Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Turning into My Mom. Only With Less Wheat Germ

If you read the prior post, you know that we are trying to incorporate more of a whole foods and plant-based diet approach to our life.  No, we aren't going all full vegetarian or strict vegan or anything.  Which is good, because since writing that, we've still had some form of meat on the table pretty much every.single.night, BUT AT LEAST THERE ARE LOTS OF VEGETABLES on the plates too, right?  And when I say "meat", I mean our own, homegrown, organic pork and beef, raised by us and our family at home, so it's not all processed, store bought stuff.  And I can't not cook it, because 1) that'd be wasteful, and 2) we love meat.

This might be harder than I thought...but any improvement is a step in the right direction.  I will say there's probably no way stroganoff or meatloaf are coming off the menu.  Just sayin'.

Plus, we have this amazing garden, so it's not like it's a stretch to eat tons of fresh, organic produce as often as we can, (sometimes by the wheelbarrow load)...I just need some more creative ways to make vegetables more of a "main dish" rather than a side dish (no offense, Martha, but I'm branching out).

After a point, you just GIVE UP on the weeds...

The other side of the walkway, mid-August
I did actually order the Forks Over Knives cookbook, which should be here tomorrow, but we went to Barnes and Noble the other night in a blizzard because--BOOKS you guys! OMG, booooookkkks!  (My e-reader is awesome, but--I love real books.)  So of course I bought two history books ("The Plantagenets" and "Queens Consorts"--my favorite history-geek topics), and an absolutely visually stunning hardback cookbook called "Vegeterranean" (Italian vegetarian cooking), which is amazing and lovely to look through; I can't wait to cook from it.  And I love that it doesn't require a bunch of hard-to-find ingredients that I will never buy, let alone eat.

The best thing  I found, though, is "Back to Eden".  This is super cool, because just the other day, after writing a whole memory of my childhood where my mom spent a year trying really hard to make us be vegetarians (which didn't work), I remembered that she always had this book called "Back to Eden".  And then...there it was, right there on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.  Of course I grabbed it.  Reading it feels like coming home.  No wonder we never went to a doctor...
My birthday, with my dad, my aunt, mom, and my uncle, mid-70s.  Not sure why there are two cakes?  Or what is hanging from the ceiling...

I may have frowned a lot at her food choices for us as kids (all those lunches of home-made whole wheat sandwiches, cookies full of nuts, and garbanzo beans in the meatloaf), but the older I get, the more I believe:  Moms really do know best.  Especially now that I'm a mom.  (Right, kids??      Kids?)

Friday, February 21, 2014

A New Direction...but not Fanatically

Nothing huge.  We are just deciding to adhere to a more whole foods, plant-based diet, starting now.

I can't quite get my mouth to say the word "vegan", because I'll never be a true vegan in the sense of "I don't consume anysinglethingthatevercame from an animal.  I love a great steak.  I love chicken.  I love bacon.  Cheese.  Butter.  Eggs.  (Not giving up cheese or eggs--and I'm not apologizing for that either.  Fight the fights you can win, people.)

We have always gardened and tried to raise as much of our own food as possible, and we have been gradually phasing out the additive-full, processed products from our pantry and fridge, because we know it's the healthy thing to do...as hard as it is!  Whole wheat bread, raw honey, lots of fresh veggies, etc.  But it's time to commit to it more strongly, for our health.


I just bought a vegetarian/vegan cookbook, and our family is going to take the next step towards greatly limiting our meat and dairy consumption, for our health.  Gradually, though.

I'll never be one of those all militant vegetarians who announces to everyone, everywhere, within the first few minutes of meeting someone, that "I'm a vegetarian.  I don't eat animal products.  Did I mention I'm vegan?" Everyone just wants to slap them (*hint hint* vegans...), but I love my family, and if this will help us live longer and avoid heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and the high cholesterol that runs in our family, then so be it.

Pray for us. We have a freezer full of COW and two pigs, right now...and we are a "meat and taters" kind of family, even if they are organically grown, so even though it's the right health choice, I'm having a hard time convincing myself that oh sure, I can learn to love kale...

Ummm.    Ok

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday. We Could Be on to Something-

Today I read a blog post that was a nod to it being Throwback Thursday.  First I thought...well, thanks for reminding me, it's Thursday.  I usually don't know for sure what day it is, now that I'm home and every day seems pretty much like every other day.  Like Groundhog Day, only with me, instead of Bill Murray...

I realized that Throwback Thursday could be used for lots of other stuff in everyday life, which got me thinking, maybe we're not using it to its full potential.

On Throwback Thursday, I could:

1.  Tell everyone their laundry WAS done.  Last week.

2.  Wear my favorite style of clothes/nail polish color/shoes from whatever past decade I feel like.  And NO ONE can say a word.

