Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Contrary to Popular Belief

Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated at my sister's house.  We are blessed to have many of our family members within a short driving distance, so it is not uncommon to have 20-30 assorted family and friends get together for the holidays.  She does Thanksgiving and I do Christmas.  Creating (and eating) desserts is a passion of mine, so I have been dubbed the Queen of Desserts by my family.  The expectation is that I make ALL holiday desserts, so even though my sister does Thanksgiving, I do the desserts.  Queen of Desserts is a role I enjoy and one that I have learned to take very seriously.  I didn't quite understand the importance of my role until one year I decided to make an authentic Pilgrim dessert instead of the anticipated myriad of sinfully rich confections.  I am unsure if the recipe I cut out of the local newspaper omitted an ingredient, but let me just say that the not sweet brown cornbread like mush casserole dish that I presented to them did not go over well.  Grown women broke into tears and my son's disappointment was so intense that he continues to bring it up year after year.  "Remember the year that my Mom ruined Thanksgiving?".  I have learned from that day.  I get it.

Part of the fun for me in my role as Queen of Desserts, is getting the opportunity to try new recipes I have collected throughout the year.  I had narrowed my choices down to four for this Thanksgiving-pumpkin cheesecake with a praline caramel topping, a fudge brownie like tart with a mint center and ganache top, a dark chocolate chess pie and some lime cookie truffles covered in white chocolate.  I was ready. My adult son also loves cooking and is typically my right hand when it comes time to send the family into an intense Thanksgiving sugar rush. He was also ready.

We had the entire day to prepare these chosen desserts.  I tackled the pumpkin cheesecake while he put together the chess pie.  No problems.  I moved on to the fudge tart and he began the lime truffles.  I love most anything citrus and lime is one of my favorites.  This truffle recipe sounded amazing and it had rave reviews. Basically, a recipe of baked sugar cookies is crumbled and mixed with cream cheese, shaped into balls and covered in white chocolate.  Yum.  The sugar cookies could be from a homemade recipe, a mix, or even slice and bake ones.  I wanted easy, so I was disappointed when I discovered the slice and bake ones were all sold out at the grocery store.  I remembered I actually had a sugar cookie mix in my cupboard, so this was no big deal.  I had skimmed the recipe earlier and instructed my son to bake the cookies first as they had to be baked and crumbled.  I continued with the fudge tart and pretended not to notice his eyes cutting at me in disbelief as I handed him a box of organic sugar cookies mix that looked like it came out of rations for World War II.  Yes, it was on sale some year ago...

I finished the mint fudge tart and the sugar cookies were baked, cooled and ready to go when I picked up the lime truffle recipe.  The cookies smelled sort of odd, but since I really didn't know what organic sugar cookies should smell like I just chose to ignore this.  Plus, I now had something to prove-organic sugar cookies from World War II are just fine!  As I was reading the recipe, I realized a mistake had been made.  I so wanted to blame it on my son, but he had not even been given the opportunity to read the recipe.  Evidently, we were supposed to add the juice and grated zest from a lemon and a lime to the cookie dough BEFORE it was baked.  Bummer. 

My son and I are similar in so many ways.  Sometimes this is good and other times-well, not so much.  We are both extremely thrifty, hate to waste anything,  and being eternal optimists, we are positive we can fix everything.  Humor and intelligence are cure-alls for all of life's problems.  We are both also very convincing when we believe we have the answers.  When I informed him we had made a mistake, he didn't skip a beat to convince me that it was not a problem, in fact it would be better to add the juice and zest now after baking-it would only make them more flavorful.  I thought they might be soggy-a typical end result of mixing crispy crumbs with liquid.  My first impulse was to dump the odd smelling World War II organic crumbs and forget recipe number 4, but he was very persuasive.  They would be better, smoother and more lime tasting.  So, we rolled our soggy war crumbs and zest balls together and placed them neatly on a cookie sheet.  They looked like little meatballs with an egg wash glaze.  If we chill them long enough they will be fine...

The lime truffles recipe called for white chocolate candy coating.  I had several humongous bags of white chocolate chips that I had gotten at a closeout price.  They would work just fine.  The balls hardened to the point we thought we could dip them in the white chocolate, so I began the melting process.  The recipe clearly gave instructions to either slowly melt the chocolate over a double boiler or use the microwave at 50% power checking and stirring every 20 seconds.  My chips were frozen, so I used the bigger is better theory-100% power, 2 minutes.  When I took the bowl out to stir it, I couldn't believe it hadn't melted all the way, so I gave it another minute.  I took it out to stir it again, and it all just followed the spoon around in a big odd dry looking clump.  Two intelligent minds aren't stumped very long-it needed  milk since it wasn't candy coating, only chips.  More microwaving and now the milk is just laying on top of the white clump and won't mix in.  It needs a double boiler!  So we move it to the stove, heat it over a double boiler and now we have a huge ball of play dough.  The internet tells us we have "seized" the chocolate.  One humongous expensive bag of white chocolate chips that now looks like a lumpy glob of play dough heads for the trash.  Clean slate.  New industrial sized bag of chips goes into the pan over a double boiler as we have convinced each other that the microwave was the beginning of the problem.  I watch in horror as the huge ball of play dough comes back and that is the last of the chips stash.  Seized again!  Oil-we need a little oil.  Oil and water won't mix and neither will oil and white chocolate play dough.  There was no way we could dip the soggy war crumb balls in this huge glob of seized chocolate so....we will make squares!  I splat half the blob of chocolate seize on some parchment paper, put another piece of paper over it assuming I will roll it out but lo and behold the encased heat melts it!  I have to act fast, so I push it all flat, scalding the palms of my hands as I go.  Quick!  Give me the soggy war balls and we will roll them.  The sogginess of the balls prevented the now melted chocolate on the parchment paper from sticking so the only choice was to figure out how to pour it.  All the balls are quickly thrown on paper and smashed flat with my son's non-scalded palms to make chocolate glazing simpler.  The then melted chocolate has now begun to harden on the paper so a knife is used to scrape it off and each smashed soggy ball gets a dollop of chocolate paste.  The first survivors have hardened so I venture a taste.  They still smell odd.  They are like nothing I have ever tasted smothered in white chocolate paste.  Then it dawned on me-we had also forgotten the cream cheese.  We had taken World War II organic sugar cookie crumbs, taken all the crunch life out of them with undiluted lime and lemon juice, thrown in some sandy citrus zest for good measure and attempted to convince ourselves that we had made truffles.  Contrary to popular belief, even smothering this soggy mess in chocolate did not help.  Thinking back, seized or not, chocolate can not fix a botched recipe, forgotten ingredients or the possibility of a World War II organic sugar cookie mix being rancid... 




