Monday, December 28, 2009

Facing Your Fears

On New Year's Eve I have to take the written drivers test to renew my driver's license. What a way to start the New Year. I get to stand in a line at the California DMV, which is a nightmare in itself. Comedians have made big careers of making fun of the DMV employees alone. Then I will have to get a new picture taken. Great, now I will really look my age. Eek!
Of course, I will have to lie (again) about my weight. Maybe it won't be that bad. Who am I kidding? I will probably have my applique or knitting with me on that day while I wait.
But really, I am getting excited about the New Year. I have some new things planned and will be traveling and teaching all over - even on a cruise to Hawaii.

Not that this year was bad or anything. On the contrary, it was wonderful and full of new adventures. I traveled a lot and met great people that taught me so much. I am proud that I pushed myself not to be afraid. There is nothing scary on the other side of your fear - really, I mean it.

So for this new year I hope and pray for you. I want the best in the new year for those people around me that are worried about the future, the economy and are facing new challenges. I pray for the best for you, the few of you who actually read this blog. We have a connection and it means a lot to me.

I have the same new years resolution I have had for a while now: to not be afraid, to be as creative as I can and when people are mean don't take it serious since (hopefully) the problem is them.

You and I have nothing to lose. Well, maybe our pride, but we can always get more of that.
So we will see what the new year has for all of us. If I can give advice, which I probably shouldn't, I would say don't try and lose weight in the new year but do something that really matters just for you. And guess what? You might just lose the weight because you fell better about yourself.

Please let me know how you do.

OK , I guess I do need a new driver's license. This picture is so 80's with the big hair and all.
Happy and Blessed New Year from the Bula Family.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The tree is up and baking goodies is on my mind. I love to make handmade things and goodies for the holidays. When I was growing up baking treats was always a Christmas tradition. My father was an elementary school principal and his teachers and students, actually, usually the mothers of the students, would give him some of the best treats for Christmas. Lucky for us, we also typically got the recipes, too.

But it really all started with Grandpa and Grandma Hopkins, as far as I can remember. Grandpa Hopkins owned Hopkins and Son grocery store in Decatur, Illinois. He served as a cook in WWII on the ship Dakota and when he came home from the war became a pastor. His best job was being Grandpa. He spoiled us when we spent the night. Breakfast was always his homemade doughnuts. He made us french fries and hamburgers for lunch. It was heaven to be at his house. Grandma taught me how to crochet and they where always doing crafts.
So when Grandpa and Grandma Hopkins came for the holidays they would bring treats. One of their best was their date bars, which I am making tomorrow.

But today was all about the stollen. This is a German bread made at the holidays. I was first turned on to the recipe by, no, not Julia, but my other favorite diva, Martha. This was way back when I was just married about 6 -7 years. She demonstrated it on her show and I had to make it. This would truly impress my inlaws who had never really taken me into the fold. Don't be sad; they didn't even take they own son into the fold, either. Well, anyway, I made the stollen and to my surprise the Bula family loved it. What?!? They hate everything I do. Well, to find out years later, Joe's dad was Polish even thought he told me early in our marriage that they were Italian and, of course, I believed them. Why would he lie? Joe said he didn't know what his ethnicity was. so, as always, I believed.
Well, years later, like 2008, while doing a little genealogy, I found out that Joe is German and Polish and stollen is a traditional holiday bread. Aaarrrgh! All after becoming the best Italian cook around! So, today I made the famous stollen. Joe's parents are no longer with us but I make it in honor of finally finding out what the heritage of my only child and the man I love is.
By the way, the date bars I thought Grandpa Hopkins made that we all loved were Grandma's doing all along.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Julia Child On a Rainy Day

Today is a rainy, cold and miserable day. It snowed 4 inches last Sunday night and today, Friday, the snow finally melted with the new rain that should last 5 more days. Get ready east coast, more snow is coming. It's not supposed to snow here in California, at least not at our elevation. It's like every 7 years we get a freak snow fall that melts by morning. But this one lasted for a week. Its really cool for the first 2 days but then you realize your home is not very insulated, the pool pump is running constantly to fight off the freezing temps, the gas bill is going to be off the charts which will send Joe over the edge and I have nothing warm to wear. It starting to get depressing. I think I might have seasonal depression disorder which we can add to the long list of my other disorders. I don't know how most of you make it through the cold winter without killing someone.

Now that I have depressed you, all is not lost.

I deiced to watch a movie and do a little cross stitch pattern that I bought at the Houston show, hoping there is a good movie out there. I love my On Demand and it was my lucky day. I have been dieing to see Julie & Julia. Getting my husband to the movies is an art form in itself, especially if it's a chick flick.

