About Me

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Concord, California, United States
I am a sometimes-writer, everyday mama, creative failure and experimental cook. I am interested in living a beautiful life, spending time with my family and making things that I can feel proud of. When I'm by myself I'm usually outside. Don't bother calling because chances are that I didn't bring my cell phone because I couldn't find it. If you see me walking, it's because I lost my keys and if you see me with only one child... I'm probably in big trouble.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

He Knows How To Get His Own Way

When Groovy-James joined our family Jay had two stipulations.  1.) He had to be completely house trained (this didn't work out but he was very easy to train and never has accidents).  2.) He not sleep in our bed.

Today I came home from my grocery shopping to find this:
Someone here knows how to get his way, and unfortunately it's not my husband.

Weight Update- Week 7

Oh Dear! I am getting sick.  My nose is stuffy and my throat hurts.  I haven't been sick in ages, so I guess I'm due, but with the end of the school year here, I don't have the time to be sick.  This started two days ago and I'm afraid I haven't felt like working out too much. I've been doing a lot of decorating and reorganizing inside of my house, but haven't been outside to do anything beyond my regular watering.

Also, it makes sense that if during my 4 week weigh in I had my period that during my 7 week weigh in I'd be just about to get it.  And I'm bloated.  And gross.  I am having the sort of PMS that makes me irritated with my own voice and self and brain and feet and face and makes me wish that I could unzip my body and crawl out of it.   I swear, the moment you decide that you're done having children nature should KNOW and stop the suffering of it.

Okay, that's the end of my ridiculous menstrual rant.

This week I kept up my hard work.  I did very well at monitoring my portions, keeping my calories low and watching my carbs.  It seemed a little bit easier this week.  I felt less hungry and less grouchy.  Last week was a real challenge, but this week felt pretty natural.  I ended up losing 2 lbs, which brings me to a total loss of 16 lbs in 7 weeks.

Here's how I feel about that.  I KNOW that 2 lbs is a totally healthy amount to lose in a week, but it's not enough for me.  I am working SO HARD.  In my life I've never had much of a problem gaining weight if I didn't watch it, but I have also never had a tough time losing weight.  I feel like I'm fighting for every pound right now.  It's so discouraging.  A couple of years ago I did Atkins and probably lost 16 lbs in my first 2 weeks, and I was eat a hella lot more than I'm eating now.

It is what it is.  I'll work even harder this week and hopefully I'll hit my 20 lb loss at 8 weeks.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lemon Pound Cake

This Thursday is grocery day in the Holler house, which means that I am at the point when I am forced to be an uber-creative cookstress in order to make my family happy.  I always try to shop for the amount of days I need to feed people before our next shopping day (once around every two weeks), but inevitably I run out of something.  Usually it's milk, bread or eggs, but this week I ran out of dessert food.   Pleasingly, I discovered that I have everything it takes to make a lemon pound cake on hand.   Check out how moist this pound cake is!  I added 1/4 cup of sour cream to the recipe, which is something I have done consistently after once having great success including it in a chocolate cake recipe.  I haven't tried the cake (because of my big, fat ass), but I hear it's delicious.

Here's the recipe, if you're interested in making this.  

My Little Blind Dog

I have known that Sidney was going blind for years now.

She was about five years old when she began refusing to go up and down the stairs at night.  Even the smallest landings seemed too much for her.  She would whimper and cry at the bottom of the staircase for either Jay or I to carry her up to bed.  I spoke to her vet about it and he said that she probably fallen a few times and was scared of the stairs, but I could tell that there was more happening and I suspected by the unsteady, uncertain steps that I saw her taking that it was her eyes.

Over the past year I have seen her eyesight progressively deteriorate to a place that is problematic.  Her eyes are not cloudy, but they appear glow with unnatural iridescence.  She bumps into walls and trips over toys left on the floor.  She will run into the screen door or get poked with the dishwasher if it's open.  At night, when our lights are dim or she has to go outside, I noticed that she walks with her nose on the ground, feeling her way around.  It's clear to me that she isn't able to see anything in times of reduced light.  She walks like a drunken dog, swaying back and forth on the walkway between the dirt and the pebbles.

I asked her Philly vet about blindness but he told that me she was fine.

I knew he was just rushed and overworked and didn't have time for my little Italian Greyhound.

