By Valerie Belden Wilder
I spent two hours the other morning, whacking away at a bridal wreath bush which was invading my precious screened-in front porch, creeping up the left side of the house and over the railing of the porch. I made two huge piles of brush to be hauled away, which Thing 2 was supposed to help me haul away, when it cooled down.
But, after we ate a very late lunch/early dinner and I washed up the mountain of dishes, wiped the cheerful yellow Formica counters, and cleaned the built-in silver stove, guess what? It started to rain, clearing a bit of mugginess, but soaking the brush piles. The ones we were going to haul away.
So, yay. Instead of hauling brush and then taking a much-deserved, much-needed shower, there I sat, writing on the front porch. Again. Or was it still?
Pruning the bridal wreath bush took two hours. I decided it’d be a great idea to do it in full heat of day, from 11 am to 1 pm. At first I was snipping pathetically at the ends of errant branches, until I realized it would be much more productive to get right down to the root of the problem and beginning pruning down low.
Amazing how one little branch with a diameter of about an inch can shoot out so many smaller branches full of green, twisting and turning and invariably going exactly where they shouldn’t, right over painstakingly painted surfaces, obscuring them and subjecting them to dampness and moss and decay.
So, after two hours of whacking, it got so hot I had to take a sit down on the old Victorian sofa, jug of cold green Kool-Aid nearby. Because I’m fancy like that. I asked Thing 2 to bring me a laptop and my camera, too tired to move, and he did. I popped the camera SD card into the computer and started watching a slide show of photos from the trip, and promptly fell asleep. For two hours.
When I woke up, Mom had made hamburgers, a late lunch, and they were on the table. So, all I did that whole entire day was trim one bush and clean up the kitchen.
Well, that morning before breakfast, I DID edit out a bunch of photos. My dang camera card keeps filling up at the speed of light, and, while it’s fun to look at my photos, it’s a real pain to cull out the bad ones, the duplicates, and the many I so brilliantly shot which are full of glare, blurriness, lacking a focal point, or plumb full of poles, poles, and more poles, smack dab in the middle of the photo, not to mention dangling utility wires everywhere, ruining the shot, along with unaware strangers in awkward poses.
This camera, I love it so. I call it my boyfriend, and he has a name, Black Beauty. He goes absolutely everywhere with me, hanging around my neck, waiting patiently for direction. He does just what I say. And I love him so very much, my camera, my little advanced point-and-shoot, this Fujifilm x30.
I used to have a very good friend. One who came back into my life at an unexpected time, right as I separated from my husband and was reeling in unbelief that my marriage simply had to end. I was 46 when we separated, but first fell in love with him when I was 19, a mere teenager.
Suddenly, I was free to do what I wanted, to see who I wanted, and to dump piles of stuff on his side of the bed: clothes and CDs and books and hand lettering projects, and all kinds of stuff of my own. I literally filled his side of the bed with inanimate things, things I loved, things which wouldn’t break my heart.
Flash forward a year-and-a-half, Christmas 2014. I’d moved to a newer and much smaller apartment with my dear Thing 1 and Thing 2, and used my old GE camera, the one with the broken flash, to shoot an album of holiday photos. The flash had been broken since Thing 2’s school Christmas program, three years prior.
I remember the exact moment it happened. Religious about using the camera’s wrist strap, I took it off to shake Mr. B’s hand, Thing 2’s third-grade teacher. The kids had been singing, accompanied by him and another teacher on guitar. The problem was, the song got away from the guitarists. The kids got going faster and faster, and the teachers couldn’t keep up. It was hilarious and heartwarming. After the program, I wanted to shake his hand and share a laugh with him about the song going delightfully awry. So I shook his hand, and BAM! The camera fell to the floor, breaking the flash.
Oh, sure, I could still use the camera, if it was outside, or inside with precisely the right lighting conditions. But it was never quite the same.
Last Christmas I set up an area in my living room I loved. Over on the windowless east wall, by the front door, I had my art bench, a low and sturdy bench which houses all my art, design, and architecture books. They’re too tall and heavy for my bookcases, but fit perfectly in this bench. And overhead, I hung a wooden shelf with three pegs. When we moved into our new apartment, I lamented the loss of our gas fireplace with mantel, with four hooks screwed in by my ex-husband, perfect. We could finally hang our stockings by the chimney with care.
The wooden shelf had three pegs, and now there were just three of us, so up went the Christmas stockings. Anyhoo, I wanted so much to take a few pictures of the kids, sitting on the art bench, underneath our Christmas stockings, but I couldn’t, because I simply could not get the lighting conditions right to take a photo and have it turn out. So disappointed.
But I was determined to take some other photos: of our short little Christmas bush, of an oil lamp, of some Chewy-Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies (a whole different story in and of itself), of our New Year’s Eve snacks, and finally, of our delicious New Year’s Day dinner. I took a ton of photos, chose the very best, and posted them on Facebook in an album. I was really proud of them, especially since they’d been taken with the broken camera.
This album got a lot of likes and comments, and I kept coming back to the photos and looking at them, again and again, thinking they might be pretty good, but not quite sure. My sister, after seeing the pix, kept telling me I should start a blog. I had no idea how to do this, but she had several blogs herself and kept insisting. She came up with several names, but I already had one in mind, mycopperkitchen.com. (Some day I’ll tell you the origin of the name.) She searched it and yay, it was available!
