Women in History: Life dreams

“I knew I would grow up and wear a costume one day, and that’s exactly what happened.” — Cassandra Peterson

About Cassandra Peterson

Peterson has made a career out of playing Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. And that’s why she’s famous. And also, today is Halloween. You get where I’m going with this?

She started out in LA as the host of the weekly Elvira’s Movie Macabre. Um, introducing horror movies. “Her wickedly vampish appearance is offset by her comical character, quirky and quick-witted personality and Valley Girl-type speech,” says Wikipedia. The only memories I really have of this character are the beer commercials she did in the 1980s, which I’d see while my dad and brothers were watching football or some such nonsense. I don’t remember what she sounded like, I only remember her costume. It seemed quite risqué to my middle school sensibilities.

Turns out Peterson has done some stuff: Signed on with a Las Vegas show when she was 17, was the lead singer in two Italian rock bands (like, in Italy), did some modeling for a few men’s magazines, and eventually joined an improv group, which is where she created the character of Elvira.

Elvira, the horror movie TV host, eventually got her own movie, “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” (1988). There was a sequel (2001). She became a brand and “was associated with many products” in the 1980s and 1990s, including Halloween costumes (duh), but also comic books, action figures, perfumes, pinball machines (wut), calendars, etc. She starred in other movies, not as Elvira, most notably (to me, anyway) “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985 (just because I had younger cousins obsessed with that movie and I must have seen in on video a dozen times).

It sounds like at the moment, she’s directing another Elvira movie sequel. She is an animal welfare activist — and vegetarian — and raises money for awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

About 1980s horror films

Hey, awesome, we’ve got some technical advances in the field of animation (well, for that time; all I can think about is that scene at the end of “Indiana Jones” where the guy’s face melts off and it is absolutely the fakest looking thing imaginable). Latex and foam latex meant … well, you could do closeups of blood and guts without anyone actually getting hurt.

So movies were filled with “full color closeup, look no strings attached, special effects in a way that previous practitioners of the art could only dream about” (www.horrorfilmhistory).

Downside to all this realistic gore? Desensitization. “Pile too many on top of each other and they lose their meaning and their power to shock” (ibid.). “In keeping with the ‘excess is best’ ethos of the 1980s, it became common practice to pile great heaps of gory images on top of each other, and the latex lunacy of horror movies by the end of the decade is more comic that horrific, as animated body parts hurtle from all directions across the screen.”

I can’t say I’ve seen many horror movies — I was never really into that kind of thing — although I have seen a few of the “Chuckie” movies (they were laughably terrible) and, like, “Psycho,” in high school and college. And you could successfully argue that Peterson is really more of a comedian. Eh, details are boring.

In which I make a homemade pumpkin spice coffee creamer and pretty much fail

Ever wake up at 6:08 a.m. on a Sunday after sleeping through the night and decide to take on a project that perhaps you would not under different circumstances?

Yep, that was me yesterday.

I am not usually one to hop onto the pumpkin spice latte train, simply because, with all of my food sensitivities, I can’t. But I was in a local coffee shop the other week and I saw a sign for All-Natural Pumpkin Lattes! and I was like, you know what? Let’s do this thing.

COFFEE BLOG

Not fun. Not good.

It was delicious. The barista was all like, it’s because we use real pumpkin with our steamed milk, and I was just, this is the best thing I have ever tasted.

So Sunday morning, I’m up. Jo and I have a breakfast date at my favorite mother-in-law’s house because Eric’s sister and brother-in-law are in town. (Eric and his brother were not in town because they’d drawn another elk tag this year. Classic.) And I’m thinking that bringing a homemade pumpkin coffee creamer will be such a crowd pleaser! It will be so fun and so good!

Longtime readers of the blog will already know that I’m always optimistic about the wrong things. That’s why, if you’re here because you’re looking for an actual recipe, you’re not going to find one. (Sorry about that, it’s just not the Trisha way for these things to work out.)

I hopped on the internets and Googled “homemade pumpkin spice creamer” and found a plethora of recipes. (And laughed at all the “American Cuisine” tags.) A bunch called for sweetened condensed milk. (No.) All called for maple syrup. (No.) (My sensitivities are cruel!) I finally found one that looked like maybe I could tweak, so I wrote down measurements and went for it:

Half and half (a bit more than a cup). Vanilla extract (I glugged it in, eh, I make my own, who cares?). Pumpkin pie spice (I had to make my own mix, and I immediately messed up the measurements but honestly, what’s a little more nutmeg?). Pumpkin puree (canned so I couldn’t mess that up). I simmered that around to get everything combined, took a taste and decided that maybe it did need some sweetener, so I added a bit of honey (honey is a yes! Thanks, bees!). I kept tasting as I stirred. I added a bit more pumpkin; I added a bit more honey.

