Friday, January 30, 2009

In which I succumb to internal pressure...

Hi.

Thus far, 2009 has been the year of not writing in my blog. A few months ago, I started an e-mail to myself with ideas for blog posts I'd like to write and I saved it as a draft. Everytime I log into my e-mail, I see the draft folder and I'm reminded of the fact that I haven't written anything. I've even contacted people and said, "Hey, I'm going to write about you so get ready" and I haven't done anything. I'm not particularly sad or distracted, and I'm not necessarily overwhelmed with anything else either. I just can't seem to write it all down.

Setting up home out here in the 'burbs has been both a wonderful treat and a really tough lesson. We moved out here to just sort of escape the stress and hullabaloo of living in the city, and I think that we have definitely done that. Right before Christmas I went into the city to pick up my brother, who traveled in from NYC, and spent a fair part of the morning in a coffee shop or walking around a rather boring two block area of the city. But in those few hours I felt more at home than I do here, sometimes. I saw people that you don't see out here; more diverse than you can possibly imagine. I also felt simultaneously visible and invisible, but distinctly opposite from what I experience in the suburbs. It kind of solidifies, for me, what I've always understood the word queer to mean: uniquely and delightful different; left of center; superbly unusual.

The fact that I'm experiencing crafter's block and feeling kind of stuck in a creative Sahara shouldn't surprise me or you, given those circumstances. But it SUCKS. I bought this beautiful yarn recently and had wonderful intentions of making a cuddly baby blanket for the first baby to enter my life in a long long time. I've cast on ten or more times and I've just never been satisfied with it. My crafty nook has become a depository for all the crafty bits that were strewn throughout the apartment before Christmas, and for all the gifts I received. It's a mess. My sewing machine has been removed from the box, but I haven't used it. I have two amazing books with great patterns and tutorials, but I just don't feel compelled. I even received my purchase of the most beautiful felt and doodads from Lupin, and I still can't figure out a damned thing to make with it. What gives!?

To be fair to myself (and you, because you all might think I need some sort of medical intervention), there have been a ton of things lately that have sort of grabbed my consciousness in ways that most things haven't. I've been wrestling with a lot of opinions and feelings about reproduction, Catholicism, the government and how they all intertwine. I can't say I cared about any of it since I came out 7.5 years ago. But now that we have a shiny new President and the Vatican is threatening to close Catholic hospitals nationwide if the Freedom of Choice Act legislation passes, I can't help but get pissed off.

I've also been struggling with communication lately. I joke that Mercury is in retrograde and that must be it, and that might be true, but I also just suck at speaking to anyone right now. I either expose too many vulnerabilities or I am wildly misunderstood and stomp my feet in complete and utter frustration. The icing on the cake is the heartache and frustration with not only losing a friend, but losing a friend to their own careless and wreckless selfishness. I always tend to look within and wonder what part, no matter how small, I had in encouraging that kind of behavior in a person.

I'm also STILL fighting with me and myself about whether I can commit myself to participating in the music and arts festival I helped organize for another year. Because of my communication struggles, I'm inclined to feel very negative about any of it being successful. But the sales pitch I give to other people is that this sort of experience will reflect positively on me, professionally, one day and that the possibilities for networking are really fantastic. I have a great repoire with some wonderful people and I am optimistic about what I can do. The complication lies with my ability to work successfully with other people. I feel like I'm facing new versions of all the personalities I contended with in high school...triggering, mildly traumatic and very, very complicated.

AND THEN, my best friend's candy store is closing. The economy sucks. I have tried my hardest to hold it together and be strong and supportive, and I think for the most part that I am comfortable with the reality of things and how things have played out. But like I said, it sucks. Rock Candy was kind of emblematic of something kid-like and sweet (no pun); it was a modern day version of every Charlie Bucket's dream. It was an opportunity for something delicious and decadent to thrive in a world that is kind of dismal and gray, especially these days. It was evidence to me that I could, one day, open up a shop of my own and sell nothing but fun and unnecessary things to people who love fun and unnecessary things. I thought the neighborhood and economy could support that kind of childlike glee, but it couldn't. And I'm so sorry that my friends and my dear sweet goddaughter have to close it up and hopehopehope that they'll be able to reopen one day. That is the sort of place that a kid should grow up in.

Not everything is humdrum or depressing, though. There are some really great things in my life, and I can't really write a post like this without acknowledging them, even if I do it in list format.

