Aug 31, 2008

Magazine Mogul Killed By Own House!

All week I have had a swollen scratchy throat and thought I was either coming down with a cold or having really bad allergies. I have never been stuck in stage one of a cold for more than two days so by the fifth day I finally believed I was going to slowly die of my allergy attack.

But then it occurred to me, when I saw what looked like roadkill stuck to my bare feet in my house...maybe it isn't allergies...maybe I'm dying of the dust and fur balls that are traveling in mighty little caravans across the wide expanses of my floor?!

This picture was taken after the first sweep through. I wanted to spare you the real horror.

I decided I needed to drink some more water just to deal with this startling train of thought and approached my fridge with deep trepidation. That's not a good sign. One should never feel they have to sneak up on their own fridge to grab a glass of water. But DUDE! Do you know what kind of stuff was living in there? There was a liquefied cucumber oozing around. No wonder I haven't been in the mood for salad lately. There were other scarier things too. Things you should never say out loud for fear that naming them will give them the power to spring to life and come get into bed with you in the middle of the night.

I have a very special fear of old meat. On several different occasions I decided to give the babies a little treat and served them up some yummy wet food. They didn't eat it all right away so the flies in our house, which we always have because we never shut our doors when we're home until we go to sleep (why bother? Chick will wrestle down any intruders*.), so the flies (as I was saying) decided that the wet food was a marvelous nursery for baby flies. There are few things more disgusting than seeing fly eggs on cat food**. And let me tell you- those flies work fast! They laid eggs within two hours of the food being out.

So I accumulated a few cans of wet food in the fridge. I got too grossed out to give it to the cats but felt too guilty about not using it up to actually throw it away.

I don't eat meat for a number of very good reasons, but one of the most compelling is that old meat is one of the most disturbing things in the world. Putrid meat is fifty times worse than liquefied cucumber. If I don't eat meat then I never have to deal with it going bad and leaving its smell in my nose.

By the way, this is the only reason why I never pursued a career as a mortician or a CSI. Oh, that and not going to college. Or even knowing that those were job options.

I was brave enough to open the top of the cans of cat food but once I saw inside I could not bring myself to clean out the cans to put in recycling. I realize this will make your respect for me plummet. I am grieved that I couldn't just deal with the festering ground beef bits. I will have to make up for this in some way.

So much was tossed out. I think this is an excellent moment to point out that if one keeps on top of the contents of their fridge there is less chance for this kind of waste. Waste is the enemy of economy and responsible landfill stewardship. Every single item that ended up in my trash can yesterday represented dollars that I spent and then threw out. That makes me a little sick when I realize how little we have right now.

I cleaned my fridge, my kitchen, one bathroom, and the floors. I don't know where I got the energy to do it but boy did it feel great. My throat is still swollen. So I'm going to have to conclude that it's allergies after all. I have to say though that I sure do hope to get the rest of my house cleaner because it feels so much brighter.

I am going to make kitchen curtains today. I've been meaning to make some for months. Every day I say to myself "Maybe I can carve out some time to make them today." and then I don't. I need a punch of color in there to tide me over until we get the walls painted. They're going to be Dustpan Alley blue (a retro looking dusty turquoise, see top of blog). The cabinets will remain egg shell colored but Philip is going to paint medieval scenes on them in a light brown.

*I really can't say for sure, but I wouldn't count on her to keep an intruder intact. Especially if they are men and have poor hygiene.

**Fly eggs that have hatched are worse, of course.

Aug 30, 2008

modern homesteading for everyone

After discussing all the possible magazine titles with Philip while lounging in bed (not naked, you dirty minded people!) drinking beer, it was immediately clear that his favorite title was "Roost" (a contribution from Danielle). I happen to love this one too but worry that it isn't direct enough. However, that's what tag lines are for: clarification. I really liked the tag line "civil disobedience you can eat" but I'm not sure it goes with this title.

The next task was to plan the departments. This can change if I ever manage to do a second issue, but knowing what departments you'll have helps to organize content and direct it. It sets the tone and firms up the driving purpose of a publication. Like a chapter index it allows you to quickly asses the contents and decide how interesting or pertinent it sounds to your interests. Truly, any time I see that the main theme of a book or magazine is:

"How to develop leather-skin under the hot sun of Cabo San Lucas."

I pretty much feel alienated right away.

Here are my departments:

Into the pot
- cooking, recipes, tips, methods, food prep, and interesting articles about food and eating.

Kitchen Garden
- growing your own food and herbs, vegetables, mini orchards, planning, getting the most out of small spaces, raised beds, garden methods, function vs. form, choosing varieties, winter gardening, tips, features of people's gardens.

The Pantry Shelf
- food preserving, using your pantry food in menu planning, menu planning, storing food, root cellaring, brewing beverages, How tos on all these things, shelf life of food.

On The Work Bench
- how to use power tools, wood projects, fixing household things, making what you need, building, projects, techniques.

The Stitch Box
- sewing projects, crafts, making household things that don't require power tools, techniques for more professional sewing, textiles, gluing, cutting, decorating, useful crafts.

Home Ec
- organizing, budgeting, saving, reusing, recycling, cleaning, anything that helps you run a house more efficiently, greening up your house, household management.

DIY Apothecary
- making your own body products, medicine from the garden, salves, salts, herbs, tinctures, herb features, herb lore, teas, stress management, recipes and How Tos.

Hutch and Coop
- how to raise small animals, chickens, rabbits, sometimes goats and pigs, coop plans, raising tips, breed highlights, keeping them safe, butchering, healthy animal husbandry.

Are you excited? I am!! This is exactly what I keep looking for on the magazine racks. I never see it. Mary Jane's Farm is pretty cool, but way too soft/fuzzy to truly satisfy my hunger for more homesteading matter. Remember that magazine called "Victoria"? I loved that magazine but after I had bought maybe my seventh copy of it I started experiencing a nasty case of N.O. (nostalgia overload). Everything is so gentle, so soft focus, people are all pretty with long wavy hair, delicate skin, and having precious tea parties every day. Mary Jane's Farm is threatening to be just as preciously nostalgic for "the good old days when life was simple and we all shat in holes in the ground".

A lot of people were really glad for indoor plumbing. And vacuums. Television was like a miracle of entertainment. Kids were not all that sad to stop playing with wooden tops and instead take up playing with Barbies and Legos. Our grandparents may have lived in a simpler time but I've listened to a lot of old people in my time (because I have always loved and related to them) and I've got to tell you that while all of them like to look back, the main thing they long for is the price of everything as they knew it in their youth. Inflation of cost of living is their number one gripe.

Those of us who are tired of gang killings, violent movies, the apathy of modern youth, corrupted governments, and who look back to a "simpler" time forget that back when our grandmothers were canning all their own food and baking their own bread, they were also really poor and they didn't have a whole lot of choice. The governments were just as corrupted then as they are now. People were robbing banks and going on killing sprees, committing suicide rather than face starvation, living on dust and hope alone. Our grandparents did a lot of what they did because they had to.