And then it was time to add it to my coffee.

Hmm. I could taste the spices, but I could not taste the pumpkin, and really, that’s what I was going for. So I added a bit more just straight to my cup, took a drink in full expectation of a choir of angels singing over my head, and then dumped it into the sink.

Ick. That’s all I have to say about that.

I made myself another cup of coffee and used more of the creamer I’d made because … I have it so what the hell, I suppose … and tried to pretend I was drinking a spiced coffee and that it was PERFECTLY FINE NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

I’m not sure why A) I was feeling like I could actually conquer this technique or 2) actually, just that. This is the downside of being well-rested that no one talks about: Unchecked energy = optimism + enthusiasm. Turns out that is the recipe for disaster.

Perhaps needless to say, but I did not bring any homemade pumpkin spice coffee creamer to breakfast. I like these people, that’s why.

If I were to do this again — and I know, evidence points towards the fact that I should not, but I like a project — I’d mix just the half and half with the pumpkin. Maybe add a pinch of spice and a splash of vanilla. Make it on a smaller scale so when it all goes to heck I don’t have to dump as much.

Um, the end.

The Great Walker Switch-a-roo

Tangent: I just survived CERTAIN DOOM when Bean decided it would be a great idea to dart between my feet as I was mid-step in hopes that I was headed to his food dish. It’s not empty or anything, he just really likes company.

Anyway, thought that was an important story to share.

I will try to keep this story to the point, but that might be difficult because the words are rambley this morning:

Last school year, Abby announced that it would be fine for Johanna to move into her room, as Abby’s is twice as big as Jo’s. Well, we built this house when Abby was 3 and Jo was nowhere in sight, but we assumed we’d have another one soon and that the girls could share the big room. (Abby was adamant she was going to have a sister named, of all things, Pepsi Shoe.) Jo didn’t actually arrive until Abby was in kindergarten, and by that time, we felt they needed their own rooms — I couldn’t have Johanna waking Abby up in the middle of the night for diaper changes and feedings, after all. So Jo got what was supposed to be Eric’s tiny office.

And that is where she has stayed.

Well, actually, now that I think about it, Abby took the small room (she was 3, remember) so Jo got the big room, which was also our computer room / TV room. When Abby was 7, she decided she wanted the big room, and Jo was 1 and didn’t really care one way or the other. But she’s been in that room for 13 of her 14.75 years.

So last spring, I guess, Jo decided it was time to move. She slept in Abby’s bed one night … and was like, nah, I’m keeping my room. And I was like, well, we can move your bed too, and she was all, too much work, let’s wait.

Johanna enjoys the path of least resistance. Abby blazes through life by sheer force of will. We’ve got two very different kids.

Abby thus spent summer in her room, and Johanna decided she would move sometime after starting her freshman year. Then the two of us decided we’d wait until Eric went elk hunting in October — give us a good project to work on while enjoying our girl time.

And also he wouldn’t have to witness me, like, slamming a full sized bedframe through two doorways and across our wood floor. Eric and I have different methods for going through the world, too.

The day came that second week of this month, when Eric and his brother left for Wyoming with special tags they were quite excited about. Both came home with huge animals, just FYI, and it’s okay if you don’t understand the appeal because I don’t either. Although I do appreciate the organic meat in my freezer (and the fact that it’s humanely “harvested,” as hunters like to say).

ANYWAY. Day one, Jo and I worked on getting the beds switched. I bought Johanna a new bed frame (just the bottom part); we got Abby’s bed out, Johanna’s bed in, and then we set to work on getting the frame set up.

Easy, really, except I forgot that Jo has two mattresses and they both fell through the frame when she sat down for the first time.

DJFLKSDJFKDJFLKDJFKDFJKDFJSLKFJ:ASJIFh.

Okay, that’s fine. I went to the hardware store on day two, told the clerk exactly what I wanted and she found me a board, then directed me to the back where I could get it cut to size. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes and $4. My feminism was roaring!

I picked up Jo from school, we had dinner and then we got to work putting the new (very nice smelling) slats on the frame.

They were two inches too big.

Look, I don’t know if it’s because the guy didn’t cut them to my requested 39-inches or if my hastily Googled “how big should twin bed slats be cut” search was wrong. I didn’t measure. In my defense, why would I? So Jo and I just look at each other and she’s all like, we can wait for Dad, and I was like, NO JOHANNA WE DO NOT NEED A MAN WE CAN DO THIS, although what we did need was someone who could run power tools, to be perfectly honest.

