Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Salad is one of my summertime recipes. It's incredibly easy.

Start with some goodies from the garden

wash the basil, chop coarsely and pour some olive oil over it to flavor the oil

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

2 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
one bunch fresh basil
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Wash basil and chop coarsely. Pour olive oil over and let sit.

Layer tomatoes and mozzarella and drizzle olive oil over all. Garnish with basil. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

This is plenty to serve two, or four if you're using it as an appetizer.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy 1950s Housewife

I could have easily been a 1950s housewife. Never mind I wasn't alive in the 50s. Fantasies can't be bogged down with these minor details.

From what I understand, in the 50s women spent their time making a house a home. I know it's a cliche. I know we're all supposed to be concerned about our profit sharing numbers. I know we spent the 60s overcoming the 50s.

Can we just put all of that aside for a moment and think about how lovely it would be to sit down to a home-cooked meal every night, in a clean house, with a beautifully set table? The family would be gathered around, listening to father dispensing wisdom while we all ate our home-baked coconut pie with the real meringe. Okay, I'll admit, parts of that scenario creep me out a little bit - particularly that part about Dad dispensing wisdom.

But, I could so easily have been happy spending the day in my house, puttering around and dusting, stopping only to make canapes to be served with a relish tray of olives and home-made pickles. The day would end as we slipped into crisp, clean sheets still smelling of sunshine and perhaps a tiny spritz of lavendar water. Of course, my vision of this 1950s life includes microwaves, modern vacuum cleaners, racial equality, and the internet. Hey, it's my fantasy. Don't ruin it for me.

I'm not sure exactly what part of this fantasy appeals to me, but I think it's mostly having a home I want to be in and not having to leave it to go into the work world. However, the more I think about it, it sounds completely exhausting to make this ideal home. It might require Martha Stewart and staff, as well as the fictional Bree Hodges. And I haven't even added in the 2.5 children yet. We better bring supernanny into the picture too.

I'm starting to understand why women rebelled against this, although I'm surprised they had any energy left for rebellion. Now that I think about it I guess I just want the canapes and fresh sheets, surrounded by a spotless home.

I guess that's why this is a fantasy...
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Friends and Food

Teresa, Peggy and Andrea came over last night for a gathering. We talked about the collages we did in April, looking for new insights. All of us still need to do a lot of journaling, per the book, but it was a nice evening.

Everyone brought something to share and we ended up having quite a spread of food. Teresa even made her wonderful chicken salad. It's always good to share food with friends.

It also gave me a chance to use those cool glasses in that carrier you see in the photo. Are those not the coolest?!?!? I bought them at goodwill for $6.99 last week. All eight of them are in great shape - the look like they've not even been used. I love them.

A bonus of the evening was that I was able to send some tomatoes home with all of them. I'm starting to feel a bit like a pusher. I have 12 plants in. Why? Because I just can't seem to stop myself from buying them when they're first out. That's when they're a foot tall. Now they're growing out the top of the six foot cages. And producing. And producing more.

Unfortunately, some of my favorite tomatoes are one that don't produce as much - things like golden jubilee. I had a fresh one with a sandwich for lunch Monday. Yum!

Andrea reminded me last night of the old Garrison Keillor joke about being afraid to leave your car unlocked in the summer because someone might put garden produce in it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Barriers, Masks and Words that Make Me Unapproachable

I think of myself as very open and approachable. I'm always open to new friendships, new experiences and new people and places. It's how I'm living life. At least that's what I think.

However, over the years, multiple people have told me that when they first met me they found me "unapproachable" in one way or another. What's interesting is that this attitude is formed without me speaking a word or interacting with them in any way. I can only conclude my non-verbal cues are strong.

My friend, Leah, told me that when she used to see me in the hallways of the building where we both worked, she thought I was very standoffish. We had exchanged hellos a few times, but that didn't impact her view.

One of my former boyfriends told me that the day he met me he thought the, "chance for rejection was extremely high." I asked for clarification and he said I gave the impression that I had it all together. When I pressed  more he pointed out my little red glasses I had at the time. He said, "Your glasses are like you're saying to the world - hey, you may not know they're cool, but I do, and I don't care what you think. Besides, you'll come around. You'll think they're cool too eventually."

I'm astonished that I can communicate this much with a pair of glasses or the way I walk down a hallway or any number of other things. But, I don't question the veracity of it. The real proof is in what people perceive, not what I think I'm doing or not doing, and those were their perceptions so they're valid.

