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Friday, January 11, 2008

Big, Bad Wolves

Senorita Capasita Roja
Thank you for all the mama support in my last post. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all find the same in our local communities?

With my remaining half brain cell that is still functioning, I've been attempting to have some Deep Thoughts (tm). You know — the who am I? what am I doing? kind of stuff. Plus, I'm revisiting why I'm not so nice to people sometimes. You don't see a lot of the Mean Michelle here. But, if you were my sister — woo boy — you would have lived it. If you were some young girl wearing the wrong clothes and drawing the wrong thing in high school art class, you probably got an earful, too. What is wrong with my brain/self that would have me do such things? The pathetic thing is that I still have that big bad wolf in me. Get close enough and I *will* bite you at some point.

Then, today, a friend sent a link about a possible/probable design theft. That kind of stuff really makes me want to bite someone.

Speaking of teeth: Has anyone had a young child put under full sedation for dental work? My little guy has three cavities, older bro has none. It's not as bad as some things, but I still feel like a horrible parent. Maybe I passed on weak DNA, or didn't brush enough, or nursed on demand, or shared my nasty mouth flora. And, now, I'll have to put him in what seems like a dangerous situation because of it. [insert mama wolf growl here]

And, while I'm at it: would someone, please, turn up the daylight hours or fast forward to spring? Remember the what-does-your-calendar-year-look-like idea? Well, mine is a vertical format with January at the top — pretty standard stuff — but, for me, winter is over after New Year's eve. January 1st should be the first day of spring. And, on my calendar the seasons are not created equal. Spring, summer, and fall can split up eleven months as they wish, but old man winter only gets December.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Always Let Them See You Sweat

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Before I get into my rant, let me direct you to my glue-set zipper tutorial over at Sew, Mama, Sew. I got both of these wonderful fabrics from Kristin's online shop. Don'tcha love 'em?


My admiration and appreciation of the people I know and love went up exponentially today. I've been putting off taking a photo of myself in my latest sewing creations because I knew it would be painful at best. We don't have a full-length mirror, so I was expecting a rude awakening. Well, let me tell you, it was a RUDE AWAKENING. I had to call up Bethany immediately afterwards for some talking down and to tell her how awesome her photos are. If my sister was home I would have called her, too — again, awesome photos. I guess all my years of letting myself go —not caring what people think, expecting the world to love me as-is or not at all — have caught up. The Spandau Ballet hair cut that I gave myself isn't helping any. Note to self: Don't cut your hair when in a bad mood surrounded by screaming, annoying children.

Now what we have here are the best of the photoshoot, the silliest of the silly. Believe it, or not, these are not the photos that highlighted my ham-sized arms, or the ones that showed what could be, but isn't, an eight-months-pregnant belly. While taking the photos I followed Bethany's suggestion: to think something silly. Alicia P. had a similar idea. I took it further by doing something silly, too — this helped, I think. Then, the best trick of them all, I hid behind something cute — smoke and mirrors, right?

Apparently I'm OK with showing my silly side, or my sweaty unshaven underarm side, as it were. This is, in part, a direct response to one blogger's idea about good marketing being something where you hide all the work that goes into something well done — the never-let-them-see-you-sweat method. Of course, this unnamed blogger is hugely popular and will probably be the next Martha, so I guess she's right, if financial success is your goal. I just don't have "good marketing" goals. I've been in that industry and it's something I'd like to avoid as much as possible. Bleh.

The love part of this post comes in with the appreciation of all the nice things my husband says to me. That man is a saint, I tell ya. I can be my stinkiest no-bath-having sweat-pants-or-baggy-overalls-wearing self and he will tell me I'm beautiful, that I look cute. His son is learning well by him, a future good mate for sure. As I got dressed for the photoshoot my son said, "That looks nice, mama." That's the best full-length mirror there is.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Miss George

My friend Andy is an organic farmer and a writer. I'd like to share this story that he wrote after George Harrison (25 Feb 1943 – 29 Nov 2001) died. It's about a rock star, some red carrots, and huge agribusiness.

Somewhere Near Salinas
by Andrew Griffin

When I turned on the radio at dawn a few weeks back and heard George Harrison's song, "All Things Must Pass," I figured the one-time Beatle had died. Cancer. I loved the Beatles. The song faded and the sky brightened but my mind lingered on the melody, remembering the Beatles and their music. I remembered Shelby Moss got kicked out of elementary school in '64 because his "long" Beatle haircut provoked an outrage which reminded me that Bobby Slaughter got suspended from high school in '76 because his skinhead look was deemed disruptive. They're probably both bald now; all things must pass. My reverie carried me and my cup of coffee from school to Strawberry Fields, and from Pepperland all the way to India before coming to a halt for a red light at the intersection of highway sixty eight and Blanco Road on the outskirts of Salinas.

