Best Christmas Decorations EVER-Haters, Line Up! Yoo Hoo, Pinterest, I’m Calling YOU!

 I hope you enjoy a repeat of one of my most clicked on posts of 2012 while I spend a little time with my tugboat man and my son, Angel Boy.
…..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     …..     

It was last year that I was inspired by other topnotch decorators who so kindly blogged about their DIY Christmas tree masterpieces.

In fact, I was so inspired and so thrilled to be stuck here all alone for the millionth time during the holidays that I created a masterpiece of my own, just for you, my loving internet family.

As I looked around my house, the elliptical seemed like it had the best “bones” to adorn.

Plus, it had a ready-made beverage holder!

I didn’t have any Maxi-pads or other feminine hygiene products–‘cos THAT ship has sailed–if you know what I mean. (Hey cool, a nautical reference jauntily tossed in. Damn, I’m good!)

I added a toilet paper garland, a couple of Sophie Kinsella novels, two glittery seashell ornaments, a bottle of wine in the beverage holder, a white plastic poinsettia, a few EMPTY gift bags, and a festive plush Hello Kitty toy.

You can’t really see it very good, but there’s a chocolate bar too, which I don’t have to share with anyone! I’m such a lucky girl! This is the best use I’ve found for the elliptical. Hanging freshly ironed shirts hanging on it is a close second.

Now you can carry on with your day; just take a moment to let it all sink in.

The moral of the story is that it might not be a good idea to leave Princes Rosebud alone for long periods of time.

Don’t HATE…Emulate.

Decorated for Christmas elliptical

Property of Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife

decorated elliptical

Property of Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife

Dear WordPress…What Am I, CHOPPED LIVER?

What am I, chopped liver?When I was little Princess Rosebud growing up in Detroit,  my mom used to be the Queen of chopped liver.

At Channukah and Sukkos and the High Holidays, our family would come from miles around to chow down on her spectacular cooking and baking, including that tasty, albeit ugly, liver-y creation. Even a sprinkling of chopped hardboiled egg and parsley couldn’t mask the grey/brown blob of mushed up, mashed up internal organ.

Oh, and gribones, which is an artery clogging mixture of fried chicken skins, onions, and schmaltz, which is chicken FAT. Rendered chicken fat. Jars of it in the back of the refrigerator. GAG.

According to Wiki: The word gribenes is related to Griebe (plural Grieben) in various German dialects (from Old High German griobo via Middle High German griebe),[2] where Griebenschmalz is lard from which the cracklings have not been removed. German “Geriebenes” is a matter which has been grated or ground, from German “reiben”, to grind.

No wonder I became a veg.

schroncefgsula.blogspot.com

schroncefgsula.blogspot.com

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1971, when I was still in high school. I haven’t had a taste or even a morsel of meat nor fowl since then, including the liver, chopped or otherwise, of any living creature.

Why the chopped liver memories?

For the longest time, I’ve felt like I’m the human embodiment of chopped liver, ‘cos it seems that I’m the ONLY blog in the entire family of WordPress blogs that hasn’t ever been chosen to be Freshly Pressed.

I’m very sad.

I read a lot of Freshly Pressed posts, and I ponder.

I scratch my head —  and it’s not that I begrudge the recipients who’re chosen, but I’ve held an objective mirror up to my writing and my subject matter and my unique voice, and I truly believe it’s GOOD. In some cases, way better than the lucky bloggers who can boast of being Freshly Pressed.

Lots of people tell me I’m good. Even my son tells me I’m a good writer and he’s pretty stingy with his compliments, which make them all the more valuable — plus he’s a Yale professor AND author, so I take his praise with more than a few grains of salt.

I’ve had readers wonder why they don’t see me in Freshly Pressed, when other bloggers have had multiple posts chosen.

In my not-really-humble opinion, It’s a travesty.

On a serious note, it reeks of favoritism and might as well be advertising and promotion for ONE blogger at the expense of many other worthy writers.

There. I’m finished now.

That’s my Friday rant.

