Ready For Summer Strawberry Tart

I haven’t posted a recipe in soooo long!!! What’s up with that!??  I’ve actually been sitting on this recipe since last summer.  But when I launched MC in October, it wasn’t really strawberry season. I adapted the recipe from Izy Hossack.  I swapped out the filling and added a burst of gorgonzola.  I hope you all enjoy!  xoxo

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I love summer here.  The fruit available to us, when in season, is just so yummy, juicy and sweet.  It almost feels like you’re eating pie.  And after a winter of dehydration and feeling blah-heavy on carbs and starches, my body is craaaaaving water and fruit!  

Cue:  Straaaawberries!

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In probably just a week or two it will be the peak of the season.  I couldn’t be more excited!!!  There’s nothing worse than buying a 2 for $5 pack of hard, flavorless strawberries in the dead of winter. They taste like poodley oodley.  I always do it, though, dreaming of summer berries.  Do you do this???  Why do we do this???

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The way the berries are loaded on top, it’s almost like a dessert bruschetta.  🙂
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So when it’s peak strawburry season in your town, go pickin till you come back with a nice haul.  Then, try this recipe!! It’s super fresh, light and delicious.  🙂

untitled-7911Summer is just around the corner… Are you ready???  🙂  🙂  🙂

Ready For Summer Strawberry Tart
A buttery shortbread crust with a cream cheese whipped topping and covered in delicious seasonal strawberries.
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For the crust
  1. 1 1/3 c. dark rye flour
  2. 1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
  3. 1 T. + 1 tsp granulated sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 c. + 2 T. unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
  6. 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  7. 6-10 tbsp ice water
  8. 1 egg (for eggwash)
Filling
  1. 8 oz. cream cheese
  2. 2 T. Grand Marnier
  3. 1/2 c. gorgonzola
  4. 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  5. 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  6. 1/3 c. apricot jam
  7. 2 T. water
  8. 2-3 pounds of strawberries
For the crust
  1. Put the flours, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the chunks of butter are the size of small peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it has the texture of damp chunky sand.
  2. In a separate cup, pour the apple cider vinegar into 10 tbsp of ice water.
  3. Drizzle a bit of the water mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl and gently stir together with your hands until the dough starts to come together. Add more water as needed to form into a rough ball. Saran wrap the ball and chill for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F.
  5. Cut a piece of baking paper to fit the size of your half sheet tray. Place the baking paper onto a work surface and roll the dough out on it into a rough rectangle.
  6. When its about the size of the half sheet tray, gently slide it onto the tray. Dock the dough with a fork and brush with beaten egg.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until dark golden all over. If there are air bubbles, flatten them with a spatula. Let the pastry cool completely.
For the filling
  1. Slice the strawberries and toss with Grand Marnier in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat the jam on low with 2 T. of water in a small saucepan. Pour the glaze into the berries.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream until there are soft peaks. Set aside in different bowl.
  4. In the mixing bowl you just used, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until soft.
  5. Fold in the whipped cream.
  6. Once the crust is cooled, frost it with the cream cheese whipped mixture and dot it with the gorgonzola. Cover the tart with the sliced berries. The more the merrier! Cut and serve immediately!
Adapted from Izy Hossack
Adapted from Izy Hossack
MandiCrocker http://www.mandicrocker.com

Spring in the Valley

I live in a tourist town.  Washington Pass connects Seattle to our little valley and when that pass opens every Spring, the flood gates of tourism open and the locals scrounge to produce, typically while being grossly understaffed.  It’s hard to find good help, and while a lot of fun, it can be insanely exhausting. 

So while we have maybe another week or two before Gandalf obliges, I’m doing my best to take in the little things.  Our valley currently is full of flowers… Spring beauties and glacier lilies for days… followed by hills of balsam root.  It’s breathtaking. 

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Spring always reminds me of a song by Nichole Nordeman called ‘Every Season.’  Back in my Christian days, she was one of my favorites.  She was the only artist I was aware of that ever openly questioned life and faith in her music.  She wasn’t threatened to ground her faith in her humanity, where I feel so many other artists (and their PR firms) are afraid to look anything less than perfect.  Her recent Facebook posts on islamaphobia, helping Syrians and loving your neighbor, find me still a fan.  

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Anyway, I always found it a lovely song… You can find the lyrics below.  

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And you can hear the song here…

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

 

Happy Spring.  🙂

 

From Chef to CHEF

Mandi note:  I met Sean Ragusa on Match.com in 2010 while living in Chicago. We’ve been great friends ever since!  We would cook together, visit local restaurants and I can definitely say that Chef is solely responsible for my love and appreciation of craft beer.  I think we even cooked our first Boeuf Bourginon together!  Soon,  I gave him the nickname ‘Chef’ and he responded with ‘Cupcake’ and the nicknames have always stuck.  🙂

Chef and Cupcake at the opening of Magnolia Bakery in downtown, Chicago. A few years later, I would be the General Manager there.

Chef and Cupcake at the opening of Magnolia Bakery in downtown, Chicago. A few years later, in a weird twist of fate, I would be the General Manager there.

I’m so happy to share Chef’s story with all of you because:  A) It’s his birthday today!!!  Give him lots of love!!!  And B) It is so rare in our society to hear about a major career change so late in life.  Fear is such a driving factor that keeps us from risking anything.  We play it safe in the name of our families, in the name of financial security… While Chef didn’t have children to worry about, he still had a lot at stake to pursue his dream.  But he did!  And in the meantime, he found a new career, a new passion for life and a new and beautiful love.  I couldn’t be happier for him!!  🙂

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My name is Sean, and I am a career changer.
Here is a brief history about who I am and how I got here.

I was born in a decade where ‘men were men’ and women drank scotch while they were pregnant. A decade that introduced us to music’s worst genre, disco, and all of the awful fashion trends and dance moves that went along with it. I mean let’s face it, I had to get past that to move forward into the greatest decade of Bachrach sweatshirts, tight rolled acid wash jeans, and mullets.

The ethnic make up of my family contributed to my love of food, although my taste buds were still typical of my young age. My Father’s side was Sicilian and Milanese. My Mother’s side was a melting pot of culture, Southern (first and foremost), then Dutch, Welsh, and Scottish. But the aromas and food that came out of the kitchens of our house as well as other family members were very memorable, comforting, and pleasant, for the most part. Everything from stuffed peppers and braciole to fried chicken and sweet potato pie.

I can remember visiting my Grandmother on the west side of Chicago, and when we walked into her kitchen there was always a pot of stuffed peppers ready for us to eat. The smell of garlic filled the air. Her simple sauce and a loaf of Milano bread from Butera to go along with it. Oh, and I can not forget her iceburg, tomato, and cucumber salad.

Getting past the 70’s and moving into the 80’s brought musical changes, fashion changes, and taste bud changes. We listened to the Cure, Motley Crue, and Run DMC. We wore college sweatshirts, MC Hammer pants, one white glove, and Reeboks. Foods of convenience took over our lives, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Rax, Taco John’s, Arby’s, and KFC. We were fed Hungry Man, Fox Deluxe, Gino’s, and Banquet. But there was still home cooking going on. I remember quite a bit of grilling at our house. And late into the 80’s, I started to dabble, just a bit, but couldn’t quite live up to the standards of Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet) or Justin Wilson (The Cajun Cook).

And then there was the 90’s and college, albeit short lived, but I did go. It was a year of boxed mac and cheese, hamburger helper, frozen pizza, ramen and cheap cuts of meat, cooked on a hibachi and marinated in beer. It was bad, but an experience that I had to have. I longed for my visits home, for good home cooking.

