Friday, August 21, 2015

I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Remember that famous line in the movie (or play) A Streetcar Named Desire, when Blanche DuBouis said, in that slow, deep, Southern drawl,
“Whoever you are, I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

I can totally relate to that, but my quote has a bit of a twist, and a hard-A Midwestern accent, “Whoever you are, I’ve always depended on the creativity of strangers.” My mom always used to say, “You are so creative!” Actually, I’m not. I’m so imitative. I can draw, but not with my own brain. I copy the art of others quite well. But that’s not all I copy. My friend and I were talking about how she put together a birthday party for her son about 12 years ago. The theme was SpiderMan and she put little Spiderman cutouts on toothpicks and lovingly inserted them in each party-goer’s cupcake. She had the kids wear Spiderman outfits and all of the decorations had the same theme. When I reminded her of this and admitted that I had been impressed and a little bit jealous, she said that she had to do it all herself because up here we did’t have party supply stores and we definitely didn’t have Pinterest! You can bet your banana that the next party I threw had some sort of superhero theme and decorations! These days creativity and style have made a huge leap forward in my life with the advent of Pinterest. My son’s graduation party decorations and food ideas were chosen thanks to a long evening on Pinterest, pinning and re-pinning. Deciding and changing my mind depended on the next “graduation party food ideas” pin I came across. Don’t have something to crochet? Type “crochet patterns” in the search line and Wa-La! Hundreds of ideas ready to go! I don’t even have to labor over outfits anymore. If I don’t know what to wear, I just go to my “Ideas for Improving my Wardobe” board and pick out something, then run upstairs and get dressed…once. We are getting our family pictures taken so I have a board “Family Photo” and made sure the photographer checked it out so that we can both be sure our family pictures reflect the current trends and don’t remind people of the Olan Mills Photography Studio wagon wheel and background scene hanging behind us.

In fact, when I was trying to figure out what to wear for the family pictures, I went right back to Pinterest and looked at what the other moms were wearing so I could be sure I have on just the right cardigan with boots combo to reflect my fashion-forward lifestyle. Yup, the depths of my creativity and style are endless and I am not ashamed. Thank you kind stranger.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dogs in Strollers...'nuff Said

My husband and I were recently enjoying some time in downtown Charlevoix. As usual we were talking to friends while simultaneously doing a little bit of people watching. Suddenly, Tom called out “Dawn! Look! Look!” He was point at someone carrying a small, poofy white dog in a backpack. It looked utterly ridiculous.
It looked something like this:

"Oh-my-gosh! I can't believe what I'm seeing right now!" Actually I could. Tom purposely pointed it out to me because he knows that my most recent pet peeve is seeing dogs in strollers. Yes, I said dogs in strollers. If you haven’t seen this current trend, there are actually strollers specifically designed for dogs. Nothing sends me into a full blown rant than seeing someone pushing a dog around in a stroller. We live in an area that has summer visitors who usually bring home a much higher paycheck than we do, and I can assume this considering the large yachts they have parked in our marina. So what these people do, is take their dogs from their yachts, put them in strollers, push them around town, maybe to the do their doggy “business” and then put them back in the strollers. I have tolerated the teeny-tiny dogs being carried around in purses by teenage girls, but the dogs in strollers have literally launched me into orbit. Dogs are animals that need to be exercised and should be allowed to walk (on leashes if you’re in town) and do what dogs do like smell stuff. Have you ever seen a dog looking sad on a leash? Most dogs are happily trotting along with their tails wagging and little doggy smiles on their faces. Dogs in strollers on the other hand? Sad. They just look sad. I saw a beagle in a stroller and his head was hanging over the edge and he looked like he was thinking,
            “I am dying here. Someone just shoot me now.”  Beagles should be running rabbits or digging holes in backyards. Not lying in strollers as some sort of grown-up’s babydoll.
I really think that by not letting dogs get the proper exercise they need borders on animal cruelty. Yes, I said it. Animal cruelty.  I’m not a member of PETA, if that’s what you’re thinking. When I posted an anti-dogs in strollers rant on Facebook one friend said,
            “Well what if they can’t walk very well?”
            “Then leave them at home!” I replied.
Sometimes I imagine myself walking up to one of these people and politely starting a conversation.
            “Oh is your dog handicapped? That’s so sad!”
            “No, I just like to push Lovey in this adorable stroller I got at “Stuff Dogs Don’t Need Depot” Plus her paws get all dirty when she touches the icky sidewalk and the groomer didn’t come with us on this trip”
            “Interesting. Mind if I take Lovey and give her the life she deserves? Because she is, after all A DOG!”