3.  Insist on speaking only in, like, totally Valley Girl lingo.  All day.  And say "Like, gag me with a spoon" to every customer on the phone today who mentions it's snowing again.  Totally.

3.  Post pictures of myself from back when I weighed the RIGHT amount (tah dah!)  Like that picture of me at 110 pounds with my mom, all tan and smooth and slim.  (OK--so it was 1985).

4.  Text my youngest at school and tell her she's late for dance practice.  (psych! We don't do dance lessons any more!)

5.  Spend all day drawing horses, then tell everyone I'm planning to be an artist; please be quiet while I'm working.

6.  Best of all?  Lay on the couch under a blanket by the fire all day with a book and a cup of tea, like an old-fashioned "sick day", watching it snow, because my throat feels like it's trying to get sore, so I'm pretty sure a couch day is in order.

Random association:  I was just saying "throwback" to myself, and then I heard my husband's voice (in my head) saying "throwdown".  Which is a very different term.  For him, that would only apply to someone he didn't respect, as in "That guy is a total throwdown."  We wouldn't want a 'throwdown' Thursday. Sorry; I crack myself up sometimes...

Wait.  It's Thursday?  I need to make sweets for my daughter's play practice group for tomorrow!  Which means, either take a shower and go to the store...or make some brownies.  So, I'm baking today.  See how that happened?
I am, like, totally making these!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Time Traveler--The Granola Year(s)

There's a really good chance my mom made her vest and his shirt, but check out those spiffy Easter shoes!
We went on a vegetarian/organic/goat milk kick in the 70s for about a year, when Mom decided to substitute "healthy" foods instead of "unhealthy" foods.  Like carob chips instead of chocolate chips in cookies. ("Yay! Cookies! Wait--what?")  Whole wheat everything.  Homemade granola.  Wheat germ instead of the usual brown sugar on our Cream O'Wheat at breakfast. ("What's this brown stuff?") Garbanzo beans in "meat"loaf.  Brewer's yeast on popcorn (what? I don't even...No).  Goat milk was also a big thing.

Bean sprouts and avocado on whole wheat/seed/nut bread for lunch, when you're in first grade?...not cool.  Only the city kids had stuff like American Cheese and Kool-Aid and battery-powered toys. City kids.  And they pretty much never wanted to trade.

The phrase"...because we weren't weird enough" comes to mind.

We spent a lot of time at the local health food store, and to this day, the smell when you walk into a health food store takes me right back to 1975.  There was also that incident where I was hanging on the front of the grocery cart at the health food store (like you're not supposed to do--even then, there were some things that were known to be unsafe), and I tipped the whole thing over with a large crash, right in the middle of the store.  (sorry, Mom!)  I used to use that story for my own kids, when this sign wasn't convincing them:
Also, I remember something called kefir.  I don't remember consuming it, but--what.the.heck.  I saw it at a store not long ago and had a total flashback to 1979.  What? This stuff is still around?

In view of the lack of meat and "fun" food at home that year...Dad used to sneak me down to the local bar/restaurant for a burger and ice cream, and his favorite--French fries with gravy--and we'd share a secret loathing of the hippie/granola food kick.  Unfortunately, I insisted on always getting a chocolate ice cream cone, and he insisted on not being able to wipe my 6-year-old face, so we always got busted.  I remember telling him that if I'd only had the vanilla, our crime would've gone unnoticed for a lot longer; but I didn't like vanilla, so what can you do?  *sigh*  He didn't even know about the dreaded lick-the-thumb-and-wipe-that-off-your-chin parent trick, so our ice cream sneaks ended.

Fortunately, the vegetarian thing only lasted about a year before our rebellion was successful, but the health food thing lasted all our lives, which I hated at the time.  The first thing I did, when I got out on my own and could choose what *I* wanted at the store...was to buy WONDER BREAD, CHOCOLATE CHIPS, AND PEPSI and consume as much of it as I wanted.  For breakfast.

Eventually, your life comes full circle, though, and I am so grateful to my granola-Mom now, because I am all about healthy food.  It's also why I have a 5,000 square foot garden and spend my autumn canning and preserving instead of--I don't know--whatever other moms do in September.

What do city folks do in September..?

Time Traveler--Yes, There was a Three-Legged Goat

We don't have a lot of family photos, due to a house fire in the 80s, but someone, somewhere thought it would be worthwhile to take a photo of Rosemary, our three-legged goat, back in the 70s.  And I found it.     Amazing.

Dad and Rosemary, 1976ish.  
In today's politically correct words, Rosemary would be called a "rescue pet".  We got her from a guy who was tired of her always jumping on his Jeep, so he shot her leg off.  Actually, I think his *story* was that he was trying to scare her off the Jeep by the loud noise of firing a rifle, so maybe he didn't have a good grasp on the concept of always aim away from things.  My 6-year-old self wasn't buying it.  I remember wondering, "But, how'd she get ON the Jeep in the first place? Are you SURE he wasn't trying to shoot her?"  Where was this guy parking?  Did she really jump that high? Wasn't it slippery? Did it scratch the paint? So many things to wonder.