It was in the 90’s that things began to change for me. On what was supposed to be my Summer break, I decided, thanks to some family friends, that maybe college wasn’t for me. I was meant to do more with my life than to be radio air talent. That’s when I enrolled in EMT classes and joined the Volunteer Fire Department. With less than one year as a volunteer firefighter/emt, I left the VFD to pursue a career as a firefighter/emt.

Sean Ragusa as a bad ass Central Illinois firefighter.

Sean Ragusa as a bad ass Central Illinois firefighter.

This decision spanned a period of 23 years, starting in Central Illinois and slowly moved my way north, ending in Chicago. It was during that 23 years I immersed myself in a culture unknown to civilians. It was a Brotherhood like no other. And what keeps a Brotherhood happy and healthy? Good food! Yes, during my 23 years, I was able to hone my culinary skills. This was in between running calls and watching the Food Network (when they actually had cooking programs).

Long before my time and his nickname 'Chef.'

Long before my time and his nickname ‘Chef.’

 

Every shift, even after taking a position as a Lieutenant, after doing our busy work and training, I manned the kitchen. The guys were my guinea pigs and they didn’t mind because it was food, it was better than ordering out, and they didn’t have to cook it. And we dined on everything from comfort food (roasts, stews, etc) to some not so successful meals. One that still haunts me to this day was a lemon chicken incident that tasted very much like Pledge furniture polish.

During the last 10 years of my career, I toyed around with the idea of attending culinary school, but did not want to commit to a daily regimen. Arranging that with my job, seemed impossible. So, instead I took some cooking classes at Sur La Table and The Wooden Spoon. They were fun, interesting, and I did learn a few things. Then I met a girl, Mindy, and she mentioned something about attending culinary school. Once again, I tossed around the idea, but that’s about it. We then took a vacation, where we spent some time in Tuscany. We also took a cooking class together there, and I made the decision that when I got home, I would figure out a way to go to school.

The next thing I knew, I found myself at Le Cordon Bleu, learning knife cuts, braising, breaking down whole animals, and making croissants (not by popping open a can). That year was a whirlwind, until it was time for my externship. That’s when it got real, because I was going to spend 3 months cooking, in Italy!

Chef: The nickname, the real deal and the legend. This is Chef in Italy. My favorite picture of him, EVERRRRR!!!!

Nickname Chef becomes the real Chef!  Sean in Italy. My favorite picture of him, EVERRRRR!!!!

Two years later, I find myself writing this bio for Mandi, whom by the way, I met in Chicago, but that will also come out later. Sitting here, in my office, at home, in Nashville. My days off are different now, working at a restaurant will do that to a person. And since my move here, I’ve worked at three different restaurants, as well as started my own personal/private chef business.

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Who knows what the future will bring, however I think part of my future will include guest blogging for Mandicakes.

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Mandi Note: HELLS YEAH!!!!!  🙂 🙂 🙂  Also, that ‘Mindy chick’ is now his beautiful wife!!!  You can find this husband and wife duo hard at work on their business:  Let Us Feed You, Nashville.   I think a visit might be in order… I’m suddenly hungry. 

The happy couple in Nashville.

The happy couple in Nashville.

My Own Shame

After reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir ‘Love Warrior,’ I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty, shame and vulnerability.  In her book, she speaks to the idea that we have these impossible societal constructs within which to live and rather than be our vulnerable selves, we send our ‘representatives’ into the world.  They laugh on cue, they look the part, they diminish their voice, check out and hide, or fall in line.  It becomes a life of survival rather than a life of authenticity, and instead of thriving, we suffer and cope.  We find a pulse in various comforting addictions and the secret knowledge of these habits, fill us with guilt and shame. 

 

Late to the Glennon Doyle Melton party...

Late to the Glennon Doyle Melton party…

When Edward Snowden announced that the government had been spying on us and other countries, invading our personal freedoms and privacy in the name of terrorism, we didn’t take to the streets.  There was no rioting.  We rolled over, scratched our bellies and said, ‘Yeah, not surprised,’ and went back to sleep feeling powerless.  In the same way, we’re not surprised by Glennon’s truth telling.  ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah… We all know we live in guilt and shame.  Sweet Lord, don’t make me think about it.’  

The thing is, I want to think about it because I crave healing.  I want to be healed because I want to live a life that is powerful and full.  I want to be so full that I’m able to offer something to the world.  I want these things for all of us because… imagine that world.

There are many reasons, we send out our representatives but for me, my shame and guilt, pain and grief, all stems from my weight.  It’s so incredibly… painful. It is such a deep river within that when I think of my wedding day– my wedding day!— the feeling that first comes to mind is: FAT.  I had gained a ton of weight, was so uncomfortable and wanted to crawl back in bed for a do over because this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  This wasn’t my soul’s wedding.  This was the wedding of a fucked up, embarrassed and guilt-ridden failure.  (Thanks to family and friends, it was also a day I’ve never felt so loved, a testament to what love can do).  

My representative wants to tell you about my mountain life, my adorable cats, manifesting a life of creativity and having a wonderful sweetie. These things are all very true.  I feel absolutely blessed and my life, oftentimes, divinely inspired.  But, truth be told, it is not the story in my head, the underlying programs; these are the voices I wake up to every day and the ones that scream me to sleep at night.   

These voices require that I live the ‘Walk of Atonement’ on Game of Thrones daily.  I am both the observer and the observed. I am an overweight, short, guilt-ridden and shamed, Cersei, naked and vulnerable, making my way through King’s Landing.  I am mocked.  I am hated.  I am covered in spit and garbage.  A man exposes himself to me? I’m sure I deserved it.  I question the people in my life that love me and what is wrong with them. I am also the one throwing the garbage. I detest myself. I spit and spew. My fat is nauseating and I hate looking at it.  This is how the standards I have set for myself, after being an A+ student in bullshit, make me feel every day of my life.

For anyone that has ever tried to lose weight and failed, it is because it is almost impossible to will one’s self into perfection.  And if you do have that sort of panicked will power, a neurotic workout and diet regimen is just another hamster wheel.  On a diet, there is good and bad. There is right and wrong.  It isn’t a matter of health or listening to your body. We are programmed to believe that to be thin and lose weight at any cost is a success and to be fat for any reason means you’re a failure. From doctors we hear, “Eat 4oz. of skinless chicken with one cup of steamed broccoli and brown rice.” From society we hear, “Eat less and work out, fat fucks.  It’s not rocket science.”  

There are problems with this… 

  • It speaks nothing to the holes within us that cause us to eat in the first place.
  • It speaks nothing to the shame and guilt that we feel toward ourselves on a daily basis.
  • It speaks nothing to the programming that thin equals success and fat equals failure.
  • It speaks nothing to how women view each other and how we’re taught to view each other.
  • It speaks nothing to the spirituality of our bodies.
  • It speaks nothing to the indoctrinated mindset of society that fat people are allowed to be the butt of a joke and are incompetent, nauseating, ignorant, unworthy of existence, etc.
  • It speaks nothing to how our feelings as individuals, regardless of the reasons for our shame, cause us all to exist in society.

It’s FUCKED UP!  And it’s not just about weight.  