So, I was not surprised in March when our new California vet told me that Sidney has progressive retinal atrophy and is mostly blind now but will be completely blind within the year. There is nothing that we can do, it's just the way she is wired.   During that particular vet visit Sidney had a seizure on the table and was being treated for a pinched nerve that was causing her terrible pain.  I was more concerned about Sidney's pain level than I was about failing eye sight.  The vet expressed that she'll be okay.  She won't experience pain from her eye loss and will get along just fine as a blind dog.  Her quality of life won't suffer at all.

In the past couple of months, maybe because I have a more watchful eye, I've seen Sidney's sight capacity rapidly decreasing.  She has always slept in bed with us, but being in bed seems to make her feel very insecure.  If anyone moves or a cat walks by (which happens about 50 times a night) Sidney growls ferociously to warn us that she's there and she's scared.  I had to eventually move her bed next to our bed and she sleeps there, with my arm dangling down on her now.

I can see that she is struggling to see in the daytime too now.  I think that she still sees shapes, but I don't think she is able to make out much more than that.  She's become very clumsy and sudden movement seems to scare her.  She even seems disoriented frequently.

I want to teach her commands, like "step up" and "step down" and "turn right" and "turn left" but I'm just not sure how to do this.  She's a really smart dog and I know that she could pick up on the information, but I am barely capable of teaching a dog not to pee on my laundry room floor, never mind teaching one how to be self-sufficiently blind.

One thing that Sidney has always loved to do is to fetch.  And though she still plays through sound and smell, she is rarely never able to get to the ball before Groovy-James and will sort of pitifully continue to search for it long after he's retrieved and hid it (Groovy-James only retrieves.  He does not have any interest in giving the ball back to me to throw again).

Anyway...  my point is that I love little Sidney Holler so much and I can't believe that I am seeing these signs of age in her.  I can't bare the thought of Sidney ever dying, so every ailment feels like it is one step closer to losing someone who I love so much.  And Sidney's blindness doesn't feel painless to me.  She seems scared to death.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Garden Babies and Lots of Growing Going On!

I planted a few new things today.  I gave up on my watermelon bumps and the cucumbers that I was trying to grow from seeds and planted acorn squash and zucchini in their place.  I left the garlic because I still hold hope that despite it's unchanged appearance, it will eventually sprout.

Instead of planting in the terrible garden soil that I used to not-grow my failed watermelons, I used compost.  

When I look back on previous posts about my garden, I can't believe how big everything has gotten!  I am so glad that I've been blogging about this journey because it's fun to be able to look back on pictures of how tiny everything was a month ago.  It's especially awesome to see the pictures of my seed baby summer squash because it has become gigantic!

Okay, so far here's what we've got:

Four summer squash plants
One zucchini plant
Two jalapeno pepper plants
Two green pepper plants
Two yellow pepper plants
Two cucumber plants
Six garlic plants
Three watermelon plants
Three beef steak tomato plants
One row of corn
Three cabbage plants (though, no sooner did we put the cabbage in Bunny's window that Sherbert knocked it over.  The seeds were so small that we couldn't tell if they'd been disrupted.  I'll give it three weeks and then it becomes a lettuce bowl.)

When you factor in these veggies and all of our fruit trees, I feel like we could probably survive 2012 (but only if the world in ends in, like, September).  We could DEFINITELY survive a gas drought (Also, only if it happens in September).

Check out my summer squash.  One of my plants already has three nicely sized squash babies on it.  I had to trim it back yesterday because it was overpowering my pepper plants.  They are tiny in comparison. These are in my left, front garden bed.

These are an assortment of peppers.  I honestly can't remember who is who here!  See how tiny they are when compared to my gigantic squash plant!  Though the do seem small, they've grown so much since the day I brought them home.  They are also in my left, front garden bed.

Look, I got tomato cages!

Now that I have staked the tomatoes and caged them, am I supposed to retie them to the stake at some point?  Does it ever need an adjustment?  These are also in my left, front garden bed.

My peppers are doing really well.  They are green and yellow.  There is also something that I am not responsible for planting sprouting up in the middle.  I left some soil that already existed in this whisky barrel underneath the soil that I used to plant these peppers.  And it appears that something has come to life.  It looks a lot like the tiger lilies that sprout up and around my house.
It doesn't seem to be adversely affecting my peppers, so I don't think I need to pull it.  I'm sort of curious to see what happens!

This is a close up of my pepper plant.  So many flowers!