My grownup self hopes vindictively that he also shot out his windshield, but we'll never know...

I remember deciding, when I was 6, that I wanted to change my name officially to Rosemary.  I don't remember why I chose that name--maybe I was really attached to our goat?  Or maybe it was my favorite name, and then we brought this goat home, and she needed a name, and I probably insisted on giving her my favorite name?  Chicken-or-egg kind of question.

She was pretty cool, even with her poor little stump of a thigh instead of a back leg.  I remember learning how to milk goats with Rosemary, and the particular sound of the milk hitting the pail. We'd put her up on a perfect little stanchion that my dad had built, where her head fit through a V slit to a bucket of oats on the other side, and of course she was easy to milk, because without that back leg, hello--no kicking.  It turns out I hated goat milk, and goat cheese, (still do--EW), but I sure did love hanging out with our goats as a kid.

I remember bottle feeding the babies on my lap.  I remember being fascinated by their floppy ears, their little stubby, nibble-y muzzles, and their funny square pupils inside dark wood-brown irises.

They were also really good at getting untethered, or getting out of their goat pens (notice she's loose in the picture?) and destroying my mom's garden plants, so eventually Mom must have gotten tired of dealing with them, packing water to them, keeping them safe from mountain lions, chasing them, and dragging them back, screaming, to their pens.  If you can't imagine "screaming goats" --yeah...they're exactly that loud.

Eventually she gave up trying to fool us into drinking the milk, too, so that was the end of our goat years.

We had several more Nubians over the years, including one that rode in a playpen in the back of our van on our move from California to Idaho in 1977, but that's another story.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time Traveler

OK, I've promised to start writing some of my stories about my off-beat 70s childhood and our travels from upper-middle class New Jersey to hippied-out California to back-to-nature Idaho, and I will.

Having just spent the last 5 hours scanning photos, along with the obvious sidetrack that you'd expect when perusing decades-old photo albums, some of which are my mom's from a storage drawer here, with pictures I've either never seen, or rarely seen...I need a break to ponder how to turn any of it into something worth reading (or writing).

We lost our home and everything in it when I was 16, so pictures of our life prior to that are precious and few indeed.  Fortunately, many people in the years after the fire were kind enough to send us what photos they had taken of our lives up to that point, so we aren't without a record--it's just a very abbreviated one, photographically speaking.

All that to say...it's been sort of a long, odd day so far, and many memories have resurfaced, which is why pictures are so great; but our family's particular story ended with a fire, a divorce, and much distance (both in miles and emotions), and many of the people in the pictures have not had their own happy endings.  Many of the early pictures of my parents (before everything ran aground) have definitely caused new tears today.  In fact, much of my day has been spent staring at my computer screen, with silent tears streaming down my face.  And I'm not a cry-er, so...


I will start telling some of it, as I find the time and the words, but I'm not sure if any of it will be funny, or even worth putting out there.  I'm still on the fence about sharing it, because, really, none of it will matter to anyone but me, but *shrug*, I've been told often enough that most of my background is odd enough to be interesting, so stay tuned.  I will try and put a funny twist on most of it, or at the very least keep it brief.      

Yeah, like that's going to happen...

Two days Later P.S.:  As it turns out, I've decided it will only be the fun stuff.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Those Aren't Sequins! Remembering Our 70's Nomads

Because, some craft ideas are too good not to share... 

It was California in the 1970s, and we had what seemed like a revolving door of young, aimless people who would "flop" at our house for more or less unlimited amounts of time, from the time I was 4 until I was about 16.  Mainly I remember three young people in their early 20s in particular who were "regulars" throughout those years--a brother/sister pair named Patrick and Kitty, and their friend Diana (who was seriously odd, which is another story).
The only picture of all four of us--I was about 5.  Nice decor, huh?
I loved them. They were my babysitters.  They were my roommates.  To my 5-year-old self, they were the older siblings I never had.  They were fun and funny, and they made us laugh.  Patrick was great at tickling us til we kicked and screamed and begged for mercy.  Having him around was like living with Peter Pan.  He was never serious.  He was also great at pillow fights--the real kind, where someone's pillow is definitely going to lose some feathers.  He showed me a "crack an egg" trick, where he would have me close my eyes and konk me on the head with his knuckles (to imitate the cracking-the-egg part), then evvver so lightly drag his fingers downward, and it felt exactly like an egg being cracked and dripping down your head.

He also taught me the word "Zargamo", and that you must never, ever say it three times in a row. Never. So, of course, I loved to scream "Zargamo, ZARGAMO, ZARGAMO!" whenever he brought it up.

Yeah.  Nothing ever happened.  But when you're five, it's hilarious...