I still recognize the value of the things they did for themselves and I emulate their life skills and I want to get to a place where I don't need Lowe's to do everything for me. I want to do for myself. But I don't have blinders on about the past. It wasn't a gentle life for most people. My grandfather was one of thirteen children in a fairly poor family. Before he died, if you asked him about the "gentler" past you will hear of child abuse, poverty, harsh winters, and setting off at fourteen to go work.

So when I look at the past I don't idealize it and I don't want other people to do it either. I think it robs our history of its truth. Paris is a city with a lot less disease since it got plumbing. Most of us are living much higher quality lives because of our harsher more industrialized world. That doesn't mean we shouldn't get back our independence- we need to strike a balance between our modern convenient lives and the blessings of running water, and our ability to feed ourselves and care for ourselves without the grocery store.


I've already begun fleshing out what articles I would like to have in my first issue. I have many wonderful friends who happen to be craft and urban homesteading genius' and many of them are excellent writers and photographers. You know, I almost cried last night in a rare fit of emotional gratitude for the kind of support I've received in so many ways on my blog. (Don't worry, I choked all the tears down. I don't even like to cry in private. I'm tough that way.) I'm not actually sure what I've done to inspire it- but I definitely don't take it for granted.

I was thinking how cool it will be to open a magazine and see some of my favorite blog people featured in it. I won't be using up all my friends' genius at once, just in case I manage to get a second issue out, I'll need to be able to drag invite others into my project later.

Aug 29, 2008

Around the Farmhouse

Pippa, stalking scraps and moths in the kitchen.

Feet. Not Philip's.

Tomatillos waiting to hit the stew pot. Think they smell the fear of the ones that just got cut and dumped?

The top of our town. Not technically a shot from the farmhouse.

Philip and Max enjoy chess in the morning.

All of these pictures are the first batch from my Rebel XT that I bought used from Mary at "Confessions Of A Craft Addict" several months ago and am still scared of. I am finally playing with it and Mary sent me this book to help me take better pictures...Thanks Mary!!!

Chick would like you to know that you should really give her that thing you're eating right now. She also would like to know why the chickens get all the scraps while she only gets the ones she steals?

Something I saw today: a book of pictures of dogs that live in vineyards with little bios on each one. It is so funny! The pictures are really cool too. Someday when I can afford to buy a special treat of a book- this one is coming home to me! I saw the American version and the dogs in it are sweet, hilarious, pretty, and just make me want to know them all. I'm not even really a "dog" person but this book had me laughing out loud.

I don't know how I lived for twenty five years without seeing why people love dogs. (I was twenty five when I started overcoming my intense fear of dogs)

A random question I would like to ask myself- why continue eating a cinnamon roll that is squishy like half cooked dough and tastes like perfume? There's no sense in finishing something so gross.

I've come to realize that I am joyously obsessed with photography. I'm working on my first professional photography job too with Walnut City Wineworks.* Isn't that funny? I mean, I didn't really see it creeping up on me. It just did. Now that I look back, I recall being obsessed with my very first camera that took square pictures. I spent hours setting up my barbies in different "scenes" and actually did some on-location shoots in Lithia Park. I still have some of those pictures somewhere.

I know there are a lot of purists out there, and I respect it, but I prefer digital photography over actual film. I think you have so much creative control over the outcome and it's so much less expensive to learn to take good pictures when you can instantly delete all the bad ones.

It is largely thanks to Angela that I take decent pictures at all. And now Mary is pushing me deeper into the world of digital photography than I ever imagined I'd go.

Ultimately I have Hope to thank for making me realize that I'm a budding photographer.

Thank you Hope!

Now it's time to fight some mighty Bionicle battles at the top of the stairs for which I need a freshly cracked brewski. Happy Friday everyone!

*None of the pictures on their website are mine right now.

Aug 28, 2008


What if you spent your entire life training for the last breath you take? What if every shadow had a face, a possible name, a criminal history, and it wanted you? What if every day you had to get up like a shot out of a hot cannon? What if you woke with your heart racing, as though you'd already been running a marathon for all the hours you were sleeping, so that, in fact, you wake up exhausted but in motion? What if every time you step out on a balcony a voice in your head compels you to see what would happen if you jumped? Right now.

What if your world was never quiet? What if every situation in life presents you with five hundred angles that require close examination before you can proceed?

And what if you hear all the people in the world crying, laughing, hacking, dying, grabbing, loving, hating, bleeding out, escaping like little whisps of natural scentless gas into the atmosphere with the smallest whoosh, the smallest exhalation before sliding away. What if you always heard the entire world all at once and could never turn it off?

What if you couldn't sleep for weeks? What if you spent every night listening, because you had no other choice, and you become exhausted with living, with breathing, with not sleeping, and you begin to see life on separate planes all at the same time? Like a clairvoyant with no answers. Like a prophet with no wisdom. You just get more tired; hungry for sleep like a wild beast in a trap, waiting and hoping for something else.

I remember the 70' tree in our yard in Santa Rosa which caused me some fairly serious "concern". We had had some pretty intense storms and I was afraid that the tree, which was absolutely tilting, was going to kill the neighbors behind our house who lived directly in the trajectory of the great tree- I had figured out which way it was going to fall by close unscientific observation. There was no question in my mind that it was going to kill some people and that there was no amount of insurance that was going to make that come out alright.

Philip did not see understand my concerns at all. He said it was solid, even if it was tilting, and no storm was just gonna blow it over. I thought he was awfully condescending to think I had no solid basis for concern. Because I'm just a person that worries. About everything. We had unresolved discussions about the tree. I would have felt a lot better just chopping it down. Because then it wouldn't be able to kill anyone. We settled for getting an arborist to make sure the tree was healthy and not about to topple.

Meanwhile, our neighbors Matt and Sue (who we loved!), were having a similar quiet unresolved disagreement about their own Douglas Fir tree which had been topped at one point and Matt thought was quite dangerous. It had dropped some branches. Sue thought Matt was just worrying too much. Being a real ninny about this stupid tree thing. We all four of us chatted about our dangerous trees and Philip and Sue rolled their eyes while Matt and I completely supported each other in the debate. I absolutely agreed with Matt that a tremendously tall (but topped) fir tree is a danger in a terrible storm. He agreed that a 70' tilting fir tree was enough of a menace to look into.

But then we were relating the very same situation over the fence with another neighbor and he said to me "You worry way too much about everything!" And I looked at him keenly, like I'd just seen my first human and thought "If this dude even knew a quarter of what was going through my brain all day he would cry like a baby and beg for shock therapy."

Some time later I was talking with Matt, Sue, and Mike again and I mentioned casually how I had never had a license to drive a car and they all became slightly more electric, but polite, and asked me why. I said that I never wanted to be the person behind the wheel that kills other people's children. I'm not sure what they expected me to say. Mike said, again, "You really worry way too much. You've got to stop worrying!"