1. Em - the mac & cheese recipe is a perfect way to describe how great my partner is. Warm, comforting, and home. I'm lucky (yes, msaims, LUCKY!).
2. My BFF - because I honestly couldn't be my mopey, weepy, off-my-rocker self without her telling me that she, too, has felt compelled to eat flowers.
3. Bigelow's Lemon Lift tea
4. Big Love - thank GOD it's back on.
5. Jane Austen movies
6. Crafters - the only competitiveness I have ever really felt relates to crafts and keeping up with successful and incredibly creative crafty people. The only reason I know that I'm experiencing crafter's block is the pilot light still burning within, and that is always ready because of the community I'm a part of as a crafter.

While writing this post, I've added a few more ideas to the e-mail in my Drafts folder, and I hope that in the coming days and weeks I can get my act together and write. I promise to make it worth your (and my) while.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Patch Ink has been converted...

...into a supply shop! Check out all the beads I added today:

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Longest and Most Helpful .jpg EVER

I stumbled across this sometime this week, and I find it both fascinating and inspiring. We so often turn to mainstream, commercial grade cleaners and household supplies when the stuff packing our kitchen drawers and pantries are really where it's at. So check out this amazingly comprehensive list of "Extraordinary Uses for 16 Ordinary Household Items" from Woman's Day. And no, I never thought I'd post something from Woman's Day on this blog. Shocking.

Some of my favorites:
  • Can't get garlic or onion smell off your hands? Use toothpaste!
  • Extend your pants! Hook a rubberband through the button hole and loop it around the button for some extra breathing room. I'd love to see a whole table full of people chow down, then lean back and loosen their pants with rubberbands.
  • Stop tarnish on older or costume jewelry with clear nailpolish.
  • Detangle a knot (shoelaces, strings, chain) with a little sprinkle of cornstarch.
  • Help gelatin set up quickly by using small disposable cups. Young people often call these "Jello Shooters" when they are mixed with clear liquor. Dontchaknow?!
Full length image available at Woman's Day.
Just click this one!
Image courtesy of Woman's Day, a'course.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

VEGAN Mac & Cheese

Holy Cow. I haven't had mac & cheese, in any form, since last May. I kind of expected that I would go as long as possible without having anything fake-cheese oriented, and then perhaps reach some sort of limit and strangle my allergist until he said I could eat dairy again. I was pretty convinced that I couldn't move past the concept of "soy cheese" to ever consider the possibility that it tasted edible...let alone good. But recently soy products have become less of a gross necessity and more of a decently-flavored accompaniment to food. Soy milk has even lost it's distinctive soy flavor. Crazy...but true.

So my darling, DARLING Em set out to recreate mac & cheese, Em style. And I was very, extremely, pleasantly surprised. Here is the recipe for the Em Style Faux Mac & Cheese. Delish!

3 tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter substitute (Fleischmann's Unsalted Margarine is dairy free, and that's what we used)
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups plain soy milk
10 oz block of Vegan Gourmet Cheddar alternative, grated

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked
1/3 cup bread crumbs

Melt the margarine in a medium sauce pan, add the flour and stir flour well. Let cook for 2 minutes. Add the milk and whisk for a few minutes. Turn the pan to medium and let the milk slowly start to bubble, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce has thickened, slowly whisk in the grated 'cheese'. Continue to whisk until all the 'cheese' is melted.

Cook the macaroni and drain. In a 9x13 pan place a large spoonful of the sauce on the bottom. Add the macaroni to the pan and stir in the rest of the sauce. Stir until all mixed in. Top with a light layer of the bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degress for 40-45 minutes.

Thank you to Em for always cooking for me and working around my pesky allergies. I'm so lucky.

Stitchy Obama (& HRC).

Buy handmade and show your support for our new President and his Secretary of State! My friend Bee stitched this intricate (almost 12,000 individual itty-bitty stitches) crossstitchograph (I made that up...a cross-stiched photograph, natch) and it's available for purchase on Etsy! There's only one, people!

And I must say...didn't Hillary look lovely in that purpley-blue coat this morning? Lovely.

A new day.

For the past 11.5 years of my life, I have remained detached from or angered by politics and the foundation upon which our freedom teeters. I've knocked down signs at polling places, screamed at Republicans, marched and protested and been generally infuriated by every political "thing" that has happened around me. But today I say with great hope, faith and excitement that I am proud, finally, to be an American.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

oh ginger's first treasury!