To the 5-year-old me, it was like magic.  They would just appear one evening, and stay indefinitely.  You'd hear a knock at the door, and voila--there they'd be.  Then one day I'd wake up, and they would have moved on.  Like Mary Poppins, but with no housekeeping skills. I have no idea where they went, when they weren't with us, but they were like part of our extended family for years.

The last time we had a surprise visit from one of them was when I was probably a junior in high school. I got a phone call from a man saying that we'd won a contest of some kind, and that he needed our address to deliver our prize.  It was the 80s, so of course I gave this total stranger on the phone our home address.  And driving directions.  It turned out to be Patrick, who we hadn't seen in probably 4-5 years, and he showed up bearing pizza, completely out of the blue.  I think he stayed a couple of days, (he was in town working as a JC Penney photographer)...and then we never saw him again.

 After that the three of them faded from our lives.  Only one of their individual stories ended well, so I will leave those out for now.

What popped into my head, though, while flipping through old photo albums, though, was a memory of me and Diane, sitting in a tiny room somewhere in about 1976.  She always had long fingernails, and I remember she must have been clipping them or something, but I guess she must have been saving them, because what I remember was her explaining to me how she was going to use them as some kind of art.  Like sequins.  Remember sequined...everything...from the 70s?
Yeah.  Like this, only with fingernails.  I don't even--
My 5-year-old self was super impressed by her psychedelic crafty-ness at the time, but now the idea of a fingernail-sequined wall hanging sends my Martha Stewart antennae into kind of a craft-police meltdown.  Ew.

Funny how what was probably a five-minute conversation on a random day almost 40 years ago is still in my memory bank, but I can't remember what I got for Christmas that year.  Five-year-old me must have been really impressed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day Referral and a Sneak Peek

Oh my goodness.  I've just spent almost the whole morning reading a blog I stumbled on earlier.  I should be painting and baking, but--you know how that goes...

Aside from the fact that her name is Stephanie (sistah!), she's married to a Russian, and her stories are making me nostalgic for my Polish/Russian/Czech/Lithanian roots family stories from my mom and my aunts.  Meanwhile...if you're of Eastern European descent, or you have an uncanny ability to drink straight vodka, you will love her blog:


You're welcome, and happy Valentine's Day!

P.S. - I was up very very late last night ruminating about some new family history post ideas, but they haven't come together into anything post-able yet.  There will be a three-legged goat named Rosemary involved, though-- plus, hitchhiking, growing up with an outdoor shower (and dishwashing, and toothbrushing), a mountain lion named "Kitty", hippies saving fingernail clippings for art projects, my mom climbing in and out of a van through the windows, my dad falling off a roof naked in a bathrobe, and my aunt traveling Poland in a sidecar driven by a stranger who was possibly a relative.  Also, chickens (and goats) in tents.

P.P.S.  Pretty sure those things all need to be in several different posts.

P.P.P.S.  OK!  I'm going to make pie for my sweetheart now.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

TV. THIS is Entertainment These Days? You Have GOT to be Joking.

Apparently one of the best thing on TV, these days...
Last weekend was our anniversary, and since we are fortunate enough to live near a 5-star resort, we got a room, spent way too much on a lovely dinner (another story), and generally just relaxed and enjoyed a 24-hour vacation.  The resort itself was perfect.  I don't really feel comfortable with absolute luxury...I never feel like I fit in that environment, but I love a great hotel, and this one is just right.  Somehow everything is just perfectly done, at all times, but without being lavish.  So that part was awesome.  The king-sized bed was a bit weird, because we sleep on a double, so it was odd to feel a whole bed's worth of space between us.  ("How you doing over there?")

I wonder what they'd charge if I took home the pillows?
What got me thinking, though, was the hour and a half we spent lying in our perfectly comfortable bed with four awesomely real feather pillows, flipping through station after station after station on TV, hoping desperately for something, anything, even remotely worth watching.  What ended up happening was us...staring...with our mouths sort of hanging open, at what is actually ON TV--every channel.  And this wasn't even cable.  This is what's on regular TV, all the time?
This face, pretty much the whole time...

For those who don't know me (which is most of you--hi), I have lived most of my life without TV. I've had it in segments throughout my life, but never for more than about 3 years at a stretch. Quickly calculating...(*stares into space, counting on fingers*) here's what I remember.

We had TV until I was about 4 years old, so I remember Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and The Electric Company.

We moved to Idaho from California when I was 7, built a house, and had no running water until I was about 9.  We also had no electricity until that house burned down and we moved back to civilization when I was almost 17 (also another story).  I had friends who I got off the bus with from age 7-9, while my mom worked at a restaurant they owned, so I remember after-school TV in the 70s...Flintstones, Little House, Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and Grizzly Adams, (who was always remarkably clean for living in the woods with a bear).  If she worked longer, I remember the occasional Mutual of Omaha or Disney Sunday night movie, and *M*A*S*H.  Oh, and Dukes of Hazzard, and Loony Toons on Saturday mornings.

