and I don't usually feel ready to share this with them, but so many people have the same story this year, and I wanted to say (once), that beneath all the joking here, lurk the same hardships many of you are facing every day.  Writing stuff that makes me laugh is a way to focus on something other than the stack of bills on my desk or the next email or phone call telling me what fresh hell has run amok in my small and happy universe today.  So if I make you laugh too, or even just distract you from the same headaches, with my rambly musings, then I'm glad if I've helped a bit.

I have spent more time crying in the shower, at my desk, on the kitchen floor, in the car, and in bed, this year than any other year of my life. Sometimes it's a daily thing--I don't even bother with makeup a lot of days because, hello--that stuff runs.  I can only hope that 2014 brings something better, and I'm sure it will.  Basically my life is usually awesome and happy and completely content, but after a year like this, it makes you tired, trying to keep seeing everything through AWESOME GLASSES, and yeah, it's OK if we need to cry sometimes.

When I started tallying up the depressing chronology of this year, I stopped.  Because there is a PLUS side.  We have our little family and our health, and our beloved home, and we have each other and our faith in things to come.  We have two kids who are doing great and turning into beautiful, funny adults. We have a happy marriage of rare and epic closeness, full of laughter and friendship and still-crazy attraction after 27 years, for which I am eternally grateful. We rely on each other and our faith to get us through what has been our hardest year ever.  Long hugs and countless wordless gestures of affection and deep appreciation for each other have saved the day many times, for both of us. 

I don't know why we go through trials, except to remind us from whence comes our strength, but--we're all still here, and I know we will get through all this.
I don't have a resolution for the New Year…just a hope that it will be a better year than the last one.  (Also to lose 25 pounds by working out everysingleday, learn another language, save $50,000, and get our whole property weeded.  Nothing big.)

I think this year, that phrase about being kind to everyone you meet, because everyone is fighting their own private battle, rings more true than ever, for everyone.

Whatever your trial is right now, look around--you are not alone.  This Christmas we need to remember, it's not about the gifts--it's about our time together, and if we can brighten someone's day by a smile or a word, we should.  Who knows if it's not the gesture that saves their day?

And here's to 2014 being the year to bring back the awesome. I'm ready.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm Not Little, and I'm Not a Mermaid. But Still...

I love to swim.  I have always loved to swim.  I love water in general; I love lakes and ponds, rivers, the ocean, and above all, swimming pools.  I didn't learn to swim until I was about 9 or 10, though, and I guess I can thank my dad for "teaching" me by always threatening to come with us to the lake and throw me in off the dock.  So I taught myself.  Then I realized, the answer to that age-old childhood question of "what animal would YOU be?", for me, was without doubt:  a fish.  (But I'd have to be a shark or a whale, because of course smaller fish just get eaten in that whole circle of life thing, and I'd just want to SWIM without that whole hassle, so, yeah--shark, definitely.)
 Remember how awesome this was?
After I learned to swim, we spent what seemed like every summer afternoon at our local lake.  I was always that kid who would stay and play in the water until the sun literally went down.  "I can't get out, Mom--I'm a mermaid!"  Not even Doritos Nacho Cheese chips could lure me onto the beach, which is saying a lot, because we were a hippy family who mostly consumed stuff like wheat germ and garbanzo beans.  Oh, and Brewer's yeast (what the HECK what that all about?).  Even Nacho Cheese wasn't enough to get me out--I was a mermaid, and mermaids don't eat chips. 
No time for Doritos, Mom--I'm a mermaid!
Then I grew up, but on the inside, I was pretty much still that mermaid. 

We put up a 24' round pool for a few years when we lived in southern Oregon, and I swam twice a day, pretty much every day.  It was heaven.  My very own pool, just for me.  And no one cared if I did handstands and underwater backflips, even if I was a 28-year-old mother of two...It ended when a big wind came through one year when it was half-empty for the season, and blew it literally inside out and crushed it, while I watched in horror from the dining room, and that was that.

Next we moved back to the inland northwest, where it is cold way too much, and the lakes here, while plentiful, are also pretty much MELTED ICE WATER, all year.  I got an earache last time I went underwater at a lake here, in August.  So I decided, if I wanted to swim again and not suffer ear infections in August, I needed to find a pool.  Which, if you're a grownup, and unfortunately I am, means joining (dun-dun-dunnnn) a gym


I don't like gyms.  I don't like memberships.  I don't like crowds.  Or locker rooms.  Or crowds IN locker rooms.  But I really missed swimming, so about 5 years ago (this was before I sank out of sight into wedding cake madness), I bit my lip (and my fear of nearly-to-completely naked chatty people), and I joined a gym.  I swam as often as I could, but between the pool's open lane schedule and my kids' schedules, trying to arrange a time to swim laps got so complicated that I was going once a week, if that, so I quit.

