Thursday, May 21, 2015

Never Boring. So I Have Been Told.

I have written and rewritten several blog posts for the past few weeks. Each one seemed insipid. I feel deflated, uninspired, meh. Which lead into an interesting conversation I was having with a friend. I was complaining about how I couldn't seem to write because everything I had to say was boring. She said my life was anything but boring. She could listen to me for hours and hours because I was, point blank, the single most fascinating person she had ever met. I know, right? Clearly she was drunk.

She also isn't the first person to say this to me. I hear it quite often. Which is, point blank, the single most fascinating thing I have ever heard. I am so normal. There is nothing spectacular about me. I was born and raised in a small all American town in a cookie cutter subdivision house. My mom was a teacher. My dad was something that involved a commute and a suit. I had a brother and a sister, a dog, and a cat. I walked to the local school every day, went camping every summer, slept in bunk beds, and saw every episode of Little House on the Prairie. I feel average. So that makes me average, right?

Apparently not.

Apparently when you pop out phrases like "yeah so my ex husband decided to become a woman and now lives with her lesbian lover" people spit out their drink through their noses. Or when you casually say "I hear you on public bathroom filth. One time we were forced to stop at a castle just to use the ones there because the gas station ones looked seriously skanky. Thank goodness one was nearby," your plight to pee suddenly isn't all that generic. And adding your "of course it wasn't until we were surrounded by lions that the gas light went on, because that is exactly the place we needed to run out of gas" wasn't what they were expecting as part of the "I feel bad for the road side assistance guy because" conversation. And no one else seems to have "cleaned up remaining body parts after student autopsies" on their resumes or can relate to having two of your finger prints difficult to take because the hydrochloric acid incident rendered them strangely smooth and strangely scarred and it frustrates the heck out of international border machines and international border agents get really touchy about their machines being frustrated. Uncomfortably touchy.

Me: "You know what I mean?"
Them:  "No, no I don't."

And then I realized that maybe my life isn't so normal after all. But then again, maybe it is. I clean toilets, do laundry, cook dinner, and occasionally drink a second glass of wine. I have things that give me pleasure, and things I would rather never ever ever ever in a million years do again but have to face because there is no one else around to change that holy crap what did you eat is that liquid death diaper. All normal. I write novels and make 9 layer cakes and 7 course meals. A little out of normal. But it isn't like I have a private jet and exotic adventures every day. I drive a compact car and go to the grocery store. A lot. Very normal.

I thought it would be fun to write a post every day for a week or two telling how awesomely normal and boring my life really was. Then I realized we have house guests from Europe staying with us for two weeks and that apparently isn't normal. Nor boring.

I give up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hipster Foodie Sweet 16 Recap

If smiles on faces and laughter can be used as a gauge, the party was a huge success.

My daughter and one of her BFF's. 
We put up a party tent in the back yard so we could dine al fresco. There were fifteen for dinner, including the birthday girl. I put three tables in one long table formation, with the birthday girl at the head.

The rundown:
  • table runner: kraft wrapping paper, sharpie drawn place mats (I used a plastic bucket as a template for the circle, and hand-drew the centers. I had a moustache, Instagram camera, bicycle, or hash tag motif in each one)
  • centerpieces: rinsed soda bottles, fresh flowers (spider mums, buttons, baby's breath, eucalyptus, and lemon grass)
  • place settings: bow tie paper napkins, plastic flatware, stainless steel chopsticks
  • name cards: see below for details and instructions

Later that night, the chopsticks would be tied to the name card and go home with each guest as a favor. I washed them, of course, between their use at dinner and sending them home. The oil crayons were a huge hit. Between courses the guests had fun drawing highly offensive and inappropriate pictures. Ah, teenagers- finding human anatomy just sooooo amusing.

