Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why We Should All Have a Dog or a Tail



What is the one small thing that always makes you happy?

We all know who man’s best friend is: the dog. Before you sigh and say, “

Of course your dog makes you happy, that is their job,”

hear me out. Dogs are loyal and kind-hearted; they aim to please and often, like in the case of my pup, they are treated like a person. You have to understand where Vera, my Vizsla-Labrador mixed puppy, came from before you can scorn me for counting her in on the people-side of things.

My husband of two years and I lived in eastern Wyoming for one year and would often go to South Dakota for little mini-vacations. One such trip we found ourselves wandering into a pet store, where I pointed at this tiny black dog and said, “I want to hold that one please.” He said, “No way. You’ll hold it, then I’ll have to buy it.” I gave him my best please-give-me-what-I-want look and he asked the store clerk if we could hold the small black puppy.

“Good choice,” said the clerk, as she sat us in the puppy holding are, “this girl’s been here for a while and we don’t know what kind of dog she is.” As soon as the clerk placed that tiny, black, warm, ball of fur into my arms, I fell in love. I had met my puppy. She was calm, and nestled right into my neck, when we put her down to play her legs spread out in all four directions like a fawn trying to walk for the first time. She was perfect, and, good news, she was on sale! I love a good bargain. My husband looked at me and smiled, he then reminded me we were not allowed to have animals in the house we were renting. Tears welled up in my eyes as I faced the idea of putting my dog-child back in a glass cage, “I’ll come back for you,” I whispered into her soft, warm ears. Distraught, I handed him the pup and headed for the door; he returned her to the clerk and apologized that we could not take her home. That night was grueling, neither one of us could forget that black puppy’s tiny paws, soft hair, warm ears and needle teeth. Something must be done!

We called our landlord and thank goodness for my husband’s negotiating skills, because he won our pup fare and square, at the cost of a new fence and a doggie door for the house. We rushed back to the pet store as soon as they opened and chose her a collar to really make her ours. We were officially a family.

One of my friends recently told me that dogs always match their people, “Vera matches you,” she continued, “She’s happy, willing to please and does not like things out of place.” A little embarrassing but true. I love my dog, and she makes me happy, but the part of her that brings me the most joy is her tail. A dog’s tail can tell you a range of emotions; sad: tucked under, angry: bristled and stiff, shy: wag, playful: wag, wag, wag, happy: wag, wag, wag, wag, wag. Everything you need to know about your pup can be determined by the demeanor of their tail. It would be so nice if human’s had tails, huh? We would never have to decode a look from the woman at the checkout counter, or try to decipher our partner’s mood when they get home. In my opinion, tails would end all the confusion deciphering a one word text message has thrown into our society! You would be able to read people’s true emotions, but it would pose a challenge to bluff in the World Poker Tournament.

My Vera’s tail is exceptionally good at explaining an array of emotions, the best being her joy when my husband and I return home. Most days when we come home, she is not waiting at our door, nope, she is on our bed.

We come in our bedroom and she does not even to get up, yet the tip of her tail, the tiny tip of her tail, is moving, no, not moving, it is beating. The tip of her tail is beating, pounding away a rhythm that would put a hummingbird to shame. I melt when I see that because I know that she loves me. Beyond a shadow of a doubt she is my dog, her tail tells me so everyday. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a dog person, no a dog-tail person because the tiny tip of my dogs tail make me happy.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teatime

One of my co-workers told me today that she had given up on my blog because I wasn't posting enough, until she read about the apple pie, then she was sucked back in. Truth be told, I got a job in June and I haven't been as diligent with my blogging as I should be, so in honor of fall, I'm turning over a new leaf.