I still missed it, though, and it hasn't turned tropical here yet, since global warming isn't working out quite the way I'd hoped, so I decided to join another gym that has a giant pool that, so I hear, is easy to get into and always available. 
This is what I wish for, when I hear "pool"...
Unfortunately, we live in a fairly busy area, and pretty much every person in this county has a membership at this gym.  Fortunately for me, most of them seem to just like to work out with weights or on those machine things (I don't get it.  I'm like:  Guys! There's a POOL).  Even so, when I walk in, it usually looks more like this:
only less splashy...
But mermaids in sight.  And no one who looks like they're having FUN there.  Just lots of serious-looking swimmers.  Swimming. 
What??  People, it's WATER! Why so serious??
They don't get it, and I don't ask them.  So I find what is usually the last open lane in the whole pool, put on that stupid thing to cover my hair (which I'd rather let loose), and goggles--OK, yes, THOSE are very cool, because you can SEE underwater, even though mine fog up, because I'm a dork and probably don't know the secret to keeping them clear AND keeping the water out of my eyes. 

I'm pretty sure I look exactly like this:
except without the tattoos of course...
But unfortunately, reality is more like this:
Mind if I join you? Let me just hang up my cape-
There are two lifeguards there, and I think, that must be the most boring job in the whole entire world EVER.  They sit there and watch people swim, who know how to swim.  Who's going to get in trouble out here?  It's also weird to swim with people watching.  I just like to swim however I want, but I'm pretty sure they're watching me and making signals to each other like--"OMG she has no form.  What is that? What is she doing right now? That is not how grownups swim.  Doesn't she know this is the competition pool?"  When I see a lifeguard walking around the pool, I'm always sort of half-sure they're coming to tell me I should go swim in the kid pool if I'm not going to take my swimming seriously...and I'm half tempted to go there anyway.  It looks like more fun.
I'd rather be here...
But, I'm a grownup swimmer, and this is where WE swim, so I gratefully get in.  I'm just glad to have some water to myself. 
A whole lovely lane of sparkly, bright blue water, just for me...

I remind myself that I'm here to swim.  So I swim laps, but on the inside, I'm like this:

I try to be serious.  I look to my left, and there's this guy...
Then I look to my right, and see this guy:
Training for the 2014 Olympics, obviously...

So I try to focus on my form.  I feel the water gliding over me and around me.  I want to be under the water, where it's quiet and mystical and sparkly blue, but I also need to work out, because I'm pretty sure mermaids don't have body fat, so I tell myself to concentrate on the feel of my muscles stretching and propelling me through the water.  I get my wind up, so I'm getting a work out (because it's a GYM people--you must work on cardio here; we don't come here to mess around, and we certainly don't come here to work on underwater handstands).  I try to work on breathing, so I will look as effortless and graceful as real swimmers, like her:

Instead I am usually just happy I didn't actually suck in water and have a coughing fit in the middle of the pool, and I end up looking more like this:
I'm fine.  Really.

I occasionally stop and float along on my back, because I feel like it (and possibly to catch my breath), dreamily paddling along and daydreaming at the ceiling, but I stop short of underwater backflips, because--well--I'm too old for that.  And I don't want the lifeguards to have to get all the way out of their chairs to see if I'm OK. 

Besides, if you go to a pool and see a 43-year-old woman (who should be working out, because yes, she's got some weight to lose) doing underwater backflips, you're going to want to choose a lane not next to the water freak.  Why is that, I wonder?  Maybe people are worried I'll ask them to throw a coin for me to go find or something...

I guess I need to win the lottery and build my own indoor pool, and then I can swim in it any way I please.

So I swim laps, and I watch the clock, and I get my wind up, and I feel toned and sleek (ha), and I get out and nod at the other gym-goers like, "Hello, fellow grownup," but the whole time, I'm still wondering, why can't I just enjoy swimming?

What is it about growing up, that takes away the magic of THIS?

I think next time, I'm going to try the slide.  I bet I can get at least one ride in before they kick me out.  Or maybe I'll pretend to be a shark and remind this guy that swimming is supposed to be fun.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Leggings are Not Pants...and Other Fashion Advice I Should NOT Have to Give

I always think, look, I totally shouldn't have to point any of this out, but there are some things that I guess have to be said, people. 

Maybe it's because I'm from the 80s, where the most out-of-line we ever got as teenagers was wearing too much makeup (Cyndi Lauper style), too many layers of bangles and scrunchy socks, and neon colors…Madonna wannabes that we were.   Also, there were shoulder pads.  But I have to say that, even then,  AT LEAST WE MATCHED THE NEON COLORS.  And we kept our butts covered, people.  Covered. 

(I almost said "Back in MY day" right there, but I'm not THAT old.)
Nowadays, I look around at what women are wearing, on purpose, in public, and I have to wonder--Did no one teach these girls the basics of coordinating articles of clothing, or how to dress to flatter their body type, or at least appropriately cover most of it in various social settings??  It always baffles me.   