Another acquaintance told me once, when we were starting to get to know each other - and obviously we didn't really accomplish that because she's not a "friend" but an "acquaintance" - that "not everyone is as healthy as you" when it comes to relationships. We were talking about co-dependency at the time, as I recall. I was literally sitting there with my mouth hanging open because I could not believe anyone would consider me "healthy" with regard to relationships. I've got a string of them behind me - all failed - and the common denominator there is me - so why would anyone think I'm good at this. The proof tells another story.

But, she found it very "off-putting" that I was adamant that I would never live with an alcoholic or accept a "crazymaker" into my life. I didn't say she couldn't do that, just that I would never live with that. I wasn't offering this opinion out of turn - it was asked - but the fact that I was certain about my feelings seemed to be the real issue. Is it more engaging if you're uncertain? If you need to talk about these things to figure out why you feel this way? I'm very clear about why I feel this way, and I'd be happy to share, but it's a long, ugly, pretty boring story. Why would I subject someone to that?

Honest to goodness, I don't go through my days scowling. I think I'm a pretty smiley-faced person most of the time. That has changed over the years, of course. We all change as we mature. I would say I like my personality better now than I did 20 years ago. Leah met me then, but the ex-bf and acquaintance were far more recent than that, so the problem hasn't gone away.

At the same time, other people are puzzled when I mention this. They can't imagine why anyone would think I'm not open and friendly. Jade found me very open when we met a few months ago. At least I think so. I'll try to confirm that with her when we have lunch tomorrow. I'm assuming that other people I've met recently found me open, as well. At least they seem to. Maybe I better ask.

The "unapproachable" thing has come up often enough throughout my life that I think it's worthy of some exploration on my part. I'm just stymied by what that should be. Generally when I need to figure something out I put pen to paper and write. Tonight I decided maybe I'd try the fingers to keyboard approach instead.

This past weekend, when Trish was looking at my collage I did in April, she said the words were distracting to her. That the words on it are all things I would say but that the real meaning was beneath that and the words were just a barrier to seeing everything else. I asked Trish yesterday, and Teresa tonight, what it is about me that it seems I'm holding back.

I write about my life here almost every day. And, yes, much of it is very surface stuff. But, some of it is much more personal and has deeper meaning. I've written about everything from the death of my mother, to losing a man I loved, to my thoughts on politics and attitudes about almost everything imaginable.

Yes, I still keep pen/paper journals and I don't write here about the things in those. But, by and large, those are things I can't imagine anyone wants to hear about. They're things I've only ever discussed with two of the men I've been seriously involved with, and even then there are things I keep private. Doesn't everyone? I thought everyone had a private life - a life where they keep their insecurities, fears and traumas. Is this not the case? Seriously, this is a real question - not rhetorical. I certainly don't know all of those things about everyone in my life so either they don't have that private life or they are keeping it quiet. I have it, but I've never thought anyone would be particularly interested in it - nor is it something I want to give a lot of energy to by discussing. Is that what is missing?

I do not write here about my love life, nor do I discuss it much in real life. There is no one I'm serious about at the moment, so that's probably why. If I were madly in love it would show through in the writing, but when that part of my life is casual instead of serious, there just isn't much to say. The occasional funny comment from someone, but that's about it. Besides, I've learned that very few people are interested in your intimate life. It makes most people feel envy or pity, and neither of those is flattering to any of us, so why go there?

Additionally, I want to interact with the people in my life on their own merits, not those of the other people in their lives - so I try to extend that courtesy to others. I'd love to meet your husband, wife, significant other, son, grandchild, etc. - and form a relationship with them. But, I need to connect with people on a more meaningful level than the fact that they have married or reproduced or that their progeny have done the same. I'd rather form a relationship with each of those people on their own strengths. Does this make me unapproachable? I don't know.

I would not share all of my private thoughts with someone I just met, but that doesn't seem to be appropriate for anyone. I have a fragile core that I do protect until I know I can trust someone, but I thought that was normal. Doesn't everyone have a fragile core? A place where you keep all your deep insecurities tucked away? Surely you don't share those when you're first meeting people. At least I don't meet people like that. Well, truthfully, I have met a few people who tell you way too much about themselves when you first meet, and I've always been afraid I might be one of those people.