To me it feels heartless, calloused, superficial and just plain wrong that as a society we don’t allow ourselves to talk about our feelings.  It’s only after we’re thin, fixed, have gotten sober or lost the addiction, that we’re allowed to admit to our issues and how we felt ‘less than.’  Only after the fact do you get to write the memoir, because to mention in everyday life that you are sad, alone, addicted, fearful, anxious, depressed, frustrated or angry makes society really uncomfortable.  It’s just not the American way.

I also learned in church that this was God’s ideal. To be without joy, was to be separate from God.  You’re either in the dark or you’re in the light. I was a determined and sensitive kid that took to heart God’s satisfaction and dissatisfaction with all of my thoughts and feelings. Not only did I feel God’s disapproval and judgment every moment of the day, but on top of my own, it was too great a burden to bare.  It caused so much guilt and shame, you could have tattooed the word ‘grace’ on my forehead and I still wouldn’t be able to look at myself. So, the best I could do was play the part and if I could never be good enough, hopefully, at the very least I could trick my community.  Proverbs 31 woman? No pressure.

Inner trauma is everywhere.  We all have it. It’s called being human.  Society wants to fix it.  I am absolutely guilty of wanting to fix it and my Christian upbringing required that I always had answers. It’s a trait that I’ve had a difficult time shedding and I know I’ve hurt people in the process. We hate to see people in pain, especially people closest to us, but I dare say, we need to start seeing people feeling their feelings.  We need snot, tears, laughter, hand holding and not just at our therapist’s office, but also at our therapist’s office. Not just with our close friends but especially with our close friends.  

I’m realizing the timeliness and imperative value of diving into this shame because it is such a disservice– not to the idea of this woman with the mountain life, the baker with adorable cats, but to the perfect and vibrant soul that was born joyfully into this world.  Our world! The skin sacks we choose don’t make us who we are, that soul we were created to be is everything.  I am learning that taking care of my soul is my biggest priority right now.  And personally?  My soul wants a healthy skin bag. I’m also learning that self care can mean more than a bubble bath.  It could mean spending time on the elliptical, spending less money, laughing more, going to therapy or taking photos and connecting with someone.  It’s different for everyone. 

On 9/11 we accepted each other’s pain because we were all in pain. That pain was beautiful because it was honest, heart wrenching, vulnerable and true.  Each face in front of us was our own. It united us. Do we have the guts to do this everyday? Can we tell our very honest stories and see ourselves in each other without ego or judgement?  Can we just sit in each other’s messiness without an answer to be had? 

What is our shame? Let’s start with what is true… 

The Power of Choice

I just got back from a trip to Los Angeles where I was working on my very first photography project.  It was also my best friend’s 40th.  Between the two, I was so overwhelmed with activities– heavy photoshoots mixed with Universal Studio Theme Park butterbeer nausea, I had a headache and was in a fog a majority of the time I was there.  One afternoon, driving home from a shoot, my right arm and mouth went numb.  I was so overly exhausted, my body was literally not having it.  I’m not gonna lie– it was scary.  I felt completely out of control the entire trip. 

I have learned in my later years just how effected I am by the energy around me.  As much as I adore my friends to the moon and back, I am a gal that needs her downtime– especially when I’m shooting.  I have to be able to decompress, meditate, be alone and tap into the solitude.  I’m not sure that a lot of people understand this as it demands a lot more time than you’d think.  Clearly, I need to find better solutions for my next trip.

Chaos is also just in the air right now.  I blew out a tire on my way down and broke a timing belt on the way back.   According to the Power Path, April is a month of intensity and I can’t help but agree. Hannah Honda is now in a shop in Roseburg, Oregon and will be there for the next week or two until she is fixed and we can pick her up.   

After two weeks of being on the road with nothing to ground me, with only one morning of alone time where I had nothing to accomplish, to break down in the middle of Oregon felt like I was floating off into space.  I was so outside of my body, I didn’t even know what I was feeling!  I was angry, sad, confused, grateful, relaxed and totally zen like a ferris wheel of emotions in constant rotation.  

Thankfully, prior to breaking down, I was listening to Pete Holmes ‘You Made It Weird’ podcast featuring Elizabeth Gilbert.  In the episode she talks about her Grandma and how she is a woman that very sincerely finds the joy in everything.  Her letters are filled with exclamation points and she’s always excited about what she’s doing.  So much so, that when she tells Liz she has cancer she says, “Isn’t that interesting, Liz?  I’m getting to learn all about my body and about our cells and I’ve been meeting all of these fascinating doctors…”  

It sounds like a load of crap but Liz said the woman is unquestionably sincere as the day is long.  So I tried it.  Rather than freak out about money, be a victim or try to control the situation with a white knuckle grip, I just decided to be fascinated and amazed and present by the whole thing as best I could.  My tow truck driver was a sweetheart and my mechanic went above and beyond for me, even driving me to a local hotel with a car full of shit.  I was soooo taken care of, how could I not be grateful?  

Humanity snuck in for a brief moment when I couldn’t get a rental car on a Friday night.  All of the unknowns undid me until– again– I realized, there was nothing to control here. It was entirely out of my hands.  Miraculously, my photography class in Seattle is going to be rescheduled, I got my money back for the two nights that I booked a hotel in Seattle and I was able to get a rental car first thing Saturday morning.  These are all miraculous things! There were times my old habitual, ‘responsible’ mind almost felt guilty for not being more stressed about money but it also felt… powerful.

My honey picked me up in Wenatchee that night and a day later?  I’m shocked to be as cool as a cucumber with not an ailment, headache or overwhelmed thought to be had.  In fact, I came home and ideas for my pilot and my children’s book just started coming out of me. There is a lesson here and I have a lot of gratitude.

With that said, the trip was chaotic but amazing.  Working on this project is an honor and fills me to the brim.  The project involves actors and the bittersweet, joyful stories that come with being creative people– and human beings.  Artistic survival may only be familiar to artists but the struggle of humanity in our creatively blocked nature is a commonality that can be recognized in all of us. We all cope and survive in our own ways.

Below are three photos of my ‘BF,’ Sarah Welborn. (I can’t decide which one I like the most.  Each one has its strengths and weaknesses). She isn’t a part of my photography project but I wanted to share these photos because I think her story is inspiring and in its own way ties up my experience. 

BF 1

She moved to Chicago to take part in the Steppenwolf Theater summer program for actors.  After the program ended she stayed in Chicago to pursue acting and started writing a web series. When filming plans fell through and she couldn’t find anyone to film, she decided to go to film school to learn the skill set to tell her own stories.  Soon voice and vision will also have eyes and hands. She is removing obstacles and excuses that keep her from being powerful.  She now lives in Los Angeles with her partner Lou.  This fierce, brave, mindful, queer and spirited woman is going to tell fierce, brave, mindful, queer and spirited stories and I am PSYCHED for the world!   

BF 2 copy

I mean, look at that no bullshit ‘TUDE!!!  God, I love it.  

BF 3

Anyway, as I step into my own creative projects and my jazz shoes (I danced for the first time today– at over 200 pounds, it’s gonna be a ‘thing’), I wanted you all to be encouraged and am feeling this on my heart today.  The world needs your voice not your excuses. It needs your driven heart not your victim mentality. Tell your stories.  Live your life.  Be powerful.  

 

 

 

 

Why I Marched…

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for two months now.  At first, I just didn’t have the time.  I wrote a quick column for our local paper and then the more I pushed it aside, the weightier it felt. I know at this juncture, there’s really nothing I can do or say to persuade anyone to a particular side.  Thankfully, it’s not about that.  But for the girl I once was and for who I am today, paying homage to the heart and soul that has resided in my skin for the past 38 years, there is something in me that needs to put these thoughts into words.  