"Yes. It's a clinical problem. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder."

I said it very matter of factly and to do my neighbors justice they all just took it in stride and never again cajoled me for worrying too much.

You have to imagine what life would be like if everything you did, and every person you met, and even your own brain, was a dangerous entity full of constant threat. It isn't rational and that's what's maddening. I am cognizant of the irrationality of my brain but helpless to enforce more rational thought. The impulses of my brain have been reinforced by my life experiences. I was literally never in a safe environment from the place where I was born until I found myself living alone. There has never been a day in my life when I have felt protected, safe, or sheltered. I lived in a physically and emotionally dangerous place for every single year of my life until maybe it became safer, more sheltered, and calm when I lived by myself when I was nineteen years old.

Who would you be if you could never trust a soul? Who would you be if you couldn't count on love, family, or any adult in your life, to make you safe? Who would you be if your whole experience of life was that you had to protect yourself and know that when you were a very small being you couldn't protect yourself?

You carry it with you.

There is no recrimination here. I do not look back on my life with any bitterness. Truly. I save all my bitterness for the vicissitudes of fortune in the past few years. Those I've loved, those who've loved me, my family, my friends, there is no blame and no need for sorrow, digressing into those tense years of the past. I don't wish to punish, to accuse or open old wounds. I wish only to tell those who might not know, how a person gets to be like me.

How a person lives a life never once truly trusting another human being.

I have said before that I am the master at appearing alright. It is true. You will never see all my true colors. No one ever has. I attempt to show them here on my blog because in spite of its exposure to the public, it feels more safe and private than any other place I've ever been. Because I can turn everyone off here. If I feel attacked I can moderate comments. I can shut you all out if I need to.

You can't shut out the people you'd die for.

It is so difficult for me to reveal any truths that involve my family because we are a fragile group. There are secrets that aren't only mine to tell. I can't say a lot. Partly it's because I love my family more than I think they ever really know.

My mom: who I always wanted to protect more than myself because she is one of those incredible exotic rare flowers that burst wide open into the desert heat- fearless for the burns she will inevitably suffer- she is the most gorgeous human I have ever met and she lives large and is generous in her heart and unwise in every way a heart can be. She is part child and part wise woman. It is almost impossible for people to not love her on contact because she is so breathtakingly daring and when she loves she loves with all of her.

My Dad: whose enjoyment of life and whose loyalty to kin have given me a great example to live by. Our relationship is fraught with thorns, yet he has always been there like a solid wall- paying for my root canal when I was 21 years old and broker than the ocean- encouraging me to get to know my biological father though it must have cost him something to seem so casual about it. I love his laugh, his enjoyment of the silly, his simple expectation that we will continue to work things out. He has gone through transformations gorgeous.

My brother: whose tough spirit I so relate to. Whose obsessive need for control is like a second heartbeat to mine. When we were growing up I would have given up my soul to protect him from his constant malevolent harm and abuse. I think he will never know how much I saw in him a warm heart, a genius artist, and a funny brother. It broke my heart a thousand times that I could not be an effective big sister. That I was powerless to stop the abuse. That I was so paralyzed by fear that I could only watch and fall apart inside. He was my second soul.

My sister: whose sweet/tart nature I abused because I was too envious to appreciate her properly, for which I've been ashamed for years. Whose love I have been striving to earn ever since. A woman with whom I have the most piquant things in common such as our love of airports. I watch her now and see that she is as beautiful and swelling with generosity as the mother we share. I see her like a movie star and I want to be worthy of her admiration. She has grown up alone in so many ways and I wish I'd known she needed me as our brother did. I love her so much that sometimes I think I'll explode with it.

All of them have their own part in my life. Things I can't tell because it's their story too.

I have often felt invisible to them all. I've begun to feel my mother's eyes on me. I'm so damn far from perfect, her little mentally ill first born. But I have heard her speak now in ways I swear my little infant self never heard. Maybe I wasn't listening loudly enough.

There are ways that those like me become who we are. Some of it is because of the way we're wired when we're born. And then there's the rest of it. Some us can say why, some of us are bound not to. Secrets can be corrosive but sometimes just knowing why is enough. Telling others may not change a damn thing.

I have never, a single day in my life that I can remember, not felt this pressing fear. A sense of vague (or acute) danger. It has been present in my body my whole life. Getting a diagnosis was, therefore, a relief. It helps to know that it's not something I can just wish away. It's not something I can meditate away. It pulses in my blood. I will worry about the texture of the paper I'm writing on because I can hear the pen moving across the fibers as though it was a sound that everyone can hear.

There were many days of my life when the fear was a rational response to the unsafe environment I lived in. So for me it is always real. Even when it's not.

Every morning I wake up I kind of hope it's all over. The worrying. The vague dread. The panic. The sense of danger. And every day I wake up to the same anxiety about what today will bring.

Today was pretty wonderful. I got stuff done, I hung out with friends, I rode my bike with my son, I enjoyed my wonderful spouse's company, I enjoyed the setting sun on a rooftop bar in the town I've settled down in, and just enjoyed myself royally. Really, I did. But the point of this post is that in spite of all this enjoyment there is still a shadow of anxiety that lives in my flesh. It is unshakable. Like a heart defect, or a cancer. This is what my legacy is. My neurological challenge. My brain doing it's own thing.

The main thing, at the end of the day, is that I still love my family and friends, no matter what.
Job Skill: Multi Tasking Genius
now everyone will want to hire me

Today has already been jam packed even though I've had my friend Lisa B and her three kids for a visit, Max had a sleep over with his friend, I stayed in my PJ's until 10am and it's only 3pm. But that's not all I did. I did the dishes. I put a bunch of stuff away in the kitchen. And then I finished my blueberry project. I was freezing them and you have to do it in two steps. Wash and freeze them, then you package them up. Freezing takes a few hours so it's easy to walk away from them for several weeks while you start a rock band in your garage.

You can't leave food unprotected in the freezer for very long before the freezer begins to eat away at the quality. I learned this lesson well with my strawberries. So it's been hanging over my head. I did it. They are all done.

This is not urine.

Another thing that's been hanging over my head is my limoncello project. Remember that? Cindy sent me lemons when I couldn't buy them myself (from her own tree) and I was making her limoncello recipe. Well, after letting the peels steep in the vodka for the requisite 40 days, and then another 100 days after that...the peels have no color left in them and I still have not completed the project. Which is stupid because I think it's about time for some chilled limoncello, don't you?

Because I'm an incredible multi tasker I strained the limoncello while making a batch of sugar syrup to sweeten it (the last step) and AT THE VERY SAME TIME I was heating some questionable* milk to make into ricotta.

I know what you're thinking.

"How the hell does she do it?!"

