i am creating the life i love.

tarts and traditions. July 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 10:48 pm

I know a lot of people complain about their families. It’s a common theme–the dysfunctional family, dreading the upcoming holidays and get-togethers. I guess I’ve never felt that way. On the contrary, I’ve felt that there are not enough family get-togethers in my life. I’ve watched movies, read books, seen other people in real life with big families, and I’ve always been a bit envious. I am close to neither my mother’s nor my father’s families, and my stepfather’s family is really the only family I have. They are great, but I don’t see them much. So I guess my family consists of my mother, stepfather and brother–and that’s okay. I love them. But I’ve always also loved the idea of a big family where everyone gets together and eats food and laughs and exchanges stories and hands down traditions and recipes. Busy holidays where everyone crams together in a cozy living room and exchanges gifts and affection. Summer picnics and fall parties.

Anyway, my life is not like that. It used to be when I was younger. My grandmother would cook a big dinner on Sundays and on holidays and everyone would show up and greet one another and have a wonderful time. We all respected my grandmother and loved her dearly and admired the fact that she was possibly the best cook ever. After she died when I was 18 everyone split up (or maybe it was just me) and there was suddenly no more cohesive family unit.

I used to have this idea in my head when I was younger that I would grow up and get married and have children of my own, and we could experience and pass on family traditions of our own. I could have that family I had dreamed of, the one that looks forward to getting together and one that loves each other and gets along. Being a child of divorce can leave one with a sense of displacement; not belonging here or there or trying to find a way to combine who one is within two or three different families. I wanted to experience a happy family and see it grow and be able to have things to look forward to with them.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I will ever get married or have children. At any rate, it’s not something I can really wait around for because I have a life to live in the meantime. So I have made a family of one–me–and started traditions of my own.

(This is where the tarts come in.)

In an effort to normalize my life and have things to look forward to, I do little things throughout the year that I do every year. It’s my own way of establishing family traditions, even if those things are things I usually end up doing on my own. For example, in the fall I make cider and mulled wine and carve pumpkins on the front porch, in the winter I make peppermint meringue cookies and put together an Advent calendar with winter activities, in the spring I make dandelion syrup and color Easter eggs, and in the summer I make lemon curd tarts and go on a trip somewhere.

I made the tarts today.

Maybe the worst idea ever, considering it is in the high nineties today.

Anyway, I like them. They are delicious. And I am going to eat them all. And in an effort to extend “family” traditions to non-family members, I am going to pretend you are all my family and share my recipe with you.

And here is where I make a confession: it is so hot today that I took the easy way out and got store-bought crusts. I don’t care if you think I’m skipping corners–you try baking curd AND crusts in a hot kitchen when it is 96 degrees outside. So right now I’ll just share the curd recipe. Trust me, it’s just fine with the store crust.

First, you’ll want to assemble your ingredients (the lighting in my dining room is making my food look ethereal):

*zest of 3 lemons
*3/4 cup of lemon juice (just squeeze the lemons you just zested)
*1 1/3 cups of sugar
*1 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into pats
*5 eggs
*pinch of salt
*splash of vanilla extract

My ready-made crusts:

Combine the lemon zest, juice, eggs, salt, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Whisk this until it’s mixed together well.

Now put on some music and grab a glass of wine because this next part will take a small bit of time. Dump the mixture in a saucepan and set to low-medium heat. Whisk constantly for 12-15 minutes, until the mixture has thickened to a pudding-like consistency. It’s going to foam up. It’ll go away. Just don’t let it boil. Keep whisking!!

After it’s thickened, whisk in your pats of butter, a couple at a time. Once all the butter is mixed in it should have a thick, silky texture. I then poured mine into a mixing cup for easier pouring into tart shells, but do whatever you want. They’re your tarts. Just get that stuff into those crusts.
It’ll make enough for about a dozen tarts. I only had six tart shells but I also had one big ready-made pie crust so I poured the rest in there for what will basically amount to a lemon pie.

Pop those babies in the oven! Leave them in there for 15-20 minutes, until they’re starting to set. Let them cool completely and then you can decorate those lovely little things.

