food


School Girl Cat on Football Field 50 Yard Line by TaraFly

“I have not had the pleasure of understanding football.” – @writershouses

Writers’ Houses on Twitter echoed my feeling towards the panicked momentum leading up to Sunday’s Big Game.

Michelle Scott @mscottdjh followed up by tweeting:
“Incremental victories are coupled with exuberant celebration and punishing admonishment.”

“Is such an indiscriminate display of force by the stronger sex truly necessary? Indeed, it does them a disservice.” -@rosannecash

And thus heralded the Sunday night Twitter phenomenon affectionately known as “Jane Austen at the Super Bowl”, a title coined by Rosanne Cash (singer/author, and yes, daughter of Johnny) to politely mock the brutish sport in a manner befitting our beloved 19th century gentlefolk.

Whenever football season rears its ugly head, Joe and I lock our doors, turn off all the lights, and hide in the hall closet… until the yellow and black banners slowly disappear like melting snow from windows and porches around our neighborhood.

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”
@WesleyStace (John Wesley Harding)

Pittsburgh street celebrating Steelers

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Maryland does have a football team of its own … wait, let me Google it… yes, the Baltimore Ravens.
And of course, the Washington (D.C.) Redskins, whose reputation is legendary even to those of us who aren’t following their career.
Are they winning again??

However, since Hagerstown sits on the Pennsylvania border, with its close proximity to Pittsburgh only a few hours drive, many of our neighbors feel excused to switch their allegiance in favor of the golden Steelers who have already won six Super Bowls and can “beat the crap out of everyone” (or so I’ve been proudly informed).

“One wonders whether the gentlemen’s actions will rival the braggadocio on display.”
@CrossHare (Hisao Yatsuhashi)

“Are they to be murdered on the field?! Such an ill-advised display of manhood is indeed alarming.” – @rosannecash

Terrible Towels Pittsburgh Steelers

What are these terrible towels all about? Photo: Wikipedia

“It is not everyone,” said Elinor, “who has your passion for terrible towels.”@asavwms (Asa Williams)

What the heck is a Super Bowl anyway?

I blogged about my retail in-experience with football madness two years ago, as a grocery manager forced to deal with Event Planning for the Big Game.
I joked that it was taken as seriously by food-connoisseurs as Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts… with elaborate spreads of “finger foods” and dips being prepared.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love your Buffalo Chicken Pizza.”
@heymrmiked (Michael Dunn)

“No one knows how I suffer. Such flutterings of my heart and pains in my head. Perchance too many jalapenos.” – @anamcara1004 (Jen Nash Humphrey)

Apparently, America does indeed consider Super Bowl Weekend to be a national holiday, even if the government hasn’t officially declared it so. And Wiki claims it is the second-largest day for food consumption, after Turkey Day.
(No wonder I was feeling stressed, while Frito and Pepsi displays devoured every square inch of my salesfloor!)

“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”
@katekilla

“Super, you say? I have a far superior Bowl at Chawton – Jasperware decorated with the most delectable chinoiserie.”@WesleyStace (John Wesley Harding)

Last weekend, I couldn’t have honestly answered the question “Who do you think will win?” because I didn’t know which team was opposing the Steelers. It wasn’t obvious from my trips into town, where only yellow and black paraphernalia were on display and for sale in shop windows.

“The men, all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all.”
@mfortuin11 (Matilda)

Finally on Saturday night, I overheard someone in the grocery store griping about the lack of local support for the Green Bay Packers.
The other team.

My only recollection of the Packers involved a high school friend (Bobby) who was craaazy about them, wore their green jerseys everywhere, and got teased by the other guys for it.
He also poked gentle fun at my mother, because as a Minnesota resident – she’s a Vikings fan by default (because my stepfather is).
I gather the Wisconsin Packers and the Minnesota Vikings don’t like each other… *shrugs at the understatement*

I was so tired of hearing about these blasted Steelers, that I hoped the Packers would win, just to shut everyone up!
And to brighten Bob’s day, of course… :)

“I’ll not leave this house until its been universally contradicted that you intend to paint yourself green, Miss.”
@BusterBNYC (Bill Buster)

Plastic cheese head hat Green Bay Packers Wisconsin

A cheese hat, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

One funny thing about the team from Wisconsin, a state infamous for its cheese production: all the die-hard fans wear cheese!

Yes, they really do.

Well, it’s plastic molded into cheese shapes…
but still…

“A cheese bonnet!” exclaimed Mrs Bennett unexpectedly. “I have always wanted a splendid cheese bonnet!”
@WesleyStace

“Some ladies are determined to sport bonnets made of cheese. I must take to my bed.”@rosannecash
“And other ladies have made corsets of cheese. Very shocking indeed!”

Continued Mrs Bennett unadvisedly. “There is nothing so merry as a ‘chapeau de ‘fromage'”@WesleyStace

The silly state of the Packers’ fans’ attire sent the entire network of Janeites twittering…

“The cheesehead wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.”@abroshar (Abroshar)

“The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could in their cheeseheads.”@janinelaporte (Janine Laporte)

“All in all, an unusual display of circuses. Presumably bread was also available”@dan_ad_nauseam (Daniel Reitman)

Although Sunday night was as quiet and uneventful as nights could possibly be with 3 young children… and football was banned from Joe’s 42″ flat-screen pride and joy… the glimpses of Super Bowl fever that I caught on Twitter almost convinced me to sneak into the bedroom to catch the action…

Not the gaming action, mind you. The entertainment!

It began with pop-siren Christina Aguilera flubbing our national anthem in a moment of extreme emotion.