I was thinking about how I was going to write a post about my awesome multi-tasking which is the employers gold standard skill when suddenly my milk (while I was straining the peels) went from 185 degrees to 207 degrees and boiling over.

In case you don't know it, you are not supposed to boil milk while making ricotta. Ooops!

What is it they say about pride cometh-ing before a fall?

Yeah, so I'm going to use it anyway because the last time I made panir cheese it turned out more like ricotta, and you do boil the milk to make panir. Maybe I'll rename it "panatta"?

Maybe not.

Meanwhile.... Now we are going to bicycle downtown while my sugar syrup cools down and then when we get home we will get to combine it with my lemony vodka. It will involve tasting it until I get it just how I like it. I'll probably be prepping the last of my peaches for freezing while I do it.

*5 days past it's date, but it didn't smell bad so what the heck?

Aug 27, 2008

The Name Of A Thing

This is my all time favorite magazine. It was well made, well written, had some ads but not intrusive, useful information, wonderfully inspiring (but not annoying) pictures, and it covered both growing and cooking food. I have every copy they ever printed of it. Sadly, they stopped publishing it. Perhaps it was just a year before it's time?

Cook's Illustrated uses almost identical format and paper and also has very high quality content. I always wish for more photographs though. Everything is tested out very well (their trademark, practically) and it treats the reader like an intelligent and curious being who loves cooking not just because home cooking is better for you but because it's fun, it's science, and it's gorgeous.

What neither of those magazines have is a more thorough coverage of the topics that generally interest people who cook and garden. They are often also interested in canning, preserving, sewing, household management, politics, the environment, family, community, and levity. "Household" magazine also lacked levity. Sadly, most publications don't take irreverence as seriously as they take Paris Hilton. However, this ad came from a magazine I love from the early thirties (and it was published all the way through the forties as well) and it had recipes, household hints which featured the constant theme of how to make things last, how to make food and money go further, and how to be more efficient.

It also included a very embarrassing racist cartoon series that it shocks me to see. Not something I tolerate at all in my life.

If you take these three magazines and give it an edgy urban sensibility and some irreverence, you will get the essence of what I want to publish.

Coming up with a name is quite a process. What's in a name? I'm not going to trot out Shakespeare. I promise. Names are important. Anyone in marketing can tell you that. It's a miracle that I, a marketing flop, also know it. I always have. Names are the essence of a thing. It's not always easy to catch that in a phrase, in a breath, in a word.

My publication will be about Urban Homesteading. I can't seem to come up with a better word for what it will encompass. Here's what urban homesteading means to me in plain words:


I have come up with a list of possible names:

Urban Homesteading
Journal of Urban Homesteading
Urban Homesteader's Companion
Modern Homestead

Of course, I could use "Dustpan Alley" as the title. But, on a newsstand that will mean nothing to almost all people.

I've looked up variations of "Urban Homesteading" in the United States copyright library and it seems fine but I don't know how deep a search I need to do. Any ideas on how to make sure a name isn't taken?

Everyone knows about Path To Freedom, right?

And Homegrown Evolution, the writers that recently released a book called "The Urban Homestead"

Interesting that their book title didn't show up in the copyright library search.

Name ideas? I'm going to brainstorm some more and will hopefully return with more ideas. This is one of the hardest parts of the project.

I like this: "Urban Homesteading...civil disobedience you can eat"

Aug 26, 2008

She Don't Shave Well
This one's for Capello

Talent is a funny thing. Some of us have it, and some of us don't. I've been accused, many times in my life, of putting myself down. People have expressed concern for the health of my self esteem because I readily admit to my million shortcomings, generally using a megaphone to admit them to the most possible ears at one time.

You might almost say I have a talent for exposing my foibles to others.

A talent is generally anything we seem to have a knack for doing well, as opposed to skill, which is something we work hard to achieve. Talent comes to us like a fluid extension of who we are. It comes to us the way rivers rush to the ocean. Almost without thinking we can do things that others have to work harder at.

So when I said (in a previous post) "I don't come up with clever phrases like 'It's a good thing' because they make me want to shave my ass and roll in salt afterwards" I mistakenly assumed that shaving is a special torture for everyone and that everyone consistently nicks themselves and gets razor burn every single time.

Salt on nicked skin is no gentle frolic. Hence my comment.

What I didn't recognize is that I actually have a special TALENT for nicking myself every time I shave and no matter what razor I use or products I slather on my legs or in my arm pits, I effortlessly get the most fabulous razor-burn. You couldn't get a better one than me even if you trained for it like an Olympian. If it weren't for Capello's comment I might never have recognized my own shaving achievements.

Talent is malleable. You can look at it from different angles. So, in honor of discovering one's hidden talents and yelling them into the mega-phone, here are a few more of my talents you all may not be aware of:

  • I have a talent for not walking the dog. It's not as easy as you might think to get the spouse to do all the dog walking. You really have to be capable of tuning out the dog's constant eyeful reproach and become impervious to her long doleful stares at her leash. Plus you have to have incredible debating skills in order to convince others to pick up your own slack.

  • I have a talent for ruining clothes in the laundry. For an activity that used to involve rubbing your garments against a washboard in the creek and hanging them to dry, you'd think it would be hard to ruin clothes while washing them. And you'd be right! You have to concentrate hard to forget to empty the pockets of hard candy, lip balm, frogs, sharp bike tools, and spare kittens.
  • I have a talent for not getting things done. Some people see this as a "fault" but I like to think of how good it feels, most of the time, to do nothing remarkable. The trick is to avoid guilt. For most people this is near impossible. They cannot let go of the "should haves" and "could haves". I tell guilt to go to hell and consequently enjoy the time I spent picking at my nail polish, checking my empty in-box, and day dreaming about all the ways I could be spending my time.
I'll save the rest for later. I don't want to overwhelm anyone with my unbelievable talents. How about you tell me some of yours?
Etsy Shop Announcement
Now with fat quarters!

I have just uploaded the first batch of fat quarters in my Etsy shop. By the end of today I will have all of the ones pictured above listed and ready for sale.

This one is already listed.

And so is this charming witch and cat Halloween fabric.

Come see them at Dustpan Alley Etsy!

Aug 25, 2008

All My Eggs
and no basket to put them in

I found out today that my book proposal did not get accepted by Lark Books. To say that I don't give a damn would be a lie. Just like it would be a flaming lie if I said it didn't hurt that I got passed over for the library job- even though I had some pretty great endorsements from people whose opinion means something to the person doing the hiring- yeah, it was a fresh crush in the chest. On both counts.

You know what's really nice? It's nice that I don't have to worry about getting pregnant. Because my eggs are starting to do the New York Times crossword while I drink coffee in the morning and I could swear I heard one of them say "Yo bitch! Gimme some sugar!" today.