In the future, I believe I will pay more attention to Kenny Rogers  ....know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run.....




       

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Right Now is My Least Favorite Season

Why are these words tumbling uncontrollably out of my mouth?!?  I love everything about fall~

I love the crisp air, Halloween, the beautiful mountain colors.  I love all the holidays all bunched together and the time spent making joyous memories with family and friends.  Halloween is the beginning of a holiday cluster that lasts all the way through New Year's Eve or even Valentine's Day.  So what's my problem with this time of year?  "Those People" that are attempting to turn this happy holiday cluster into a cluster f@%# - sorry, it just came out.........

Ok.  There's no question, I get it.  I understand marketing, Black Friday, everyone scrambling for their piece of the retail pie.  I also participate to a certain degree with my Etsy Shop.  But, it seems no one is following the #1 rule-CHRISTMAS CAN NOT BEGIN UNTIL AFTER THANKSGIVING!!  Who gave anyone permission to change that rule??  While we are at it, let's just change the name to Hallowthankmas... 

Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all happen in about two days in the retail world.  It absolutely amazes me that some of these major marts can be all about Halloween one day with tons of displays and floor space and on November 1st, everything has vanished, paper turkeys are everywhere and Santa and all his trimmings is sneaking up the back of the store.  I can only imagine what happens between closing time on October 31st and opening time on November 1st.  I envision a hoard of mart employees all running and yelling at each other with broken bits of the clashing holidays all over the floor.  "Hurry!!  We have to go faster!  If you run across any freakin' candy corn-you've got to just eat it for God's sake!!"

It is extremely difficult not to get caught up in this mass produced holiday frenzy.  When I start hearing Christmas carols on the radio the day after Halloween, my very passive self wants to beat the stuffings out of my radio.  Yes, I probably lose control of my words then also.  Thanksgiving quickly becomes the red headed step-child and it's all about Christmas.  Everywhere.  What should be a wonderful, happy time shared with loved ones can quickly become a season full of frenzy and angst.  "Those People" are in the radio, on television, in the stores.  Have you finished your shopping?  You need to start some holiday baking.  You will forget someone, so it's smart to have extra unisex gifts ready.  Martha makes her gift tags after she makes the paper.  Why not make homemade Christmas ornaments this year?  It's your turn to have a Christmas party, you know.  My Christmas tree theme is...what's your's?  You should join a gym now, because you will get fat....

This holiday cluster, I vow to not let "Those People" clutter my head with anything that changes the meaning of these holidays for me.  Thanksgiving will be a special day unto itself and I will give thanks for all the people that have blessed my life.  I vow not to swear at my radio when a Christmas carol sneaks out before I can flip it to another station.  I vow to try not to have this time of year my least favorite season.  What advice do I have?  Humor helps.  And maybe a little wassail.  Yeah, humor and wassail as often as you can get away with it.  There's just something about hot alcohol.... 

  
Looks like Thanksgiving couldn't hold his tongue either... 


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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Bucket List

So, do you have a bucket list?  I never thought much about bucket lists and all the buzz around them until I realized that I, too, actually had a bucket list.  I never consciously sat down with pen and paper intending to make a list and fill my bucket-sky diving, travel to exotic places, save the world...But, the bucket still existed in the recesses of my mind.  Everyone has things they would like to do or see sometime in their lifetime, so we all actually have a bucket list even though we may not recognize it.  Sometimes, you don't even know something is in your bucket until you are faced with something that makes it bubble to the top and then you are smacked in the face with the challenge to lighten that bucket.

The bucket is different for each individual and what it looks like greatly depends on your personality.  My personality is sort of willy nilly and my drum tends to beat all over the place.  I have to admit I don't always think things through.  I'm not really impulsive, I just don't always recognize that something may be dangerous, stupid, embarrassing etc.  Given my personality, over my lifetime if there was something I really wanted to do I just took the steps needed to do it.  For me, the whole concept of the bucket list revolves around pushing the envelope a little past comfort zones.  "I would like to do that but...."   It's the buts that get the item in the bucket for me.  Get beyond the buts, get over the buts and push yourself to just do it.  Another aspect of bucket list worthy items for me is the magnitude or scope of the task.  For example, I would like to see the Grand Canyon.  That doesn't make the bucket list cut for me.  I would like to visit every National Park-this is on my bucket list.

Recently, a bucket list item unexpectedly bubbled to the top and smacked me in the face.  Flash mobs. I have always loved the whole idea of flash mobs and thoroughly enjoy watching videos of ones that have been successfully pulled off.  As I have watched, I have often thought how fun it would be to  participate in a flash mob-an easy flash mob.  Maybe everyone waves at the same time.  Or jumps out of somewhere.  Or yells or something.  The problem was, I was asked to participate in a dancing flash mob.  Ah........No!!  I was coaxed and coaxed and I finally caved.  Ok.  I had to mentally keep pushing myself to actually participate in the 4 weeks of dance practices.  When the opportunity comes to lighten your bucket you've got to do it.  I think that's in the bucket rules somewhere.  I do have the required rythm to dance, love to dance for fun, but this was Michael Jackson's Thriller routine to be performed at our town's Halloweenfest.  In front of potentially hundreds of gawking spectators.  Good grief...