Tonight I’ll light some shabbat candles and wish really hard that one day SOON, I can proudly display a Freshly Pressed badge on my blog.

Dreams CAN come true, ya know.

Hello? WordPress? Can you hear me??

Can you hear me NOW?

A Wanted Child

I am of the opinion that the global interest (and/or disdain)  in the birth of Britain’s future king is really less about the trappings of wealth and royal life — the gene pool and history he’s born into –than our forlorn and seemingly irretrievable collective absence of moms and dads who devote their lives to their babies.

As happy as I am for the birth of George Alexander Louis, His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. this newborn who will be king, it makes me equally as sad for all the babies born that are NOT going to be as loved or wanted or properly cared for or parented.

All babies should be as loved as this one, all children deserve to feel like a prince or a princess, not like an unwanted nuisance or an accessory to be displayed when it’s convenient –and ignored when it’s not.

All children should be gazed upon with unconditional love, devotion, and dedication.

Over the years, I’ve observed enough parent/child interactions to believe that we may have forfeited the desire and commitment to raising a brand new human with lifelong dedication and passion–and love.

The bond between parent and child is one of the strongest connections in nature –or it should be.

I was again reminded how that’s not always the case when my tugboat man and I were at Barnes and Noble in Orange County a couple days ago.

He had most kindly driven me to Chanel because I lost a screw in the hardware of my Grand Shopper Tote and their only method of replacement involved bringing the bag to them, which was most def NOT a hardship. LOL. My sweet hubs drove me ‘cos of the limited use of my still only semi-functioning left arm — three more weeks of this stupid cast…

After going to Chanel and browsing through as many other stores as his patience would allow (he obvs does not share my same passion to discover the treasure of a perfect wedge) his sanctuary was the bookstore whilst I continued my search at the Nord Outlet.

Unfortunately though, my heart’s desire was not to be realized that day — no wedge for me…so I walked next door and I found my mariner among the stacks of maritime-related books–sooo predictable.

As we waited in line to pay for his books, there was a mom and a boy who looked to be about four-years-old. He was talking to her — trying to talk to her — about toys, books, whatever, just the adorable stream-of-consciousness conversation of a little one — and he was being ignored.

Mom was scrolling through her smart phone, reading a text, responding to a text, all the while she selfishly sacrificed this glorious opportunity to “be present in the moment” with her bright little boy.

Finally, after several minutes of trying to elicit a response, to be heard, to be acknowledged, to garner her oh-so-valuable attention, he put his hand up as if to physically block her from seeing the phone and said in a resigned tone that left me no doubt he’s said this before;

“No phone, Momma, no phone. Me, Momma, ME.

No phone.”

At that point, she looked up, turned away from him, and responded,

“Just a minute. Just a minute. Stop. I’m almost done.”

By the crestfallen look on his face, it was too late.

The spark of light had gone out of his eyes.

Poof, just like that.

It was a precious moment forever lost.

Hubs and I shook our heads. We felt so sad for this boy and disgusted with his clueless mom.

Ah well, I feel like a dinosaur.

My Angel Boy was wanted and cherished — from the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mom — I knew that for me, there would be nothing more fulfilling than the joy caring for a baby and helping that new life grow; nurturing his interests, curiosity, and imagination.

His Montessori Kindergarten teacher once said to me (in her adorable French accent):

“Jay-sohn seez ze world een heez own way.”

Jason sees the world in his own way.

He still does, and I can think of no better validation of my job as his mom.

Were there bad and neglectful parents before the invention of technology and social media?

Of course there were.

It just seems as if phones and video games have become an overwhelming distraction — and the focus of daily existence. Caring for a home and family is pushed way down the list.

Our values are skewed — in my (unpopular) opinion.

Prince-William-and-Kate-royal-baby-2082438The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, gazing upon their newborn with such unabashed love, reminds me of a playground song:

“First comes love, then comes marriage.
Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.”

People who don’t want the serious and lifelong responsibility of having children should not have them.

It’s that simple.

Let’s treat our children like they’re the most special people in the world, OK?

