Monday, November 11, 2013

A Moveable Read

Below, please find the first exercise submitted to the Harold B. Pricklepants Society, Scribbler's Edition.  We, being a club of readers endeavoring to become better writers as well, have pledged to write a weekly piece for blog publication and the sharing thereof with our friends, family, and readers.  Please feel free to comment.  Please feel even freer to submit your own piece, notifying our society of your intent to join us as we follow in the inspiring footsteps of Miss Austen, the Misses Bronte, Mr. Lewis, and so many, many more who hopped up to journey down a barely trodden path braved by Moses, and later Chaucer and Shakespeare as we English speakers joined the party.  Read, enjoy, live.  All are welcome to meet in this wonderful place of words hosted by The Harold B. Pricklepants Society .  For other readable entries, please visit Elizabeth and Lydia  at their lovely blogs.  I would love to link your blog.  Just ask.  : D
 *  *  *  *  *

A Moveable Read

Reading came to me as naturally as breathing.  I cannot really recall a time in my life before the presence of books.  The secure softness of my favorite “blankies” complimented the cardboard-stiff covers of my beloved The Three Bears Golden Book.  I begged my parents (and any one else I met) to read it to me; and, legend has it, by the age of two I had the entire book memorized word-for-word.  I performed the classic parlor trick of “reading” to astonished relatives and guests, turning the pages precisely, intoning with just the right dramatic flair as chairs crashed and porridge cooled.  My parents, neither fond of reading, found my penchant for “reading” odd and a tad bit frightening, yet they indulged me with books over Barbies and I happily went about the business of teaching myself to read.

Before entering school, I could write out my entire name – Debbie Ann Stugelmeyer – and read without assistance.  (I have always found it surprising that my parents bragged far louder about my prowess in spelling “Stugelmeyer,” than about my ability to read The Cat in the Hat and other Seussian classics.)  Thus, I entered school eager to discover the world beyond book-of-the-month clubs and bookmobile visits of my little life.

Each new school I attended (of which I attended several, for a vagabonding childhood necessitates the changing of schools) had a new library to be explored; and each corresponding address change had a Public Library to be experienced.  I eagerly introduced myself to each resident librarian, asking directions to new gateways of adventure.  I browsed, sampled, and selected armloads of tales.  Some journeys took me through war-torn lands or disease-infested jungles; others carried me aloft on the wings of hope found in loving adoptions or romantic happily-ever-afters.  I boarded ocean liners bound for Europe, traveled in jalopies through the Dust Bowl, and most avidly read of prairie schooners carrying pioneers to new lands.  Some books talked of worlds most fantastic, while others shed light on long-ago times; but, each and every book carried me breathlessly through to The End, whereupon I scurried back to the library for the next great read on my list.  What a feast I found at the library – and all for free!

At home, my little private library continued to grow as birthday presents and holiday gifts increasingly held bound stories worthy of being preserved in my library.  Dr. Seuss and the Golden Books moved down a bit to make room for Laura Ingalls and Trina, along with Katie John, Caddie Woodlawn, and my most favorite heroine:  Robin of The Velvet Room.  Each pending change of address had me ensuring that each precious volume made it into a box marked “Debbie’s Books” and onto the truck by my own locomotion.  I took no chances with this precious cargo.  On occasion, I would panic as a tidal wave of boxes flooded our new residence and my books could not be located.  “Where are my books?” I wailed, certain that they had toppled off the truck as we careened over a set of railroad tracks in the dark of night.  I pictured the box thrown violently to the ground, torn asunder, spilling its fragile contents into the path of doom from oncoming cars, wild animals, or gully-washing storms.  (Along with an ever growing appetite for books, I nurtured a taste for drama that quickly enveloped my emerging adolescence.)  Panicking did little to aid in locating the errant box, which always turned up safe and sound amongst the linens and toys, kitchenware and mementos.  Once “Debbie’s Books” had been located, I scurried away to my room (or my side of the room) and set about unpacking and settling Jane Eyre and Dr Seuss and all the rest.  I would sit back and sigh with contentment while each binding smiled back at me, “We’re home.” 

As I grew, wisdom bade me select a unique and easily identifiable box to house my library-on-the-move.  A white “Inglenook” wine box served perfectly to cosset my treasures within its sturdy sides.  (Wine bottles, like books, require careful handling, I noted as I marveled at the doubly-reinforced cardboard.)  The bright white box color stood out splendidly in a sea of ordinary brown moving cartons, thus I never again fretted at locating MY box.  Once the box had been duly located and unpacked at the newest destination, I carefully stored it away in my closet for the next move, which would surely be sooner than hoped for. 