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To understand why I marched is also to understand my background.  I was raised a born again conservative Christian.  I attended pro-life rallies as a kid, wore the ‘Life Is Short Pray Hard’ t-shirts in high school, cried over friends who were ‘unsaved,’ and worked in various positions of leadership at a Christian college.  Christianity was the defining factor of my life but I always had questions.  I won’t go into my spiritual journey taking me out of Christianity today but if you’d like to read more about my ‘coming out’ as a non-believer, you can do so here.  I would like to think this gives me a fair and balanced perspective with the potential to bring people together but more often than not, it really just gets me into trouble on both sides.  Ha!  Also, please excuse my tendency to lump all conservatives into a Christian category– it’s just my own personal history. 

Womens March-3

I need to first explain that due to my conservative Christian upbringing, marching for women’s rights isn’t necessarily a natural or easy choice for me.  To this day, when I hear the phrase ‘women’s rights,’ my eye twitches, and in the back of my mind I see angry, screaming feminists, bare-chested, wearing black electrical tape across their nipples and reveling in the ‘murder of innocent babies.’  This idea of women’s rights is painful for many reasons.

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One, it’s programming.  Like a rat and a bell, even after all of these years, that image is what my mind goes to immediately when I hear the words ‘women’s rights.’  I am currently watching Leah Remini’s show on Scientology and I can’t help but see my reflection in her.  Whether consciously or subconsciously through my family, the party, the media, the church, Mickey Mouse, whoever– I was indoctrinated to believe that to be a feminist meant you had to be an angry, vulgar, man-hating and pro-abortion activist.  You may have heard Rush Limbaugh refer to these women as ‘feminazis.’  To be truthful, I resent that false narrative of my upbringing.

One reason I marched was to take back that idea and decide for myself what it means to be a feminist.  As you can see from these pictures, there are so many faces– each with a different story.  It is a detriment, on either side, to ever put anyone into a box.  

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My old self would have seen the ‘feminazi’ women in that mental picture and judged it, “You know, that’s just not helping anything.” But to think back on that mental picture, what was actually being said about women underneath it all?  Be quiet, be pretty, be wholesome, you’re opinion only matters if you express it in a way that makes me comfortable, makes my group of people comfortable, don’t make mistakes, be perfect, men are the head of the household are all examples of underlying currents brought about by these kinds of sentiments.  

This kind of thinking requires women to be a cookie cutter, bible belt Carrie Underwood versions of ourselves forced to live up to impossible standards.  In my opinion, we learn nothing by hiding our messes or humanity. It’s a gateway mentality to self righteousness and judgment.   I would much rather be karaoke Carrie Underwood at the gay bar but that’s just me.  😉

Womens March-14

It potentially pits women against each other and makes any life outside the box, full of messy life choices, threatening and ‘bad.’ My personal teachers are the Cheryl Strayed’s and Elizabeth Gilbert’s of the world, women who have made big mistakes or choices not easily understood by most, and whose lives have been incredibly messy.  Making choices unbecoming to society and having to sit with the consequences of those actions, to see your own reflection in the mirror everyday and live to tell the story, teaches you compassion and empathy. It allows you to sit across the table from someone and connect without judgement or condemnation, and with a full heart.  It teaches you how to make better choices for next time and live an integral life.

I find that people that have made only perfect life choices have a really difficult time seeing their reflection in people different than them.  I did.  I’ve learned a hell of a lot more about myself from people that have fucked up than I have from mega-church preachers.   I am so grateful for my own mistakes and appreciate the bravery it takes when others share their own. My mistakes allowed me to see myself for the first time and I continue to scratch at the surface. There is so much to learn from each other. 

Womens March-15

It also never occurred to me as a conservative Christian to ask why women were angry or to think, even worse, that they had a right to be. Everyone’s journey is different and each story is worthy and legitimate.  Maybe they were raped or sexually assaulted.  Maybe they were beaten by an ex-husband. Maybe vulgarity and nudity, is a way to speak to these things and ‘take back’ what has happened to them.  You don’t have to understand it. No one is ever completely understood.  We all get to be human.

I read an article recently about a woman who voted for Trump speaking to the vulgarity of the ‘pussy hats’ and signage at the March.  I had to scratch my head.  For many, it was a way to take Donald Trump’s own vulgarity, completely accepted as ‘locker room talk,’ and find a way to own them in an empowering way.  Interestingly, the woman in this particular story didn’t mind Trump’s personal vulgarity enough not to vote for him but found the women at the march offensive. She, too, has a story. 

I marched because everyone has a story and all stories are worthy.

Womens March-17

Second, and this took a long time to allow myself… But who the fuck cares?  You don’t have to be a loud mouth, angry, vulgar, man-hating, pro-abortion woman to be a feminist, but why is it so threatening that some are?  And what is profanity anyway? In comedy school, I learned that words are funny.  Resonance, tone, inflection– from their noise to their meaning–  can create comedy.  I also learned that our culture and the acceptance of these words change.  In the 50’s during ‘I Love Lucy,’ the writers weren’t allowed to say the word ‘pregnant’ on television.  Ha!  Can you imagine?

Womens March-18

Then, take a look at someone like Sarah Silverman, a comedian whose parents never mentioned that words like ‘vagina’ and ‘dick’ were taboo to most of society.  She’s living to the tell the story and the earth is still turning.  Do we really want to live in a world were you can’t say ‘pregnant’ on tv?  Where married men and women have to sleep in separate beds?  That’s just a lie for everything it means to be human.  Sex is what creates life!  Does anyone seriously want to go back to that?  

Someone is always going to push buttons and someone is always going to be offended by it.  ‘Cockwaffle’ will probably be the stuff of nursery school rhymes 5o years from now and we’ll all have a good laugh.  It is a fabulous word. So is fairywiggins!  See?  I’m not always profane. #ItsCalledBalance.
Womens March-18

My point is… at the end of the day, we all survive this world in different ways.  As citizens of this country, people get to be whoever they want to be and live their lives accordingly.  If you want to judge it, that’s a choice you get to make. Granted, I am never going to tape my nipples. You’re welcome. And quite frankly, I’m not even sure I understand it, but I don’t need to.  Go be your own human, people.  It doesn’t scare me or offend me.  And if you need some electrical tape?  It’s in the cabinet in the mudroom. 

Womens March-19

Finally, as a conservative Christian, women’s rights were solely synonymous with abortion.  Abortion was ‘women’s rights.’  The topic of  ‘women’s rights’ was abortion.  It was the ONLY issue. This idea is troublesome because women’s rights encompass so much more than abortion. To make it solely about abortion and to cause– what I believe to be, a purposeful divide for the sake of selling a side, is not only playing into the hands of the powers that be but it also takes away the voice women could have on other topics that pertain to them.  

Womens March-7

Abortion is a very personal and sensitive discussion. Like what I’ve previously mentioned above, you truly can never know what is going on in someone’s life.  Despite the stories I had heard from friends that have had abortions, while I no longer judged it, for the longest time I just couldn’t relate and it was something I wanted to understand.  You shut your legs.  You use condoms.  You do whatever you gotta do is what I told myself.

Womens March-8

One week, years ago, however, I found myself in a situation I couldn’t have dreamed to be in. I can’t go into details but for the first time in my life, I was terrified in a very real and sincere way because, as I learned, its not always about you.  It was the first time I had ever, EVER been able to understand.  While I don’t think personally I would have made that choice (not that I should have to say that), I am actually amazingly grateful for that situation.  It taught me empathy and compassion.  It helped me to realize it’s virtually impossible to understand if you don’t experience it yourself.  It made me wonder what else I had assumed my whole life.  