I’m shouting this to the world in general…

“Moms and Dads, get off your phones!
Please, PAY ATTENTION to your children.
They’re more important than TWITTER,  FACEBOOK, or any other inanimate object.”

Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (Tree)

Bird droppings make great jam.

Perhaps generated by seeds embedded in bird poop; I’m not sure where this tree came from — I never planted it  — but one day there was a little sprout and a few years later it bore its first harvest.

We have two mulberry trees in our yard; the volunteer is fruit-bearing, the other that provides shade to the deck, is not.

silkwormcloseupSilkworms eat mulberry leaves; maybe I could raise a few silkworms and spin my own fabric — except worms are kinda gross, so I guess not.

mulberry tree3

Technically, the fruit of a mulberry is not a berry but a collective fruit, in appearance like a swollen loganberry. When the flowers are pollinated, they and their fleshy bases begin to swell. Ultimately, they become completely altered in texture and color, becoming succulent, fat and full of juice.

In appearance, each tiny swollen flower roughly resembles the individual drupe of a blackberry. Mulberries ripen over an extended period of time unlike many other fruits which seem to come all at once. {Wiki} They’re very sweet and mild.

mulberry tree2

mulberry tree

I learned from Martha Stewart to spread an old sheet on the ground and shake the tree. All the ripe fruit fall; I wash, dry, and freeze in quart bags. So far, I have about eight quarts and the tree’s not done. Raccoons come by at night and gorge themselves;  during the day, crows and other birds eat from the very highest branches.

mulberrysheetA bowl of mulberries.mulberrybowl

Three beautiful specimens. I add them right from the freezer to smoothies and cobblers and I’ll make a batch of jam, too. If I have enough, I’ll make a pie.

mulberry3

Mulberry Jam
(This recipe uses no pectin)

  • 2 1/2 cups mulberries, rinsed (the tiny green stems do not need to be removed)
  • Approximately one cup granulated sugar (I start with a very small amount of sugar and keep tasting. You can try agave, too.)
  • 3 tablespoons water
    Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop heat to medium-low and add jars and their lids. Simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars and lids and place on a clean towel to let cool.
    In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, combine mulberries, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, boil for one minute, then drop to a simmer. Cook fruit, stirring occasionally, until foam subsides and mixture thickens slightly, about 7 minutes.
    Using a ladle, carefully transfer hot jam to sterilized jars. Wipe mouths of jars clean and screw on lids very tightly. Let cool at room temperature for at least 8 hours before using.

Sunday Blues

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Baby Daddy Day

Happy Deadbeat Dad Day

Tugboat Man Update

There are only a few blues in my garden — I wish I could successfully grow hydrangeas, but I think the soil would need a major overhaul.

I found these blues on my morning tour (to see if any more sick squirrels came to visit.)

Lily of the Nile, also known as Agapanthus…
against a backdrop of neon-pink Sweetpea Bush.

LilyoftheNile2 LilyoftheNile

An artichoke that didn’t get picked in time to eat. 

artichoke2

Lots of unpicked artichokes…see what the captain missed?

artichoke1

The only other blue is the flower from Ajuga, a ground cover.

ajuga

 

The Lovely Luscious Loquat (Jam)

I wish all of you could taste a freshly picked juicy loquat. It’s not a kumquat or even a distant relation… loquatsI posted a pic of our loquat tree on my Facebook page and was really surprised to learn how many have never tasted this juicy sweet fruit.

Thin velvety skin embraces yellowy orange flesh that tastes  like a cross between an apricot and a peach.

loquatseededIf you have a chance to try them, just remember, the seeds are extremely toxic! They contain many toxic alkaloids like cyanogen-glycosides.

Loquats grow all over my SoCal neighborhood — everyone seems to have at least one or two trees and they’re very prolific producers — but no one knows what to do with them, which is really too bad because they’re full of nutrition.

  • Low in calorie,, rich in insoluble dietary fiber; pectin.
  •  Excellent source of vitamins A and C, rich in potassium and some B-complex vitamins such as folates, vitamin B-6, and niacin.

