Didn’t see THAT coming…


This week, a dear friend wrote a blog post about a book I’d bought on sale. The post went viral. I have taken great lengths to duck out of the whole thing as much as possible.

Pamie, however is dealing with all the attention like a pro.
(Probably because she IS a pro.)

This week I sent three proposals and presented a business plan. A friend had a baby. That was cool. I wrote a few press releases, client copy and drove to a lunch meeting. This week I hosted 8 people for bridge. Last night, I went to a birthday party, where we gathered around to watch my family on yesterday morning’s Good Morning America. Tonight we have another party to attend, and tomorrow, another one after that. It’s a busy week.

"Mama, tell me about the time you gave your Barbie a haircut."

This whole Barbie thing has been both embarrassing and fun. I got to see how this silly thing grew and grew and eventually my Google Alert sent me a CNN article about the whole thing in Portugese.

I ain’t mad at Barbie. I’m mad at a culture — especially a digital culture — that devalues women except for how they present themselves visually and sexually.

Most of my friends find this whole viral thing thrilling.
I’ve discovered that this just makes my stomach hurt.

Flight or fight.

As of today, I’m 80 percent closer to taking everything personal I ever wrote off the internet. This is because thanks to my view of this news machine from the inside, I’m afraid. I’ve never been afraid of the internet before.

At this particular time in the internet’s history, anyone with a beef against me, no matter how big or small, can take anything I’ve posted from the last 15 years online and use it as evidence of my… terribleness.

Yep, maybe that thing I wrote when I was 23 was sort of racist/offensive/stupid in hindsight. But I’ll be held to the standard of today’s context-blind digital mobs, not held to the standard of my small group of internet friends.

It’s just too risky.

I’m too scared of misrepresentation.
I’m too scared of what the evidence will tell you about me.

I read no comments about this whole thing.
I’m scared of those too.

(Here is where the voice in my head says, “Oh GOD SHUT UP HELEN JANE, get a backbone, stop your bitching, you were a part of it, own it you cow.”)

When it comes to watching the information machine craft, churn and amplify, I’m not convinced I want to be a part of it anymore.

Are you an enthusiastic member of today’s digital sharer?
Convince me not to box this whole thing up and put it away.

20 November, 2014  |   1 Comment

Thanksgiving Budget 2014

Thanksgiving 2013Next week is Thanksgiving. One of our guests is a chef, so my competitive side is coming out. I’m like that. With my guests. Stop talking Helen Jane.

Anyway, Thanksgiving Budget. I have a bad habit about prying into money matters so it’s only fair that I share some details with you. We did it back in 2011 and we’re doing it again — $260 — a huge amount of money for Thanksgiving — here’s how we’re spending out and cheaping out on the budget this year.


Spend out

Cheap out


Table settings


Yesterday I outlined how the wine money gets divvied out. I forgot to add that we always have a bottle of sparkling apple cider for the kids. They love joining in the toast. This will sate 5 grownups and one hairy dog.


The kids always make something amazing for the table — plus! We have some leftover gourds from Halloween!


Cornbread & Dinner Rolls


As in 2011, I’m spending the most on our bird. This year I bought the bird for a youth group fundraiser, but our local FFA also raises turkeys for sale. Yours might too!


We’ll make less expensive cornbread — and I’m not shy about telling a helpful guest that they could bring the dinner rolls.

Vegetables and fruits



We make an extra big veggie purchase before the big day to accommodate all our sides. I make the cranberry sauce a week in advance and use the toaster oven to roast the sprouts.


Mashed potato supplies will run me a little less than $5 this year. For this, I am thankful.

Cheese & Appetizers



I prioritize guests and snacks. This year we’re putting out some Franklin Teleme, spiced pecans and dried cranberries with some Nut Thins. Easy. Done.


Pumpkin pie is another one of those Thanksgiving things that guests are happy to supply. As a host, I want to make sure I have ice cream, whipped cream and coffee on hand.

Day after Thanksgiving meals

Thanksgiving day meals


I include the “day after” budget as well because I’m spending that cash all in one go. We like our sandwiches on bakery bread with the good bacon.


On the actual Thanksgiving day, we eat cheap. Fruit or cereal for breakfast. Snacks for lunch. Save that cash for the big meal

17 November, 2014  |   1 Comment

Mom Things

Top three annoying Mom Things, Helen Jane Edition:

1. Only talking to you as you leave the room
Cinco de Mayo Performance
Why? Why do moms the world over pick up this habit?
Is it that my first words to my children were as they left my womb?
Maybe I just enjoyed that experience that I want to repeat it every day in every room. I loved it so much that I do it to my husband, coworkers and guests.