The routine was harder than I ever imagined and I felt like I just wasn't ever going to master it.  Around the 3rd week, something kicked in and I seemed to be getting it.  By week 4 I felt confident that I had learned the routine and practiced as often as possible with a dvd given to participants to take home.  But, I never really allowed myself to think of actually DOING it.  You know how that is-if you don't allow something to come to the front of your mind where you have to actually think about it, then it doesn't really exist....

The eve of the Big Day came and I hadn't even started creating a zombie costume.  As I was outside in the dark trying to find sticks and leaves to attach to an old shirt with the glue gun that was heating up  inside, the reality of what I was doing the next day pushed its way to the front of my mind with a mighty force.  OMG!  Why do I do these things to myself??  Cold feet appeared like an unannounced winter freeze.  I'm in a frenzy trying to create a zombie costume from things on hand and fallen debris from the yard and I'm starting to freak a little.  I had this ridiculous idea that burning the shirt would create a good effect.  Let me just say that burning 50/50 polyester is NOT a good idea under any circumstance.  I have no idea what I expected to happen, but what I ended up with could not possibly have been what I intended to create.  50/50 doesn't actually burn, it melts, so wherever I put fire, that piece of the shirt just disappeared into thin air.  The only appropriate shirt I had for a zombie costume was shrinking right before my eyes and for some unknown reason I kept trying thinking it would work.  Every time I did a little more of the shirt vanished.  Panic was setting in and the fumes I created from burning polyester in a closed environment really weren't helping the situation. Can you say fu@# it when it's in the bucket??  I am quite sure "NO" would clearly be in the bucket list rule book.  So, I did what most women do when panic is setting in-I went to bed...

The flash mob happened and I have no idea how my performance was.  But you know, it doesn't really matter.  I pushed the envelope, I did it.  If something bubbles to the top of your bucket list and smacks you in the face-do it.  The feeling of accomplishment is worth every second of the panic created by pushing beyond your comfort zone.  Bucket list-Flash Mob:







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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Have you ever felt, um, you know...not so fresh?

Let's all just have a little chat as we enjoy our international coffees.  You know, like we often do when we talk about feminine products...

My Mom has reached the age where she needs a little help to remain independent.  My siblings and I help her with things like shopping, showering, etc. so she is able to remain in her own home.  Recently, I was on shower duty and was surprised to see that she used feminine deodorant powder.  She's 84 years old, my Dad has passed on and unless she is sneaking out at night, her dance card is completely empty.  She bathes regularly and knows no man "in the Biblical" sense.  Why would she ever feel she needs to use feminine deodorant powder??  Marketing.  Damn good marketing. 

Women could never get through the woes of womanhood without many different sizes and shapes of products for all the different days.  Regular and super will never again be adequate for the job.  There are pencils to torpedoes and if you use too much you will get toxic shock syndrome but if you use too little, well you have used too little.  You must have a stock of all sizes to make sure you always have the  perfectly correct sizes.  If you prefer pads, the same holds true and you need to have a plethora of sizes and thicknesses and you might even require wings to get the job done.  The first time I ever saw the commercial where the pad with wings was flying around like a bird, I was sitting on my couch with my teenage son.  Neither of us said a word and we both pretended the other one wasn't there...There are light day products for light days, regular day products for moderate days, super products for heavy days, or actually you may leak something any day so you should just go ahead and where a panty liner every day of your life. 

A woman needs to do many things and purchase many products to be pleasant for and keep a man or even be able to stand being around herself for God's sake.  She must bathe with special soap, frequently cleanse internally, use special sprays, powders and deodorized products for her special time of the month.  There's so much to remember to do and purchase to keep "it" under control, it's a wonder we have the nerve to leave our homes at all.  It would probably be more prudent to stay home when we are having "our friend", not leave our beds and surround ourselves in a shroud of darkness until it passes.  Then we can put the trunk full of products away, use double the amount of cleanses, sprays and powders to get presentable for the world again and re-enter society.  I've often wondered if we shouldn't just stitch the damn thing closed and be done with it....

Marketing Boomer Babies Upcycles is hard work and requires much more time than I ever imagined when I started out on this adventure.  There's SEO, metatags, relevancy, etsylush, photography, relisting, facebook, backlinks, blogs etc., etc.  Etsy is nothing like Ebay where you just throw up a listing, do nothing and  bidders are just there at the final hour.  I have no desire to leave the refined atmosphere of Etsy for the rabid pigpile huge yardsale atmosphere of Ebay, but I must admit it was easier on Ebay to put a little jingle in my pocket.  Etsy shops take a tremendous amount of committment and time to make them work.  I'd like to meet the marketing team that convinced women that they are stinky, smelly, oozing, leaky, vile out of control creatures that absolutely must purchase an arsenal of products to ever have one ounce of confidence in themselves.  I'd like to be able to quit my day job and take off with Sputnik......














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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do We Really Need So Many Choices??

I am not a shopper. More than likely, the testosterone level in my hormone mix that makes my heart race a little when I see heavy yellow equipment or power tools contributes to my lack of excitement about this sport. I shop like a man-know what you want, get in, don't look anyone in the eyes, get out and go home. The exception to this would be thrift store shopping but I really don't consider that shopping at all. Thrift store shopping is more of a game or a treasure hunt where you always have a chance to win the prize of the day. Very different.

Since I am not a shopper, I am sure it comes as no surprise that I am not into the whole social aspect associated with grocery shopping. I don't want to be there at all, so I surely don't want to park my monster pot metal cart in the middle of the aisle to chat while my frozen food is melting. Get in, get out, go home. Yes, it has briefly crossed my mind to ram the two ladies with my monster cart as they are blocking the aisle chatting about a reality tv show. Fortunately, I have learned to control such impulses. Maybe horns on shopping carts would be a good idea. Even if people don't stop to chat, it's against human nature for them not to do the quick sideways look into your cart to get a glimpse into your personal life. Aha! I see that full fat icecream nestled among those Lean Cuisines...Avid thrift store shoppers are completely opposite of grocery store shoppers. There's no chatting or visitng. A quick hello with no eye contact is the most that ever happens in this arena and neither person physically stops. If you stop, you lose your position and another rabid thrift store addict will get ahead and be first to eyeball "the great find".

