So it was a good Christmas and New Year, but busy. Back and forth to the Rio Grande Valley before and after Christmas, house guests for the holiday itself, some sick kids who got better before too much vacation got eaten up by it, a trip to Mexico, a dog who somehow ripped an entire back claw off (he’s fine after a $200+ vet visit, the asshole), and starting on the brick patio install.Continue reading “Hindsight is…”
Dia de los Muertos Ofrenda… no Offend-a
Reposted from October 2018…
Now when it comes to talking about Dia de los Muertos… as a white, middle aged, blond haired, green eyed guera, I consider myself no entitled-ass expert over here or anything. But know this- while I am not Mexican by birth I married one, we’re raising three, AND I made alters for Dia de los Muertos before the movie Coco came out. To further prove my bit of street cred, I totally love all things to do with the Mexican culture. Also I’m taking Spanish lessons on Rosetta Stone. So like… Yo tengo sandwiches, ya dig?Continue reading “Dia de los Muertos Ofrenda… no Offend-a”
Blog Year in Review and Other Thoughts
Looking back, from the vantage point of December 30th at the blog year- lots of ice dying, tomatoes, and recipes. See here , here , and here .
Also graveyards and insects. here and here.
There was like, more going on though- like battling multiple rounds of super lice, getting tired of Trump’s bullshit, volunteering for the county democratic party and the Beto O’Rourke campaign, working full time, and parenting a toddler, a 9 year old, and a 12 year old. Also loss and travel. And somehow less cleaning than would be effective but seems like more than should be humanly possible. (I clean all the time. The house is still dirty. It’s my least favorite magic.)
But 2018 was a tad light on the narrative posts, something I kinda intended to focus on when I started this whole thing… with this post really being my only one in 2018: This one right here.
Some previous years favorite narrative posts are these: On Meditation and Lettuce , It’s really the easiest of choices, Sweetheart , Talking in My Sleep , Birth. A Stream of Conciousness Love Story , The Zen of Parenting. Also this one, which is fiction actually, but I’ve always liked: Foray into Fiction: Goodbye
Are you allowed to say you have favorites of your own work and share them? Because I think you should be able too, but sometimes this kinda stuff escapes me. Like when someone comes by unexpectedly, like a neighbor, and I talk to them from the front door, and then come in after they leave and my husband tells me I should have invited them in… like… how do I not know this stuff? It’s a wonder I have friends at all. Also- something I learned THIS YEAR from another blog- if a mother at school pickup tells you their toddler talks about your toddler all the time- that is an invitation to set up a playdate and be friends. I HAD LITERALLY ZERO IDEA! Do you know how many friends I could have right now?! UGH. What did I do in those situations? Say thanks, that’s so cute, and then walk away going “Sheesh, so many kids talk about my kid- but she NEVER talks about any of them by name. Weird.” D’oh.
Some things I keep meaning to write about/ or that are stuck in the Drafts folder:
- female travel safety tips (boils down to check your hotel window locks- do you know how many unlocked windows I’ve run across in hotel rooms? Seriously. Check those windows.) But that’s like… the only real tip, so it’s hard to round out to a whole post.
- Place imprinting- some nebulous idea of what we all associate with “home”- but since we never did move to Denver (thank god.) and have never lived anywhere else it is only conjecture.
- A blank blog draft that only has the title: Be yourself. Unless you’re an asshole then don’t be that. Not sure where I was going with that one, honestly, but I can guess.
- Funny events from the past that I always think about while going to sleep or blow drying my hair, but then forget about. Okay- I WILL tell you the one below though because it just came to me!
So when I turned fifteen my mother told me to get a job. So I went to the Mill Stores (shopping center in town) and started at the book store on one end and applied all the way around to every store till I got to the furniture store on the other end. (I didn’t get the book store gig I really wanted because I forgot my social security number and made one up. Turns out that isn’t one of those things like a zip code that doesn’t really matter.)
Anyway, I alternated between saying: “Hi. do you have any job openings?” And “Hi, are you looking to hire anyone?” Like the shopkeeps would compare notes and judge me for saying the same thing every time and not hire me because of it. (The awkwardness.. it’s not new with me, dig?) Well, I got 3/4 of the way around and was kinda tired and hungry by the time I went in the jewelry store to apply. To this day I can CLEARLY see the guy behind the counter’s face as I mixed up my two scripts and said; “Hi, are you looking for any openings?” To which he repeated, slowly, “Am I looking… for any… openings?” You know those moments where maybe you’re a part of some random person’s memory? I bet the guy still talks about or thinks about that occasionally, 25 years later. It was horrifying to all involved. I did not apply at the jewelry store and booked a REALLY hasty retreat.