So I got a diet coke, caffeine free of course, that is for my other disorder and sat down to watch a good movie and stitch. I started right away feeling guilty as the credits started to run.
What for? I can take a day off and just doing something mindless once in awhile. One of the problems with being self employed and doing what you love, is you sometimes forget to take days off. Another disorder, if you are keeping track.

Well, the movie was great. I was in heaven. This is just what the doctor ordered. A good dose of Julia Child and Meryl Streep is always good for the soul and perfect for any rainy or snowy day. Julia's passion for food is like my passion for color.

This movie brought back a lot of good memories of living in San Francisco for many years as a flight attendant. I had many roommates over the years (that is another story) but for a period of time I was roommate-less. My best friend became all the cooking shows on PBS and Julia Child's was at the top of the list. I never missed an episode and loved all the reruns. So this movie brought back a lot of good memories. As the movie was rolling I ran and got my first Julia Child cookbook and laid it next to me on the sofa. I thumbed through it and smiled at all the grease stained pages and remembered making that for Joe many years ago. Just like in the movie, I too learned to cook with Julia Child, and I am so grateful and so is my family.

They recreated her kitchen right down to the last little spoon. The set designer for the movie had to recreate Julia's kitchen exactly and found most of the antiques on Craigslist so that every thing was authentic. Julia's husband, Paul, picked the color of the cabinets, which I love. Kind of a robin's egg blue green. I don't think she cooked robin's eggs but if she did it would have been fitting.

Cooking, and cooking good, is just another form of creativity and having the right color to be creative in, is a must. It's the doing of the dishes after the meal that gets in the way.
So, the rainy day off turned out really good. I had a little trouble seeing my tiny cross stitch. That's a whole other malady I am dealing with. But thank God you don't really need great eyesight for cooking or eating. By the way, we are having leftovers for dinner. BON APPÉTIT!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turky Day Adventures!

Well, it never fails to amaze me how quickly Thanksgiving comes and goes. I love Thanksgiving but, in my family, there is always some crazy adventure disguised as a mishap that takes place on this holiday.

One year my sister Jacqui and her daughter and granddaughter where visiting from southern California. It’s an 8 hour drive from NorCal to SoCal, so it might as well be visiting another state. I was excited for their visit and planned for weeks. I bought the best turkey with all the trimmings. I decorated the table with my hand painted turkey bowls that I made years ago in my Martha Steward phase. I was set to be the hostess with the mostest on this Turkey Day morning. We leisurely had breakfast as I got my large beautiful bird out of the frig and started to prep it for the big dinner of the day. As I removed the wrapper, I noticed a strong smell coming from the turkey. That couldn't be. I kept talking to my sister as I washed it and realized this smell was not going away. I very calmly asked my sis to take a whiff of the bird and tell me what she thought. The look on her face was all I needed to know: we had a rotten old bird. Tom was past his prime. Way past.

What do we do now? After we got done laughing, I had an idea. What would the pilgrims do? We would just go and find another turkey. So we triple wrapped Tommy and threw him in the back of the car. I was not about to put old stinky in my trash can.

Our first job was to get rid of the evidence. So my niece, Kara, and I went back to the store where I first laid eyes on this bad bird. Maybe they would be open and we could exchange him. Of course, the store was closed so we properly deposited Tom in the large dumpster behind the store.

He hit the bottom of the dumpster with a loud thud. I jumped back into the car and raced away with my tires squealing. I felt like we had just dumped a dead body and where peeling out in the getaway car. We laughed and laughed.

Then I realized we had nothing for dinner. We had to find a store open and see what we could find. Maybe a deli counter and we could at least get some sliced turkey breast.

Finally, we found a Safeway store open. Hooray!! We hurried to the turkey case to find all the turkeys frozen hard as rocks. I was not going to let this mishap defeat me. Plus, I had the adoring eyes of my 18 year old niece watching me. OK, to the deli counter we went. As we perused the cold cuts, I saw what looked to me like a large turkey breast and promptly told the counter girl to wrap it up. She informed me it was $35. We took the whole thing. I was thinking this is going to be great. I will slice it up and pour my homemade gravy over it.

Yes, this is turning out great. Aunt Mindy has saved the day again!

When we got home, to the cheer of my family, I was feeling a lot better.

We prepared the rest of the side dishes and watched a little football, all waiting for our delicious meal. I sliced the meat and laid it on my beautiful handpained turkey platter and placed it on my Martha Stewart tablescape with a wonderful smile beaming from my face.

We said grace and dug in.

The room was quiet as we eat our first bites. Something wasn't right but I didn't know what it was. Everyone was eating but still quiet. What was it? I commented that it just isn't the same as having a turkey cooking in the oven. Jacqui agreed. But my sweet husband spoke up, saying "This tastes like HAM!" OMG, you are right. I bought a turkey ham instead of a turkey breast and NO amount of gravy was going to make this ham a turkey. We busted into laughter and my sis called it Thanksgiving Ham-urky.

