About michelleswaw

Urban Homesteader

There is something wrong with my generation 

One of the added benefits of going to a concert, especially a 80s band concert is people watching.   People tend to get drunk at these concerts, sloppy drunk.  At 80s hair band concerts people get old people sloppy drunk. 

What’s wrong with my generation?  We tease our thinning hair, squeeze into spanx and heels that our arthritis can barely bear to go watch old men who tease their hair, squeeze into spanx and heels that their arthritis can barely bear to sing songs for us that are 3 decades old.  The lyrics are nonsensical but the beat is energtic. We gather in large arenas and scream sing “pour some sugar on me!” with thousands of others just like us. We joyfully dance horribly with strangers while secretly judging each other’s cottage cheese thighs (because some of us still think we can pull off a short skirt), saggy chins and saggy other things.  We take notice of each others fake parts, missing parts or parts that should be in better working order.  We stay out past out bedtime to listen to a band that is way past its expiration date.

The first time I heard Def Leppard was the 7th grade.  I went to my friend Missy’s house after school to lay out in the sun in her back yard while she did everything possible to get the attention of the boy next door.  Her attention ploy included putting in the Pyromania tape and cranking up ‘Rock of Ages’.  I remember singing ‘Photograph’ on the track bus with Barb and dancing around Mary’s pool table to Def Leppard as we got ready to go to a football game.  We sang along on the radio with Styx, Chicago and Foreigner. We fell madly in love with Prince and wanted to look like Madonna.  We listened on the radio because there was no such thing as iTunes or CDs.  Music brings back memories of when my sister and I listened to Q102 and played with barbi dolls. We dreamed of becoming rock stars or married to rock stars.  Their music is our link to the past.  I gives us a quantum leap back in time. 

There is something wrong with my generation. Or is there? 

Why do people in my generation make such drunken fools of themselves at hair band concerts?  Why do we, while complaining about technology, use an iPad and a Bluetooth speaker to dance around the office singing every Prince song we know even the inappropriate ones, much to the dismay of younger coworkers. Why?  Because we earned it.  We are the last adult generation to live in a time when Americans were safe on our soil.  It was a time before 9/11 and before a handful of terrorist changed the entire course of our nation. It was a time before school shootings.  It was a time before public beheadings and play-by-play live coverage of global disasters.  It was a time before making life altering mistakes and a time before mistakes were facebooked, tweeted and instagramed. It was a time before AIDS killed millions. It was a time before Monsanto and GMOs, when food was well, just food.  It was a time when our nations leaders were respectable men who earned their title with hard work and dedication to the people. It was a time when we sat on our porches in the evenings because not everyone had air conditioning and no one had more than 7 or 8 channels on TV.  Neighbor’s talked to each other and people weren’t self-centered assholes.  It was a time when my parents were still alive and I wasn’t the oldest person in my family.  A time before we even knew what heroin was. A time before funerals. A time where I could have written and read this with out 325 strength reading glasses. A time before responsibilities and disappointments.  A time before I walked like I was drunk without drinking a drop because my hips hurt.  It was a time when my muscles were like rubber bands and my hair like silk. It was a time before cry baby emo music of the 90s. It was a time when we worked for what we had and waited for what we wanted.  The only things instant I knew were pudding and hair perms.  

The world that my generation experienced prior to 9/11 no longer exists other than inside our heads, in memories.  My children barely remember and the children younger than them have no frame of reference. Because we hold it in our hearts we don’t understand that people under 30 have no idea what we knew.  It would be like describing a color or smell to them.  They have never known this world to be the lovely place that it was.   My generation got to frolic in safety and revel in false security.  We can hope all we want but that world is never coming back. 

So what is wrong with my generation?  We have had to say good bye to much of what made us a strong nation.  We have buried dignity and have mourned the loss of community.  We have said our adieu to innocence. Generation X had to X off such nice things of the world.  Our generation wasn’t perfect and we had our share of crap  but these 30 years have been hard on us.  There has been more and quick change in these 30 years than in the last 100. We still have cancer and diabetes but by golly we have a phone that does everything including assisting me in this blog. The bad things still taunt us and the good things are long gone. 

For a few moments in these arenas, I can go back to that time. A time that no longer is. I raise my glass to my generation X.   Tease that hair and squeeze into those jeans.  Fall down drunk at a rock concert if you need to. Let us be accused of holding on to the past and trying to relive high school.  Hell yes we are.  I will hold onto what was ours as long as I can and try to tell my grandkids what it was like in my generation. I will close my eyes and sing lyrics that have lived in my memory for as long as the world was a grand place for me.  A new generation of young followers are coming to these concerts. They know we have something rare and magical.  They want a piece of our past.  Long live rock and roll!

