Life’s A Beatch.

I am not a beach person. Not really. I like the idea of looking at the waves – from a well air-conditioned restaurant at the water’s edge.

Beach.jpg

Going to the beach is too much like camping to me.

I do not like camping.

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I do not like any activity where you have to pack and drag all of the things you need to be moderately comfortable at your destination.

I don’t even like carrying carry-on luggage.

So living in Ft. Lauderdale is, for me, not all it’s cracked up to be.

But here I am, ostensibly to “keep an eye” on my aging-but-way-too-active parents, who were supposed to be here for almost half the year.

Except that they’re not.  And to make matters worse, it seems they have no plans to be here for any longer than the 6 weeks in the winter that they have always have stayed.

Here.

Where I now live.

Permanently.

Where I dragged all my stuff, all my furniture, all my clothes and all my animals.  And my car.

moving-pods

When the dust settled in September, when my parents returned to NY after “helping” me move in, when I was still an Orphan on Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, I occurred to me that I might have been a bit misled.

And although I’m not entirely unhappy here, I’m still just a little confused.

Ok, maybe a lot confused.

So my plans for “Making A Country Living” are on hold while I figure out just “How To Make A Florida Living.”

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

A Hitch in their Giddy-Ap

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So by the time the wheels of the plane had touched the earth at LAX, my family – my Sicilian family (which I will just refer to in future posts as “The Family” and you can draw your own conclusions) had already found a Realtor and the Realtor had found several homes for me to look at in Florida. More than several. More like 9.

I hadn’t even unpacked from the trip.

But there was a small problem with their plan.

I had a horse. Actually I had two horses.  One was 15 years old, a gelding, and the other, a mare, was 32 years old.

And she – the mare – couldn’t travel. Not at 32. Not around the the block and certainly not across the country.

 

And so with some sadness in my voice, I told The Family that it was impossible for me to move across the country with such an elderly horse.  It would just have to wait until she went to that big, green pasture in the sky.

Alas.

They said they understood, which they did.  The move would have to wait.

Phew.

And so I continued to find a way to make A Country Living.  To create something that I could post on my Etsy Shop and Voila!  Some Huge Retail Organization would email me requesting One Million Units of my One of a Kind Fabulous Creation and that would be that.

I would have it made.

And be able to move The Family to Los Angeles – to a 50 acre Family Compound with a Private Jet, Personal Chefs, Wall-to-Wall Servants, Celebrity Dog Walkers and all the things The Family could ever desire.  The Crawleys would turn green. Green!

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Distant Relatives (photo from PBS)

And I wouldn’t have to pack a thing.

That was March.  On April 1st, my beloved girl horse, Beauty, went to that big, green pasture in the sky. I don’t like to post such news. Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not in a Text or a Blog. I don’t like to even tell people, The Family included, in person or on the phone.

I know people mean well, but I don’t want to be reminded that something I loved so much is gone. I know they are sorry for my loss, but I am sorrier.  I just don’t want to have to think about it because it is all I can think about.  For the days and weeks afterwards, time just stops but everything else just keeps on going.

So when the phone rang on April 2nd, I wasn’t that surprised.

And so I started to pack.

 

 

 

 

I’m not in Kansas, anymore

Not that I was ever in Kansas, except maybe in my mind. When I was trying to figure out how to make A Country Living, I always pictured myself doing it in Kansas. With maybe a dog and maybe an Auntie Em.  Possibly a witch.

But no. I’m not in Kansas.  I’m not even in LA any more. And by LA I mean Los Angeles, not Louisiana.

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LA

 

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LA

I am, and have been for about 5 months, in Florida. South Florida.

Which has nothing to do with trying to make A Country Living.

Except that I’m here.

 

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Not LA

It all happened quite quickly – almost as if a tornado in the aforementioned state had scooped me up and dropped me, dogs, horse and all, on the opposite coast from where I had been living.