You know, I can see maybe a cat in a stroller. Cat’s don’t do well on leashes, but then again, cats usually stay home.
I stand corrected.

So I guess I have a point to all of this. If you want to take your dog out and explore the community with you, put Foo-Foo on a leash and let her explore like she was created to do. Otherwise, leave her on the yacht so she can sleep, the other thing dogs were created to do. I’m thinking of starting an organization. I’m going to call it “People Against Dogs in Strollers” or PADS for short.

Caution: Disturbing Pictures of Dogs in Strollers

Isn't this soooo cute and fashionable? NOT!

Please God, make it stop!

Is that just about the saddest thing you've ever seen?

Or that? Is it a cage or a lobster trap?

Um. Yeah.

And finally, the lady gets to run and the dog doesn't and nobody has a problem with that?

Brussel Sprouts? I Just Can't Go There.

For some reason this post is publishing weird. I know it's distracting, but I can't figure out why it's doing this, so hopefully it won't bug you as much as it's bugging me! Must be the brussel sprouts.

I love to cook. I will try to cook almost anything. Over the years I have learned that things I thought tasted bad (broccoli, peas), are actually good when cooked properly. I love websites like Pinterest and apps like Yummly, on which I can spend hours pinning or “yum’ing” hundreds of recipes. This summer I have been trying to use my CSA veggies that we get from Bluestem Farms to try new things. Roasting vegetables has been one way that I have been experimenting with unfamiliar foods like radishes and beets. I have really been stretching the limits of my culinary experimentation even when it has come to using ingredients like tofu. But there is one food that I simply cannot CANNOT bring myself to experiment with and that’s brussel sprouts. I have seen recipe after recipe of brussel sprouts happily adorning salads and as delightful side dishes with wonderful looking sauces. But to me, brussel sprouts are that evil bitter tasting side dish that sat on my plate until bone cold at 9:00 at night while I waited out my mom’s “You will sit there until you clean your plate” command. But brussel sprouts seem to have become popular these days. If you look on Pinterest or Yummly you can find pages of recipes for them. I have been vehemently against cooking them until I started watching some cooking videos from my favorite healthy cooking guru, Dani Spies. She is a blogger and YouTuber who has all kinds of instructional videos and recipes. When I have an ingredient I don’t know what to do with (e.g. Hakurei Turnips) I will usually search her site and see if she has posted anything about them. One day in particular I kept stumbling across recipes for roasted brussel sprouts. Curiosity overtook me and I thought “maybe?” As I started watching the video I got this bad feeling deep in the pit of my stomach and I quickly paused it like one does when getting to the scary “Don’t open that door!” part of a horror movie. After about a half-hour I returned to the video and with an upset stomach and determination I watched the remainder of the video, “How to Roast Brussel Sprouts” and watched Dani tell me how to make these evil little demons into delectable morsels. As she nibbled on the completed product she said “This recipe is sure to make anyone into a brussel sprout lover!” They actually looked somewhat tempting, but as to whether or not I’ll actually get over my brusselsproutphobia is yet to be seen. Like I said, I’ll cook almost anything…almost. 