These are located in a whisky barrel in my backyard.

These are my cardinal climbers!  Not a vegetable, but I've grown them from seeds.  Bunny crashed her scooter into their original pot and broke it.  Since re-potting them, they've grown so much.  It's a smaller pot so it doesn't make much sense to me.  Someday they'll be long vines with red flowers that climb up my pergola!  They are located in my backyard, placed next to the pergola and at the front of my watermelon patch.

The very poisonous mimosa plant.  I can't wait to see how it responds to touch!  It's also not a vegetable, but I've grown them from seeds.  You can't really see them in this picture, but I assure you, they're there.  They are still pretty small though.  I don't have a place for this basket either.  I move it all the time, though it's generally kept up high and out of reach of the kids and the pets.

These are three acorn squash and a zucchini plant.  Does anyone know if I need to stake my acorn squash plants?

I have this really delicious acorn squash recipe that I used to make when I  did a small stint on a vegan diet.  It was acorn squash, halved and stuffed with wild rice and mushrooms, soaked in curried coconut milk.  It was SO GOOD.

Another acorn squash plant!

All of my acorn squash is located in my front, right garden area.

And last, but certainly not least, my last little watermelon baby.  They did not grow in my first location.  They may not grow in my second location, but here is a small spot that gets a lot of sun and hopefully, my watermelon will grow!  Keep your fingers crossed!
This is located in the front of my house, near our front door.

I'm not taking pictures of my corn.  I planted them yesterday so nothing has happened.  I'll let you know if they make an appearance at some point!

The Peppermint Patch Experiment

My failure to grow watermelon in the front garden has been like a terrible itch between my shoulder blades that I can not reach to scratch.  I sat on my hands for about 24 hours, trying to think of reasons why my watermelon refuse to grow.  In my heart of hearts, I know that no amount of waiting will see plump, round, summer fruit.  The trouble of soil and space preoccupied my thoughts.  And late last night I had what I mistakenly believed was a brilliant idea!

We have a crazy, overgrown, peppermint patch in our backyard. It's quite large.  I don't use the peppermint in it  because it skeeves me out.  Frankly, I have SEEN Groovy James wading through it.  Pandora curls up in it.  And Sherbert once hid a dead baby bird in it (found thanks to only the flies).  I just can't eat something that has probably been peed on and has likely seen animals in varied states of decomposition.   

So... I mistakenly thought... I'll pluck the peppermint out and plant my watermelon in the nutrient rich soil beneath!  

Here's what I had to work with.

But after I picked the peppermint out, I was left with anything but soft, nutrient rich soil.  Instead, the ground was full of crusty, broken roots.  I tried to pull them all out, but I couldn't get them.  Then, I tried to dig them out, but I couldn't seem to get deep enough to find their end.

And that is when I made two emergency watermelon patch calls.  I first called my friend Mathew and then called my friend Siet.  They both returned my call within the hour, but Siet got to me first so I ran with her advice.  

Both Mathew and Siet said pretty much the same thing. 

There's no fighting peppermint. Unless you can get every single root up, and trust me, you can't, just accept that you have a peppermint patch and embrace it.

But I can't do that because I want to turn my peppermint patch into a watermelon patch.  I do not like peppermint and I do like watermelon.

Siet gave me some sound advice and it may work, but it may not.

Remove all the tape from a bunch of cardboard boxes and cover the peppermint patch with several layers of cardboard.

Then, buy large bags of compost.  Cut holes in the top of the bags and plant the watermelon in the bag itself.  Place it on top of the cardboard.  In time, the bag will begin to degrade, as will the cardboard.  The cardboard will deprive the peppermint patch of light and water and will starve it out.  By the time the watermelon is strong enough for its roots to push through the bag and the cardboard, the peppermint will be dead.  

After planting my peppermint, and giving it a lot of room to stretch and grow, I also planted cucumber and covered the area and the bags with mulch.

This is the final result!   

Here's another view.

I am going to get a little trellis to lean against the bench for the cucumbers.  I think that this should be enough space for the watermelon to stretch their legs.  

But just in case, I planted two other watermelon in different places.  

But that's something to talk about in my next post!  

ps.  I'd quickly like to add that the person who I initially talked to at Lowes told me that they don't carry compost when I asked her where they keep it.  When I told her that I had seen a bag of it alone and wondered if they had more, she assured me (and prefaced it with  the word "honey") that they don't carry any compost.  And she laughed as if I were absurd.  