Fall makes me think of many things. Apple pie, sweaters, pumpkins, leaves turning different shades, fireplaces, books, tea and school. While I miss school and I have pumpkins and leaves all over my house, I want to write today about tea, well, teatime that is. I have several tea influences in my life. My sister Melissa is my best friend and teatime-partner-in-crime. She loves tea and, because I look up to her like a little sister should, I love tea too. Actually, we are passionate about tea. The second person I would attribute to my thriving tea passion would be the mother of my life-long friend; her name is Geri. She has been a second mom to me and now to my husband as he finds himself living thousands of miles away from his own momma. Long story short, everyday when I came into Geri's house to pick her daughters up for school she had tea ready for me because she knew I would have to wait a few minutes for them to get out the door. For Geri, tea was a way to connect with me; she provided love, affection and consolation through her teapot. When I got married, one of the first questions Geri asked was, "Are you getting your teapot and creamer set?" I told her I had registered for the one I wanted but that the pot was out of stock. She hunted around, found me a complete set and made me a tea-cozy to set over the top of my pot while it's brewing. I use it everyday. My third tea influence is
Steve Smith, well really it's my dad bragging on his friend Steve all the time that kindled my tea-flame. Steve is a longtime friend of my fathers and has created three tea lines in his life: Stash Tea, Tazo Tea, and Steven Smith Teamaker. Steve was always gifting our household with tea aplenty and my dad was always praising his entrepreneurship. Good work Steve! So now that you know where my passion for tea comes from, I can tell you about the history of teatime.



Teatime, or afternoon tea as it is called by many, is observed in many British-influenced countries between three and five o'clock in the afternoon. Although, I would encourage you to learn about the traditional tea ceremonies that many other countries have. For this post I am just going to talk about how it is traditionally observed in the United Kingdom.

Tea drinking found its way to English Royalty in 1662 when Charles II married a Portuguese woman named Catherine. Wisely, Catherine had brought a small supply of tealeaves with her from Portugal to brew for those around her. Tea caught on at this point as an upperclass commodity. Teatime originated with the elite as an opportunity for women to host, those whom they desired, in their personal parlors, to have a break from daily duties and relax. The preparation of the drink for teatime was a careful process done solely by the hostess, because tea was a precious item to a family. An empty teapot was used; scoops of loose leaf tea were added, then it was filled with hot water and allowed to steep. After the appropriate time, the leaves were removed and the tea was served in small teacups with cream and sugar. Teacakes, finger sandwiches and scones were served alongside the beverage as an afternoon pick-me-up.

The nostalgia of teatime, for me, blossoms in the picture I painted above about fall and the warmth of a home, welcoming you to enjoy a cup of tea and comfort. Who wouldn't like to take some time every afternoon to sit with a few close friends for good conversation, a cup of tea, and some snacks? Think about your daily life, what are you usually doing between 3 pm and 5 pm everyday? Most days I am doing three things: driving home from work, trying to shake off the afternoon sleepies, and deciding what is for dinner that night. Seriously, those who observe teatime are wise. On the days I have off from work, I often find my way to my sister's living room, or tea parlor as I may have to call it now, to indulge in some healthy afternoon teatime. During this break, which conveniently coincides with her children's nap time, we can discuss life issues, plan meals, or just chatter at each other like we do best. Teatime is bonding time for me and the women I get to share it with; it is our red tent, our connection point, our refreshing hour before the chaos of life consumes us once again. I encourage you to observe teatime twice this week and see it changes the pace of your evening.

Pettigrew, Jane (2004) Afternoon Tea. Andover: Jarrold.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Apple Pie to Win Any Contest

It's fall and in the Pacific Northwest that means apples, pumpkin-flavored things and rain. For me, the apples take center stage. Just today I sat in my office and enjoyed a hot cup of fresh apple cider. I love grabbing a crisp apple slice and dipping it in almond butter for a rich afternoon snack. I have a friend who tried a diet where you eat only apples, it ended up being more of a cleanse for him though. I could not have an apple only diet because I like the things that apple pairs so well with: oats and butter, balsamic vinegar, cookies, and especially pie!Who doesn't love pie? I haven't met anyone in my years of living who can turn down a pie, and why, because of its versatility. Pie can be filled with berries, pecans, rhubarb, lemon custard, chocolate, pumpkin, apple and even meet, and topped with whipped cream, yogurt, ice cream, milk, oh just about anything! I love pie! But have you ever wondered who thought making a pie was a great idea? Well, I'd like to shake their hands, give them a hug, and tell them I love them. I want to share with you the recipe I use to make the world's best pie crust, to be filled to glory with apples, which will result in The Apple Pie to Win Any Contest. But before I do that, let's take a gaunt down history lane and discover where pie came from.