I did actually get the job at the lingerie store though and so was not grounded. Few stories I may write about from that first job experience:
- Being the only one to be willing to help fit the drag queens. They were always so nice, except the one guy who was just creepy and mentally ill. May I remind you a store FULL of 20, 30, and 40 year old women/ fellow employees left that one obviously disturbed dude to the 15 year old. The jerks, you know? Didn’t put me off drag queens though, as I wrote about here – a post with one of my favorite post title, actually.
- Having to fit my grandmother for RACY ass lingerie. Cannot unsee.
- Seeing one of the schools female coaches walk in with one of the pretty obviously lesbian high school senior girls, see me, and then walk right back out the door. That was… not okay, methinks.
- And that my coworker set me up to look like the one stealing $20 a shift. I never told anyone I thought it was her. I pretended like I didn’t notice they were keeping me away from the registers. I never told my parents. And the assistant manager called me to bitch me out one time when she came up $20 short on the nightly count. I hadn’t even worked that day. I was in tears. I was 15. I girded up my courage and called the next day to speak to the store manager about the whole thing and the assistant manager answered. When I said who I wanted to talk too and why she apologized and said she’d just miscounted. I actually accepted that as an apology… and never spoke of it again because it took every shred of my courage to make that one call. I saw that assistant manager, years later, as a receptionist at my doctor’s office… I could tell by the way she looked at me she still thought I was a thief. I fantasized about saying something to her… something like “I never actually stole any money, you know. It was Tiffany.” But didn’t and said nothing. Sigh.
I hope to have some more posts with stuff like that in the new year. Projects wise I’d like to figure out some new craft for the 2019 craft fair, work to get my husband’s family private cemetery listed as a state recognized historic cemetery and MAYBE set up a cemetery board and serve on it. My DREAM is setting up a Dia de los Muertos event out there… nighttime, copal incense and candles everywhere, the whole cemetery cleaned up all at once, marigolds… it’d be awesome.
And maybe work on being a better, more patient parent. The middle child is having a rougher go of it than her sisters… I wonder is that just part and parcel to being a middle child? But she could use more attention… I’m resolved to do better about giving it to her in 2019. These children… you have to parent them all so differently. It isn’t like riding a bike, you know. It’s like riding a bike, then adding in plate spinning, and then adding sleight of hand card tricks when you have that unexpected third child. It’s developing a whole new skill, every time, and somehow not losing the momentum of the others. Ain’t for sissies, let me tell you.
As for me personally, that 10 pounds my endocrinologist told me to lose is now 25. The metabolism in the year before I turn 40 hasn’t been kind. I feel like I look alright in mirrors… but oh god the pictures! I look like Margaret Thatcher in pictures these days… not a fan. A lot of it is my hair that has also morphed into “mature hair” territory, but the weight is also a thing. (If the camera adds 10 pounds, how many cameras do I have on me?!) So as I wrote about here I’ll be doubling down on my health in 2019.
And, in important charitable work territory- I am still contributing monthly to the Desert Flower Foundation to end female genital mutilation in Western Africa, as I wrote about here . If you’d like to learn more or to contribute yourself the link is here: Desert Flower Foundation. It’s based out of Germany, so don’t be put off if the English seems iffy on the website- they’re amazing and I’m so thankful to be able to sponsor 3 girls for their schooling, medical care, and their protection from genital mutilation. The world changes one child at a time, don’t you know.
So anyway, thanks to all for reading in 2018 and for sticking it out for this long and link filled final post of the year. I’ll still be here, in my tiny corner of the internet, if you care to keep reading in 2019! Which just HAS to be a less “kick in the teeth” year than 2018… but that I’ll go ahead and knock on wood for all of us, just in case.
Pan de Muertos
I know it’s the stereotype and all, but even though I’m female I really hate baking. The cutesy aprons, adorable flour tins, and rainbow cupcake scene just ain’t my bag. Give me pastas and sauces and gravies and roasted veggies and spices. No precise measurements needed- that’s where I’m at home! But baking? Sheesh, recipes have varied instructions based on elevations, and a cup isn’t just a cup… it has to be a sifted cup, or a perfectly level cup, or better yet weigh the ingredients… bah. Also, since I have a generalized disdain for aprons and wear mostly dark t-shirts that much loose flour can be an issue.