To that woman, I say, "It's in the same aisle as the mulch and you  have three different kinds that come in two different sizes."  Suck it.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another Day In The Yard (and the mystery tree unveiled)

I did A LOT of work outside today.  The weather here is gorgeous and I was able to trim our rose bushes without so much as breaking a sweat.

First things first.  If you have ever seen what a cucumber plant looks like when it first breaks through the soil, can you please tell me if that's what this is.  I see three little green somethings poking their heads through the dirt, but I can't tell if they're cuce's or weeds.

Can you see it?

After trimming my yellow rose bush I got a huge bundle of rosebuds.  I can't wait to see what this bouquet looks like after it opens.

The center pot is housing cabbage.  We didn't plant it in the ground because the instructions said that it needs to be started inside?  This didn't seem right to me, but we'll give it a shot.  Bunny is responsible for this.  She did all of the work and it's in her bedroom by the window.  I'm skeptical about growing it this way.  Bunny really wanted to grow carrots but the packet said that they'd need to be started in September.

Lila is growing these flowers.  They're lavender.  She also chose a lavender pot.

I've gone a little bit crazy today and planted one row of corn!  I just planted it in a sunny spot of dirt in my front yard that has been vacant but used to house a daisy patch that got a little bit out of control.  I can't imagine that they'll actually grow, but hey, you never know!  How amazing would it be to have corn growing in my front yard.  Let's see what happens.

This is my favorite tree.  It recently bloomed and is so tropical!  I have no idea what it is but the colors are out of this world bold.

And finally, my friend Mathew was right!  This is a PLUM tree!!!!!  The neighbor behind us said that some of them drop down into his yard and they eat them every year.  He said that they don't get that big, but they are juicy and delicious.  Also, he said that we have a second cherry tree back there.

My First Probable Garden Folly

I have two garden beds.  One is on the left of my house and one is on the right.  It was 8 days ago that I went out and bought something called "garden soil," came home and spread it over half of the right garden bed.  I planted garlic and watermelon in it and then a few days later I planted cucumber seeds.

Nothing has popped up.

So I dug into it to see what state things were in (I wouldn't normally do this but my friend Siet assured me that it was ok).

The garlic appeared to be exactly the same as it was the day I planted it.  Honestly, it didn't even seem dirty.  None of the seeds are doing anything interesting either.  They just appear to be exactly the same as they were they day I planted them.

Am I being too impatient, or should I dig them up, till the soil and plant something new?  Maybe something that's not a seedling and is already established to a point?

I wish that I had used compost, or just the dirt in my garden bed.  My little squash and california poppies are doing just fine and they were planted in the dry, dirt that has been sitting there for god-knows-how-long.

What should I do?

On the bright side!  My left garden bed is THRIVING!  I am so excited to tell you that the babies are here!

Baby Tomatoes!

Baby Peppers

Baby Squash

This is the squash that I grew from seeds in my right garden bed. It's doing great and is growing big and strong.

And here are my california poppies.  They were planned poorly.  When I planted the seeds it seemed like they were so far away from the squash.  I had no idea how big squash plants grow to be.  So my poppies are being swallowed by the squash.  And don't they look like parsley or something that's edible?  Where are the flowers?

This is the empty half of my right garden bed.  What to do?  What to do? I think that I'll give it two more weeks and if nothing happens I'll dig it up and plant something new.  Maybe strawberries?  I'm just scared that if I go into June without planting that I will have waited too long.

And hey!  Check out this crazy little arm stretching out from one of my squash plants!  I love it?

Does anyone know if it's too late to try to grow pumpkins?  I think that I'd like to grow our own pumpkins this year!  Seems like a fun project for the kids!  This might be a good space to do that (though I seriously want watermelon).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Black Bean Dip

Here's a great summer side!

Serve this hearty black bean dip with your bbq'd dinner instead of a potato or pasta based starch. It could be eaten alone as a side dish, but my family likes to scoop it onto a tortilla chip.

It could go from side dish to whole meal by rolling it in a tortilla with 1/2 a cup of rice.  Yum.

Here's how you do it:

You need:
1/2 cup fresh, chopped tomato
1 piece of bacon, cut finely
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bundle of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 white onion, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup water
1 splash hot sauce
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1  sm bag monterey jack cheese

Use a medium pot to fry tomato, onion, bacon, garlic and cilantro in oil until the onion is translucent and the bacon is well done.

