• A break in the clouds

    In spite of feeling like my kids bicker nonstop, there are days where they play together for hours on end. The past couple days have been an absolute dream. I savor this break in the thunder clouds and do my best to soak up the comradery. I’ll need the good memories to draw upon when the sibling love gets scarce.

    Of course, what gets their jive juice going isn’t normal, calm, inside-the-box play, like building towers out of blocks or a jolly game of Parcheesi.

    Or, say, simply swinging on our industrial quality swing set, oh no. That would be way too…normal.

    The kids have to go and mutilate the set by removing extemporaneous swings and importing a huge slab of wood until they end up with a seesaw and merry-go-round hybrid.

    The kids pad the board with mounds of old winter coats, arrange themselves just so (balance is key), and then order the Baby Nickel to spin them.

    They scream a lot, and I have to keep yelling out the door at them to STOP SCREAMING. I HATE screaming. It ranks right up there beside whining and clock alarms. Yelling is fine, I say. Screaming is not. And then I walk away and the screaming starts up again. Perhaps it’s an uncontrollable side effect of spinning?

    They like to just hang out on the board, too, dozing in the sun like the sloths I sometimes wish they were.

    Eventually they tire of spinning and/or balancing and move on to making one enormous swing.

    It serves dual purposes.

    Purpose Number One: a perch for eating popcorn.

    Purpose Number Two: a swinging stunt platform.

    The younger two lay on their backs and pump the swing with their legs while the older two hang from swingless chains and do their thing.

    As I was typing this, the swing set morphed into yet another structure.

    They added a ladder and some old canvas and, voilà!, a tent was born.

    Tomorrow our family heads in five different directions. When we return, the swing set may be a thing of the past. Or not.

    In any case, it was a great diversion while it lasted.

    This same time, years previous: beef empanadas, one whole year, reasons, lemon donut muffins, weird, honeyed apricot almond cake, brown bread, simple granola, fancy granola, French chocolate granola, oregano, garlic, and lemon roast chicken with asparagus and potatoes, and a sketchy character. Whew!

  • Two bad things

    Or, to be more accurate, two new bad things. Because it’s not like there weren’t any bad things in my life until these two bad things came along. For the record, my life is full of bad:

    bad hair (my baby’s—it looks like someone took a machete to it)
    bad language (oops, did I just SAY that?)
    bad behavior (only my kids’)
    bad weeds (naughty, naughty weeds!)
    bad communication (my husband’s specialty)
    bad memory (all mine)

    But now I have two new Bads to add to the list. That I’m in love with them makes it all the worse.

    Bad Thing One: thinned down dulce de leche for my iced coffee, oh yes!

    (But can it be called “thinned down” if it’s half-and-half doing the thinning? Hm, I must think on that.)

    1. Open a can of ducle de leche and take out a large glob.

    2. Heat the glob up in the microwave for a few second, just enough to help it relax.

    3. Whisk in some half-and-half.

    4. Whisk in more half-and-half.

    5. Whisk in more—

    6. Yeah, just keep whisking and adding till it’s the consistency you want, which would be creamy and pour-able, kind of like Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

    7. Store the now very skinny dulce de leche into a jar and put it in the fridge.

    8. Every afternoon when you pour your iced coffee concentrate into a pint jar, add a hearty glug to go with.

    (9. And if you’re feeling particularly wicked, top off your pint with a scoop of leftover whipped cream that’s been getting all lonely in the back of the fridge.)

    My little dishwashing boy pounced upon the sticky bowl, and in the midst of giving it a good tongue washing, he happily announced, “Mom, I’m in love with dith!”

    Bad Thing Two: chocolate peanut butter cake.

    It’s all my mother’s fault. When she was here this past weekend, she brought the pre-assembled fixings for a chocolate cake and then baked it up in my oven since hers is on the fritz. The plan was to take the cakes home with her, but she made a little one for us to eat right then and there in honor of Father’s Day, and in spite of my warped and hole-y measuring cups (Jennifer, this is ridiculous!) and the unappealingly smeared-on icing (thanks to one little girl), the cake was really good.