Womens March-23

I consider myself pro-choice.  I feel that we should do everything in our power to limit the number of abortions that happen not through legislation but through responsible contraception and education. I’m always going to be of the camp– the fewer the number of abortions, the better.  However, I also feel that to have the option out there for women that want to make that choice is the right compromise for this country and that counseling afterward should be readily available.  I believe in people making their own choices, not the beliefs of others making choices for people.  To be pro-choice, doesn’t mean you ever have to have an abortion.  But to remove it completely, takes the choice away for women who do which involves zero compromise.

I marched because I believe in compromise.

Womens March-10

The last thing that I’ll say about this idea of ‘women’s rights’ is that I was taught that women and men aren’t equal, we’re complimentary.  I understand the sentiment because as male and female, we do have different strengths and weaknesses.  However, it always felt to me that ‘complimentary’ was used in the church as a discussion that still allowed the man to maintain his ‘head of the household’ status biblically.  It always irked me.

Especially after learning that women in the past, in some other cultures, were the ones worshipped and idolized.  It wasn’t always like this! We just grew up in an American, Christian culture where men run the household.  It’s the spoon we were fed. It’s normal to us.  Can you imagine a world run by women?  We have babies.  Women are fierce and strong. I totally can!  I like to joke that if women just held sex from men for a year, the world would be entirely different.  (Relax, it’s a joke.  A very true joke.) 

Whatever your belief system at home, the truth of the matter is that in society, both men and women are human beings.  When rights are involved, our constitution guarantees equality.  That means equal pay and equal opportunities. Until I see as many women in Congress representing us or in as many positions of leadership as men, women receiving equal pay for equal work, I will always see the lack. (That doesn’t even begin to speak to the lack of voice for minorities).

Womens March-28

So 1800 words in, why did I march?  Because it felt right in my soul. I wanted to march for the things that I believe in.  

The only reason I gave a rip about this year’s election was because of Bernie Sanders.  Typically to me, politics are politics and nothing much ever changes.  Bernie was the first politician in all of my years that I believed really wanted to be of service to everyday people. You may not agree with his ideas, but his legacy has been fighting for the working class. He also helped educate and wake up a sleeping nation that hadn’t realized the grand scale to which we play puppets to corporate greed. Also, how desperately we need politicians that will be in office fighting tooth and nail to make that happen.  

I  marched to remember that I have a voice.  

Womens March-29

When Sanders didn’t work out and Trump was still on the scene, I began watching Trump’s actions.  I truly thought it was a big joke and he was in on it. Given his history with democrats and movie stars, I thought for sure, it was a stunt, crossing more and more lines just to see what the American public would swallow.  I remember thinking that a real presidential candidate could never make fun of a disabled person on national television and not be disqualified immediately for the presidency.  But he never was… This had to be a joke. Then the whole ‘grabbing women by the pussy.’  Suddenly every conservative I knew that was disdainful for my use of foul language was totally okay disregarding the word pussy AND, even worse, okay with the context enough to vote for him.  “Because Hilary was that bad.”  (I’ll save that conversation for my second novel).

Womens March-30

I consider myself to be middle of the road politically.   While I consider our current president to be a cockwaffle (or a fairywiggins based on your level of offended), I’m also not in the camp of putting Obama’s presidency on a pedestal.  Obama was just another president to me.  I think he tried hard and I greatly respect his position in office, the man as a father and husband, positions on gay marriage and climate change but I definitely had my disagreements.  I was also not a huge Hiliary fan. With all that said, you couldn’t pay me to vote for someone so disrespectful to the office.  

I marched because I believe leadership involves, first and foremost, maturity, respect for others and belief in the golden rule.

Womens March-33

This administration is entirely different, however, in that republican conservatism no longer had its roots in fiscal responsibility. It suddenly became about this warped idea of white Christian patriotism and media conspiracy.  You were either in or you were out. Conservative news, as well, became a propoganda machine. I had never seen anything like it before in my life but Republicans I have respected for years suddenly went from ‘tough love’ to ruthless.  It’s new indoctrination.  And yet, when you have Bush’s daughter, raising money for Planned Parenthood, you have to feel the apocalypse is coming.  You know it is insane.  

I marched because fiscal responsibility is a formidable opponent.  Indoctrinated propaganda, fear mongering and a disregard for journalism is not.  

Womens March-12

Conservatives tend to say that they suffered under Obama and we need to get over it and liberals can’t fathom why conservatives would vote for Trump.  Clearly, there are huge disconnects.  At the march, I was reminded of this HW Bush quote below.  As a person that has spent more years conservative than not, the Republican party has always had a ‘tough love’ mentality about hand outs.  The current ‘drain the swamp’ administration  is a gross stretch from the ‘kinder, gentler nation’ of the Bush legacy.  Even though I disagreed with the Bushes as well, I believed everyone, for the most part, was welcome to eat at the barbecue.  Trump does take-out. When liberals are misty eyed about the Bush administration, you know serious lines have been crossed.

I marched because I believe in an inclusive kinder and gentler nation.

Womens March-32

Looking back, one of the biggest disconnects as a Christian is this idea that God cares about what other people do.  Biblically speaking, he  doesn’t. God only cares what YOU do and the choices YOU make.  You’re not going to be judged for the choices of someone else.  You’re going to be judged for your own choices.  Per the constitution, if you are a human being in our country, you are to be considered equal.  That means my gay friends should be able to marry and have equal rights as such.  Their marriage truly does not effect you.  You have no reason to be threatened.  You still get to live your life as perfectly Christian or conservative as you want.  

Before I go further, I also want to clarify that I know a lot of wonderful Christians that are sincere and loving people. I also know a lot of blinded, misguided people whose faith has become political rather than spiritual, whose love has become judgment over compassion.  In my opinion, the need to feel safe with God politically rather than safe with God internally is leading people astray.  The water is awfully muddy. This really concerns me.   

If you believe that gay marriage will lead to a pandora’s box of sin and the world going to hell in a hand basket, I would kindly ask that you– pardon the franchise–  wake the fuck up.  What has been done in the name of Christianity has literally brought hell to earth and massacred millions of people through war for ‘God’s glory.’  And that’s just one religion.  Religious judgement alone would be the Guinness World’s Record of hand baskets.

I would also like to ask how many involved in the decision making process have gay friends?  Not gay friends like the one guy you know at work or the gay uncle you ‘love’ and tolerate but really pray for from a distance.  Do you know any of their guts?  Here’s the secret… they’re just people.  And literally, the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever met.  When you are constantly judged and told you’re not supposed to exist, you’re worthless in the eyes of your family and God, or that you’re welcome but still going to hell, it makes you a hell of a welcoming motherfucker to other people because you know how it feels.  God bless this community and everything they have been and have meant to me.  

Womens March-13

I am blessed to know a bunch of married gays. Two couples that have adopted and not one of them teaches their children to fuck goats!  Amazing!  They are wonderful parents and families.  Because the gay community is truly a community, these kids are raised by a village of people that love them.  It’s beautiful.  It’s the most un-detrimental thing that could happen to a kid!  And to say otherwise, means you really don’t know what you’re talking about.  That’s not to negate anyone’s opinion, it just means you have no real history with these very real people.  Because if you did, you would clearly say otherwise for your friends.  Every day of the week.