Add salt and pepper.

Add water, corn and hot sauce.

Stir occasionally until corn is fully cooked and mixed well with the other ingredients.

Mix in blackbeans.

Mix in cheese.

Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Serve warm!  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pretty Bouquet

Dear Twitter,

Thank you for Rdio.  I have been listening to non-stop old-school Tori Amos and being fantastically productive in my yard and it's all because Twitter is the best place in the world to work gave us the gift of Rdio.

Just look at what I made!

  Okay, so I didn't MAKE Groovy-James, but he is my little shadow.  He follows me around everywhere these days.  He even waits outside of the bathroom while I take my shower.  He's always got his eye on me.

Weight Update- Week Six

I worked extra hard this week.  I think that I've adequately expressed my sour attitude about the slow and at times nonexistent progress that I've been making in terms of my weight.

My strategy until now has just been eating low carb with lots of veggies. This type of diet never makes me feel deprived, always keeps me full and has given me excellent result in the past.  Let's face it, flour and sugar are just awful for our bodies as it is, so it makes sense that eliminating them would instigate quick results.

Not so much this time for me, unfortunately.

So, this week I took it one step further.  This week I also began counting and restricting calories.  I started measuring the amount of cream that I use in my coffee because it really adds up.  I can't use a lower calorie option because they all have too much sugar. I've also started measuring my other food and monitoring portion control, which is always a problem for me.  I am completely guilty of doing things like sampling as I cook and not counting it.  Or, finishing something on my daughter's plate and not counting it.

It all worked out because this week I lost 4 pounds!!!!!!!!!!  Thank God, I have found the answer!  This brings my total to 14 lbs in 6 weeks.

This couldn't have come at a better time because I woke up feeling like a pudge ball.

I've been thinking about seeing some sort of therapist about my weight.  It seems like I am constantly gaining and losing the same lbs over and over and over.  I yo-yo continuously and I'd really like to stop.  I know that I use food to comfort and cope, which isn't a healthy attitude.  And when I'm not treating it like it's my friend, I'm definitely treating it like it's my enemy.  Food is never just something to eat with me.  There's something wrong with me, I swear.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Because We Like Our Dogs To Actually Be Cats

Groovy James has taken to hopping up on Bunny's toy shelf to watch over our front yard.

Doesn't he sort of look like, "Don't worry Ma'am.  I had my training with the Navy Seals.  No one will walk bye this house and not feel threatened in your absence."

He just doesn't realize that he's only 10 inches tall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The inflatable ring on our kiddie pool flattened and let a bunch of water out.  I need to charge the air pump before blowing it up again.  

This is the warning on the label on the charger.

A.) They couldn't think of something non-cancer-causing to use in place of lead?  Really?

B.) I wonder how many times I've touched this?  Today was the first time that I read the warning label.  

50 Shades Review

Do not read this post if you want to read 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Darker or 50 Shades Freed by E.L James or see this movie and value an element of surprise.  

Anyone who has gotten to know me knows that I am fascinated by pop culture.  When something explodes into the mainstream and wraps all of America around its metaphorical finger, I'm unable to stay away.  I'm like a moth to a light, a fly to a burger and stay-at-home-mom to a Whole Foods Market.  For this reason, I vote every Wednesday for our next American Idol (go Phil Phillips), and I shop Etsy first.  I buy my clothes from Free People and I have read every Twilight book (even the non-published, half-written, online book from Edwards perspective).  I know all of the "Real Housewives" cast members by first AND last name, feel like Emily Maynard and Courtney Robertson are old friends of mine AND have every lyric to both "Jar of Hearts" and "Firework" memorized.

As you can imagine, I could not resist the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.  Reportedly, these books have changed the lives of women far and wide.  They've saved marriages and my friend Laura even knows someone who has read them THREE TIMES (which disturbs me).