    And then my mother said, in an off-handed sort of way, “You know what I’m going to do with one of these layers when I get home? I’m going to ice it with peanut butter frosting and then drizzle a chocolate ganache over top.”

    And then she smacked her lips at me.

    I played it cool, genteelly nodding my head at her, but truth is, she did me in. I had to have a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache.

    So I made myself one. Because I’m practical like that.

    The formula: this chocolate cake (but I used regular cow’s milk instead of coconut milk) PLUS this peanut butter frosting PLUS this chocolate peanut butter ganache from Smitten Kitchen (recipe follows) EQUALS a chocolate peanut butter cake that totally, totally, totally meets The Persistent and Persnickety Peanut Butter Chocolate Craving.

    Bake the chocolate cakes in two round pans. Each cake goes a long way, so freeze the extra one or give it away. (I gave it away.)

    Spread the cake with the peanut butter frosting. Really lay it on. (I’m struggling with Icing Application Regret—I should have been much more generous.) Set the iced cake in the fridge to set up—it needs to be rather firm so that the ganache won’t push it all around.

    While icing the cakes, do not neglect your tasting duties!

    Pour on the ganache. Use a knife to push it (artfully) over the edge. Store the cake in the fridge. Cut off slices as needed.

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache
    From Smitten Kitchen

    8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
    3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
    2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    ½ cup half-and-half

    Put the chocolate, peanut butter, and syrup in the top part of a double boiler and cook until melted, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream. Spread over the cake while still warm (but not too hot).

    This same time, years previous: lemon ice cream with red raspberries, slushy mojitos, in honor of Father’s Day: the giant green slug, a public service announcement about peas

  • Real simple

    What I said on Monday (but posted on Tuesday) was really true: I had no idea what to make for supper.

    So that afternoon I went to my routine dermatology appointment, and while waiting for my name to be called, I picked up a Real Simple magazine to leaf through and there amongst all the glossy pages and coordinating colors I spied it: our dinner. It was on a two-page spread that listed off ten ways to cook eggs, all of which were real simple. Of course. (Or, of course not. Because they listed quiche as one of the simple dinners and I do not count quiche as “real simple.” It involves grating cheese and sauteing vegetables and making a crust and beating eggs and measuring things. This proves that the real simple mag editors have no handle on reality whatsoever, thank you very much.)

    However, the recipe I zeroed in on did indeed look simple. True, there weren’t any greens in the meal (except for the fresh herbs and two tablespoons of herbs don’t count for a vegetable serving in my book), but that didn’t bend me out of shape too much. A meal without peas or spinach or green beans wouldn’t kill anyone. (I hoped.)

    So after the doctor gave me a once over and an entire box of free medicine—whoot!—I hopped into my bunged up minivan and sped home to whip up my real simple supper.

    While the water boiled for my eh-spaghetti (helpful hint: read it with a Spanish accent), I bustled outside to collect my herbs—basil, parsley, chives, thyme, and oregano. Back in the kitchen I minced the aforementioned green things along with a couple cloves of garlic. After that it was mostly a real simple (but kind of chaotic) process of assemblage that went something like this:

    1. Saute the garlic, add the herbs and give a stir, toss in the eh-spaghetti and a little pasta water. Set aside.

    2. Fry some eggs.

    3. Assemble: plate pasta, top with fried egg(s), sprinkle with grated Parmesan and black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

    4. Eat.

    Moral of my tale: go the doctor when you don’t have any idea what to make for supper.

    Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs and Fried Eggs
    Adapted from Real Simple magazine

    Enhancement suggestions: oven-roasted tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, sauteed zucchini, peas, etc.

    1 pound spaghetti
    4-8 tablespoons olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 cup assorted fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, chives, thyme, etc.), roughly chopped
    4-8 eggs, or as needed
    ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    salt and black pepper

    Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain (reserving about a half cup of the pasta water) and set aside.

    Saute the garlic in several tablespoons of olive oil. After a couple minutes, add the herbs and cook for 30 seconds or so. Add the pasta and toss to coat. (If it seems a little dry, splash in some of the pasta water.) Cover with a lid to keep warm and set aside.