I will march for my gay friends and these families until the day I die.  Even the goat fuckers. 😉

 

Womens March-34

I am so grateful to live in a place where people appreciate the land.  I live in the swiss alps of the United States and whether or not people are Republican or Democrat, people want to protect the beauty.  As a Christian, I never understood why conservatives fought so hard against climate change and protecting the environment.  I heard all the time about God being an artist and creating the planet and yet we were constantly fighting so hard to shit on the artwork.  Aside from God, common sense says don’t you want to live someplace beautiful?  Don’t you want your kids to experience wildlife?  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate beauty or a crisp, clean breath of fresh air… but we have to be right.

It’s just so heartbreakingly obvious that our need to be right trumps common sense.  In our valley, for the most part, we agree on this.  There is probably so much more we could agree on if we weren’t so white knuckled to talk to each other.  The idea that Trump has gotten rid of laws protecting the environment or the partial dismantling of the EPA is just a level of non-sensical I can’t comprehend. It is dumbfounding.

I will always march to protect the beauty of this earth.  To be out in nature is to be in church.

Womens March-35

I am proud that I have a great mix of friends– colors, shapes, nationalities, religions.  I’m sure living in Los Angeles, I worked with illegal immigrants.  I have been lucky enough to travel and meet people different than me.  At the end of the day, we all want to be with our families, worship who/what we want, put food on our table and laugh together.  It is our government leaders and how were were raised that tell us we’re different and pit us against each other.  

Womens March-38

The metaphor of building a wall is so obvious and unoriginal and yet here we are.  We can do better than building walls.  We can do better than ripping apart families.  We can do better than allowing a rise in white supremacy, racism and prejudice.  When it takes your president too long to say those hateful acts are vile and disgraceful, you’ve no reason to believe him when he finally gets around to saying it. 

I marched for the interracial couples I know whose children have seen an increase in hateful acts and no one is protecting them.  No one is even saying its wrong.

I marched because I believe reform doesn’t need to be ruthless.

Womens March-36

When I lived in Chicago, I would meet my positive and amazing friend ‘BF’ at a local cafe every Friday night to talk about our week. It was an incredibly challenging time of transition for both of us but that is what made the friendship so special.  Like mad magicians, we would always energize each other into manifesting amazing things in our lives despite the scariness of the unknown.  
 
On one particular occasion, however, we both showed up in a funk. The details have been wiped from my memory as to why we felt this way but it was such an unusual thing for us that it is a day I will never forget.  After commiserating for a bit, BF suggested we take a walk.  Despite the repulsively hot and sticky summer day, notorious to Chicago, I agreed.  
 
We left the house and walked down the street.  We talked.  We were silent.  We talked again. My make up fell down my face and my hair pasted itself to my forehead.  My clothes stuck to my body like unwelcome bandaids, necessary and annoying.  With each step, however, I began to feel relief.  Something was changing as we made our way out of Lincoln Park. Unbeknownst to me, we were setting an intention. The cliche became painfully obvious.  We were taking steps forward in action and literally walking away from feelings we couldn’t control. 
 
I marched because sometimes it just feels good to take a step away from how you’re feeling.
 
 

Womens March-37

 

Our local paper ran an article about the upcoming march and the organizers quickly responded with a letter to the editor that read:

Dear Editor:
As organizers of the Women’s March in Twisp on Saturday (Jan. 21), we have to disagree with the first sentence of the article covering the marches in last week’s Methow Valley News. Actually, it is the first five words that are in our view incorrect: “Motivated by fear and anger … .” Our march and rally are explicitly to celebrate and support our highest values.
We firmly believe that the tenor of national politics has been dominated by extreme voices outshouting moderate viewpoints. There are many reasons for this, among them that it is so much fun to be outrageous, to violate — at no personal cost — the norms of respectful communication and, for far too many of us, to be willing consumers of the outrageous. So much more fun and entertaining than the thoughtful exchange of ideas. But it is also threatening our society and nation.
There is reason to be optimistic. In this valley we have a wide array of viewpoints and political alignments — but for the most part we generally like and respect each other. We get along; we treat each other as individuals, and do not take disagreements as equating to enmity; we help our neighbors regardless of their politics. We just had a local election that was positive, respectful and based on ideas for the right way forward in Okanogan County. Many communities across the country similarly share the values of decency and respect towards their neighbors.
Our march is a first step in bringing people together to work on extending that decency to national issues. It is based on the idea that the majority of Americans share values that we can — and will — come together to uphold. The rally will include compiling ideas on positive actions we can take to do our part to achieve a “more perfect union.” Every generation before us has faced this challenge; many of us believe that it is now our turn.
Finally, we want to emphasize that everyone is welcome to join our celebration of the ideals that make our country great. Hope to see you out there.
Lois Caswell, Linda Du Lac, Jane Hill, Gina McCoy, Pat Leigh, Monica Pettelle, Antonia Van Bueren

I marched because this letter, its optimism and inclusion, inspired me. 

Womens March-40

Shannon Huffman Polson was one of our speakers at the march.  One of the things that struck me was when she said “This is a room full of people easy to love.”  The sentiment is that to fight for love is to be loving to all people and not just those we agree with.

I marched because I believe in this kind of love.

Womens March-39

Our march rallied 600 people, which is pretty incredible for our little valley. It was a joyful and an exhilarating day.  I am so honored to be a part of it.  It was a celebration of our stories and lives that have so much value.  We’re humans first.  

Womens March-41

Quite frankly, this blog has taken months to write and the entire day to finish up. It isn’t polished, it is wordy, scattered and all over the place.  I’m not even sure I’m saying what I want to but don’t think I’ll ever get it to where I want it to be. So if anyone would like to nitpick it– good luck with that!  😉  I’m still going to post it in honor of Womens International Day.  Thank you to all of the beautiful people in my life that have made me who I am and to the community that came out that day and continues to come out for the rights of people everywhere.

I will not live in fear.  I feel called to tell stories.  I am just one of many stories.  I’d love to hear yours.  xoxo. 

 

 

 

Hummingbird Cake

We are getting totally SOCKED IN.  I love it!!!  There is nothing more peaceful than waking up to a quiet, relentless snowfall…

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I spend a majority of my mornings like this.. roaring fire, cats, writing in my warm ‘flippies’.  I LOVE MY MORNINGS!!!

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Little Tilla gets it… hanging out in the window sill… It’s just so peaceful.  *swoon*

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Which brings me to our treat of the day.  Hummingbird Cake!   

A buddy I work with is from one of the islands in Guam and he LOVES banana. Our breakfast guys make a banana bread french toast and he’s always taking a nibble here and there. “Oh God, Mendi, this is soooo good. Do you make a banana cake?” 

“Oh yeah, honey. I make a Hummingbird Cake!”

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“What’s that?”- asks EVERYONE.  Poor Hummingbird Cake, always the bridesmaid. 

Hummingbird Cake is a cake made with banana, pineapple, pecans and coconut.  A southern staple, it would probably place third as a contestant in a Cakes of The South beauty pageant. What makes this cake perfect for winter is that it is dense and hearty like a carrot cake, putting meat on your bones after a good ski, but it’s also tropical and will feel like a much needed vacation from the cold!