Kathryn Bass was concerned over the poor girl’s health:
“One wonders at the unexpected ululations of Miss C____ A____. Is she quite well?”

“I believe the misspeak by Ms Aguilera greatly vexed many. Perhaps the result of too many excessive diversions.”@anamcara1004

“You have delighted us long enough, Miss Aguilera.”
@Julian_West

“Before she could reply to entreaties that she would sing again, she was eagerly succeeded by the other performers.”@Amyloo (Amy Bellinger)

The other hot topic of the evening centered around the half-time performances. Just like our favorite night at the theatre, football games have intermissions. During the break, attendees will be treated to a live show of musical guests.

In the earliest shows, the entertainers were typically college marching bands… but over time, the producers realized that big stars would gain better publicity.
Past celebrity performances included: Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Queen Latifah, Aerosmith, Britney Spears, and Janet Jackson (who accidentally lost a bit of clothing during her number).

“One hopes the unfortunate incident involving the lady’s corset is not repeated on this occasion.”
@rosannecash

For Sunday’s spectacle, fans were treated to a live show by a hip-hop group called The Black Eyed Peas. It was a futuristic montage of flashing lights, silver jumpsuits, glowing dancers, and well… you get the idea.

“Regarding the Legume Chorale, it grieves me to note that the spectacle exceeds the musicality.”
@rosannecash

The poor Peas, now officially dubbed the Legume Chorale by Rosanne, received a public thrashing all around.

“Legume Chorale, you have delighted us long enough. Let the football teams have time to exhibit.”@janetrutter (Janet Rutter)

“Devil take those young dogs! How they are singing out! Stop your confounded pipe or I shall be after you.”
@itsthebunk (Liza Bernstein)

“They resumed with relief, and perhaps a mutual desire of never meeting the Black Eyed Peas again.”@abroshar

People watching at home are also entertained by the commercials played on TV during halftime. Apparently, the Super Bowl is one of the highest rated programs on television. According to Wikipedia, this year’s Super Bowl attracted 111 million viewers and has become the “most viewed television broadcast of any kind in U.S. history”.
Yikes!

So advertisers pay hefty sums of money (think $3 million) to have their commercials aired during the game, most notably at halftime.
These ads are usually major productions themselves, with people tuning in just to see the spots.

We didn’t. But Joe later admitted that he was tempted to check out the ads.

“The commercials are tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
@dkrobledo (Danie Robledo)

“Though I find the sport itself coarse,” said Mrs Cawthon, “still I must admit to enjoying the advertisements.”@briantedjones (Brian Jones)

Brett Favre Green Bay Packers

Mr. Favre, Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Despite the humorous parodies being flung about, it was obvious to an observer that at least a few of these literati were actually watching the game. And knew what was going on, and who was involved with whom.

“I cannot think what is the matter with me!” said Mr Rodgers when his legs were removed from under his body.”@itsthebunk

“There will be several embarrassed gentlemen in white if the gentlemen in green are the victors.”@dan_ad_nauseam (Daniel Reitman)

“Mr. Favre was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by concussions.” – @dylanw (Dylan Wilbanks)

“I do not wish for opinions of men wearing stripes when the actions of a man w/a pigskin have spoken so plainly.”@avb (Ashley Van Buren)

“I may boast that no gentleman of my acquaintance would be in a position to be called for unnecessary roughness.”@pcarlson001 (Pam Carlson)

And as we’ve all heard by now, unless you’re still hiding in your hall closet…
The Cheeseheads from Wisconsin won the game.
My friend Bob was notedly ecstatic. It’s safe for us to emerge and wander the streets again.

“I will not say that your Steelers are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.”
@janiceharayda (Janice Harayda)

“Lydia’s low spirits upon the regiment vacating Merton were revived upon sighting young swains in green and yellow.”@elizabethkarr (Elizabeth Karr)

I wanted to compile a list of all the witty and remarkable tweets from the #JaneAustenAtTheSuperBowl discourse, earlier in the week, but many honorable ladies of the Austen blogosphere were burning their midnight oil and beat me soundly to the finish line. ;)

Here are a some of my favorite random quips:

“I do not perceive the greatness in this ball, there being no dancing and the gentlemen acting too much with wine.”@EFAmericana (Andres Rojas)

“Such lust for possession of an inanimate object so entirely lacking in aesthetic merit does not bode well.”@HumidCity (Humid City)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, a single man in possession of the pigskin must be in want of a touchdown.”
@dandavenport

“It is your turn, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the shotgun formation & you ought to remark on the snap count.”@Ohiofoodlovers (JPoleon)

“What a commotion! There runs a man with a ball as if something were after him! He’s lost all sense of decorum!”@BusterBNYC (Bill Buster)

“A cheerleader, especially if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”@andevers (A.N. Devers)

Perhaps next year, I’ll invite you to take a turn with me around the sidelines, as I hear the sport can be quite refreshing!
The gentleman and brutes can admire us much better from their positions on the field.

Purchase, where might one procure a bonnet and corset made from cheese?

canned vegetables and food pantry

Getting a peek inside our cupboards...

Last week, I wrote a fairly difficult post (for me, anyway), confronting my prejudice against the criminally insane… and how I’ve struggled to change my perspective on judging others.

It’s extremely easy from where we stand, to look at people in less fortunate circumstances, and blame them for their own misery.
I was raised to think that way. And I still believe in personal accountability.

The year 2011 is not even 1/12 over… and already I see a pattern emerging: this is shaping up to become the year which tests my faith and personal convictions.

Beginning with prejudice.