My delightful little Etsy shop, oh ginger, has been featured in her first treasury! Check it out!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Local Fave: Hill's Kitchen

I hope that this is the first post of many that centers around local favorites of mine (I've done a few before).

Washington DC has a booming DIY/craft culture and also a fair number of people who are committed to learning about, creating and serving really delicious food and drinks. Em's brother and his girlfriend are fond of making meals together and rave on and on about pizza dough, or favorite old-timey drinks, or about a restaurant they visited recently in the city and how fabulous (or not) it happened to be! I know folks who host a weekly wine night, a friend who is not only a fabulous bartender but an amazing Italian-Californian cook, and a host of other pals who can (as in...pickles), cook and experiment in their kitchens regularly. Farm shares are hot as well, as fresh and local produce seems to be ideal for both the Earth and the bellies of DC'ers. Even my friend Sylvie taught herself how to bake a cake recently!

Suffice it to say that during these tumultuous economic times, the number of people cooking in is going to dramatically increase and local restaurants will most certainly feel the punch. And for the novice or the expert, I really feel like Hill's Kitchen in Eastern Market has just about everything you need in order to get your feet wet as a home chef, or dive to new depths with alternative and unusual cooking techniques.

Situated directly across from the Eastern Market metro stop on the orange/blue lines, woman-owned and operated Hill's Kitchen takes up the entire first floor of a rowhouse built in 1884, and based on conversations I overheard with one of the lead sales clerks (if not the owner; I had my suspicions!) the basement was gutted and renovated into a storage room and the top floor is going to boast professional cooking classes. For now, however, customers have access to just the first floor and it is a sight to behold.

The front nook is lined with left-of-center and unusual cooking supplies, from potato ricers to cedar planks for fish cooking. The cashwrap area is covered in unique kitchen accessories, notions, linens and gifts. The walls are lined with professional bakeware, pots, pans and even a South Carolina-based line of canned foods and preserves, Lowcountry Produce (I bought my parents the sweet potato butter and apparently it is divine!). As you head towards the back of the store, island-style merch tables are filled to the brim with seasonal or themed merchandise. At the time of my visit, there were numerous holiday tables with some of the most delightful and cheery cooking and baking supplies imaginable. They have a fabulous assortment of aprons in a variety of fabrics, and if you tilt your head down, you'll see the cutest and sweetest rack of child-size aprons too! I had to step away before I ooed-and-awed my way to complete embarrassment! There is a substantial assortment of bar accessories, from what I recall...certainly enough to satisfy just about anyone. The back of the store boasts a thorough and inviting collection of cookbooks, food memoirs and theory/history. This is also where they stash some of the fun and quirky kitchen accessories.

The staff at Hill's Kitchen told me that their claim to fame, thus far, is their collection of state (and territory) cookie cutters. On an enormous rack at the bottom of the staircase, you will find an alphabetically arranged collection of high quality cookie cutters in every state in the USA, plus a decent assortment of basic shapes. Scattered throughout the store are mini cookie cutters in every theme imaginable, too. As someone who is seriously pondering the prospect of collecting cookie cutters, this was both a dream and a dangerous discovery. I picked up Virginia, Massachusetts and DC cookie cutters so our family is well represented when it comes to roll out cookies.

The most exciting thing about Hill's Kitchen, after the genuinely kind and helpful staff, is that their prices are completely reasonable. Unfortunately I was ill-prepared to take notes during my trip, but being intimately familiar with the Williams-Sonoma catalog has prepared me for the reality of cookware prices. And I must say that Hill's Kitchen, being an independently-owned and operated shop, has managed to make their prices accessible to DC's varied pocketbooks. No, we don't all need gourmet potato ricers or disposable Euro-style sweetbread sleeves. But if we're looking for something fun, fancy or the slightest bit utilitarian for our kitchen adventures, I highly recommend supporting this fledging shop!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Decorating the house of cards.

I originally had this posted as a "note" on my Facebook page but I'm feeling fierce today and I kind of feel like this is one really fundamental war-within I have churning right now. And as faith relates to home and life, specifically the life of a woman and a queer person, I feel it's relevant. I don't know why I always provide a justification for what I post when it deviates from biscuity doormats. Here's the damn post, y'all.