Since I live by myself, my grocery shopping is very limited. I typically only pick up a few items at a time. I'm in and I'm out. Nice. Recently, I had company stay with me so I decided to pick up some orange juice which is something I don't normally purchase. One of the most popular grocery stores in my area is the size of a strip mall. I virtually never shop there because of its humongous size and invariably I forget one item that just happens to be all the way back on the other side of the store. Until they install motorized aisles or an underground subway system, this will never be my store of choice. On this particular day, it happened to be the closest option,so I popped in to get the juice.

When I was growing up, there was one kind of orange juice. Frozen. You popped off the metal circle on top of the paper cylinder, scooped out the frozen concentrate with a spoon, almost burned your fingers from the intense cold, added so many cans of water and voila! You had some off tasting bitter liquid that we called orange juice. I am not sure if it really was bitter or if my Mom added something to it that made it taste more like grapefruit juice than orange juice. She fooled none of us kids when she fortified her mashed potatoes with turnips. That was just cruel. We all loved creamy, moldable mashed potatoes. I would fashion mine into a volcano, use a spoon to make a well on top, add the butter and wait for it to melt into lava. Kids had wild imaginations back then because we hardly even had television, never mind all the electronic amusements children of today can't seem to live without. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that first creamy butter drenched bite was laced with bitter stringy chunks of turnip. Not funny.

I prefer not to use frozen orange juice, so I headed over to the already made variety. There were cooler doors after cooler doors of orange juice choices. No pulp, 2 pieces of pulp, some pulp, lots of pulp, move your bowels pulp, OMG, now that's what I'm talking about! pulp, ridiculous pulp, go get your knife pulp, added calcium, nothing added, fresh squeezed, not from concentrate, from concentrate, added vitamins, with tangerine, store brand, major brands, etc., etc., etc. I was so overwhelmed I just stood there in awe. As I began narrowing down my choices, reading all the possibilities, I just started giggling.

My walk toward the checkout led me past the bread aisle. I mean that literally. There was an entire aisle devoted only to bread. We had two types of bread when I was a child-the dry bread my Mom bought with crusts so dense I swear they could cut your lip and Wonder Bread that my best friend was so lucky to have. I remember the first time I ate Wonder Bread at her house. Her Mom even cut the crusts off and it tasted like candy. When it mixed with saliva, it turned into a ball of putty that stuck to the roof of my mouth until I released it with a push of my tongue. Each bite was a little piece of heaven. Back in "those days", we just never had choices like we do today. Grocery stores were more like corner markets. They were small with limited choices but completely adequate. If you came in for ketchup, you might get 2 choices, if it was bath soap, maybe 3-Ivory, Yellow Dial or Cashmere Bouquet. Limited choices certainly simplified shopping. It is my understanding that Europeans still shop this way. Nice. I often wonder, do we really need so many choices? 












Just maybe we do.........................

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Things Your Mother Never Told You About Aging

Women of yesterday politely kept secrets from the next generation of females.  For example, the pain of childbirth was undisclosed.  The truth was hidden under a shroud of secrecy with statements such as "there may be a little pain but as soon as you see the baby you completely forget it".  My first child is 25 years old and I still remember the excruciating pain as he repeatedly banged his enormous head that was attached to a 10 1/2 pound body against something inside of me that would not let him out.  His forehead had a very large unnatural dent in it that did not come without a great deal of pain within me.  I will never forget the pain of child birth.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely-but the pain is like nothing you have ever felt before.  Logically, something of that size, coming out of something THAT size is not an easy feat.  It hurts and you never forget it.  Secret disclosed.

I was not mentally prepared for childbirth because I was not armed with the truth.  Certainly, the pain would have been the same, but if I knew more of what to expect when that humongous belly decided it was coming out of that little orifice all at once, maybe I could have mentally handled it better.  There's only so much dilation, effacing and otherwise stretching one can expect from a body part of that size.  I think it is only right for the next generation to know this.  I also feel it is my moral duty to inform the next generation of women  10 things your mother may not tell you about aging....

1.  If you have birthed a child, you know all too well that immediately after that amazing feat your brain turns into oatmeal.  Your memory goes and all cognitive processes cease to exist.  As your child or children grow, some of what you lost begins to come back but never all of it.  Somewhere in your late 40's or early 50's, you lose it forever.

2.  All muscles melt like grape jelly in hot water as you age.  You can beat yourself to death trying to exercise and keep toned but it's fruitless.  Your flesh and what used to be muscles will hang from your bones like well done chicken no matter what you do or what your body type is.  It makes no difference if you are fat or thin-when you raise your arms a pair of water balloons will be flapping in the breeze.

3.  Your skin turns into one thin shiny layer of phyllo pastry and there are no miracle creams to turn it back into regular skin.  You are amazed it doesn't split trying to hold in the gigantic veins that snake across the tops of your hands.

4.  Remember how you used to say "I laughed so hard I thought I would pee in my pants!"?  When you get older, you actually do.

5.  Huge freckles or age spots pop up all over the place.  These are also called liver spots and I have no idea why unless it's because they are dark and have irregular shapes like miniature pieces of meat randomly placed around your body.  If you are lucky, you will get enough of them clustered together on your arms to look like a tan.  If you are not lucky, you are back to the pieces of meat analogy.   If they show up on your face and that is not a good look for you, a dermatologist can zap them off.  You may want to read The Ambush to make sure you are prepared for that.  Horrifically, sometimes a single thick wiry hair unlike you have ever seen on your body or anyone else's for that matter, will grow out of one of these spots.  When that happens you just do whatever it takes to annihilate it.  Leaving it there is not an option.

