coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ringing out the old year

What a mind-boggling, life changing year 2017 was for me. I'm a compulsive photo chronicler, so I have photos to testify on behalf of the year gone by. If I concentrate on those pictures of my personal life, and ignore the political hijinks/moral decay in this country, I feel this was a particularly good year for me and my family. And I want to feel good, so that's what I'm going to concentrate on.

I rejoined the work force a year ago, albeit as an unpaid volunteer.  Like many others, I found a political niche to fill and spend time every day of the week working against hate. It isn't pleasant and I am often frustrated. I actually quit twice. I can't tell you how many times I have also threatened to quit because I am a hot head AND a raving maniac. However, I will stick with it because I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eyes and tell them I did my very best. In the process, I am learning about myself. I am learning to set boundaries for myself, and to respect boundaries set by others. These things don't come naturally to me. As always, I learn the hard way. I'm trying to take it on the chin; to not take adversity or criticism personally. Geez, that's tough!

Through the magic of DNA testing, in June 2017, my husband T discovered a grown daughter (R), son-in-law (CH), and three full-grown grandchildren (S, A, and MR) he didn't know he had. Various subsets of these glorious folks have visited us four times, and we all seem to like each other. Building relationships takes time; but so far, so good. Maybe it is presumptuous of me, but I think of them as mine, too. Just like the younger daughter we always knew we had, this older one is a joy, as are her family.

It was a good old year. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I await the new one with an open heart. I hope you are, too.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

If you celebrate Christmas, have a good one!  My gift to you is this lovely graphic by Wenzel Oswald, illustration for Himmlische Mär by Leo Blonder, 1914. Wiener Werkstätte. Via 50watts.  I can find no information about this artist, who seems to have disappeared after 1934.  Anyone know anything about him?  He deserves to be remembered.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

That Damn Gingerbread House

OMG! (loud and breathless, like a teenage girl) I had the all-time worst experience making a gingerbread house with my grandson.

I received a text from daughter, M, saying little N wanted to build a gingerbread house. M, a wise and subtle mother, replied "That sounds like a Grandma thing." She texted me with the good news. Taking a deep breath, I ordered a kit. I hoped it would arrive broken beyond repair. But no, apparently I was one of the lucky few who received a kit with all pieces intact. I took that as an omen.

I picked N up from school yesterday. We began to build the cursed thing. Grandpa helped. That meant Grandpa and I (both ex-managers) embarked on an epic power struggle to get the damn thing to hold together. Initially this involved frosting, but later degenerated into heat guns, glue, and holding that sucker together for an interminably long time. Nails were considered. All while N jumped in his seat talking non-stop.

We used up the kit-provided frosting trying (and failing) to get the damn house to stick together. I made more. N (aka, my shadow) insisted we divide it up into four small bowls so he could use all 4 types of food coloring. He already had the food coloring out of the pantry. Then we returned to the construction zone where T had given up on the blasted house. It was my turn. I used Elmer's glue (and plenty of it) to stick that sucker back together.

As I held it together hoping for the glue to dry, N dumped about half the candy decorations in two of the frostings. He is lightening fast. I guess in his 5 year-old mind he imagined he could frost the roof with the candy infused glop and the candy would stick out. A genius, thinking outside the box! But he had not considered they would just be buried in the frosting. I was holding it all together and couldn't stop him, although I yelled really, really loud. We really have to get that kid's hearing checked. Not sure WHY he didn't hear me.

Finally the roof stayed on! He decorated. Alas, as we stood to look at his handiwork, one side of the roof slipped off in slow motion. He lost interest and went inside. There was no way I could stop. I re-glued the hateful roof and propped up each side with boxes to keep them in place. Two hours later N's father, MV, came to get him. I  took the boxes away from the sides of the roof. It held! N was delighted. I'm pretty sure he thought I was a miracle worker. I was happy, although my blood pressure was rather high.

After they left I took the following pictures:

Not the best gingerbread house you've ever seen, but dammit! it was a house. At last I could relax.  Unfortunately, gravity rules supreme. Here's how it looked this morning:
I surrender. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas baking

I have been baking for the holidays. You, too?

My father's family has been in the U.S. since 1714, so they are totally Americanized, with nary a trace of ethnicity.  However, they were from Kentucky and Tennessee, so there were regional Christmas treats on that side. My beloved paternal grandmother, for instance, always made divinity candy and peanut butter fudge.

My mother's side was both German and French, and her grandparents arrived in the U.S. about 1860. They moved to a German enclave in Northern Indiana, near Chicago.  My Mom was born in 1926, so she was raised in those traditions. Her mother made fancy Christmas cookies.  Mom also made fruitcake, but I think that was a 1950's housewife thing. Dad made chocolate fudge. We always made rolled cut-out cookies which we then frosted with many garish colors and loaded down with sprinkles. Yum.