After we moved back to a house where the light switches caused light to happen (without lighting a match), and you didn't have to turn the shower on to get wet and then turn it back off while you soaped up, (to conserve water so my dad could take his 30-minute shower), we had TV for another year or so.  I mostly just remember Tom and Jerry before school, watching football with my dad and my boyfriend (Go Steelers), Full House, Perfect Strangers, and Family Matters.  "Did I do that?" is still a legit excuse in our house.

No TV again until after Shane and I got married when I was almost 21, when we had it for one year, then no TV or radio for 4-1/2 years while we lived in NE Washington.  While we lived there, our main form of entertainment was to lie on the floor and watch the 5-10 raccoons that would come every night to fight over the dog food we put out for them, right outside our sliding glass door.   Then we moved to southern Oregon, where we had cable TV for 3-4 years (my longest stretch), but I mostly just remember A&E and the History Channel and Barney for the kids.

Over the last 14 years back in Idaho, we tried cable for about a year, twice, but we haven't had it for years now.

MY POINT IS this.  Guys.  WHAT THE HECK?????

I always expect to be shocked and disgusted by what's on TV these days, but this was just beyond...   I'm (almost) speechless.  Here's a quick channel surf of what we saw:

*click*  Two guys staring at each other.  Suddenly one lunges for the other's neck.  With his teeth.  Ugh...vampires.  Really?

*click*  Extreme bloody closeup of a young man being beaten up or assaulted or something, complete with horrific sounds.

*click*  Cop show...

*click*  TLC.  "This giant gaping wound in your groin is going to need stitches" (zoom in on wound).  Ugh. Really?

*click*  What looks like 3 guys in drag, doing a talk show.  Wait.  WHAT?  Those were GUYS???

*click*  Forensics show about a man, his wife, and his two little girls who were murdered and left in their burned house...

*click*  Lawyer drama..."We have to back him up on this, or we'll all go down.  Right or wrong, we have to cover for him."

*click*  "Have you ever killed a man, Joey?"

*click*  A man opening a suitcase on his lap, which holds a gun, a silencer, etc.  He puts on black gloves...

*click*  Cop show...

*click*  Reality show (what ARE these??) where a group of people are screaming the F word at each other so often that we can't tell what's going on, other than it's OK to scream the F word at people..."F--- off.  Don't effing tell me you're my friend.  Shut the F--- UP!!"   Oww.  My ears...Way to stay classy, people.  No WONDER everyone thinks it's fine to scream obscenities and be rude to anyone who upsets you.  Apparently this is how we deal with other humans now, right?

*click*  Reality show where a male nurse is trying to deal with a man who speaks no English, who has wandered into the ER naked, except for a camp stove somehow stuck on--(not his finger).  No one can help him; the doctors are stumped, the nurses are hysterically laughing, the patient doesn't know what's going on, and the fireman they call to come try and help, is such a wuss that he has to sit down with a trash can between his knees and an ice pack on his head.  They may need to admit him now.  He might actually pass out...

*click*  Another reality show about a barefoot, bearded mountain man who lives in the woods and avoids people and civilization and only goes to town for candles and lamp oil once a year. Somehow, though, there is a camera following him around, so he can't be TOO shy, right?  We watched this one the longest (maybe because I related to him the best?), but it got boring watching him keep diving off the paved road (barefoot) to hide inside a stump when some "city folk" hikers tromped through his woods...or a car went past.  If it were a *real* show about a mountain man, it'd just be a blank forest.  Because *real* mountain men would never let a camera follow them around.  I know.  I grew up with one...Maybe that's where my dad's black helicopter phobia came from:  Maybe they were just trying to get real mountain men on camera.  We could've been RICH...but I digress.

You get the jist, though...

And between EVERY *click* is a commercial.  What we find stunning is that every commercial, no matter what it's for (and sometimes, it's actually hard to tell what they're selling), has the basic undercurrent of nonstop sexual innuendo.  Every.  One.

Shampoo commercial:  The girl appears to be naked in a field, but her hair is great.  Also, they actually have the hashtag on the screen that says # getnaked.   Huh?

Beer commercials:  Well, duh.  You've probably seen enough bar scenes and wet T-shirt contests.

Various Valentine's Day commercials:  Naked girls in high heels, holding giant strawberry signs in front of them, advertising...I don't remember.  Fruit baskets? Chocolate dipped strawberries for $40/dozen?

An actual ad for an adult-products store.  On TV.  Before midnight.  I'm not prude enough to have never been inside one, but to have a commercial for it?  We were like..."Is this cable?  No. OMG.  Our kids are in the next room, with this same TV on."  *gagging noise*

Not to mention all the "stay tuned for" sneak peeks for shows that would be on next week.  I don't even...Just--wow.  Craziness.