With no ruby slippers or mantras to get me back home.

It began when I finally went to visit my folks when they had come to Florida for the winter.  Bad daughter that I am, I had refused to travel from LA (Los Angeles) to NY to visit during any holiday in the winter.  It had been decades since I shared a holiday turkey and the 17 other courses my Italian family would prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I don’t like to fly. I hate snow.

I was homesick during the holidays and I hated being one of the “orphans” invited over to friends houses – but I just couldn’t get on a plane in the winter.

So when they suggested I come to Florida to see them when they were there after the holidays, I just couldn’t refuse.  I mean, I wasn’t that bad a daughter.

So I went.  In early March.

It was nice.  Warm as LA.  Palm trees.  An Ocean.

palm-trees-in-florida1

It was familiar.

We had a nice visit.  There were stores just like in LA and restaurants just like LA and I didn’t need a coat or a hat, just like LA.

So when my 85 year old Father asked if I would be consider moving from LA to Florida I said yes.

I would consider it.

Because after all, it seemed so familiar, so like LA.

Except I would be closer to my family, because even in the summer when I would come home to NY to visit, it was a 6 hour plane trip and when you hate to fly the way I hate to fly, 6 hours on a plane are 6 hours of praying to God to get off the plane are 6 hours of praying more than I do all year.

I am a bad daughter and also a bad Catholic.

But I thought God would appreciate a 3 hour respite from my pleas as Ft. Lauderdale was only a 3 hour trip from NY at 35,000 feet.  And since I was already in a state where my parents lived some of the time, I may never have to get on a plane ever for the rest of my life, which would let God off the hook entirely when it came to keeping us aloft.

I may be a bad Catholic, but I am a considerate Catholic.  And God has more people down on the ground with more serious things to talk to him about.

Now here’s something you may not know about my family.

They are Sicilian. They operate in stealth mode.

All the time.

So by the time my plane had landed back in LA (thank you God!) my family had already contacted a Realtor to start looking for homes for me in the area near the condo where my folks stay when they are in Florida.

Only I didn’t know it.

And that’s when making A Country Living took a detour over Kansas and most of the rest of the United States and dropped me here.

In South Florida.

With my little dogs, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Foreman’s Head Must Roll

Here’s the thing I hate about Costco. You have to find a parking space.  You have to maneuver around crowds of people waiting for the sample lady to finish cooking whatever she’s handing out. I call them the lunch crowd.  (You know who you are.)

Say it ain't so, Joe.

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

You have to stand on very long lines. You are going to need to rent a Pod or build an extension to your home to store whatever you have purchased because they only come in shrink-wrapped quantities of ten.

Ok maybe that’s more than one thing I hate, but the biggest thing I hate about Costco is that if you buy 10 things, It is going to cost you one hundred dollars because everything at Costco costs at least ten dollars per shrink-wrapped quantity of at least ten.

Of course, if you’re single like I am, you might never have to buy toilet paper again. Or olive oil. Or baked beans.

But you are going to spend at least One Hundred Dollars.

Whereas at the Dollar Store you can buy One Hundred Things for One Hundred Dollars. Plus tax.

So in thinking about starting my Cookie Empire, I chose to try my wings at the Dollar Store.

I bought flour and sugar, baking pans, spatulas, measuring cups, mixing bowls and rolling pins. Eggs and butter I bought at the local supermarket.

Pans-TREE

bakers delight at the dollar tree

I spent around $25 plus tax.

So far, so good.

I brought everything home, opened my cupboards and discovered that I needed to make room for all these new things that would begin the beginning of my Making A Country Living living.

Some things would have to go.

Now, if you are like a good many, perhaps even most Americans. there is a cupboard in your kitchen that is the designated graveyard of Small-Kitchen-Electrics-That-Sounded-Good-At-The-Time.

Yogurt makers. George Foreman Grills. Magic Bullet Mixers. Juicers.