----

There are some moments when I sit on my futon, on the eclipse of a quaking-shaking rage, because the things I was indoctrinated to believe as a child of God are so oppositional with what our forefathers saw as valuable and important in this country. It has been so easy and simple and perfectly soul-settling for me to sublimate my institutional Catholic beliefs in order to facilitate the rights of the citizens of this country to live valuable rich lives according to their conscience, including myself. But the people least likely to understand the logic behind and justification for unrestricted reproductive rights for women are wielding a tragic degree of selfishness and putting the lives of countless people on the line for their conscience-driven needs.

I cannot stand in front of a gun before a murderer shoots a bullet and I cannot, in good conscience, stand in between a woman and her right to choose. Maybe that makes me a horrible Catholic, but a perfectly reasonable human. And I don't ever EVER want to do that, despite the fact that it might endear me to God and give me a direct flight to Heaven. I do not believe that it is my responsibility to legislate and/or regulate the choices and beliefs of anyone in this country, which is why I am and will always be 100% pro-choice.

The fact that Catholic bishops are threatening the closure of Catholic hospitals (which make up close to, if not more than, 30% of the nation's health care facilities) if FOCA passes is so righteously heartbreaking for me. Catholic hospitals tend to be in the most needy areas (Providence in NE, for example) and the people that would suffer at the hands of this risky game are the people who have been served by the kindness and generosity of Catholic charity for hundreds of years. To threaten the American people with the prospect of denying healthcare of all kinds simply to prevent women from having access to reproductive healthcare of their choosing seems horribly un-Catholic and detrimental to the well-being of communities nationwide. I'm sure that, in some cases, it might even cause people to die. And as far as the Catholic church is concerned, it is wholly unsurprising. They have behaved this way for centuries.

I understand, so deeply and strongly why any person, including our soon-to-be President, would be motivated to walk into office and assure that all women have access to (without criminal repercussion to her or her physician) the myriad of reproductive health choices modern medical science has created. It is, at a most basic and secular level, the right thing to do. But there are people who have made their own life choices, free from social criticism and judgment**, and continue to live as their conscience dictates. And those same people have made it their life's work to prevent all women, regardless of whether those women share their beliefs, the freedom to live and care for themselves as they choose.

If this is the miracle of life and what our country is to be about, I have completely misunderstood every American history lesson I have been given, including those that I experienced in Catholic school. And it motivates me, even more, to stand in front of the mighty and powerful Catholic church and remind them that they do not have any control of the minds, hearts, souls and ovaries of the women of this country.

Links:
http://www.slate.com/id/2205326/
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.1964:

** Despite those Catholics who might feel oppressed by our heathenistic society and the "judgments" placed against them in regards to their faith and what it inspires socially and politically, you are all at a political and social advantage. Christianity/Catholicism is the dominant religion in this country and as such it has fueled more political change and restrictiveness than the pro-choice agenda.

Paula Deen's on my doorstep, y'all!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Beginning/Ending

It goes without saying that I've been missing in action. The Sunday before Christmas, after weeks of ridiculously manic preparation, I participated in my only big craft show of the year and did fabulously well. Then I manically prepared my apartment for my brother's Christmas arrival, manically went through the motions of celebrating a very blessed Christmas, drove speedily down to Georgia with Em and spent a week enjoying my new-ish extended family through good times, a hockey game and an unexpected hardship (a family member had to be whisked away to the hospital).

New Year's Eve was spent at home, knitting. I feared that, because of the unexpected event, I would be spending NYE alone, on my "mother-in-law"'s sofa, knitting and watching Pride & Prejudice with Tavi the farting dog. But Em managed to come home in time and we used our plates filled with comfort food to "cheers" in the New Year while watching the ball drop on NBC. All in all, the past three or so weeks have been fun but hectic. I'll use this meme to reintroduce myself to blogging this year. Contained within will perhaps be some points of inspiration for me and my plans for the year. I hope you all had a blast with yourself and those you love. Here's to a new year with a whole bunch of fabulousness and laughter.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
I learned to accept a lot of things about myself that I'd been railing against for years, including how similar I am to my mother, how I really am a commendable perfectionist, and how I really cannot stand when people don't know how to communicate like civilized human beings. I also helped plan a music and arts festival and helped start a crafting collective.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I stopped making new year's resolutions a few years ago, so I didn't really fail at anything of consequence this year. Giving myself the space to make goals as necessary really alleviates a ton of angst and stress for me.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A queer lady friend of mine had her baby in January and my other lady friend is about to essplode with her first bundle of joy.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My Great Uncle Sy, the last remaining man who looked anything like my dear Pop Pop, passed away.

