1,000 Words

Is it true? Is a picture worth a thousand words?

Here is a picture I cherish. This was taken nearly 20 years ago: my sister and my youngest son.

Here's what I love about it:

Isn't my baby beautiful? Even at a few days old, he scrunched up his face like that when he was kissed. It was so damn cute. Look at that miniscule hand and the feathery eyebrows.

Isn't my sister beautiful? I love the tenderness in her gesture. She only just met this sweet, tiny little person and loved him instantly. The light shining on her fair hair is gorgeous and the blush of her cheek is so fetching. She always has been a beauty, and not just because she looks the way she does.

It's only a fleeting moment in the whirlwind of a child. He was new and fresh and smelled so wonderful, wrapped safely in the arms of one of the few people on earth who would love him always, no matter what: his Auntie.

Sisters are treasures. Have you hugged your sister today?


Tips for Feeding a Crowd of People With Strange Diets, Food Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Weird Ideas About Food

Yeah, I know that title sounds a little snarky and judgmental. But seriously. I eat what I eat and what you eat might seem strange to me. More likely, what you can't eat might really trouble me. How do I cook for you?

People will be showing up for holiday dinners with newly-trim bodies, health problems, food sensitivities related to their religion, opinions on the morality of certain foods or just plain quirky preferences. Heaven help you if they all show up to the same dinner and you're the host.

The food allergy that does NOT fit these tips is a serious, anaphylaxis-inducing allergy. Some people who are allergic to, say, peanuts, are not just being fussy. Take that seriously.

I am speaking to you from the point of view of both the one with dietary problems AND the hostess. I am lactose-intolerant and I have IBS. (TMI, sorry.) It can be extremely awkward to be a dinner guest of someone who knows these two things because A. They tend to trot that information out for everyone to hear, and B. They fuss over me and my plate. Please don't and Please DON'T!

So here are my tips for feeding someone like me.

  1. Find out before you even plan your menu if anyone has a life-threatening allergy. If you're lucky, you'll get a lot of answers like, "Well, James doesn't care for olives. Is that what you mean?" If someone has an allergy to nuts, peanuts, shellfish, be extra-vigilant to not accidentally kill them. You'll ruin your dinner party, your reputation as a host, and it won't do them any good, either. 
  2. Serve the dinner buffet-style. If you prepare a plate for the guest, you are basically telling them what they will eat. Just let them choose what to eat and how much for themselves.
  3. Try to serve both a raw vegetable, such a salad, and a cooked one. There are a lot of vegans who prefer their veggies raw, and some of us with digestive issues who can't eat the raw stuff.
  4. Don't slather everything in cheese and/or cream sauce. I was once invited to a dinner where I was served a wonderful lasagna, garlic bread with cheese broiled on top, a salad with loads of fresh parmesan curls and then a cheesecake for dessert. Ouch. It was delicious, but ouch.
  5. If the main entree is meat (prime rib, turkey, ham) let that be the star of the show and don't throw ham into the potatoes, and bacon in the green beans and broil pancetta on the garlic bread. Give the vegans a chance. HOWEVER, it's not a bad idea to serve two kinds of meat if you have a big crowd to feed. A small ham beside the turkey, or a roasted capon next to the prime rib can be much appreciated by the people skipping red meat or who have abnormal fears about poultry.
  6. Similarly, don't make everything rich, or sweet. If everything on your table is swimming in butter, glistening with glaze and loaded with fat, the people who are dealing with a blood sugar or cholesterol problems are going to be a mess.
  7. Let your dessert table offer both traditional, scrumptious, sweet desserts, and also a nice little plate of cheese and fruit.
  8. You're the host, but that doesn't mean it's all about you. Let your guests choose from the dishes that appeal to them and fit their needs. This is true for the beverage you serve, too. If a guest refuses the wine, accept it gracefully! They could be a recovering alcoholic or allergic to sulfites or maybe they just don't like wine. Remember that your guest's food choices are not a reflection on you. And honestly, it really isn't your business why they make the choices they do. Don't bully them into trying "just one" or having a little bit more. And while we're at it, when they're full, they're full! It is not an insult to you if there is food left on their plate. As long as your guest is not so rude as to throw a biscuit at your head, screaming that it isn't like momma used to make, what they eat and what they leave should not be considered a comment on your cooking.
  9. Please don't call attention to the dietary restrictions or preferences of your guests. It embarrasses us to have you say in a loud voice, "Oh that's right, you can't eat salad." The exception to that is again with the life-threatening allergies. If you include ground nuts in your innocent-looking fruit dressing, quietly point that out to the one with the allergy. Best plan is to make sure your menu doesn't have anything on it that will kill them.
  10. Serving a wide variety of dishes and having the good grace to let your guests choose without any input from you is the simple key. If you are a vegan hosting a dinner party where omnivores like me are likely to show up, you don't have to break your ethics in order to feed me. Just have a nice menu that includes a hearty, savory dish, too. I promise. I won't draw attention to the absence of meat at your table, and I trust that if you eat at my house, you will not try to embroil me in a conversation about "shooting Bambi" if I serve elk meat. I will have made sure that there were options on my menu for you.
Of course, all this changes for small, intimate dinner parties. If you only have six guests, you need to have a good idea of what to serve that everyone can eat. Even then, my gracious friend, serve the food and be quiet about why you're serving what you're serving. Bob and June don't need to know that you made a fabulous vegetable Minestrone and served it with rustic 7-grain artisan bread, because Trish is lactose-intolerant and Betty is a vegan.