This has now become a big family joke. It seem that whoever comes to my house on Thanksgiving is sure to have a surprise. While the last couple of years have been uneventful, this year did not disappoint.

This year just my mom and dad where coming. This will be great, I thought. I have been working a lot this year and it will be great to be with my mom and dad alone. They are getting older and the time I have with them is so special and I cherish every moment. Dad wants to come up early on Tuesday to beat the holiday traffic and that way we can do some sightseeing. They are all excited because Matthew will also be home on Wednesday. You know your parents are getting older when, on a road they have driven all their life (75 years), they take a wrong turn. It took them 12 hours to get to my house instead of 7 but they finally arrived. Oh, by the way, Dad left his new GPS on his dresser at home.

The next day I was going to take them to the wine country in Plymouth and antiquing in Sutter Creek. It’s only 30 minutes from my home so it will be an easy day trip.

The weather couldn't have been better as we are driving on this beautiful road, the leaves are changing colors and the mountains are studded with oaks trees. It’s just a great day. This is an old, historic road from the gold mining days. We drive over this bridge and the colors are amazing. I ask my mom if she would like to take a short walk down to the river and see the water up close. I see a paved turn out and swing my Tahoe onto the path. We see a no trespassing sign and a lot of barbed wire so maybe this is not such a good idea. The thought of my mom in her cute Chico's outfit climbing over a barbed wire fence was not a pretty picture, so we decided to continue on our outing. I put the car in reverse and start to back up onto this old 2 lane road. Cars are speeding by, so I wait to get a good view of the road before I merge in. That is when I feel the truck’s wheel on the left side slip off the road. I try to drive forward and the other back wheel slips off the road and the car starts to tip (and I mean tips) over on its side into a 4 foot ravine or, as my husband corrected me, ditch. My front left wheel is off the ground about 2 feet and the passenger side of the car is getting really close to the ground. I scream "NOBODY MOVE!" My dad very calmly tries to get out of the car to assess the situation but forgot he was still in his seat belt. My sweet mother is in the backseat whimpering "Oh, my God" and I am starting to have another hot flash. Great!

I reach for my phone but we have no coverage. I can't get out of the car because the car starts to tip each time we move. Mom and I are trying to use our weight to keep the car from going over all the way. Yes, this is making the hamurky story look really good, isn't it?

Then I remember I have ONSTAR. I press the little button that I thought I would never have to use. I explain our situation to the polite young man on the other end. "We are in a ditch and need a tow truck - really just a tow truck" I said. The very conscientious young man says that he has contacted ONSTAR’s emergency team and they will be responding to our situation. He asks if we want him to stay on the line until they reach us. No, we will be fine, I answer. You didn't call the fire department, did you? I ask. Ma’am, the first responder with handle this for you he says. Oh no, I bet they called the fire department. Within 6 minutes we hear a siren. Mom is holding on for dear life in the back of the tipping SUV. I am trying to keep her calm as my father, who weights about 125 pounds is standing on the running board to help balance the truck and, in reality, to help keep my mom calm. Here they come. 2 fire trucks, an ambulance, the highway patrol, a sheriff’s car and, just for good measure, the captain of the fire department. The first 2 very cute fire persons come over to us and ask how this happened, shaking their heads at me like this was the first time they saw a person back off of a perfectly wide driveway into a ditch. I smiled and told them my pitiful story, how I was showing my parents the sights of our beautiful town and slipped off the road. Remember, mom and I are still clinging to dear life in the tipping car. The fire girl opens our doors and tells us to "evacuate the vehicle". We quickly jump out of the car and I am sure it will roll over. But it didn't, it just teetered there. Now I feel REALLY dumb.

They have called a tow truck for us and everyone checks over the car. It looks like I haven't damaged anything (thank God) other than my pride. It’s one thing to have 2 fire persons shake their heads at you but to have the whole county rescue force drive up and give you the same look can give you a complex.

Then Big Roy's Towing service arrives to save the day. He jumps in the car and immediately the car drops to the ground under Roy's 300+ pounds. He puts the Tahoe in 4 wheel drive and out of the ditch he goes. Of course - 4 wheel drive! Why didn't I think of that about 4 fire trucks, 2 cops and an ambulance ago?

We all get back in the Tahoe. I thank Big Roy and the officers and they drive away.

I ask mom and dad if they are worn out from this adventure and would like to go home.

Dad says heck no and mom informs me that this is so much better than the hamurky Thanksgiving that you had with Jacqui and Kara.

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Mom and Dad just left for home and said it was the best Thanksgiving they can remember.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I have to go now and take a nap - we still have Christmas to do!