I pretend to go to these events because my husband wants to but the truth is, I do too. I suppose it is fitting for me that I became emotional in the middle of a Def Leppard Concert during the song Hysteria.  

Our evening ended like this….

Me:   “Def Leppard makes me nostalgic”.

Dave:  “Def Leppard makes you lethargic?” 

 There is nothing wrong with us. We are just beat up, worn down and we know of a better day.  


First Fathers Day without my Dad 

Like everyone else on Facebook today I changed my cover photo to one of my dad. He passed August 28 of last year.  He died in his sleep.  Alone. He hated to be alone. 

I dug through some old pictures on a thumb drive I have at work and found this one to post. 

The very minute I pressed the post button, the song we played at his funeral came on in my headphones.  At work, at my desk, I lost it.  I hate crying. I especially hate that I am holed up in my office red faced and red nosed, blowing snot every few minutes.  I can hear my coworkers outside of my door meaning well to console but I just want to crawl out of here unseen.  

I wasn’t expecting this photo to slap me upside the face so hard. My father, before my mother died, was my biggest fan. He loved me no matter what idiotic foolish mistake I was making. He loved me when no one else did. He loved me when I didn’t deserve it. He wanted peace in our family. He hated when my mother and I bickered and there were many times I would give in to one of our stubborn tiffs just to please my dad.  I knew his kind and sweet heart couldn’t bear it.  

I choose to remember my dad as he was before my mom died.  After that and until his own body gave out, he was not the same man.  It’s okay. He is forgiven.  He was broken without mom and I refuse to even think of those long 5 years.  I thought that because of the distance of those years, I had eased into the acceptance of his death and my grief would not be so bad. I was learning to live without him even when he was still alive. I had already had 4 or 5 sets of  Fathers days, Christmases and Thanksgivings without him.  

But all at once with one glance of a picture and a few notes of a song like a flood gate of emotion, I miss him….the old him.  I miss him for me.  I miss him for Andrew. I miss him for grandkids who will never know him. 

My dad loved the world.  The one that God created.  He interacted with the earth like it was a good friend.  I watched him watch the sky. I listened with him to animals in the woods.  I followed behind him learning about the plants, the trees, the stones, the rivers.  His joy in Gods creation brought me joy.  He loved people. He loved my mother and he loved my sister and I. He loved his grandchildren.  Andrew is giving his children the same kind of dad.  He is teaching them his ways and giving them his knowledge.  Like a precious family heirloom, dads stories and endless knowledge of nature and life will be passed to them.  Dad is the most precious of all our heirlooms placed high above clocks and photos and war medals.   

Because of him, I do not struggle with the characteristic of God as a daddy, a loving father. I don’t struggle with accepting the forgiving nature of God because of him.  Because of this man I know that one day I will enter into the Fathers loving arms just like in this photo. I think about what will happen the moment of my last breath, and this, this is the image I see. Held. Loved. Accepted. Safe. Free. Sorrowless.  

My dad was overwhelmed by all the beauty God has given us. Overwhelmed by the majesty of God. 

Not a fun crafty subject but…. Transgender bathroom arguments are making me nuts. 

It’s tough being a sex offender these days. It’s getting harder to find unattended children in Walmart, lone female joggers in a dark park and open apartment doors in the city. People have become more aware and protect themselves a little better than ten or twenty years ago. We have educated children and young women to be cautious and brave enough to report it. Kids in Walmart have phones to call 911. Female joggers carry mace or pack heat. Sex offenders are having to get creative. Not anymore. Thanks to this new opportunity that has been dropped into their laps. Literally…..

Just lay in wait. Lay in wait. I have worked with SOs for many years and I know that where there is opportunity, there they will be. This bathroom access has made their planning so much easier. I am not afraid of a transgender using the stall next to me or my granddaughters. I am afraid of the SO who now has open access to a place where women and children can be cornered with the lock of a door. With one switch, it is lights out and the SO can have darkness in a windowless room, making it harder for the victim to identify the offender. Sex offenders across the nation rejoice! Your day has come.
This issue is not about transgender equality.  The lunatics have taken over the asylum. 

Go ahead, hurl your insults, don’t care

I know the truth.