6.  It doesn't matter if you wore glasses or not prior to aging-seeing becomes a challenge.  Typically you lose your night vision to some degree which hopefully curtails some of your driving after the sun goes does.  It really doesn't matter because in reality you are too tired to go anywhere after the chickens go to bed.  You can't see with or without your glasses so you are continually taking them off or putting them on depending on the task you are doing.  Then you lose them.  If you never wore glasses you will more than likely need glasses to attempt to focus on things close up.  The cheap ones from the dollar store work great and as you lose them it doesn't bother you.  The snazzy beaded necklace glasses holders are an optional accessory, but quite practical if you can get beyond the stigma of being the old lady with the glasses necklace.  Another option would be purchasing several pairs and placing them around because you will ultimately need them and not be able to find them.  It's a fun game you play with yourself all day long, every day.

7.  Everything sort of falls and slips as you age.  Somewhere during this great migration south, you discover you have developed what is affectionately called "the chicken neck".  You will not like "the chicken neck" and no matter how much money you have or how well you research, you will never find chicken neck eradication cream or any kind of neck apparatus to wear to bed to rid yourself of this flaccid goiter that now lives where your neck used to be.

8.  Your body revolts against you in the strangest ways as you age.  Inevitably, you will begin finding odd attachments to your skin that feel like grains of sand or little pebbles.  When you discover the first one, you will have no idea what it is so your instinct tells you to pick at it until you pull it off.  These are skin tags and once they start coming they don't stop.  Sometimes they are just clear and small like little rocks and other times they look like sideways 3-D freckles that just stick straight out from your skin.  Bizarre.  When I got my first 3-D sideways one, I decided there was no way it could stay and be my friend.  I went to the internet to do some research on this protrusion that really looked like a little flat circle of Playdough hanging oddly from my skin.  The best advice given was to tie a piece of thread around the base to stop the blood flow, choke the life out of the little sucker and it would fall off in a couple of days.  You may find this surprising, but that was not an option for me.  What's really special about these skin tags is they tend to cluster more around areas that may have rubbing from clothes-like your underwear.  You haven't lived until you manage to somehow wrap a wayward thread from your bra around a skin tag.  When you are ready to whip that bra off, no whipping occurs and you are left with a less than pleasant experience.  If you happen to tear the tag off with the whipping of the bra, you will be absolutely amazed at the amount of blood it produces and how long it takes to stop bleeding.  After one too many skin tag accidents, I consulted with my physician and she zapped them off easily with a simple freezing gun.  They grow back, but I am all for the zapping of these little Playdough pilings.

9.  Your teeth break for no apparent reason and it will cost you $1000 each time if you do not have dental insurance.  It has nothing to do with biting on the wrong thing like a hard piece of candy.  They just are old so they break.  My first tooth broke while I was eating vegetable soup.  It's a shocking experience, especially if you are out.  Ann Landers should write a column on this.

10. For some mysterious reason, you choke alot-on nothing.  You can be walking along and all of a sudden you suck your own breath into your windpipe and you nearly choke to death.  Or, suddenly your spit has a mind of its own and it jumps down your windpipe and you again nearly choke to death.  It's quite embarrassing.  There you are talking to a business colleague (always a younger male) like a normal human being and in a split second you're choking like an old crazy lady.  He's looking at you aghast as you are backing out of the room making those horrific sucking noises as you are trying to catch your breath.  When you see him later and he asks what happened you will not say I choked on my own spit.  You will make something up.

These are all things your mother will probably not tell you about aging.  Though they sound a little frightening or at the very least strange, it's not so bad.  The wonderful thing about aging is you reach an age when you really don't care.  It's not in a callous I don't care about myself or others way.  It's a fabulous liberating I don't care way.  As you lose control of your outside, something amazing happens to your inside.  With age comes a confidence of who you are as a person and it is a fabulous feeling.  Little things don't matter any more and the important things bubble up to the surface.  Getting older is good for you-it means you are living longer.  Embrace it and enjoy the ride.... 












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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Creative Frenzy-Battle Scars & Afterglow

There's somewhat of a dark side to the creative frenzy.  "I totally understand the frenzy although, I'm not as fanatical about finishing a project as I used to be."  "I too, understand creative frenzy. It has to be harnessed before it gets away."  "I love your description of "creative frenzy." I can totally relate. I'm too old to stay up until 2:30 a.m.---but when I'm in one of those "creative frenzies" I lose all track of time. And yet, in some ways, that is when I feel most alive -- or, at least, not so old."  "I live in a creative frenzy. I see possiblities in everything and sometimes I have so many ideas running around in my head that I feel like it clogs my brain!"  All these comments made by creative souls seem to support my opening statement.  There is nothing quite like the "aha!" moment when a creative frenzy has successfully ended and there sits Salvador DeMadariaga's vision of matter conveying your spirit.  There it sits on your kitchen table in all it's wonder-"aha!"  Or, maybe it doesn't...

Frenzy-noun 1. extreme mental agitation; wild excitement or derangement. 2. a fit or spell of violent mental excitement.  The very definition of frenzy implies the possibility of a dark side to creative frenzy.  A creative frenzy for me is all consuming.  I can hardly concentrate on anything else as ideas of how I will accomplish this conveyance of spirit to matter ping pong around in my head.  Once I am actually working on whatever it is that put me into this frenzy, I am almost in an uncontrollable maniacal state where I will finish this no matter what.  It's the no matter whats that get you into trouble.

No matter whats have no patience and do not always make the best decisions.  No matter whats have repeatedly lured me into believing my silverware drawer holds all sorts of magical tools.  You would not believe the things I can do with a fork.  I once painstakingly took out hundreds of vintage upholstery staples with a dinner knife after I broke the tip off of one of my good carving knives.  The blade on the dinner knife was just a little too thick, so if I didn't wiggle it just right it would slip.  Every slip took another piece of my knuckle.  Did I ever stop?  No.  Stopping meant I would have to leave my frenzy and actually go somewhere to find a more suitable tool.  The next day, I was browsing through some cool tool gizmos at my favorite hardware store.  I gingerly picked one up trying not to bump my bandaged knuckles and read the description-upholstery tack and staple remover.  Who knew......