Years passed, several more addresses took up residence next to my name and my cache of treasured books rode safely to each new abode in their increasingly battered container.  Then along came time to pack for college.

Only essentials followed me to UCLA.  Sadly, at 18 years of age, I no longer had the room for my most constant “childhood friends.”  My one-bedroom apartment, to be shared by three freshmen girls, possessed but a single half-sized bookcase, of which I gained ownership of one mere shelf.  “Sorry Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlett O’Hara, and Mr. Cat in the Hat and friends,” I apologized, “ You’re not moving to the Big City with me this time.”  I drove away with sheets and towels and a brand-new dictionary rather than my steadfast library buddies, whom I left in my younger sister’s charge.

Years passed, I graduated with a degree in English, married a sweet heart of a man, and we eventually bought our First Home (a condo, actually).  I relieved my father-in-law of the stuff I had packed away in his shed years back when I moved from the tiny freshman apartment to a tinier room in a sorority house.  Then I visited my mom at her newest address to retrieve what few items she had offered to store for me since I left for college.  We successfully located a box of high-school-and-before memorabilia (like my first yo-yo and a packet of stickers I received as a gift the day my newborn sister arrived home from the hospital in 1966), some badly-dated LP records, and a stash of heirloom pillowcases embroidered by my great-grandmother.  Sadly, the Inglenook box of library treasures had vanished during one or another of recent moving events.     

I confronted my sister, with a bit more anger than warranted, regarding the missing library and her lack of stewardship of such prized possessions left in her care.  She stared back blankly and said, “Books?  What books?”  

“Gone . . .” I mouthed in despair, the drama of long ago still very much alive in me. 

I left with several boxes but no nostalgic library.

Life trundled on, carrying me along to greet three babies, a new address, and then two more babies.  I gathered many, many books along the way, though they never quite took the place of my first literary loves. 

One day, we packed up and moved far away to a larger place that would house my family of seven plus my mother, whose health required nursing care.  Boxes and boxes of books filled the trucks alongside our family belongings marked, “toys,” “kitchen,” and more.  A wave of boxes flooded the large garage, and soon a second wave of boxes belonging to my mother joined them.  As I surveyed and sifted the myriad of moved materials, attempting to formulate a plan of action (or should I say, attack?), I espied a rather disheveled white box in the distance.  “Can it be?” I whispered as I hurtled over two lifetimes’ worth of accumulation.  I pulled the tattered box free, faintly hoping to find the beloved “Inglenook” label emblazoned on the side.  “IT IS!” I shouted as I tore away what remained of the box top flaps. 

I have no idea how long I sat on that garage floor, surrounded by boxes and debris, as I lovingly lifted and gazed on each long-lost book.  More than twenty years had passed since I had seen these editions . . . my books . . .  my very first library!  These dear treasures and friends had somehow slipped into a dark corner of a distant storage cell and languished forgotten and alone, until now. 

*   *   *   *   *

“Hey mom,” called my 10-year-old daughter, “Are you out here?”

“Yes,” I sputtered, “Yes, I am!  Come on out here!  I want you to meet some folks I knew a long time ago.”  

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Black Forest

Of late, my kitchen has been shadowed o'er by a strange and deepening darkness . . .  of chocolate, that is.  My sunny French d├ęcor has taken on a Grimm-like “Black Forest” air as I arm myself with whisk and spoons wooden for this journey into dark, darker, and darkest chocolate met by strange, weirder, and most unusual "sugars." 

Bold and brave, I hunt for the elusive chocolate treasures fit for the health-minded dessert-er.  The fudgiest ice cream and the darkest brownies have been found along this pilgrim’s path.  Truffles lurk around every corner -- and though they improve greatly with age (developing a dark figgy-cherry-red rose-brandy quality of taste and aroma), I am hard-pressed to find a ripening truffle ANYWHERE on the premises!  Alas, the truffle gnomes have made off with every last one!  (Good thing I only made a small batch.)  As I poke and prod all thoughts chocolate, peanut-butter-cup truffles, black-forest truffles, and looming spectres of devil-dark truffles (hint: chili-pepper) swirl in the mists of my wandering mind . . .

. . . but those will have to wait for another day because today I set aside the chocolate, jumped countries, and whipped up a batch of Danish bread-and-butter pickled eggs (made with coconut crystals and cider vinegar – yep, I did it!).  My sister arrives in just under two weeks and she LOVES pickled eggs.  They will be pronounced “Ready” just as she steps off the plane.  

“Note,” I bellow to my pickled-egg-loving family, “No one must disturb this crock of eggs until February 21st.”  