I carry around quite a bit of prejudice, typically towards people who moan and complain about being victimized.
Society is against them.
Their employers are against them.
The government is against them.
They just can’t get anywhere in this world.

You know people like this. You might even be one of them.

I’ve encountered plenty of obstacles in my short lifetime, but if I failed to overcome them or find a work-around, I attributed it to a lack of motivation or laziness on my part… not on some conspiracy designed to hold me back.
“Where there’s a will…”

Like many people who have never lived without, I’ve frowned on the “abuse” of the welfare system.
I’ve never applied for food stamps, subsidized housing, or the like; it looked like a joke being played on a naive bureaucracy. Don’t those silly state workers know “single mothers” have live-in boyfriends?

But before you angrily grab your keyboard to respond how misguided I am… let me finish, mkay? ;)

This year, changes are taking place around here… too early to be discussed yet.
But in the last week, I’ve stared the possibility of poverty square in the face, and it scared me. So I’m re-evaluating where I stand.

When you have $0.00 in your bank account, after getting work hours cut and paying some large bills, and with two weeks looming until next payday… you begin to panic.

You think about the last full gallon of milk: it won’t survive a week with three kids. It won’t survive 2 days!
You think about that 1/4 tank of gas in the car. The diapers, the cat food, the laundry soap…

You also begin to think irrationally, and your choices suddenly multiply: you could beg for money, you could steal, move in with relatives, or apply for welfare.

Or you could get creative.

That’s the decision I made.

a nearly empty freezer with popsicles and tostitos

Joe has anxiety attacks when the frozen dinners are gone

Taking an inventory of our cupboards and fridge gave Joe migraines, but we had to look past our convenience “Go-To” foods – to see the full potential of what we had stocked away.
You know those boxes of pasta lying around? Elbow, Bowtie, Spaghetti… cook them!
The canned veggies that nobody wants to eat… find a way to serve them. (Bwahahaha)

Our biggest concern was the milk situation. We hadn’t anticipated that we’d be broke, and didn’t stockpile on our most frequently consumed beverage.
The apple and orange juice disappeared very quickly, so I made sure to conserve our milk exclusively for the kids to drink.
Which begs the question: What did we cook with?

When I first became obsessed with homemade baked goods, I went crazy in the Baking Aisle of the grocery store, and purchased everything I might ever need:
Brown and white sugars, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking soda and powder, packets and refrigerated yeasts, condensed and powdered milk

When the milk alternatives ran out (every recipe seems to require milk!) we moved on to the heavy cream that Joe had purchased over the holidays for my homemade eggnog. We still had an entire pint of cream leftover!

I Googled “milk substitution” and one Know-it-All posted an article that you could NOT substitute heavy cream for milk.

However, I knew that 3/4 cup of milk + 1/3 cup of melted butter could be substituted for heavy cream, if you had none on hand.
So why not the reverse??
Since our butter was also low, and every recipe wanted butter, I tested the theory.

I made our pancakes with heavy cream replacing BOTH milk and butter, and guess what? It worked! Haha
The pancakes were still fluffy and delicious, and the kids gobbled them up without complaint.

So screw the Know-it-Alls. Don’t listen to them! ;P

The kids are huge junk-food fiends. Mia’s favorite snack is the Pop-Tart, and she can go through an entire box within days.
So once the two boxes of strawberry and cinnamon flavored Pop-Tarts were gone, despite our best efforts to teach a 3-year-old about conservation, Joe looked up recipes for homemade variations.

And we found an excellent one here, but you can Google “homemade Pop Tart” also…
Basically, it’s just a pie crust recipe rolled flat, cut into rectangles, and filled with jam, jelly, applesauce, a brown sugar cinnamon mixture, or whatever you like. :)
It turned out light and flaky, and reminded me of a Toaster strudel.

A handmade baked pop tart using pie crust and jam

Joe and Lydia's initial tasty attempt at Pop-Tart baking

We had a nearly full jar of strawberry jam in the fridge, and we also experimented with cinnamon applesauce.
It’s an easy recipe, with very few ingredients. Joe and Lydia made the first batch together.

Little girl hanging upside down on chair

Some days I measure my worth by those empty baskets... sad, huh.

My obsessive goal to keep up with our laundry was put to the test, when our industrial size bottle of detergent decided to run dry at the worst possible time. Sure, I tore apart the top of the container and rinsed the residual soap from its plastic sides into our machine. But it wasn’t enough.

That green box of Borax sat on the shelf, mocking my laziness.

Last year, a few soap sellers in the Etsy forums helpfully posted links to their favorite recipes for handmade laundry detergent… but they involved shredding mild hand soap with a cheese grater and boiling the scrapings into 5 gallons of boiling water.
I had all the ingredients, including the 5 gallon metal pail, but who wants to cook soap shreddings?? Not when detergent is more convenient. ;)

With no other alternative, I spent one afternoon boiling soap. It wasn’t terribly hard, and the loads came out smelling clean, but I won’t be using the grater for food anytime soon. LOL

“Going green” and “living sustainably” are hot buzzwords that many of us equate with expensive energy-star upgrades or tree-hugging communes. Those folks who ride bicycles in 15 degrees farenheit, trying to avoid snowdrifts.

But in reality, sustainable living includes finding creative ways to cut expenses, and being frugal with your resources.

Growing your own crops, canning veggies, using cloth diapers, boiling your own detergents, upcycling clothing, and making your foods from scratch (instead of buying factory processed Pop Tarts)… are just some of the ways to ultimately save your family money.