(This is one of those times where I cursed my father-in-law for falling off his ladder and dying. I’d have called him that first night and he’d have taken care of everything and we wouldn’t have lost two days to sheer stupidity on my part. God, I miss him.)

So I go down into Eric’s shop and eye his table saw. I have zero training and a great love for all my fingers, so I decided to find a handsaw instead. I did — and I found a clamp, too, which I used to steady the board while I cut. You know how in the movies and things, people saw back and forth perfectly and it goes super quick? That was not my experience. But I did manage to saw through far enough, only back, never forth, so Jo could whack it on the concrete and sheer it off. It was not pretty. They were not even. But they did the job: The bed held.

YAY ME!

Oh, geez, the words are making me add this even though my mother will read it and freak out: Every night while Eric is gone, Mom checks in to make sure Jo and I are locked in and not hanging a sign outside that says HEY BURGLARS AND MURDERERS COME ON IN! And I’m always like, yes, we are safe, doors are locked and all is well! And then the next morning after this little saw escapade, Bean was running around inside after I had let him out. I asked Jo where he came from, and she said, the basement, and I was like, did I forget to close the garage door or something? I didn’t even think I opened it, and upon investigation, I saw that Eric’s brew room door was wide open; Jo had used it to bang the slats on the concrete and didn’t close it hard enough when she came back in. And I was like, huh, that explains why it got so cold last night.

Anyway, on day three, Jo and I started moving some of her stuff into her new room and Abby’s stuff out of hers (namely Abby’s books), and on day four, Jo had basketball practice and came home beat, so we were like, eh, good week’s work! and left it at that.

Eric came home, surveyed our work, had to cut another board because one of mine kept falling down (eh, details) and all was well.

Last week around Wednesday, Abby decided she was going to come home for her three-day weekend (special university holiday) — and I was like, uh, Jo, we need to get back on the moving wagon because otherwise, Abby wasn’t going to have a place a place to sleep. (I should also mention Abby decided she wanted it to be a surprise, but, being my child — or perhaps my mother’s granddaughter — she thought it would be good if someone knew she was coming. I monitored her progress via Find My Friend.) And we made great progress in a two-hour time slot: Chucked all the ex-boyfriend’s crap that Abby had hidden, got her desk cleaned out, moved clothes and emptied her other set of bookshelves.

And when Abby came home Friday night, the girls spent some time (after we watched the new episode of The Great British Baking Show) winnowing down more of Abby’s possessions. The thing is, Mom, she told me at one point, everything I want is already in my room at school. I think what we really need is some sort of keepsake box that she can put awards and photos and the like in, but that is another project for another time.

Like maybe Thanksgiving weekend.

Anyway, the point of this story, a bit over 1,400 words later (sorry about that) is that Johanna is now in Abby’s room, Abby is now in Johanna’s room, although actually they’re just back to their original bedrooms, and it was a big ol’ project but … I don’t know, it was kind of fun and Jo is so happy and also good timing on the Abby visit part.

And Bean, who loves cuddling with Johanna on her bed, has taken the move in stride. He seems just has happy in the new room as he did in the old.

The end.

Finding true quiet

I’ve written a little about my quest for more output and less input (or maybe a lot, who can remember?). That’s an ongoing goal for this, my 47th year — and it’s led me to an interesting offshoot that I didn’t necessarily expect:

Finding “true quiet.”

What the hell IS true quiet, you might be asking yourself. I know I did. My life is very loud — not necessarily because of people talking or cars honking or whatever, but because I’m bombarded with messages 24/7. On the radio, in music, on television, in magazines, on social media, on various websites, at the office, in the newspaper’s opinion page … I’m never alone with my own thoughts unless I make an actual effort to shut all that down.

I mean, how will I know what I think if I can’t hear myself think?

I’ve found a few chunks of time during my day where I can tune it all out and just sit by myself in (relative) silence: During my morning journaling time, with my pens and my notebooks and the cats; during lunch, when I find a quiet spot and read (or blog, like I’m doing now); on my commute, when I shut off the radio, breathe and think about the day ahead / what I’m grateful for / whoever needs some good vibes (after dropping Jo off at school — she’s a radio listener); and in the evening after my chores are done and I can sit by myself and read or write.

At first, this was REALLY HARD. Torturous! You want me to sit without any distractions? In the quiet? No music or phone? Talk about scary. I’m finding it less daunting the more I pay attention and seek the quiet out, although I am not always successful, may as well admit that right now.