I'm really struggling with this at the moment. I guess I'm puzzled what to do about it, if anything. I'm having some difficulty pinpointing the problem, which makes it impossible to address, of course. How do I communicate that I am open and willing to engage? How do I find the false front I give to the world when I don't even know what it is myself?

I'm trying to be logical and look for examples in my life and consider if those are unique to me or if they are common experiences. Obviously, this is something I want to address - I just don't know how. I want to be open with people. I want to be engaging. I want to be open to possibility.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Weekend in Elk Falls Kansas

Elk Falls, Kansas is in the southeastern part of the state. Trish, Teresa and I spent the weekend  at the Sherman House Guesthouse there, so we could have some time away for a creative visioning process. It was the same process I did at Ramona with some friends in April.

I didn't do a new collage because I haven't fully delved into the one I did in April. I took it along, and Trish had some good insights into it.

Elk Falls is an interesting community and we enjoyed meeting Steve and Jane Fry, who own the Sherman House B and B and also operate Elk Falls Pottery. They were lovely folks and invited us to also visit their rock garden. I'll have more photos of that in the coming days.

I went out early this morning to the falls, where I spotted this heron enjoying the breaking day.

I then took a lovely drive out into the country. Trish loaned me her car as I didn't have one with me. Greg headed to Joplin on Friday so he just detoured and took me to Elk Falls. It was nice to have his company on the way down and Trish's on the way back.

Teresa met us there, coming up from Oklahoma where she had been to watch her granddaughter, Kylie, play in a national softball tournament. Her team came in fifth!

Friday night Teresa and I headed out for dinner and decided to go to Sedan. We did not enjoy our food at the Rack Shack (BBQ) very much - I'm sorry I can't recommend it - but we saw a beautiful double rainbow.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of downtown Sedan with the rainbow stretched over the main street. Of course, those power lines detract, but otherwise it's a lovely chamber of commerce shot. To top it off, Sedan has a "yellow brick road," where people buy bricks, which I had stepped on to take the photo.

It was an incredible weekend. We want to do it again very soon.
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

How Wisk Laundry Detergent Lost My Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is something companies desperately want. It means that you will only buy their product in that category of thing. I'm brand loyal to very few things - Wisk laundry detergent, Heinz catsup, Tampax tampons and Jif extra crunchy peanut butter. I know it's not a long list, but I am fiercely loyal to those things - would never buy another brand - even if they were selling it for a penny.

However, I recently bought something other than Wisk, and I can't imagine I'll ever go back. What happened to make me stop after 20 or 25 years of buying only Wisk? Was I unhappy with the product itself? No. I was unhappy with their lack of commitment to the environment.

A few months ago they, along with other companies, came out with triple strength detergents. That meant smaller bottles and less packaging ending up in the landfill. Then, almost as suddenly. the triple strength disappeared and only double strength was available again. I've been waiting for the 3x to come back and have given up. Their website says it's available but if I can't actually purchase it at my local store it doesn't matter that it may still be manufactured somewhere. And, frankly, I'm not keen on the idea of continuing to manufacture the lower strenghts when it's not necessary.

So, I looked at the choices on the shelf and bought All because it was one that was triple strength. Wisk has lost my business. Of course, I'm only one customer and I doubt very seriously they care they've lost my $5 worth of detergent purchases every 2-3 months. But, if I'm really serious about doing what's good for the environment I cannot buy a product that is generating more waste than is necessary. I can either be serious about doing what I can in my personal life or I can blather on about it and continue to spend my money on products that aren't doing all they can. I'm choosing to be serious.

Of course, the main reason they won't care about my business is that Wisk and All are both manufactured by Unilever. So, the same company is getting my money in the end anyway. Can you say conglomerate?

Of course, the danger to them is that I have no brand loyalty to All yet. And that's not something any company wants to hear, because I could wander down the aisle and buy something from another company. They want to engender brand loyalty above all. But, All does offer a coupon for a $1 off on their website, so they'll probably get me to buy at least one more bottle.

Have I ever mentioned my somewhat unnatural love of coupons? I think it's just the coolest thing to get money off of something I'm going to be buying anyway. I don't use them nearly as much as I would - just because I don't get them very often - but this one conveniently printed out at my elbow. Coupons are one of the ways companies get you to try new things, and try to build brand loyalty of ones you're already using.