They even managed to make fast food commercials into something sexy.  Which is...not...what I think of, when I think of what's in fast food, or who's eating it.

I could go on.  We flipped and flipped and flipped, and didn't end up watching more than glimpses of any one channel, hoping in vain for anything worth taking in.

We found not one thing.  Not. One.  Oh, wait.  Nick at Nite had reruns of "Friends" on.  Which I guess is what passes for kids' entertainment these days?  Okaaaaayyy.  *dubious frown*  Also, I think Gilligan's Island was actually on, the next morning, as we were checking out...

What I'm trying to say is this.  Of course, I understand there are (I hope) probably still things to watch on TV that are worth taking in, in terms of entertainment, that encompass humor, love, enrichment, history, the arts, science, cooking, Martha Stewart's way to do everything, etc.  What I do NOT understand is how THIS steady flow of just absolute trashy garbage is OK.  Is this what's streaming on everyone's screens, for how many hours a day, average?  And we wonder why our kids are turning out the way they are??

It's like the boiling the frog analogy we've all heard.  If you put a frog in a pot and turn up the heat, it will boil to death and not jump out, because it's a gradual heating up, but if you throw him in the boiling water, he'll bail...yada yada.  

Having never sat through the gradual escalation to nonstop trash and violence, you can't believe how shocking it is to see what passes for television programming now.  What's next? Real gladiators again?  Actual murders? (or, do we already do that? I'm pretty out of touch.)

I don't even know how to end this post.  With a plea for everyone to please, please, stop?  Ask yourself, what are you (and your kids) watching?  Ask yourself if you'd feel comfortable watching it with your mom?  Your grandma?  Your pastor?  Look around.  Get off the couch and do something with your kids.  Read a book.  Learn about history.  Go for a walk.  Ask you spouse how their day was, and actually TALK about that.  Remember talking?

We laughed about it, there in the hotel, and finally turned the TV off, but really, it's just sad that this is what our country is doing with their spare time.

If you want to change your life--people, turn off your TVs.

wow-- I started out writing this, just wanting to say "wow" about TV these days, and it turned me all emotional...

Miss you, little buddy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Exactly The Same...Only, Not

I love our conversations in the car.  The other day we were behind a new, freshly washed champagne beige Toyota pickup.

My oldest:  Ooh, what a pretty truck.

Me:  Umm.  Yeah.  It's really...clean.

Her:  It reminds me of Iron Man.

Me:  What? Was Ironman gold?

Her:  ...Except if it was red.  And not a truck.  And could fly.  But the red lights are neat.

Me:  Also, if it had Robert Downey in it.  Otherwise, it's exactly like Ironman.

Yep.  This has Avengers written all over it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

One Year Later--A Look Back Down the Rabbit Hole

Best not to look back.  Right?
Being an insomniac sometimes leads to having lots of possibly meaningful things clattering around in your head at 1:00 a.m.  Sometimes I find that if a particular train of thought won't come to rest, then I should probably write it down, or suffer watching the sun come up, while getting no sleep at all.  Last night was one of those nights.