(Of course, I may be caught sneaking a taste now and again in the interest of Culinary Arts and Sciences.)

; )

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chocolat Update: Enter Les Truffles

So, I left off yesterday’s post with a pic of a mass of chocolate spread upon parchment.  

“What did I do with that?” you may be asking. 

Well, first I tasted it and found it darkly delicious.  

[WARNING:  If you adore Hershey’s kisses this will not, I repeat, WILL NOT be to your liking.  If, however, you seek out the darkest, deepest, 80+ chocolate and can be found nibbling cacao nibs in secret so that you don’t have to share, this is your kind of CHOCOLATE.  It’s bold.  It’s dark.  It will scare the chocolate chips lurking in your cupboard.  Be warned!]

Next, I sampled the texture.    



Perfect for forming into nuggets 
which can then be rolled in cocoa powder.   

Et Voila! 

 Le Truffle! 

So, I made a small dish of these “samples” and shared the wealth.

* * * * *

The reactions:


“Ummmm, Mom, these are REALLY DARK . . . ummmmm, REALLY!” 

“[Thoughtfully chewing]  Yeah . . . these are rich . . . and good.”

*POW!*  [Did someone’s head just blow off?]

* * * * *

Later, I made my way into the kitchen and noticed that the truffles had vanished from the dish, the mass of chocolat had visibly reduced, and the straight cocoa powder bowl stood empty.    This build-a-truffle bar was clearly a hit.  Throughout the evening the stock of choc got smaller as the compliments flowed more heavily.   Me thinks they like it.  ; )


**In the interest of journalistic integrity I must divulge that my children have been raised by a certified Health Food Nut, from California, no less.  They have RARELY been served any chocolate less than 65%.  M&Ms, Kisses, and the like almost never cross the threshold, unless gifted to us.  Likewise, white sugar has been mostly taboo.  I make our food from scratch (including grinding my own wheat for bread).  Obviously, fast-food/junk food has been OUTLAWED and the law’s been strictly enforced.  (In fact, my two youngest have never even seen a Happy Meal-type deal.  My older kids were pitied by others who felt the need to “gift” them with a Happy Meal experience, thus they sat politely and stared at the “food” after tasting it and making a scrunchy face.  They’ve been programmed healthy, I confess.)

I share this so that you will understand that this chocolate is a bit on the extreme side even for Health-nut offspring.  Thus it should be approached with extreme caution if you are trying to access that “Chocolate is good for you” trend.  You may entirely invalidate your future credibility in the “Here-try-this” arena if you substitute this for that familiar dish of M&M’s on your counter.  My family regularly follows me on “Food Safaris” of great adventure, and even they needed a moment to process it.

Okay . . . ‘nuf said. 

* * * * *

Final Analysis of Chocolat Mission 1:  ACCOMPLISHED!

Let it be known, the Coconut Crystal Truffles are a hit!

A homerun!

Dare I call this deeply chocolate, white-sugar-free delicacy Health Food?  A vitamin pill, even?  Nah . . . that would be no fun.  I’ll just add it to the list of Approved Foods alongside my goat’s milk ice cream.  (Don’t cringe – it’s FABULOUS and so creamy delish!  You’d never know . . . if I hadn’t just told you.) 

Any recommendations/improvements to note? 

I think I may just ramp up the Anti-oxidant levels by rolling the cocoa-clad truffles in bitter nibs of cacao.  Maybe then the rest of my family will find them simply over-the-top TOO intense for them, and I won’t have to compete so vigorously for my fair share.  I just hate working up a sweat over . . . well, ANYthing!

Now, where’s that truffle I hid . . . I know it’s here somewhere . . . back in this cupboard . . . oooooh! . . . . REACH!  [and the sweat begins to glaze the fevered brow.] 

Healthy Eating:   
It’s a Delicious Adventure!

: D

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

There's Something New in the Air at Wisteria Cottage . . .

"What's that smell?  

"What does it smell like?"

"I don't know, but it sure smells good?"

"Here.  Taste."

"MMMMmmmmmm!  What is it?
It's got a kind of figgy, deep richness about it."


[Another enters the kitchen]

"What do I smell?"

[Taste given to newest inquiring mind.]

"WOW!  That's powerful, but really good.  What is it?"


[Enter a third member of the choco-sition]

"Take a taste"  

[I point toward the bottles of dark deliciousness.]

"Does this have alcohol in it?"


As the gentle strains of the soundtrack to Chocolat waft around the room mingling with the heady fragrance of pure, deep, rich, luscious chocolate, I wonder if this is what Heaven will be like?