You know Salinas. Steinbeck set his novel East of Eden near Salinas. Janis Joplin sang of losing her lover "somewhere near Salinas" in the ballad Me and Bobby McGee that she covered on her last record album. When Salinas isn't a cold and windy back drop for tales of fraternal jealousy, murder, heartbreak and lost love it is the cold and windy capital of California's fresh produce industry. I go there often to buy boxes, labels, staples, seeds or irrigation supplies. I grew up near there too, in the mountains to the south and east, visiting often enough but never quite warming to its frigid charm.

One day maybe 27, 28 years ago my mother, sister and I were leaving Salinas on Highway 68 in our Volkswagen bus. Mom pulled up at the stoplight at the intersection with Blanco Road right in from of Star Market. Another Volkswagen bus, older and rattier than ours, was idling in the next lane. My mother glanced over at the other vehicle and remarked how the driver looked like George Harrison. The resemblance was so striking it was funny. We all had a good laugh. I remember thinking that someday I would be able to measure my wealth by the distance I had traveled from Salinas. Several miles down the highway we made a left turn to go over Los Laureles Grade and the hippie bus in front of us made a right hand turn into the entrance of the Laguna Seca raceway.

Salinas 28 years ago wasn't much different than Salinas today, just smaller. Salinas is to fresh vegetables what Paris or Milan are to fashion. All the industry leaders have offices there from the titanic Dole and the behemoth T&A down to the merely gargantuan Mann Packing, Merrill Farms or Nunez companies. Massive cold storage facilities squat on the valley floor like toadstools. Long haul refrigerated semi trucks growl around waiting to be serviced by swarms of beeping, whirring forklifts. In the offices walls of clocks mark time for New York, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu and Tokyo. Inventories rise and fall like blood pressure. Salinas is impressive in its own way but it's not even remotely groovy.

A few days after our shopping trip to Salinas I was flipping through the newspaper and I noticed a photo of George Harrison in the sports section. He was posed next to a racing car in the pit at Laguna Seca taking his own turn at being someone's ardent fan.

Maybe I'm thinking about George Harrison so much today because we are digging this years first crop of red carrots. Red carrots come from India. Before Harrison's sitar solo on Norwegian Wood a lot of backwoods ignorati like myself would have hardly been aware of India's existence.

When I first grew the red carrots I sold them as Persian red carrots as per my seed dealer's instructions. An Indian woman paused in front of my market stall, paid for a big pile of the bright red roots, and then rebuked me. "The Persians have nothing they didn't steal," she said. "The carrots are Indian."

People, people, people. George Harrison tried to reach beyond the spitefulness that separates neighbors. In 1971 he used his celebrity and influence to produce the first rock and roll charity concert, the Concert for Bangladesh. Audiences, both at New York's Madison Square Gardens watching the show live and later kids like myself listening in by the record player were treated to performances by a Hindu, Ravi Shankar, India's master of the sitar, as he played for the benefit of Muslim Bangladeshis. The event was a gracious gesture that focused attention on our eternal option of forgiveness and charity over strife. We could use some of this energy now.

I've since researched the red carrot. Yes, it does come from India, but is also native across Persia and Afghanistan. It is an interesting carrot with a rich flavor. It is a very beautiful and healthy food but you don't see it here too often. My experience has taught me this is a plant which is difficult to cultivate with success outside of its native region. I've found that this carrot performs best if I plant it early in the fall for a midwinter harvest, otherwise it may go straight to flower without ever making a fat root. Indian shoppers have told me that even in India it is most common in the markets during the winter. The challenges I've faced learning when to plant it remind me of my life before I became a farmer, when I gardened for the fun of it, cultivating obscure plants just to see them grow.

George Harrison didn't spend much time on stage after The Concert for Bangladesh. He focused instead on his interest in religion and gardening. He even dedicated his autobiography to "gardeners everywhere." As a former and future gardener I could appreciate that nod of recognition. Gardening is love, art and a meditation. Farming has to be a business. George Harrison could afford to maintain lush ornamental gardens in both England and Hawaii because as a musician he'd been bought and sold like a sowbelly. His music is admirable to me because he managed so often to slide a touch of soul into even the most commercial product he performed on.

Unlike George Harrison I've never made it too far from Salinas. I've realized it doesn't matter anyhow. The chill I feel there isn't the town or the people, it's not the icy breath of the refrigerated warehouses or even the cold wind coming in off the Pacific; it's the objective logic of business that reduces food to a product and work relationship to dollars per hour that feels so cold. As long as I'm in farming I'll always have to play along with Salinas no matter where I drop seed. I enjoy a lot of what I do and I make the compromises I have to. But I try to take a cue from a guitar player I admire, and bend a few notes here and there, in spite of the conventions of my industry, just to add a little color and depth. This week red carrots are my bent note. Hello red carrots, goodbye Mr. Harrison, and see you later Salinas.

