Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wait!... Don't eat that! It hasn't been tested!

Every year it happens - One of the biggest threats to the physical and emotional health of parents and children alike, all over the U.S.   People are forced to walk for miles, knocking on doors, dressed in clothing not fit for the light of day, begging for tooth-rotting, hyperspastic-coma-inducing, pre-packaged sugar.
The parent tasked with supervising the minature walking dead is especially troubled when that strange, awful day happens on a Monday.  A school night.  When it's even more pressing that all the little goblins must be repeatedly chastised to "Wait." 

"Wait" is the four-letter word of the evening.  It is the mantra of parents everywhere.  Wait until after dinner.  Wait until it's dark-ish.  Wait for us to catch up.  Wait to eat the candy. - It's that last bit that's the hardest for the munchkins.  But the threat of the poisoned treat; The razor blades in the apples, (As if anyone gives out apples anymore.) The LSD-laden candy bar - Those are the threats parents rely upon. The urban-legends of scary wrong things hiding in those sweet, chocolate-covered pieces of bliss that help us keep our children fearful and safe until we can fulfil our parental duty to "Check the Candy".

It is a truly thankless and vital responsibility we must shoulder.  Many parents just can't or won't step up and take the bull by the horns to do whatever it takes to ensure our children remain safe and healthy.  Many of these so-called caring adults actually allow their offspring to eat un-inspected food gathered from strangers! 

It's a burden I'm willing to shoulder to ensure the safety and well-being of my own demented spawn.  Even if I must test each and every piece of chocolate myself, I will persevere.

For I am the parent of a Trick-or-Treater and that makes me:  The Official Candy Tester.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's just so "Out There"...

To post or not to post - Or - That which is seen cannot be un-seen...

Being new to this blogging platform, but not so new to life online, I've experienced the epiphany of just how careful one must be when putting things "out there" on the web.  There's always that hesitancy to post anything because of the weight of knowing what I write and send in to the vastness of cyberspace cannot be taken back. 

Moderating myself isn't really a new concept for me, but it is something I admittedly need to practice.  I've spent my whole life saying things out loud that a more diplomatic person would instinctively know not to say. 
A lot of those thoughts can be chalked up to not engaging brain before mouth.  Many times, what I think is a completely neutral observation is someone else's insult.  I have, on many occasions, skipped out on giving feedback about something simply because I had nothing nice to say.  I can be brutally honest - please don't ask if you don't really want my honest opinion.

I’m also conflicted about moderating myself too much – I mean, on the one hand, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I dern well want to write and on the other, I'm thinkin' how silly it is that some people are so quick to let their hackles rise or get their feelers bent.  Sometimes I think they just enjoy the drama.  I mean really, a lot of people could be a lot happier if they didn't hang on to stuff so much. Grow a thicker skin. Ya' know?

I don't have too many thin-skinned friends. Most of my friends understand that I am a really nice, loyal, fun person with less than my share of tact.  I don't say purposely hurtful or mean things, but I may say something that can be taken much differently than I intended. 

Does it bother me to burn a bridge?  Rarely.  What bothers me more are bridges to nowhere.  Loose ends. Dangling participles.  Closed relationships without closure.  Those situations are where my brutal honesty works to my advantage.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Randomness - Eye Candy

Going through pics on my phone - thought I'd share a few with ya'.  = >

Snowmobiling through Togwotee (ToeGuhTee - Sometimes I just like saying it out loud)

Clyde, the sweetest camel ever!  He lives right here in Nampa, Idaho!

From my front yard - The gold at the end of the rainbow
Whipped Soap Body Frosting - Birthday Cake!  Yum!
Jasmine givin' me the eye
Crank/tilt your head to the left to properly view some of my son's artwork in my office

Giant Jolly Rancher Suckers

Tilt/Crank head again - Just before I jumped out 'the plane...
Cedar Groves in Northern Idaho
Because people can hear the smile in your voice...

Wallowa Lake near Joeseph, OR

Seven Devils Mountain Range - Hells Canyon

Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to Live with Grey Areas

Grey Areas - They're especially tough for me.  Everything is so much simpler when it's black and white.  Right or wrong. Yes or no.   When your thoughts tend to be as crowded as mine, those grey areas become a layer of Dead Sea mud in the Missouri River of my thinking.