Oh, and as usual, the regular disclaimer - I'm not a blog whore - and when I write about a product here it's genuine and not because someone is paying me for it. If I'm getting perks for writing something about a company or product or whatever I'll be very clear about that - so far no one has been banging down my cyber-door, asking me to tout their products. The only perk I'm getting is the same coupon you can get by following the link above.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Zucchini and Tomato Dish

I had a fresh zucchini out of the garden, and some tomatoes, which seemed like the perfect thing to make a dinner with. So... here's what I whipped up. It was pretty tasty - of course, most things fresh out of the garden are.

Zucchini and Tomato Dish

1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 zucchini, sliced

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil. Add tomatoes and zucchini. Let simmer on top of the stove, stirring occasionally, until the water is cooked out. Dish up and eat as is. Or, sprinkle some cheese on top for another taste.

You can adjust the amount of ingredients to suit your taste, of course.

I think some tofu cooked in it, or some chicken, would also be delish.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Christmas Around the Corner

Every year I take a healthy amount of ribbing about my love of Christmas. I tell everyone the secret is to start early. Yes, I'm one of those people. Some of my presents are already bought and wrapped. OK, I'll wait for your groans and laughter. Now...

Last night I was thinking I would write a blog entry about this very thing and point out to people that this weekend will be five months until Christmas. So, if you want to get your shopping underway before the holiday rush you have four months - that's 16 weekends - to do it. You could also be planning holiday gatherings, addressing your Christmas cards or whatever else you like to do for the holidays. The point is, if you want to be enjoying the holiday season you can't wait until the last minute to get going or you'll be overwhelmed. Well, I will - maybe you won't.

So, last night I was thinking about this and then I thought... no... I'm just not going to write that. I'm not going to go there. People will be annoyed, thinking I'm pushing the season.

But, then today at lunch with Jade I got a call from Greg who had been to Hobby Lobby with a friend and had found.... are you ready... yes... it's true... their holiday decorations! I was at a restaurant who's parking lot joins Hobby Lobby's so I trotted over there to look at them. I even snuck the photo.

So... I'm just saying... this is the time to get started if you want to have a relaxed holiday season...

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Working on the Novel

I've been writing on the novel the last few days whenever I have a spare moment. I am trying to develop the skill of being able to write anywhere under any circumstances. I'm so much more efficient when I have a stretch of time to work on it uninterrupted. But I'm making some progress.

Obviously, all I'm doing is working... then writing when I'm not working... there's not much to blog about.

People keep asking about the novel. It's a southern fiction book with a healthy dose of mysticism. More details will follow eventually, but at this point it's still forming. I appreciate everyone's interest.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Harvey Houses Remembered at Tea in Arlington Kansas

Sunday Teresa, Julie, Jan and I went to tea in Arlington, Kansas. This is a fundraiser tea and it's just completely lovely.

Verna is one of the ladies who organizes it. They transform their church basement by carrying in tons of wonderful decorations. And, the food is always very good.

This was just one of the little desserts they served. Yummy.

Their program this year was about Fred Harvey and Harvey Houses. Joanne Stanley came from Topeka to give the program.

Fred Harvey developed a system, in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railroad, to serve food to rail passengers. The first Harvey House was in Topeka in 1876. For 35 cents you got eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, pancakes, coffee and apple pie. It was served on real china on real linens. It was a revolution in the industry.

Within seven years, Harvey had 17 places in operation.

The lady in the blue, over to the right edge, was a Harvey girl herself.

Her name is Evelyn Nunnemaker. I went over afterwards and asked if I could take her photo. She was just lovely and have a great smile, but I couldn't get her to show it to me when I was taking a photo. She worked at the Harvey House at the Grand Canyon. She taught school and was looking for a summer job and got that one.

She was hired on the spot and sent the next day, which was unusual. Many girls trained in Newton, Kansas. All the laundry for the whole chain was done in Newton, too.

Fred Harvey started out with men serving, but in 1883 when the male waiters had been in a brawl the night before and didn't show up for work, a manager in New Mexico suggested using girls instead and Fred Harvey liked the idea. He started advertising for women 18-30, attractive, educated and of good character.

The speaker, Stanley, brought some items to show, as well. Harvey bought his first hotel in Florence, Kansas a few years after he started. He hired the chef from the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago and paid him $5000 a year. No doubt he was the best paid man in Florence, Kansas, at the time.

Harvey girls worked hard - usually 6-7 days a week from 12 hours a day. They lived in dormitories as part of the Harvey system.

We all had a good time...