The last few nights the thought that comes to mind as soon as my head hits the pillow, is that next week is an anniversary of sorts.  It's been about a year since I basically turned in the keys to my beloved BMW X5 and the wedding and custom cake bakery that we built, after I had worked in the wedding industry in this area for years, and having finally decided to Take It To The Next Level.  It started out as a concrete and stud-wall blank slate of an empty space, and I used my own (as well as my husband's) blood, sweat, tears, and hard-earned savings to dream up, design, and sketch floorplans, interior walls, dimensions, and light fixtures.  Next we primed, masked, and painted, then oversaw the finish work. 
I personally ordered and then installed, or oversaw installation, of every appliance, counter, trim piece, cabinet, table, work space, and sink.  I personally picked out the paint colors, and we painted the ceilings and walls ourselves.  I personally chose the furniture and d├ęcor, and arranged it where I wanted.  I personally chose the finish for the stained concrete floor and the color of the miniblinds. I personally covered the kitchen space with a coat of industrial garage floor textural paint.  That space absolutely reflected me, and I basically lived there for 4 solid years, sometimes 16 hours a day, many nights until 1 a.m.
I also custom ordered the X5 at the same time--colors, package options, everything, right from Germany, for my 39th birthday, so yeah…I miss that too.  Probably won't ever do that again, either.
(I thought about posting pictures of the shop and the car here, but I think it's too depressing for this post.  You can find them in some of the other 'cake decorating' posts like here and here, if you're curious. They were lovely.)
But--the bakery and my wedding and event cake schedule took over my life.  It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, to lock the door and walk away from it.  I am surprised that the exact date that I peeled my signage off the interior door, locked it behind me, and drove away for the last time…escapes me.  Odd.  One usually remembers important milestone dates; but maybe those hard days--you just want them behind you…So, no, I don't remember the exact date that we emptied everything out of the space that had been my literal second home and a huge part of my identity for such a long time, and went home.
It's been an interesting year, since then.  Yes, it was hard.  I've had times where I cried until I thought I might actually throw up.  Conversely, I have never so intensely enjoyed every hour of so much personal time:  time to relax, time to spend with my family, time to sit on the back deck with a book on a Friday in July, with no wedding cakes to work on.  This year I also got back in touch with my garden and our land, which I had missed so much, and with all the other things I enjoy doing, which had been on absolute pause while I did nothing but meet with brides and work on wedding cakes.  My life consisted of sketching cakes, designing cakes, baking cakes, decorating cakes, delivering cakes.  You get the idea.  Lots of cake. And nothing else.
Last night, I was lying in bed at 12:40 a.m., waiting to sleep, and enjoying the view of our property through my bedroom window, by winter moonlight.  A dense fog was creeping in across the heavily snow-blanketed fields that surround our house, shrouding the garden in repose, where last year's Brussels sprouts stems still lean at odd angles after the deer finished them off.  I watched it drift in around the frozen pond and the blue spruce trees that we planted so many years ago, all now weighed down under heavy new snow--a quiet otherworldly scene in black and white.  It felt like a silent safety net around this little patch of the earth that has been a solace and a refuge to our family for so long, and looking out at it from under a heap of cozy layers of sheets, blankets, comforters, and quilts in shades of my favorite red, I felt blessed to be free of the stress of that other life, and to feel so…present…here, now.  I also wished again that I could sleep, but this schedule is nothing new to me.
The view from my pillow...imagine it by moonlight.  And with less cat.
Still.  Being happy where I am now doesn't stop me from glancing back now and then.  I'm pretty sure I won't turn into a pillar of salt for looking over my shoulder, and it wouldn't be honest to say that I don't miss it sometimes.  Very occasionally (really rarely--maybe it's still too soon to look too often), I will come across pictures of the shop, or the cake display on the wall that Shane built for me, or the car that carried so many cakes to so many weddings, and there is a sudden swell of grief that almost takes my breath away, and I feel tears instantly ready to fall (Damn you, tear ducts! Stop it! I don't cry!)  Then I remind myself what I've gained, for what I gave up, and I am also heart-wrenchingly glad to have been here for my family (and myself) this last year.  I was so grateful for the freedom to work outside in our gardens last summer, to feel dirt on my hands and the sun on my shoulders, to be tired after a day in the garden (sore, but in a good way), and to enjoy working around the plants in the garden and see them produce the fruits and vegetables that we are enjoying with every meal now, in the deepest winter.

Of course I miss the shop.  When you build something like that from the ground up and design every inch of it, it has its own heartbeat.  It becomes part of you and part of who you are.  I have no desire to start over, or do a "few cakes now and then".  None.  I guess maybe, sure, I could have tried harder to find a way to make it work and keep going, but it was sucking the life out of me, and I was starting to hate it, even though I loved the creative outlet, income, and, I suppose, the status that it afforded. 
I miss the wedding industry.  I miss the ever-changing wedding trends to keep up with, and new techniques to master.  I miss my artist-self's ability to find inspiration for cakes everywhere, and the creative challenge of turning out a perfect and artistic wedding or event cake for someone's special day.  I miss the huge sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done, when the cake is delivered, and it's exactly what the bride dreamed of.  
I miss seeing my work in photo spreads in local and national magazines and on wedding blogs.  I miss the reputation of being one of the area's top wedding vendors. I was on the verge of sort of a wider national name for myself when I quit, so there's that to wonder about--what if? At the date of my last and biggest photo layout in a national cake magazine, featuring a bio about me (and a PICTURE of me, omg)...the shop was actually already closed, which was surreal, at best.  That particular cake is still gathering dust upstairs; I can't bring myself to throw it in the trash, where the others all went.  

I loved all the vendors and our collaborative efforts and camaraderie on bridal shows and photo shoots.  I miss that sense of community and dedication to our industry.
I miss my vendor friends, who, as it turns out, have disappeared altogether, so maybe I should say they were acquaintances, or "business contacts", but I guess they weren't actually friends.  When you step out of an industry, it definitely goes on without you, as I knew it would. I wasn't quite expecting the actual people to disappear, too--but, no...it's not truly a surprise.  Well, OK, yeah, it is kind of a surprise, but--eh *shrug*--I guess we wouldn't have anything to talk about now any more, anyway.  Maybe it doesn't help to talk to someone who's left your industry and is glad to be out of it.  No one wants to hear that. 

Me:  "Yeah…my life is so much more fulfilling now that I'm not in your line of work anymore." 