But I had pan de muertos to make for Dia de los Muertos. And the thought that the dead wait for no one really kept me to a pretty tight timeline here. Pan de Muertos means BREAD OF THE DEAD!!!!! (but without the overwrought punctuation and capitalization). With a name like that I’m sure a sweet bread that’s great with coffee is like, not what you were picturing. Anyway, I had an offrenda to put this on and so had to make it and did, in fact, quasi enjoy it. I did also, in fact, get flour god damn everywhere.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp orange juice
3 cups all purpose flour (don’t get me started on how many different flours there are…)
1 package (1 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. anise seed
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp orange zest
Turn oven on to 325 degrees. Heat milk and butter over medium/low heat till butter melts. Add warm water and a pinch of sugar to a bowl and sprinkle over the yeast to activate it. (Weird bubbling ensues). Zest off the outer peel of an orange with a zester or by carefully slicing and dicing. Once butter is melted into milk remove from heat and let cool a little. In a large bowl add anise seed, 1 cup flour, 2 Tbsp orange zest, sugar, and salt together and then add eggs, yeast, and milk/butter. This is the part where folks would use a stand mixer, but since they sure as hell didn’t have that in 1932 Guanajato Mexico, I mixed by damn hand with a spoon. Here’s the secret though, get that first cup of flour mixed until smooth before adding the rest of the flour slowly until it’s all incorporated.
Once it’s all added together it’s a little sticky and a little shaggy looking. Turn out on a lightly floured counter to knead.
Once the bread is kneaded (5 minutes or so) put back in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours.
Then once the bread has risen, punch it down and form into loaves. I pulled about 1/4 off and set to the side to do the design on the tops and then divided the remaining dough into two balls. I then made the crossed “bones” and knob on the top (stylized skull? Not sure, but it’s the tradition) by forming it like it was playdough. Then I just pressed them into the top of the balls of dough. (AGAIN, though that’s what I did, maybe form into one big loaf or 3 small ones.) Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, place in the oven, and cook for 20-25 minutes.
While the bread cooks, add the orange juice and sugar to a pot over medium heat and stir to prevent burning. Heat until your glaze is lava.
Once bread is done, remove from oven, drizzle on the glaze, then while still hot sprinkle with white sugar.
It’s tasty, and not too anise-y, which I don’t really like, but this amount isn’t too much. I think Mexicans do anise WAYYYY better than the French do, frankly, so really don’t worry about it- you’ll like it. This bread is great heated up the next day, spread with butter and eaten with coffee. And remember- the dead wait for no one, so like… hurry it up.
IT WORKED! Ice Dying
So how about them apples?
So my 24 hour experiment in ice dying with the use of soda ash… rousing success. Aside from the unpredictable nature of the dye itself that is. Let’s be clear- those colors SHOULD have been true blue, black, olive green, and yellow. And we ended up with torquoise, brown, black, pink, a few yellows, and on the 4th one (not pictured, but a gauzier fabric so was already dry and was pulled off the rack at the time of the picture) spots of neon orange.
But lord above, I think this whole thing might work out after all. Interestingly, even though all of these fabrics are synthetic and blends, it’s the natural fiber dye that’s working best. And, of course, most of the dye in the stash is iDye Poly instead of just the iDye powder. Sigh.
So here are the steps that led me to this last go round. Make sure your fabric is prewashed. I just tossed all the scarves and bandanas in the washer and washed with regular detergent.
Step One: Brain Folds
So I watched a video of a dyer who said the more folds in the fabric the more interesting the ice dying comes out. She said she tries to aim for a brain folds look, which seemed easy enough to emulate. The edges of that ol’ garage sale dish drainer have large holes on the corners so I prop it up with some scrap pieces of 4x4s from when we installed the fence extension. I’m a LITTLE concerned I put too many scarves in this batch and the whole thing might be too tight for the dye to work down… Only one way to find out.
Step Two: Saturate
So I totally soaked it with water. Some people get the scarves wet before the folding into place stage, but this seems easier to me. Also, maybe some dry spots will be more interesting. And this keeps me from getting soaking wet myself.
Step 3: Sprinkle with soda ash and salt. More than you’d salt food for both by about 4 times, but no clumps.
Step 4: Sprinkle on dye powder over surface. Particular colors in spots, some overlapping, but not to much- you don’t want muddy colors. So I hear.
Step 5: Sprinkle on more soda ash and salt. I also poured on the dye activator liquid, which as far as I can tell hasn’t done anything yet, but I might as well use it.
Step 6: Top with ice, evenly cover surface with about an inch or so depth.
Step 7: Wait 24 hours.
