Muffin Tops (U.B.C. – Day 2)

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My son has recently discovered coffee cake and coffee cake muffins. This may not seem important or exciting enough to warrant an entire blog post, but trust me when I say that prior to his discovery, my child ate nothing. His diet for the past couple of years has consisted entirely of bagels with peanut butter, french fries, pizza, plain pasta with Romano cheese, and any type of candy he could grab. Our pediatrician talked me down off the ledge on multiple occasions, reassuring me that it was a phase and it would pass. Read more

Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 1

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Since the blogging goals I set for myself have been thrown so far off track by life, I decided to jump into April with both feet and join the Ultimate Blog Challenge and post new content each day. I can’t promise mind-blowing thoughtful and philosophical content each day, but I can promise that I will post something every day during the month of April, even if it’s just a selfie of me bashing my head into the nearest wall. Haha, I’m just kidding. I think. Read more

Keep a Contented Heart in November

Well, here it is again. That time of the month. The time when I drag out my muse’s guide to finding happiness and write myself notes on the next layer of my happiness and joyful cake creation. Here’s what Ms. Muse has to say for the month of November.

Keep a contented heart.  A contented heart is a even sea in the midst of all storms.  So said William Secker in his treatise The Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Splendor, published in 1660.  Amazing that it’s the same some three hundred and fifty years later.

a) Laugh out loud.

She’s right. I should laugh out loud more. We all should laugh out loud more. It just feels so gosh darn fantabulous when we do it. The sun seems to shine brighter for a few moments, the air seems to warm, and the endorphins rush through our bodies. It can change my whole outlook on a day.

What do I do to ensure I laugh out loud at least once a day? For starters, I have a child who is learning to read and sometimes mispronounces words in such a way that I can barely even understand what he’s trying to say. My child also loves to sing, and I mean loves it as if it’s his favorite chocolate treat. He belts out whatever tune he is listening to, and at times it’s all I can do to keep the car on the road I’m laughing so hard. Which makes him smile and sing more loudly, which makes me laugh more…. You get the picture.

I also read amusing books. Currently on my nightstand is Jen Lancaster‘s The Tao of Martha.  Ms. Lancaster is a seriously funny woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Consequently, when reading her books, of which there are many, I tend to laugh out loud and try to live my life with the same grain of salt approach she seems to espouse in her essays.

Laughter is good for anything that might ail us. We all need more, so I’m going to continue laughing and smiling and feeling good. It helps me get through the days when the sun doesn’t shine so brightly, which was a lot of September.

b) Use good manners.

I have my mother and Emily Post to thank for my somewhat rigid adherence to “proper” and “appropriate” behavior. My parents drilled me like they were each an Army Drill Sergeant to ensure that I knew and utilized manners. Proper table etiquette, even when all we were eating was grilled cheese sandwiches. Thank you notes for everything and in a timely manner, e.g. no later than two weeks after the event, the gift, etc.

One year for Christmas my mother found and gifted me a book on manners penned by none other than Ms. Emily Post. I still have it on my shelf with the the note-filled margins, underlined text, and dog-eared pages. I still consult Ms. Post regularly, but these days it seems that most of her advice is considered antiquated niceties that we can all eliminate from our lives due to the instantaneous and often impersonal nature of the digital age. I disagree wholeheartedly and so stick to the advice and manners that have gotten me this far in life.

Several years ago I bought the updated version of Emily Post’s book for my two step-daughters.

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I thought that as they went out into the world as young women and began interviewing for jobs, receiving engagement, wedding or baby gifts, knowing how to deal with the acknowledging and thanking people for their kindnesses would be helpful, especially since so few people attend to social niceties these days with the advent of e-mail. I gave the books with that precise sentiment.  As both opened the gift in my presence, they both said thank you, having such a resource would be great.

Two years later?  Both books are still sitting on the shelf in their respective closets upstairs, unopened. One moved out and left her copy here.  Does anybody want to purchase a slightly used copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette? I can give you a really good deal!

c) Give positive reviews.

I consider this up there with manners. If I’ve received good service or had a good experience, I say it. I shout it from the rooftops. I am a firm believer in the maxim that if you let people know they’ve done a good job, that will make them want to do it again and again to get the feel good rush from positive feedback.

Accordingly, I’m one of those people on Amazon and Yelp and Open Table who reviews service providers. If the meal, the product, the service has been good, I let the provider know. Of course, I also let them know if it’s been bad, but I think it’s just as important to put out good vibes into the world as bad.

d) Find an area of refuge.

I’m working on this. I actually reclaimed my sunroom over Labor Day weekend and made it into a sitting/reading area.