Confession:  I couldn't make it through, though I gave it a valiant effort.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey one night last week.  I read Fifty Shades Darker the following night.  I have been unsuccessfully struggling to choke Fifty Shades Freed down my throat ever since.  I am not one to abandon a book.  Books are like cd's.  How can you possibly know if it's any good if you haven't listened to the whole thing?  But friends, I.  CAN.  NOT.  DO.  IT.  I have tried.  I have popped my eye lids up with toothpicks and forced them to take in the monotonous drivel of E.L James for two hundred pages of the final book in this trilogy... but no more.  I surrender.  My brain can no longer endure the absolute stupidity of these novels and I simply can not make it through.  I just can't read about Christian Grey "cupping"  Anastasia Steele-Grey's "sex" anymore.  I just can't read about her having an orgasm at the very sight of his clothed erection or using the word "please" interchangeably with, oh idunno, every other world that means "I want to get it on right this second."  Even typing about it makes me want to kick Mrs. Grey in the face.

That said, I have an awful lot of respect for E.L James.  I imagine her to be a chubby mum, snuggled into the overstuffed, floral patterned chair in her English cottage, eating scones with clotted cream and sipping tea, thinking- "I've always wanted to write a novel.  Bloody Hell, I'll start straight away."  And after a little contemplation and a Monday Twilight movie marathon, she decided to write about what Edward and Bella would be if they were rated XXX.  E.L James pulled out her Microsoft Word and online thesaurus and went to town.  No research.  No understanding of convention.  She poured her imagination all over the page and the whole western world ate it up.

And just look at her now! E.L James is taking her fan fiction all the way to the box office.  It's mind boggling.  I understand a lot of things that I don't necessarily like.  I get Britney Spears.  I get skinny jeans.  I get Dancing With The Stars.  I get facial tattoos.  I get paying $800 for a pair of shoes whose  claim to fame is it's red sole.  I do not get Nickleback.  And I do not get 50 Shades of Grey.

That said, each 50 Shades book is about 700 pages on my iPad.  I'm not sure how that translates into real pages.  Let me tell you how the book gets it's name.  Christian Grey says, at one point that he is "50 Shades of Fucked Up" and Anasatia starts referring to him as "50 Shades."  Anastasia has a lot of contrived, stupid, non-clever nicknames for other characters in the book.

Okay, so Fifty Shades of Grey begins with its heroine, Ana Steele driving from Oregon to Seattle so that she can interview the Billionare businessman who donates money to her college's agriculture department for her wannabe journalist, sick roommate Kate.  She meets gorgeous, nerve wracking Christian Grey.  He is a stoic, stone-cold business man who doesn't have time for anyone, but is immediately smitten by how awkward, dumb, clumsy and rude Ana is.  She asks him a bunch of boring, unimaginative questions and marks him as the first man she has ever been attracted to in her life.  She asks him if he's gay and this is apparently very scandalous and a terribly big deal.  We later find out that not only is Christian a self-made billionaire, but he's only 26 years old and makes $100,000 an hour and is a Harvard dropout.  Ana is about to graduate from college.  She's a bookworm and a virgin who has never been interested in a man, but is now ready to shake her chastity belt free for Christian Grey.  She also doesn't care about money at all.  She neither struggles with money or appreciates money or shows that it has any impact on her quality of life at all.  She lives practically for free, mooching off of her roommate's wealthy family while working part time at a hardware store.

Christian was adopted when he was four years old by the pediatrician who found him at the scene of his birth mom's suicide.  His birth mom is consistently referred to as "the crack whore" throughout the entire story.  He was physically abused by his mother's pimp, neglected and left alone with his mom's rotting body for four days.  He did not speak for two years after being adopted.

I am not certain what happened to Ana's biological dad.  I think that he died.  I don't remember this being stated specifically (though it probably was), but on Ana's wedding day, her mother says that she wishes her father was there to see it.  In any event, Ana was given the name of one of her mom's other husbands, Ray.  He is also the man that Christian speaks to when he wants permission to marry Ana.  Her mother lives in Georgia with her current husband Bob and clearly is attracted to men with three letter names.  Her next husband will likely be Joe.  They are flighty weirdos with no sense of responsibility.  Her mother didn't go to her graduation because Bob broke or sprained some random bone conveniently.  So dumb.

So, it's reasonable to assume that Christian's difficult start in life left him with a few pesky issues that he works on with his therapist (who oddly is invited to all of their family events and bid on Ana for a dance when she was spontaneously auctioned off and sold for $100,000.)  Christian's life was further complicated when a friend of his parents began beating and sleeping with him at the age of 15.  Her name is Elena, but Ana consistently refers to her as Mrs. Robinson.  So dumb.