But hold onto to your ski poles… Because while Hummingbird Cake is a southern staple, it actually has its roots in Jamaica-mon!  It was a cake named after Jamaica’s national bird, the ‘Doctor Bird,’ and according to Wikipedia, was exported off of the island in 1979 “with other local Jamaican recipes in media press kits sent to the USA. The marketing was aimed at American consumers to get them to come to the island. As printed in the March 29, 1979 issue of the Kingston Daily Gleaner.”  THANK YOU JAMAICA!

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The first recipe was printed by Southern Living (sorry Better Homes & Gardens, they got the jump on ya) and won the Kentucky ‘Best Cake Award’ at the state fair that year.  Who can blame them?! The best part?  It is an oil based cake so you pretty much get to throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk them together!  Easy peasy!

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The recipe I have always used, I found in Saveur.  However, the old recipe was replaced with a newer version to include coconut.  So my adaptation is a cross between both recipes.  Also, knowing that it has a history of being tropical, rather than Southern, I include a little lime juice and rum in my cream cheese frosting now. Hee hee hee… 

Enjoy!!! “Stay warm and tropical, my friends”… xoxo

 

Hummingbird Cake
Serves 10
A moist tropical cake with banana, pineapple, coconut and pecans, covered in a fluffy key lime, rum cream cheese frosting.
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INGREDIENTS
  1. 3 c. + 3 T. flour
  2. 1 T. cinnamon
  3. 1 tsp baking soda
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 c. chopped pecans
  6. 1 c. sugar
  7. 1 c. packed dark brown sugar
  8. 3 eggs, beaten
  9. 8 oz. crushed pineapple
  10. 6 overly ripe mashed bananas (about 2 3/4 c.)
  11. 1 1/4 c. oil
  12. 2 tsp vanilla
  13. 1 c. sweetened coconut
  14. 1/2 tsp almond extract
INGREDIENTS FOR FROSTING
  1. 2- 8oz. pkgs cream cheese
  2. 8 T. unsalted butter
  3. 6 c. powdered sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla
  5. 2 T. dark rum (to taste)
  6. 1 T. key lime juice (to taste)
FOR GARNISH (optional)
  1. toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
  2. 1 c. toasted pecans.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 3- 9 inch cake pans (10 inch pans work too)
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  3. Distribute evenly into 3 pans and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool completely.
TO MAKE FROSTING
  1. Cream together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Add almond extract and mix thoroughly. Add rum and key lime juice to taste.
Notes
  1. **If you have extra banana or pineapple left over in your can, feel free to use it between layers!
  2. **Add powdered sugar to cream cheese and butter slowly or your kitchen will look like a cocaine factory.
  3. **Have extra rum on hand because #Thursday
Adapted from Saveur
Adapted from Saveur
MandiCrocker http://www.mandicrocker.com

Conconully Outhouse Races

In honor of the Super Bowl, I’d like to take you all to a different kind of ‘sporting event.’  A few weeks ago, Lliam and I had the chance to drive over to Conconully, Washington to attend their infamous annual Outhouse Races.  That’s right, outhouse races. For a quarter of a century, they’ve been putting outhouses on skis and racing them down a slick road.  It’s insaaaanity.

While I tend to think of my life in Mazama as written straight from the pages of Northern Exposure, Conconully really deserves the nod.  Another town of 200, their community is even more remote and woodsy.  We get the Seattle hikers, bikers and rock climbers. They get all of the rural hunters and fishers.  #respect    

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I wrote about my experience in The Methow Valley News as part of my weekly column that you can read here, but I wanted to relive the nail biting, hilarious glory through photos that paint a better picture. 

For starters, this is ‘Solo Cup.’  Solo Cup has performed previously in Conconully.  Many of the teams come back year after year for continual glory. Who wouldn’t?!

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This collection of yahoos called their outhouse ‘Skidmark,’ a bold yet simple design that ‘left a mark’ on the attending public.  

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When we arrived, we heard the announcer’s voice booming through the streets, “Up next, the Krap-a-nator and Hooooooly Crapper!”  He also calls for the Omak Stampede so this shiz is LEGIT. 

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Each team heads up to the starting line…  There is a rider inside and two pushers that run down the raceway.  And there are a series of races!  Or heats, or… you know, I’m not really certain their is a ‘technical term’ for any of this.  

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 The Carlton Stoolbus.  LOVE IT!!!
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This outhouse was designed by Beneficial In Home Care. Looks like old folks to me! 

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There is a heat for men, women, children, teens, family and seniors.  Pictured here is ‘Daisy Deuce.’ Where ma ladies at?  On the shitter… 

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The ‘Holy Crapper’ in action.  It was a brutally cold day out and yet the streets were lined with families enjoying this wondrous, nonsensical frivolity.  I think I was out of my body most of the day.  I couldn’t believe this was real!  It was like a confusing dream… I mean, there’s skiing and shitting. This takes multitasking to a whole new level!
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Look at his guy… There’s so much joy to be found in poop!  Who knew?!

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These are folks from The Sage Shop, Omak’s premiere retailer of hash.   And by ‘premiere’ I mean, probably the only one. 

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Carlton Stool Bus won People’s Choice for their outhouse. Can you blame them?  Look how happy their little pooper is in the window!!!

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The day was ridden with good clean family poop jokes.  There was an outhouse from The Omak Chronicle there, “flushing out the news since 1889.”  When I tried to joke about starting a group from our paper called The Methow Valley NewsPooper, my editor deleted it from my column. I have no idea why.  This is serious business. 

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American patriotism!!  I think these ladies were my favorite actually.

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You don’t want to disappoint Uncle Sam!

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So, this is when shit gets REAL.  After all the heats, there is also THE BUCKET RACE.  

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The pushers literally put a bucket on their head and race down the road with only the voice of the rider to guide them. THEY WEAR BUCKETS AND RACE.  THEY ARE BLIND.  RUNNING DOWN ICE.  

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Hay bales were obliterated, fences knocked down… Outhouses flipped over.  It was dangerous and painful.  Lliam could NOT stop laughing.  

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The final race of the day is the Obstacle Race.  The hay bales are lined up like a barrier across the road.  The team has to race to each line of hay bales, pick up their outhouse and carry it to the other side and continue racing.  Many totally CHEATED and just plowed through the bales unable to slow down.  I’m still angry at this unsportsmanlike conduct. 

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Miss Omak Stampede , Michaela Allen, was there to hand out prizes!  If you won that day you got a little wooden outhouse.  That is what you won. Huge honor. 

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This was the rider for the Beneficial In Home Care.  She even stuffed the junk in her trunk. She was AWESOME!  

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Anyway, folks, if you ever find yourself in Washington next January, Conconully’s shit show is where it’s at! You won’t want to miss it!  It really is the absolute BEST of small town fun!!! We had a blast.  🙂

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New Year’s Resolutions

Every year I set intentions for what I’d like to bring into my life.  Some years I am more excited than others.  This year I’m over the moon about them, so I thought I would share.  🙂

  1. FINISH PROJECTS

A ‘Lightbulb Moment’ is an exhilarating and humiliating cocktail to choke down, isn’t it?  “I’m so excited for my life now!!!” mixed with a splash of “How could I be such a dumb ass for not recognizing something so common sense before?!”   Truly, a mixed martini of life realization. 

Six months ago my life felt entirely different.  I was a workaholic.  I wasn’t happy.  I was depressed.  And although I was planning a wedding and had my whole life to look forward to, I wasn’t living my life.  I found myself, again (AGAIN???), surviving it.  

