THINGS I HAVE NO BUSINESS DOING

In the season of the naughty and nice lists, I’d like to add another: Things I have no business doing.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s the end of the year, or because I’ve simply lost all good sense by the time the 12th month rolls around, but it’s wreaking havoc on me.

As I commented in my previous post, for some reason I have this yearning to be creative at Christmas time. However, as I was unable to locate a single wreath shaped piece of styrofoam at Michael’s, my creative itch remains fundamentally un-scratched.

However, thanks to the office pot luck, I was able to channel some of that creative energy into baking. As hubby is typically the chef in the house, this was one of those things I haven’t done – from scratch – in probably ten years. I decided to make Ginger snap cookies in snowflake shapes. (Ah, how adorable!) Yeah, right. I get this genius idea on a work night and start the process of grating a real ginger root at about 6:00.

Challenge number one: When a recipe tells you to use a standing mixer with paddles, they are NOT jacking around. I do not have such a machine, however, so I mixed it by hand. No big deal, right? Wrong. My wrist began to spasm and twitch so badly I spilled my old-fashioned all over myself while trying to take a sip. Now THAT’s tragic.

Challenge number two: Icing. I don’t have one of those icing decorator squeezy things, (people who know their way around baking tools, please stop yelling at me), and I bought the wrong size decorative tip to go on the tube of icing I purchased, so I had to give up and just spread the icing on the cookies with a knife. This really isn’t a tragedy, but I had a picture in my head of these lovely cookies decorated with lacy white icing, so it was disappointing to someone who is crazy, like I am. Plus, I was up WAY past my bedtime.

By the end of this little process I hated the cookies and the icing, and the pot luck idea. Some people actually liked the cookies though, so in the end, it was all worth it.

Not really. But what I do know now is WHY I haven’t baked in umpteen years.

Strangely, this didn’t dampen my adventurous holiday spirit. I actually decided to do something else I hadn’t done in forever. Ride a bike. Seriously, I have not been on a bike in eons. Even the early news to friends and family (casually) that I was going on a bike ride in the afternoon resulted in gasps and in one case (my mother) begging me not to do it. “Not right before Christmas, Ann! We don’t need another injury!” In response I did what I have done since I was 6. I waved away her concern and told her I’d be fine. Hey, I’m EVENTUALLY fine, after a period of recovery.

So my husband, (whose idea this was), and who obviously has it out for me, decides to put me in shorts and big gloves and a helmet and ear covers and some sort of goggles and points a terrified, unbalanced (in many ways) me toward the street on a bicycle – with him in the lead. I won’t go into detail, but we rode too far, too seriously and on streets that were too bumpy and too up hill on our way to the lake. Then we headed back. Somehow both ways were up hill. I swear. Really.

There was one brief moment when I thought I was going to get hit by a car, but I have been reassured that the guy saw me and was totally NOT going to run me over. Truthfully, I don’t think I really would have minded being run over at that point. In fact, it might have been the bike’s attempt to commit suicide when it stopped in the middle of the three lanes of northbound traffic. Maybe bikes are like horses and can smell fear and inexperience.

I also discovered that extreme exercise when your body is not used to doing more than walking up a flight of stairs at a leisurely pace results in the vocabulary of a sailor. A very salty sailor. Plus, at one point, in an attempt to motivate myself up one of those hills, I pedaled in rhythm to this mantra as I glared at hubby’s back – “I will get you… I will get you…must sleep some time…must sleep some time…”

I think I will go back out on the bike again sometime. Maybe when the sun is out and it’s a little warmer than 58 degrees. Now it’s a challenge and I HAVE to win.

Plus, I’d rather attempt crossing 6 lanes of traffic on the bike than blend that cookie dough by hand again.

Other things I have done in the past week I have no business doing? Speaking to homeless people, mailing anything to an international destination, pretending I can design attractive things on Zazzle and shopping online.

I think there’s something I’m forgetting about handing a three-year old a glass of chocolate milk when she’s sitting on my antique Chippendale sofa, but surely even I wouldn’t be as insane as to do something like that.

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‘TIS THE SEASON TO MAKE A HOT MESS

Someone make it stop. It’s that holly jolly time of year when I inexplicably forget all evidence to the contrary and decide that I’m “crafty.” Not “plot a coup” crafty. “Grab a glue gun and get busy” crafty.