Mrs. Robinson quickly taught Christian about the world of BDSM and 11 years later he's moved on from his relationship with her and acts as the "dominant" partner in contractual relationships with subservient women.  These women are all small with brown hair and resemble his birth mother.  He likes to beat them and then have intercourse with them.  This oedipal undertone is sprung on us like it's a twist, when it was painfully obvious.  So dumb.

Christian approaches Ana in respect to his penchant for sadomascochism, giving her a list of rules like, here's what you can and can't eat and here's when you can and can't eat. You have to come to my house every Friday through Sunday. You have to let me do anything to you sexually.  You only speak when spoken to and must call me master or sir.  You have to only wear the clothes I buy for you.  You have to be polished and waxed from head to toe.  Of course, he has a "play room" full of torture devices in his penthouse and he can terminate the arrangement whenever he wants.  Because Christian explains to Ana that he is not able to be available to her in any other way, and that the only relationship that he is willing to have is an abusive, sexual, controlling, dominant relationship, she figures that she'll take what she can get and cries a lot.  She also struggles with anorexia that is explained but never really addressed.  If anything, it's exploited and glamorized.

Christian has had a few long term "subs" who have agreed to be his weekend maid, chef, baby, mother and sex slave.  They have done things like tortured cats and been scratched up by them, been suspended from the ceiling, been whipped and flogged and had any number of objects shoved into any orifice.   But Christian had to end these relationships when they women became too emotionally attached to him and wanted "more."  The word "more" is used in the first two books as if it were some deep vehicle for complicated introspection.  The way E. L James overuses it but never defines it is maddening.  It makes these characters feel incredibly juvenile.

Of course, Ana learns all of this and immediately drops her panties.  She does not, however, sign Christian's contract but decided to dabble in S&M anyway.  She does agree to participate in a completely unhealthy relationship because she evidently  hates herself.  I could sum this story up by saying that there were two people who hated themselves and were obsessed with each other.  And everyday they just said, "Baby.  Don't hate yourself.  I love you.  No.  I love you.  No. I love you.  YOU ARE MINE," over and over and over and over and over again. When Christian finds out that Ana's a virgin and that she's never masturbated or had an orgasm and wholly the most non-sexual person ever, he decides to have what he calls "vanilla sex" with her.

And here's where the trilogy goes entirely downhill.

Ana loses her virginity and engages in poorly written sex on every page or so for the rest of the next two and a half books.  For someone who has never been at all interested in sex, she has full-on vaginal orgasms when Christian touches her nipple, says "You are mine," licks his tips AND she's even woken up by one once.  (It was at this point that I turned on the internet to see if E.L James was a.) a man or b.) a virgin.)  Luckily for Christian, Ana is always ready to go and can have an orgasm on command.  I mean, literally, he'll tell her to hurry up and she'll just go ahead and do it and usually at the exact same time that he is. Especially if he says, "You are mine."  Miracle of miracles.

The sex scenes in this book are terribly written and mostly driven by Christian saying cheesy things and repeating the phrase "oh baby,  I want to take you now" over and over and Ana saying, "Please" and nothing more.  As the books wore on, these sex scenes became sooooo over the top cheesy that by the end of 50 Shades Darker I was laughing at them.  By the time I hit my midway point in 50 Shades Freed I was  just skimming the sex paragraphs to find their end so that I could start reading again.

When Ana and Christian aren't in the playroom or tangled up in his vanilla sex bed, they are becoming  obsessed with and falling in love with each other.  Somehow, this is possible, though they have only had a few (in any) conversations.  Their relationship is horrible and laden with conflict and a struggle for power and control.  They fight all of the time and only feel secure when they are assured that they each possess each other.

Ana and Christian's families entirely accept their relationship and each other.   Christian's parents give Ana 100% credit for Christian being/becoming human.  Oddly, they attribute his strides in mental health to HER and not to the therapist he sees for hours every week.  Repeatedly, Christian will do something surprising- like sing or survive a helicopter crash or bail out of work for the day- and as a result, his mother will sweep Ana into her arms, thanking her for existing.

Ana's friend Kate doesn't like Christian because he's made Ana feel like a sperm receptacle, but she sure likes his brother.  And no worries.  When Kate becomes an obstacle that E.L James isn't savvy enough to cleverly overcome, she just sends Kate out of the country for awhile.  Fortunately, Kate's parents have bought an apartment in Seattle where Ana is able to live.  After about five weeks of knowing each other, Christian and Ana decided to get married.  Everyone is overjoyed for them and of course, he insists on not having a prenuptial agreement.