    In a separate pan, fry the eggs, making sure that the yolks stay runny.

    Plate the spaghetti, top with an egg or two, a hearty drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of cheese, and salt and black pepper to taste. Dig in!

    This same time, years previous: a driving lesson

  • Not a problem

    Written yesterday afternoon…

    I’m in a cooking slump. Part of it, maybe most of it, has to do with the fact that my two oldest have split for my parents’ house and I’m left with the two littlest (and a niece, but now she’s back at her mom and dad’s so it really is just me and my two littles), and after cooking for four or more kids, a five and a seven-year-old just feel like absolutely nothing. When a hunk of bread and a carrot will meet the need, what IS the point, huh?

    I didn’t feed them bread and carrots for lunch. I made a pesto pizza with leftover dough, a splat of pesto, and some odd cheese ends (and oven roasted tomatoes for my part). If they get hungry this afternoon, I have four hotdog buns banging around (in an airy sort of way) in my bread drawer that they can have. The kids will probably get all excited about them, too.

    See? Why cook?

    But I do need to come up with something for supper. Mr. Handsome will come home tired and hungry and I have a pretty good hunch that hotdog buns just won’t cut it.

    So that’s that problem.

    On the other hand, these scones are not a problem. They were a problem at first, mostly because I hadn’t yet discovered them and was busy experimenting with other scone recipes and failing miserably and getting all grumpy about it. But then I discovered these and my problems were solved.

    I made them for our family gathering and they were the first ones to disappear. I made them for our PA gathering and sister-in-law Kate has been politely hounding me for the recipe ever since. (Kate! Your day has come!) I baked some up yesterday afternoon and sent the majority home with my mom because their oven is on the fritz and my heart goes out to anyone who does not have access to a steady stream of baked goods.

    But now I’m kind of regretting my spurt of big heartedness because I just ate the last scone and really want another one.

    Orange Cranberry Scones
    Adapted from House of Annie

    To make these even more orange-y, submerge the craisins in hot orange juice for 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly before proceeding.

    2 cups flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    3 tablespoons white sugar
    ½ teaspoon salt
    5 tablespoons butter
    1-2 tablespoons orange zest
    1 cup heavy cream
    3/4 cup craisins
    ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    2 tablespoons orange juice

    Mix together the flour, baking powder, white sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, a fork, or the food processor, cut in the butter. With a spoon, stir in the cream and zest. Add the craisins and knead lightly to combine. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for a couple hours. (At this point you can freeze the disks.)

    Cut each disk into 8 pieces and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 12-18 minutes.

    Make a glaze by combining the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice. Drizzle it on the scones while they’re still hot.

    Yield: 16 delectable scones

  • What I got

    The other evening I settled into the Amish rocker, drew the computer onto my knee, and clicked over to Ted.com. As soon as the speakers started making noise, the kids surrounded me (and soon husband, too). Thus awkwardly assembled, we together watched several talks*—one about focusing sound, another about illusions, and yet another about buying second-hand clothes.

    The talk about thrift shopping was delivered by a color-and-fashion loving woman who had traveled to the Ted Dot Com place (wherever that is) with only seven pairs of underwear and then spent the week thrifting for clothes and photographing her daily outfits which she then used to illustrate her talk. One of the nuggets I gleaned went something like this: if you think you look good in an outfit, you do. If you don’t think you look good, you don’t. I’m not sure I completely believe that, but the gist of it is probably mostly true.

    In any case, I decided to go thrifting for clothes.

    Now let me say this: I hate shopping for clothes at thrift stores. It requires absolute concentration, abundant time, and lots and lots of Fabric Touching. I hate Fabric Touching, especially fabrics of the stale, stained, and stinky thrift store sort.

    But I like the idea of thrift shopping for clothes (I already love thrifting for everything else), and that color-and-fashion jiving Ted woman done did go and get me all pumped up.