I'm no fashion maven.  I don't shop (like, ever), or buy whatever's 'hot' this season.  But for crying out loud, it takes roughly the same amount of time to put on a matching outfit that flatters my figure (no matter what weight I currently am), as it does to throw on pajamas.  There's always a top and a bottom involved, and some shoes.  It's not rocket science to glance in a mirror and check to see that I don't have back-rolls lining up under my bra because my shirt or sweater is too snug for the amount of Christmas cookies I've eaten this year.  Muffin tops are not like vampires.  They DO show in a mirror; all you have to do is LOOK.  If you see one, those pants need to go in the "skinny jeans" pile until you don't see a muffin top when you put them on again--THEN, you can wear them out of the house.   No one wants to see that.  And covering the muffin top with a spandex top just makes it worse.  If you HAVE to wear those pants, for whatever reason, then at least join me in putting on a looser top as a clever disguise and make a vow to eat fewer cookies or start working out or something.
Soooo, in the interest of education and helpfulness (hey, it's Christmas, I'm here to help) is a list you can read, memorize, write on your hand, or print and hang on your bathroom mirror, as a reference guide, in case you're wondering whether that outfit is "fine" to go out the door in.  I can't believe I even have to say some of these, but if your moms or friends or every fashion magazine and store mannequin haven't helped you, then maybe THIS will. 

Here are a few of my Least Favorite Things:
1.  Leggings as pants.

This is just WRONG, even if you're a size 00

 I have been living in leggings straight thru since the 80s.  Every day, even before they came BACK into style.  Possibly before you were born.  Leggings and a long t-shirt are my uniform (at home).  I think I pretty much invented this outfit.  Here's the deal though:  Leggings are NOT. PANTS.  They aren't!!  The rule is…if you're wearing a skin-tight garment on the bottom; you balance it with something long and looser on the top.  If you wouldn't wear just nylons and a shirt to work…Apply that rule here.  No one wants to see you running around in just leggings, a waist-length t-shirt, stilettos, and a puffer vest (gag), no matter how cute your figure is. The only place I think anyone expects to see leggings all the way up is if you're starring in a workout video.  Shoe choices--Leggings look good with flats or the oh-so-common tall boots, but not with loafers, Keds, Crocs, or Uggs (more about shoes later).  High heels DO work if the top of the outfit is long and dressy--then the leggings become like tights and voila--flattering outfit.  So, basic rule of thumb with leggings:  Put them on and turn sideways in front of your mirror.  Your top should hang PAST YOUR BUTT.  It's iffy even if it's just right to the top of your thighs at the back…which is not quite long enough to be flattering, but the leggings-as-pants thing should really stop.  Just--ew.  Have mercy.

See this?  Yes--super cute
2.  Pajamas, sweats, or slippers.  In public.  No.  No, NO NO.  Unless you are riding in an ambulance, I guarantee you, you had time to put on regular clothes.  This is just lazy and sloppy beyond belief.  I get it--you don't "care what people think" about how you look.  How about YOU caring about how you look? No one wants to see your dirty sweats or Superman PJs hanging off your butt while you scuffle around the store in slippers that I wouldn't wear to wash my car in.  So, telling yourself it's OK because you don't care what we think…this tells me you are a rude and possibly inconsiderate person, which makes me like you less, even though we'll probably never meet.  Which is sort of sad.  Maybe you're not rude and inconsiderate, but all we're given is that one first impression of you, and "Rude Slob" is what this says to me.  Or, I should really quit going to Wal-Mart…
3.  Quit with those giant, stupid, furry boots that make you look like you cut the legs off a woolly mammoth and used them for leg warmers.  The 3" round furry puff-ball pompon things don't help either.  Actually…these boots don't work with anything.  There should be a boot-burning somewhere, and these should be the kindling. 
Somewhere a yak is running naked
Let's hit the beach! Wait--my feet are cold. 
4.  Boots with shorts.  (Triple demerits if they're the boots above).  I get it about the cute cowgirl thing, and on some girls (at the fair, in the summer, with the horses), the cowboy boots and cut-offs look *can* be cute.  But be careful it doesn't cross over into the WTH category.

5.  Dirty sneakers.  I don't…even--just, why.  Even clean sneakers, to me, scream soccer mom, which is a term I despise (even though I am crazy about my kids' sports games), so I avoid sneakers (even brand-spanking-new ones) unless I'm actually jogging or hiking or shooting hoops.  Wait.  I don't jog.  Cute Keds to a volleyball game, sure.  But sneakers, to me, just don't help any outfit, or at least very rarely.  They're for SPORTS.  I have too many fun summer shoes NOT to swap the sneaks for a cute sandal or a pair of flats.  Put on whatever you're wearing, and then put on the sneakers.  Then pull out your cutest heels or sandals and switch out the shoes.  See?  It changes the whole look, even if you're wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.  And yes, there ARE comfortable other options.  Sneakers, to me, just always say "I don't care; no one looks at my feet anyway".  Which segues into…
6.  Gym clothes when NOT inside the actual gym.  You work out.  Good for you.  But get dressed AT the gym.  It takes like one minute.  Unless you jogged to the store for some soy milk or electrolytes or something, we probably don't need to see this, either.  Toss the spandex in your gym bag and put on some jeans or even leggings before you leave…also see #1 above.