But let me backtrack just a few steps.  Rewind to Christian and Ana's pre-wedding, falling in love week.

Here's where things get really bad for me.

Christian spanks Ana a little too hard and they break up.

Ana graduates from college and quickly gets an internship at a local, small publishing company.  Her boss is a sleaze bag who, naturally, wants to sleep with her.  Christian and Ana get back together.  He buys the publishing company in order to have control over Ana.  But things take a real turn for the worse when Ana's boss predictably sexually harasses her in the office while Christian and his security team are waiting in the car downstairs.  Christian has Ana's boss fired.

(And here is where I was completely lost and unable to suspend my disbelief further.)

When Ana goes into work, the company has decided that in the week that she's been there she's done such a great job, that they are going to promote her from being an INTERN to taking her boss' old job as a chief editor.   They insist that her "notes" have been seriously impressive and have gotten her this job.  Further, though all you see Ana do at work is email Christian, apparently she has built sustainable, strong relationships with all of her boss's clients.  Again, this was all established in ONE week.  When she decided to leave for a month on a honeymoon, it's no problem.  They just hold the promotion for her.  And when she comes home from the honeymoon she has her own assistant.  And Christian is giving the company to her and promoting her to being the president of it.  And renaming is Grey's Publishing.

In the meantime, Ana's old boss tries to kill Christian a few times.  There are even car chases followed by parking lot, adrenaline induced sex.  Oh, and Christian buys Ana a giant house.

And that's as far as I got.  Now that I'm writing about it, maybe I will continue reading.  This is possibly the worst book that I've ever read in my life.  I can not even reconcile how terrible it is, never mind how it's possible for so many people to love it.  But can I really just not finish it?  Jesus.  I don't know.  It just has no depth.  No soul.  Barely any storyline.  Shallow, flat-as-a-pancake character development... there is just NOTHING good about this trilogy.  I honestly worry for any young person reading this book.  I worry that they'll find this unhealthy relationship model romantic and I further worry that they'll think there's something wrong with them when they fail to have an orgasm when their significant other suggests it verbally.

The fact that I hear that women are reading these books and getting all hot and bothered for their husbands troubles me deeply.

Has anyone else read this?

They're Ba-ack

 Hopefully my day improves.

I woke up today to a big, fat, ugly funky, blob in my brain manifesting itself as a bad mod.

But on the bright side when I went outside, as I do every morning when I wake up, I saw that I have a bright yellow flower on one of my yellow squash plants.  I do declare, this is going to be a little squash!

On the not so bright side, I have another assembly of snails.

What the...?

I was surprised when the snails evacuated the yard.  I knew that they had either traveled or had gone into hiding.  This morning, they have returned.  Two were on my squash plants, but I relocated them.  Now they are with their people.

 As long as they stay out of my garden, I will not try to take them down.  If they don't.  Corry's Slug and Snail death, it is.  I hate to do that to them... but...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mystery Tree

This is a picture of the unidentifiable tree that sits in my backyard growing something that may or may not become delicious.

The tree has been driving me nuts.  I honestly can not tell if it is actually two trees.  If you look closely you'll notice that the bottom of the tree splits.  The "fruit" (for lack of a better word) on one side of the split have remained green.  The fruit on the other side of the split are a deep red.  The green fruit are also rounder than the red fruit.

 The first time I blogged about this tree was on April 14th.  If you follow the link you'll see a much better picture of the tree as well as pictures of both kinds of fruit.  At the time, I mistakenly believed that this tree was our peach tree.  In the month since my initial post I have discovered my actually peach trees and they are working hard to make delicious, plump peaches that actually resemble peaches.  Not fruit that looks more like an olive than anything that is going to turn into a peach.

Here are the photographs that I took today of the fruit on my mystery tree"

If you look at the post I created back in April you'll notice that these really haven't grown at all.  

Could they be olives?  The leaves on this tree appear too large to be an olive, but my only gauge of this has been the pictures that I've seen online.  

 After a bit of research, I found that there is a red olive tree, but even in this picture you can see how much smaller and sleeker the leaves on that olive tree appear to be.
Maybe they are the Kalmata Olive?  Or, are the red olive and the Kalmata olive one in the same?  Goodness, gracious!  My head is swimming.  That said, I do not think that these are plums.  

I just want to know a.) what are they?  and b.) can I pickle them?