To gel or not to gel?

Before we knew about the unsavory animal origins of traditional gelatin (a gelling agent made from boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, and even hooves of cows, pigs, or horses), we might have picked up a box of Safeway’s “Jell-well” gelatin dessert.

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Savvy shoppers now choose to use my innovative ChillOver Powder—it’s vegan, but ends up like gelatin, sets up in half the time gelatin does, seals in flavors more quickly, and doesn’t melt at room temperature. (It’s fantastic for making jams, far superior to pectin, etc.)

But being a Utah native, where residents eat twice as much gelatin as anyone else on the planet and a staple of every community potluck was “gelatin salad”—a concoction of lime gelatin with grated carrots and celery trapped inside, topped with Miracle Whip—I’m genetically inclined to wax nostalgic about all things gelatin.

Like my propensity for collecting vintage gelatin molds:

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… and decorating with them:

lily-7_1297lily-6_1296And, if you have any idea of how hard it is to choose and trademark a product name (I was once told I couldn’t use my own name on my magazine because of Mary Jane candies (read more about them here) and Mary Jane and Friends bread, a southern grocery-store brand), you’ll know I was amused to learn this bit of trademark history:

In 1927, when Jell-well tried to stop Jell-X-Cell from using that name as a trademark, they were overruled by provisions of the “Trade-Mark Act,” which forbade registration of words or devices “which are descriptive of the goods with which they are used, or of the character or the quality of such goods.” In the case, the judge ruled that “One of the prime objects and indispensable qualities of the substance is that, when it is changed by manipulation and the addition of water into a form available for use as an edible substance, it must ‘jell.’ To my mind, the words are so plainly descriptive of a natural and necessary quality of the concoction as to relieve the question of any doubt whatsoever.” He went on to say, “With the whole field of possible coinage before them, it is strange that merchants insist upon adopting marks that are so nearly descriptive.”

I was finally able to trademark MaryJanesFarm by removing the apostrophe and smooshing it all together in one word, thereby stylizing it and making it a recognizable logo instead of merely a name. (Important life lesson: If you’re persistent and imaginative, there are usually ways around the “rules.” It helps to be a Taurus—we’re known for our persistence, sometimes called “stubbornness.”)

If you’re gaga for the good old days of gelatin schmaltz too, how about this retro kitsch t-shirt from Zazzle.com?

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Or this morsel of Utah lore:
Utah residents like gelatin so much that when Utah hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, one of the official pins was a green gelatin jiggler in the shape of the state.

Or this fun appearance of gelatin in the movies:
In the 1959 movie, Some Like It Hot, Jerry, played by Jack Lemon, says with awe when watching Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, played by Marilyn Monroe, “Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something.”

Comment below with your favorite gelatin anecdotes … and tell me how you like my non-gelatin ChillOver Powder! Continue reading

Retail Therapy

With the kids back in school, I’m wondering if you heard my big sigh of relief? It was awesome to have enjoyed a wonderful summer focused entirely on them, but I look forward to getting back into the school routine. Even so, as a mom, I think it’s impossible not to miss them and wonder if they’re eating their lunches and hope they aren’t skinning their knees on the playground, etc.

Looking for a good distraction, my best girlfriend and I saddled up her SUV and went for a drive.

Destination = Glorious Small-town Antique Shops!

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Doesn’t this just make you smile? Especially when you find the sweetest owner inside and she just happens to be canning peaches in a kitchen attached to her antique shop. Of course she was! Even better, she had a faded Wave If You’re A Farmgirl bumper sticker on her door. And, of course, I found the perfect cast-iron Christmas tree stand (in August).

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Feeling all sunshine-y and wonderful, we hit the road again and happened upon a sunflower field. We don’t really have sunflower fields around here, so this required us to stop and jump the creek for a selfie. Is it still called a selfie if your BFF is in it, too?

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“Tell ‘im I get wings.”

If Georgie White Clark and I had crossed paths, I have a feeling we might have been fast friends …

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Photo of Georgie White courtesy of Adventure-Journal.com

I encountered Georgie the other day, quite by accident. Catching a glimpse of the photo above, I immediately thought, “That’s my kind of gal.”

You see what I mean, don’t you? Bare feet, brash smile, white water … and that hat!

So off I went in search of Georgie, and I could hardly wait to introduce you to my new pal from the past …

The first thing anyone should know about Georgie is that she made her last raft trip (of many) down the Colorado River in 1991, at age 79, wearing a full-body, leopard-print leotard.

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Photo of Georgie White courtesy of The Canyon County Zephyr

Love it!

The second thing you should know about Georgie is that her love affair with the Grand Canyon and the wild Colorado River bloomed in 1945, taking root in the seemingly barren soil of heartbreak. The year before, Georgie’s second marriage was failing when tragedy struck: Her 15-year-old daughter, Sommona Rose, was killed in a hit-and-run accident while riding her bike. Seeking escape from her grief, Georgie joined a friend named Harry Aleson on a river excursion. With no money for a boat, the pair opted to swim.

In a river running at 48,000 cubic feet per second, that sounds like lunacy, right?