Yes there are actually books written just about pie. Wouldn't you love to say, "I got my master's degree in history, with an emphasis in pie,"? Thrilling! Seriously though, pies go way back. It is believed that pie crust, the quintessential part of a good pie, was originally used to supplement the lack of a proper pan. Ancient Egyptians cooked their meats and vegetables, in deep, thick crust coffins, over fires to keep the juices of the meat locked inside; the result was a savory meal. The tradition of pies without pans, or naked pies, continued well into the 14
th century. For me, the visual of pie crusts being scorched over a flame instead of baked into flaky perfect
was heart wrenching! I love pie crust and I think that when pies were transitioned into pans, the world was a more peaceful place.
In Colonial America, women switched to using round pans for their crusts to quite literally cut corners and save the pie dough required of a square dish, with the same heart, they transitioned from deep to shallow pans.

Now let's talk fillings. (I honestly can't decide if I like pie fillings or pie crust better.) As aforementioned, pies originated to contain and infuse the juices of their meaty contents into the whole meal. I have never had minced meat pie, or chicken pot pie, or even very many casseroles in my life, so I might not be the best judge in character here, but those all sound gross to me! When I hear the words pie, I fall deeply in love with the berries and nuts with which one is filled, dancing alongside another over flowing with melting lemon custard, topped only by the one to its left filled with dripping apples. Oh, its almost romantic! Yet, tradition holds true to form that meat, seafood and vegetables like potatoes and onions ruled over the pie world.
You know that nursery rhyme you sang as a kid, "Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,"?
Yep, that's true. Historically, empty crusts were
baked for the banquets of kings and then after cooling filled from the bottom with birds, turtles, frogs and even entertainers who would emerge from the pie when it was opened as a surprise for the guests. Talk about incredible fillings, but I am sticking with my fruit. When close to starvation, women of colonial America learned from neighboring Native Americans which wild berries and fruits to select as pie fillings. Sweet pies moved to the forefront of American cuisine and
were served with every meal, so it isn't a surprise that pie contests began to emerge at every community gathering.Quickly here I'd like to throw in something that I feel sums up why tradition holds in most households that women do the cooking. Me personally, I love to cook, most assuredly because of two things: I grew up in a food oriented family, and I really enjoy it. Historically we can look
at two sources here, biology and anthropology. In here book, Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, Laura Shapiro states, "Women have the babies, women
feed the babies, women feed everyone else while they're at it; hence, women cook. Men cook,
too, of course, especially now; but, traditionally,
they went to the stove as a job or a profession, to show off for an admiring crowd, or simply for the pleasure of it. Women cook because they're expected to and because the people around them
have to eat; happy is she who also enjoys the work." I think that pretty much sums that one up.



But let's get to the point here, apple pie is so incredible and this is the recipe that my mother and grandmother all have used. The crust recipe is the one I use for all types of pies and the apple part I've modified slightly because of how I like it to taste. I hope you will try it!

The Apple Pie to Win Any Contest

Filling:
6 large apples: peeled, cored, sliced thin
1 tbls vanilla
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients listed above and mix till apples are thoroughly coated with sugar mixture. Set aside.

Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 7 tbls chilled orange juice
Combine flour, sugar and salt in large bowl; add butter. Using fingertips, rub in butter until pieces range in size from rice grains to peas. Sprinkle 5 tablespoons juice over, tossing gently with fork to blend. Continue adding enough juice 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork, to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide into 2 parts, 1 slightly larger than the other. Flatten dough onto disks. Wrap in plastic; chill 1 1/2 hours or up to 1 day.
Once crust is chilled, roll out smaller half on a floured surface till it is 1/3 inch thick. The less you handle the dough the better. Move rolled crust into your greased pie pan. Add apple filling. Roll out the second larger crust on a floured surface till it is 1/3 inch thick. Lay on top of pie and join edges around the pan, closing the pie. Remove excess dough around the edges and use as designs on top of the pie if desired. Be sure to poke ventilation holes in to the top of the pie, but be creative make it a pattern.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, covered with aluminium foil. Remove foil and bake until crust is golden and apples are soft.
Enjoy!















Pie: A Global History, by Janet Clarkson.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knitting

I graduated from college in summer of 2008 and got married later that year to the man of my dreams. We moved to California, then Wyoming and I completed writing my thesis. Soon there after we moved back to Oregon where I grew up. When we first moved back, I wasn't working yet, and I wasn't doing school, and we don't have any children, so naturally I had to find other ways to entertain myself. Many different hobbies were born out of this boredom, one being this blog, the second and probably my favorite has been knitting.
I love knitting. I taught myself how to knit off of a youtube video over several frustrating days. My fingers ached and I didn't know how to cast off until I got to the end of my third project, but I didn't give up. Now, my husband has knit everything: hats, socks, towels, computer case, you name it. I feel like I have discovered a new underground world that I never knew existed. I see knitting stores everywhere we go, like I used to seek out bookstores or coffee shops! Oh and the sale! I can't even tell you how intense people get about their sales. Every hobby really does have its own culture. I even had a lady offer to sell me yarn out of the trunk of her car, she informed it was, "the special stuff, for real cheap." Who sells yarn to a complete stranger out of the trunk of their car?!? No, I didn't give in to the special, cheap, stealth yarn lady.
In looking at the history of knitting, I am surprised to find that it is not as old as the dawn of time. The first true reference to knitting came in the 14th century in Europe and Egypt for socks and gloves. People began simply with the knit stitch not the purl and knit only on circular needles in the round and had to cut the finished piece if they wanted it flat to sew together. Elizabethian
All this being said, I think that me having to teach myself to knit sort of birthed this blog. I had time to do whatever I wanted and I don't like being idle, so I found something constructive to do that yielded results. Yet, I had to teach myself an art that every girl would've known how to do if she'd grown up fifty, sixty, seventy years ago! Now don't take me wrong. I love my momma more than most, but she never learned how to knit and so I never learned how to knit. Why? WHY? Who knows why, but I conjecture that maybe the feminist movement did touch conservative christian households during the 1960s, therefore leading women like my mother to decide not to learn womanish things, or traditions of womanhood, and almost blotting out the art for a future generation.
Now, yes, I know that knitting is not lost, but not many girls my age actually learned this from a mother, it was a grandmother or a friend or a youtube video that kept this tradition going. I love my mother and I pray she is not offended by this post, because she has taught me more than most girls can do (see my post about apple pie and sewing mom). But I just do not understand where the breakdown in knowledge occurred? Why did I grow up with the notions that I do not want children, or do not talk to my neighbors because they might be creepy, or that knitting is for weak girls and you are a strong woman? Trust me, my parents didn't directly preach these things into my life, well maybe they did with the creepy neighbor thing, but that's a different story, so how did I decide these things myself. How did the moral or maybe gender code of my generation take a turn to be something that looses traditions as old as knitting? Maybe I am just ranting, but I think I'm onto something here, I think that if women of my generation took a stand and reestablished the lost traditions of womanhood, our world would become a softer place. I don't think you have to give up your position as a CEO, just bring your knitting needles to work with you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sewing

I think that sewing goes back to the book of Genesis in the Bible right after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. While writing this post, I can't help but play in my head the scene I imagine them running through. Once Adam and his temptress Eve discover their nakedness and are shamed, they rush to the nearest fig tree and start tearing at it's branches, grasping for the largest leaves they can find. Next, Eve in her desperation grabs some vines pulls and begins stringing fig leaves along it. She only needs three, Adam just one, thus is born the first string bikini.