Ronco. King of The Kitchen.

Ronco. King of The Kitchen.

Things that were supposed to make life as we know it, easier and healthier. All for $19.99 plus shipping and handling. As a bonus, they were always dishwasher safe. Phew!

You bought one, you used it once. Maybe a week.  Maybe two. But after awhile it would just sit on your counter and eventually you would start to feel guilty about not using them.  Or that might just be me.

But I don’t think so.

Soon, plastic cups of store-bought yogurt would start hurling themselves into my grocery cart.  Steaks and Margueritas were eaten at restaurants where they magically appeared at my table and the washing up was safely done by someone else.  I discovered that it would cost about $50 in fruits and vegetables to make one fresh glass of fruit or vegetable juice or fruit & vegetable juice.  (Don’t even get me started about Kale.)  Rotisserie chickens were available at a nominal charge from my local grocery store for $5.00 and they were available whenever I was hungry and in the mood for rotisserie chicken, which is not all that often. If I want a panini, well, to be honest, I use a brick from the backyard.

Labor saving small electric devices for your kitchen may save labor, but nothing saves labor more than having someone else make it for you. And clean up afterwards.

So out went the Yogurt Maker, The George Foreman Grill, The Magic Bullet Mixer, The Juicer.

They all went into a box that, also like many/most good Americans, went into the garage for some mythological Garage Sale some time in the very, very, very far and distant future. Or after you died to be sorted by the heirs to your estate and wind up in the garbage, at a thrift store or if sufficient time had passed, on Ebay.

But gone they would be. Banished from my kitchen.  All those once new and highly prized gadgets that I knew would change my life for the better, just like those commercials promised me. Forgotten like the french I learned in High School.

It’s not easy beginning an Empire.  Sometimes there is collateral damage.

Sorry George.

George-Foreman

Blogs & Learning Curves

I hate them both. I had tried to blog in the past. In the very distant past. When Blogs first became available. When I was a writer. Not that I’m not a writer anymore, it’s just that I don’t write as much as I did. If at all. Unless you count grocery lists and texts.

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At that time, it seemed a cool thing to do. This stream of consciousness kind of “Dear Diary” writing. But then I thought… posting a diary online? For all the world to see? When I had an actual diary I used to hide it in my room. Not that I ever did anything worth hiding, but my thoughts were really the only truly private thing I had and once you share them, they’re not so private anymore.
I had a problem with that.
You see once I finished a diary, I burned it. Just in case for some awful reason I died suddenly. I just didn’t want anyone, particularly anyone I knew to find my diary and read what I had been thinking all those years.
I am pretty shy and very private, but my thoughts tend to run rampant and to places where I should not let them go, so this blogging thing…
Well anyway, I tried. But at the time I was actually a writer for hire and as any writer will tell you, writing is the last thing writers want to do. Writers love having written, but actually sitting down to write something, particularly on a deadline, especially when there are so many things that seem so pressing. Like cleaning out the refrigerator and washing down the shelves. The lawn needs to be watered. Now. T-shirts need to be gone through and thrown away or re-folded so they’re color coded.

T-Shirts

T-Shirts

Really.

So I decided that blogs were just not for me.

Then all these many many years later, when I got the idea into my head (courtesy of those Country Living Magazines, thank you VERY much) that perhaps I too, would like to make A Country Living, I started to investigate what & how other people were making a country living.
Turns out, most of them have blogs.
But not just any blogs.
Cute blogs. Pretty Blogs, Sweet Blogs.
Blogs with lovely designs. Blogs filled with helpful how-tos. Blogs filled with followers. Blogs filled with sponsors. Blogs filled with links to other blogs.
It was a bit overwhelming.
I read them, I followed the how-tos. I bookmarked them.

not my Blogs, not my photo.