Sometimes I like the noise.

One thing that helps set the tone for the day is waking up “phone free.” (I first wrote about that HERE.) When I started this whole ordeal, I could last maybe 10 minutes before I reached for that thing. Now, I am up to about 25-30 minutes, which is about as long as my journaling routine lasts.

I’m basically trying to break one habit with another. It seems to be working.

I also try to remind myself why I have a phone throughout the day, when I catch myself unthinkingly reaching for it: To connect with my family and friends. I do NOT have a phone so I can scroll through headlines about celebrities I don’t care about or watch comment wars unfold on social media.

I’ve found that mostly, I really like the quiet. Sometimes I don’t want to sit with myself and it’s harder, but I figure those are probably the times I need the quiet the most: What’s this nagging thought I don’t want to think? What is this feeling I don’t want to feel? What is this issue I don’t want to confront? But usually, I’m happy to do the breathing exercises, to write in my journal, to read a book, to pump out that blog post. I’ve even started to look for quiet time at work — because wow, when I can focus, that story I’m working on seems a lot less daunting. And gets written a hell of a lot faster.

Anyone else thinking about this? Have any tips for us, the phone-addicted? Or stories of quiet moments?

TBT: When Jo got fish for Christmas and we were sure they would die in like three days

Trisha’s Note: I have been working on a real post, but I’m not happy with it yet, and also Johanna’s almost 4-year-old goldfish took the toilet plunge last night and it reminded me of this post that I put up in January 2016 about getting her two goldfish for Christmas and how we didn’t expect them to live very long. (The other one got flushed last year.) We definitely got our 28-cents worth. Original post HERE and real post Monday, I promise.

A Christmas wish fulfilled

There’s something very stressful about goldfish.

Eric had the bright idea this Christmas of gifting Johanna a fish tank. She had been begging for a puppy this year, but recently gave up on that front and began lobbying for goldfish.

I can only assume this is because of the repeated number of times she has been told that our family does better with pets that ignore us, i.e. cats.

Look, I don’t even have houseplants. There are reasons for this. Goldfish technically do ignore you, so that’s a plus, but they are also notoriously fond of keeling over quickly, which is a strike in the “downside” column.

So much relaxation!

Another downside: Having to pick up the pieces of a heart broken over a fish.

But oh, the look on her face Christmas morning when she unwrapped the tank, the joy of arranging the decorations just so — should this plant go by the barrel or the sign? — and the happiness of finally bringing Gumball and Darwin home.

(Gumball and Darwin, incidentally, from The Amazing World of Gumball, a cartoon-ish kind of ordeal that Johanna cannot get enough of.)

It was enough to make me think that maybe this was a good idea after all.

Erring on the side of caution and practicality, we’ve explained to the child that goldfish do not have long lives, and at 28-cents each, are exceedingly replaceable.

“You might go through a lot of fish,” I warned.

“That’s okay!” she chirped.

I was hopeful that the lesson had sunk in when she made a list of 30 potential names — enough for a year’s worth of fish, I’m assuming — until it occurred to me that she was just excited and this was her way of coping with the wait to go to the store.

“You might want to keep a hold of that list,” Eric said.

“I will!” she beamed. “I wrote it in my journal!”

“That’s Darwin,” Johanna says confidently. Then pauses. “Or THAT is Darwin.”

Still, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. (T.S. Eliot knew what he was talking about.)

“Abby said not to get too attached,” Johanna told me after a conversation with her sister on the way home from the store, “but I think it’s too late.”

I’m happy to report that Gumball and Darwin have managed to survive an entire two weeks under Johanna’s watchful eye. She finds them entertaining and relaxing, and likes to give minute-by-minute updates: Darwin is a bit of an explorer, while Gumball likes to hide behind the plants. They both like the barrel feature.

But while she thinks her new pets are enchanting, the rest of us find them nerve-wracking. The Walker family is on high-alert, with our collective fingers’ crossed that Gumball and Darwin manage to live … well, a little longer.

Maybe we should have just let her get a dog.

Blast from the past: That time Skilly brought a mouse to bed

Trisha’s Note: I spent the weekend with Abby at school, which was awesome, but also kind of cut into my usual weekend routine of working on a Monday post. So here is one from my old blog, Pointless Ramble, that makes me laugh and also cry because Skilly was the best cat ever and we still miss him. One thing I will say about Bean, Goose and Pearl, though: They have never brought a mouse to bed. Original post HERE; July 2015.