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However, it’s off the kitchen, so although it’s a lovely spot in which to have a cup of coffee and chat with Ernie Hemingway or a friend when children are playing, it’s not really a refuge. Too public. So I’m looking for different space in the house.

Our house has a central family room where everything happens. We also have a formal living room, which at this stage of our lives is largely unused. The only time it sees traffic is when the Christmas tree goes up and when packages are delivered to the front door. It also tends – like so many other open spaces – to attract junk and become a storage area when it’s not being used for the Christmas tree.

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For some time, I’ve been planning to make the back corner of the room into a quiet area where I can meditate and practice yoga. It’s sunny and bright, and the farthest corner of the house away from the main traffic areas, so it feels distant. Just what I need for quieting my mind and soul.

Of course, I have an office, too, but currently it’s situated in the laundry room on the other side of the master bath, and over the garage, so it’s not quite as isolated and quiet.

Plus, it’s cold. It is so cold that even when the heat is on, I need an electric space heater to keep marginally warm. It is so cold that once the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees, my cat won’t even hang out in there with me. It is so cold that the winter after we moved into our house we needed to install heat into our garage to ensure that the pipes for the laundry didn’t freeze. I don’t know precisely what the previous owners did about that particular problem, but I don’t care. I now have a garage that stays at a relatively balmy 55 degrees all winter. Getting into a cold car is not really a problem, unless of course, I’ve been lazy and haven’t put the car into the garage, nor is frozen pipes, truly the most important thing.

My husband decided several months ago that his office, located off the family room, should be mine so that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time upstairs away from the central living area, but it’s still got a lot of his books and other stuff in it, so it doesn’t feel like mine yet.

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Maybe I’ll work on getting the walls covered with my stuff and then I’ll want to use it more. I’ll keep you posted.

For now, though, I think my quiet area in the formal living room – or the Christmas tree room as we call it – is my best bet. I’ve got a folding room divider that I’ll put behind the couch, a meditation chair for which I’ve just redone the cushion, my super thick yoga mat, and a Bose sound dock into which I can pop my iPhone to play ocean music. Now I just need to get all the junk out of that room.

And did I forget to mention that Thanksgiving is at our house?  Namaste.

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Halloween Past

As part of The SITS Girls Blogtober Challenge for Throwback Thursday I thought I would share some old photos of my parents in their Halloween costumes from the year of The Wizard of Oz theme.  I think I went as Dorothy that year, but I can’t seem to find a photo.  Mum said it was okay to post photos of her and Dad as long as it wouldn’t get them arrested.  I think they’re safe.

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Enjoy!

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Have Ambition, Will Quilt

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I still can’t figure out what I was smoking the day I agreed to be one of the class parents for my son’s kindergarten class and the co-leader of the baked goods section for his school’s annual fair and marketplace. One would be fine, but doing both is going to drive me crazy through the end of the day on October 19, the day of the fair. The Boy is excited; I’m dreading it.

As a class parent, I had to attend an orientation meeting last week. At that meeting, we were instructed on how we should communicate with the other parents in our children’s classes and what information we should disseminate to them. Each class has two class parents, and as the class designees, my co-parent and I were informed that not only we were in charge of keeping up communications with the other kindergarten parents, but that we also had to dream up an idea for a class gift to be auctioned at THE school fundraiser in the spring. And did they forget to mention that we were also tasked with creating said gift? Oops, sorry, but yes. Dreamer and creator. That’s what the job description should have said.

My brain works in funny ways. As I was listening to the class parent overseer describing the responsibilities regarding the class gift, my stomach was simultaneously dropping to the floor and doing back flips at the idea of doing something creative. I love the idea of being creative, and I get thoroughly excited at the prospect of crafting, sewing, scrapbooking … generally anything that involves the creation of original and pretty things. I just never seem to find enough time to execute my grand schemes. An idea popped into my head, and when I shared it with my co-class parent, she loved it. The teachers loved it when I told them. So now I’m committed.

To making a quilt. With all of the little urchins’ handprints and handwriting on individual muslin squares. To dragging out my long dormant sewing machine and figuring out how to use it again. To pulling out all my scrap fabric and cutting the border pieces. To designing the borders with all of that scrap fabric so that it doesn’t look like a paint box threw up on the quilt top. To layering the quilt and batting on the wood floor of my mostly empty living room. In short, I’m committed to driving myself crazy making a quilt that will be auctioned off to the highest bidder among the kindergarten parents.

Regardless of how many hours I actually have or may be able to find, my quilt must be not only good, but great. But not too incredible, lest I end up with a job on the auction committee moving forward. Apparently, in the history of this annual auction, no other class parent has dreamed up an idea quite so early. What I didn’t have the heart to say is that I only came up with the idea so early so that I wouldn’t be stuck playing catch up over the holidays and the school break. I have plans for those school breaks, and I’ve no intention of changing those plans to sit around on my duff and sew.