We had originally planned individual menus, but thanks to a last minute declaration it was out of ink by my printer, I instead slapped a table length piece of Kraft paper on the wall with packing tape and wrote one giant menu. Desperate times make some fun, spontaneous ideas come to fruition. They ate:

  1. like a sir moustache points with caviar
  2. goat's cheese cheesecake with balsamic onion chutney
  3. faux pho with sizzle fo' shizzle
  4. jumbo shrimp oximoronically served with chilled Sriracha aioli
  5. poulet vallee d'auge, pommes de terre duchess
  6. drunken pears with Gorgonzola, honey, walnuts, and thyme served on baby spinach
  7. individual pavlova filled with minted strawberry Chantilly

The meal was seven courses and I tried my best to include hipster elements. I had made 18 1-liter glass soda bottles full of lemonade, and added a few bottles of soda and water for them to drink. I had a friend over to help plate and serve, and with my husband keeping the toddler and the preschooler occupied, it was just enough hands to keep pace.

The jars were simple enough to make. I used a regular sheet of printer paper as a template and cut out an 8.5 x 11 piece of Kraft wrapping paper, right from the roll. I ran that through the printer in order to get the text printed directly on it. I cut each name out.

Using a bit of standard white glue with just a touch of water to thin it, I painted the back of each name label and stuck it onto the side of the jar.

The finishing touch was tying off the top with a bit of scrap fabric. I made a typical bow, like when you tie your shoes, then cut the two loops to create the final puffy firework effect.

The name cards were printed in a similar fashion to the jars, however I did not cut them out once they were printed.

I instead attached a piece of scrap fabric to the back of the sheet and ran it through my sewing machine making a grid around the names. Each grid line had to be sewn twice, as I would cut down the space they made in the middle. The fabric backing gave a bit of heft to the name cards and kept them from curling. It increased the wear and tear and knowing they would be favor tags later, I wanted something that would last.

To attach the crayon, I snipped a tiny hole in one corner and tied it on with a piece of ribbon.

After dinner we had some traditional party games, played ironically of course. There was a moustache pinata we stuffed with instant Starbuck's coffee packets, plastic play thick-rimmed glasses, stick on moustaches, and mini Mad-Libs, Sock Monkey matching games, and Woolly Willy magnet drawing cards. Pin the moustache on the hipster donkey, after they decorated him appropriately with sharpies, was a huge hit.

There was opening of gifts, and let me tell you the wit of my daughter's friends was amazing. They really had some creative ideas, and more than half the gifts were homemade. It was wonderful to see the next generation put so much effort into something meaningful.

Then came the cake, oh the tragic cake. Originally all three tiers were stacked into one amazing work of art. I didn't realize at the time I got it all put together that the sun was hitting the display table.

My husband kept insisting that the cake was slanted. At first I was a little hurt. It was homemade, sure, and I am not a professional. But to tell me it is tilted funny several times was kind of, well, rude. He never nit-picks so why on earth I decided this was the moment he would start is beyond me.  I should have known better.

It wasn't until the cake had been up for forty minutes in that sun that I realized he wasn't being overly critical, but rather down-playing his actual concern. The cake was slanted. In fact, the buttercream on the bottom tier was melting in the sun and it was really, really slanted and had I not finally paid attention to his "uh, honey, the cake looks like something found in Pisa" it would have slid right into the wall, probably within seconds. Talk about nick of time.

But that left me with a cracked cake layer, mushy buttercream, and guests arriving soon. Of course. Nothing bad happens the day before where there is plenty of time for fixes. Thank goodness for my Pinterest obsession. I knew exactly what to do because I had seen it done before. I hung up some tissue puff balls and a few tissue fans and viola! Instant back drop to fill the space.

The cake was spread out onto three cake plates of varying height and materials, so I topped each one with its own cake topper and pretended it was supposed to be like that all along. The biggest cake plate, however, was covered in snowflakes and Christmas themed, so a bit of foil fixed that.

I had ensured before-hand the green spider mums would be "food safe" from the florist, intending them to go on the cake anyway. A little bouquet topped the largest tier, with a tiny flower accenting the bottom. Birthday candles topped the middle, hiding the holes originally used for cake supports, and the topper I had made using this free template stayed on top the top tier as originally planned. Problem solved.