A Grinchy Year

I admit it. I'm feeling a strange mixture of Grinchiness and Christmas spirit.

I want to love Christmas. I loved it once. Now that I'm older and more cynical wiser, I'm learning how to tell the difference between the real Christmas I love and the Christmas that is being crammed down my throat.

The parts I love:

  • I love the closeness of my small family on Christmas morning. It's one of the few days a year that we are all together in the same room, in our jammies, in the morning. 
  • I love the feeling of hope and wonder that comes from The Birth of The Savior. Even these 2000 years later, to stop to think that a Savior was born is awe-inspiring and beautiful.
  • I love to cook a feast for my dear ones and have them enjoy it.
  • I love the warmth that permeates the town, the result of everyone's combined Christmas spirit.
  • I love to find a perfect gift for someone: something small or large that will be meaningful to them and make them happy.
The parts I don't:
  • The competitive decorators. Oh. My. Gawd. There's a street a few blocks over that is absolutely friggin obnoxious. Drape your house in lights, folks, I don't care. It doesn't matter to me if your electric meter is turning so fast it smokes. But the music? That is too much. I know it sounds Grinchy, but seriously. Your Christmas music blasting in the front yard, tormenting people three blocks away, is obnoxious. The part that kills me is that these are the same people who will bitch about some kid driving by with his woofers blasting, and THAT only lasts a couple of seconds! When I want to hear Christmas music, I will choose my own, thank you very much.
  • Judgement. People who actually feel entitled to judge if I am giving to the "right" charity. Which, of course, means the charity THEY like. I am sorry, to all you good causes out there: I do not have the funds to donate to everything. Being a person of limited means, I try to choose wisely where my charity dollars go. Friends, family...leave me alone, OK? You'll just have to trust that I'm not donating to a fund dedicated to freeing Zombies Wrongly Imprisoned.
  • You do this. You know you do. I do it. Everybody does. You say it every year. "Here, have another cookie." Please stop, now. Thank you for the plate of cookies. I appreciate it very, VERY much. I do. It's just that I can't eat them all (with you watching me). Please don't try to make me eat more than I want to. And I promise, I will stop trying to make you eat everything, too. Deal?
  • The Grinch said it. "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." Dr. Seuss nailed that one. I don't need the next, newest, fancier, shinier thing. Really, neither do you. I think Christmas gifts should be meaningful and personal. That isn't to say that a cool new tablet can't be meaningful. That's what my youngest son is getting. (Sorry, son. But I doubt you'll read this anyway.) For him, it is a gift that is a vote of confidence in his recent decisions. Christmas gifts are a lovely way to express your affection and thoughtfulness. They aren't meant to be an expression of your bank account and your shopping stamina.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I really do love this time of year....warts and all. :D




Timelessness. Beauty. Class. Grace. Some people have it.

One of my cherished clients has it. That warm, interested and engaging light in her eyes, a spark of humor in them always.

I have a friend who makes me feel valued and treasured every day. She adds grace and beauty to my life.

There is a quality in some people that surpasses time, place, education and finances. It gives them an air of timelessness. Like they would be a beloved person anywhere, at any point in history.