So, as an early birthday present to me, in January, I became owner of my domain name.
I mentioned I had a friend, right? A special one, a friend who listened to me as I ranted and raved about the end of my marriage, waxed eloquent about my love of architecture, cooking, my kids, and life in general. This friend was the very first person I told about my domain.
I started a notebook of ideas and carried it with me everywhere, on the TRAX train to work, into the kitchen, even writing down ideas while soaking in a long, hot tub on my days off. The bathroom seems to be the only place I can really think, come up with ideas, and even get a modicum of peace. And yes, I’ve fallen asleep many times while writing and have water-stained corners on the notebook to prove it.
I knew I wanted to launch in a mere month, on my 48th birthday, February 14th, 2015. I needed to have more than one post, a series of Valentine’s-themed posts for launch. I knew I wanted it to be more than a cooking blog, because there are so many of them already out there, I wasn’t sure I could really contribute something new or different to the cooking blog scene.
But what I could do, what I felt I COULD do, was help teach people how to make things pretty and tasty on a very small budget. I wanted to feature only unique recipes, ones I hadn’t really seen in a lot of cookbooks or magazines already. Purple Party Punch and Buttermilk-Chocolate Sheet Cake are two of my very favorites, so I started with them and went from there.
I worked fast and furious until my deadline of February 14th. I have this problem, and maybe you have it too. I want to do everything perfectly, and often abandon projects midstream and move onto something else, before I can complete them perfectly. I knew if I didn’t set this self-imposed deadline, and ANNOUNCE it on my personal Facebook page, it might not ever become reality.
So I cooked and decorated, schemed and dreamed, wrote and shot (and wrote and shot some more and more and more). The weekend of my birthday and blog launch was fast approaching, and I had taken a few days off from work, to be spent at my parents’ house, in northern Utah, with my boys.
The night of February 13th, I still wasn’t done, the blog wasn’t ready. But I was determined to make my 8 am deadline, come hell or high water, high snow or low spirits at being unattached at this romantic time of year. I stayed up all night, formatting furiously, editing a gazillion typos, rubbing my eyes, praying for completion and much-needed sleep.
I launched 40 minutes earlier than my 8 am goal, at 7:20 am. It’s one of the few goals I have ever actually reached. And then I crashed proudly into bed, exhausted and happy, 48 and single.
I mentioned my friend, right? I asked him what he thought of my blog that Sunday night after launch, and he told me it looked polished and professional, words I longed to hear, especially from someone whose opinion and friendship I valued so highly.
But then, he said my photos looked grainy. He’s a wonderful photographer, so I took his opinion in high regard. I explained how my camera was broken, and asked what kind of camera should I get to take my photo game up a few notches?
I knew I had a tax return coming. I wanted a better camera and told him I was prepared to get one, asked his opinion on what brand to buy. He looked around online and came back, several weeks later, telling me to get a Fujifilm x30, which was in my price range, without a lot of troublesome lenses, and small enough to be extremely portable.
He told me to read the professional reviews, but I didn’t. (Puh-leeze! If you’re going to format your camera review entirely in white text on a black background, I am NOT going to read it!!!) His opinion was all I needed.
And then, my dear friend, he went the extra mile, he did. He went to ebay, something I have never done and have no idea how to do, and bought the camera, for less than two-thirds the retail price, telling me I could buy it from him if I wanted to.
I immediately said yes!
But then I worried. Maybe he wanted the camera for himself? I asked him if he wanted to keep it. And then he said it, words near and dear to my heart. He said he wanted the camera, but I NEEDED it. So he boxed it up and shipped it out, all the way from New York to Utah, and I paid him back with some of my tax return…
Blogging makes me so happy.
I’ve always loved writing, always been told by teachers and friends I had a talent. I first wrote in a diary at the age of eight, and have been pretty faithful with my entries, ever since. Looking back, I realized it’s probably been ten years now, ten years before the blog, ten years I’ve been cooking Sunday dinners, styling them, and taking photos with my old cameras.
I’ve been reading Martha Stewart Living magazine for close to twenty years now, trying to learn from her and their talented staff, learn how to make things pretty, but on my own and very limited budget. At work, on my breaks, I love to read dozens of cooking and decorating magazines and get new ideas. So I guess I’ve been in training for this blog a very long time.
So today, I salute the two people who made it happen for me. My sister, Chris, for encouraging me to start blogging, buying me the domain name, and teaching me the basics of WordPress.
I love her so, for seeing potential in me and MAKING me do this. I really had no choice…
And my dear friend, Mike, I owe him a debt of gratitude for playing matchmaker, for introducing me to my boyfriend, my soulmate, my camera.
I love it so, and love him for helping me get it.
And I love and salute you, dear readers, for caring about my musings on living, cooking, parenting, decorating, exploring, and entertaining. I hope and pray I’ve contributed a little something of interest to each and every one of your lives, whether it be a delicious recipe, a new outlook on life and exploring it, or an inexpensive and different decorating idea.
I’m having a blast. Thanks for reading, for the feedback and encouragement, and thank you for caring. And thank you for contributing, Copper Rockets. Blog on!!!