5. What countries did you visit?
I stayed in the states, much to my recurrent chagrin (especially during election season).

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Rock Band. No, I'm not kidding. The Wii version would be nice, too, so I can bowl.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I think that the music and arts festival finally coming to a conclusion and the heat-exhaustion that followed is really etched firmly into my brain.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I'm most proud of my blog and my crafty business and the perseverance associated with it all. This is not something I could've contemplated executing five years ago.

9. What was your biggest failure?
My biggest failure is a double-edged sword for me: I expect a lot from people, especially people who are close to me. This often tumbles into a disastrous state of affairs wherein I'm accused of being too controlling or sensitive, but it also has helped me stick squarely to my values and goals and not let selfish and destructive people get in the way. I would like to take people and things less personally, but I also don't expect that I will stop expecting things from people I love or hold dear. I think those are the ways we define intimacy.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
2007 was all about coughing and breathing. 2008 was all about itching and allergies. I'm finally at at a point, rolling into 2009, where I'm breathing relatively well and not itching, but I'm also more careful about what I put into my body and more careful about the people I keep around it.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I bought a lot of lovely craft supplies, but my favorite was actually purchased/made for me by Santa...I can't wait to start sewing on my new sewing machine.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My best Bucko is perhaps the bravest, smartest and strongest person I know. She's dealt with some ridiculous crap this year and managed to come out swinging (and cooking me pierogies). I cannot imagine life without her...whether that means we're laughing it up on her futon or she's mystically perched on my shoulder talking me through things I would rather avoid. She's just one of those shining beacons of light that you would be lost without.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The people who were the most disappointing and revolting were the same people who are completely incapable of being valuable in the first place. I just expected too much from them. Specifically, my former "roommate" and a great number of people at a watering hole which shall remain nameless.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Craft supplies. I either need to be a budgetress divine and embrace my renaissance crafting, or I need to commit to quarterly endeavors and smack my own hand when I reach for something that doesn't fit into the quarter's crafty theme.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
oh ginger. And Christmas, as per usual.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Baby Come Back by Hall and Oates. Well, more specifically the version sung by a mariachi band in the Swiffer commercials.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Just about the same, I say!
b) thinner or fatter?
Just about the same, I say! Maybe slightly less squishy because I haven't been on steroids in a while.
c) richer or poorer?
Just about the same, I say!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Visitin'. Specifically my family.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Dealing with hooligans.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
I spent Christmas with my darling brother and then with Em's family. The only thing missing were my parents, and they were sorely missed.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Even more and more with Em, for sure.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Jon & Kate Plus 8. We didn't have cable until September, but that is by far the only show I was consistently watched with any sort of dedication. Well, that and Intervention. Clearly I desire to be a Christian alcoholic with a dozen plus children, all nannied by Candy Finnegan.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate? No. I avoid many people so they do not suck at my soul any longer.

24. What was the best book you read?
This year was the year of romance novels and I do not divulge my favorites. Get invited to dinner at my place and then maybe, after a bottle of wine, I'll tell.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
polka dot dot dot

26. What did you want and get?
Crafts and crafts. I'm particularly enamored with my new Craft Nook Supervisor, Frenchie the owl (the link takes you to her cousins, not a picture of her sadly). Thank you, Pang!

27. What did you want and not get?
I wanted to bake a lot more than I did.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Uh, I don't know. It wasn't a year for memorable movies, apparently.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent the weekend with my best Bucko and our families and I turned 29.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Dairy, probably. And no hives.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
I experimented with more color, grew my hair out and bought underpants in an appropriate size. You would not believe how fantastic well fitting underpants makes one feel.

32. What kept you sane?
Em and Bucko, without a doubt.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
RACHEL MADDOW.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Catholics and abortion, mostly. Well, religion and the election. And racism.

35. Who did you miss?
I miss my parents. A lot.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Lisa! We met last year, I think, but she was without a doubt the most hilarious addition to my box of friends.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
You can't really trust anyone you wouldn't cuddle with on a Saturday afternoon.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"We don't know what's wrong,
We don't know what's gone,
We just know that there's something we can put our little finger on."
-- little finger/Polka Dot Dot Dot
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