Milestone

Atti Kiss

All of last year I felt like I was drowning. Whether it was the life threatening depression that turned out to be a med reaction to my endometriosis treatment, or the kidney stone that sent me to the hospital, or to finish out the year, freaking whooping cough, I was limping through just trying to make it through the day. In that condition I had to jettison every responsibility that was more taxing than breathing in and out and not dying. No more craft designing, no more blogging or Youtube-ing, no more contributing to the household. Bear has proven once again to be an exceptional partner and over the year he’s handled meals, organized help, and gotten Atti on the bus every morning.

As I’ve recovered, that last task was the one that loomed larger and larger in my mind. Slowly I started adding responsibilities back into my day. I’d do the laundry, I’d go grocery shopping, and then I’d fall ill again. I’d start to recover, blog through December, and then get sick all over again. But as I felt better and felt empowered to start picking the pieces up again, any mention of being responsible for waking up early to get Atti on the bus would send me into a panic.

You know that one thing that really isn’t that hard, but you dread it and so it grows and grows and becomes even more insurmountable to you? Like calling the credit card company or making the appointment or going to the DMV. It will just take a minute and then you’ll be done, but you can’t bring yourself to do it? And the more you put it off the bigger and bigger it grows until you just can’t see how you can possibly manage it? That’s how getting Atti on the bus became to me.

I should stop here and say – I know. This is nothing special for parents all over the place. And I am super lucky to have a partner who can take over for me for so long. But Atti also isn’t your typical nearly seven year old and getting him ready is A LOT more intense than shepherding him around the house as he dresses himself and eats his own breakfast. It’s a very physical labor that involves lifting and hauling and bathroom trips and trying to yank pants over his hips and putting braces on his legs and carrying him to his wheelchair and getting the heavy wheelchair full of kid down our super steep driveway without accident. It’s all the work you used to do with an infant, but that infant weighs 40 pounds. And is on wheels.

So it’s hard work that I wasn’t capable of for a very long time. Because I was too weak, because the most important thing governing my mental health is the amount of sleep I get and for a long time I couldn’t count on getting that by 7 am, and then because it had grown into this overwhelming and terrifying task loaded with shame. Because this is nothing special for parents all over the place, what was my problem? Because I love my son with ferocity and I couldn’t manage to do this for him. Because I was forcing my partner to carry all the weight of our family by himself. And that shame grew and grew until it threatened to bury me.

Today I got Atti on the bus. It was difficult, just like it is on my best day, but I managed it. And as I kissed him goodbye and he went through his morning goodbye call and response (“Ba-Bye! Have a good day at school! Mwah!” Repeat two times) I nearly broke out in tears. Because I did it. My fears of falling to pieces or not being up to the task didn’t come through. I have been beating myself up for months that I wasn’t able to do this for Atti, comparing myself to every other parent, and making the mistake that just because a task is common, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I conquered this big shame covered complicated task and that means that I am officially back on my feet again. A little wobbly, but here.

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2015 coming in with a wheeze

She-Ra

In case you’ve missed my whining on facebook or twitter or instagram, I have Whooping Cough.

Bear thinks it’s hilarious. He keeps asking me if I need to eat citrus for my scurvy. Or if I need to watch for symptoms of Scarlet Fever. Of course, I would get this stupid old-fashioned illness that most people get vaccinated for and never even think about. Of course I would.

Just before Thanksgiving I had such crippling abdominal pain I couldn’t move. I actually had to have Bear call the ambulance and a bunch of dicky EMT’s stood over me and yelled at me to stand up while they rolled their eyes at me laying on the bathroom floor in shock. Luckily my ER doctor was an angel and ran every test and determined that I had passed a kidney stone and had a kidney infection.

And all that is after six months of suicidal depression because of a reaction to medication.

So basically, it’s been SUPER FUN over here.

I had hoped that the New Year would bring me a new lease on health, or at least back to my typical state of functional enough poor health, but here I sit, unable to change the laundry over lest I exert myself too hard and have a coughing fit. I am so over this bullshit.

In good news, we have a new member of our fuzzy family and she is taking very good care of me. Every picture I have of her is blurry because it’s taken from about two inches away while she’s sitting on my chest. She takes her role as nursemaid very seriously. Her name is She-Ra because she’s my little princess of power, and she’s another purebred Ragdoll, this time with lynx point markings. I love her and say the stupidest and most ridiculous things to her in the stupidest and most ridiculous voice. I wish I could blame the cough syrup with codeine, but it predates that.

Since Cheetara died, I have been missing my own little companion. One of the reasons we love Ragdolls so much is that they pick their person and bond to them. Gizmo is Atti’s cat, Jem is Bear’s, and my lap has been empty for years. Finally, FINALLY! I’ve convinced Bear that that can’t go on any longer. We are a three cat family. I think he just felt sorry for my stupid sick body.

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Herbal Caramel Chocolates

Herbal Caramel Chocolates
When I was a kid we used to make those microwave wilton chocolate candies for everything. We’d pull out the box full of molds my mom had stuffed in a back cabinet from the week she decided she was going to take up chocolate making, we’d rescue some ancient chocolates from another pantry, and we’d laboriously paint with melted “chocolate” to make little gobs of something that tasted like wax. All the fun was in the making, but now that I’m older and snobbier about my chocolate, I want to make something that is worth the trouble. I’ve been intimidated by chocolate but there’s really no need. It’s way easier than I believed. You just need a thermometer.

For my filling I wanted to make an herbed caramel. Some of my favorite Chocolate Artisans (that’s what they call themselves) make caramels infused with rosemary and lavender and brandy and a whole bunch of other not sweet concoctions. So far, the weirder they are the more I like them, so I had to try my hand at my own version.