It’s terribly easy to become complacent when money is lining your pocket, and those microwavable chicken nuggets are tempting you.
I can totally sympathize – remember, I’m the girl who worships the clothes dryer! (Who wants stiff laundry crawling with spiders?)

But perhaps we can help out our less fortunate neighbors by teaching them to live sustainably, helping them to stretch their meager incomes.

You feel less “poor” when you have control over your environment.

I’m adding the decision to live frugally to my personal goals this year.
When our tax return arrives, the bulk of it will go directly into an emergency savings account, and we’ll continue to “live poor”.
Not starving and devoid of milk, mind you, but really taking to heart the recent lessons we’ve learned: Utilize everything we have, and find alternatives to save money.

Even if it means a bit of elbow grease… or in this case, grating soap! LOL

Do you have any awesome money-saving tips you’d like to share with me?

I Like Purple People Eating Fridays Myself

Crowd Of Zombies

This isn’t the blog post that is scheduled to appear tomorrow… as this particular post stood a 95% chance of never coming into existence.

Black Friday madness is a disease that retail associates encounter with dread each year. Knowing what bloodthirsty monsters lurk outside my door – the rabid and frothing crowds of shoppers, with sleepless glazed eyes and desperate frenzy reacting with high levels of caffeine – makes me grateful to be alive and well in my home.

The sales are tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me (to risk life and limb).

The children and I just kissed Joe good-bye, as he departs to serve his company in preparation for “The Event”.. i.e. working overnight as the head of security for our local Walmart.

Zombies looking for bargain brains on Black Friday - photo from Belch.com

I didn’t intend to have a sale for Black Friday… just to be rebellious.
Although I do have a holiday sale going on through December 31st, both in my Etsy shop and my website… I haven’t been actively promoting it.

But as the clock winds down, marking the end of Thanksgiving (…oh, by the way, I made chicken fried rice and a pumpkin pie for Joe and the kids), the excitement builds and everyone has “Sales” on the brain.
I’ve decided to host a minor one of my own, just to say “Thanks!” to everyone who has purchased from me this year. Every dollar counts around here… unlike Walmart, who will never miss me. ;)

Everything will be marked 10% off with free shipping in my Etsy shop… and 20% off with free shipping on my website. I accept PayPal, personal checks, and money orders on TaraFlyArt.com, and (unlike Etsy) I’m under no obligation to pay any “final sales” fees… so you can see where my loyalties lie. ;)

Green Kimono Cat Fine Art Print by TaraFly

Green Kimono Cat 8x10 Print now on sale!

My Purple People Eating Friday sale will begin at midnight tonight, and will run through midnight on Monday, Nov. 29th (EST).

Other exciting news for fans of Zazzle merchandise….

Zazzle is hosting a major Black Friday sales event, which applies to all the cool products in My Zazzle Shop – posters, greeting cards, shirts, mugs…! So here is a glimpse at what is going on:

Every two hours, a different product will go on sale! Four special sales have already begun:

These four sales are going on right now, until those designated times.

Mr Bennet Cat by TaraFly printed on Zazzle T-shirt

This guy loves his navy blue Mr Bennet Cat T-shirt...

Okay, the other sales which begin tomorrow (and last 2 hours each) are as follows:

For the final 2 slots, 8-10PM and 10:00PM until midnight, Zazzle is hosting something called “Friday’s Favorite Deal Repeat” … and I’m not quite certain what that means yet. Perhaps they’ll repeat whichever deals earned the most sales earlier?
When I find out more, I will post an update on my Facebook fan page (which automatically updates my Twitter status as well).

Red Kimono Cat by TaraFly US Postage Stamps Zazzle

Red Kimono Cat on a sheet of US postage stamps

U.S. Residents: Please note that Zazzle also has a Free Ground/Economy Shipping offer in place for purchases over $50.00 (before taxes). The offers ends on November 30th.

Whew! That was a lot to absorb, wasn’t it? If you’re totally confused, I wouldn’t blame you… I subscribe to Zazzle’s newsletters (which is a good idea, really, if you like shopping with them) and I had to re-read it a couple of times to clarify things. Hehe
My brain apparently shut down from sugar overload after digesting the pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip and a glass of freshly brewed iced tea.

But anyways… Cyber shopping on Black Friday is much safer, more convenient, and definitely the easiest way to get your sales-addiction fix without trading your pajamas for a heavy winter coat and braving the masses for hours of joy standing in line.

And best of all, you can’t catch rabies over the internet!

The snarling, foaming monsters are far, far away from you… trapped behind the glass or plasma walls of their computer monitors.
And you needn’t worry, because I don’t bite.

Unless you are that last slice of pie…
slice of pumpkin pie on a red plate

homemade cheese bread loaf for garlic bread toast

Delicious Homemade Cheese Bread that tastes great with garlic sprinkle and butter!

I must be having a breakdown of some kind. And I think everyone else in my family has realized it before I finally did. I’ve been acting completely out of character to the point of being unrecognizable to those who know me best.

Usually when I’m under stress, I escape into a creative zone and avoid anything work related. That includes a boycott on domestic chores in favor of a good novel, a melodramatic mini-series on BBC, or an afternoon spent painting and “crafting”.

It’s no secret that I’ve never been domestically inclined to begin with; both my previous husbands would looove to attest to it. Neither was I content to live in complete and utter squalor, so I would find the strength to occasionally vacuum the carpet or throw a few loads of laundry into the machine.

I loved to bake, and hated to cook.
I didn’t mind folding clothes, but loathed putting them away.
Don’t get me started on ironing… what’s the point?
And dishes would be stubbornly left to sit for days in the sink.