My own Grandmother had that, too. She had a compassionate, witty, good-bearted wisdom. She was welcome everywhere, loved by everyone and her opinion was always sought...and valued.

When I think of beautiful people, I don't think of pageant queens and lingerie models. I think of real people. People with kindness, people with a sense of humor and good grace. People with a generous heart and tactful filter on their speech. Insightful, cheerful people. I think of people with the qualities that give them timelessness and grace.


I Am Easily Amused

You know I love to watch people. It's better than any nature show on PBS, IMHO, because people are so surprising. I'm always so interested in the things that people do! That interest reached a new level of amusement and amazement the other day. I stumbled across Be warned. You can lose an entire morning, your coffee will get cold and you'll still be sitting there in your pajamas, laughing. It is a website where people post the things they are willing to do for five dollars. Seriously.

Break up with your girlfriend for you. BE your girlfriend on facebook for a couple of weeks. Write your message on their body and send you a picture of it. (No, I don't mean they'll write it on their forearm, either.) They will photoshop a picture for you or do other feats of technological wonder.

I'm intrigued! "Dude. I'll pay you five bucks to call my girlfriend and tell her I'm through with her." I am so curious how much money the breakers are making doing that. And I'm curious what the girlfriend thinks when she gets a call from some guy in another part of the country (or world), telling her, "Hey, your boyfriend is done with you, but he's such a chickensh!t he paid me five bucks to tell you so."

Lots of girls will send pictures of their attributes to you five bucks. Other people will be your reference on a job application. I'd have to wonder, if I interviewed you. Your last jobs were all here in town, but the reference is from a guy in Bangladesh? Huh.

There are interesting listings that are less scuzzy, too. One lady will send you a video of your message, in sign. Cool. They will turn your message into a little rap song. Or  write your message in calligraphy or Chinese or Cyrillic? Although, cynic that I am, how would I know? I think about that with tattoos. If I had a Chinese character inked into my skin that I thought said "Balance", and really said "Dumbass"? I mean, really. If I could write Chinese and people wanted messages, it might be awfully fun to mess with them. Wouldn't you be tempted? I would.

The ones who will be your facebook GF for a few weeks? That was interesting, too. They all looked pretty darn hot in the thumbnail next to their listing.  Is facebook the new way to play headgames with your GF? Are those pictures even the actual girl? You probably pay her five bucks, thinking she looks like Carrie Underwood, but when she posts the picture as your GF, she really looks like Fiona in her ogre phase.

I have to admire the creativity and courage of the people who are doing these things. I don't know if they actually make any money at it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they do. That isn't to say I am convinced of their wisdom or their honor.

While we're at it, did you ever stumble across the listings on ebay where women are selling their worn socks, pantyhose or high heels? I had no idea there was such a ... such a.... such a.... demand for those kinds of things. I must really be ignorant.

Or at least, I was.

Playing along at LoveLinks!


Writing is Therapeutic

I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge! I did it!

My story is a loooonnnggggg way from finished, but I ended the month with over 58,000 words written. Of course I am pleased with myself for having achieved that I need to finish the book. I love to meet a challenge, complete my goal and all that good stuff, but that isn't what is so therapeutic about writing fiction.

I wrote an earlier post that compared writing (for me) to playing Barbies when I was a child. I had my characters and just played at what their storyline was. Fiction writing truly is a lot like that. The fun part comes in when you get to create conflict and then resolve it. In fiction writing, you can create a character you don't like, and then deal with them however you want to. If you want to have your antagonist eaten by a grizzly bear, you can do that. If you always wanted to live on an island in the South Pacific, you can write yourself there. You can be a race car driver or a turtle farmer, and anything in between. If you are lonely, you can write a love life. If you are happy, you can recreate that again for a reader. It doesn't matter if the conflict is between people, or within a person chasing their own dreams, or maybe with nature. You are the one in charge of everyone's destiny and you can solve their problems or leave them dangling.

You can write the life you want, you can write a story that is the realization of your own dreams. You can relive the happiest moments in your life, or a create a kind of script for making new happy moments.

Writing can be very therapeutic.

What I See--Alita

Oh, Alita! What can I say? We've known eachother for so many years! Alita and I became acquainted first because our husbands worked to...