The Mallory Project

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." – Julia Child

Merry Christmas!

(Sorry, I had this all queued up to go out on Wednesday but I guess I forgot to press publish.)

Hope your holiday was wonderful! I know mine was. I got to see a lot of family I hadn’t seen in a while, and I got some very awesome presents, including some VERY comfy sweaters. (And a trip down to LA to visit my friend whom I haven’t seen in forever!)

But I am glad the craziness is almost done with. I’ll have a few more weeks at work with everyone returning presents and redeeming gift cards, but it won’t be as crazy as working until midnight or starting at 3:00 am.

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New Blog To Follow

Everybody, check out my mom’s new blog at teachersjourneyofheart.wordpress.com. She’s writing about her diagnosis of heart failure, as well as being a teacher (currently without a classroom). She’s a pretty awesome writer, so you won’t regret it. (Though she just started, so she doesn’t have a lot to browse yet. She will soon, though, and it’ll be good!)

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I love baking

I really do. Cooking, too. I love being in the kitchen. I’m an artistic person by nature, and cooking is one of the best way I showcase my creativity. Because, let’s face it, there’s no more satisfying way of enjoying art than by eating it, right? Standing in front of the Mona Lisa was amazing, but what was even more amazing was the boeuf bourguignon at sidewalk cafe I went to afterwards.

I’ve been cooking and baking my whole life. I come from a family of cooks. My nonni makes an amazing pesto sauce, and holidays at my other grandma’s house always involve spectacular food. My father used to work in a restaurant, and he knows his way around a grill. And my mom has never made a bad dessert in her life.

My youngest brother’s birthday was last week, and I wanted to do something special for him, so I decided to bake the cake. The only problem is that his favorite cake is Funfetti, and I haven’t quite figured out how to make that gluten free. So, I made two cakes instead. A Funfetti for the “normals”, and a gluten-free, vegan, low-sugar red velvet for the “Others” (which was basically only me.) I found a recipe and set to work. Now, I’ve never made red velvet from scratch before. So attempting it vegan, and gluten-free, and low sugar, all at the same time? Very ambitious.

And it turned out probably how you’d except a first time red velvet cake might turn out. It wasn’t red, and it wasn’t velvet.

I added too little red food coloring. Which is easily remedied. Plus, I frosted it with swirls of red and white frosting, so at least it looked really pretty.

But it was dry. It was like biting into week-old donut. The flavor wasn’t bad at all. You just couldn’t get through one whole slice. And the frosting was way too vanilla-y. (I expected that; the recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of vanilla. That’s an entire container of vanilla extract.) So for the next time I make the cake, I know how to fix the color and the frosting. I just don’t know how to fix the moisture.

The Funfetti cake was easy. All I had to do was buy the mix, mix it, and plop it in the oven. That cake was gone almost right away. (There were four 19-year-old boys and a 23-year-old boy eating it.) But I wanted to make it even more special, so I tried decorating it.

Usually when I bake cakes, I just spread some frosting, write “Happy Birthday” and throw some candles on. Sometimes I’ll use some sprinkles. But this time, I drew a picture. It’s not the best thing. It would certainly never win me a prize, and I doubt anyone would want to buy it (though it is better than some of the things you see on CakeWrecks…) My brother is really into motorcycles and heavy metal. So I drew the first thing I thought would be appropriate: a motorcycle jumping over flames. Although I drew the motorcycle a little too close to the fire, so it looks like it’s driving <i>through</i> it. But it still looks cool. And I found these awesome skull sprinkles, so I put those around the edge. It looked pretty cool, I have to say so myself.

My cakes!

My cakes!

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Heroes Among Us

There have been a lot of scary things in the news lately. For me and my community, it started over the weekend. An 8 year old baseball player was hit by a pitch and collapsed. His heart had stopped. He’s okay now, but he had to be rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Oakland (over an hour away).

And of course, on Monday were the explosions during the Boston Marathon. Then the ricin scare at the White House, the explosion in Texas last night, and the Senate voting down the gun background check bill.

Scary news is nothing new to anybody. That’s pretty much all news is nowadays. “Something bad happened blah blah blah” (or “Kim Kardashian did something!”, though I would still consider that scary news.)