That's Julie in the hat, and Teresa...

And this is Jan, who loves tea, too. It was a great afternoon.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Demands of Grief

“Sorrow breaks seasons
and reposing hours,
Makes the night morning,
and the noontide night.”

William Shakespeare

I haven't been sleeping well lately, which is nothing new for me. But, it has been extreme of late. If you get my updates on facebook you know it was daylight the last two nights before I went to bed. The last time I recall looking at the clock this morning it was 6:23.

I'm up within a few hours and go all day long again, thinking I will sleep at some point, but I don't. At 5 p.m. I'm so tired I think I will go right to sleep. But, by 7:30 or 8 I'm wide awake. Then I tell myself I'll go to bed at 10. Then it's 12:30. Then it's 2. Then it's daylight.

The other day I was talking with an acquaintance about grief. He said, "Well, you must still be grieving your brother's passing in January." It struck me anew that grief is still fresh for me. Again.

It seems the last few years events have occurred that have provided a steady stream of grief. The death of my mother in 2001 was traumatic, to say the least. Just a few weeks prior one of my best friends had died. A few months after my mother's death I made some major life changes - many of which were very positive.

But, whenever you go to something, you're leaving something else, and it had some good or you wouldn't have stayed in it. For example, I bought a house and moved, leaving an apartment I had lived in a long time. I was happy to have the house, but I had many happy memories in that apartment, too. I remember the man I loved asking me one day when were moving things if I would miss the place. I said, "no," but I quickly qualified it because those walls had been witness to many happy times in my life. Change. It's always difficult.

Before I had fully grieved my mother's passing, which took me some years to do, I lost that man I loved deeply when he decided the relationship was not working for him. In retrospect I realize that in my grief I was not the person he had fallen in love with in the first place, but I couldn't see that then. For some time I was grieving both those things. Just as I was starting to come out of that darkness, my brother was diagnosed with cancer. He fought the disease until January of this year and then grief made itself a new nest in my heart.

I've had no time to grieve my brother's passing. I think maybe that's why I can't sleep at night - grief is demanding its due. I've been down this road enough times you'd think I would grasp the nuances. Yet, one never wants to give oneself over to grief. It can be so encompassing.

Instead one fills life with cooking demonstrations and teas and work and novels and anything that keeps the mind too occupied to allow grief to envelope it. But, grief will have its time it seems, at the expense of other things - like sleep. It's probably no accident that I've spent very little time in my art studio and very little time with pen to paper in the last year, two areas where true emotion is close at hand. By the same token, it's probably no accident that I have felt "flat" for a long time. One can't keep one emotion at bay without flattening others, too.

In the years after my mother's death, when things seems so raw for so long, grief wore me out. I have been resistant to letting it lodge with me again. I'm not sure there's any more of me to give to it. But, it seems there is no choice - that it will be my companion for awhile, regardless of my attempts to deny it. Perhaps grief and I can agree to make it a brief while. I would be so thankful for that. And I know my brother wouldn't mind if this season of grief were a short one.

Tea Sandwich Demonstration

Today I did a cooking demonstration on tea sandwiches at Apron Strings. Amy helped me, for which I was incredibly thankful.

Greg came and took pictures of the occasion. As usual, his photos are great. We did cucumber sandwiches...

And my own creation of an herbed mix on carrot chips. I've been making this for a few years for the MHA teas and it's always a hit.

As an afterthought this morning when I was picking herbs from my garden for this, I grabbed a bunch of other things on the spur of the moment - just to show different herbs. I used some of this red veined sorrel in the herb mix, as well as some rosemary.

Whenever I have occasion to see a bunch of photos of myself I learn something. What I learned today is that I don't look good talking. At all. Fortunately, Greg caught me a couple of times where I was between words.

Anne Dowell is the owner of the store. Her husband, Mike, and kids Tyler and Leah, were so helpful today. That Mike and Tyler - wow - they are troopers. They were washing dishes for us nonstop. Leah was helping up front with her mom and coming back periodically to see if we needed something else. They were all wonderful.

We did a lot of prep work and had the sandwiches all ready to go before we even started. I wasn't sure we'd be able to get them all done in advance, but we did. Amy was such a big help.

We were wearing the gloves when we were working with food, but as soon as I was done mixing food during the presentation, I took them off so my hands could breathe. They were hot!

Greg joked that he never has to wait for me to gesture to take a photo, because I'm always animated.