7.  Socks with sandals, or socks with Crocs.  Just--No.   This shouldn't even have to be explained; yet, many people do it.  So…officially:  NO SOCKS WITH SANDALS.  And Crocs are only acceptable (and then only barely) if you are in Home Depot, where you had to race over in the middle of a yard project to get that emergency bag of potting soil, and you are possibly still covered in garden dirt, and you literally did not have time to put on different shoes.  Even flip-flops would be better…  (Again, yes, I see a shoe theme here, but sorry, shoes really do change things).
Unless you have some scary foot disease, this = 50 lashes
8.  High heels.  Heels are sexy, no doubt about it.  They are fun to wear, and they accentuate nice legs and all that.  But--don't wear them if you can't walk in them.  You should be able to walk as if you're not IN heels, when you're in heels.  Comfortably and confidently.  If you're wobbling and tip-toeing along in them, you need to go to a shorter heel, or spend some time seriously practicing; otherwise, it's just embarrassing and we are afraid you might actually fall down.
9.  Spaghetti straps and sheer clothes.  2013 was like the year of sheer.  Maybe I'm being old-fashioned again, but when I was growing up and learning to dress myself, one of the cardinal sins was do not let your undergarments show EVER.  NEVER EVER EVER.  So the trend lately of spaghetti strap tank tops just kind of…shorts out my brain.  I'll be standing there with this super cute shirt, but…it has spaghetti straps.  My kids insist that it's totally OK if I just put this on over a bra and walk out the door.  But, my bra straps are then showing.  What the heck?  Do you see this?? My bra is showing.  That, to me, says white trashy to the max.  Next year will it be ok if our underwear are showing? (I won't even START on the guys with the pants hanging down…you guys look ridiculous; WHY don't you know this?!? See also #11.)  And those sheer tops are adorable, but then again, I'm always wondering, what do you wear under them (I know!--spaghetti-strap tank tops).  But then they'll also have some odd cut-out at the back, and there I am again--holding it up and peering through the hole at my kids and going, "WHAT do you wear under this? This hole is right where my bra hooks would be."  And they're like, "Yeah…so?"  

10.  Flares.  Wide-leg pants.  Bell bottoms.  Different names for the same hideous garment.  I don't know what fashion designer ever lied to us enough to get us to believe that there is a body type ever born that looks flattering in flares.  I hated them in the 70s, even in 2nd grade, and I have hated them ever since.  Women's legs have a lovely tapered shape.  When you put a pair of bell-shaped pants on, they exactly reverse the contour of our legs.  Shorter legs look even shorter--stumpy and wide.  Long legs look like the bottom of a cypress tree or an upside-down mushroom.   A nice straight leg will always look longer and more attractive.  I'm always partial to a tapered leg, because that's the shape my leg IS, but straight is OK too.  Flares don't flatter anyone, and the sooner we all revolt against them, the sooner they might go the way of kaftans and tall headdresses.

11.  Low-rise jeans.  Ok.  Again--I may be old-fashioned, but womens' waists (you know, the part where we are the narrowest?) is way up there, above our hips.  Remember the hourglass analogy?  The midpoint is NOT on the bottom half of the hourglass--just saying.  Jeans that sit with a waistband accentuating our widest point, aside from being a pain in the ass (pun intended) to keep UP, bend over in, or sit down in, are just not flattering.  Some slimmer girls who are still 100 pounds soaking wet can pull this off, but if you have curves or have had kids (or stretch marks), you have probably already realized that these are not for you (or me).  These can be cute on the right figure, but make sure you HAVE that figure before trying these.  You also might be surprised how much more flattering a higher rise can be--a flatter stomach and a defined waistline come to mind…Also please, for the love of God, if you are going to wear these, check when you bend over, to make sure we are not subjected to a view of half your underwear and/or that tattoo that screams "Classless" across your low back.  You'll also be glad you missed the cringes of horror as the rest of us Grown-Ups are forced to look away from that and any muffin top above the sparkle-pocket pants you swiped from your teen's closet.
Your homework for this week is to get dressed, then go and LOOK IN THE MIRROR.  Full length.  All sides.  Is your butt covered?  Do you need a softer fabric or a looser shirt so those confidence-killing bra-bumps or back rolls don't show? Is that a stain on your shirt? Does your 15-year-old need her jeans back?  Take a minute to fix these things before you go out--you'll feel better; we'll feel better.  It's a win-win.

I know.  It's a lot to take in.

P.S. -Disclaimer--In case you're wondering, "wow, this chick is shallow"…Yep--This is me at my most shallow and ranty.  Although I do believe in taking care to look at least somewhat pulled together, I'm not a fashion freak (at all)--More of a leggings and t-shirt, stay-at-home kind of girl, and I'm usually barefoot (go figure).