In the end, it was a marvelous time. My regrets were some pictures  hadn't saved for some reason on my phone (I am sure user error but I am going to blame the phone anyway) and I lost most of the individual plated dishes and the only picture of the full nine layers of the cake stacked in all its glory. I had received several candid shots from her friends and can't wait to put together a photo memory book for her. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Everything Takes Forever.

I lost my home office slash craft room. But it went for a good cause. Since she moved overseas, the teen hasn't seen her best friend in nearly a year. Best friend's mom flew best friend over for two weeks. My home office slash craft room became the guest room. And if you ask me, it is all worth it. She will be here tonight, and stay right through the Sweet 16 party which I totally planned around her flight over. Because that is the kind of mom I am.

Of course that means my computer was off line for a few days while I transitioned everything. I am sure a normal person could have done it in a couple hours. I am not normal. Between home school, the school co-op, play dates, and cooking every recipe for the party as a trial run, on top of the zillion loads of laundry, hand washing a zillion dishes (my dishwasher blew up, of course), and vacuuming the ugly olive floors a zillion times, it took me almost a damn week to move things around.

Feels good to be back. Oh keyboard, how I have missed you.

Even better, I have a direction to take that novel I have been working on. It means going back for a bit of research but I am so excited about this change it will be worth it. In my head, I can hear M- saying "uh, there is enough story here for three books." Whatever. I like a lot of stuff to happen. Slow books are boring books. Am I right?

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Failed, But Only C- Failed.

Here it is Friday, day 6, and my "I swear I am not agoraphobic let me prove it" week is a bust. I am on the second of two days of not leaving the house for anything besides trips to the grocery store.

Granted the trip to the store today took well over an hour because the most talkative woman in the world was hired by the bakery. She offered free cookies to the kids. I felt a bit obligated to chit chat. Chit chat became a very droll and lengthy marathon of small talk. She had this very variable accent that didn't at all sound real and a name to go with it that was equally unreal. I instantly thought of an old favorite tv series of mine where in one episode, when confronted with the same type of person, the main character announced: "Eileen O'Hara? Why Tommy, that's too impossibly Irish for words!" Well, Tommy, Cookie Woman was too Mother-Russia for words. After I left, I bet Cookie Woman went to Deli Person and had a good laugh over how the idiot mom, me, had no idea she was totally faking that accent. Yeah. No idea. Great job.

Technically I am headed out tonight for a birthday shindig, so while it does count as me leaving the house, I didn't do it in the day time, with the kids, and without another adult in tow. Which is apparently my prime agoraphobic time. Which is why I say I failed the day. But, good news! Gwyneth Paltrow also failed her challenge week. Failed it hard, and still gave herself a C- grade. If she thinks utter failure is still a passing grade, then I will too. Hooray for me. I got a C- this week. That's enough to prove I can leave if I want to and now will kindly go back to dwelling in my little hole and never come out again and you all can't say boo about it. So there.

And in the spirit of hashtag failing not failing, I went online shopping for bedding for the guest room instead of going to an actual store. The picture looked amazing. The price was better than amazing. In fact, it was too good to be true. I bet it won't at all be anything but exactly like the picture. I bet it isn't made with questionable chemical dyes and stuffed with partially synthetic mouse fur. I am sure it will not at all clash with the "zomg what were they thinking" shade of olive green carpet I have in every damn room in my house. I am sure this will not end horribly, with someone curled up into the fetal position sobbing in the corner rocking and moaning that she will never buy white goods online.


But we all get to wait until the 21st for none of this to happen as the delivery won't be made until that day. And just in time, too. My goal is to have the room done by that Friday, so it can be done and dusted before the obsessive freak-fest inner party planner has at my house for the Sweet 16, which will end just in time for obsessive impossible standard inner hostess with the mostest to get ready for the two week mother-in-law visit.