I used to quilt, actually make gifts for people in my life. One memorable holiday season, I made a king-sized quilt for an old boyfriend. At the time I made it, we had been together for a year and a half; we broke up after three and a half years. Every once in a while when I open my “crafting closet” and see my cutting mat and fabric cutter, I wonder if he kept the quilt, and if he did, whether another girlfriend ever asked where it came from. It’s unlikely that he kept it, but I do hope he at least gave it to his mother, sister, or someone else who might appreciate it. Thinking otherwise might make me crazy to think about all the time I put into that quilt, all the time I took away from other parts of my life. Then again, I did it willingly and happily.

My son’s teachers are excited about helping the kids make their individual squares. I’ve purchased the requisite washable acrylic paints and fabric markers. I’ve designed the quilt, figuring out the best layout for 17 one-of-a-kind squares. This week I will go and get the twelve inch square muslin pieces. I’m excited, too, but I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Of course, regardless whether the quilt fetches $500 or $5,000 at auction (hey, I can dream!), the important thing is the memories my son will retain of my involvement in his life and his education. I can only hope that when he is a parent, he will look back and remember his mother’s reign as a classroom parent with fondness and humor instead of cringing.

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Flashbacks

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Back when we were beautiful…

I had to go to the mall today to buy a birthday present for my friend’s daughter, who is turning 8. Walking into the mall with a five year-old boy is always an adventure, and I usually sneak all such errands under the radar while he’s at school or camp. I couldn’t do that today as I had to be a grown-up and have a mammogram during his last hours of camp, so I was stuck.

We entered through J.C. Penney as I wanted to go the store Justice for the birthday gift. I was told that the birthday girl is into fashion, so I decided clothes were my best option, and from my limited wanderings around the mall, Justice seemed like as good a place as any to get some cute little girl clothes. In we went, my stride long and determined, The Boy skipping to keep up with my pace.

Then we hit the women’s clothing section, and I saw the cute little red blazer with the rolled up sleeves and the cuffed, faded blue jeans with the rose embroidery. I stopped and touched the blazer, the soft silk of the lining showing on the outside of the sleeves where the were rolled. For a moment I was back in college, circa 1989, finishing getting dressed to head out on a Thursday night with my roommate and best friend, our hair curly and pulled up off our faces, cascading down our backs, unruly and sexy and wild.

How beautiful we were, how completely unaware of our own power and the luxury of our lives as undergraduates at a private women’s college in Boston. Our tuition was paid, and our part-time jobs provided enough pocket money to ensure we could pay the cover charge to get into any bar we wanted, where we then would drink for free all night courtesy of the handsome and buff young men who clamored around us. We never felt it, of course, but we held all the cards. We had what they wanted. All we felt, however, was the fleeting loneliness at the end of the night when we would walk away from the bar, arms wrapped around one another to keep ourselves from falling down, laughing at something one of the hapless young men had said or done. We wanted them to love us, and they did. We just never knew, and in our own way, we were as clueless as they.

I came out of my reverie to the sound of The Boy’s whining and tugging at my hand. “Let’s go, Mama! I want to go to the Lego store!”

I released my hold on the blazer and allowed myself to be pulled forward through time to the present, to the exquisiteness of my real life, by the beautiful boy who now owns my heart. As he dragged me along, I mused that fifteen years from now he will be one of the handsome and buff young men in another bar, in another town. He will wait for one of the young women in that bar, so beautiful and powerful, to notice him, never dreaming that was his mother forty-odd years before.  With much bigger hair, of course.

Crazy Cats

Here is my crazy alpha cat, Bella, with her favorite vice, Puffs Plus Lotion tissues scented with Vicks. I don’t buy them because of what happens in this video.  Bella will stalk the grocery bags to get the tissues, but Ernie Hemingway likes them.  And most often loses them to the cat.

Meanwhile, my bunny kitty, Meadow has been reunited with food.  According to my grade-A awesome home visit veterinarian, it turns out that all the artificial tree-eating etc. was likely the result of Meadow not eating enough actual food.  Apparently, crazy alpha cat has been so successful blocking poor Meadow from the food that she was essentially starving to death while Bella was plumping up like a little balloon.  Meadow was down to 6.9 pounds when I called the vet.  I was at my wits’ end, so I decided to stop messing around with the dry food and separating the two when they were eating.  I gave in and bought a few cans of Friskies wet food.

Meadow loves it; Bella hates it.

One month later, Meadow has gained a pound and is happily eating again.  She’s rediscovered her favorite sleeping spot in Ernie Hemingway’s office, and she’s letting me get near her again.

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Bella is eating more dry food than ever, apparently resulting in some body image issues.

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