I have had sort of an overload of regular grown-up stress lately, and 2013 has been an especially hard year--sort of just one long series of "I can't believe that just happened" kind of stuff, none of which needs to be shared with, oh, the wholeentireworld.  Since sarcastic joking is my way of dealing with pretty much everything, and I don't feel like adding to the general angst at Christmas, I thought I'd throw in a rant about fashion instead.   After all, I was a very snappy dresser, back in the 80s.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Auto-Text-Correct Fail

Conversation with my brother last Saturday, when I'd been driving since 7 a.m., had been home 5 times for 45 minutes at a time, and was on my 5th trip out of the house in 5-degree weather.   I had my hands full and was overheating waiting at the mall for one of the kids, bundled up for the cold, when my phone went off.

Jesse:  Hey it's your long-lost brother.  I need to get a Christmas list for you guys if you have time.

Me:  Oh Lord.  I'm at the mall in a coat and sewage, too hot! and it's 2 degrees outside.  gahhh

Me:  Not sewage. 

Me:  Sweater.  I'm in  SWEATER.  !#^&$

Jesse:  Nice auto text. 

Me:  I've been driving all day and won't be home for awhile.  Can I call you when I'm home.  and not in  A SWEATER.

Jesse:  Sweet.

Sewage???  from "sweater" ?  What the actual heck, autocorrect?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Of Black Friday, Shakespeare, and Sit-Ins...

The ultimate wordsmith...

First let me say that I have never shopped Black Friday.  Even before it was a thing...I never went out shopping for any sales the day after Thanksgiving, or the day after Christmas.  Then it became a thing and I was like, "What?"  And now it's become a whole 2-day thing where people plan for weeks and strategize and sleep in front of doorways and trample each other for Playstations or Kitchenaids.  I can only hope that in 300 years...THOSE are not the images the future will look back on and see of our culture, but I digress.

Leaving aside that the retailers could totally prevent this crap by not opening at 8 pm the night before or 3 a.m. on Friday or whatever causes the mayhem, and realizing that it wouldn't matter one way or the other what I did on Friday, but hey--I like to contribute--so I decided to stage my own one-person protest sit-in over the weekend.  Which I did, by staying AT HOME, unplugged from the world, with all my techie stuff turned OFF all weekend.  (Remember when a real test of humanity would be, like, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro or something?

We don't have TV anyway, so that's nothing new to go without, but I turned off the computer and didn't go in my office except for severely necessary work-related things.  I turned off the wifi.  And my e-book.  And my Facebook.  And Twitter.  I used my phone just to CALL people.  (Actually, just to receive calls; I even refused to call anyone). 

Instead I baked and sat in the hot tub with hot cocoa, and I slept IN with my husband, and I laughed my head off with my kids, and I very slowly and deliberately read a paper copy of Shakespeare's Richard II (because I'm a medieval English history freak, that's why).  Oh, and I didn't pay any bills or talk about money, which made it almost like they didn't exist.  (almost)


It was AWESOME. 

Aside from spending the weekend saying to myself, "Huh.  I'm having my own protest about Black Friday and consumerism and the overuse TO DEATH of technology and social media...and no one even knows about it, because I can't get online to tell them."

So, while I didn't go shopping, I did reconnect with books with PAPER pages, and I fell in love all over again with William Shakespeare and with my house and my family.  I cleaned and did laundry and just lived here, instead of sitting at my desk (which is also *here*, but sort of doesn't count as being home, because when I'm at my desk, it qualifies as *working*, even though yes, I'm technically at home).

I'm planning to spend as much of December as unplugged as possible--I can't wait to see how it goes.

Try it sometime.  You won't believe the stuff you will get done, plus--sometimes a great book, a quiet afternoon, a clean living room and a cup of perfect coffee are really just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Well...I Never Did Look Good In a Turban

Serves me right for trying to predict anything.  So far I'm down one.  Which, to me, is like: FAIL.
I usually spend at least a full two days before Thanksgiving in the kitchen. Today I have spent the WHOLE ENTIRE DAY driving in the car, and will be out on and off still until 9 p.m.  I have been home for 60 minutes at a time.  Three times.  I haven't even put the groceries away from this morning (Ok, yes, the milk and whatnot, but nothing else). So nothing, I repeat nothing, is getting done so far. No bread. No pudding. No pies. No dips. I did boil some eggs yesterday. And the turkey is defrosting, I think.
I need to start a group called Over-Ambitious Anonymous. Unless there already is one, then I just need to join it.  Although if I put it on my to do list, at the rate I'm going, I'll miss the first meeting anyway.  Sigh
I'm starting to like my aunt's tried-and-true description of cooking.  Here's her idea of cooking, in her own words:  "I wait til I'm hungry, turn on the oven to 400 degrees, and set the timer for 15 minutes. Then, I open the freezer and see what fits that 'recipe'.  Done deal.  Go out and play."
I love her.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Predictions--I'm Like The Gypsy Queen of Foretelling My Own Future

Not yours, though, so don't get excited and ask me for anything.  With you, anything could happen…sorry.
No...this isn't what I meant. 