But, somehow, I imagine the challenge of swimming the river made Georgie’s trip all the more cathartic.

“They jumped in at Diamond Creek, wearing windbreakers, tennis shoes, and life jackets, and carrying backpacks packed with watertight tins for food,” writes Heather Hansman for Adventure Journal. “They were swept 60 miles down to Lake Mead, and Georgie became obsessed with the Colorado River.”

It was an obsession that Georgie likened to marriage, declaring, “I fell in love with the river, married it, and I don’t plan no divorce.”

Georgie’s immediate and unshakable passion for the river inspired her to launch her own commercial raft guiding company, Georgie’s Royal River Rats, at a time when women were rarely seen running the river, much less guiding. She expanded her guided trips to other rivers as well—the Green, Snake, and Salmon—as well as rivers in Mexico. The Grand Canyon was always sacred to Georgie, though, and it’s said that if you made it down the river with this rough-and-ready river guide, she’d dub you an official “rat” by cracking an egg on your head!

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Photo courtesy of NAU Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives, Colorado River Plateau Digital Archives NAU.PH.96.4.190.218

Even without meeting her, I can say for certain that Georgie did things her way.

“Georgie’s trips had no frills. She was known for surviving on beer and a few vegetables, and she didn’t bring much else,” explains Hansman. “Because of her bare-bones way of doing business, she charged much less than other outfitters and undercut their rates, upping her traffic. But she innovated the way people ran the river, too. She pressed the BLM for an organized permitting system and she invented the G-Rig, three boats strapped together with an outboard motor on the back.”

G-rigs (or “thrill rigs,” as Georgie called them) were the precursors to modern sweep rigs, stable rafts that allow bigger groups of people to travel downriver together.

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Photo courtesy of NAU Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives, Colorado River Plateau Digital Archives. 1955. Call # NAU.PH.92.17.1

After 45 years on the river, and two years after her last raft trip in the infamous leopard-print leotard, Georgie sold her company and died in Las Vegas, leaving a bit of a mystery in her wake.

“For all her notoriety, Clark remains something of a mystery to even those closest to her. Evidence discovered at her home the day of her funeral raised the possibility Clark fabricated portions of her past, giving rise to a new element of the Georgie legend,” reports GrandCanyonTreks.org. “While the theory is discounted by several associates, there is a faction of friends who are puzzled by connections that suggest Clark was in fact Bessie Hyde, who vanished in 1928 along with her husband, Glen Hyde, while the Idaho couple were on a honeymoon adventure floating the Grand Canyon in a wooden boat.”

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Photo of Glen and Bessie Hyde on November 17, 1928, courtesy of Northern Arizona University

GrandCanyonTreks.org continues, “Speculation about Clark’s connections to Bessie Hyde began when friends were going through her personal effects following her death … for starters, her birth certificate showed her real name was Bessie DeRoss, not Georgie. Clark, as well as another surname she sometimes used, White, were the last names of divorced husbands. While her 1977 autobiography waxed at length about a childhood in her native Chicago, she was actually born in Oklahoma and raised in Colorado.”

Friends also found a copy of the Hydes’ marriage license and a pistol that may have belonged to Bessie DeRoss in Georgie’s lingerie drawer.

Truth? Fiction? Really, who’s to say?

But I’m looking forward to learning more about Georgie’s life and legend in her biography, Woman Of The River: Georgie White Clark, Whitewater Pioneer by Richard Westwood.

In the meantime, I know you’ll enjoy watching this rare clip of Georgie on the river in 1989 as much as I did:

Life Magazine pegged Georgie perfectly in a 1961 article, calling her a “new kind of iron-nerve mermaid.”

Indeed, she was.

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All You Need Is Love

In 2002, we shared a story from the Atlantic Monthly called “How the Terrorists Stopped Terrorism.” The story of how these extremists were changed by giving them something to live for instead of die for is food for thought. Read the story here.

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Photo by Roger McLassus via Wikimedia Commons

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Couch Confession

What my couch really looks like in the midst of pool dates, camping trips, craft projects, and bike rides this summer.

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Maybe when I finally take some time to sit down, I’ll get it all folded and put away. Where do you sort and fold your laundry? Continue reading

Happy New Year Me!

Is it just me or do you get excited when you finally buy that new purse you’ve been wanting? You know the feeling, right? You can’t wait to get home and organize all of your belongings in all the fun new pockets and throw out the smashed granola bars and the business cards of people you’ve since forgotten and post-its that are total gibberish. Whose phone number is this anyway?

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I’ve never owned one of those super-big calendars that have room for ALL of life’s details. In fact, I have a little one for work, one for personal, one for jogging, and a pile of random post-its of things worth remembering. Maybe most people use the uploadable sort these days, or their smart phone.

But I must say, I finally upgraded to a calendar that holds it all, and it feels just like a new purse. Or a whole new year! Look at all this clean space and open air for getting my life organized and just so. I mentioned it to a friend and she replied, “Wait until you have a new ‘dedicated calendar’ pencil!” Maybe someday I’ll get with it and keep a digital calendar. But for right now, mid-August, I’m enjoying this simple upgrade. (My oversized calendar pages are blank, so I still have 12 months to go.)