For my garnish I rolled some blueberries and strawberries around in a mixture of lemon juice and sugar and finished with some fresh mint leaves from my yard. The mint is not intended to do anything taste-wise; I just thought it was pretty. I’m just going to yank it off and eat it after I finish this blog post.

So there it is! Enjoy your lemon tarts! And now you are part of the Manderson Family Summer Tradition. I’ll see you next season for drunken pumpkin carving.


solstice. June 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 12:57 am

It’s been a trying week. Emotions have gone up and down and I’ve been living moment to moment because full days feel too overwhelming sometimes. But it is the solstice. It is my favorite day of the year other than the Fourth of July (which I love love love because of the fireworks). And even though simple tasks have lately seemed at times daunting and unbearable, I wanted to do SOMETHING. I’m having a hard time finding joy in anything, so I thought maybe I’d start small. Like taking a trip to the beach. Happy Summer Solstice, everyone.



terrarium. June 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 2:19 am

I love plants. I wish I could fill my entire apartment with plants. Unfortunately, I have cats. And we all know a jerk cat who likes to eat plants. But I found a way around that. It ended up being a super quick and fun project for an evening on the porch. The weather tonight was absolutely perfect and it was just lovely to sit outside as the sun went down and enjoy the warm air and nighttime songbirds.


love is a tricky thing. January 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 1:47 am

So.  Relationships?  We don’t get along.  I’ve got a pretty bad track record.  And I’ve always been fine with being single, but the latest breakup kind of messed with me.  I really liked this guy.  A lot.  I found myself constantly amazed that someone could be so seemingly perfect for me.  And he often expressed to me that he felt the same way.  It came as a huge shock when it ended abruptly.  Somehow his feelings for me shut off overnight.  Seriously, overnight.  I’m still not sure what happened.

Anyway, I’m by myself again.  Which is fine.  I’ve never wanted to be that person who needed to be with someone.  To be honest, I kind of prefer being alone.  I guess I’m kind of selfish.  I like doing what I want to do, when and how I want to do it.  Which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing.  And my wonderful friend Molly reassured me today that it’s okay for me to be selfish and picky.  Besides, the idea of dating kind of repulses me.  I hate the anxious feeling of trying to put my best face forward, the awkward and total anxiety-inducing first kiss, the thought of putting so much emotional effort into someone who will probably be gone in a few months anyway.  It’s just so…tiring.  I can think of a million things I’d rather do than go on dates.  Does that sound bad?  I think it sounds bad.

I sat down recently and tried to figure out what it is I actually want in a person.  That seems like a sensible thing to do, right?  And the idea was kind of interesting to me because looking back at the men I’ve dated, they are all really different.  They look different, act different, come from all sorts of varied backgrounds, families, parts of the world, have varying degrees of education and income.  I’ve realized pretty clearly what I do not want, and some of what I do want and come to expect.  And this is what I came up with:

1 I want us to be best friends.
2 It’s all right if you don’t eat meat, but you have to be okay with my love of bacon.
3 Same as above, but replace “eat meat” with “watch” and “bacon” with “Golden Girls.”
4 You must love riding your bicycle.  If you don’t have a bicycle, maybe you should get one and learn to love it.
5 You must never call me things like “babycakes,” “honeybunny” or “cutie pie” unless it is in jest.  Seriously, I hate pet names.  HATE THEM.
6 I am going to want to have Mario Kart battles.
7 You must like my friends.  They are easy to like, so being a jerkface to them is inexcusable.
8 You have to like ice cream.  And cupcakes.  I once dated a guy who did not like ice cream or cake and he turned out to be a scoundrel.  I’m going to assume from now on that all ice cream and cake-haters are also scoundrels.
9 You cannot be embarrassed if I break into dance.  Yes, my dance moves are embarrassing.  You are supposed to love that about me.  Or at least love me in spite of it.
10 You must read books.  As John Waters said, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”
11 You must be supportive and encouraging of my creative endeavors, because I plan on doing the same for you.
12 You must enjoy, or turn a deaf ear to, my wretched banjo playing.
13 Same as above, but replace “banjo” with “spoons.”
14 I have a mad crush on Elvis Costello.  And Ira Glass.  Accept this.
15 You must love (not tolerate–love) dogs and cats.  Yes, both.
16 I try my hardest to be aware of the words I use during arguments.  Even though it may happen on accident, I never say things with the sole purpose of being hurtful.  I expect the same in return.
17 When I start singing loudly in the car, you should join in.
18 I think it’s a shame when people take themselves very seriously.  Please don’t do that.
19 I like being told stories.  I will ask you to tell me stories.  Please oblige.  You should maybe have some queued up in your head just in case.
20 You must be good to your mother.  I have noticed a strong correlation between how a man treats his mother and how he treats his girlfriend.
21 I have a strange sense of humor and am offended by almost nothing.  This sometimes causes problems.
22 I like beards.
23 I do not tolerate anyone who thinks they are better than anyone else.  Be kind to your servers, bartenders, cashiers, bus drivers and homeless.
24 I make a big deal out of birthdays.  I also like to make gifts.  Some guys hate this.  You will not hate this.
25 You need to know that sloths are the best animals ever.
26 You will need to want to get married someday.  Because if we don’t get married, we can’t have our reception in the dinosaur room at the Natural History Museum.  And I need to dance and eat cake near dinosaurs.
27 You need to understand that I can spend hours discussing my favorite Achewood strips and South Park episodes.
28 If you are mean, disrespectful, rude or condescending I will probably tell you to fuck off.
29 I am strongly pro-choice, pro-women’s rights, pro-gay rights and anti-hate.
30 I want us to be creative together.

I know I’m probably asking for a lot.  But until I can find this person, I’m totally okay with being alone.  I’ve got awesome friends, a bunch of cats, and cake.  That is really all a person needs. 


in which i explain how cupcakes heal me. October 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 12:50 am

I sometimes get pretty depressed. Not in an ordinary way, where you’ll have a bad day and get upset for a bit. I get really, really depressed. The kind of depressed that effects my life in pretty harsh ways. I have bipolar I disorder. It’s something I’ve come to grudgingly deal with. After years of trying to ignore it, hide from it, or talk myself out of it, I’ve accepted that this is something I’m going to have to deal with my entire life. I know a few other people with bipolar disorder and we all deal with it in different ways. Some write, some meditate, some sleep it out and, unfortunately, some let it consume them and turn to drugs and alcohol to fix it.


I bake cupcakes.

This may sound like a silly thing to do. A simple thing that couldn’t possibly fix a problem so massive. But it does.

I am jealous of people who are effortlessly happy. I’m like that sometimes, but not as much as I’d like to be. I have to pursue happiness and make it happen. And I’ve learned from experience that if I am in a downswing and I pursue something big and it doesn’t work out, it can be soul-crushing. So I pursue small pleasures. I keep my hands busy. I keep my mind busy so it can’t think about how unhappy it could be.

I bake things.

And I listen to James Taylor.

And I sing. Loudly. Carolina On My Mind is a favorite.

Usually at first I hate doing these things. I don’t reallywant to be baking. Or singing. But I must, because it beats the alternative of sitting in the middle of the floor in my apartment, crying.

You can’t even imagine how happy I was when I found this recipethat instructs how to make JUST TWO CUPCAKES. It is pretty amazing stuff. Because if I make a dozen cupcakes, I am eating a dozen cupcakes. But two? I can handle two.

I did alter the recipe slightly and substituted some of the vanilla for mint extract so I could have minty cupcakes. I then topped them off with some vanilla frosting, peppermint sprinkles and fresh mint from my yard, which I promptly tore off after taking this picture so I could eat the cupcakes foliage-free.

And what else goes well with cupcakes on a beautiful fall evening? Hot chocolate with marshmallows, of course.

Someone wants a cupcake.

And now I will spend my evening indulging in small pleasures. I will finish these wonderful cupcakes, I will drink this delicious hot chocolate, I will cuddle under a blanket and watch Dr. Who until I fall asleep on my couch.