For example, this summer, when I was surveying the sheer quantity of vegetables we would be harvesting from the garden that we'd waited 5 years to re-plant, a voice in my head (which sounded exactly like the Wicked Witch from Oz) said "You'll be canning vegetables right up until Thanksgiving, you fool."  Of course, I ignored the voice, and I hoped it was wrong. 
Turns out, it was right.  Exactly, to the day.
Yesterday I finished canning the last batch of borscht from our late beets and put away the canning pot in the garage.  On my way back INTO the house, I brought the turkey in to defrost. 
On.  The.   Same.   Day.  
I know, scary, huh?  And then the smartass other voice that I try not to let talk back too much said "Well, at least I won't be canning ON THANKSGIVING.  I win."  So, there's that.  I talk to myself way too much.
I can, however, predict some other things that will happen here soon.  We'll just see if I'm right…
1.  Starting Monday, I will be baking ALL THE THINGS for Thanksgiving.  Homemade everything.  It's like my Martha gene goes into overdrive at the holidays.  There will be (the intention of) homemade marshmallows, caramels wrapped in wax paper, 5 different pies with fruits from the garden, chocolate pudding, mashed sweet yams and garlic mashed potatoes, homemade cheese nips and deep-fried Panko-crusted cheese balls with homemade hot sauce.  And the cheese dip! Artichoke dip! Crab dip! Mini beef wellingtons (ok, with store bought puff pastry, I cut myself some slack, people!).  Shrimp cocktail with homemade sauce!   Vegetable and meat trays!  200 deviled eggs, because that's how many extra eggs I HAVE right now from the overabundant CHICKENS I signed up for last spring.  Braided sweet breads with homemade cranberry butter.  The list goes on…
Wait.  It's just US, right?  Possibly unfortunately, I know how to cook enough for 40, but my Martha gene has a hard time deciphering whether there's actually 40, or if it's just for the 4 of us.  So, I always try to pare it down.  Simplify.  But no.  It's a FREAKING HOLIDAY, PEOPLE.  WE MUST HAVE ALL THIS YUMMY FOOD.  It won't be the same if we don't have everysinglething on the list!
And there IS a list, too.  I have kept a list of everything I've made for every holiday since like 1997, in a book all its own.  No reason.  But it's interesting to have, and I like to flip back through the years.  Then I'll see something and think, OMG, we have to make THAT! How did I forget those?  And so on.
2.  Since I'm done canning, (well…sort of…there's still a wheelbarrow of ripening tomatoes in the garage that I am currently ignoring), I will possibly be able to get back to the Lady of Leisure thing that I was expecting more of this year.  Oh sure, I did my share of leisure-ing around in my first year off from being a crazy wedding cake baker, but not what you'd call serious lazing.  Soon, though.  Maybe January.
2-1/2.  Actually, what happens next will be the MAKE ALL THE CRAFTS phase of the year, which is where I make homemade Everything for gifts.  This year I'm thinking candles.  Hand-dipped tapers.  And possibly votives.  Definitely votives.  And wouldn't it be nice to knit some little---ahh, STOP.  I won't be knitting anything little for anyone; there isn't time.  But the tapers, yes, I think that could happen.
Around here...this is Christmas music
3.  I also predict much LESS time online.  Once the snow falls and the trees are up (we have 8 Christmas trees, it's a Thing here--one in every room, pretty much), and the Christmas music is playing every day (Sinatra era only, baby), I love the idea of slowing things dooooowwwwnnnn and detaching from the world out there.  I don't care what's in the news.  I don't want to see what the Kardashians are doing, or wearing, for the holidays.  (Who ARE they, anyway?? I don't get it.)  I don't have TV, so the internet is it, and that's easy to leave disconnected.  I feel more…present…in my life, without the internet.  We all do, I think, and it should be practiced more.  Hence, I also predict the time spent blogging will decline while I actually do this stuff, but I can always write about it later.

At Thanksgiving, I find myself wanting to sit by the fire in a cozy chair with a hot chocolate, to hand-write my Christmas lists and cards, with a calligraphy pen, in my best penmanship.  Penmanship! Remember WRITING?  With pens and stuff?  I'd use a feather nib and an old inkwell for my Christmas lists, but I'm pretty sure they're hard to find, and I'm such a klutz that we'd end up with no one getting cards, or all of them covered in ink blots ("Wow, I think Shane and Stef are doing good.  Or maybe this is a cry for help…"), or I'd spill the ink on the carpet and myself and have to renovate the WHOLE ENTIRE UPSTAIRS.  So, ok, maybe just a pen.  Or even a pencil, so I could erase stuff like "please just send money this year". 
But, remember penmanship? The gentle smooth drop down and curving uppppp and backwards of a cursive "g"?  The capital S?  How hard "f" was?  (I remember that, because I had one in my name--I hated "f"s).  And those dotted-line-between-the-solid-lines notepads, where you practiced it all? 
Moving on…
4.  I also predict more exercising happening, because…cookies, you guys.  We are a house of girls, so we are ALWAYS on a diet, pretty much.  Carbs are from the devil, most days.  And since my Martha gene refuses not to make ALL THE THINGS for the holidays, that means there's a constant battle between the Martha gene ("Try these butter cookies and eggnog!") and the wicked witch ("You'll get fat, my pretty, and your little cat, too!!").  So, maybe more exercise.  But, without the canning pot going 8 hours a day, I now have time to work out if I want. 
BwahahahahaHAHA.  If I *want*?   (muffled laughter)   Sorry…  I never *want* to work out.  It's more of a "should" thing, but "want"?  Um, no.  I'd rather just wake up tomorrow with the body I wished for.  Or how about the one I already used to have, effortlessly.  Is that so hard?  I already HAD it.  Where'd it go?? Maybe it's because I didn't appreciate it enough then.       (Body!! I'm sorry!!)
5. I also predict less Facebook and probably no Twitter, unless I need a traffic report.  I love all my friends, but at the holidays I want to actually SEE them and hear their voices, not read status updates.  By the way, "Having coffee…" doesn't count as an interesting status update unless you can finish the sentence with "…on the moon.  With Morgan Freeman."    Digressing again, sorry.