The drive behind a creative frenzy is right up there with the 7 miracles of the world.  Everyone knows that having the right tool for the job is a huge component to how successful you will be.  This does not apply to a creative frenzy.  It doesn't matter if you have the right tool as long as you have ANY tool.  I do not own many power tools which is probably a good thing.  A past boyfriend would not allow me to have power tools as he was sure I would cut something off that I ultimately needed.  When we parted ways, I immediately purchased a jigsaw not because I needed it or knew what it was for but because it was small and by God it was a power tool!  During a creative frenzy, I decided that the medicine cabinet in my bathroom needed to be recessed instead of laying against the wall.  I could do it-I had a power tool!  My walls are entirely wood-no sheetrock.  I made some nail holes close together, stuck my jigsaw blade in the hole and away I went-until I hit a stud and realized it went right through the center where I wanted the medicine cabinet.  Many hours later, the medicine cabinet successfully recessed into the wall.  I chipped and chopped that stud until I finally got it out of the way.  I completely cut it out with a jigsaw-a tiny saw made to make curves and intricate cuts.  Sure, it looked like Fred Flintstone had chipped it out with a huge piece of flint, but I successfully did it.  The creative frenzy gives you the drive and strength to do things normal people would never even attempt.  My sister was making a hole with a power drill once during a creative frenzy.  She was aware that it seemed more difficult and was taking longer than other times, but that didn't matter.  She put all her strength into the drilling and continued relentlessly until she had successfully finished drilling the hole.  When she was finished she realized the drill was set on reverse.  Who knew...

The creative frenzy is often the force behind amazing artistic creations, but it can also wreak havoc on those of us who know its gripping force all too well.  Lost sleep, forgotten committments, knicked silverware covered with scratches and the worst-no "aha!" at the end.  I just came through a creative frenzy and have made it to the other side with a satisfying "aha!"  My tool of choice for this project was a hot glue gun.  As the frenzy was winding down and I could clearly see an "aha!" coming as my spirit was successfully being transferred to matter, I became tired and sloppy.  A large blob of hot glue and all the spider web like trails surrounding it dripped onto the top of my hand.  I was gluing paper to paper and when the hot glue hit my hand, the pain made me jump and the paper I was gluing went to the wrong spot.  I had literally seconds to make a split decision.  If I didn't quickly replace the paper before the glue solidified, I would have to tear it off and more than likely would ruin the entire project.  If I didn't tend to my hand immediately, not telling what the repercussion would be.  I chose the project.  "Aha" clouded my thinking and the glue on my hand began to harden as it deeply burned my skin.  When I turned my attention to my hand, as the glue came off, so did my skin.  Who knew...

The creative frenzy.  Battle scars and afterglow.  Sitting here, reflecting back over my recent frenzy, I look at my completed "aha!" and it's difficult not to notice my throbbing hand that required 2 of my largest bandages to cover the burn.  I am almost certain I will be left with yet another battle scar gotten during a creative frenzy.  And I have to ask myself-was it worth it??  You're damn skippy it was....... 

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Creative Frenzy

"Art is the conveyance of spirit by means of matter."  Salvador DeMadariaga.  This is one of my favorite quotes as it perfectly puts into words what it means to be a creative soul.  Studies show that the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment.  Studies also show links between creative genius and mental illness.  Einstein, Salvador Dali and John Forbes Nash, Russell Crowe's character in "A Beautiful Mind", are perfect examples of the fine line between creativity and mental illness.  Often, people with bipolar disorder do not like to be medicated because medication inhibits the creativity experienced in the manic phase.  I think I understand their resistance.  

The creative frenzy is a sweet and sour sort of animal most especially if you have other responsibilities that you can not just let go of.  When the frenzy hits, things like full time jobs basically get in the way and you enter this state of conflict that all creative people understand all too well.  My creative frenzies are never around easily executed ideas.  A simple trip to the crafts department of Walmart and a couple hours dodging blisters from wayward drips of hot glue from my glue gun is never enough.  Certainly I enjoy creating earrings from my vintage beads for my etsy shop, but this creative process could never come close to satisfying a creative frenzy.  The only thing that satisfies a creative frenzy is to successfully "convey your spirit by means of matter".  I have to transfer the idea exploding in my head to concrete reality.

For me, a creative frenzy is all consuming and that's where conflict comes into play.  I can't stop thinking about the new idea or project-the materials I need to order, how I will execute it, if I can successfully pull it off etc.  I can never find enough hours to transform my creative idea to a finished project.  I have to work, invariably I have to order some tool and God forbid I have to eat and sleep.  Every step is fast forwarded in my mind and there my idea is so beautifully completed in my "mind's eye".  The problem is life doesn't have a fast forward button or even a pause button-we have to continue on play and for some of us who unfortunately repeat some of our mistakes, occasionally reverse... 

Creative frenzy is the vehicle that takes the creative soul from an intangible idea to a concrete reality.












When a creative frenzy is successful and you have that "aha" moment, there is nothing more satisfying.






    
Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein understood creative frenzy.  They lived it.  I am in no way comparing myself to these creative geniuses.  All I am saying is I get it.....

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Vintage Beads

I love vintage beads!  I have been collecting vintage beaded necklaces from the 1950's and 1960's for many years.  The visual beauty of these necklaces catches my eye, but it's much more than this that forces my hand up at auctions and leads me shamelessly to the "junk" jewelry boxes at thrift stores.  I love how they feel in my hand and I love the history that they hold.  I love the kitschy plastic baubles just as much as the expensive necklaces.  Even though I have dresser drawers bulging with vintage necklaces that I rarely actually wear, I can not stop.  I love vintage beads!