I have chopped and broken, shaved and melted cocoa and chocolate -- 100% -- with the ever-surprising coconut crystals in place of white sugar.  A bit of water and the richest, most decadent vanilla I can find round out the dark and handsome elixir.  I stir constantly and wait with baited breath.  In the swirling vat I look deeply  . . . and inhale . . . and wonder.  Finally, I set it aside to cool.  (I remind myself that a hasty taste resulting in burned tastebuds can steal victory from a cook's challenge faster than anything.) 

Then I taste . . .

The essence of deep, romantic, woodsy, figgy, magical, POWERFUL, "Spirited" (though the only alcohol came from the vanilla's bourbon) chocolate goodness brings a smile to my face.



* * * * * 

It's been a VERY productive day around here.
I can't wait until tomorrow.

Now where did I put that chili powder . . .

* * * * *

A Demain!

: D

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Post for Lydia

“Mom, you need to write on your blog so I can read it,” said Lydia recently.

[  I smiled.  : D  I have a following.  ]

Today while scribbling in my journal, my pen drew an arrow from the printed page to the virtual screen. 

This one’s for you, my sweet reader, Lydia .  . . and all the rest of you out there in bloggyland.

 * * * * *

Time Out.  Time Off.  Time Away.  
Time for Joy.

I’ve rattled, racked, and wrung my heart, mind, and spirit lately.  So much to process, decipher, prepare, deliver . . .   The world spins so out of control these days and I am simply trying to live without succumbing to dizziness and fatigue.  I’ve found a simple antidote:  Joy.

Today, I’m taking a time out, for some time off, with some time away from my regularly-scheduled ways and making time to stop, look, and listen to all the joy in and around me.  I want to really drink it in and hold onto that feeling of sweet peace that comes from knowing I can relax and live life rather than exhaust myself by wrangling it into a corral for safe keeping.

The sunshine outside and the roaring fire within make me smile at the crazy way a California Winter behaves.  I love the sunshine!  It’s so much easier to face the chilly morn when rays of gold greet me:  a picture of hope.  But I must admit, my favorite time of day is sunset.  Maybe it’s because I am a squeeze-the-last-drop-out-of kinda gal.  I can be brutal on an exhausted tube of toothpaste or beauty cream; I turn each liquid receptacle for shampoo or detergent on end into a funnel before retiring it to the recycle bin; and I watch movies until the last credit rolls.  I guess I’m a pretty committed “finisher.”  I like tidy.  I get a “thrill” out of finding a place for everything and then putting everything in its place.  Thus, it is with great surprise that I find myself becoming such a free-spirited dreamer these days.

Nowadays, my children often find me embroiled in a book, hunched over a writing project, or simply gazing out into the great beyond, whilst a pile of dishes tip precariously in the sink awaiting attention.  What has happened to Miss Tidy-up?  Has she retired?  Has she lost her mind?  Has she been taken over by sloppy aliens?  

I, too, wonder where that other gal vanished to (usually when an unpleasant task crops up in my path).  It seems mid-life has crept up and encouraged me to pry open new doors and venture out into greater fields of freedom.  I plunge into life with more honesty and openness, more readiness to reach out and embrace life and all those within it.  Where fear once dogged my steps, I now dance with such crazy abandon these days that I think fear finds it harder to follow me.  (Who knew freedom thwarted fear?)

To what do I attribute this influx of . . . well . . . ummmmmm . . . joy?  I’m not really sure, but I know it has to do with letting go the reins of control and allowing life to wash over me without fearing what might come my way.  Sometimes I stumble, often times I fail, and sometimes big unexpected things knock me off my feet and swirl me around in salty waves of tears; but fear and fret make me tense and cause additional pain, so I'm learning to relax and just let it come – I simply hold out my hand and trust . . . that God is good.

The results of this zany abdication of the foolish notion that I can control my destiny (and the destinies of those I love) speak through my experience.

I no longer fear rejection, for I have been rejected in the most devastating way and not only survived, but flourished.

I no longer fear loss, for I have lost a child to death and discovered that he will never truly be gone from my heart and that is where the best of life collects.

I have known poverty, and found the "fear" of poverty to be more overwhelming that the actual state of being without.

I have known financial bounty, and found the "thought" of riches to be far more enjoyable than the actual care and feeding of a bank balance. 

I have told lies for protection, and found myself imprisoned until the truth set me free.

I have compromised to save a friendship, and ended up losing both my good name and the friend.

I have failed to notice a needy one in my very midst, and then needed to fail in order to correct my vision.

I have been blind, deaf, and dumb as I strove for knowledge, and then discovered the greatest gift of insight when I admitted my ignorance.