Vintage mixed Textiles Aprons 

I am a fabric hoarder… Yes it is true. I hoard mostly vintage fabrics and lace and ribbon and trimming and edging and…. Well you get the picture.  I have been sitting on a cache of loveliness for a few years now.  At an estate sale in Clifton, in the basement of a huge brick well preserved home, I found one of those giant zipping clear square bags that bed sets come in. At first I was thrilled because I thought I had found big lot of vintage bed sheets.  But it was better.  Way better.  The mother load of vintage fabric.  Unused uncut sheet material. Most were cut to size for a kingsize pillow but never sewn.  Some still had the yardage tag still stapled in the corner.  I drug that bag up the stairs and through the house to pay and get out.  The price was perfect.  I had to pick my jaw up off he floor.  Wish I the bag wasn’t clear I nervously smiled to other women who were spying my loot.  The fabric is probably mid to late 1960’s. It is not perfect,  it has some fading and little marks made by the original cutter if the yardage off the bolt. To me it was perfectly aged.  Like cheese. Or wine.  But BETTER!  I sit on fabric believing that I will know what to do with it at the right time.  A few days ago, browsing through the eye candy of aprons on Pinterest I had an epiphany for this stack of cotton. I think the end results are better than anything I have seen on Pinterest or etsy. Soon these will be on Etsy. As for my immediate friends and family, they are for sale now. 

Everything is authentically vintage except the thread and some of that may be as well. 
Some pockets are made from old linens 

All have extra long waist straps to bring around front to tie.  They all slip over the head with enough room to cut and tie if too large.  They are not small aprons, they will cover side to side and may wrap around to mid back in smaller women. 

I call this one American Pansy. It is red white and blue. The flip side (fully lined), neck strap and hem edge is a red gingham.  It has a red and white polka dot waist strap and heart shape top bib. The main front fabric is a pretty blue flower print with the bigger flowers being pansies.

The pocket is a cross stitched red and blue pattern on linen.  For this one I am selling it for $40.00


The next one is pink pansies with a cherry pattern pocket. It has a pink shaggy edging across the bib. Very light and soft.  Perfect for summer.   For this one I am asking 25.00

The next one is another light apron. I call this one ‘lemon lime’. The bib is lined with green, has a slight arc shape. The pattern is yellow roses and has a bright green pocket. 

In this photo you can see how the ties come around to the front.  You can always tie a big bow in back as well. For this one I am asking 25.00

The next one is another light apron.  Also featuring a yellow rose pattern, this apron has a linen double pocket. It has a pleat across the bib. For this one I am asking 25.00

The next apron has a pretty pink and blue flowe pattern.  It has a cherry pink gingham pocket with a white ric rac edge.  Also a pleated bib with a white lace edge. For this one I am asking 25.00. 

This is my apron. The queen of all fabric.  I have had this since 2009.  I found it in an estate sale out off of Clough Pike on the east side of Cincinnati.  I absolutely love this fabric.  I think it may go back to the 30s or 40s. It is a teal green and grey and black sweet pea print. I cannot even throw away any scraps. I want to be buried in it.  Just kidding. (Not really. Do it.  Consider this a legal document). 

Anyway.. It’s just gorgeous. I only have about two yards. The lining fabric matches perfectly but was found in another estate box deal a year or so ago.  Perfect match. 

Others are running a marathon today. I am running a sewing machine. 
Lemon and Sage apron. Yellow roses and ric rac. Linen pocket with crochet edge. Heart top bib. Sage green lining, ties and neck tie. Same as others with an extra long tie to bring around front or make a big bow in the back. The pocket is very detailed. $40

Turkducken?  Who needs that…. Meet strawcoochee cake 

  So…. There has been a recipe floating around on Facebook and Pinterest for a strawberry cheesecake came.  One that looks like it will taste like the Good Humor Bar.  It caught my attention immediately but I found the recipe a little wonky.  You can check it out if you want but I think mine is better.  

And pretty.

What you behold is a layer of strawberry cake, atop a thin layer of strawberry buttercream frosting, sitting atop a vanilla cheesecake, sitting atop a golden cookie crumb crust…..strawcoochee cake.  If you say it a few times there is more good humor in the name than in the ice cream.  

The main thing about this project is using the SAME round cake pan or, two identical.  This is not an hour or two thing.  There are steps and give yourself  at least 6 hours before serving.  I still think mine is easier. 

Grocery list…..