I already made my usual fruitcake, which I've wrapped in bourbon soaked cheesecloth this year instead of brandy. 


and I'm also making Hungarian kieflis. They are insanely thin rolled dough wrapped around walnut/confectioner's sugar/egg white mix.  Then shaped into a crescent.  When done and cool, they are dusted with more confectioner's sugar. Although I am not Hungarian, I grew up in a Hungarian parish, and everyone made them, my mother got her recipe from a neighbor.

Heavenly Kieflis

Next week, I'll make the cut-out butter cookies with my grandkids.  That's always fun.

Okay, make me say it, I'm going to make fudge, too. Even though it will push me right over the damn edge. I hope you are satisfied, Chilly Hollow, your fudge recipe is my downfall once again.  Don't tell me to eat less.  I can't.

For those of you who also celebrate a winter holiday, what are you baking or making? Not just Christmas, I'm interested in any winter holiday. Are they part of your family traditions?

Saturday, December 9, 2017


I am not an introvert. However, I have lived with one for 47 years, I bore and raised one, and I have many close friends and lifelong influences who are introverts. 

I'm not sure how they can stand me. I suspect they often can't. I'm fluid and potentially explosive, like gasoline. I once talked so much with so many different people over the course of a few days that I started to lose my voice, but I kept on talking. I like to change my mind, and I get a rush from making last minute decisions that throw caution to the wind. I am usually up for a double dog dare, and I have been known to be the life of the party. 

When T and I travel, the first thing I want to do upon arrival is go out and do something; before I even unpack!  T wants to take a nap and recover from traveling. At parties, I am all over the place and I like to stay late. T wants to leave early. It is a conundrum. However, we love each other. Over the years we adapted when we could, or did things alone when we couldn't. It works for us. Building relationships with introverted friends is harder.

Introverts don't necessarily trust extroverts. Extroverts are unpredictable, making introverts nervous. It is kind of like a cat trying to be friends with a puppy. I get it.

When I started to date my husband, my mother said "Why can't you go out with someone normal for a change?"  I replied, "Because if crazy people don't spend time with other crazy people, they will start to think they ARE crazy." Same goes for extroverts. In a life dominated by introverts I sometimes have to remind myself it is okay to be like me. 

It's okay for friends to be different from each other, right?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas, redux

It is early December and Christmas frenzy is in full swing at my house. I'm ordering presents, actually venturing out of the house to go to real live local stores, making all sorts of lists, and starting those damn Xmas cards. I'm already tired of it all. However, if past years are an indication, it will soon take over every thinking moment. I will be obsessed with the holidays any minute now and I won't resurface until January. Ho ho ho I think there are sugar plums dancing in my head.  Perhaps it is the time for a change. Maybe Christmas should be much, much more about giving, caring, and helping others.  Maybe everyday should be like that?

By the way, the U.S. has received an early Christmas present in the form of #PoorPeoplesCampaign, a revival of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1960's era Civil Rights movement. According to a post on the Repairers of the Breach facebook page, 

"Poor, Disenfranchised," (and) "Clergy to Launch New Movement For Moral Revival of America: Leaders to Announce Historic Wave of Direct Action, Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

Washington – On Monday, 50 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others called for the original Poor People’s Campaign, organizers will announce a new moral movement to challenge the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and America’s distorted national morality.

The Monday launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival by co-chairs Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and other leaders will include the unveiling of details around six weeks of direct action next spring at statehouses and the U.S. Capitol, including plans for one of the largest waves of civil disobedience in U.S. history."


Here's a video that was posted live yesterday to start their campaign:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

And so it begins

I've reduced my Christmas card list in recent years, as many people have. Some send me a card in return, some don't. It is a lot of money to buy decent cards and ten million stamps. I am not sure I can afford to continue this tradition in the future. I am wondering about the politics of Christmas cards. How does one stop sending cards without hurting people's feelings?

This is increasingly more important to me as I get older with less discretionary income, especially in light of the GOP federal tax bill that passed yesterday. Apparently, the ruling elite believe it is important to take money from the poor and middle class by reducing Social Security and Medicare in order to pay for this crazy tax cut that will allow the wealthy 1% to increase their wealth. Yes, reducing social "entitlements" is how they expect to pay for the tax cuts our "betters" will receive over time.  I'm not real sure how two government programs I have paid into all my working life can be considered an entitlement, but who bothers to listen to reason or facts these days?

I want to apologize to my grandchildren for this unconscionable scam, because it will likely mean they won't be able to retire like I did. However, I did my very best to stop this nonsense. The good part is that this scam will become increasingly clear to the American public in time for the November 2018 elections.  Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win.