Friday, February 17, 2012

the age of egg salad and tiger balm

This is a little tale on getting older. Sure you could say technically we are all getting older, even my tiny toddler is getting older. But on the heels of my birthday and the sprinting line of a big life number looming I give a minute to ponder all the life changes that can happen in a life. Sometimes my life events seem to come in waves; last year was no exception. At this particular birthday I am starting to feel the title ‘middle age’ take hold. Now really, you could argue how in the world could last year you still feel 25 even though you were (cough) 36? And when reasonably did you, Sierra, think that middle age started? Well to be honest I never really thought about it. Maybe it was when I turned 37 and suddenly actually felt like I was 37. So there might be the real argument. You are not middle age, until you think/feel you are or at least start thinking about it.

There are some hilarious things about being middle age, and I am not the only one who thinks so.  

I know there is some or many comedians out there who have a barrage of ‘you know you are getting old when.....’ jokes.

Here is what I have compiled from other older and wiser writers out there on the www
You know you are middle aged when...
  • you find yourself in a garden centre and actually recognise the names of some plants. (ummm is that an epiphyte over there? oh yes certainly)
  • you keep more food than beer in the fridge. (excluding the dude of the house)
  • older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.
  • comfort triumphs over style in the fashion stakes.
  • all you want is a quiet night in.
  • you choose Fairtrade coffee and organic muesli over pop-tarts and chocolate milk. (sometimes)
  • you make sure you're well rested before attending a concert.
  • you eat olives from the local farmer's market.
  • rather than throwing away old shoes, you keep them in case they come in handy for the garden.
  • when at a concert, you tut and sigh because the girl in front has wrapped her backside around her boyfriend's shoulders and you can't see the stage without standing up. And you really don't want to have to stand up.
  • you feed your dog natural, holistic dog food instead of leftovers after a visit to McDonald's.
So in the same vein, some I have added, but not as entertaining.
You know you are middle aged when...
  • you have been to more funerals than weddings in a year.
  • you start to appreciate egg salad sandwiches (thanks mse).
  • you look forward to the hot water bottle at the end of the day.
  • you carry tiger balm under your wing.
  • you start to critically think you are not getting paid enough for what you do.
  • you would dance anywhere any time and don’t care one bit (is this just me?).
  • you feel authority not just with your words, but your whole being and realize this is the more sophisticated-teen-thought version with actual facts and gusto behind it; not just a thought with a lot of hot air.
  • you realize the people, especially other mamas and women are all super heroines with their own special powers and they feed your own superheroine-ness too.
  • you can ponder the existence and connection between every living thing and can feel it in your bones wanting your heart to bust from your chest.
  • you could care less about any imperfections about your body (or you have so many that it would be impossible to care about all of them).
  • you think of researching life insurance and examine your 401k plan with a finer toothed comb
  • things start to make sense and are senseless at the same time
My additions definitely feel more sobering. I guess I have many more questions than answers to this.
Again I am new to this whole middle age thing. Is middle age is earlier for people who have kids? Does the number of kids contribute to the middle age feeling? Does it matter how old you are when you have kids?
Is there an equation to all of this?
Can someone pour cold water on me and wake me from this dream?
Do people have middle life views that are sunshine and rainbows?  
Someone give me more intoxicating mid-life antics please.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Strawberry Letter 37

Kickin off the dark clouds that lay low over this noggin for most of January. This mama was out of commission and in the business of hot water bottles, tiger balm, nyquil and heavy doses of Acetaminophen. In my sickly haze I was not very productive. I couldn’t take time off (are your little violins playing?) and honestly I could not get my act together to do the bare basics never keep up on my blog. (*sniff*)

But the sun is shining again and I am breathing. This pony’s first adventure of course was food shopping. Tuesday, I hit Trader Joe’s with the burst of excitement that can only come after weeks of drudgery. In my shopping splender I passed a beautiful, bright and mountainous end-cap of strawberries. Intrigued, I drew closer. They looked good. The red color was alive. But, what really caught my eye was a small flower bud just under the plastic clamshell lid (learned terminology later). What promise!

I took my little nature pod home and devoured them all over the next few days. Each time the strawberry pile got smaller, my strawberry bud continued to take center stage at the top of the clamshell box. It was not that the strawberries alone wouldn’t make my heart sing, but come on, the small white flower pushed it over on cuteness factor.

Luckily, on the top of the strawberry clamshell box, there was a little bit of info that also gave me a sparkle. It was the number code of the person who picked these particular berries. I wanted to tell the company that it was a genius move to include a little strawberry flower in their strawberry bundles. So I sent them an email and thanked them for the little extra gift. I told them if they didn’t do this on purpose, that they should consider it.