To add a flavor to the caramel there are a few different ways you could go. You could just chop up bits of whatever and toss it in and you’ll get a crunchy texture, or you could infuse it by melting the butter and then soaking the flavor item in the butter until it took on the flavor, or you can just go straight to adding a few drops of flavored oils – making sure they’re food grade of course. I tried a few options and I found the oil almost fool proof, while the other ways took more finesse than I seem to possess.

Caramel Filling
4 T butter flavored as desired
1/2 C half and half
1 C brown sugar

Over a gentle heat let this all melt together, whisking frequently. Don’t let the sugar burn or the milkfats cook. When it gets to be the consistency of a good caramel sauce, take it off the heat and let it cool.

Meanwhile, prepare your chocolate. If you just melt it and mold it it will taste fine, but if you want that beautiful shiny coating the fine chocolates have you want to take the time to temper your chocolate. This just refers to a heating process that creates the most preferable texture, and has to do with how molecules line up. It’s a simple three step process.
1.)In a bowl that sits over a pot of water, you melt the chocolate until it’s about 115 to 120 degrees.

2.) While stirring, add unmelted chocolate pieces until it cools down to around 81 to 83 degrees. Remove any chocolate pieces that remain unmelted.

3.) Return the bowl to the heat and bring it slowly back up to the working temperature – 86 – 89 degrees.

When your chocolate is tempered pour it into the molds. After much watching of youtube videos, I found that the paintbrushes I used to use as a kid are for suckers. The better way to get a coating on the molds is to fill it up completely, then flip the mold over and let it drain onto a rack or back into a bowl. You’ll get a beautiful thin even coat. Let that set up thoroughly.

The caramel needs to be cool enough to not melt through the chocolate and warm enough to pour. Room temperature is ideal. Fill the molds up, but resist the urge to overfill it. Top with more chocolate and use a metal spatula to scrape off any excess and leave the clean edge.

I was not super clean when I was making mine, I went through a whole lot of trial and error to get the caramel flavorings down and I just had no more patience for doing things the right way that day. But I still found the experience pretty empowering. Chocolate making isn’t that hard, you guys! If you passed seventh grade chemistry, you can totally make beautiful shiny chocolates.

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Apple Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Apple Bars
With only a few days before Christmas, it’s time to abandon plans for elaborate home made gifts for everyone from your mother to the mailman and go to the fastest gift of all – food. A plate full of sweet treats is part of what makes the holiday so much fun, so if you haven’t knitted a scarf for your neighbor or crafted an elaborate picture frame for your hairstylist, a plate of cookies is the way to go.

I came up with this recipe based on one of our favorite evening snacks – a fresh apple cut into pieces and dunked into peanut butter. I’d take those two flavors together even over peanut butter and chocolate, but you rarely see them together. So I had to fix that. If you don’t have any apple butter available or don’t feel like making any, you can sub in your favorite jams.

Apple Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C butter
1 C peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C flour

1 C apple butter

Cream together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix together, then add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Set aside about 1/4 of the dough.

Butter and flour a casserole dish, then press the remaining dough into the bottom until it’s covered evenly. Poke a fork into the dough all over to give the steam somewhere to escape to so the dough doesn’t puff up. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Spread the apple butter over the cookie layer. If your apple butter is thinner than jam you might want to cook it on the stovetop for a while to thicken it up so the bottom cookie layer doesn’t get too soggy.

Take the reserved dough and crumble it over the top of the apple butter layer.

Bake at 350 for another 15 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.

Apple Peanut Butter Bars
I made these for Bear’s work party and when I pulled the first batch out of the oven I was debating whether or not I should make more or if one would be enough. I brought a piece over to Bear and Atti and the tore it apart like cookie monster. I ended up making two more batches, so you might want to plan ahead.

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Modern Paper Christmas Tree

Modern Paper Christmas Tree

During Christmas I break all my usual design tastes. Throughout the year I like uncluttered, clean lines, minimalism, and midcentury modern. At Christmas I love it all. There’s no such thing as too much, no style unrepresented, I want every surface festooned with holiday cheer. So when I can make those two styles converge, just […]

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Reload Cereal Bowl

Reload Bowl

I have been getting way too big a kick out of myself lately. This is just one of a few projects lately that have me cracking up at my punny self. Geddit? Geddit? Once you get to the bottom of the bowl, you have to reload! I’m such a mom. That is total mom humor, […]

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Leather Strip Bracelet

Leather Bracelet

My whole family has just gotten over the flu, and today Atti got back from school with a fever for the second time in two weeks. So if I hadn’t gone in to Christmas wanting to keep things simple, Christmas has certainly become that way. But this bracelet is easy enough to make even from […]

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Monogrammed Wooden Coasters

Monogrammed Wooden Coasters

I don’t know if it’s just that I’m coming off of a hard year and need to keep things kind of simple, or if it’s just happenstance, but every idea I seemed to have this time around could be made in minutes. I had to repeat the stencil idea from yesterday, but instead of freezer […]

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Stenciled Tote Bag

Stenciled Tote Bag

This is another project just like yesterday’s that came from my “Gifts for Dudes” brainstorm session, and once again, it will work for absolutely anyone. But what really inspired this tote bag is Bear. He will not carry a bag. He’ll carry a laptop bag if necessary, but otherwise he’ll just toss things loose in […]

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Leather Cord Roll

Leather Cord Roll

This year when brainstorming gift ideas, I worked really really hard to come up with some good stuff for dudes. The stuff I thought up is really appropriate for anybody, but they fit in those categories that men often show a lot of interest in – tech, gaming, travel. So, see? Anyone, but since most […]

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