Plus, loquat jam is delicious.

A couple days ago, I made a batch of loquat jam with this simple recipe:

Loquat Jam


Directions:

In a large pot, add…

Twelve cups seeded loquats.
Leave the skins on but cut off the blossom end.
Five to six cups of sugar.
I used white sugar, but I’m sure you could play around with the amounts and use agave nectar or honey.
Two tablespoons cinnamon. Loquats are slightly bland and really respond well to spices. Pour over enough water to cover the fruit.
Cover with a lid, quickly bring to a boil, and allow to boil for five minutes.
Turn down the flame to simmer, uncover, and cook for a couple of hours, stirring with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn.
After a couple hours or so, take an immersion blender pureed the fruit (the skins disappear), and continued to cook for another hour.
After tasting it, I added a bit more cinnamon and three tablespoons of lemon juice which really helped the flavors develop.
I wanted to turn it more apple butter-like and thick, so I carefully poured it into a crockpot and let it cook on low all night.
In the morning, wash canning jars and lids with hot soapy water, rinse with hot water. Fill jars with hot jam and put the lids on, but don’t tighten too much. As the jam cools, you’ll hear popping sounds which means the lids are sealing. When the jars are cool to touch, tighten the lids a bit more and refrigerate.

Loquats in bowl

Just started the cooking process. It was a real surprise to watch the cooked loquats turn a deep rich burgundy.

Cooking loquats

Use an immersion blender to puree.

Time to sleep in the crockpot all night and get nice and thick.

Crockpot loquat

I’m really happy with the results. It looks a lot like apple butter.

Loquat in bowl

Jars and jars of jam! I’m refrigerating them; didn’t feel like going through the hot bath canning process.

Jars of loquat jamMore ways to preserve the bountiful abundance of loquats:

  • I’m freezing some fruit whole to use in smoothies.
  • Drying the leaves to make loquat tea.
  • Loquat salsa, like mango salsa.
  • Loquat cobbler. YUM.
  • Chutney

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemoncupcakesingle

My version topped with a lush garden strawberry

A while back I read Our Growing Paynes post about Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. (Click here for their recipe.)

I love anything lemony and it looked so amazing and mouth-watering that I had to try it.

There’s a tangy sweet burst of lemon curd and fluffy meringue in every bite.

It brings out the Nigella Lawson in me to try and conjure up sensual adjectives to describe how they taste.

chocolate babkaMy tugboat man said it was the best thing I’ve ever made, and ranked it right up there with the Chocolate Babka I made a while back.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Lemon curd, cupcakes, and toasty meringue…how could it be anything but spectacular?

I made the Lemon Curd the day before.. the old school way with my mom’s vintage double boiler. There’s an easier microwave version that has great reviews; try that one if you’re short on time. This is the recipe I used:

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Whisk eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a double boiler over simmering water until mixed well, then continue to stir until thick, 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain through a mesh sieve to get rid of lumps. Fold in butter until well incorporated. Mix in lemon zest. Cover curd and chill in the refrigerator until it’s thickened, about four hours. Very important to sieve it, don’t skip this step.

The finished product. So smooth. Like lemon velvet.lemon curd

The vanilla cupcakes ready and waiting for embellishment and a little sparkle.
vanilla lemon cupcakes

The meringue.
lemoncupcake4

It’s fun to core out a bit of the cupcake ‘cos you can eat the middle and pretend it doesn’t have any calories. I used a tomato stem end corer —
a weird but very useful tool. Works great for strawberries, too.
tomato stem end corer

Fill holes with lemon curd and spoon meringue on top in fluffy clouds of goodness.
Place in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. Don’t go too far away because it takes just a second to go from beautifully toasty brown to burnt.
Lemncupcakes3

Out of the oven, I topped each with a lush garden strawberry.lemonmerenguecupcake1

That first bite… Cake, lemon curd, meringue.
ABSOLUTE HEAVEN.
There are no other words necessary.
Thank you, Our Growing Paynes!lemonmerenguecupcake2

 I’ll make it again for the captain’s welcome home dessert. 