Having worked in a variety of retail/food service/housekeeping jobs where mopping floors, washing and sanitizing dishes, and scrubbing surfaces were a huge portion of my daily requirements… it made coming home to more dishes and grungy floors a depressing inevitability.

Last year, significant and profound things began happening to me.
Well, obviously, I gave birth to Jacob in April (2009)… but my role shifted from being a full-time, workaholic retail grocery manager who also happened to be a mom, to being a “homemaker” and nurturing caregiver.

A few short years ago, I would’ve scoffed at the notion of being a stay-at-home mother. Not that I devalue what it represents, as some of my earliest role
models were primarily homemakers with creative side outlets (like my grandmother, the published poet).
But as I admitted initially, I wasn’t cut from the same cloth… or so I thought.
I avoided those dreaded high school Home Economics courses like the Black Plague. I got itchy hives even thinking about quilting and crocheting.

Although, when I could no longer identify myself by a professional job title, it dawned on me that I needed to take ownership of my own home.
That is why I’ve jumped into this domesticity deal with both feet, plunged in up to my thighs.

I feel a new sense of pride and accomplishment from seeing an empty laundry hamper, a recently mopped kitchen floor, and squeaky clean children munching on their tuna fish sandwiches.. just as much as I felt after setting Thanksgiving salesfloor displays, printing 480 price signs, and straightening out inventory discrepancies.

homemade pancakes with maple syrup and butter

Our usual breakfast, made from scratch with love and lots of syrup

The idea to sell my paintings and become an entrepreneur came about as a result of identity crisis, needing to find a creative expression with which to
motivate me beyond the dirty diapers and piles of dishes… I had always wanted to run my own retail business, and had done some research awhile ago when I
couldn’t decide between opening a bakery, an arts/crafts supply store, a bookstore, a cat-themed gift shop, or some bizarre combination of food, art, books, and cats.

Ironically, now that my artwork is beginning to find its market and sales have increased, what was once an outlet to escape from work has now become the work. I have difficulty staying focused as pressure demands that I prepare for the holidays, create new lines… (everyone has their calendars designed and printed except me), advertise, apply for winter shows, and so forth.

I find myself embracing the domestic lifestyle even more, and mundane housechores have become my new retreat.
The stress manifests itself as a sparking house. I convince myself that laundry, dishes, and vacuuming are vital, when in fact, it’s just another form of
procrastination
.

Last week, I had an unconscious breakdown while starting my Jane Bennet portrait… suddenly, I developed an urge to create a line of stuffed animals based upon my Regency Cats. Instead of putting this cute but unfeasible notion on the back-burner, I dropped everything to scour the internet for doll patterns.

One thing to remember: I don’t sew. And I can’t follow a pattern to save my life. I think in finished terms.. I envision a piece fully completed, and then dissect it
to figure out how it was constructed. If I were an architect, I would draw a house. Not a blueprint.
Blueprints and dress patterns are written in Greek… no wait, I can actually read bits of Greek, so they might as well be written in Mandarin Chinese.

sketches for a stuffed cat doll in regency dress

See, aren't my patterns easy to understand? ;)

I sketched this design for a doll, and this drawing make perfect sense to me. No fancy terms required. I dug into my bag of never-to-be-worn-again-but-too-sentimental-to-discard clothing, and pulled out a sweater and a tank top. The sweater was cut into cat pieces, and the tank top will become her dress when I’m done.

Right now, she’s lacking ears, a face, hair, and missing her skirt… oh, she needs more cotton to stuff her tummy and head.

handsewn stuffed cat in process

My semi-stuffed cat (and chocolate pillow by TwoStrayCats)

I’m doing this completely by hand, and it’s taking forever (well, over a week so far)… because I still have a deathly fear of sewing machines and needles
that move faster than my blinking eye.

My family is in utter shock that I am sewing at all. I vowed never to sew… but Lydia is excited about the possibility of wearing custom dresses.
We actually went shopping for patterns. I grabbed a couple that were marked “For Beginners”, and realized after perusing them at home, that I must be in a category ranking beneath a beginner. What is that anyway? Are there Sewing for Dummy patterns?

Apparently, beginners should already understand phrases like: “stay-stitch bodice front and back neck edges..” (the very first step!), know how to “clip curves” and “baste armholes”.

Does that mean to keep your armholes moist in their own juices…
ya know, like basting chicken? Ewwwww.
What’s up with the long, confusing paragraph describing how to apply the zipper?!  How hard could it possibly be… but… what in heaven’s name  is zipper tape?
How about I just tape the whole crappy thing together… I’d use fusible web for that, right?

My cat doll doesn’t have a pattern or instructions; I just cut the cloth freestyle, and can’t tell you whether I’m basting or stay-stitching anything.
But they are meticulously tiny, thanks to a few attempts at cross-stitch (hey, I do know the meaning of that!), I’ve learned to make even rows of little 1/8″ stitches.

I’m not sure how well this project will turn out.. I’m using nylon upholstery thread and will let the children test-drive the finished doll for durability…
but hopefully the sheer primitiveness of hand-sewing a toy will cure me of this procrastination, and I can return to doing what I know well.

And then my family will be forced to eat TV dinners again, and wear the same pair of pants for three days in a row. ;)

Woman shopping empty grocery store bare shelves

"Everything I want is always on the top shelf!"