    So on Saturday I arranged myself a block of time and plunged in cart first. I attacked the racks like a woman possessed, pulling off anything and everything that interested me, no matter how mildly. I even sifted through the wedding dresses and evening gowns! The sign on the changing room door said there was a three item limit which I promptly disregarded (because how in the world are you supposed to mix and match with only three things?)—I had well over 30 items tossed hither and yon. When I finally resurfaced, gasping for air and hair all disheveled, I was shocked to realize I was completely out of time.

    And money. I spent over fifty bucks (which is a heck of a lot of money to dish out in a thrift store), and this is what I got.

    1. A slinky black fringe dress.

    I dig this dress. It’s super comfortable and makes me feel like Pocahontas in a heels-and-evening-gown sort of way.

    2. A short stretchy black dress.

    But I’ll wear it more like a tunic top, probably with leggings and boots. It’s a good first layer to any number of combinations.

    3. A long brown sweater.

    I spied this right as I was getting ready to leave and had to ask for the changing room key yet again. It’s soft and warm and will go well with a pair of skinny jeans and cowboy boots, neither of which I have. (But that is just a minor inconvenience.)

    4. An old Navy fleece vest.

    Because I wanted a fleece vest and I love dark blue.

    5. A light-weight blue denim shirt with brown rope belt.

    I’m not sure I’ll actually wear this, but I decided it was time to try my luck with the belted look. And the shirt itself is so comfy. Maybe paired with a brown skirt and those cowboy boots I don’t have?

    6. A Lord of the Rings Princess Dress.

    Just look at this dress, people! It has poofy sleeves! A fitted waist! A twirly skirt! (I tested it in the changing room.) I kind of doubted I’d ever wear the dress but the little girl inside of me forced me to buy it anyway, and when I got home my little real-life little girl stole it right out from under my nose.

    I haven’t told her yet, but I think it’s destined to be hers.

    7. A red jumper.

    Because every homeschooling mom needs a jumper dress, right?

    Um, no. Real reason: because it’s super-soft (I’m realizing I have a thing for soft clothes) and has funky little metal hook-y thingies for fastening the shoulder straps. Not sure what to wear under it—a white blouse?—but I’ll probably pair it with some boots. Those cowboy boots…

    8. Workout clothes.

    Short, flow-y black pants for belly dancing or for bumming around the house, and a cover-up shirt for the same.

    9. A black corduroy skirt.

    All-purpose. Warm. Sturdy. And the belt loops have character.

    10. A little red velvet dress.

    I’m not a fan of the Christmas Look but kind of doubt I’ll have any other option when I put this number on. I should probably just stick a candy cane in my mouth and get it over with. Giant jingle bells around my neck would provide a nice accent, no? Ho-ho-ho.

    11. A gray lacy-like sweater.

    It has the potential to dress up many an outfit.

    12. A red tee.

    Nothing much to say about this, expect that I’m beginning to realize I’m drawn to red. (And black, but I knew that already.)

    13. A black tank.

    It fits really well—no gaping around the arms. (I hate when shirts gape around the arms. Makes me feel insecure and socially inept.)

    14. A black purse.

    It’s almost exactly like the one I have now, but bigger so I can carry more junk, yay!

    So to summarize: I bought a bunch of winter clothes at the beginning of summer and half of it isn’t what I’d normally wear but I’m really excited about it anyway.

    Next step: to accessorize with flair. I’m thinking hats, scarves, chunky jewelry, and lime green tights.

    By any chance, is this new behavior pattern indicative of an early onset mid-life crisis?

    *I love this website. It’s made up of a lot of quality talks delivered by people passionate about what they do. Informative, inspiring, fun, etc. (Note: not all talks are appropriate for Little Eyes. Use discretion.)

    This same time, years previous: cold-brewed iced coffee and cold-brewed iced tea (I’ve been making the coffee a half-gallon at a time), cabbage apple slaw with buttered pecans, sour cherry crostatas, how to freeze spinach, strawberry margarita cake, and Swiss chard rolls

  • This particular Friday

    Mr. Handsome crunched his truck out the driveway and I woke up just enough to register that I had a splitting headache. When I woke up for good a little while later, I lay quite still for a few minutes trying to recall what was on the agenda for this particular Friday. Ah, right. Another blank day. Yeeeesssss.