You can count on me to see the sunny side of the street.*

You know how sometimes you have an itch to read something, though you're not sure what exactly, so you look on the library shelves for it and only find Oprah looking back from every book spine? So then you go to your local book store hoping to find that book you're in the mood to read, the book you know will lift your spirits and raise the bar on the status quo, and you don't find anything but the memoirs of people who are filthy rich already, vapid, and wearing the most stupid clothes you've ever seen?

I know how that is.

Sometimes you have the write the damn book yourself.

And publish it yourself because no one will ever believe in you enough to hire you to do it for them. Maybe because your tongue gets tied when you try to explain your ideas.

So, here I am. Point blank. The empty page.

Writing will almost certainly never make me a living. So thank god for the wonderfulness of my boss at Hopscotch, for hiring me to work for her in the toy store. It really does help us that I'm working there. Then there's my Etsy shop. I've been working much harder at keeping it stocked and I've been getting more orders. Those orders have been so incredibly helpful! I want to demure and say I don't need them, but every time it looks like the power might have to be turned off here, I get enough orders to get us through the tight spot. So maybe, just maybe, I can do what I'm doing right now and we'll be able to stop using the credit cards and start paying them down. It feels like an awful lot to ask the Universe to keep up this more hopeful trend.

So, about that empty page.

It's time to make that magazine I was talking about. Tonight I will write my outline. I flesh out the real details. I aim to get the first issue ready by November first. I don't intend to share the content of it here because if I did that there would be no reason to produce this mythical beast. However, I intend to share the whole process of producing it. I intend to invite you to participate and try not to be offended when you don't. I intend to elicit the help of my friends to get this thing made (you know who you are!!) for trade. I have lots of great stuff with no where to sell it. I can't pay a dime. Even if I had one I am not allowed to embark on any ventures which require capital investments. I fail at those kind of ventures.

This one's for me.

Because I know I can do it.

Because I know what I have to offer is worth page space.

Because no one has done it yet.

Because I'll never be able to explain to Lark, Chronicle, or Quirk books why they need me and unless I can convince them myself they will never pick me.

Because I talked to Capello this week-end on the actual phone and she is such a ROCK STAR! (OK, that's not really a reason why I'm going to publish my own magazine, but I have been dying to say that and have had a hell of a time finding the appropriate moment to slip that in.)

Basically what I'm doing is starting my own team and picking myself first.

For me that's profound.

Sometimes it's the only way to show other people what they're missing. Sometimes it's the only way to get others to listen and to see your vision: to set them free of any obligation to recognize it until everyone else does. By then you don't need anyone.

I promise not to put myself on every cover.

I promise not to preach.

I promise never to stare you down from the front of every cracker and cereal box in the grocery store.

I promise not to coin every clever phrase I can come up with (this one's easy because I don't come up with clever phrases like "It's a good thing." because they make me want to shave my ass and roll in salt afterwards.**)

I promise to continue to seek the light while never running from the dark.

That's it. That's all my eggs.

*(And run like hell.)
**Oh, excuse me for that little coarse outburst.

Aug 24, 2008

Tomatillo Salsa
the recipe


5 1/2 cups husked, cored, and chopped tomatillos
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped jalapenos
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 tbsp lime juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

  • Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

  • In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

  • Ladle hot salsa into jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary by adding more hot salsa. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

  • Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered in water. Bring to a boil and process both 8 ounce and pint jars for 15 minutes.

You should know that the amounts I've given are for one batch, which is ridiculously small. I made 5 batches all at once. If you're like me and would like to make a lot at once multiply all of the ingredients by five. It's nice to know you can do smaller batches, though, because if you have a lot of these ingredients in your garden you may only be able to make a little at a time as things ripen.

You can use other types of hot chili peppers, according to your tastes. I only have eyes for jalapenos because they don't make me burp as much as other peppers. I like serranos too but they tend to be too hot for me. If you used a cup of serranos per recipe I think you'd be breathing fire and then you might die. So if you like things hotter, try a blend. Just be sure that the total amount of peppers you use remains the same.

You can also use a little more garlic if you like.

This salsa is quite soupy. Philip wanted to know if it can be made thicker. I'm not sure about that yet. I have to do a little canning research before I know how much I can safely adjust the liquid content. (If I was just making it for fresh eating, instead of for canning, I would just cook it down til it was as thick as I liked). Until I find out, or some other experienced canner gives us the answer, don't mess with it. It's amazing just as it is.

Kelly, my good friend Chelsea, and Edot also mention roasting tomatillos first and I think that sounds great, so I might have to try that for the next batch.

Hey, if any of you are posting about your own canning projects, will you mention it in the comments with links so I (and anyone else) can share the canning love? I love seeing what everyone else is putting up for the winter right now. I've shown you mine, now you show me yours...
Tomatillo Salsa
14 pints is not enough

Tomatillos are a queer fruit. They hide demurely in their husks until they come of age when suddenly they are splitting all their seams and bursting out like exuberant teenagers who have just discovered music. You expect them to be full of juice and lusty sharp flavor but they are strangely dry until cooked.

Strange cousin to the tomato both belonging to my favorite plant family Solanaceae. Other notorious family members include: potatoes, mandrake root, peppers, deadly nightshade, eggplant, and Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia).

The skin of the tomatillo is waxy and sticky. Not a tactile treat for those of us who don't enjoy having tacky residue stuck to our skin. The smell of a raw tomatillo isn't particularly enticing. In fact, it has a strange almost fleshy scent. So what made humans decide to try the fruit of this plant which obviously belongs to a family of Borgias? Good question. If I had come across this plant in the wild I would have expected it to be like a tomato. But I would have been suspicious of its likeness to its poisonous kin. Will it kill me? Or will it be nourishing?

Most importantly: will it taste good? If I had decided to risk death and hallucinations to answer this important question I would have been very disappointed in it right off the vine. What on earth leads humans to cook things that don't taste good raw? Dogged determination? Complete stupidity? Someone found out that tomatillos, when cooked, have a very different flavor than when they are raw; that it is pleasantly tart and sprightly. Someone, eventually paired them up with all the ingredients to make it into *an incredible salsa.

This salsa is so good (in my estimation) that 14 pints of it is not sufficient. I intend to use it in many applications. Obviously it's great eaten with tortilla chips. It is also amazing with eggs. I'm eager to pair it with black beans. I would also like to make tomales and use this as a sauce for them.

I will be thinking of the brave person who uncovered this fruits merits all winter long. Cooking without the Solanaceae family would be devastating. I think European food, before the arrival of these south and central American treats, must have been very dull. What would Italian food be without tomatoes? Or British food without potatoes?

The salsa took a long time to prep. I found myself wondering if any salsa could possibly be worth so much effort and drama. Yes: DRAMA. My spouse generously offered to help so I had him cut the jalapenos with the warning not to touch his face or eyeballs until he had thoroughly washed his hands. If I had had gloves for him to wear, I would have given him some.