Tonights batch (the pictures used in the steps above) are Black (was in the natural fiber dye sleeve, but I may have mixed up the bags to sleeves.. or the black from the experiment yesterday was poly dye… I don’t even know anymore.) Poly purple, all the rest of the poly turquoise that has come out denim blue in the past, and a few dots of the brilliant blue natural fiber dye that turned out turquoise yesterday. I went heavier with the black and purple.
Yesterday I only did four scarves, tonight I went with six and two bandanas, but three were gauzy scarves, including the first two I was experimenting on. The poor ugly ducklings are pretty stiff with salt at this point. Fingers crossed for some swans out of those two on the third try.
Now we wait and see. This part kills me…
Not all about Tomatoes!
So we had a VERY impromptu garage sale this weekend. Our neighbor across the street has a pretty regular garage sale, and since she was having one this weekend we decided to glom on and hold one ourselves. (we put our own signs up to help draw more people to the street. I hope the god of the etiquette of garage sales is placated by that and is merciful with us.) Can I tell you how much we love garage sales? My goodness- the enjoyment I get from offloading STUFF and people watching- love everything about it. We held one with some friends of ours many a year ago and they made fun of the bag of wine corks I put out for sale, some very serious ribbing was put up with I tell you. And then the joy the next day when a lady declared that her daughter had forbidden her from getting anything for her unless it was wine corks- oh the sweet sweet vindication! Said friends didn’t sell their tuba rack- so take that, losers.
Anyway, so we worked late in the night on Friday to unpack and stage three SUV loads of boxes from the storage room and we donated everything we didn’t sell at noon on Saturday. And as a bonus, we made enough money to replace the 6 patio chairs that were getting dangerously rusted through in parts with new ones. I’ve worried about those old chairs for the past year. The metal on the underside of the front was jagged in a couple places- it was some stitches and a tetanus shot waiting to happen.
After the garage sale we took back the empty bins to the storage unit and got rid of about 5 more boxes worth of stuff and organized it. I hope to one day very soon be able to get rid of the storage unit entirely. We got it to put things in to stage our last house while selling it… and then ended up buying a house with no garage and less storage… so there it has sat for three years- full of junk. Hopefully soon we’ll get the carport and storage room up at our current house- we have the slab poured… hopefully soon.
Anyway, after sweating through some serious heat and humidity with all of that, we then gardened and barbecued outside yesterday and then took a walk with the girls in the evening downtown for ice-cream because screw you, sense of reason. So… sitting in bed in cold AC to write a long blog post might be in order this morning. Might.
To the house first before tomatoes! So our router is on a corner of our kitchen counter, and that also is where the phone charger and fitbit charger are. (18,116 steps yesterday, 7 hours, 17 minutes of sleep. I love this thing.) So that corner looks like this:
And I got so tired of looking at it it now looks like this:
You have no idea how happy this has made me. So the containers are these old tin flour and tea containers my mom had forever, and I don’t know why I love them the way I do, but they’re two of my favorite things ever. And you see that top cookbook? My Meemaw’s copy of the Joy of Cooking, complete with her handwritten notes.
So anyway, I’m pleased with it/myself, but I also will be replacing the important stuff with other, more expendable things because I keep moving them farther and farther away due to a fear that this whole set up is a fire risk. Which, the router has 6 inches all the way around it and isn’t covered on the top but still. I worry.
On to the garden and pets!
And no escaping without the tomatoes!
The two-year-old has discovered these plants are tomatoes. None have been lost to toddler predation yet but it’s just a matter of time. I’ve told her she has to at least wait till they turn red… we’ll see how long that rule holds.
The Garden on Mother’s Day
Happy Mother’s Day!
We’re just back from a camping trip with a group of our friends- 12 adults and 16 kids out in Junction, TX. I broke my fishing pole but landed the fish that broke it. And the campsite one over from us had a 4′ rattlesnake that had to be relocated by the park ranger- our girls and their cousin were the ones that found it. Two out of our 3 children refused to wear shoes. And we took a canoe trip with most of the group and all of the toddlers.
There was a toddler overboard moment (wear your life jackets, folks. he was fine.) and a couple or four crying toddlers (ours was one of those.) Though I asked her the next day and she said she loved the boats, sooo… don’t let it stop you from doing stuff like that with them. Toddlers are resilient and selectively forgetful.) Packs of children running around like indians. Campfire coffee and smoke and hammocks and fun. All capped off with an hour-too-long sunburned drive home. But it was awesome and the setting of a river among arid hills is my very, very favorite.
While we were away, the tomatoes are growing like gangbusters: