Christmas Happened

December 25th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Somewhere in between the Christmas ironing…

And the Christmas garbage…

Christmas happened. And it was good.

Procastinators Progress

December 23rd, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Things do have a way of working themselves out. Somehow we procrastinators are always able to pull it together on time. We actually are pretty much ready for Christmas. Here’s the evidence.


An added bonus is that the Christmas cactus is blooming beautifully. No thanks to anything I did. Benign neglect rules!


Tomorrow more cleaning and some cooking and then we are really ready!

Everything Stays the Same

December 20th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

One thing about writing a journal is that when I go back to look at the old archives, I have to face reality and it’s not always pretty. It appears that I do not learn from my past mistakes and that things are unlikely to change. I’m not sure I like knowing this.

Tonight I was scanning through some entries I made on comparable dates from year to year. It’s depressing to see that we always wait until about this exact moment to seriously address what needs to be done for the holiday. It seems we never shop until around the 19th or 20th. When we do shop I always have the same complaint; that is, that I am the only one who gets at all engaged in the gift buying, and C. is always grumpy and grouchy throughout the whole process.

We both work, far too much, really. So there is never much space left open for doing things unrelated to our work. And, it’s clear that we are pretty bad at advance planning.

I enjoy the idea of shopping for presents because I want to buy gifts for the family. But I can’t enjoy it when the person I am with is so obviously hating every minute of it.

I don’t feel that I should be the only person responsible for the gift buying. I don’t think that automatically falls into my job description just because I am female. Gifts are from both of us, why not have equal participation?

Yes, I could do it myself, but I have a very real issue with my knee which sometimes makes driving a problem. It hurts my knee, and I always worry that it is going to lock up when I am driving, especially when I have to drive in the snow when good braking reflexes are important. And walking in the ice and snow is not all that easy either.

Even if I did do it myself, I know I would just start to feel annoyed and angry. And I wonder if I did it all myself, would there be any other part of the holiday planning for which he would then take the entire responsibility? I doubt it.

I despair of ever finding a solution to this problem.

The Papaya’s Morning

December 19th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

The Papaya, my 18 month old granddaughter, is sick with a cold and cough, and I agreed to be default caretaker when she can’t go to daycare if possible. So here I am, and this a little excerpt about how my day is going, or more accurately how Maia’s day is going so far.

“Hi Gegah!”

“Boppy seeping?”

“Peek-a boo Boppy!”

“Doggie ou’side?”

(Me: Yes.)

“Doggie ou’side!”

“Mimi?” (Asking about the cat.)

“Mimi!” (She sees the cat)

Gegah house!

Boppy house!

“Gegah shair.” (chair)

“Boppy shair.”

“Maia shair.”

“Rocky?” (Her chair is a rocking chair.)

“Keeness?” Asking for a kleenex.

“Dirty!”Passing keeness to Gegah.

“Paci?”

“Yump!”

(Me: “What?”)

“Yump!” (Making a little motion like trying to jump up.)

“Me: Oh, Jump!”

“Yeah!”, smiling, happy that I have understood, and trying to jump again.

“Mimi yump!” as she catches the cat jumping of the desk.

“Boppy yump?” Boppy accommodates.

“Gegah yump?” (Afraid not. Knees don’t allow for it.)

Meantime we stroll around the house looking for things to amuse her, me getting my coffee, taking time out to do the hokey-pokey which she thinks is great fun, despite my off key singing.

We turn on the Christmas music and it’s Alvin and the chipmunks and she is fascinated and laughing she points to the radio and says, “Baby, baby sin’in!” In fact it does kind of sound like babies singing.

We go back to playing.

“Ball!”

“Two Ball” (There are in fact, two.)

“Poker ships.”

“Mimi ‘tick.” (Cat toy on a stick. which she then uses to try to entice the cat, but instead ends up just poking the cat who retreats.)

“Boppy, awa.” Which means Boppy’s agua (Spanish for water) bottle. She learned to use agua for water in a previous daycare, and now this is always what she calls water. She likes to play with Boppy’s water bottle so she can take the cap off and put it on again.

(Me: “Time to take a nap, Maia. “)

“No!”

But Gegah is serious and puts her to bed. Not without a lot of protest. I hear her saying “Wa ma Gegah!” “Wa ma Gegah!”. But I am firm. Sorry little Papaya, but you really do need a nap because you are sick. In two minutes, not a peep.

Now Gegah is going to make cookies.

More Than Just a Picture

December 18th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

My dining room walls are filled with pictures of all sorts of relatives.

Space being a limiting factor, I have to put some thought into who goes up on the wall. The oldest photos of documented relatives, looking pretty stern and scary, are my father’s Great-Greats, Hiram Dietz and Mary Jane Reynolds Dietz.

Of course, there are my parents, my brothers and me, pictures of my grandmothers, a special aunt, all along with the cute baby pictures of my children and grandchildren.

All the people I love or have loved the most are represented on the wall.

I like that these people preside over every meal, surrounding us with a sense of family history.

I change some of the photos around occasionally, choosing different pictures to remind us of recent or long past events, birthdays, family reunions, vacations, and the like. Some are comical or even slightly absurd. Every photo triggers another memory which needs to be shared.

For a very long time I also had a tray with loose photos on my coffee table. When my eldest grand- daughter was two or three she’d come to visit and the first thing she would head for was that tray of photos to look at pictures of herself and the family . She would go through every one identifying those she knew and and asking me about the others she didn’t know. It was a great game we both enjoyed.

I’ve often wondered about my G-G-G grandparents Mary Jane and Hiram, and I wish I knew more about them. It’s interesting to look at them and speculate about what their life might have been like in New England in the early 1800’s. Their names, birth dates, birth places, marriage dates and their 8 childrens’ names are listed in the family Bible; and I have been able to put together some vague information through internet genealogy searches, but there is little else.

I wonder about other relatives whose only legacy left behind is a photograph, which may or may not have a name attached. A picture is not always worth a thousand words. The old images stare out, people squashed flat and colorless, hiding dimension and nuance, never revealing their full stories.To leave behind only photographs is not enough. Words are needed to tell the full story.

When I am long gone, and when my G-G-G grandchildren look at their own wall, or tray of pictures I’d like to try to leave them another legacy–a little bit of my history to go along with them. That is one reason why I started my online journal 7 years ago. With a little luck, these little bits of my story may survive, so my future generations may have a much better picture of the strange looking old lady whose photo is on the wall.

An Elf’s Tale

December 15th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Back in the 80s, for 8 or 9 years. I was the proprietor of a retail jewelry gallery.

The 80s and 90’s were especially good for crafts people. The general public had a lot of appreciation for artist designed and hand-crafted goods. I guess a lot of hippies eventually grew up, got jobs and had money to spend. High-end crafts were hot. There were lots of good craft shows and there was a lot of money to be made if you were good at what you did, and if you made the effort to market yourself.

Some artists I knew of who were sleeping out in the street, in, or under their trucks, eventually went on to become highly successful designers and entrepreneurs. Many small time crafters with big ambitions became very successful jewelry designers; some of them still have highly profitable lines sold in major department stores. One such example is, Laurel Burch, who died recently. She started out as a lowly crafter and eventually became a huge name in the accessories world.

But I digress, this is really all about me…

With my husband and partner in the business, I did the big time fairs, too, and sold my work in shops and galleries all over, achieving better than a moderate degree of success. But that wasn’t enough for us. For some insane reason we decided the real road to easy street would be via the upscale jewelry gallery where we could sell not only our work, but also the work of all those other successful and talented jewelry artists.

In the beginning, we brought a lot of enthusiasm to the venture. We represented some really great people. We had some special showings for a few of our artists. The community made an effort to support us, and it was fun and good for a while. I got one or two of my all time best customers through the store. These great guys would come in and custom order very special items for the women in their lives, year after year. I was always impressed at the thought that went into these special requests.

Each of these jobs was a challenge and almost always provided an opportunity for me to stretch my skills. And my work did not go unappreciated. They really understood the special quality of the custom designed, hand made piece. And their wives and daughters did as well. I loved working for them. I loved knowing the secret of what thoughtful gift someone would be getting, and I was very invested in each project and I worked hard to make each commission a success.

I always felt a little bit special myself, a little like an elf, making the gifts.

As the years went by, though, the reality of retail set in. We were slaves to our store hours. Even though we had sales help, we had to work weekends, too. During the holidays we had to put in extra long hours, so our family got the short end of the deal.

Having employees all the time had it’s own set of special problems. Most of them were wonderful, but they all had their own paths to travel, so we were always training new people. Sometimes we felt we were working only to pay our expenses and their salaries and saving nothing for our own future,(and that’s pretty much how it played out, actually).

Although most of the customers were fine, a lot of them were not always such easy people to deal with. There was the lady who bought earrings one week, and because we had a very liberal return policy, she returned them the next week and exchanged them for another. And then the next week, same thing. After about a month of that, my husband finally said, “I’m sorry. You can’t just buy earrings, wear them for a week, and return them for another pair every single week. That’s just not how our return policy works.”

She drew herself up in a huff, and I swear this is true, she said, “Don’t confuse me with the facts!” Then she left, never to return again, thank goodness.

But there was always someone else to replace her. Like the lady who really needed therapy, but came in to try earrings on for two hours every other week so she could tell me about her deepest, most personal problems. Not only did she waste my time, but she also never bought anything! One day she complimented me on my haircut, and said she didn’t have a good hairdresser. I immediately saw the solution to my problem. I gave her the name of my hairdresser. It worked, she didn’t come back.

And some were completely crazy. There was the guy who occasionally came into the store wearing a long black cape. He’d walk up to the full length mirror, stand in front of it admiring himself, stick out his tongue and move toward the mirror and begin to lick his reflection. Jeez! Each time we waited patiently until he did the tongue thing, and then call the cops to escort him out.

Most of the rest of the annoyances were not all that terrible, but rolled in with a lot of other issues, it all just became more than we wanted to deal with any longer. The truth was, we were not cut out for the daily retail grind, so it was time to call it quits. We closed the store and went back to selling wholesale and doing shows again, which we continued doing through most of the 90s. I did manage keep some of those really great customers and still did some special commissions for them for a while, so that was nice.

Slowly, though, I cut back, dropping more shows, and keeping only my very best accounts. I found other, newer things to pursue. The great customers have moved on to patronize other artists, and that’s OK by me. But there’s always been a little something missing in my life since we cut out most of the retail, and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

With the advent and success of the internet marketplace, I finally decided it was time for me to give this new form of retail selling a try. A couple years ago I built myself a little website featuring a very limited number of items from one of my most popular production lines. All simple stuff, no complex commissions, just stuff that is easy for me to produce. Stressless. I haven’t promoted it too much, and I don’t get a ton of orders, but there have been just enough. Although this year I’ve had a lot more orders, so it is keeping me busy but still not overly so.

Last week, I finally figured out what it is that I’ve been missing from the old days of retail. I don’t have a shopping cart on my web site, so it is necessary to contact me directly to make a purchase. I talked to several different customers last week. They were so enthusiastic. They were all thoughtful people, who were really happy to have found just the right gift for someone they knew. Their enthusiasm was contagious. I wanted to help them make someone happy, go the extra mile and offer the special touch. Whatever it took —gift wrap, enclose a special note, make an out of stock item today, right now, to assure that it would be there in time for Christmas.

I realized what it was I had lost, and now found —I’m finally getting to be an elf again, and I love it!

Squash, Carrot, Pumpkin and Pear Soup

December 7th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Most days we try to eat in at the studio at lunch and at home for dinner if we possibly can. But things were getting out of control. We were working long hours and we had fallen into a the default pattern of eating out in restaurants, not only for lunch, but also for dinner, many times–more times than we could really afford, actually. This was really sucking away the hard earned dough.

So we had to get real, and make the serious effort to cook at home again. Besides, we needed to eat out of the freezer in order to consume the homemade broth, leftover soup, chili, spaghetti sauce and the mountains of chicken breasts, stacks of hamburger patties and excesses of Amy’s sausages all of which seem to multiply if left alone in the dark for too long. Also, we had to make room for the new tenants…all the holiday leftovers soon to arrive.

By supplementing the overstock with a few trips to the grocery store to pick up a few basics and some veggies and fruits, we managed to eat every meal at home for over two weeks, no problem. Besides saving money, a welcome unexpected and added bonus was that I lost 6 pounds in 8 days by doing nothing different at all other than just eating at home. I know that there can be a lot of extra fat in restaurant food, and we all know that portions are larger, but I never expected it to make that much of a difference.

It’s always a challenge to look in the freezer and search the cupboards for interesting ingredients to throw into soup or add to stew or use for making creative side dishes. One of the soups I made using miscellaneous ingredients from my kitchen turned out pretty well, so I wanted to write it down so I don’t forget it.

This concoction was prompted by two of Trader Joe’s boxed soups, Carrot Ginger and Squash Apple, which had been languishing in my cupboard because, let’s face it, while they sound yummy, they really are not all that great, as is. I thought I’d see if I could fix them up.

I came up with what I call my Vitamin A Soup, or, Squash, Carrot, Pumpkin and Pear Soup

This isn’t going to be a recipe with exact measurements, but it’s more of a description of what I did by using up a lot of leftover bits of stuff. With soups, it pretty much doesn’t matter how much stuff you put in as long as it satisfies your taste buds. At least that’s how I approach it.

I sauted a diced, large sweet onion in a little olive oil along with a couple cloves of garlic and a diced shallot. A chopped leek would have probably been better than the shallot.

When the onion was transparent, I added the boxed soups and brought them to a simmer. I had two previously cooked sweet potatoes which I squashed up and threw in. I added 5 or 6 carrots which I had peeled chopped and cooked in the microwave until they were soft. I threw in a small can of pumpkin, not the seasoned kind.

I always stir and taste and check for consistency, etc. as I go along. This soup was getting a little thick and it was a little bitter from the canned pumpkin, so it was time for serious work.

To thin it out, I added about two cups of homemade chicken stock.

To season it, I added cumin, curry powder, a little tumeric, a tiny bit of cinnamon, a little ground up rosemary, a little powdered ginger. Given the choice, I would always use fresh ginger or spices, of course.

It still needed sweetening up, and I would have used applesauce, but I didn’t have any on hand. I remembered that I had 5 Bosc pears in the fridge about to go over to the dark side. So I peeled and chopped them and poached them in the microwave. I used the hand held blender to puree them and threw them in the soup. It was just what the soup needed to add some sweetness, and the undertones of pear were very nice.

I let it simmer for about an hour so the flavors could mingle.

I corrected the seasonings and decided that it could use a touch of heat to perk it up, so I threw in a dash of cayenne.

Then I used the immersion blender to puree it. Before I served it I added a little half and half. You could use milk, or you could do nothing, depends on your taste. We topped it with toasted pumpkin seeds.

It was yummy. Only problem is, I now have three new containers of soup in my freezer.

Snow? Or, You Can Take the Girl Out of the South, but…

December 4th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Memories of snow got me thinking about the first time I ever saw snow.

I was born in Denton, Texas during WWII. My father, an army officer from upstate NY, and my mother, from central Louisiana, met on the army base where he was assigned and where she worked. They were transferred from Louisiana to Denton, and then to Brownsville, TX. From there, he went on to serve in Europe until the end of the war. My mother then moved back to Louisiana to stay with her family for the duration, where we lived until I was almost three.

Needless to say, there was not a snowflake to be found in my life during those early years.

When my Dad returned, he was discharged from the army, and they decided to move to a small town in upstate NY where he opened his own private practice.

When winter came, snow it did.

I woke up one morning and looked out the window and when I saw snow, I was amazed, and immediately turned to my mother and exclaimed, “Mama! mama! Look! There’s grits all over the ground!”

Yum,Yum! Too Much!

December 4th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, Papaya, there can be too much of a good thing.


Ummmm…finger-smacking good!


Ugh…too much!

No Clever Title, Just Catching Up

December 3rd, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Been a little slow getting started posting this year. It’s always a busy time, and I really do not know what causes me to think that I can post every single day during this season.

This past weekend was especially busy. We celebrated my daughter’s 40th birthday. I cannot believe I have a 40 year old daughter. What’s more, I have a 42 year old son. Ah well, my ‘baby’ is only 36.

The birthday was very pleasant. I made a very, very special pair of one of a kind earrings which looked gorgeous on her and which she loved. Score one for Mom. I was just happy that I still had it in me to pull a good one out of the old bag-o-jewelry-tricks. In fact, I liked them so much that I had a brief moment in which I contemplated designing a whole new upscale line around that theme.

Though it was Susan’s birthday, she was upstaged by her 18 month old daughter, who was adorable as usual. Because I took care of the Papaya two days a week last year, from September through March, we have a very special relationship, and she loves her ‘Ge Ga’. She knows hundreds of words now, not that she pronounces all of them perfectly, but anyone can definitely understand her and she is not shy about expressing herself. One of the cutest new things is that when she accomplishes something she has been trying hard to do, she’ll look at you and very proudly exclaim, “I did it!”. I think she is very verbal for her age.

After that party, we went to the holiday party for the dealers at the antique mall where we sell stuff. We rented a space a couple of years ago, and we find it a great way to transfer some of our excess collectibles to new owners. Not to mention that it also gives us a perfect excuse to buy more junk, uh…valuable collectibles, to fill the spaces we empty out. It doesn’t hurt that we also like the mall owners and the other dealers a lot as well. What’s not to like? Everyone else has the same sickness we have, so we can share freely about our disease.

All that partying was just way more that we are used to, so exhaustion and the inclement weather, with the snow and ice, provided just the excuses for us to sleep in and stay home on Sunday. We puttered around most of the day doing some tidying up and some maintenance that we have neglected. Wasn’t exactly not working, but was very much more relaxing than going to the studio/office to continue the massive rearrangement we’ve started over there. In between chores we took a Larry David break to watch new episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. I love it, but it is so painful watching him screw up that I can’t do a marathon viewing, I have to do it in small doses.

Now, this week, we are just hoping to get caught up a little before the whole holiday rush begins in earnest. Since everyone is coming to our place on Christmas day this year, we have to prepare. That means more cleaning and rearranging, not to mention planning the dinner, decorating in some way, as well as shopping for gifts.

All in all, things are OK for us and for most members of my family this year, and we have no major health issues to distract us. All my children and their families are doing pretty well, and we all get along fine. I have the very best grand daughters in the world. How ever did I get so lucky? So, though I usually tend to be somewhat of a Grinch, I find, a little surprisingly, that I am actually looking forward to Christmas this year.

Where am I?

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