Let’s set the scene: It’s nighttime, and it’s hot. So all the windows are open, and you can hear the stupid trucks putting on their jake-breaks, plus all the bugs and night creatures doing their thing. There’s the quiet squeak of the sprinklers, and you’re just about to drift off again when you hear a louder squeak that seems to be coming from inside the room.

But it goes away, and you hear the sprinklers, and you know you are safe.

I love this picture of Skilly. Eric was pursuing iTunes’ ’80s music, and
the cat just looks like he’s had enough of that kind of crap.

Skilly comes to your pillow for a quick pat on the head, and then he’s jumping over your body like a maniac. And you hear the loud squeak again. You’re tired, and still trying to figure out what that last dream meant, so it takes you a full minute to realize what’s going on.

And then it hits you.

MOUSE IN THE BED.

So you jet out of bed with such speed that Prefontaine would be impressed, and you may or may not shout, OH NO YOU DIDN’T!

Which wakes up your husband, but honestly, that was kind of the point.

Your husband gets out of bed and turns on the light, and there’s a very much alive mouse peeping out from a fold in the bedspread. It’s kind of adorable, actually, but it’s also vermin, so obviously it must die.

Skilly gives zero craps about his duties as a cat, and just bats it around periodically, or else does one of his freaky high leaps on top of the thing, only to let it go so he can play around with it some more. So your husband has to get the dustpan and the broom, and you help by opening up the door and freaking the hell out and then going to lay on the couch because NOTHING is going to get you back in that mouse-infested bed ever again.

But your husband assures you that it was not in the sheets, just the bedspread, so you help him take it off. (“Careful,” he says as the two of you fold it up, “there’s mouse poop in there.”) You kind of wonder if he’s lying about the mouse not being in the sheets, but you’re tired and you don’t really want to sleep on the couch after all, so you put another blanket on the bed and crawl in and turn off the light and snuggle down.

And then try not to jump every time Skilly jumps at a non-existent mouse in the bed. Honestly, it’s kind of cute how confused he is about where his mouse went, except now it’s 2 a.m. and that kind of cuteness is not exactly appreciated, if you know what I’m talking about.

***

This is not the first time Skilly has brought a mouse to bed — but THAT particular mouse was dead, at least, even though he kept dropping it on top of us to share until we figured it out. Having a cat is kind of overrated, now that I think about it.

No Plastic September: Update

You know, this has been an interesting experiment. I’ve learned that I am great about expecting myself to go plastic-free*, but rather terrible about expecting Johanna to follow suit. I’ve been picking her up from school lately and last week, has she walked to my favorite coffee shop for an iced Americano a couple of times now. The to-go cups the shop uses are technically biodegradable, but the problem with that is, of course, that nothing biodegrades in a landfill. They have made the move to paper straws, which I think is awesome (although that won’t rot in a landfill, either. Seriously, nothing does!), but Jo will forgo straws by choice.

I’m trying to decide if I need to invest in a reusable iced coffee glass for her to keep at my office. I haven’t yet because I don’t like stuff. Sometimes my minimalism really does get in the way.

Oh, and she also likes to hit up our office’s vending machine. Might as well get all of our sins out there.

Eric isn’t a problem, I’ve noticed. He doesn’t drink coffee, their office doesn’t have a vending machine and he doesn’t like processed foods anyway. He’s rather low maintenance, now that I think about it.

As for myself, I have made a point to bring jars to the store to fill in the bulk aisle, which I have been fairly lax about lately. I’ve printed out a list of what can be recycled locally on the plastic front — only nos. 1-2 with necks — and keep that in mind when I shop. And when I sent care packages to two college freshman in early September, I went with coffee gift cards and novelty socks (they say “badass.” I have the same socks and they’re magic) instead of a box of random snacks like I’d previously envisioned.

I just did some math and realized my reusable travel mug is 7 years old. It’s a bit wobbly because I’ve dropped it more than once, and it’s lovely navy color is chipping off in spots, but I’m excited that it’s aged so well. It’s an easy win.

Anyway, again, interesting experiment, and what’s happened is that I’ve found our plastic points of entry, aka my kid. It’s been eye-opening. There is much I’m proud of and much I know we need to work on. We’ll just continue on with No Plastic October.

* I have a multitude of food sensitivities and there are items I buy that are dripping with plastic simply because that is my only option, such as a sesame rice cracker that is my bread replacement. I’ve compensated by not buying what I don’t need, like sweet potato chips. Can’t say I’ve missed them much, other than the pang I feel when I walk down that aisle.