I have learned over my years that you have to pick your battles and typically it is best to just go with the flow.  Rather than give up my addiction for vintage beaded necklaces, I have found a way to bring respect to this addiction.  I make earrings from vintage beads and sell them in my Etsy shop.  It's a win/win situation.  I now have a purpose for buying vintage beaded necklaces and my customers can purchase one of a kind earrings designed from vintage beads.  Sometimes it hurts a little to make the first snip with the scissors when I am cutting a necklace to harvest the beads.  Sometimes my scissors won't work and I have to keep the necklace...

There are so many unique vintage beads.  These little pieces of history make some fabulous earrings.   

Sometimes they are like little pieces of art.



Look how interesting these hematite beads are.  Chances are good you won't run into someone else wearing a pair of earrings like these.


These gorgeous lavender earrings are made with sugar beads and crackle beads.



I think I wore earrings similar to these orange ones many years ago.


I know I wore earrings similar to this pair in the 1970's.


These lavender crackle beads and heavy crystals would make gorgeous earrings for bridesmaids.


These look good enough to eat.



These lime green foil beads make great summer earrings.



These fancy purple earrings have a fabulous sparkle.


This is another great example of how different and unique vintage beads are.



I'm just going with the flow.  Someone who does not understand the creative mind may still view my vintage beads as an addiction.  There's a fine line between addiction and creative passion.  I crossed that line many years ago and I'm ok with that...


You may also like......The Ambush and Aging Gracefully




 






Saturday, July 23, 2011

Aging Gracefully

Recently, I ran into an old friend that I haven't seen in awhile.  I saw her at a distance at first, and as she came closer I noticed that something was oddly different about her yet I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  We chatted a bit about our lives and I shared my excitement over my Etsy shop.  As we chatted, I realized what was different-she looked frightened and tense.  My concern about her well being quickly vanished when she informed me that she had recently had her eyes "done".  She proceeded to tell me that her eyelids had drooped to the point that it was affecting her vision so......Hmmm, seems to me I had heard that same malady was inflicted upon another friend of mine.  Insurance doesn't cover cosmetic surgery, but if the problem affects your vision......If you practice the custom of putting wooden plates in your eyelids much like the natives did with their lips in The National Geographics and then removed them years later, maybe...

There is a beautiful softening that comes with natural aging.  Why can't we just let it happen?  I have often stated I would have been better suited to be an adult in the 1950's-pearls, starched apron and all.  Many things about that era appeal to me and it's not just the material items like you might find in Boomer Babies Upcycles.  Who wouldn't want to hang out with your neighborhood girlfriends drinking coffee out of cups with saucers while the kids are...?  Actually, no one knew or really cared where the kids were or what they were doing.  We would happily chat about the newest recipe rage,mock apple pie, that had no apples or any redeeming ingredient at all in it.  One big baked goodness of carbs, sugar, and fat.  After that, we might exchange our newest tricks on how to keep celery in American Chop Suey from going phlacid.  Back then, women aged with grace.  Sure, they had their cold cream and chin slings, but these sightings were saved for the men lucky enough to share their beds.  

The big problem with trying to fight the natural aging process with cosmetic surgery is that the average person can't really take advantage of the full benefits.  They just can't afford it.  So, the person chasing their youth saves their pennies to have the procedure they believe will make them the happiest.  The overweight woman pays thousands of dollars for a tummy tuck and ends up with a small flat midsection on a body that has arms and legs that still belong to the fat lady.  She now looks like a rubber action figure.  If your face is tight and wrinkle free and you have a humongous chicken neck, is this really a pretty sight?  If you lift your arms and let the water balloons hang down freely, do you think no one will notice because your eyes are pinned back like Kenny Roger's?  

Women of the midcentury aged with grace.  At a certain age, it was common knowledge that it was time for a helmet do.  The long, flowing hair of youth was replaced with a perm with tight little curls that clung as closely as possible to your scalp.  Anything that didn't conform to the helmet was doused with lacquer and sprayed into submission.  There's a certain freedom in this practice.  How easy it must be to never have to worry about how you will wear your hair on a certain day.  You sleep, get up, and every hair is still in place, keeping the integrity of the helmet.  If, per chance, a section of the helmet gets dented, one merely picked it out with a hair pick or even a fork.  Older women of the midcentury adapted to their changing bodies and they didn't have chicken necks.  Their bodies gradually aged and the pieces melted together so everything was merely one dimension from the base of the head to the knees.  No neck, no breasts, no waist, no butt.  Every older woman looked like Mrs. Potatohead and it was ok.  Along with the acceptance of the helmet do, the short string of pearls that once adorned the neck of youth was replaced with the long string of red or  black glass beads that floated around the bosom shelf.

I would like to see more of the beautiful softness that comes with natural aging.  God doesn't make junk.  If, for some reason, your preference is to use every tool available to you to fight the natural aging process, I would like to make a suggestion.  Next time you go out in public, you might want to consider leaving that fat bald guy sporting the bermudas and the white tube socks half way up his calves at home.......


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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Ambush

When my Dad was alive, he had a couple of skin melanomas.  A couple or several years ago, I thought it would be wise for me to go to the dermatologist and get a "mole mapping" (sounds ticklish) with this family history.  The male dermatologist that I went to had a personality comparable to my sofa.  We mapped, he received a ridiculous sum of money for what felt like 2 whole minutes and I went home.  Recently, I again began to think about family health history and the need to take better care of myself.  I wasn't thrilled with going back to the sofa, but did some research and he was pretty much it for this area.  He has a huge practice, so, I put the personality aside and made an appointment.  Then the fun began.