6.  Also more time to work on the cookbook project, which I started and WILL finish, though it's turning into a longer project than I expected.  But *I* can't even wait to use that book! ALL THE THINGS!  In ONE book!  I could clean out my whole cupboard--well, almost. 
As for you all…I can't predict for you, but I wish you the most blessed and safe Thanksgiving week, full of everything and everyone you're most thankful for.  We have had an interesting year here, and we have so much to be thankful for!  I won't elaborate, but please remember to  Shower the People You Love With Love.  Or cookies, or candles...or whatever is your Thing. 
I'm off to the kitchen, my happy place.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hey, Maybe New Shoes CAN Change Your Life

Or at least the landscape of your closet.

I actually have a magnet to that effect on my stove.  Thanks, Mom.  I like the juxtaposition of the shallowness of that sentiment, combined with my intense geeky love of history books, all things garden-y and organic, and the fact that I almost NEVER SHOP EVER for myself.  NEVER EVER EVER.

But I do have a love affair thing with new shoes.  It's part of the magic that is me.

Inspired by the BOGO Sale at Payless last night, and with some time to kill waiting to pick up my oldest, who just got a job at the mall, I realized that, even with my large collection of needless but fun and sometimes totally unnecessary shoes, I don't have any brown boots.  Or booties.  And it was a sale, people.  Come on.

Yay, no more black boots with EVERYTHING
I'm in love with these, with jeans.  

But my point is:  Do you ever notice that when you bring home something new, suddenly you feel like EVERYTHING ELSE MUST BE REARRANGED RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Also, many garments seem to be screaming, "throw me out already, for the love of Pete, woman!"

I was just going to put my new shoes away in the closet, when I started thinking that, you know, I have clothes that I haven't worn since George Bush was president.  And I don't mean W.  Why is that? Well, first, probably because THEY DON'T FIT, DUMMY, WHY ARE YOU KEEPING THESE?  YOU WILL NEVER FIT IN THAT AGAIN BECAUSE YOU SUCK AT LOSING WEIGHT!!!  hahaHAHAHAHA

To justify some of them--you never know when I might suddenly need a great pants suit with built-in shoulder pads, or those 5 really stunning sequined floor-length evening gowns.  Especially now that I'm a retired stay-at-home gardening occasional blogging wife and mother who spends her spare time canning and reading, in leggings and an oversized t-shirt, and now, also--possibly--trawling the (gasp) mall with time to kill.


Maybe it's just that it's really fall, that season of change.  Maybe it's that I realized these clothes will a) NEVER fit or b) never be part of what we like to call a "Pinterest-y outfit".  Ever.  Or maybe I'm just sick of the overflow and need to make some room. 

Anyhoo--It's time to go through my closet and do some ruthless downsizing.  If I haven't worn it since 2002, it needs to GO.  No matter how cute it was, or is. 

Also, I may always be this size that I am, right now, so those old skinnier-self clothes also need to go.  If I suddenly wake up one morning 20 pounds lighter without having had my arm amputated or something, I'll treat myself to some new clothes. 

Ok, that's all.

But I do LOVE my new shoes today.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Duck, duck...MOOSE.

I crack myself up.  Sorry--

It's comforting, in a way, to live somewhere *out* there far enough, that the only thing we need to worry about, before popping out the back door, at 4 pm in broad daylight, is a MOOSE.  Or three.

The other day, my daughter opened the back door and saw this:

Busted.  Well, this is awkward...
They are not afraid of much, and they make themselves at home, so I'm glad she didn't just hop off the porch and go walking out to the garden, because...

Hello? I'm still here.    (Notice the ATV right there in the picture!)

There is a mother moose who brings her twins here fairly often right now, and they are having a heyday nibbling through what's left in the vegetable garden.  I wondered why my brussels sprout stems are disappearing so fast...surely no deer could take bites that big.