Hello Kitty Is My Soul Sister: Princess Rosebud’s Hello Kitty Birthday Party

Taking my son to the airport after a fun week of Mother’s Day and birthday celebrations, he says in that snarky tone he’s perfected after thirty-two years,

“What’s the deal with you and Hello Kitty?”

Hello Kitty 4My tugboat man, who also serves as my HK enabler ‘cos he thinks I’m adorable – uh, note to single girls — only marry a guy if he thinks everything you do is adorable — responded,

“Hello Kitty is for girly girls and your mom is one-thousand-percent girly girl.”

Well said, my captain, well said.

I’ve thought a lot about the reasons why I’m so drawn to Hello Kitty and I think it’s ‘cos she’s like my pretend soul sister.

HKwatchThe Urban Dictionary defines soul sister as “someone who fully understands you.”

Yup, that’s about right.

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first became aware of Hello Kitty.

With a son, it was never really on my radar as he was growing up. Shelves full of dinosaurs and skateboards were the aisles we aimed for at Toys R Us. We dug in the dirt; not so much matching dresses or spa days for us.

hello kitty pajamas and slippers

Sexxxyyy!!

I guess it was more of a gradual appeal;  a (grown-up) friend wore a Hello Kitty watch and I was drooling — drawn to the Swarovski crystals surrounding HK’s face and I HAD to get my own; I walked by a Hello Kitty display at Target (great point of purchase placement)…

OR

…maybe it was always hovering in my subconscious, fermenting and fomenting—until one day I succumbed.

hellokittycupI was hooked.

I fell in love with that adorable mouthless face. One watch led to a ring and to a matching bracelet and then slippers, and OMG the cutest hat with an anchor! (!!!! had to have it, right? It was a nautical theme)hkhat

OK, most people associate HK with little girls, but did you know that there is a secret society of adult women who collect HK?

More often than not, when I wear my HK tee-shirt, I’ll be approached by women I do not know,

Princess Rosebud wearing glasses.

Princess Rosebud wearing glasses.

“Pssst…excuse me” [pointing to my shirt]…do you collect?”

It’s like the Skull and Bones society for women “of a certain age.” Haha.

I confess: I’m an ADULT COLLECTOR of HK. Recently at the Baltimore Airport during a layover, a Southwest employee saw my HK watch and struck up a convo about her collection that includes the HK toaster, which I really need. Really.

We were whispering, “Are you one of us?” “Yes, tell me what you have” and we each listed the items in our collection.

There we were, two college graduated women of adult children — I am not kidding. It was surreal. I mean, who wants to talk about the depressing economy or the strange weather? BORING! Hello Kitty is a sweet, innocent diversion that makes us happy. What could be wrong with that?

Since I really can’t for the life of me logically explain the appeal,  I wanted to explore the psychology of adult women who are obsessed with  enamored of HK and thought someone should write their dissertation about the marketing genius of this huge pink kitty head with a bow. And sparkles.

I discovered a WordPress blog that seems to be a dissertation of sorts; check out http://hellokittydevotee.wordpress.com/dissertation/

BTW, HK is worth about FIVE BILLION DOLLARS yearly in licensing. And finally the ultimate…did you know that HK teamed up with one of Taiwan‘s biggest airlines? What a great experience–a Hello Kitty extravaganza; from meals to mascots to boarding passes.
hellokittyairlines2hellokittyairlines

HKparty1Which might in some small way explain the excitement I felt for my very first Hello Kitty Birthday Party! I’m not going to tell you how old I am; does it REALLY matter? I think not.

We spent the morning and early afternoon hiking Crystal Cove State Park (read about that HERE). When we returned home, hubs was exhausted and immediately fell asleep.

So much for that birthday cake he was sposed to make.

chocolatecoconuticecream

Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream

I threw together a One-Bowl Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting and Chocoate Coconut Ice Cream.