I had no idea what to expect.  Once you're mapped, are you remapped, driven on?  He has a new office in this tiny town's only skyscraper.  I think it is 3 stories tall.  This complex looks ridiculous in our quaint little downtown.  It's one of those buildings that has offices, shops and condos for people who want to conveniently live in a downtown that rolls up its sidewalks at dusk.  In a town that maybe has 6000 people, everyone is only minutes from downtown...This complex has a parking deck.  Funny.  My son lives in Atlanta, so I am familiar with parking decks.  Trust me, we do not need a parking deck in Mayberry.  When I was confirming my appointment with the receptionist, I asked for directions to his office.  When she stated "once you have parked in the parking deck", I giggled as I thought she was making a joke.  She wasn't.  I drove into the concrete parking deck for my appointment and there wasn't another vehicle anywhere.  There were no signs or any indication where one should park so I just smiled and parked in the  middle.  When I got out of my car, it was a little creepy as there were no cars, no people, no signs, no nothing.  I saw a door and walked through.  Again, no signs, no people, no nothing.  I walked down the deathly quiet hall searching for my mapping sofa and found a door with his name on it.  I entered to a reception room with again, no people.  The receptionist immediately greeted me and asked me to sit down as someone would be right with me.  My behind hadn't touched the chair before a door opened and a nurse called my name-like there were other people in the room.  I laughed a little and made some offhand comment like "she wasn't kidding when she said someone will be right with you".  She just smiled.  She brought me to a room that was way too big to be a patient room.  It was at least 4-6 times bigger than any exam room I have ever been in.  She gave me a lovely paper gown and asked me to strip.  She floated out like a cartoon character and I giggled again.  A few seconds later, I was stripping as told in this humongous room with no dressing area or place to put your clothes and the doctor knocks quickly and walks right in before I have a chance to answer.  I'm bending over in underwear I hadn't expected to be public in and my paper ensemble is laying on the floor and hasn't even been pulled apart yet so you can get your arms through it.  You know how they are all stuck flat together.  If you are a woman you know.  I looked up and he is beet red.  I'm thinking omg, you only have one patient, how could you not know I have only had 2 seconds to prepare for your entrance!  Let's just say I did not look like this.....




He backs out, composes himself and re-enters a few minutes later.  I am standing there in this too huge room and he asks me if I am having any "issues".  I reply no.  He asks me to sit in a dentist's chair.  He peers at my arms and legs and doesn't say a word.  Sofas do not speak much.  I'm staring straight ahead and he makes his first statement.  "I like patients to come on a regular basis.  You should come annually."  I say "ok".  He starts looking at the right side of my face and I am looking forward so I can't see him.  All of a sudden I get this sharp stinging sensation like something has bitten me on my cheek.  I quickly look to the right and my face is stopped short by a cold space gun.  The sofa says, "it hurts, doesn't it".  I'm sort of in shock and as I am laughing a little I mention something like maybe you should have warned me you were going to do something.  Before I could hardly get that out, he had done it again.  Feeling somewhat attacked, with wide eyes I ask "what are you doing?"  "Age spots-you don't want those".  In my mind I am thinking well, maybe not, but they were mine and I think you should ask first...I am passive, probably too passive-so I didn't say anything.  Remember he had the gun.

He walks his rolling stool over to the left side of my face without standing up.  Then I hear, "hmmm, I'm not so sure about this one".  As I turn my face toward him to ask what the hmmm is all about, it is greeted with a huge needle.  My passive self went away and I boldly asked him what he was doing and I honestly wanted to say what the @^%# are you doing???  The sofa then found his words to let me know he thought we should biopsy a spot.  I said, oh and he proceeded to jam the needle into my face.  No this may hurt, brace yourself or nothing.  Quickly that half of my face no longer belonged to me and I am assuming he took a knife to do something but I didn't feel anything.  He abruptly gets up, states it will take a week or so for the results and says the nurse will be in.  He walks out like Tin Man and the cartoon character nurse floats back in.  I am bandaged, given instructions on how to care for my wounds and on my merry way...

Sitting back in my car, I had the uncontrollable urge to laugh hysterically.  The entire experience from never seeing people to ending up with half a dead face and the other half stinging painfully was nothing like I expected remapping to be.  It was all so surreal.  From the time I got out of my car until the time I got back in, 17 minutes had passed....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Karma

The concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect.  This is the wikipedia definition for karma.  How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. ~Wayne Dyer.  Etsy has a variety of teams that members can join at will.  Team members are connected by common interests, problems, a desire to learn about making their Etsy shop more successful etc.  I am a member of several teams, two of which are small with very friendly members who are eager to help each other with the big common goal of improving their Etsy businesses.  Blogging Grannies currently has 18 members, all over 50 years old, who learn from each other as we strive to build our Etsy shops.  Yes, we tweet, do facebook, blog and use all the bells and whistles available to us to promote our internet businesses just like Etsians that may be a year or two younger than we are.  Vintage Bloggers currently has 25 members who share my love for vintage items.  I find both these teams to be very supportive and friendly.  I would like to begin featuring shops of team members to be supportive of them, but also as a way to get to know each one a little better as I explore their Etsy shops.  I firmly believe what goes around comes around and that this exploring and building rapport with fellow Etsians will ultimately help my shop as well.  Good karma.

Seese the Day is the Etsy shop of a Blogging Grannies team member that I am just beginning to get acquainted with.  The shop owner is Jo Seese and coincidentally, she is from Hickory, North Carolina which is only about 2 hours from Brevard, North Carolina where I live.  Small world.  She sells unique, ooak, handcrafted jewelry and accesories.  Her fabulous items absolutely pop with color and personality.  She has beautifully combined her talents to create very unique items that are a combination of knitting and beading.  So creative.  Here are a couple examples of her work:





How adorable is this girl!  Notice all the different materials and textures in this scarf.  Jo does not just knit, she creates art.  Fabulous.  My favorite items in her shop are her gorgeous bracelets.  The combination of knitting and beading is just so unique and interesting.





Jo is a middle school teacher working toward retirement.  I admire anyone who is a teacher and most especially those with the ability to teach this age group.  My comment to her was that raising middle school children is like trying to nail jello to a tree.  She states that creating keeps her sanity.  I would say she is probably very sane as her therapy has certainly produced some beautiful creativity...