not my blogs, not my photos

They were my Gurus on my way to making-a-country-living-nirvana.
I was grateful to them and I hated them.
They were so lovely to look at, so easy to read. But my burning question was “How the heck did they find the time to take the photos and put together such a well-organized step by step, look how easy it is and voila!” blog?
I have a hard time remembering to post photos of whatever I’m having for dinner to Facebook.
And when Im trying to create something, I get so wrapped up in the project (and sometimes so messed up and confused), that everything is back in the box with nary a “voila” moment before I remember to take one photo, much less a series of photos.
It was very very discouraging.
Which brings me to learning curves.
Now I know that anything worth doing well is going to take some doing. You have to put in the time and you have to put in more time and you have to be able to do it badly before you do it well. Im okay with that. I do a lot of things badly and I do a lot of things not so badly and I do a lot of things well.
It’s just that my Guru Bloggers on their pretty blogs made everything look so easy in their picture-perfect-step-by-step 1,2,3 and Voila! Blogs. Which bring me back to Country Living Magazine. On those Making A Country Living Pages, the story always seems to go something like this:

Former CEOs

Former CEOs

“Happy Couple standing in front of their quaint & rustic New Country Living Home with a Beautiful View and Sometimes A Pond out Back who left their Stressful Jobs as CEOs at Stressful Corporate Company to start their new Making A Country Living Company when they started making Interesting All Natural Eco Friendly Repurposed and perhaps something to do with a Goat Country Living Items and opened an Etsy shop one day only to discover the next morning they had sold out of their Country Living Items and had orders from Major Retailers.
It sounded so easy.
I could do that.

Maybe not the CEO part. I am not a CEO kind of gal. As a matter of fact my very first “grown-up” job required me to wear stockings and pumps and take the train into Manhattan at rush hour. With everyone else. Too many everyone elses.
The job lasted one day.
Perhaps I had to be a CEO at Stressful Corporate Company to become a person who could then leave the Stressful Corporate Company to start an Etsy shop and make A Country Living.
Well that may be, but I tend to think that there is more than one way to skin an Interesting All Natural Eco Friendly Repurposed and perhaps something to do with a Goat. So despite the learning curves and the overwhelming amount of of lovely blogs that are out there with their beautiful and well organized 1,2,3 Voila! How-To’s, I am bound and determined to make A Country Living so I can also one day stand in front of my own quant & rustic New Country Living Home with a Beautiful View and Sometimes A Pond Out Back.

And if I die trying I promise you will never find my diaries.

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WHAT AM I THINKING????

FIRST OF ALL, I BLAME MY MOTHER. My Mother was Martha Stewart before Martha even knew what a Good Thing was.  Every year my bedroom was re-decorated. Every year. I would come home from school and magically my bedroom had been repainted. Everything that could be repainted had been repainted.  Sheets became curtains, curtain became bedspreads & pillows. My mother was the Queen of Re-puposing before there was such a word. Former kitchen formica counters became a very long desk, flower pots became hanging lamps. My mother never met a wall she didn’t want to tear down.  I think we moved to Long Island not because we needed more room but because my mother needed more rooms to decorate and then re-decorate and because she needed an outdoor space to do what she did best. Spray paint.  My mother loves spray paint. If it stood still eventually it would be spray-painted.  She has a shed in the garden that is dedicated to all her cans of spray paint. Now that they have spray paint for plastic… well, you can imagine.

My mother didn’t cook. In our house, Swanson’s cooked. The Jolly Green Giant cooked. But she loved to entertain and when she did, she could have & would have brought Martha to her knees before you could say “Pass the foie gras”.  My mother entertained often.

Her parties would rival Gatsby in style and size & scope.  She had silver trays and cut glass crystal and at least 6 separate full sets of fine china, but that’s not how she rolled.

Not Our House

Not Our House

 

They were used but she also used everything else that would work.  Flower pots became ice buckets or silverware holders, wooden soda crates became breadbaskets, framed mirrors were used as serving platters.