4 eight ounce packages of cream cheese 

1 cup of sugar


7 eggs

1 cup of whipped cream

Strawberry cake mix 

3/4 cup of vegetable oil 

6-8 cups of powdered sugar

1 cup crisco 

2 packages of Strawberry Koolaid

Red or pink food coloring

3/4 stick of butter 

2 packages of Golden Oreos 


Steps 1-5

1.  Make a cheese cake in your only or twin round cake pan.  

Heat Oven to 300. 

I use my paddle attachment with scraper to cream 4 bars of cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar.  Add 4 eggs one at a time, add 3 tsp vanilla.  Fold in the cup of whipping cream. Pour into the well greased pan.

I believe that a water bath is necessary to make a good cheese cake.  Fill a large pan with about a 1/2 inch of water.  I used my big lasagna pan because it has handles.  Place the cheesecake pan into the water bath carefully and place in center of the oven.  Check here for full instructions on the Bain Marie process

Bake for 1 hour or until firm.

Cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap.  Put in fridge.  If you flip it out onto a plate, flip it out onto a flat plate. Do not use a regular dinner plate or the sides will be raised.

2.  Make a strawberry cake.  I just made a regular Betty Crocker strawberry cake, as directed on the box. Pour into the same round pan, grease well.  Bake as directed,  there will be left over.. Make some cup cakes. 

Cool completely, wrap in Saran Wrap and put it in the fridge with the cheesecake.

3.  Using a food processor, crush 1 package of golden Oreos and 1/2 to 3/4 stick of melted butter.

Using that same round pan, this time lined with greased Saran Wrap, press the crushed cookie butter mixture.  Be sure to press it in evenly.  No raised edges.

Put in fridge and cool completely.

4.  Make strawberry Frosting.  Using the same paddle attachment, cream 1 cup of Crisco and 6 cups of powdered sugar. For this recipe I omit vanilla.  While this is mixing, put 1/2 cup of milk and 1 packet of strawberry Kool-aid in a mason jar.  TIGHTEN lid.  Shake shake shake…… Turn mixer down to lowest setting. Slowly add strawberry milk until you achieve a nice frosting consistency. This is your glue. Pretty pink glue.  Set aside but go right into the next step.

5.  Crush the second package of golden Oreos.  I crushed them a little at a time.  Put about 1/2 the crushed Oreos in a bowl. With the last half  still in the food processor, add 1 envelope of strawberry Kool-aid and a few drops of red or pink food coloring.  Do not add any butter or other kind of moisture. Add strawberry crumbles to the first half and lightly toss.

Okay….. Whew.  That’s it, now time to the assembly. 

On a flat plate, put a tablespoon or two of the pink glue in the middle.  Carefully unwrap the crust and place it, centered on the plate.  Next carefully unwrap the cheesecake and place it on the crust.  As if a regular cake, slather a thin layer of frosting… Pink glue.  Repeat process with strawberry cake layer.  Now slather frosting all over the perfectly same sized cake. Save a little for your cupcakes.   Cover a surface with paper towels or paper because this step will get messy.   Spoon the cookie crumbles onto the cake, covering the top and sides.  Press gently into the glue…. I mean frosting. 

Beautiful and most delicious.  It’s like a strawberry party in your mouth.  I think my version is easier and better.  


Don’t tell your mother. 


I once was given a mental picture of my fathers funeral. Not long after my father recovered from heart surgery he wanted to go hunting. He got all his gear together and found a place and announced to my mother he was going hunting. My mother strongly opposed this hunting idea. After much debate she ended and won the argument by saying, “Fine. If you go the woods by yourself and die out there, I will have you buried in a dress”.  

My father was perfect. I had no idea he was perfect until I was an adult. I assumed all other fathers were just as kind and gentle and funny, full of knowledge and patient as ours. I was in the company of a hero and I didn’t even know it until I grew older and met the world. 

My father was a photographer, historian, basket weaver, reenacter, fisherman, depression glass collector, animal sound mimicker and translator, bird watcher, singer, musician, gun maker, dulcimer maker and player, guitarist, lover of music and travel. He loved his wife and family. 