Grey Areas are uncertainties.  They're effusive, elusive and shifting.  They're not outlined like coloring book pictures.  Their shapes are nebulous and move like smoke or water.  Bottom line:  The complete lack of definition in Grey Areas are unsettling for me.

Over the years I've come to realize that I am a grey area

I am also constantly changing, adapting and learning new ways of flowing through this space and around the lives of others.  Often I've run into great walls of rock solid opinions or cliffs of my own making.  I may have splashed, like a great wave upon someone else's shore, only to find that I've created the jagged peaks simply by my over-aggressive approach.  At other times I've encountered tranquil lagoons of stillness in others, where I wanted to stay, but the currents running through me made it impossible to remain so calm.

Lately my own Grey Areas are returning to a more centered, even flow.  While my shores and boundaries may shift, I am aware of my own banks and will more often take the path of least resistance.  I am still learning to keep more of myself together rather than splitting off into emotional or creative tributaries.  I am still learning to moderate how my will is perceived by others - to try to be aware of when my opinion is a tsunami or a changing of the tides - and to adjust.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The not-so- SECRET to Being a Great Parent

   It's a thankless labor of love with absurdly high risk, extreme emotional and financial costs and no real rate of return.  It's a paradox of feelings.  It's a personal sacrifice.  It's a great big delusion.


A lot of people out there have questions.  There are hundreds of thousands of books offering advice about parenting.  Some parents who should ask, don't. 
 "Should we even have kids?" 
"They're going to cost how much?!"  
"What can I do about my kid's behavior?"  .
"How can I help my son/daughter get better grades/make better choices?"   "Why doesn't my teen give a crap?"  
"Did they lose their *&^%$ minds?!" 
"When did I get so old?" 

I'm going to share with you the single most important thing you need to do, to be the absolute best parent in the world.
 Spend more time with your kids.

That's it - That's all you need to do. 
FOCUS on them.  Make sure you're present and the time you spend is all about your kid and you.  Spend time playing, listening to and talking with your kids.  Skip your workout.  Eat at your desk so you can leave a little early.  Spending a solid hour a day will help strengthen your relationships and give your children a more solid sense of self, stronger self esteem, a greater desire to succeed and better relationship skills. 
It will also make you younger! (OK, honestly, you'll live longer, be more hip and have more fun, but you're gonna look a lot older...)

I was going to explore reasons why it might be hard for parents to give more time, ways people might find more time to spend with their kids;  Maybe give some reasons why anyone should take my advice and some other stuff, but if you're reading this, you're probably a parent too or, at the very least, you're thinking of another parent who might benefit from a little more kid-therapy, so you already know this stuff - or you can just pass it on or hit the highlights - but all that other stuff is just going to take up more of the time you could be spending with your kid. 

Go play already...!   = >

Friday, October 7, 2011

Happy Friday!

(AKA: Patience Testing)
Fleur de Sel Caramels

*Note - Using Fleur de Sel or “chunky” sea salt is key to making these wonderfully soft and chewy treats.
©       Line a square baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
©       Combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup heavy cream and ½ tsp. sea salt in a large heavy duty pot over medium heat and stir constantly until dissolved.  Bring to boil.
©       SLOWLY add another cup of heavy cream to the boiling mixture.  
©       Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes or so.
©       Add 5 Tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time.
©       Allow to boil for a full 35 minutes until temp reaches firm ball stage (@ 250°, but I prefer to use the always reliable ice water method for testing.)
©       Remove from heat and add 1 ½ tsp. real vanilla extract and 1 more tsp. Fleur de Sel.
©       Pour immediately into prepared dish. DO NOT SCRAPE THE PAN to avoid crystallization.
©       After 10 minutes, sprinkle with Fleur de Sel salt to taste. (*See Optional below) Let cool, then lift out the parchment paper and slide the sheet of caramel onto a cutting board.
©       Spray a chef’s knife with cooking spray and cut caramel into squares or strips.
©       Wrap in wax or parchment paper, keep in airtight container and enjoy within 1 month.
©       *Optional: Dip cooled caramels in dark chocolate and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel for an amazing sweet savory alternative.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Use it up. Wear it out. Make it Do, or do without."

If you lived through the 80's and the decades since you'll understand why we, as Americans, are referred to as consumers.  You, like, totally remember hairdo's with mall-bangs, spandex outside the gym, rubber bracelets, mix tapes and, like, levis commercials, ya' know?  

The economy was boomin', credit was flowin' and you could gag yourself with a spoon and buy whatever you wanted with small monthly payments.  Even more recently that whole digital TV revolution that made your parents 27" console stereo TV seem like the Edsel of TV sets.  Who would've guessed just 5 years ago that a 42" flat screen would be considered small?

You also know how much faster our landfills are filling up and have a good idea of how disposable everything has become.  From diapers to cameras to computers, appliances and TVs.  You and I are living through what I refer to as the "Great Consumption". 

Those ways are changing - They have to.  People can't afford to buy new everything when something breaks.  It's so bizarre that companies are making such expensive appliances and gadgets that are only made to last a few years.   Our planet simply can not support more people and more garbage.

Frugality is way of life in our family.  Passed down from our Great-Grandparents and beyond.  My own Great-Grandfather was the last Wagoneer discharged from the army.  My Great-Grandmother had thousands of preserves put up to last through even the harshest Montana winter.   They lived through WWII and the Great Depression and they lived well on their little dairy farm in Northwestern Montana.   My husband's Grandparents are ledgend in their little part of the world and they had similar family values.   Don't get me wrong - They were every bit as disfunctional as any family today, only without the easily obtained divorce as an option. 

They took care of their home and each other.  They didn't lament over what they didn't have.   They fixed things that needed fixing.   They were "re-using" and "re-purposing" a hundred years before those phrases became such popular buzz words of today.   It's worrisome to me that so many people don't consider canning, sewing, budgeting, hunting and home repair to be vital life skills. It's sad that funding cuts meant the end of shop and home-ec classes while sports are considered vital.

What can we do now to live better for less?  Teach our children those vital life skills.  Teach sons and daughters how to cook and clean and budget and save.  Teach them how to fix things and preserve things.  Teach them that living better doesn't happen at Walmart and lasting realtionships don't happen on Facebook.  Teach them that handmade means more than shopping on Etsy and recycling means more than sorting bins.  Teach them that frugality is not the same as cheap and buying locally matters.   

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The High Cost of Creativity

It all starts with that evil little voice inside your head, when you see something amazing and think, "I can make that!"

Artists and crafters understand how much having to buy expensive supplies can be a huge drain on your creativity level.   Being hit by a right-hemisphere-melting dose of fiscal reality can do that.  Especially when you first start making that special something that ignited that spark of inspiration, be it soap, jewelry, painting, cupcakes, quilts or whatever and find out just what it's going to cost you. 

College was the worst!  Seriously, check out the supply list for a typical 20 fine arts credits - $700?  $900?  Add in some art history text books and you might realize by your second semester that you should have majored in engineering because that's the only way you're going to afford to be a real, live starving artist...

 For those with ADCD it's especially challenging.  We love making shtuff, but our short attention spans usually mean we're not going to be making the same thing for very long.  We enthusiastically (and in my case, manically) begin a new creative project and buy supplies with abandon. (AKA: as much as we can afford and still have money for gas, ramen and bologna.)  We'll make a whole variety of that shtuff and end up trying to sell enough to break even, or giving it away as gifts, or in my case, both.  Eventually, we'll get bored with making that stuff and be ready to try something new.  We'll be inspired (or distracted) by some idea or glittery, shiny thing or just a random falling leaf and off we go in search of more supplies.  It's a vicious, bank-breaking, relationship-testing cycle.  

And then there's the leftovers - All those left over supplies, of which there's not enough of what you need to make more stuff, but the thought of letting such useful items go to waste creates an anxiety much like a smoker trying to quit cold-turkey or a shopaholic cutting up a credit card.
I went through this same budget busting agony with crocheting, silk painting & dying, acrylics and watercolors, airbrushing, quilting, journal making, and all my other soapy bath & body products, to name a few recent endeavors.  Trust me, I feel your creative drain.  My storage shed (or what my husband refers to as the "Artsy Fartsy Hoarding Zone") has boxes and bins full of yards of material, thousands of buttons, dozens of yarn skeins, soap packaging, painting supplies, body product containers, coffee cans of broken tiles, reams of pretty paper, shoe boxes full of markers, stamps, gallons of adhesives, and enough glitter to make Martha Stewart drool - let's not even talk about my post-it note problem...

As I get in deeper to this blogging abyss, I'll try to post some ideas, tips, links and money-saving tid bits that may help save some anxiety and help keep that flame of inspiration burning hot.