I have learned that a smile serves as the shortest path to an attitude change.  Like a single candle in the darkness, a simple smile changes an entire face and everything it sees.

I have learned that “The Smile Game”  (also known as:  Smile at everyone you encounter) can be played anywhere, anytime, with anyone and WE BOTH WIN EVERY TIME!

Most of all, I have learned that I will learn something new every day, every hour, every minute of my life (good and bad, pleasant and painful, abundant and barren . . . ) if I keep my heart at the ready to love, accept, and share every single thing my Lord sends my way.  How can I be so sure?  How do I know this?  Madeleine L’Engle said it best:

Now I see that time has gotten away from me, caught up with me, and called out to remind me: 

 Time’s Up!

Now it's Time For:
Time Out
Time Off 
Time Away 
Time for Joy!

Before I go, I was wondering . . .

Does any one care to join me for a rousing round of 
The Smile Game? 

I’ll Start!

: D


Friday, January 11, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different . . .

I have lately joined a Literary Society.  Naturally, this most refined of endeavors includes the reading of Literature, the sipping of tea/coffee, and the exchanging of erudite conversation.  I meet with my darling daughters (Elizabeth and Lydia) at a local coffeehouse.  (Guess Starbucks?  Right-o!)   In the space of a few hours we converse, traverse, and reverse as all good literary scholars are wont to do.  We are most proper and elegant, except when we are not.  [Such as the times my daughters have had to shush! me as I acted out a scene from Shakespeare, or quoted a Dickinson poem, or flung my arms too widely for E-M-P-H-A-S-I-S as to the scope of Dickens’ imagination in crafting his world.]

We would love for you to join us.  If you’re here in Grass Valley, we meet at the NICE Starbucks on Freeman Lane at about 1 o'clock-ish on Wednesdays.  If you’re unable to join us, take a peek at the Harold B. Pricklepants Society website/blog.  

Here’s a photo snippet from the latest post:


Curious?  I thought so. 

Come give us a look-see and join in on the most proper FUN!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Gaining Wait in 2013

Today I awoke and stood still.  The quiet house whispered, “All is well.”  After so many days of merry-making laced with going here-, doing this-, making that-I greeted today with NOTHING on my agenda.

Naturally, the house and family ALWAYS offer a solution to the age-old ponderance:  “What shall I do with this unscheduled moment?”  But, today I stepped beyond hearing range of the To Do List and settled into the lull of a place. 

And here I sit . . . simply sitting (and sipping tea, of course).

The Christmas tree twinkles over there; the Nativity shines over here; Christmas extends its reach to January 6th for us.  We will have yet another wonderful celebration on the 6th, but for today it is quiet.  We are quiet.  I am quiet.

So, as many (most, probably) have trundled away the tree and set about tackling resolves to de-clutter, de-stress, de-weight, I slip back into the lull of Christmas that enveloped the manger scene even as the wise men made their way to the blessed meeting. 

I guess you could say I’ve decided to turn the tables and gain weight wait this year.  And in this waiting my expectations grow and delight me with the prospect of meeting, greeting, and embracing the Christ child; for surely, at least one of those wise men scooped that babe up in his arms and played the “coo-ing” game complete with smiles of pure joy and baby-game conversations like, “Oh aren’t you beautiful?  Yes, you are.  You’re so sweet I could just eat you up!” and then proceeded to nibble on those newborn toes with delight.    

[Okay – maybe not the nibbling-toes part.  That probably would have been in the recorded version if women accompanied these learned ones.  But, I digress . . .]

After all, God came to man as a baby – fully God/fully human – and who can resist an adorable baby?  Being fully God did not erase that heavenly “baby smell” each birth brings; nor did it envelop him in a corona-like force field that kept mere mortals at bay.  As in his later life, so in his birth, Jesus came to be embraced.

In these quiet moments before meals commence and dishes stack, I simply sit in this lull . . . in this wait . . . and find something still and small and special. 

 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord
And, behold, the Lord passed by, 
 And a great and strong wind rent the mountains, 
And brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord
But the Lord was not in the wind: 
And after the wind an earthquake; 
But the Lord was not in the earthquake:   
And after the earthquake a fire; 
But the Lord was not in the fire: 
And after the fire 
a still small voice.

1 Kings 19:11, 12

 I hope to gain a LOT of wait in 2013. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Aloha 2012 ~~ ALOHA 2013!

We celebrated in Hawaiian Style

Complete with Volcano & Tiki . . .

. . . and a nerdly experiment.
(Otherwise it just wouldn't feel like home.)
Some people pop champagne corks --
not around here!

Hope you've had a wonderful start to the New Year.