So the cupboards and fridge were looking pretty empty over the weekend, and I decided to host a Labor Day Sale in my Etsy shop AND auction one of my paintings on eBay.
Usually, I don’t celebrate holidays with special sales, but I referred to this as my “Peanut Butter and Jelly Sale”.
I had a couple of customers *waves at Lily and Carolyn* but although it wasn’t as successful as I’d anticipated, don’t worry! We won’t starve. :)

Everywhere you turn, these days, you can’t help but listen to the horrible tales of people hit hard by this recession. People have been laid off from their jobs, lost their homes and cars, and suffered from medical emergencies… clutching our wallets tightly to our chests, we feel for them but secretly pray that we won’t “be next”.

Businesses, too, are tightening their purses and in unfortunate cases … are beginning to charge outrageous fees to their established customer base to keep themselves afloat.

A few years ago, when I opened my “free” bank account, they asked whether I wanted one with a zero minimum balance.
“Of course!” I replied.
Every penny I earn has a name and number, like “Car insurance #7,142″ … the seven-thousandth penny towards my insurance payment.

I wouldn’t consider us “poor folk”, but every cent counts. We don’t have hundreds of dollars just lying around to carpet our bank accounts. So imagine my surprise when I began taking a closer look at my monthly statements and found “service fees” springing up like weeds.
These aren’t like occasional overdraft fees, which are also expensive (but I regard them as punishment for spending more than I have)… the “service fees” are usually deducted from bank accounts after the customer dips below their Minimum Balance limit (i.e. $100).
I politely inquired about it, and was told that my account had been “upgraded” when our smallish bank merged with a larger branch, and that notifications had been sent in the mail.

Hmmm… yeah, those sorts of notifications tend to vanish (along with my Zazzle royalty check from May) when we move from one address to another. The Post Office had instructions to forward all our mail, but only the junk seemed to arrive on time.

The bank employees insisted that these charges were legal, necessary, and justified… I wouldn’t be able to recover those fees because it was my fault for allowing my balance to dwindle into the double digits.
Since when should we feel like criminals for spending our own money? What is wrong with having $26.00 in the bank?

If I could get away with not having a bank account, I would stuff my money into a cookie tin like our grandparents did. Unfortunately, we need the bank… and worst of all, the bank knows it. They have us by the toenails, because at the very least, I need to get various checks cashed.

Our biggest box of fee surprise came after moving to the outskirts of town, where the City of Hagerstown no longer supplies our electricity needs. There was only one electrical service provider available for this neighborhood, and their fees are almost surreal.
When we were customers of the City, our electric bill averaged anywhere from $80-$180 per month… the higher bills naturally occurred during those 15-degree winter months and the 105-degree summers. We were happy with our service.

Since moving here, our new provider has doubled our bill… wait, no, tripled our bill.
Our usage hasn’t changed; we purchased an energy-efficient washer/dryer set, use the squiggly CFL bulbs in every room, have a closet full of blankets for wintertime (instead of cranking the heat) and ceiling fans running in the summer to reduce the need for A/C. (We do vacuum our carpets 3-4 times per day…but…)
I am not exaggerating when I tell you – over 50% of the recent amount due consisted of service fees and surcharges. (Not late-payment fees, mind you, as we paid on time last month).

A sample of these fees/charges include:

  • the Transmission Charge – associated with the movement of high-voltage electricity from a generation facility to the distribution lines of an electric distribution company.
  • the Customer Distribution Charge – for delivering electricity from a customer’s chosen supplier to their residence or business.
  • an Electrical Universal Service fee
  • KHW Distribution Charge (which is separate from our actual KHW usage charge)
  • an Energy Cost Adjustment
  • a Cogeneration PURPA surcharge – the costs associated with the purchasing of power from the AES/Warrior Run power station.
  • a Franchise Tax
  • an EmPower Maryland surcharge (to fund energy conservation programs… they give small rebates to folks purchasing fancy appliances)
  • and a Maryland Environmental surcharge – the Costs associated with the funding of the state Power Plant Research Program.

The combined cost of these extra little charges were well over $100. Although we will manage somehow, I cannot understand how poorer families are able to afford this nonsense. :P

I went to sleep with fees on my mind, and woke up feeling my usual sense of irony. This used to be nation obsessed with lawsuits: people sued because the coffee was too hot, the haunted house was too scary, the reality TV show was too disgusting, and because husbands and wives were withholding emotional support from each other.

Now, it seems we are the Fee Nation. Some companies earn their entire profit from charging fees.

So what do the little people do? Well, we can start charging fees too! LOL

Did you have to stand in a check-out line? ….Charge a fee for your time.
Did a late meeting force you to miss the bus/train? …..Charge your boss a fee!
Was the newspaper missing from your porch this morning?
Did the grocery store forget to order your brand of milk?
Did your mother keep you on the phone for two hours?
Did the cashier ask to see your ID?
Was the traffic light too red?

Nothing is more valuable than our time, energy, and emotional well-being, right?
Everyone should pay us for the inconveniences we endure! ;)

So when my husband writes that check to Allegheny Power this month, I’m going to slip an invoice into our return envelope… with a list of fees that our electric company owes us.
C’mon folks, let’s get creative!

1950's House Wife Cat painting

Who is this woman, capable of "doing it all"?

I logged into my MSN Hotmail account, to check my messages for the umpteenth time, and came across this entertaining blurb in the sidebar:

“10 Things Women Do That Drive Guys Crazy” posted in the Lifestyle section by Glamour magazine.  Being curious, I deviated from the boring task of checking spam and reading Facebook updates, and clicked on the link to discover how men “really feel” about the women in their lives.  I always find these articles amusing because I tend to agree with the men on most issues, and have since realized that I must not be a typical female… if jealousy, clinginess, and obsession with commitment are truly “female” traits.  I’ve met some guys who would test that assumption.