Them:  "(nothing)"

 Maybe it's hard to imagine that someone can purposely leave an industry when they are at the top of their game, and have that be OK.  It would have been nice, though, to have any of them, even just once, reach out with a phone call or an email (or heck, a text) to say, "Hey.  Miss you. How's it going?"  Not surprising, but…yeah, disappointing.  I guess we all want to be liked for ourselves, too, not just because we're "useful industry connections". 
It's all good, though.  My real friends are still here, who loved me before I was a cake decorator, while I was a cake decorator, and after I quit, and I love them right back. 
What I don't miss is the hours and the lack of sleep and the lack of just TIME to be with my family.  Time to do all the other things I have always loved…traveling and gardening and reading, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, painting, sewing, baking (for us), canning, entertaining, swimming and working out, and yes, even simple things like keeping my own house clean.  Now, I have time to do all those things, plus I can be on hand for my kids' school events, help with their projects, and I even can attend every single volleyball and basketball game now, without it being a juggling act and a guilt trip because, OMG, I should be working on a CAKE.
(I know…rambling…but I wrote this at 1:30 a.m., so give me a break, ok? I'm thinking out loud…)
I wanted to leave on a positive note, and what originally got me out of bed and started on writing this post was actually the memory of my last cake, last year.  It was a wall-hanger, and it was sort of my creative swan song.  It also epitomized everything I loved, and everything I hated about cakes.  Here's the story.  I'd try to be brief, but you already know that isn't going to happen.  Thanks for listening, though.
It was for a lovely lady, a friend of a dear old friend, whose mother was turning 85.  She was an adorable Polish woman named Ivanka, whose Polish accent reminded me so much of my grandmother that I wanted her to come home and read me a bedtime story, every night, forever. (She declined.) She had always been an artist, so they wanted her cake to somehow incorporate that aspect of her life…and could I somehow use her paintings as inspiration?  So I designed a square cake and did my best to recreate her paintings, one on each side of the cake.  They were impressionistic and very modern-art-ish and colorful, and it was a cake painter's dream. 

The tricky part was that:  1) It was due on our anniversary.  2)  The date also happened to be the day of our school's biggest fundraiser of the year, for our oldest child's senior trip, which I was helping organize, and 3)  That fundraiser was slated to begin at with everyone meeting on site at 7:00 a.m.  I knew I would have to break away from the fundraiser to go deliver this cake around 1 p.m. that day, so it had to be done the night before.
I baked and covered the tiers with fondant in the two days before the event, then stacked the tiers the night before.  I didn't even start to paint this cake until 11:30 p.m. that night (No--I don't know why, but it's not unusual, when you're working on cakes).  It took me until 4:55 a.m. to finish painting it.  My alarm clock was scheduled to go off at 5:45 a.m., so I finished painting it and laid on the couch for 30 minutes; then I heard everyone's alarm clocks start going off, and we all got up and left for the fundraiser.   I had catnapped for 30 minutes before starting our anniversary day…
Here are the pictures of her artwork, side-by-side with the cake sides that each painting was converted into, after 5 hours of painting...
Her painting, above left, and the design I painted on the cake, at right and below:
Below--another side, painting at left, cake at right:
Tentacle painting at left, cake at right, below:
Last side, painting at left, cake at right:
If you're a cake decorator, you can just imagine how fun this was!

I loved it, even though at about 3 a.m. while painting, I was getting sort of delirious, and I was all… "I can feel what she was thinking when she painted this.  I know her."  No idea what that meant, but at 3 a.m., it seemed pretty profound, you know?
I survived the day and the fundraiser, and delivered the cake to the party for the family, and it was so worth it, to see the look on the daughter's face when she saw it, and then I got to be there when they led her mother in for the surprise of it, covered with my rendition of four of her paintings, one of each side of the cake.  I got a hug (and a lot of money).  She was the star of the day, and it was the perfect cake for her.  And it was the perfect ending for me, too.  One last blast of creative and bittersweet energy went into a cake that kept me awake all night, left me staggeringly tired for the whole day, dragging myself through a day filled with 30 teenagers and a fundraising effort that raised $3,400.00 in 6 hours, but also deeply gratified to the depth of my artist's soul (and my artist's vanity), while simultaneously robbing my husband and me of the usual way we celebrate our anniversary--together, alone, and not exhausted…
This year, I promise--we are spending it differently.  And there will not be cake involved, unless someone else bakes it and delivers it up with room service.
The moral?  I don't know.  I guess it would be that even though, yes, I sometimes miss the one thing I gave up…then I think of all the many things I've been blessed to have back, and I remember that, no, I'm not sorry after all. 

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has ever found themselves looking back on a chapter of their life and finding that it was very much like a trip down the rabbit hole:  full of odd experiences, some new friends, some scary people, and then suddenly--whoosh--you're back up for air and back to your real life again, and wondering, "Did that really all just happen?"
What...in the heck...was THAT all about?