Hundreds of people came and went on a Saturday night and many were found sleeping on couches all over the over house come Sunday morning, getting up in time for brunch and finally disappearing sometime after Sunday dinner.

 

But I digress.

I blame my Mother because she taught me that anything can be a beautiful thing and any beautiful thing can be used for anything.

That was the beginning.

SECOND, I BLAME COUNTRY LIVING MAGAZINE

The first issue I bought was September 2010 The Makeover Issue.

September 2010 issue

September 2010 issue

I don’t know why I bought the magazine. I didn’t live in the country. As a matter of fact by 2011 I was back living in Los Angeles after having moved myself, my dogs and my horse to a small farm in a rural area of Pennsylvania in August of 2004. After one winter, I packed up the dogs and now 2 horses and moved back to Los Angeles as soon as the snow melted in April of 2005. Country living is not as bucolic  as it sounds.

Snow

But I am nothing if not a romanticist so there must have sen something on that cover that appealed to me.  After all, I am my Mother’s daughter and anything that says Makeover appeals to something deep in my DNA.

But it was a single page on the inside that really caught my attention.  The page was called Making A Country Living.   It featured people who had chucked the regular workaday world to create something that brought them joy and apparently made them a living.

I immediately subscribed.

In the months and years to come I couldn’t wait for the magazine to hit my mailbox and Making a Country Living was the first page I read.   And eventually Making A Country Living was something I  decided I would do. Somehow.

This is how.

Kitchen Aid & 50 Shades of Red

A mixer not my own

A mixer not my own

Oh Kitchen Aid. You had me at hello. There you were, all stacked up in a glorious tower on the floor of Macy’s cellar. So many colors to choose from and me with a Macy’s credit card.

I don’t know why, but I wanted one of those mixers and I wanted it in red.
I had never wanted a stand mixer before and I don’t really like the color red, but there was something about it that called to me.

“Suuuuuuuzy. Suuuuuuuuuuuzy. Buy me. Buy me RIGHT NOW!”

And so I did.

Forsaking the pair of boots I had come to buy, bypassing the pretty sweaters I didn’t need in our Los Angeles weather but thought I should get, totally ignoring everything in the jewelry department, my heart all of a sudden longed for that red Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

So I bought it. In a rush I sped home, flung open my door, grabbed a knife and made a surgical incision along the packing tape and ripped that mixer right out of the box.

Ahhhhhhhhh. It was everything I thought it would be. It was red. It was sturdy.
In it’s shiny stainless steel bowl held infinite possibilities.

I could make…..

I could make…..

Who was I kidding?

I had no idea what I could make with a stand mixer.  I knew I could mix things, for that was the nature of a stand mixer.  But I had things I could use to mix things.  A spoon.  A small hand mixer.  My hands.

What could I mix that needed such a beautiful, colorful, shiny thing?

I mean, most of the things I usually mixed had one dry ingredient for which you added water or milk or one more thing like an egg.

just add something

just add something

I needed something more ambitious.

So with everything that I need to know about, I turned to the internet and this is what I found.

Cookies.

Cookies, cookies and more cookies.

Not the slice and bake kind, not the just add an egg kind but beautiful, handcrafted, highly decorated cookies.

Beautiful Cookies

 

Inspirational Cookies

 

http://sweetopia.net/2014/12/video-nutcracker-decorated-cookies-2/

From Sweetopia.com

 

This would be it. This would be a way I could make a Country Living.  I could make cookies and sell them in  a brand new Etsy shop.  I could make cookies on Saturday, post them on Sunday and by Monday Nabisco or some other mega-cookie company would be knocking on my door, begging me for my cookies.  Perhaps I would even get a home-invasion type visit from those Keebler Elves. (But not the old one. He’s just creepy.)

The possibilities!

Of course I would need a couple of things before I started this empire, and for those things, I would need a trip to the Dollar Store, the store where all empires begin.

And of course, I would need to learn how to make cookies.