The problem with that is – well, there are multiple problems with this. There’s a difference… a WORLD of difference between creative and crafty. If I were truly a craft-type person, I would own a glue gun. I don’t. In fact, I’m kind of afraid of the damage I might do with hot glue. So far, I have managed to refrain from purchasing one, although I do eye them warily in the store and have reached for one every now and again before regaining control. It’s as if I realize we COULD have a relationship, but it would be an unhealthy one.

How do people do this? Everyone I know is busy making homemade biscotti or sewing quilts, or knitting or making photo books or basket weaving or making a homemade nativity scene out of paper mache and spit. It’s annoying. It’s enough to give a girl a complex. Especially this girl.

The urge to craft must be genetic. Years ago, my mother, who had the good sense to work with florist wire instead of glue, made Christmas wreaths. I still have the one she gave me almost 20 years ago. I’ve refurbished it a bit, re-attaching parts with wire and replacing items as they become too weathered or broken, but I still think of it as hers.

 

Then there’s my fraternal grandmother. She was an amazing seamstress. Gertie made rag dolls, clothes, decorations and quilts that were truly works of art. Many went to the church bazaar each year, but I have a collection of her Christmas ornaments I use every year on my tree. Sometimes I get the urge to leave them in the closet and decorate with beautiful glass or fabric and gemstone / glittery ornaments – color coordinated in jewel tones or shades of blue and purple… but I scrap the idea when I think of a “decorator” tree versus the “handmade” tree.

Here’s a selection of some of my favorites.

    

Seriously. Look at the detail on these. The eyelashes are little tiny stitches.

I adore this little rosy-cheeked Eskimo. The fringe, the little toothpick (spear) in his hand. (Don’t think about the baby seals.)

Then there’s the Snowman and his mittens and scarf. His eyelashes are stitched as well.

So perhaps you can see where I might get the impression I’m supposed to CREATE something for Christmas. Something the boys can share with their kids someday. Something that generations to come will pull out of a dusty box and say, “Oh! I remember this! Crazy old Ann made this!”

Therefore, against my better judgement I am pondering a trip to Michael’s, where I will wander about staring blankly at decorative ribbon, styrofoam, felt, glitter, fake evergreens and holly. In the end, I will spend $45+ dollars to come home and make a mess. I know this because it’s an annual event, and as you may have noticed, you are not viewing any pictures of anything I made. That would be because nothing exists. I might as well go to Michael’s and pay the guy at the floral desk $45 dollars to mock me. The end result would be the same but my fingers wouldn’t be glued together.   

Wish me luck on my creative adventure. If nothing else, maybe someday, when one of the boys is playing with his son or daughter on the rug they “inherited” from us, they will find a tiny sequin superglued to a bit of fringe and say, “Hey! I remember this! This is from that year Ann tried to make homemade ornaments! Man, could she cuss!”

I HAVE NO IDEA

I’d like to be able to say I get my ideas from quiet moments of reflection, enjoying the unspoiled beauty of nature and letting the cares of the world fall away. However, that would be a lie.

The truth is I am more often than not an innocent bystander to a happy idea accident, rather than a conscious participant. It rarely does me any good to try to force creativity. “I need a good idea NOW.” Ha! Much like a clean restroom on a road trip, there’s never one around when you need it.

My best ideas come out of nowhere, often when I’m in the shower or driving to or from work. Sometimes they come to me at 3:00 AM. (A little advice for others with the 3:00 AM idea generator. Always write it down. You are NOT going to remember it, even though your sleep-addled brain tells you it’s such a great idea there’s NO WAY you could forget it. The sleepy brain is a lying brain.)

There’s obviously some little part of my mind that is “cooking” in the background, trying a little of this and a little of that until it’s ready. Sometimes it comes out like my occasional home-cooked dinners; interesting, but not an experience I’d like to repeat. Other times the result is something I’m quite proud of, but have no idea how to re-create.

Which reminds me. My stepson wants meatloaf tonight and I have no idea what I did to it last time, but man, it was good. Maybe something will come to me…

For more ideas about where ideas come from, click the link below.

#Let’s BlogOff