After the presentation, where I talked about not only the specifics of these sandwiches, but also tea in general, everyone got to have some samples.

Some of the ladies suggested scones would be a good thing to demo another time. I couldn't disagree with them! That would be a good thing for my friend, Teresa, to demo. She makes delicious scones!

A big thank you to Amy and to Greg for their help. And to Anne, Mike, Leah and Tyler for their assistance today too.
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Being a Girly Girl Is Too Much Work

Every once in awhile I decide I want to be a girly girl. I grow out my fingernails, I start wearing makeup every day, and thinking about clothes. This never lasts very long. Why? I guess because I've always had a strong streak of tom-boy in me and even in my 4th decade it's still there. And, because it's kind of boring. Actually, it's really boring. And it takes a whole great big gob of time out of the day. Time that is spent doing something boring, that could be spent on something interesting.

It's probably a key that the photo of my fingernails is on a keyboard instead of a vanity table. I'm a bit of a geek, what can I say? I guess that's not very girly either.

I'm not sure if my tom-boy-ishness is a product of having grown up with mostly boys around or if it's inherent. Regardless, I've always been very comfortable with being able to be girly - some have even used the p word, prissy - and still knowing how to shoot a gun. Not that I have need of the skill of shooting a gun very often, but I know how.

As sometimes happen by accident, I realize my fingernails are to the point where if I put the slightest bit of effort into them I could have real nails. This time that accident happily occurred at a time when nails are a nice addition. Saturday afternoon at 2 I'm doing a cooking demonstration on tea sandwiches at Apron Strings, our new cooking store. Sunday I'm going to tea in Arlington. So, good time to have nails.

However, I can assure you that by Sunday evening they will be gone. Why? They're in the way. I can't type as well, or play the piano as well, with them. I type very well, but my piano playing needs all the help it can get. I probably couldn't shoot a gun as well with them either, but I can't say that for sure since it has been many years since I've shot a gun - well, a real gun, anyway. I was quite an expert at Lazer Tag back in the day, and feel certain I could excel at paint ball, too, if the need arose.

The other thing about it is that nails take effort. There's all this maintenance involved. Things to make them strong (Nail Magic if you want your nails to grow - it makes them like rocks), polishes (surely you know me well enough to know I'm not paying someone in a salon $40 to make me fake nails and then paint them - I grow my own and have a bottle of white polish - the trick is to go from side to side), and then more stuff to keep all that stuff on (European Secret Never Chip will protect your polish for a very long time). In case you make a mistake there's smudge fixer, which I suspect is little more than watered down polish remover. There are base coats and cuticle things and file things and well, I don't even know what all the things are.

Then, of course, you can't take the polish off your toes without messing up your fingers. yadda yadda yadda I'm cutting them soon. And, speaking of toes, what is this new French manicure for toes about? I find long toenails rather creepy, myself. Frankly, I think it's all about demonstrating you don't have toe fungus - the same sort of fungus people get under fake fingernails sometimes. Think about it - no one was doing that to their toes until the commercials about toe fungus hit the scene. Accident? I think not.

I can't believe the amount of effort people put into this sort of thing. But, then, I'm a woman who can shower, dress, put on some lipstick, and be out the door in 20 minutes. I have never understood the three hour long getting ready to go somewhere extravaganza. What are you doing in there? Honestly, that's not a rhetorical question, I really want to know. I can't think of that many things to do to myself. Of course, in fairness to the women who spend that time and always look perfect, no one has ever accused me of being a fashion plate, or looking perfect. Maybe that's what takes all that time. I just don't have it in me. 

My former boyfriend, Nathan, commented once that when we were getting ready to go somewhere I'd pop up, get a shower and come back in fully dressed while he was still sitting there staring at his sock, thinking about putting it on. That was a bit of an exaggeration, but I am usually the first one ready. But, if one is going to have things like fingernails, you have to allot some extra time every week for it. They're a kind of handicap you have to work around. OK,  if you're Dolly Parton you can play guitar with those things but the rest of us mere mortals cannot do that.. And if you want to do other things with your hands like paint, clean things, garden, wash dishes... live... without gloves on... you'll need to allot additional time to redo your nails every day or two. No can do - way too boring. Gotta live life. Without rubber gloves as a continual fashion accessory.

