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MOVING DAY!

If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been, the answer is–spreading our wings!  Please follow Blue Jean Gourmet on over to its new home & update your links accordingly.

NICE TO SEE YOU, 2010

Welcome, 2010, I think I love you.

Symbolic and completely arbitrary as it may be, I am grateful for a New Year.  Myself, I like ritual.  I am a fan of tradition, keeping old ones and making up new ones.  I enjoy lists and assessments, taking stock and measuring up.  I appreciate the chance to simultaneously look back and look forward, with only my imagination and the truest version of myself.

Passage of time can give us pause, incline us toward regret or doubt, cause us to question choices or rethink past decisions. Sometimes we need to get our proverbial asses kicked.

Good as our lives may be, I suspect we’re often holding back.  Something we want to try, to create, to imagine or reinvent.  Someone we want to kiss.  A baby we’d like to have.  A degree, a business, a goodbye long overdue.  Forgiveness, for ourselves or another.  An ambition we’ve charted out in our minds but never out loud. (I’m speaking to myself here, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Look, I don’t know if you’re scared, but I know I am.  I can talk myself out of so many things, distracting myself with dishes that “need” to be washed, telling myself it will all happen “later,” cramming too many things into my schedule as a very clever way of assuring none of it will get done.

But I’m getting to the point where I think, either I do this thing already or I need to shut up about it.  And all of the plans I’ve made up to this point CLEARLY HAVEN’T WORKED, so I’m guessing some new strategies are in order.  It may get a little radical around here, and radical totally makes me nervous.

(Sharpen your knives, folks. We’re in for a big year.)

My manuscript has been “in progress” for the better part of the last three years.  I’ve devoted a part of two summers to the work of it and grabbed small snatches of time here and there during the school years that intercepted.  It’s been “nearly finished” for much too long now.

I started this blog in May 2009, having little to no idea what I was doing and unsure if anyone but my mom would read it.  Not only have I had a blast, I have made friends, gained readers, and surprised myself by managing to post twice a week, every week.  So there’s really no reason I can’t get this damn book written, except that I’m pretty sure I’m standing in my own way.

This blog will be a year old on May 5.  And what I can promise 2010 is, by that date, my book will also be finished.  So, Happy New Year’s, ya’ll.  If you’re interested in declaring something before God & internet, too, feel free to go for it in the comments.  The more butts in gear, the merrier.

As for food, I recommend you whip up a batch of Bloody Marys and be sure to eat some black-eyed peas for luck.  Some traditions are worth hanging onto, no doubt.  But the rest of it,  I think we have to make up as we go, even if we’re terrified the entire time.

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CHRISTMAS 2009

par·a·dox (noun) etymology: Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from neuter of paradoxos contrary to expectation, from para– + dokein to think, seem

As a literary term: paradox, a statement that initially appears to be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense.

Life does not do us the courtesy of avoiding Christmas where sickness, death, & other unhappinesses are concerned.  I’d need more than one hand to count the friends who are dealing with some really shitty business as I type this.  Families are unkind to each other.  Parents die, slowly, painfully.  Even losses decades-old pinch and scrape like new.

And there are points of light: the sound of neighborhood kids testing out their new tricycles and bicycles with abandon, the smell of the Christmas tree, the stories your father-in-law tells, the feel of yeast dough between your fingers and the satisfaction of it rising in a buttered bowl, just as it’s supposed to.

Surrounded by people but feeling utterly alone.  Happy to be on vacation but befuddled by the free time.  Knowing the holidays aren’t really about “stuff” but coveting it nonetheless.  Accustomed to indulging every whim & desire, but relenting when the family’s movie choices do not match your own.  Feeling down in the holiday dumps, then feeling like an obnoxious spoiled brat because, you know, your life is REALLY GOOD.

We humans are complex beings, full of paradoxes which make themselves especially apparent as the year winds down to a close.  I find myself tangled up in thought—desire, confusion, nostalgia, regret.  I could easily paralyze myself with the attempt to figure it all out, but instead I think I shall paint my fingernails red, sneak some leftover ham out of the fridge, make myself a cup of really good hot chocolate.  Then sit in a chair and read a book.  Call my mama and tell her that I love her.  Think of my father and cry.

We’re not going to get it all figured out today, or probably ever. Let’s do our best to be good to each other (and ourselves) in the meantime.  Merry Christmas, ya’ll.

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ARE YOU READY FOR MOTHER’S DAY?

It’s getting down to the wire, huh, folks?

Should you be in need of some inspiration, here are a few non-floral suggestions culled from the world-wide-web. Rush shipping is available from the bigger retailers, and there’s always the “better-late-than-never” approach (if your mom is flexible like that).

If you need to present something in person on Sunday, I recommend heading to your local art museum and checking out the gift store. I’ve found that they are often really great resources for lovely, unusual gifts.

AND, if all else fails…cook something delicious for the woman who birthed you! Check back tomorrow for an easy-to-assemble Mother’s Day breakfast/brunch menu.

GIFT IDEAS:

tender hooks

For new moms, I strongly recommend Beth Ann Fennelly’s poetry collection, Tender Hooks. Written after the birth of her daughter, Fennelly’s poems are honest and touching but not overly sentimental. I bought this for my dear friend Katherine following the birth of her twins, and knew it was a good choice when she ordered six copies to send to all of her new-mom friends.

For mothers-in-law, check out The Body Shop’s Wise Woman skincare line. It’s been written up in a bunch of glamorous magazines, but more importantly, the 40-something and 50-something woman I’ve gifted these products to, swear by them (especially the Intensive Firming Mask!)

body butterFor pregnant ladies, I’ll endorse The Body Shop again, this time for their body butter. All kinds of good smells (or go with scent-free Vitamin E for women with sensitive skin), plus intense moisturization that helps prevent belly stretch marks. Throw in some bubble bath or shower gel for a nice package, or even a gift card so she can indulge. lemon platter

For kitchen goddesses, browse the Mother’s Day section of Sur la Table. I’m a big fan of this knife (comes with a free bamboo cutting board!), these beautiful, Italian baking dishes, this lovely lemon platter, & the fire-engine-red Cuisinart ice cream maker (which is on sale!)

bird spoons

For the quirky mom who has it all, check out The Spoon Sisters. They carry a random assortment of items, but there are gems to be found, the kind of items that make you think–hey, I know someone who needs that! Like the sky umbrella, the heart paper clips, the designer duct tape (I’m so not making this up), or these totally gorgeous bird-topped measuring spoons.

Last but not least, consider making a donation to a worthy organization in honor of your mom, aunt, grandmother, wife, step-mom, etc. Charitable contributions are often the first thing to be cut during “tough economic times” such as these, and of course we all know that they are needed now more than ever.

heifer There are many worthy causes out there, but may I humbly suggest Heifer International? Your donation will provide a worthy family with an animal (hive of bees, gaggle of geese, pair of goats) that can be used for food and profit. When the animals produce offspring, the recipient family “passes the gift” to another family in the community. Make a donation and design your own e-card to inform your mom that you’ve given in her honor to such a cool cause.

Anybody else have last-minute gift ideas to share?  Or plan-ahead ideas for next year?