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

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. 😉