The art of sewing did infact originate for the purpose of clothing to shelter early humans from the elements. Sewing predates weaving and knitting as well. Most early clothing was formed of animal hides, furs or plant. The twine used to hold it all together was created from plant fibers or animal sinew. Sewing needles were made of bone, or woods strong and whittled down. The first sewing machines were built in the late 1700s, but tailors in France were worried that the simple machine would eliminate their jobs and so production of an industrial machine was halted. In the 1850s Isaac Singer began the first successful production of sewing machines for industrial use. It was not until later in the 1890s that the Singer model reached homes and beyond.

So, for our theme, where does this trail lead us? Well for me, sewing projects were born from my mother's hands. Still to this day I believe she can sew anything she puts her hands too. My childhood was filled with trips to the fabric store where my mom taught me how to choose proper fabrics for specific patterns. Cotton knits for t-shirts, flannels for sheets, airy linen for a dress, and raw silk for my wedding dress. Alway wiling to teach me and accomplish anything I asked for she was a superhero with the power of sewing.

But where does my generation stand on sewing? As a child, my mom sewed, I did not. Historically, every member of the family sewed to participate in the household work. Yet when men became boys, the sewing was passed to mothers, sisters and daughters. To me, being a woman of the prarie meant work from waking till sleeping, hard detail oriented work. The detail and care that it took for a sewing project sans patterns and electric machines must have been immense. For young girls though, sewing became bigger than just family needs it was their marriage resume. A girl spent her entire young adulthood preparing the contents of her hope chest which could range from linens to clothes to lace. Can you imagine having ti prepare all that? Really? That's not easy sounding! Well, some of it was handed down from their mothers, but really think about those sateen sheets, 500-threadcount, that you registered for from Pottery Barn, with the lace edges? You would have had to cut, finish the edges, and crochet the lace to tack it on, oh, and it would not have been a 500 threadcount fabric weave. God bless the women who went before us!

The few solo sewing adventures I have had were birthed from my frustration at the lack of individuality in most places now of days. Most recently, I've sewn myself a case for my knitting needles which turned out awesome and was economical! So, as My husband Ryan and I are getting ready to move into a new-to-us home, here is my commitment: I commit to design and sew pillows, a headboard and something else that will be determined shortly, like maybe some appliqué, for my own home. Photos will be posted upon accomplisment!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is my goal? What is my role?

Here it goes. My name is ReBecca, the b in my first name is not actually capitalized, but that was how I got people to subtly call me Becca while I was in college. Now, I've just decided to keep it, anyway, I'm not here to talk about etymology but as the title of my blog reads, "The Lost Traditions of Womanhood." As I'm writing this post, the lyrics to that famous Irving Berlin song are ringing in my ears, they go, "I can do anything you can better. I can do anything better than you. No you can't! Yes I can!" You may ask why, but the reason you will soon learn is that I want to write about the things girls my age, with my background are supposed to hate, so that we can ask ourselves why we hate them and maybe reconcile ourselves to them and bring us some peace of mind. I am not just talking about baking a pie and having babies, although I do want to hit on those topics, but I'm talking about my incessant need to be a C.E.O. or to not have children or to make people believe that I don't know how to sew, when honestly I could spend my days as a yoga instructor, drinking tea, reading a good book and waiting for the perfect apple pie to come out of the oven.
So what's my goal? I am not 100% sure yet, except that I am learning how to be a woman and in through that process I don't want to lose what the women of my past worked hard to develop, womanhood, to this fear that I won't be respected unless I am androgynous.

That's all for now,

B