The cake was out of the oven and cooling before he woke up. Figures, right? If you want something done, ya gotta do it yourself. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I challenged my tugboat man and my son to create dinner all by themselves. OK. We’re talking a Ph.D. Yale professor and a maritime academy graduate with a BS in Engineering.

Two smart, functional, adult men, right?

OMG, watching them write a grocery list and take off to the store offered tons of fun.

“Mom, do you have jicama? Mom, where’s a knife?” “Rosebud, can you chop this onion for me? Uh — how do you chop cilantro?”

I kept looking up recipes on my computer because I felt sorry for them.

Birthday barbecue

Hubs chose to make Mango Salsa with Blue Corn Chips for his appetizer; my son’s contribution was a Jicama Kumquat Salad. It was delicious.

I thought it’d be a good idea to barbecue because I had a feeling the kitchen was going to take me a week to clean up. This was a smart decision. We had potatoes, asparagus, beets (from the garden), corn, Smart Dogs, and it was all absolutely yummy.

Best of all, it was made with love.

HKparty2

keep-calm-and-love-hello-kitty-165

The Convoluted Logic of Our Mother’s Day Tradition

depositphotos_5078841-Happy-Mothers-Day-with-Daisy-FlowersIt started with my own mom; she presented ME with gifts on Mother’s Day — thanking me for being her daughter — and any excuse to shop is a good one, right?

I was born on Mother’s Day, so it makes sense to give me lots and lots of presents. Even though it only occurs that way every seven years, it’s still always within the same week.

I enthusiastically carry on the tradition with my son; well, because — uh –if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have a reason to celebrate Mother’s Day at all, would I?

As my son would say, “Duh.”

This year I got him an array of products from Kiehls — skin cream, shaving cream, shampoo, and penned a mini-poem:

You have always been my Angel Boy

As your mom

Every day has been filled with joy.

Other girls wanted to be doctors, lawyers, teachers — all I ever wanted to be was a mom.

While all the other mommies are having breakfast or brunch or lunch, I’ll be spending my day driving to the airport to for a Southwest Airlines delivery of my Angel Boy. Can’t wait!

Best of all, he’ll be here all week and that is my best birthday present ever.

Happy Mother’s Day to cat and dog lovers!

crazycatlady

 

happy-mothers-day-bitches

An Enchanted Book Review: “where we belong”

One of the few joys I look forward to as an on again-off again single woman when my tugboat man goes out to sea is the freedom to read in bed as long as I want, without being told to “turn the light out and put the book down.”

That’s why I was soo excited to find a new Emily Giffen novel.2012-WhereWeBelong

where we belong (click on the title to read a chapter preview), is a radical departure from her other novels, and I’ve read them all:

An Emily Giffen story is usually so fun and captivating —  it’s like comfort food with the classic story structure: action, background, conflict, development, and the ending — with a happily ever after.

I want, I want, I want...

I’m pretty easy to please when i read chick lit. I don’t ask for much — a little romance, a little fashion, a little roadblock to the romance, some witty repartee, conflict resolution, and a happy ending with a huge diamond.

But not this time. What a disappointment this was!

[Spoiler alert]

Giffen’s character development was flat, stereotypical, and full of cliches.  The entire premise was kind of hard for me to believe. A teenager (Marian) gets pregnant, tells her mom but no one else — not the teen’s dad nor the teen’s boyfriend (Conrad); they conspire to hide her away somewhere until she gives birth and subsequently offers up the three-day-old child for adoption, and immediately gets on with her life to eventually become a successful producer of televison shows. Eighteen years later, the child (Kirby) searches for her birth mother and father, and ultimately all four parents attend her high school graduation. The reader is left with the hint that the bio-parents still have the hots for each other.

That’s it!

That’s all I got out of it the 372 pages.

My overwhelming feeling is that Giffen is looking to cash in on another series — will they or won’t they act on their feelings? Even the Reading Guide hints at this: “What do you think happens after the last page in this novel is turned? What future do you see for Kirby, Marian, and Conrad?

Sorry Emily Giffen, I’m not a fan of this one.

Have you read this one? Let me know what you think about it.