A few days after these pictures were taken, we walked in from the garage at like 4:30 p.m., and I heard my oldest at the back door, going, "Mom...come look...out by the pond..."  So I looked out and saw this-- Whoa.  What the heck? That's a tall moose! Or a horse in need of a chiropractor.

then I blinked and...whoops, TWO babies were peeking out!


I grabbed the camera and went and sat on the back deck and filmed a bit, and she was really pretty cool about it.  We've had moose around here for years, so it's probably a generational thing--The moms just bring their kids back every year, like, "See, THIS is where they have roses.  And beets! And broccoli! Plus, there's that swampy pond where you can wade around."  Moose heaven. 

I KNOW, they can be dangerous or whatever, but seriously I've had tons of them in our yard over the years, and I've never had any trouble from them.  Other than A LOT LESS BRUSSELS SPROUTS to harvest.

She let them wander around and nibble the pond garden, like this:

While she stood watch in the yard. 
Actually right here, she's kind of intently watching our neighbor, who was 5 acres away, working on his property. 

Then she gathered the twins up, and they followed her away, back wherever they came from.

So, it's a safe neighborhood, but still.  It does make it interesting, when we say "Who wants to go check the mail?" after dark...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Now Have a Clowder, or a Glaring--Or is it a Glaring Clowder?

Our sweet newest addition

Wikipedia says a group of cats is called a clowder, and my daughter says it's also called a glaring, which I thought was hilarious, because that's what I'm seeing a lot of, this week.  Glaring.  And hissing.  (And not just because there are lots of girls in this house...) 

Since I'm making chili (again) because of our overabundance of tomatoes, I'm in the kitchen (again), where my mind tends to wander, and I thought hey, we got a new pet, and I haven't even TOLD anyone yet.  And since my phone never rings EVER (except for customers), I'm telling you. 

(This is the part where you put on your "How interesting--please tell me more" face...)

So, yes, we have officially crossed some kind of line and now have THREE cats.  I lean towards thinking three is too many, maybe, which is why I also strictly do NOT go to the animal shelter, because I'd end up taking them ALL home, so then I think maybe three is pretty good.  But four, no.  Four would be officially too many.  Really.

We saved all three of our cats (Louis, Jack and--tentatively named--Sam) from stray-hood by taking them in, so we now have a misfit band of prior strays, who turned out to be total rock stars, to quote Shane.  Which makes me wonder...aren't MOST cats in that boat (not the rock star boat--the misfit/saved/stray boat)?  I mean, do you know anyone, even one single person, who has ever said, "Oh, we're shopping for a cat.  You know, perusing breed websites and driving around to breeders and setting our spending limit.  We haven't really decided yet, but we're sure that *right cat* will come along."  No.  People do NOT shop for cats, or at least...not in this neck of the woods.

Pretty much all my life, I have always had a varying rotation of, but never more than, two cats, which seemed just right--"two" appearing to be the very limit of how many cats we should have.  Remember that "two cats in the yarrrrrd" line from the Cat Stevens song?  He didn't say "three cats in the yarrrrd," because that would have skewed the picture, right?

Louis has been here the longest (about 9 years), so he is the Big Cahuna.  He is also very lazy and just.plain.big.  But we try not to judge...

Louis on a hard day of --nothing

We got him from a family after he was dumped at their house as a kitten, to keep them from taking him to the shelter.

Then there's Jack...

Last year Shane brought home Jack one night from a lady at a gas station who was trying to find him a home rather than let him run wild.  Louis hated him at first, but Jackie was convinced that Louis was his new BFF/Big Brother and refused to leave him alone, so Lou had no choice but to just accept it.
Resistance is futile


 This seems like just the right number

And then, last week my oldest went for a jog and came home with...Sam:
His first night at our house...WHO could ditch this little guy?

We live in a fairly rural area, and I swear there's an invisible symbol on our road sign, renaming it:  Dump Your Unwanted Cats Here. (Cat guys suck, by the way.  It's NOVEMBER!)

Sam was sitting by the stop sign at the corner of our main road and the highway (nowhere NEAR a house or farm).  He saw my daughter and immediately jumped on the road and started running after her, meowing, all the way to our front porch, where he curled up on her lap and made himself at home.  We put the word out with the neighbors, in case someone was missing a kitten, but I'm pretty sure he was dumped. In November.  In the middle of nowhere. 

So, I guess we now have a clowder of cats. And this week there has been a lot of glaring and hissing, and, once Jack realized Sam is a kitten...a lot more NOISE.  Since they are both at the age where ANYtime is a good time for wrestling, we now have Cat Olympics at all hours, with what sounds like the championship rounds taking place whenever we're trying to sleep. 

Louis is still SO not amused, and sometimes he will just growl at the WALL right now.  He's super grumpy about Sam, and I'm pretty sure he's the one who, the very first morning after Sam arrived, pee'd right in the middle of our bed.  Like, oh yeah?--well, see how you like THIS.  That is so NOT COOL.  Especially when Shane doesn't really *like* cats.  Moves like that...really do NOT help your position, Louis.  Get it together. 

So, the glaring clowder continues.  And the chili needs my attention, so I better go.