Sometimes crazy people hear things differently than non-crazy people. Sometimes you need a translator to understand how their ear hears things. For example:

When I said "Be sure not to touch your face or your eyeballs until you've washed your hands" what Philip heard me say was:

"Be sure to touch your face IMMEDIATELY!" Which he did within a couple of minutes. Without washing his hands.

His forehead started burning and he was sweating so the burning began to spread. He washed his face and then dried it with a towel. Which made the burning spread more. So he started to panic. Panic makes us humans do irrational things. Normally, if something you just did to help a bad situation, ended up actually making the situation worse, you would not continue to do it. In a panic you don't recognize rationality. So Philip, in a panic because his whole face was burning, washed his face again! His panic also made him sweat more profusely and this had him very concerned that the pepper burn would soon be in his eyes.

I told him to stop. To just stop making it worse. A spouse, whether male or female, never enjoys hearing this.

The thing is, I should have considered his asthma before setting him on pepper duty. I felt so bad afterwards. He started wheezing which is what he does when he eats food that is too hot for him. It has an immediate effect on his breathing. Guys are notorious for believing that there is some connection with an ability to ingest super spicy food with the strength of their manhood. Very curious that women rarely suffer this same issue. Philip used to be a very typical male in his macho love of spicy foods. However, over the years it became impossible to ignore the reaction his lungs had after he would eat really spicy food.

It's easy for a lot of people to dismiss asthma as an imaginary complaint if they've never experienced it for themselves. If you've never had difficulty breathing you don't worry that you might suddenly not be able to breath. You take breathing for granted. But people with asthma do not have that luxury. Asthma can be life threatening. So it's actually quite understandable that Philip, who started wheezing, might be worried about how bad it could get.

That didn't stop me from wanting to tell him what a delicate flower he has turned out to be.

This all made me wonder what people did to protect themselves when processing large quantities of hot peppers before there was such a thing as latex gloves? I think about these things because they are disposable, made of latex, and will sit in landfills for a long time. How do things like this fit into a "slow" or a "green" life? My inclination is to not use them. I felt the burn on my hands for at least an hour after cutting up just twelve of the remaining peppers. I didn't mind so much. But it really can hurt.

So, was it all worth it? Oh HELL YEAH!! There was a little left over and I tried it. Oh yes! Clearly I need more. Tomatoes might not be as prolific this year but I can do a lot with this tomatillo sauce/salsa. I do want to note that I had had tomatillo salsa from Trader Joe's before and it was nothing to write home about. Very boring. You have to try it home made. I thought I didn't like tomatillos until my friend Lisa E. made some and I tried it.

Go make some yourself!!

*There are many recipes out there. I used the one from the Ball "Complete Book of Home Preserving" but it can also be found in their "Blue Book". The link I've given here is to a recipe by Rick Bayless, a well known chef and author whose specialty is Central American style cooking.
The one thing I see missing from most of the recipes I just saw is lime juice. Lime juice is, in my opinion (and my friend Nicole's opinion) A MUST. If any of you would like me to put an actual recipe for this on my blog here, request it and I shall deliver.

Aug 23, 2008

Home Preserving
weird recipe hall of fame

This salsa is good, but not good enough to warrant making as much of it as I did last year. I am much more excited about tomatillo salsa which I am making and canning today. Canning what you like takes experimentation, it means sometimes you spend time canning things you don't like first.

It's the same with eating. I accidentally bought this yellow watermelon. I'm not a fan. It doesn't have as strong a flavor as the red kind does and it looks anemic to me. I can't feed it to my child who already has very strong views on what constitutes edible food, he has been eating lots of watermelon in the past couple of weeks which is fantastic! But I know without asking him that he will not take kindly to his watermelon changing color on him. He likes things to be "how they're supposed to be".

I've already admitted that there are some canned items that I would never have tried if my friends didn't make them first and twist my arm to force me to try them. Peach salsa is one of them. I actually like the peach salsa, but not enough to make some for myself. Jalapeno jelly sounded wrong. Just plain WRONG. Until I had some poured over cream cheese and eaten on crackers. I found myself unable to stop eating it. Pickled peaches- doesn't sound all that great but I actually liked it. Another one I tried was bread and butter pickles. I already knew I loathe sweet pickles so I was pretty sure I wouldn't like these. Yep. Any amount of sugar with my dills makes me want to gag.

See how, with ease, I bring us all back in time to the eighties with my words?

There are some recipes in my "Complete Book of Home Preserving" by Ball that I am reasonably sure I would rather be poked in the eye with a dirty needle than eat, and here they are:

Carrot Cake Jam
- not only does it just sound awful...the idea of cake pulverized into a spread to put on toast, it uses canned pineapple. I have a problem canning foods whose ingredients include already canned foods. Twice canned pineapple- will there be any nutritive value left? And how old will it be when you finally get in the mood to eat your cake-jam? It's already likely at least a year old. I get in the mood for cake jam NEVER, so I'm guessing that pineapple will get very very old.

Sundae In A Jar
- why do humans want to put everything in a jar? What is this twisted urge we have? What's good about a sundae, in my opinion, is the separate ingredients coming together suddenly on your spoon, and maybe beginning to mix as the ice cream melts. The idea of taking an ice cream sundae, letting the ice cream melt, and stirring all of the ingredients together in one great big sugar soup sounds repulsive to me. Granted, this recipe is just adding chocolate flavored liqueur to a batch of jam style fruit...but why? Why not open up a jar of strawberry sauce to pour over some ice cream and then pour some chocolate fudge on it?

Tropical Breeze Freezer Jam
- again, with the previously canned ingredients! Add some mashed banana to the "jam", shredded coconut, and mandarin orange slices and you have food not fit for my chickens. Who would eat this on toast? I don't even want to think about how much like clumps of slug guts the banana must be like...nasty. This recipe is proof that humans will eat anything.

Jelly Bean Jelly- this is the worst of the worst. The only real food ingredient is apple juice. Dudes- this is a recipe for a jelly that will taste like jelly beans using flavoring oil concentrates and, if you like your jelly on the festive side, food coloring. This is not food. There is no reason to eat this. If you want the flavor of jelly beans, what is wrong with just eating some jelly beans? It's that charming notion of "food in a jar" which is Ball's way of trying to drum up interest in their jars in the non-canning sector of the populace. Anyway- is it true that some people, while eating jam on toast, really wish their jam tasted like jelly beans? No, don't tell me. I can't know this kind of stuff, it will make my head explode!

You must bear in mind that if you twist my arm hard enough I just might give in and try your proudly canned "Twinkies In A Jar" jam, but beware what I will force you to eat in return.