Copyright 2002 Andy Griffin


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grudge Tuesday: What Grandma Shouldn't Say (or think, for that matter)

Warning: This is not a "nice" post.

I've decided to join gwendomama and participate in Grudge Tuesdays. I was reviewing my blog tonight and mentioned to my mom how surprised I am that everything is cute. Really, my life is not all cute things. I thought I didn't even like cute. Why does cute stuff come out of me? What happened? I've always sort of fancied myself as some version of an alterna-person. I used to be defined by coworkers as "the one who dresses weird" or "an artist" or some other non-conforming kind of thing. Now I have kids and make cute stuff. Now, that's weird. So, to expose/explore some of the less cute side of my life I'm going to grudge publicly. Grudge Tuesday is supposed to be about releasing one's grudges—an online catharsis—just send your bad juju into the ether and be free of it. So here it goes.

Things my not-so-dear paternal grandmother said:

"What's wrong with the KKK, my daddy was friends with them." [Cringe]

"You know, B would be much prettier if she didn't have such big lips." This about my beautiful sister, who doesn't have big lips. And, what's wrong with big lips anyway? Isn't lip enlargement a vanity surgery?

"You have thick calves, Michelle." I was wearing Ugg boots. I know, a mistake, but still.

Here's one I didn't hear first hand, but was told to me by my mother. During a particularly bad time in my grandmother's life, when she was getting a divorce and had two children under five, she contemplated jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. The topper was that she wanted to take her kids with her so that her ex wouldn't "get to have them."

Nice woman, eh? She also physically and emotionally abused her kids. Bad, bad person. Well, you know what happens when you're a bad mom like that. Nobody cares when you die. She's still sitting in a little box in my aunt's laundry room.

Bye bye grandma.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Life as an Anthropologie Catalog (just kidding)

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
What Anthropologie doesn't tell you about all those picturesque photo locals is that there is probably no insulation in that bathroom; or about that a rat turd that fell from the no-sheetrock-having ceiling into the medicine cabinet; or the big-ass beetle that was found floating half dead in the toilet. Someone asked for inside shots of our little cabin so I took a few of the more presentable corners this weekend. Remember, nobody has lived in this house or about eighteen years give or take. It's definitely raw.

Now raw might look good in photos, but do you really want to live in it? I do and I don't. I'd like to keep the cute kitchen sink cabinet, but we are going to tear it out. It's built into the location, meaning it's not a self-contained unit. It's dark and scary and it always has a rat infestation. It came stocked with a bottle of malathion. I'm ready to start anew. We'll have a carpenter friend fashion a new one, using the old sink, to fit the tiny space—think boat galley, but no rats this time.

The bathroom is "as is" for now (3 1/2 ft by 9 1/2 ft). We ripped out an old 60/70s bathtub and will replace is with a scavenged clawfoot . With the two extra clawfoots (the ones without feet) we'll hopefully make an outdoor soaking area. If and when we get the second phase of this project we will rip out the bathroom to make a larger kitchen, maybe ten by twelve, instead of eight by ten. We have this wacky notion of making a separate bath house with water closet. The house would have no toilet—sort of a modern day outhouse situation. In six hundred square feet, I think, you just can't get far enough away from the toilet. I really don't want to cook a next to a toilet. I've done this before—makes for interesting dinner parties.

Could the refrigerator be any cuter? It came with the house and my stove, which we moved from another house I lived in, fits perfectly in the small space. What luck! Of course, the refrigerator freezes things, but we'll worry about that when we live with it. For now it keeps the beer nice and cold.

So the outside painting is almost done and we're really happy with it. We had to look at six or seven color samples before we agreed on one of our original choices, Cottage Red by Benjamin Moore. My brother-in-law has done an excellent job with a challenging situation. Thanks B!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Don't Go Into the Light: A Valentine Confession

Valentine from 2003
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I, too, am a holiday cynic...sort of. I liked Craftapalooza's truth hurts view of Valentine's Day. We share the same candy heart message of "Get Real." And, I'm dying to give someone the "You say potato, I say you look like one" card (and this coming from a pregnant woman). As you can see by the photo in my very first post, I love cynical holiday as a craft theme.

Having said that, I'm posting this photo to show my other side -- not the secret dark side, oh, that's around all the time, but the forbidden lighter side. It can happen to anyone. One day you have a kid and -- WHAMO! -- somehow you're not so cynical. Someone who was once known as Grumpelstiltzkin ends up spending hours taking photos and manipulating them to turn their child into a cupid. You might even find yourself getting weepy as you make a simple Valentine at preschool.

I'm not saying one way or the other is better, but, rather, to be authentic in your feelings and rituals that make up your holidays, be they dark or light.

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