This is what I got back just a few days later.

Dear Sierra,
Thank you for visiting the FreshQC™ website to rate our strawberries.  Consumer feedback is invaluable to us.  The 16-digit FreshQC™ number is tied to the picker, variety, field location, date and exact time of day the flat was picked.  We are able to connect you to our growers and the actual picker that picked your package of produce.  They are able to read your comments providing accountability and continuous improvement for their work.
I’m so glad you had a great experience with Wish Farms!  I love that there was a strawberry flower in your clamshell – a lot of people don’t realize that’s how strawberries form.   I wish I could say it was done intentionally, but I think that package was meant just for you to find!  They are of the Radiance variety and picked from one of our growing operations in Central Florida.  We are a year round supplier of strawberries – our Florida season kicked off in November and will go through the month of April until our California season picks up!   Be sure to keep letting us know what you think through our FreshQC™ program!
Nice to get the response, especially so soon. I have little faith that they will take my advice, but it is good to know some ear heard my little ole comment. Here is to a delightful flower in my strawberry clam shell that gave a hint of sunshine in the midst of dreary winter. Fists to the air; STRAWBERRY FLOWERS FOR EVERYONE!

p.s. a few weeks later, I find this in my next strawberry purchase at T.J.’s, an extra long stem. Ok, maybe I am just easily pleased.?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't Trash On Me

I feel like having the name Sierra, people have always made assumptions. Some of them are right, others less so. The biggest misconception is that I am a vegetarian, which I am not, but kind of wish I was (just for the record VIENNA is). Other assumptions hit the mark: I have hippie parents, eat organic food and sometimes wear clogs. I am earth-conscious, a proactive, avid recycler and composter and yes, I drive a prius. I wear some of these boots proudly. Until recently, I was so focused on reuse (compost) and recycle (recycling) that I never thought about manipulating the TRASH (reduce!).
'itty bitty under-the-sink wares'

Now, I don’t know you, but I get a small thrill in solving problems. It’s a little bit of a curse. Creating “efficiencies”, with family, children, teaching, travel, etc, my brain is constantly running (like when you hear your laptop engine humming even when you are not doing anything).

Getting back to the trash. Sept 2011: the fruit flies are killing me. It’s war. I’m hot, irritated with fruit flies and smelling something mysterious and horrible in the kitchen. If this description so far makes it sound like I live in a sty, I don’t, we are just a family of 4 with a dog and my sensitivity to smell is positively prenatal sometimes. It was driving to the center of my sanity. I bravely put my nose in the trash, nada. I smelled a foot away, the sink, the dishwasher, the walls; it seemed to be everywhere and nowhere.

For days this went on; investigation was a code red. In a moment of sheer panic and overwhelm, I took the whole 13-gallon-plastic-complete-with-rocking-flip-lid bastard outside. Miraculously aromatic peace was restored. I knew with every fiber of my being that I didn’t want that trashcan in my life anymore. I was done. The break-up was final.

Sooo, you might ask what we did when we had to throw something away. Compost is limited and recycling doesn’t cover everything left over at the end of the day. So we played the geriatric lady syndrome of keeping an old plastic bread bag on the counter and shoving our waste into that puppy to the brink of full madness, pushing, stuffing. It became like a video game (there is irony there). The stakes had never been higher (insert irony here).

Then this magical/evil plan was hatched inside my brain. What if we had no trash, what would we do? I started recalculating our trash problem. What if we focused on NOT throwing away things. Food was the biggest issue. Children don’t clean their plates, it goes in the trash, food that we forgot we bought shoved in the back of the fridge, garbage! We have a 2.5 year old and sure we use at least 1 disposable diaper at night and those add up over 7 days -all other times we (predictably) use cloth diapers.

cutting to the chase: some facts (and opinions)
  • meal planning changed
  • buying changed
  • i got a little zany, but in an interesting way
  • adam, the other half of the decision making in the house, was not privy to the challenge end: “we don’t have a trash can anymore, ok. (no biggie)”
  • sadly, food scraps could not be fed to dog, as she had lots of food allergies
  • it was kind of fun
  • then the dog got into the trash (a lot) and it was really really gross
  • realized we had to get a real trash can
  • so we continued to push and push into the smallest possible size.
  • in the end we got a small 3 gallon ikea flip open trash can
  • another small fact is that our kitchen trash can is the only trash can other than my studio in the house, not even in the bathrooms (much to the dismay of some, especially out-of-town visitors)
the wee bear was just right
After a full week of getting rid of our trash can we had a party, non-trash related. There were over 75 people at this party and I thought argh we are going to have to drag the trash-barrel-bastard out again, but without me even instructing anyone, my adorable friends were sorting and compiling trash, recycling and composting. Talk about love! In the end, we used more than a bread bag of trash, but not much; it was the stuff legends are made of. We reused our industrial and faithful pile of Preserve dinnerware that we have had forever and here we are many months later and still going strong in peaceful partnership with our 3-gallon can.