Which is why I am appreciative for every piece of news I hear about somebody doing good. There are as many examples of that as there are of horror and terror, but those pieces are rarely printed on the front page. “Firefighter saves kitten from tree” is a great story, but it doesn’t sell as many newspapers as “Explosion at factory kills 11.” It’s unfortunate, but that’s not what this post is about. I don’t want to talk about why good stories aren’t on the front page. I want to talk about stories that should have been on the front page.

These are all local stories, so those of you outside of Sonoma County will probably have not heard of any of these people. Those of you within Sonoma County might not have heard of these people either. I hadn’t heard most of these stories until this morning, and I’ve lived here for 15 years (except for the 5 years I was away for school, but my family still lived here and I visited often, so I still count it…)

This morning, I was able to attend the American Red Cross’s Real Heroes Breakfast, during which ten local heroes were honored. Their stories were humbling and inspiring. Some of them were even tearjerking. It made me feel proud to be a part of this community, and to be part of such an amazing organization. (It also made me feel like I need to get off my ass and do some good.)

The first hero honored was Officer Tim Murphy, who is a California Peace Officer and Lifeguard. He saved three people, including an 11-year-old boy, from drowning. He was four miles away and the only lifeguard on duty for the entire Sonoma coast when he got the call. The water was 49 degrees. There have been 130 recorded drownings at this beach. During his speech, he thanked his parents for “getting me into the water early.” (My parents got me into the water early; I don’t think I’d be able to save three people from drowning, though.)

The second honoree was Matthew Nalywaiko, who created a local aid effort called Serve A Little, which provides home and car repairs for single mothers. He’s spent time in Haiti, India and Mexico, building houses and working in orphanages. He credits a quote from Martin Luther King Jr for inspiring him to create Serve A Little. (This is my new favorite quote.)

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

 Honoree number three was Mary Munot, who is known as Green Mary. She works to create Zero Waste events, and to promote composting and recycling. Her endeavor is honorable, but it wasn’t tearjerking. She is the only honoree I’d heard of before.

The fourth honoree also has an honorable but not tearjearking endeavor (at least not tearjerking to me personally.) She is Dr. Elaine Leeder, who started a program to help prisoners receive higher education. It was her past that got me interested in her story. Her father is a Holocaust survivor, and she marched with MLK in Boston in 1962. I wish I could say something that cool about my life.

Austin Morris is a recent high school graduate who participated in Project Kaiseim, a 151-foot brigantine that spent summer 2012 tracking debris from the Japan earthquake as it traveled through the Pacific Ocean. One of his crewmates fell overboard, and Austin rescued her.

The sixth honoree also saved a life in the ocean. Mark Anello freed a 40-foot gray whale from fishing nets off the Sonoma County coast. “The first thing I thought was holy cow,” he said. But his sponsor, from Medtronic, said “I won’t tell you what he really said, instead of holy cow.”

 Dr. Paula Dhanda has worked throughout the Third World, training women in health care. She’s delivered babies and saved lives in Chad, Haiti and Nepal. Her group once performed 50 surgeries in 2 weeks. She sums up her values as “It’s not what you have but in what you can give away”.

CHP (California Highway Patrol, who aren’t all like Ponch) Officer Adam Garcia pulled two people out of a burning car. He said it was one of those “once in a career moments…at least I hope it is.” He said he was just “in the right place at the right time”.

The ninth honoree is the one that really got me teared up. For a little background here, my family is very involved with helping the troops. I am friends with a number of Naval officers and members stationed in Hawaii, and my mom is a part of the Soldier’s Angels program. Every month she bakes goodies and sends care packages (and birthday cards) to troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Army Specialist Stefan LeRoy, who is originally from the Sonoma County area but currently lives in Washington DC, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. He stepped on an IED and lost both of his legs below the knee. But he has managed to go snorkeling, and ski, and even complete a marathon with a handcycle. He now plans on competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He says that no matter what hardship you are facing, “someone else out there is facing the same thing, and something harder.”