Because these small things beat the alternative. And I will not let this beat me.


sensory overload. September 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 5:45 pm

Sometimes I get to thinking too much about things. One of the things I think about a lot is Nate Miller. It’s not that I go out of my way to think about him–it’s just that I spent a few formative years with him and a lot of the things I love and that define who I am are a result of his presence in my life. Because of that, I am often reminded of him when I hear certain songs, see certain things or do certain activities.

I was thinking of him a lot at the end of last month, as I always do around his birthday. And I had fun on facebook posting my favorite Nate memories. Like the time he grabbed my butt in a dark photo processing closet. Or the time we spoke only in haiku for an entire day. Or the time he tried to cross a river by shimmying along a tree branch and fell in. In January. And had to walk a mile back to the car through the snow with soaked clothes. Or the time a hobo stopped us on the street and asked if we were in love and then recited a poem to us that he had written.

I remember the bad parts, too…it’s not always happy memories. All the fights we had. His jealous streak that prevented me from hanging out with guy friends if he wasn’t around. His stubbornness. My stubbornness. Our breakup. Our final conversation.

I guess what I am getting at is that there is a constant stream of memories attached to him floating through my head. Usually they are very vague. Recently, though, I was looking through old pictures I found on an unmarked cd in a shoebox. There is a picture of Nate and Joe Ozinga on it. I don’t know who took the picture or why I have it, but it had a weird effect on me. I looked at that picture and in an instant so many things came flooding back. I could hear his voice clearly in my head. I could remember the way he smelled, what it felt like to hug him, how soft his hair was, how scratchy his beard felt. I remembered the callouses on his fingers and heard his laugh and remembered all the times he played the guitar while I sat nearby silently and drew pictures. I remembered things about him I had forgotten. I don’t know why this picture did it for me, but it was a total sensory overload.

My dad died shortly after Nate did, and even though it might sound awful, Nate’s death affected me far more. Maybe it was because I wasn’t close to my dad before he died. But I think it’s because my dad was sick for a long time and I was expecting it to happen. Nate’s death was so sudden and so tragically violent that I wasn’t able to process it. It hit so close to home and didn’t make sense to me at all. Our last conversation was rushed because I was trying to get out the door to go somewhere, so I hurried him off the phone. I still haven’t fully forgiven myself for that and I think that’s why I still think about it so much. At the time I didn’t understand that he was saying goodbye.

Anyway, over the years it’s given me a lot to think about. It makes me rethink the way I handle my friendships and relationships. How I need to make time for people I care about. How I need to not take anyone for granted. Nate was better to me than I was able to realize at the time, and I know I wasn’t the best girlfriend. I can only try to be better and love others the way they deserve to be loved. I need to be a good friend and show the people who are important to me that they mean so much. I plan on doing that. I plan on taking these memories and putting them to good use by making my life worthwhile and happy. And the next time I find myself in love with someone, I will let them know how important they are. I didn’t do that enough last time.

The picture in question, by the way :)


the birth of a horrible. July 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandy @ 3:20 am

That creating thing I talked about? I’m doing it. A little. I’m toying around with new Horrible ideas so I decided to make a mock-up of a new design. That basically means that I make a small version of something while planning out what it’s going to be like when it’s much bigger. So, just for you, is a rundown on how it’s done…

The first thing to do is pull out your broken-down laptop that your dog ruined and turn on some music or podcasts of Ira Glass telling stories.

Then pull out the sketchbook of various ideas and figure out what you’re going to do…

I ended up using an idea I’ve been floating around for a while. I’m still not sure how I want it to turn out in the end.

Next, you need to figure out how to get your fat cat off of all of the materials you need at that moment.

Then spend some time playing around with the fabric because it is super soft and wonderful. Pretend you are a bear.

This picture doesn’t really serve any purpose but Linus was making biscuits on the fabric and I didn’t realize until after I took the picture that my dog is in the background looking like something out of my worst nightmares.

After randomly cutting your expensive fabric and putting in eyes and sewing on a mouth, pin it together and take it over to your embarrassingly messy sewing space.

The only calm part of this process is sewing it shut. There is something very relaxing about hand sewing. I love it.

Finish it up!! And make sure it doesn’t eat you…