P.S. Just in case you are a BS lover (I couldn’t resist) here is the recipe:

Another Letting Go Moment

There’s something incredibly terrifying about watching your son pull out of the driveway on a motorcycle. I watched both of my sons pull out of the driveway in a car on their first solo journeys. I wasn’t half as sick to my stomach as I was when I watched Sammy ride out on a motorcycle. Tom and I recently decided to take the advice of a man who suddenly lost his wife of 40 years. They had decided to wait until retirement to “live.” Sadly, because of brain cancer, she didn’t make it that far. We had been at his house looking at the motorcycle he had for sale. Since we sold the Bug the boys have been bugging Tom to get a motorcycle that they could ride. I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was the right time for me to get one, but if we got one, it would be my bike that they boys could ride if they wanted to. I had been happily riding on the back of Tom’s bike for 15 years and when asked if I ride would respond, “Oh, I have my endorsement.  I plan on it someday. Just not now.” When we left that guy shook my hand and got right up to me said, “Live your life.” I couldn’t get that guy’s sad eyes out of my mind. So I looked at Tom and said, “Let’s do it.” We found a little Harley-Davidson Sportster at Maxwell’s Cycle Shop in Petoskey and within three days it was sitting in our driveway. Robby was excited but Sammy was ecstatic. As soon as he found out he went out and got his permit and had been practicing on Tom’s big touring motorcycle while Tom gave him lessons on how to safely ride. He even watched all hour and 45 minutes of the Ride Like a Pro video and read through the safety course handbook that I sent him.
            “Can I take it out to show my friend?” “Puleeze!!”
            “He’s not going to just take off on it” I remember Tom saying.
            “Call your dad. If he feels confident that you’re ready, you can go.” He immediately called Tom at work. Pretty soon he had the ‘OK’ and was suiting up. I was a wreck.
            “Tie your shoes!”
            “Wear gloves!”
            “Assume everyone is going to pull out in front of you.”
            “Don’t hug the center line!”
            “Take your time.”
And then he was off. But like every other milestone in life, I had to let him go. We have had friends who have recently lost children, one to a motorcycle crash. It was a tragic reminder that it CAN happen to us. But I can’t keep him in a bubble. I have to say a prayer and try not to pace while I wait for him to get back. Terrifying or not, parenting is full of those letting go moments. This one just happens to be on a motorcycle.

Look Twice!

Dealing with impatient summer drivers is extremely frustrating to me. Nobody wants to get stuck in traffic, especially when dealing with the bridge in Charlevoix.   If you are a regular reader of this column you might be aware of the fact that my husband Tom and I are motorcycle enthusiasts. One of our favorite things to do on a summer evening is to ride around Lake Charlevoix or just go to downtown Charlevoix or any other neighboring town to “flake out” in the grass and listen to the band. One such night we were on our way out of Charlevoix and found that the bridge was up. We were waiting to turn right on to Bridge Street and joked “Hey! We’re going to be the first ones across the bridge!” We know that even if we weren’t that someone would let us in and we would eventually get across. As we waited a large Super-Duty pick-up came out from behind us and went around us on to Bridge street, in front of the waiting traffic. We were shocked to say the least. I thought he must have been in a hurry to do something like that. I looked behind us and saw a smaller car and figured that at least he had the courtesy not to do the same thing. But just as the bridge was going down I noticed that this car, a silver Chevy Cruze, followed the pick-up’s lead, went right around us, and squeezed between the truck and our motorcycle! Just to get across the bridge before anyone else! When you live in Northern Michigan in the summer you get to see drivers do a lot of aggressive, stupid things in order to get ahead of everyone else. But what people seem to forget when they are squeezing between cars and motorcycles is that while cars are surrounded by metal, we on motorcycles are not. When you are in a big doggone hurry and hit a car you dent up someone’s fender. When you are in that same doggone hurry and hit a motorcycle, someone gets killed. Every summer I hear stories of people on motorcycles who have collisions with cars. Sometimes those accidents are the fault of the rider, but sometimes they are not.   If a person takes the extra time to look a second time for that motorcycle, maybe an accident can be avoided. I’m guilty of being in too big of a rush and seeing a car right in my rearview mirror after I’ve pulled into an intersection. It honestly freaks me out. I want to ask that guy in the silver car if it really would have killed him to be patient and wait 1 or 2 more minutes to get across the bridge. And the answer is no, it wouldn’t have killed him, but his impatience could have killed me.