This article, however, made me laugh for an entirely different reason. With each declaration, I felt myself dying to point out the similarities between the Pot and the Kettle. (Psst, they are both black)   

So here are my thoughts on your Top 10 Pet peeves, guys:

1. “Hair. In. The. Tub.” – Andrew, 31

Okay, so what about men’s shaving facial hair in the sink?! There is nothing grosser than walking into the bathroom to brush your teeth, and finding a layer of beard stubble clinging to the sides of the sink. Or how about men who cut their own hair using those electric razors, and then leaving the clumps on the bathroom floor, for us to sweep up.

2. “Examining multiple cans of soup” – Dave, 37

Yeah, this one gets me too. Everyone is so obsessed with reading the soup labels, looking for that evil MSG, sodium, and trans-fat, perhaps they should start making their soups from scratch and forget preserved canned food altogether. But I personally like how men can blow $100 on groceries and come home with nothing except snacks. ;)

3. “My girlfriend makes fun of me for laughing at my own jokes” – Chris, 37

Hmmm, I’ve had men make fun at me while I put on my make-up or fix my hair, because I guess they found my primping routine silly. And yet – surprisingly, they suddenly decide I’m more attractive once I’m “all dolled up”.  Go figure.
Do you want the steamy girlfriend/wife, or the girl in sweatpants and a ponytail?  If you answered ,”Steamy, baby!”, then close the bathroom door and live in ignorance while I apply this foundation and cover my dark circles.

4. “Disorganized loading of the dishwasher” – Chad, 27

Actually, that was MY pet-peeve towards certain male counterparts… nothing was getting washed thoroughly. Fortunately, I do all the dishes by hand now. ;)

5. She washes the bathtub before dinner guests arrive – Dennis, 31

Give her props! She wants a nice, clean bathroom that will not gross people out when they use the toilet.  If you don’t have a shower curtain to disguise the mess, they might walk past the tub and go, “Eeew, gross! Look at all your wife’s hair in the drain!” ;)

I personally wouldn’t scrub the tub for guests; it’s one of those chores I loathe to tackle, because it reminds me of that stint working part-time as a housekeeper at a Bed-and-Breakfast. Nasty stuff!

I guess my male equivalent to this mixed blessing would be not picking up after oneself. Men tend to shed their jackets, clothes, shoes and whatnot everywhere, and we walk behind them and toss everything into the laundry hamper.  Except the shoes.  And, hours later, they’re wandering aimlessly, asking
“Where are my jeans? I thought I left them over here.”
“Oh, you mean those dirty ones you’ve worn for 3 days? They’re being washed…. Sorry.”

6. “Women call and have nothing to talk about” – Chuck, 22

Oh, Chuck! Fortunately you have never met my ex-boyfriend! He was King of Calling for Absolutely No Reason… except to tell me that he loved me for the millionth time, because THAT was supposedly reason enough to interrupt the blessed few hours of peace I had.  He would also get very upset if I didn’t want to stay on the phone and talk about how much I loved him in return… indefinitely… or until his train arrived.

But seriously… that calling and chatting about nothing WILL end once you’re in a committed relationship (i.e. you’re living together). Pretty soon, she’ll get sick of seeing your face, and hearing all about your boring day at the office, and will welcome that bit of free time to herself.  She might not even answer the phone when you call. hehehe

7. Taking too long choosing from the menu – Ricardo, 39

My smart-ass side wants to reply, “Take her to a restaurant with a reputation for nasty food, so she’ll be forced to choose the only edible thing on the menu” …Or more rationally, “Stop taking her to NEW restaurants.” 
I’m sure she has an established “Gimme the Usual” repertoire of dishes at your favorite date places.

I liken this to the Great Mystery of Life – “DirectTV VS Dish Network”… raise your hand if you know a man who has obsessed for DAYS over that decision.

8. Talking while driving; being distracted – Glenn, 39

Hah! So we miss available left-hand turns… men, however, like to cut in front of people and flick the finger at the annoyed drivers beeping their horns behind us.
They also enjoy lane-jumping, to pass every creature on the highway in manuevers that should be reserved for a NASCAR track.. in some primeval urge to be the leader of the pack.  Not to mention the dangerous joys of spontaneous drag-race competitions with the fellow in the neighboring lane.  Pull over in front of this Taco Bell, and let me out! I’ll walk home.
 
9. Thermostat Wars - Charlie, 32

Yes! Finally, a point that I’m guilty of engaging in! I like my house warm and toasty, and most of my partners have preferred a slightly chilled room.
There is no right or wrong here… you can’t argue with personal comfort.  We averaged our desired temperatures together and found a median that serves us well.
Although I admit to playing upon his guilty conscience occasionally, by wearing an extra layer or two, like a sweater and coat. ;)

10. “The endless ‘Honey-can-you-do-this?’ list” – Shane, 30

Tired of the never-ending pile of chores? Awwww, poor baby. Hah! Welcome to adulthood!
Okay fine, switch roles for one week:
She can pay the bills, caulk around the tub, and repaint the deck… if you do all the cooking, cleaning, and baby-sitting. But don’t expect her to come running when junior takes off his diaper and smears himself and the walls with its contents. Remember, you’re the Mommy now! And that doesn’t mean letting the toddler run the vacuum while you play video games. ;)
  

Let’s face it, we humans have our flaws… and choosing a partner means taking their unique quirks into consideration.  Men: Is her disorganization something you can live with, considering how fantastic she is otherwise?  If the answer is yes, than don’t gripe about it! You have plenty of imperfections that she wisely chose to pardon.