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When Glamping …

We loaded our campers and headed out—two weekends in a row. We always look forward to good eats around the campfire.

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Add a pile of meat or maybe some salmon, a mound of veggies, plenty of butter, salt, and pepper, and wrap it all up in double foil.

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Ahhh, the sound of sizzling goodness.

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We don’t have pictures of us enjoying our Hobo Dinners because it was too dark for photos, but perfect for a night around the campfire. Continue reading

Milk Cow Kitchen Tea Towel

Stitchers, are you ready? Enjoy this tutorial for jazzing up your kitchen using my new Milk Cow Kitchen fabric by Moda available at the FatQuarterShop.com and MaryJanesFarm.org

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Ten Years

It’s not every day that someone gets married. I mean, people get married every day, but for each individual, it doesn’t happen often. In fact, most hope it only happens once. Ten years ago last weekend, I got married. For some moments, I can recount the details as though it was yesterday. For other moments, it feels like another lifetime ago. ‘Tis the roller coaster that’s life, right?

There are, of course, a billion discussions on the topic of how to make it work, how to make it last, how to make it. Please bear with me while I get a little sentimental. As I got ready that day 10 years ago, I wanted to defy the statistics. I wanted to be right about what I was about to do. But it really is anybody’s guess. How can you really know someone that well to know you’ll be able to navigate life together for the rest of your life? You don’t know how life will change the one you’ve chosen, how they’ll handle curve balls. The odds are definitely against a couple who couple.

I don’t have ready answers for how to “make it work.” But I do know that 10 years ago, I was giddy. I couldn’t wait to walk down that aisle and whisper my handwritten vows.

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The excitement and joy I felt and the crystal-clear feeling I had that all was soooo right in the world turned into an effort to keep from crying.

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I mean, we were on top of the world, at the top of a wheat field, on the farm I grew up on.

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I felt pretty lucky about a lot that day.

And here we sit, 10 years later. A dear family friend took our two girls to the lake for the weekend. We contemplated for months all the marvelous places we’d go to celebrate being childless. Then we decided that one of the things we never get to do is be on vacation in our lovely little hometown.

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So… we stay-cationed it. We enjoyed our favorite dinners and frequented our fav breakfast nook. We even visited our little local bookstore hand-in-hand for his copy of the Sunday New York Times and my copy of a good beach-y summer read.

We took a few moments to remember that I am still loved and so is he. Rejuvenating, invigorating, inspiring, encouraging, to say the least.

I’m sure that someone who has accomplished 20, 30, or 40 years can say “Get ready for the long haul.” But I’d like to say that the first long haul that is 10 years has been worth it. And as long as most days, the pros outweigh the cons, celebrating a milestone with someone you love feels pretty awesome! I’m still feeling lucky and ready for the next long haul, especially if I get to share it with this guy.

Photo Aug 02, 10 33 57 AM Continue reading

Perfectly Piggish

Pondering the prospect of a pet pig?

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Photo by Brian Robert Marshall via Wikimedia Commons

Ponder no longer.

The Ross Mill Farm in Pennsylvania is dedicated to one purpose: the care and handling of pot-bellied pigs as (perfectly presentable) family pets.

“The Farm, originally established in 1740, is nestled in the rolling hills of Bucks Country, Pennsylvania, one hour north of Philadelphia,” explains the Ross Mill website. “Situated on 30 acres of pristine woods and streams, its historic fieldstone buildings and grounds have been carefully modified to provide the perfect environment for the care of pet pigs. The main farmhouse provides a place for piglets and youngsters to become socialized household companion pets. Outdoor facilities, the stone barn, and other buildings create the perfect environment to grow, learn, and express their natural social behavior.”

But the Farm doesn’t just pamper its own pigs. Owner Susan Magidson, also known as the Pet Pig Information and Consultation Specialist, provides guidance to prospective pig owners who can even come and stay at the guest cottage B&B for a bit of pet pig practice.

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Photo by Eirik Newth via Wikimedia Commons

“Ross Mill Farm has everything a pig fancier could wish for, from boarding services to specially-formulated feed, and for those of us unable to keep our own pigs, a chance to mingle with them, and perhaps sponsor an orphaned pet in need of foster care,” writes Hannah Kirshner of Modern Farmer, who recently stopped in for a stay at the farm. “People usually stay in the bed-and-breakfast for two or three days, but pig guests often stay longer—sometimes indefinitely when circumstances don’t allow them to go home. They might come for weight loss or behavior modification, or just for ‘camp’ while their owners travel.”

If it’s pet pig boarding you need, there is no place more posh to leave your pig pal while you’re away from home. Many guests stay in the Village, with its camp-like cabins, private yards, and pools. But primadonna pigs who prefer profuse pampering may upgrade to the Luxurious Lodge, which includes the famous Lula’s Piggy Spa …

Not your average pigpen, now, is it?

So, tell me … if you have a pet piggy, I’d love to hear the perks of your porcine parenting.

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