And the final hero was Trevor Kasimoff, who rescued several of his neighbors from a fire in their apartment fire. Thanks to Trevor, the worst injury was a broken foot. Another of his neighbors suffered from smoke inhalation, but Trevor got there right in time. “If it had been a minute later…it would have been a different story,” he said.

The Red Cross also honored three of their volunteers, Fran Condon, June Albor and Jim Plank. As June said, the greatest gift that can be given is someone saying “you touch my heart”. All three of these volunteers have traveled as far as New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) and New York (after Hurricane Sandy.)

These are only three of the 1,000 Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake County volunteers who have helped thousands of Northern California victims in such disasters as flash floods, fires and mudslides. The Red Cross wants to remind people that “what happened to somebody else yesterday could happen to you today.” And they want to make sure that they are there to help you if (or when) you need it.

ARC wants to give everybody the chance to be heroes. And the best way to do that is to volunteer your time or donate your money. Even $5 will help provide a child with a warm meal. $1000 helps 50 people find shelter for a night. Visit your local chapter of the ARC to help out.

Or be like Tim Murphy, Matthew Nalywaiko and the others and become heroes in your community. It doesn’t take much. You can be in the right place at the right time, like Trevor Kasimoff, or you can create a business like Mary Munat. As Austin Morris said, “it’s a great feeling. I recommend it.”

 

 

P.S. Check back in tomorrow, when I write about some of the heroes closest to me, who I think deserve recognition.

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Being a stay-at-home mom

I’m not really a stay-at-home mom. I hope the title of this blog doesn’t offend anybody who really is one. I have the utmost respect for y’all. Especially now that I’ve had a tiny bite of what you deal with all day, every day. It started out as a tiny bite, but it’s grown into a full meal.

Some background information to start things off. I live with my parents and my two younger brothers, but I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend (to spare everyone’s identities, they will be referred to as: Dad, Mom, Bro1, Bro2, and BF).

Ok. Now to get in to the story. My family has three dogs: two shih-tzus (Beau and Tini) and a mutt (Charley). We’ve had Beau since he was a puppy. He’s about 7 now. Tini is almost 12, but we’ve only had her for 5 years. And Charley’s 4, Bro1 got him from the pound when he was 9 months.

Over the summer, we discovered that Tini has cancer. She has a tumor near her heart. We didn’t think she’d make it longer than a month. But she’s still here and still kicking. But let me tell you, I was nothing but a big bundle of tears when it looked like we might have to put her down.

About a month ago, we found out that Beau had infections in his eyes that rendered him partially blind. We’ve noticed for a long time that he has no concept of spatial differences. He often fell off the couch when trying to move around on it, he bumped into tables and chairs and Charley quite often (it was really funny when he bumped into Charley, because Charley is terrified of the little dogs, though he outweighs them by a good sixty pounds.) Beau would also stand with his head pressed against the couch or someone’s leg. Just stand there. We all thought that it was because he’s getting old.

Until the vet told us that his left eye was so infected, it had to be removed. His right eye wasn’t as bad, but there was still a chance it would also have to be removed.

Luckily, the vet managed to save his right eye. But the surgery to remove the left…well, let’s just say that the recovery wasn’t easy for him.

As I was the only person in our house who didn’t have school or work that Friday (March 15) (the day after the surgery), I was put on Beau duty. I had to watch him every second, to make sure he didn’t scratch the sutures, he ate and drank, got his medicine, went potty outside…and he was in so much pain, he was squealing like a guinea pig. It was so heartwrenching. I also had to take him to a follow-up appointment. He hates going to the vet. Luckily my dad met me there, and together we were able to hold him still enough for the vet to do the exam. Who would’ve thunk that you need two adults to keep a 15 pound dog still?

Anyway, also on this day, I had to do some of my own work (for my freelance business, littlejonquil.simdif.com), and some fiction writing. I also had to do laundry and clean the kitchen. And help fix dinner. And clean the bathroom. And … And … And … My to-do list went on and on and on.

So my hats off to all the stay-at-home moms and dads who do this stuff every day. I am in awe of you. Seriously, what you do is not easy, and you should be getting A-Rod’s paycheck instead.

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