    Next thought, Hm, what do I want to cook today?

    And then, Oh dear, how am I going to occupy the kids?

    By the time I had dressed, tiptoed downstairs, and started my coffee, a plan was brewing. This day I would be extravagant. I would be generous. I would have fun with my kids.

    I informed them of my plan over breakfast (fresh sourdough bread straight from the oven, granola, left over baked oatmeal). First there would be jobs, then an art project (with paint!), then we’d make ten-layer bars, and then a science movie. I was pumped; the kids were agreeable.

    After a flurry of sink, toilet, and shower scrubbing, dish washing, and toy picking-upping, we settled down on the kitchen floor with bottles of tempera paints, old newspapers, watercolor paper, and masking tape.

    The idea is one of my pinterest finds (if/when you want to join, I’d be honored to send you an invite!), and the kids thought it was super-cool.

    Miss Beccaboo liked to invent textures.

    One of the finished pieces, pre-haircut.

    Then we made the pan of candy-like bar cookies. (Recipe also from pinterest, but I’d heard about it years ago.)

    They’re not my favorite and the kids mostly didn’t like them (which cracks me UP), but we made them together so they served that purpose at least.

    While the bars baked, we watched a National Geographic movie about Africa’s Stolen River. Animals died and got eaten and there were too many drawn out setting sun scenes, but it got us through till lunch: cheese and spinach sandwiches, tuna for some, and salad and roasted beets for me.

    And thus concludes our Friday morning.

    How did you pass this particular June morning?

  • Smothered in sauce

    When we were up in Pennsylvania last week, Sister-in-Law Kate made us an enchilada feast. Three giant pans of ‘ladas equals a feast any time, any place, anywhere, don’t you agree?

    Actually, I’ve never really been an enchilada fan. Sure, I liked them, but I didn’t need them. I preferred to serve my beans straight up, tortillas on the side for scooping. The wrapping, saucing, baking, and cheesing required for enchilada-ing just seemed like extra steps I didn’t want in my life.

    That’s all changed, now that Kate fed me her enchiladas. It’s not like her enchiladas were fancy or anything—just ground beef and beans wrapped up in tortillas and smothered in a sauce—but the sauce! Oh my word! I couldn’t get enough of the sauce—sweet, spicy, rich, creamy. Deeply and profoundly comforting, that sauce was.

    So yesterday, after a volley of emails with Kate, I made the enchiladas for my houseful of hooligans, I mean kids.

    Or maybe I do mean hooligans. Just look at them.

    The night before yesterday afternoon (when I made the enchiladas I’m telling you about), all the kids were outside running around when it suddenly got really quiet. Mr. Handsome peered out the window to see what was up and reported that all the kids were ON THE ROOF OF THE BARN picking mulberries. Out he went to order them down to the ground, and a little later they appeared in my back yard waving foam swords and looking like messes on legs.

    (Which reminds me of a nugget I gleaned from pinterest: the definition of boy: “Boy, n. 1. noise with dirt on it.”)

    So anyway, I fed these stinky, tired (’cause they were up till midnight, picking-sour cherries-to-help-them-stay-awake, the sillies), mulberry stained boys (plus my younger kids, too) these enchiladas for lunch. They were mighty happy about their lunch. And so was I. I had thirds.

    This is not a complicated recipe. Unlike other recipes I’ve tried, there is no frying of tortillas and then dipping them in the sauce prior to rolling, thank goodness. Simply put a layer of sauce in the pan, top with the filled tortillas, and then smother them in another layer of sauce.

    And just a word about this incredible sauce: I’m pretty sure it’s the butter that makes it sing. Or maybe it’s the beef broth? Perhaps the chili powder? Really, I’m not sure what it is, but the combination of a rich roux thinned with broth and flavored with tomato sauce and chili powder is enough to leave such a taste sensation that enchiladas will be your new favorite comfort food for years to come, hallelujah.