I laugh at dating commercials, with their abstract ideals of “true compatibility”, because most long-term relationships are either bolstered or destroyed by mundane acts like this.  Many of my friends are divorced, and none of them confessed, “I’m a walk-along-the-beach-at-sunset type of person, and he wanted to spend his evenings at the bowling alley.”

 
So, in addition to asking how often a person feels satisfied in their career, and whether they consider themselves religious or spiritual.. they should include
such important issues as “How long on average does it take you to merge onto the freeway?” … and ….“How would you rate the amount of hair you leave in the tub?”

On a sliding scale: from (1) I rarely shed, to (5) I’m cultivating a rainforest.

my status summary for 2009

My Life According to FaceBook

Here were the highlights of my life in 2009, according to Facebook.
Not surprising that cats and kids were the predominant theme. But now we’re officially living in 2010, and I’ve already celebrated what some people would consider to be a milestone – my 30th birthday!

We didn’t make a huge deal out of it though. I even forgot to request the day off from work; January 2nd fell on a Saturday this year. I continue to work Thursdays and Saturdays to bring home our bacon money – actually, I recently saw bacon priced at $4.98 for a pound, so I might need a raise soon.
Anyway, I baked myself a cake (and cupcakes for the kids) before heading to work. When I returned, Joe made tacos for me, and I managed to snag ONE taco before the beasties dug their faces and hands into the serving dishes and scattered shredded cheese and diced tomatoes all over the carpet. Mia also likes to take ONE bite from each taco shell, like a signature mark. LOL

Which reminds me; I promised to divulge this awesome homemade tortilla recipe I found, but rather than copying it out here, I’ll link to Lisa’s blog post -
The Homesick Texan as her recipes and stories deserve to be shared!

I feel no differently than I did 3 weeks ago, or 6 months ago… I was hoping to find at least one grey hair, or noticable wrinkles, to substantiate all the stress these creatures put me through. No such luck. Honestly, when working as a retail manager, I couldn’t wait to “look old” so that customers would take me seriously.
Nevermind the fact that I don’t take myself seriously; quite the opposite, I revel in being eccentric and goofy. However, there was always this awkward moment when a customer would ask,
“Could I speak to the person in charge?” …. to which I was forced to take a breath and reply,
“I AM the person in charge. And I’m able to help you (…believe it or not).”
Countless, immeasurable times I’ve been dismissed without a glance… as a customer in need of answers makes a beeline for the nearest middle-aged adult sporting salt and pepper.
Ironically, one such incident left the woman embarrassed, as she singled out a 50-ish employee who had just recently been hired.
“I’m sorry, but I’m still new here. You really should ask my boss over there… she could answer all your questions.”
And she pointed over the lady’s shoulder, at me! The customer turned back, blinked twice, and seemed visibly shaken. Yes, the 26-year-old girl (who looked 16, hehe) holding the pricing gun in her hand, was in charge. Oh boy.

How about when they ask,
“You probably can’t answer this, but years ago they sold a product called Junket that people used to make ice-cream…”
“Yes, of course, we carry it [here] with the ice-cream toppings and cones.”
Does being in your 20’s mean that you can’t comprehend the art of homemade frozen treats, outside the commercial realm of Dairy Queen and Ben and Jerry’s?
If adding a few grey hairs would make me appear more knowledgable and worthy of leadership, then hand over that bottle of Ben Nye! Right?

Ironically, as a teenager my goal was to become an actress. Most actresses take pride in their youthful appearance, and the obvious blessings of my slim figure and greyless hair would keep me marketable for another 5 years at least. hehe

However, I’ve chosen an entirely different path, one that doesn’t require youth and beauty, or age and experience. Rather, I am called upon to re-create my crazy view of our world, seen through a furry filter. I’ve come full circle from my childhood, and embraced this feline obsession as something that makes me unique in a good way. I’m proud of who I am, but how does each passing year affect me?

Currently, I feel slightly displaced and behind the curve. Many of my peers have long since decided upon their careers, and have dedicated years to advancing their skills… I feel left behind, and the effort it will take to close that gap seems overwhelming.

Facebook’s ability to reconnect us with former classmates is akin to watching an episode of VH1’s “Where Are They Now?”, except in reverse. Watching rising stars. like Libby Picken, whom I knew from junior high in Bowie, MD. She was determined, even at 14, that she would become a singer – “Driven” some might say – and worked very hard to market herself and develop her voice.
It has certainly paid off for her, as her latest endeavor LazerBitch is a successful Baltimore electro punk band – her music plays in all the hottest clubs – and they’ve started to expand with performances in major U.S. cities, such as NYC and Austin.

LazerBitch’s first major music video:

A fellow artist whom I’ve been following religiously on Facebook is Jasmine Becket Griffith. She is also 30 years old, and while we were both anticipating our high school graduations, she was beginning her career painting her now-famous gothic fairies and selling her first works on eBay.
I, on the other hand, was poorly acting in school plays, deciding whether to move to Minnesota, attend a performing-arts school, or get a job and my own apartment. I chose the job – to gain independence, entered into the world of retail, and have struggled to find my soul again for the last 10 years.

Jasmine worked briefly at Dairy Queen, but quickly decided she would rather become a successful artist… and now with over 6,000 sales on eBay alone – she not only supports herself and her husband with her art career, but also hired her brother-in-law to work for her full-time. Her work is licensed by Target, Hot Topic, The Hamilton Collection, and the Bradford Exchange… just to name a few.

….Which brings to mind just one burning question; I wonder if Jasmine, the former Blizzard Queen, has ever heard of Junket? ;)

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