I chose to leave my job and people I loved– people that treated me insanely well (in a valley where jobs are sparse mind you), to step out in faith.  I wasn’t sure what was next but I needed the Universe to know that this workaholic lifestyle wasn’t in line with my life’s purpose and no longer served me anymore. In my heart, I’m a creative and an artist. This is when I feel I have something to offer the world.

I wrote a description of what I wanted my new life to be and what that would look like on a daily and yearly basis. In my grandiose, gold colored ‘impossible’ dreams, I am making my living as an artist and I am actively participating in a variety of creative things that give me joy. Basically, a life full of rich and lush, creative experiences.

In my heart, I am a comedian, a writer, a baker, a photographer and a singer.  I’m also a blogger, a dancer, a professional poker player, an activist and a treasure hunter!  Not to mention– whatever the hell else I want to be! I know how ridiculous that sounds;  I would need 26 lives to make that happen.  

A majority of creative and artistic people that I know making their living creatively ‘double down’ constantly. They are theater directors and poets, producers and bloggers, magicians and novelists.  So the big question became ‘How do I go from being MandiCrocker, recovering food industry workaholic, to MandiCrocker, creative powerhouse?  How does one tap into a life full of lush, rich and creative experiences?   Then, the lightbulb.

“Oh.  I should finish something.”

How can I make my living at any of these things if I have nothing to pitch?  I have no finished book, no finished screenplay, no framed and printed photography to sell… It just seemed SO FLIPPING OBVIOUS. Over the years, I have probably started a novel twelve times.  I have started a television series, twice. I choreograph countless dances in my head waiting to be the size of Julianne Hough before I dance again.  In hindsight, it seems like ‘the definition of insanity,’ as they say.  Action is required.  

GOAL #1:  FINISH &$%ING PROJECTS.  🙂

2.  BECOME A GOOD LISTENER

I am a really horrible listener.  The other day I asked one of our local girls, home on break, how she was liking being overseas.  Before she even completely finished her answer, I cut her off with an assumption and another question.  I care about this girl and as a person that loves traveling, I am over the moon she is overseas at such a young age.  Why do I do this??? 

My Aunt Amy is an incredible conversationalist.  You can tell she is genuinely interested in people, asks questions, listens and is always super enthusiastic about what you’re doing.  It’s a gift I really admire! I think it’s a mix of my shy and insecure Virgo ascendent (completely uncomfortable with small talk) mixed with the creative, spiritual tendency to self examine to a narcissistic degree.  I’m also a Libra, so I hear something and run it through a filter of how that has happened in my life.  It’s meant to relate but while that filter is running, I often miss everything. 

I do this to my poor honey, too.  I’ll say something, pause and ask, “Is that what you just said?”  IT’S SO HORRIBLE!!!  I’m always in my head.  I am always dreaming. I talk way too much.  Whatever the reason, I don’t like it!  I love people. I’m fascinated with stories.  I think being present and a good listener will help.  PLEASE FIX ME IN THE COMMENTS BELOW SO I DON’T HAVE TO PAY A THERAPIST.  🙂

3.  BECOME STRONGER

Sarah Connor.  Maggie.  Princess Leia. The Stark Girls.  The Mother of Dragons.  Katniss. Ripley. Sydney Bristow.  All the Clones. I love strong women.  I love powerful women.  I love women that kick ass.

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When I first moved here, I lived with my aunt and uncle. To say the least, they are ‘outdoor sports people’ and that summer I stayed with them I was hiking, biking and rock climbing almost every day.  I can be insanely determined.  I think I lost 20 pounds in three weeks. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  Ha! It was very emotional.  In hindsight, I still have stress fractures in my feet that have never healed from pushing myself way too hard, too soon.  It was aaaaall me!  So stupid!   BUT! At the end of the summer, I felt STRONG.  I loved and appreciated everything about that feeling.

Three and a half years later, wedding planning under depression and anxiety, I have not felt strong. If anything, the path I’ve been on has literally scared me physically. Thankfully this new path, putting my creative self first feels so selfish and wonderful, it also makes me want to put my physical self first.  The snapshot of our world inspires me to be strong. So, I’m focusing on joining the kick ass list of fictional characters above to manifest a very real one for myself. 

It’s not– and can’t be– about numbers, ‘exercise,’ or ‘losing weight.’  Instead, it is about being my own princess and being my own superhero.  The desire to run to and away from whatever the hell I want is very strong in this one.  🙂

So that’s it, folks!!  My News Year’s Resolutions! Anybody else feel inspired this year to set resolutions? Maybe a resolution to set no resolutions? Ha! I always love how everyone’s resolutions are different!  🙂 Happy January 22nd, everyone!  xoxo

 

Kale Pomegranate Salad

I had a very limited fruit experience growing up as a kid in upstate New York.  We always ate apples, oranges and bananas.  Strawberries and blueberries were typically ‘too expensive’ and if we got plums, nectarines or peaches they were always tasteless and rock hard.  Mangos or pineapple were also too expensive and “too much work.”  As for pomegranates?  Forget about it.  I think my first experience with pomegranate was in a martini (ha!) and later on a fruit tart we sold at the bakery where I worked. 

When they were on sale at our local grocery 2 for $5, I couldn’t resist.  I was going to make something with pomegranate, dang it!  It was a flavor I thoroughly enjoyed and who says a salad has to be boring?! It was time for this love affair to begin!

Luckily for me, my honey even mentioned a video about how to de-seed a pomegranate from a regular visitor to our valley and kick ass video blogger named ‘The Fresh Princess.’  Meet Corinne! She’s a doll… 

 

You should also know that I have a love/hate relationship with salad.  I LOVE TO EAT SALAD.  I HATE TO MAKE SALAD.  However, this kale salad is quick AND super delicious.  Not only is it incredibly healthy but because kale is such a hearty green, it doesn’t pertain to salad pet peeve #2.  You can toss it in dressing and let it sit for  a few days without it getting mushy or gross in the fridge.  YAY!!!  The pomegranates, pumpkin seeds and sliced almonds add a great crunchy texture and a ton of flavor!

Kale Pomegranate Salad

Notice the bottles of alcohol in the background? I was totally ready for something healthy after the holidays, feeling totally maxed out on sugar and alcohol.  This was supposed to be a ‘Detox from New Year’s’ blog… And here it is January 19th.  How does time move so quickly!?  Smart asses, don’t answer that… 

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Anyway, if you’re in a winter stew slump, this light and refreshing salad will do just the trick! I was going to make it again but alas, there are no more pomegranates to be found at our grocery until next Christmas.  Oh, mountain life… You big city dwellers, hug your year round pomegranates tight tonight.  😉

What healthy meals are you cooking up?  Please share any ideas in the comments below. I always love new recipes!  xoxo

 

 

Kale Pomegranate Salad
A seeded kale and pomegranate salad covered in a tangy, refreshing dressing! Super healthy and easy!
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FOR THE SALAD
  1. 1 bunch of kale
  2. 1 pomegranate, seeded
  3. 1/4 c. pumpkin seeds
  4. 1/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted
FOR THE DRESSING
  1. 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  2. 2 T. apple cider vinegar
  3. 1 T. dijon mustard
  4. 1 T + 1 tsp. honey
  5. 1/4 tsp. salt
  6. 1/8 tsp. pepper
Instructions
  1. 1. De-vein your kale. Massage the leaves for a couple of minutes.
  2. 2. Throw the kale into a bowl with pomegranate, seeds and nuts.
  3. 3. Whisk all of your dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. Massaging kale leaves helps to reduce its toughness and bitterness!
MandiCrocker http://www.mandicrocker.com