Well, thankfully, I hope the nails are now dry enough I can go to sleep and not wake up with imprints of the sheet fabric in them. So, time for me to go to bed. It is almost 4 a.m. Time to sleep. Like I need another reason to not sleep.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Creative Sisterhood and Cucumber Sandwiches

Tonight was Creative Sisterhood. Only four of us were here, and two had to leave before eight, but it was good to connect. Teresa and I chatted for quite some time afterwards, which was lovely.

I mixed up my often-used recipe for brownies, which I know I've posted here before so won't bother with again. But, tonight I also made a surprise - cucumber sandwiches.

I had an ulterior motive. On Saturday I will be doing a cooking demonstration of tea sandwiches at Apron Strings. Because I always just do it by taste I decided I'd best experiment and come up with a real recipe. Here it is:

Cucumber Sandwiches

1 8 ounce pkg. cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced dried onion
1 teaspoon dill
1/4 cup sour cream

Mix those ingredients.

Cut white bread into circles. I use a biscuit cutter. Spread with cream cheese mixture and top with slice of cucumber. As you can see I leave a little peel on the cucumber for color.

If you're going to let them sit for a long time before using, spread the bread with butter before you put the cream cheese mixture on. It has to be real butter and you have to cover the bread completely or it won't work. It's the whole oil and water don't mix theory.

Garnish with fresh herbs. I used some French Thyme. Dill is my usual. You can use whatever you wish.

If you're local, come and join me at 2:00 Saturday at Apron Strings for the demonstration. I'll be making these and also carrot chips with herbed mixture. I understand there are a few slots open, but it is almost full. So, if you want to go, call Apron Strings. However, I'm sure you could just slip in and watch even if you haven't registered.

Of course, this is just good practice for me since I'll be making them for the MHA Victorian Tea on August 9. for more info on that.

Well, in the midst of all of these cooking and planning and such I am also trying to get more written on the novel. I've been plotting in the back of my mind all day as I've been working. I think this weekend I'll be able to write another chapter at least - maybe more.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One of my Favorite Parts of the Campaign Season - JibJab

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just Stuff

I've been feeling down lately. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I definitely feel it.

The stress of my job is a huge factor in how I feel. Stress is difficult for me, and I live my life in a way so that I have as little of it as possible. Ninety-eight percent of my stress is a result of my job. Ironic that it's a job in which one part of it is to suggest ways people can reduce their stress, huh?

Outside of work, and things related to work - like paying my bills, my stress level is very low. I don't have anyone in my life who's a problem. I just don't allow that. Everyone has ups and downs and that's understandable - those are things you weather with friends. But people who are always in turmoil are just not people I let into my world.

Judge me if you wish. I'm not saying it's the good Christian thing to do. I'm just saying it's the only way I can function. I spend a considerable amount of every day keeping my own emotions and thoughts under control. I just can't add in someone else's. I admire people who can, but my experience has been that very few people have that gift. That turmoil tends to spill over at some point.

Overall, life is good. I just need to be able to raise enough money for the MHA that I'm not always worried about its money - and therefore my money. I need to actually take some time off. Not time where I'm still answering the phone and dealing with some of the work things - an actual vacation where I'm just on vacation. I haven't had one of those in years.

I'm thankful for the job and the things it allows me to do. There are many things about it I love. This constant worry is not one of them. But, so far I haven't found a job that doesn't come with some sort of constant worry/stress. Seems there's always something to bring a big pile of stress to your doorstep and drop it off.

There are times I just want to drug myself into happiness. But, I know that's not the answer for me. That would just make me feel something artificial and remove some of impetus I have to change my life to have less stress.

I will be so happy to be making a living as a writer so I can get paid for something I'm doing anyway. Idyllic.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Saturday Night on the Plains

Saturday night was a concert downtown Hutchinson, Kansas, organized by Jon Dennis, on the left in this photo. It was a free concert with about a dozen different performers, and an art auction.

All the performers were donating their time so all proceeds from the auction were going to the Central Kansas Tenants Association, a group Jon formed. I'm sorry to say Jon was leaving town later that night, after the concert. I'm really going to miss him.

One of my favorite things about an event like this is running into folks I know and having a chance to visit a bit.

No sooner had I arrived than I saw Greg, and Jade popped over to say hi.

Kate, Lovella, Ron and some others were talking about the Wiley Building.

Jason (left) and Mason (right) were there...

As was Mikaela, who found a young friend.

To top off the night, I won the auction for this beautiful watercolor.

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