Luckily the city of Boston has been more on board over the last year with a larger (finally appropriately) size recycling barrel. Our garbage amount pales in comparison to our busting 64 gallon recycling bin. Now we might fill our trash barrel in a month or so. Don’t even get me started on the quandary if the recycling is even being recycled (an investigation for another time). 

I have had the pleasure to see the infamous, 'No Impact Man' a while back and wow!, Its the movie about the man who took his family on a year long project of making as small of an impact on the earth as possible in what seemed like the impossible fact that they lived in NYC. It was hardcore and admirable. It was not what fed my desire to de-trash-ify the house, but the fact that people who are willing to go above and beyond, always gives me an adrenaline rush.

I don’t mean to stand on any soap box. Trash in the home was something that I never thought about till that moment of ousting the dictating 13-gallon menace. Then I gave a little tweak in the noggin and now it is part of life, not another thought (until it was requested by a certain someone as a story). If only I could apply this sense of logic to exercising. The old adage: when you have a bigger house, you will fill it. It seems that there is never enough kitchen cabinets, if you have 10 or 30. No matter the size of your garage, basement, closets, toy bins, they seem to all get filled to capacity. 

So where is the lesson in this? I don’t know, try it if you like, for a week or a day. Without the recycling or compost it would be big- maybe impossible, you might end up on a TLC show about hoarding (sorry). But it might teach you something about yourself, or might make you think about what is ‘trash’ or start you on composting. Over 7+ years of composting in the city, we have learned a few things about not creating a hotel environment for rodents, especially a deluxe spa where they receive shelter from our half pipe neighbored with a bounty of edibles.

Did I make this sound doable? Interesting? I would like to say that it solved all of our problems, made us eat like birds, I lost 10 lbs and my husband’s hair grew back, my two children never fight anymore and our cars became powered by wind. Instead of all that happening, I have less trash, less smell and a greater sense of peace about the battle.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

frosting that froze me in my tracks

memphis debuts on the cake

when a child asks for frosting in the form of humans and animals for their birthday, don't run for the hills. instead get sculpey, and get those fingers warmed up.

my daughter turning 6, asked for her beloved border collie, memphis, who died just a month prior and herself throwing a frisbee in frosting on their cake. argh! nothing scares me like mucking up a cake just before a party, i mean come on.

ok, so it might be a little easier being an artist and an art teacher with amassed amounts of resources, but I really believe anyone can do this.

before sculpey was baked
cake toppers: so i went to dick blick, the closest art store in boston, and got sculpey premo. I believe, go the extra mile with durability with the premo. I got the regular 1lb flesh colored stuff and the 2oz. glow in the dark and red sparkly accent pieces for fun. my big regret was not getting the sculpey softener. I am not sure how it would have helped, but that mutha was tough.

anyway, i had help as not to have felt defeated by the toughness of this clay.
I mean how can anyone work with this stuff?

some shorts:
  • 1lb block was enough to make my daughter (4.5" tall person) and her beloved sidekick 
  • knead chunks of the clay like bread dough 
  • cut away from the the mass amount instead of trying to get small pieces together
  • tools: rolling pin, tooth picks, sharp paring knife
  • think pyramid, not tall cylinders
  • think chunky shapes instead of tall willowy for sturdiness
  • balance your shapes
  • follow bake directions for thickness
  • if anything breaks, use hot glue or super glue after it cools (that happened to my daughter's legs, much to the chagrin of my daughter) 
  • use acrylic paint and be flirty with your layering of colors 
  • I was super happy how the acrylic paint took to the sculpey
  • once the foundation and shape of your pieces is set, work with texture
  • go the extra distance with details, but don't go overboard
  • use a photo, it will really be helpful

glow-in-the-dark heart candle holders
    extras: my daughter and I even rolled out    
    the sculpey glow-in-the-dark and the red
    sparkly stuff with rollers and used cookie
    cutters; hearts and flowery shapes. used a
    pencil to push holes through the
    glow-in-the-dark hearts for future
    candle holders on the cake.

in the end, it was super cute. my daughter has them forever, especially as a memory of our pup she has known her whole life. I highly recommend this project even if you think you can't;
trust me, it will surprise you.