If you’re on the way out, that’s when I want to tell you the most important piece of information.

And I’m sorry.

2. Snack listing
Guessing game snack
Oh, did you mention you were hungry?
Let me give you a running tabulation of every possible computation of snack that’s available in our pantry and refrigerator.
Now. I will keep going.

I will start with healthy snacks and then
move to leftovers and then
finally, I shall list all of the things I’m happy to whip up for you with just a little time and effort.

As I inherited this from my mother, I give myself my own teenaged reply, “GAH. I’LL GET IT MYSELF.”

3. Embarrassing Vacuuming
Dorothy rocks
Somehow, vacuuming went from an activity that I did purposefully with a straightforward motion to an activity I just “HAVE TO ENJOY!!!”
(Three exclamation marks mandatory.)

Earlier in my life, I removed the vacuum from the closet, unwound the cord and pushed on, cleaning floors in a focused manner.

But now, now I vacuum with flourish, I dance with it, I poke the vacuum at peoples’ feet, I sing.

I’m a vacuuming fairy with all the shit that goes with it. And I will embarrass you. You will feel embarrassed for me when you see me do it and if you are my child, you will die of mortification on the spot, just die. VACUUM!!!

I know you have them. Even if you’re not a Mom, you have Mom things. Even if you’re a Dad or a pet-owner or an owner of an aging human body, you have Mom things.

So confess! What are those things? What are your Mom things?

22 October, 2014  |   1 Comment

October’s Wriggly Bits

This October is squirmy.

I put my knee on it,
to hold it down,
to make it comply with

But October will have none of that.

So far today, 39 silos. Dorothy calls them ice cream cones.

We visited my family in Wisconsin.
October wriggled out of my grip.

James and family

My mom and her husband sort though hundreds of boxes of collections. They are moving. Assisted-living-2-bedroom-apartment and they couldn’t be happier.

I wish the American Way gave more aging parents this love.

Girls and grandma

There are more boxes to sort than there are years. I hate these boxes.

I stomp and whine
I don’t want to be faced with all the evidence of my bad decisions.

No one does.
October escapes me again.

Cousin's room

It’s not a sadness,
it’s more of the resigned sigh

We returned Napa’s harvest bustle. Winemakers and vineyard workers work all night long. Grape trucks turn in front of you on the highway, dropping sticky purple fruit onto your lucky, lucky car.


The air smells like wine.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of grapes being squished within 10 miles of my house and it is in the air.
October found a secret way out.

27 August, 2014  |   3 Comments

Wine Wednesday: Earthquake Edition

Napa earthquake at my office.

This is the office I work in — it’s in someone’s home. Yes, I totally agree with you that it could be worse, but you could agree with me,  you would be pretty bummed if that happened in your home office.

When I moved to San Francisco, my Midwestern rootfolk asked me, “But what about the EARTHQUAKES?”

I thought the likelihood of one happening to me was low.

Plus, my Midwestern people deal regularly with floods, raging hail storms, thunderstorms, iced over highways, tornados and lightning. They had it worse than me, in my book.

But no tornado was as scary as what we went through last weekend.

We are fine and our friends are fine,
they lost lifelong collections,
they lost dishes,
also they are not fine.

When you a part of a community that,
as a group, faced its inevitable mortality,
that community’s minds are elsewhere.

We thought, “Well, that’s it.”
Everyone thought that,
if they woke up.
And a lot of people woke up.

I noticed it’s the same for people who are moving.
Their minds are with their stuff —
where the detergent is,
the spoons,
when they’ll find that belt that they love.

And when you add coming face to face with certain death to losing most of the stuff in your home, I’m quite astonished at the number of folks in the Napa valley just back at work.

Tough people, these farmers.
Damage to our wineries is minimal.
You should come visit them.

Thank goodness it's just stuff, right?

This is my boss’ house. They lost a lot of stuff.

So move!
(I hear you say.)

Why live on a fault line?
(I hear you ask.)

Anything that happens to you from here on out is your FAULT

We’re staying because this is the best community for us, in the whole world.

We are aware this is our fault.
Our fault.

But we’re willing to live with it.

We’re willing to thrive with it.

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