Aug 21, 2008

Caramelized Onions

If you have never caramelized onions, it's time you did. I realize that they sound ever so slightly haughty like something a crazed "foodie" would make that the rest of us would find stupid (like "caramelized oyster juice"?!@)...but they are amazing. It takes a little time to do them right and that's one half of the caramelized onion trick. It's very easy:

Onions + Medium-Low Heat + time = Perfect Caramelized Onions

That is your equation. You must follow it. Do not be tempted to rush yourself. Be making other things at the same time and do at least three onions at a time so that you'll have plenty. You need to let the onions brown ever so slowly. If you're a punk in a rush you will burn them with too high of a heat. You need to scrape them from the bottom of the pan moderately often. You want them to brown, but then you want them to brown all over.

Then what do you do with them? If you made ten of them at once you have the perfect base for a heavenly French onion soup. If you made less you can use it for topping on a home made pizza. If you don't feel like making pizza dough, use bread. Toast your bread, spread it with either marinara sauce or pesto sauce, liberally top it with the onions, and then cheese. Or use it for appetizers on crackers: cracker, then cheese, and then small pile of sticky sweet onions. Add them to sandwiches. Use them with ricotta in a manicotti stuffing.

I'm sure they must be able to make meat a lot nicer too.

Once you do these onions right, everyone will think you're a cooking star.

You will also never get over them.

Aug 20, 2008

Suicide For Beginners

It can easily be argued that an appropriate response to losing someone to suicide is to feel anger. Not only does the bible consider suicide to be an unforgivable sin* but the law ridiculously forbids suicide and so if you attempt it you can be arrested. So why not be angry if someone you love has performed the ultimate gesture of hopelessness and exhaustion? You have God and the law on your side, not to mention the many psychologists who will say that it's perfectly natural for you to feel that way.

I strongly disagree.

Anger at a suicide is a wholly self indulgent emotion. A lot of suicides live life feeling alone, unheard, and hopeless. Their motivations for leaving this earth aren't usually** to spite the living, to thwart them, to inconvenience them, or to hurt them. Suicide itself has been thought of as a selfish act, so why not have selfish emotions around it too?

I'm not entirely sure that once you've courted death, as a suicidal person does, that you ever lose your connection to those feelings of what it's like to really not want to exist. You may come through suicidal periods in life knowing that you don't want to die if it's not your time; you may find happiness and joy in life that you never thought possible when you reeked of the end of the life tracks; covered in the grease of despair; but it leaves an imprint in your consciousness that colors how you view life no matter how strongly you wish to live.

You develop a language and an understanding that the average person doesn't have. Most people, at one time or another, go through such a hard time that they briefly entertain the thought of offing themselves. Most people don't live in that head space for long enough to spare compassion and empathy when they hear that someone has killed themselves. Instead they trot out anger, pity (not the same as empathy by a long shot), or grey indifference because they're scared of the whole subject.

In high school I had an English teacher who was reputed to be one of the hardest in the school; the kind of teacher whose name was hissed fearfully in the dark corners of long scrubbed hallways for fear of invoking the teacher beast itself. His name was Mr. Pierce. Not that that matters. I figured it didn't matter what teacher I had because I was headed for hell in a great molten basket anyway. What difference would it make if I got there with one more D on my record?

As it turned out Mr. Pierce was one of the very first English teachers to inspire in me a longing to become a better writer. His strictness, his reverence for literature, language, and words made me see in him a person whose admiration was actually worth achieving. It was one of the first times in a very long time that I found myself actually caring about my homework because this guy, Mr. Pierce, was a stickler for a well turned phrase, or at the very least a great effort towards one. He wanted to foster a better vocabulary in his hormonal students and hadn't lost his own great passion for his subject. No teen-ager's indifference could wear him down.

We had to write a creative writing paper. He gave a number of examples of the kind of story lines we could use. I could sense the great upsurge of fear and dread amongst my classmates even as I found my mind racing with a million possibilities in excitement. In the end there was only one story I had to tell at that moment.

I wrote a first person narrative about a youth locked in a bathroom preparing to kill themselves. It was something like a stream of consciousness piece of work. I honestly can't claim it was a masterpiece. Yet the teacher, bored with every student doing a riff directly off of his proffered examples, must have felt some kind of frisson of life explode from the page because after turning it in he approached me and made the first real personal contact with me of the whole semester. He said "I think you must read a lot."

I nodded in the affirmative.

He then recommended a few books to me that I might enjoy, some of which I was happy to say I'd already read.

He then had me read my piece out loud to the classroom. Which I did reluctantly. I do not enjoy public speaking or being in the limelight in that way. I was honored that he had chosen my story to be read out loud. So I did.

As I predicted, when I finished reading my story and put down the paper, the class was completely silent. They squirmed. The teacher looked at them sternly. The bell released them.

I felt exposed and icky. That was the first time I'd ever shared my most private thoughts. Out loud. The teacher knew. The other students knew. Thank god I didn't have many friends already or I might have had to experience the agony of losing a couple.

The appropriate response to hearing that someone you know has killed themselves is to feel sorrow. Sorrow is appropriate. Missing them, if you liked or loved them, is entirely appropriate. Shedding tears and wondering what you might have done to help, had you known they needed help, is appropriate. Torturing yourself with that thought is not. Wishing they could come back, that you could replay experiences you had with them, perhaps rewriting a few, is natural. In the end I want to suggest you express your love for them and give them what they sorely lacked in life- give them the ear of your spirit and remember them not as you wish they had been but as they really were. They won't mind if you remember the drool sliding down their cheeks as they slept like babies, so long as you remember it kindly.

You should know that sometimes the people in a suicide's life could have done a lot to help and didn't, and sometimes they couldn't have done anything to prevent death. Each of us knows the real answer in ourselves. No one else can tell us what we might have done different. By the time we're processing our pain over the loss of a loved one to suicide it's too late to ask what we might have done for the dead, but it's never too late to ask what we can do differently for the living.

I cannot speak for all suicides. I wish I could because lord knows someone needs to speak for the ones who have no mouths where they have gone. I remember when I was sixteen and had just found out that a poem I wrote made a friend cry. I remember thinking about the power of words. About how my spirit and my pen and paper seemed like the same entity and that if I had any power at all in using them the most meaningful thing I could do is to help another suicidal person come through the other side, as I had done. If anything I could write would help them feel less alone, more hopeful, like someone out there spoke their own language without rebuke...I would have used my gift truly well.

So if you know someone you suspect is contemplating suicide, please check out the following resources. You may get some answers, some ideas how to help, and be less afraid to stick your foot in. Think of this: if someone is determined to commit suicide, what's the worst you can do? The worst you can do is nothing. You might be concerned about making mistakes, making it worse, but the truth is, if someone is determined there may be nothing you can do to stop it. But many people contemplating or attempting suicide desperately need to be seen and heard. So even if you don't know all the right words to say or the right things to do, just listening-seeing-and most of all- hearing them can make a world of difference.

Don't let them be invisible and soundless.

And if you lose someone to suicide? If anger rises, ask yourself- NOT HOW IT'S AFFECTED YOU- but what it meant to that person to exit life. Spend some time sending them love. LOVE. They need it. Even post mortem. We all need a lot more love.