 Most of all he was a teacher. 
“Hey girls!  Look at the leaves turned inside out it’s gonna rain soon. Hey girls!  Look at that ridge, a train track used to run through there. Hey girls! You see that plant right there, it’s Jewell weed. If you ever get poison ivy just rub some of that on you. Hey girls! If you cut a snapping turtle’s head off it can still bite you two weeks later. If you ever get lost remember that odd-numbered roads run north and south and even numbered roads run east and west. Always use a pocket knife with the blade away from you. Hey girls! Come look at this dead possum in the trunk….. well I think it’s dead. Hey girls! You see that tree? A big buck has been rubbing his antlers on it making those marks. Hey girls! Come listen, I got our dog to say ‘I want my mommy’.” He would make her growl and then move her mouth and I believed anything he said.


“Hey girls it rained really hard. Get in the car and we will go to Rinks and run through some puddles. Don’t tell your mother. Hey girls! Look up that’s the Big Dipper. Hey girls!  I hear a steam train get in the car will go out route 8 about 80 mph and catch it in Silver Grove. We can put pennies on the track…….don’t tell your mother. ”

“Hey girls! Let’s go look for arrowheads.” My father would take us to the to freshly plowed fields on the river bottoms and we would follow behind him picking up every single rock and piece of flint that we found. Is this one? Is this one? Patiently he turned around and look at the rock in the palm of our hand “no that’s not one keep looking”. Is this one? His patience paid off when he turned around and there my sister stood with a perfect point in her hand. 

I thought everyone’s dad threw a tomahawk in the back yard and made necklaces out of chicken bones. I spent the first eight years of my life sitting in his lap, brushing his hair, or just following him around. He rarely raised his voice to me even though I deserve his wrath most of the time. After I would spent my allowance foolishly he would always slip me an extra dollar or two.

“Don’t tell your mother”.

My father was a force to be reckoned with. He had a presence. Wherever he was there would be thunderous laughter. He was an amazing storyteller. Most of the stories were about adventures from the past and his childhood. He told real stories and tall tales to entertain us. He convinced grandchildren that an alligator lived in a shirt pocket.


Over the years I bought my dad ties razors and cologne, typical dad gifts. When I was in the seventh grade and I was walking to school up Taylor Avenue underneath the train trestle, I found a coin slug.    I showed him when he got home from work he told me it was a quarter that must’ve fallen off of one of the train cars. It was probably headed to the mint to be stamped. He asked if he could have it and I gave it to him. He carried it in his pocket until last week. I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him.  

My father died in his sleep in late August 2015. His body died may have finally give. Out but his family watched him die with my mother in 2010. His death was not stretched out by cancer or some other horrible terminal illness.  He died of a broken heart. He was lost. When he took his last breath, he was found. My father is happy again and with his love. I am sure of this. 


Although I will miss him, I have joy that he is with my mother and his father who he never stopped missing. I am certain where he is and I am certain that I will see him again. Because of my dad, I have never struggled with knowing God as a loving, merciful and gentle father.  

Michelle Denham Swaw

Chayote.  Chywhat?

Chayote.  It’s weird. It’s ugly. 

Mostly it’s misunderstood.  

Some say it’s a squash, some say it’s a fruit and some say it’s a vegetable.  And…..even others say it is a gourd. 

It’s sort of like a cucumber meets apple.  It’s not all sloppy and mushy like eggplants or zucchini when cooked. 

According to internet sources, and we all know they never lie, it’s quite the nutritious little thing. It is loaded with potassium. added plus

There is a rumor that McDonald’s used these in their apple pies because they were cheaper.  I don’t really care if they did.  I am just happy they fit into my low carb way of eating. 

First to prepare any chayote dish, peel like a potato

  A serving is one diced cup.  25 calories, 6 total carbs, 2.2 fiber 
3.8 net carbs per diced cup

You can do anything with them, make them sweet or make them savory. 

This is how I made chayote that taste like fried apples 

Take your peeled chayote 

 Most are about as long as a stick of butter.  Eating low carb makes butter my friend.  Hello there beautiful friend.  ❤️

Cut it in half  

There is a seed in there.  Scoop it or cut it out. 

I used a serrated grapefruit spoon. 

Dice this bad boy 

Put some of that beautiful butter in a heavy sauce pan 

Add your ugly weird gourd

Cook in the butter until tender. 

Add this

Whilst the tendering is occurring. …..

Whip some heavy cream and sf vanilla syrup

Cinnamon apples.     No wait, it’s chayote.  Add a smidge of sweetener. Sf brown sweetener may be a good bet here. I also added a capful of sf salted Carmel to this and oh my.   

  I have no words. 

Sweet or savory, you can do just about anything with them because they take on the flavor a you add. 

Tomorrow I am going to boil until tender, fry in a skillet and add herbs and garlic for a side dish