Monday, December 29, 2014

The cost of living and dying of apathy...and why you should reject status quo

What apathy looks like to me...risk is that it can feel like being content

Do you know the true cost of living?

I have a few words for an already over crowded world of opinions.  In the middle of life, every once in a while, there is an intersection between the status quo and the urge to squash apathy and let passion overtake lethargy and a need to do more than what is expected.

I find myself at just such an intersection.  And it will not come across as a thundering explosion or a walk on Wall Street, but rather a quiet resurrection of righting small, but clearly “wrong” oversights. 

So here I go…if you order something to eat, whether it be a fast food drive through or an indulgent, sit down meal…if they don’t get it right, send it back.

While I have long since abandoned the time drain of what's wrong with customer service and billings, I still believe cable and cell phone bills still warrant a good tongue lashing. 

And if you find yourself in a situation that is only half way meeting your expectations in life, you may not be able to send it back…but you can make it work for you.

Stop drowning in mediocrity and apathy.  Stand up and find your voice. 

It may be your voice or one for those who cannot speak for themselves.  And you may not even realize how far your voice can travel.

Accept what you cannot change, but if you do nothing else in life…recognize what you can and should change. 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Brown Bread, Tin Cans, and Care Packages

My Granny, Mabel Daly (1969)
Vegetable cans and a recipe from Cincinnati Post 1979

Brown Bread, Tin Cans, and Care Packages

Christmastime has always been a special time for me.  I’m not saying every year has been a Norman Rockwell memory…but the ones I choose to remember are the good ones.

One of my favorite memories as a little girl was Christmas dinner at our Granny and Pop’s farm.  Their house sat up on a hill after a winding and long gravel road.  We counted two cattle gate crossings (round metal poles across something that looks like a sewer grate to keep the cattle from getting across) on the way up to their brick cottage.  Coming around the last turn, we would pass a weathered barn as our excitement and anticipation grew.

There were a few years when the snow was bad and my Pop made trips down the hill to pick us up at the end of the drive with his 4x4 Scottsdale.  Stoically silent, he was an almost mythically strong man.  A retired railroader from the L&N, his dream to farm came true late in life.  And I like to think he loved and enjoyed every day after retirement as a labor of love.  Around the yard, were new seedlings of trees, with promise of that same stoic strength.  Seedlings we would run around and chase each other, with all of our cousins.  Decades later, these seedlings have grown into tall trees, branching out in different directions in much the same way we grew up and moved away from family…either by geographic location or choice.

Memories of long forgotten traditions are held particularly close to me.  I’m the collector in the family.  The one that tries to find meaning in everything…sometimes where none exists.  That’s more challenging, but I remain undaunted as I choose to create new traditions and memories to hold on to and to pass down to others, who miss the little things we took for granted as a child.

Which brings me back to Granny’s brown bread and the foil wrapped care packages she shared with each of her grandchildren every year.  She made the best peanut butter and chocolate fudge with Hershey’s powdered cocoa.  Another elusive recipe I get right about half the time and spend the other half spooning out half formed, chilled fudge that requires a spoon to eat.  I had all but given up on the brown bread recipe when a friend at work mentioned she had her grandmother’s recipe for brown bread.  I thankfully accepted a copy and started making it last year.  Last week, my younger boys asked when I was going to make it.  I told them I didn’t have any cans to bake it in.  A few hours later, I found empty vegetable cans, half eaten bowls of corn and green beans in the kitchen.

Last year, I made about 7 tins of bread, wrapped in the same kind of plain aluminum foil.  I've also wrapped a few presents in white butcher’s paper and decorated in green and red markers (another tradition of Granny’s).  I don’t know who taught her or why something as simple as crumpled aluminum foil or re-purposed butcher’s paper puts a smile on my face.  All I know is when you see something you like, that makes you feel comforted, happy and safe…you should keep it.  There are still some things that time can’t touch and don’t have a price tag.  Granny, this one is for you. 