Suicide Resources:

  • McMinnville Suicide Hotline: (503) 434-7465 or 1-800-560-5535

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

  • National Institute of Mental Health I consider this site to be a reliable source for information on mental illness and mental health. There is tons of information available here.

*I don't read the bible so I have only heard this second hand. There is no way I can believe in a God that will forgive the molestation of children but not suicide, a frequent result of those who've been molested as children.

**This may rarely be the case but isn't generally the motivating factor behind suicide.
Cooking At Home

I've been spending more time in my kitchen in the past two weeks. I wonder what would happen if we all turned the necessary activities of living into activities we get enjoyment out of?

I keep thinking of what my good friend Kelly (at Her Able Hands) said in a comment about considering the monetary value of our time at home "I've never added up the cost of the things I do with my time at home...well... I should say never again...not since Ty was 2 and I spent a day writing down all of the things I did as a homemaker and assigned low-end salaries to those things--and concluded that I should have been making about $120K a year."

I keep thinking about that because so many people think of what they do at home as either drudgery or as time wasters unless it's "for fun". It's no wonder that I've heard so many people talk about their time being money. Remember how annoying I find that comment? There's no one person whom I attribute this attitude to. I've met so many people who've had it. Because of other people's attitudes about housewifery, I have certainly considered the question myself. When I was a housewife without a child my brother once accused me of "doing nothing" because I wasn't working for money outside the home, or going to school, or being a mom which, for some reason, is a much more acceptable reason to be home for most people than that you really love being a home maker.

What I learned being home is that having someone at home to take care of everything like laundry, growing food, preserving food, cooking every day, cleaning, and doing other household maintenance is far less expensive, in general, than having to pay others to do all of this for you. There are only so many hours in the day. If you work full time, and your spouse works full time, you are probably not doing some of these things for yourself. You are probably eating out frequently which means you're paying someone else to cook for you. Perhaps you are sometimes paying them minimum wage, but often you are probably paying others a good living to do for you what you could be doing for yourself if one of you could stay home.

When I stayed home I considered the work I did as professional. I took it seriously. I mean, I had fun doing it, but I knew that what I was providing for myself and my spouse was quality services. So I felt good about myself.

I love cooking. I'd rather be cooking than golfing and it is cheaper to have someone cooking at home than taking up golf as a past time. I like to think of the distant past when people weren't consumed by the need to constantly pursue entertainment. Oh, the royals and the upper class people always have, but people like me...our entertainment was simple and cheap and mostly we spent our time making things for ourselves like food, like furniture, and all the things we pay others for now.

Why shouldn't we enjoy doing for ourselves? I am in love with the DIY revolution! Why shouldn't it be fun to can our own food? Or to grow our own cut flowers? Or to travel the world in our kitchens once in a while?

On another note, I had the weirdest most annoying long dream/nightmare in which a royal wedding was going to take place and I was part of the huge party of guests but kept pissing everyone off by not knowing how to behave in polite society and doing things like falling asleep at the dinner table or wearing the wrong kind of clothes. I have rarely had such a complicated long dream following the same story line from beginning to end. I'm a pretty polite person but I definitely don't know what fork to use for what course and I have never learned to use a knife properly because vegetarians rarely have to grapple with tough flesh at the dinner table.

I'm glad to be awake.

Aug 19, 2008

It's Just As Bad As You Think

Finally! Definitive proof of alien life right here on earth! Yes, my friends, that is an alien emerging from the skin (the SKIN) of a regular farm tomato. This leaves me wondering why the hell the aliens are always honing in on farms? What is it with them and corn patches, farmer's barns, and probing all those poor rural folk? Don't they know there is plenty of strange city meat folk to experiment on?

This appears to be the first ever tomato live birth. I find it just as fascinating as I find it distressing that what is supposed to be a piece of highly coveted fruit has just given birth to itself three or four times. This is not a reasonable fruit.

Today I acquired far more produce than I will have time to process. It still isn't officially tomato canning season here because tomatoes are very late this year, however, I managed to get enough to make a big pot of tomato sauce for eating this week. I also got tomatillos to make tomatillo salsa with, plus some jalapenos, eggplants and squash for ratatouille, and I finally picked a bunch of the yellow plums that are overhanging our yard. We didn't have to go far to forage for those!

The plums don't have a strong plum flavor but they do have a pleasing sweet/tart fruitiness that will lend itself well to being a glaze on things like fruit tarts and other fancy dishes if the jam I made with them doesn't thrill us. I still have more and my friend Chelsea suggested making a plum sauce with them and I am going to do it! Most Asian style plum sauces are made with red or purple plums but the golden color of these plums will look nice too. I will use more sugar than the regular recipe calls for so that I can use this sauce like a sweet and sour Chinese dipping sauce. You know the kind I'm talking about? Bright pink syrupy sauce that has a sourness that tastes so good when spring rolls are dipped into it? I'm going to attempt to make a golden version of that.

So, that's a lot of work cut out for me. Luckily the kid has a friend over and so I can putz around in the kitchen all I want. Til my back falls off of my bones.

I want to say right here, right now, that I have not been overly sympathetic to my friends and family members who have deep aversions to yellow jackets. I have been followed around by them but generally found that if I didn't freak out they would eventually buzz off. Today I saw a different side of those wasps. I experienced the side that makes people quiver in their shoes and piddle on their carpets.

I was in my kitchen, pretty much minding my own business and not bounty hunting innocent flying creatures when, while trying to wash out my small enamel canner, I felt an intense sting in my arm. I looked at my arm and saw a yellow jacket attached to me by it's nasty syringe-size stinger and started swatting at it. I guess wasps don't like it when people swat at them so it starts lunging in at me trying to attack. Yes, it tried for my hip and I could almost feel the sting before I brushed it off again at which point it made for my chest. I'm thinking this dude had female issues.

Obviously I dropped my canner on the floor in this age old scuffle between people and nature (I'm thinking a Jack London style movie could be made from this epic saga) and ran screaming outside. My kid and his friend came to see what the big deal is. There's nothing like a couple of partially toothless skeptical seven year olds to make you feel foolish.

What I really wanted to do was leave the brave little men alone in the house and hightail it down to the pub to drink my shivers away and not come back until the natural life span of this evil winged beast was over. Naturally I'm not allowed to do things like that as a parent. So I had no choice but to show those two kids that I am a woman not to be messed with by some puny hairy looking punk.

So about two false entries into the danger zone I finally faced my foe like a man and caught him in a glass jar and released him outside in the front of the house.

I'll be damned if he didn't wing his way back to my porch within forty five minutes.

All this is to say: I understand now. I won't mock you guys any more. I promise. My sting still hurts and while it hardly compares to having given birth on the pain-o-meter it is a memorable moment.

I'm off to make sauces. I will be the sauce queen. Another time I'll tell you about how Max is teaching me to play chess and how scary it is how good he is at it for a seven year old.