Cincinnati Post Recipe 1979

Brown Bread and Tin Cans

2 cups All Bran cereal
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons dark Karo Syrup
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven 325 degrees

Prepare as follows:

Bowl 1 - Soak 1 cup of raisins in bowl of warm water (10 – 15 minutes)

Bowl 2 - Mix 2 cups All Bran cereal with 2 cups buttermilk (let soften)

Bowl 3 – 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt (once combined, add to softened bran mixture, then ad 1 cup of sugar and 4 tablespoons dark Karo Syrup)

Drain raisins and add to mixture

Optional:  add ½ cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Pour into 4 greased and floured vegetable (1#) cans, filling 2/3 full

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 ¼ hours (cover tops of cans with foil before baking)

Cool in cans for 10 minutes, then use butter knife to loosen sides.

Remove from cans and cool right side up for 30 minutes

Slice or wrap and freeze (makes 4 loaves)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

#Santa ... we are ready!

Sometimes sharing a quiet moment tells a better story, so no words on today's post.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Ode to a Bottle" ... TBT (obviously) where not to look for true enlightenment


Ode to a Bottle

The vast and empty bottle has filled me with its wisdom.
So deeply has it moved me, I seek no further counsel.

Forgotten thoughts once evasive, strike back now with much abrasive.

Tis little wonder I am full as I stare at my expounding tutor.

As the morning dawn creeps in, I will weep anew.
Left with only fragments of my delusions to pursue.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mrs. Beasley co-hosts tea party and shares life lessons for girls who want it all!


Over the weekend, I decided to host a “tea party” for the girls in my family.  I also suggested a +1 guest….their favorite doll or stuffed animal.

I typically spend months planning holiday parties for adults, but this impromptu tea party came together in a matter of hours.   I made some calls, sent a few texts, and went to work setting up the tea party. 

As a kid, I had to be a little more creative in finding props.  I remember saving old perfume bottles and pretending they were people.  I didn’t grow up in a family, with every day dishes and special occasion china.  Our dishes were functional and cost effective to withstand the daily use of a family of six, which included three rough and tumble boys.  They rarely matched, were often broken, and spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen sink waiting to be washed.

I’m not a fan of gender bias and I believe everyone should embrace what they love, without stereotypes or social censures.  I am a career woman and my family is unconventional.  And my early days were spent as a single mom to my oldest son, as a college drop out, then drop in, pulling a 4.0 every semester until I earned my BA in Journalism.  I think I am what they used to call a “late bloomer.”

That said, I unabashedly admit that I love my feminine side.  I have a fascination for the Victorian era and can’t pass up dainty handkerchiefs, with trimmings of lace.  I love frilly tablecloths, vintage china, and my very favorite…1847 Rogers Brothers Silverplate in the grape pattern.  I love Lenox holiday cookie jars.  I’d love to have a set of Lenox holiday china (still working on that) and continue to troll a new favorite auction site (which comes by its name honestly as it really does have Everything But the House!)

Within 45 minutes, I had set a beautiful tea party in my dining room.  I had thought of everything, from teapots to festive Christmas napkins and Santa Claus placemats.  Everything except my own +1 for the party!  The choice was clear.  My favorite doll as a child was Mrs. Beasley.  A gift from Santa when I was very small, she was a wind up doll, dressed in blue and white polka dots, with a pair of glasses.  And her catch phrase…wait for it…”Would you like a cup of tea?”  Mrs. Beasley was a lost treasure.  She did not survive my childhood, but I have an equally loved replacement, given to me for Christmas many years later from a very special person, who did not share my childhood, but holds an unshakable bond in my heart just the same.  I love that doll and the fact that she arrived on Christmas in my twenties is of no consequence.  She sits in my Granny’s rocking chair alongside my Raggedy Ann doll in my bedroom.

I wasn’t sure who would come given the short notice.  I hoped that all of the quickly created name cards would be put to good use and that my first official tea party would be a success.

My little guests began arriving shortly before two and our time together flew by.  They were simply beautiful, from the youngest, who is two…to the oldest, who are grown.  As a mom of three sons, this was truly a treat for me. 

Mrs. Beasley and I served Friendship Tea and cookies, and we promised to make this an annual tradition.  My hope is to pass on a winning combination of “you can be anything you want” mentality with “it’s okay to be yourself exactly as you are.”  Because girls may play with dolls and host make believe tea parties…and still grow up to be smart, young women, who also love and excel in business.  The possibilities are endless and setting the table with a long stem rose does not preclude these amazing girls from taking on other challenges that involve a different kind of STEM.  To the girls in my family and around the world, you can be a princess and build a castle all at the same time….and live happily ever after.  You know the rest of the story.  Now go get ‘em!