    Kate’s Enchiladas
    Adapted from my sister-in-law’s recipe

    Make these with store-bought ingredients or all from scratch—you can’t go wrong either way. (Though I am partial to the toothsomeness that comes from homemade flour tortillas.)

    Also, this recipe, aside from the sauce which yields enough sauce for one 9 x 13 pan of enchiladas, has no real measurements.

    For the sauce:
    5 tablespoons butter
    ½ cup flour
    1 ½ cups beef broth
    2 cups tomato sauce
    1 tablespoons chili powder
    ½ teaspoon salt

    Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Whisking steadily, add the broth. When the mixture is thick and bubbly (keep whisking!), add the remaining ingredients and heat through.

    For the enchiladas:
    *some ground beef that’s been fried up with some chopped onion and green pepper and a sprinkle of salt
    *a couple cups of cooked, drained beans, black, red, or pinto—add these to the meat mixture
    *a stack of flour tortillas (I made a double batch and had some left over)
    *3-4 cups grated, good melting cheese (Monterey Jack, cheddar, provolone, Colby, whatever)
    *optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, sour cream, green onions, chives, fresh tomatillo salsa, black olives, etc.

    Spread half the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

    Fill the tortillas with some meat-and-bean mixture and some of the cheese. Roll them up and place seam-side-down in the pan on top of the sauce. Repeat until the pan is full. Spread the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.

    Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the enchiladas are heated through. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining cup or two of cheese. Bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes.

    Serve with the optional garnishes.

    Note: these can be assembled ahead of time and frozen. Simply thaw at room temperature and then bake. Leftovers keep well, too.

    This same time, years previous: my boy children, old-fashioned vanilla ice cream

  • When I sat down

    Sometimes I think my life is boring. I mean, it must be so because The Masses aren’t flocking to film my every move and leaving me hundreds of adoring comments on this blog. The general public isn’t booking me for speaking engagements, asking for my autograph, and picking through my brain for nuggets of wisdom. I am not fawned over.

    Sometimes I can get in a rut when I fixate on My General Boringness. It’s an unattractive and yucky place to be, so I don’t write about it much.

    But it still happens.

    And then I read something like The Hiding Place and realize that I’m really glad I have a boring life. I wouldn’t want it any other way—(pregnant pause while I double check that thought)—yes, I do believe that is indeed The Beautiful Truth.

    I like waking up in my soft bed with the mismatched sheets and the falling-apart pillowcase that my children made for me, the songbirds chortling to high heaven right outside my open window, the rooster crowing his testosterone-laden crow.

    My days move forward slowly, evenly. I teach my son to scrub the kitchen floor and watch like a hawk while he perfects his piano pieces. I listen to my daughter read (!). I dish out instructions, stories, and bowls of beans and rice. I make my eyes get big and incredulous when my youngest informs me that his bruises are the result of eating too much candy. While the sun goes down we replant the green beans. We fold laundry and vacuum and tuck in the kids.

    Sometimes I marvel at the pointlessness of it all, as in, We are all going to die so why do we keep trying so hard?

    And sometimes I revel in it all, as in, This is my family and I get to live with them and grow my food and read books, oh my word WOW.

    When I sat down to write this afternoon, I had nothing to say. My hands lay limp beside me, the laptop balanced on my knees. And then I started typing.

    And now I am done.

    This same time, years previous: how to freeze strawberries and make strawberry jam, buttered peas and brown buttered noodles with ham

  • Microwave flower press

    Back when we had our family reunion and Cousin Zoe supplied the fixings for an art table, among the mountains of crafty happiness she brought was a little thing called a microwave flower press. Immediately, my oldest daughter was hooked. Every time I turned around, there she was on a stool in front of the microwave smack dab in the middle of my work space, drying flowers to her heart’s content.

    After the weekend was over and the flower press had gone home to PA, my daughter announced she wanted to buy one for herself. Unlike her money-burns-a-hole-in-his-pocket brother, this girl rarely hatches any consumeristic schemes, so I let her. I had no doubt it would be a good purchase—it’s a solid piece of equipment so I expect it to last for a good long time. My only regret was that I had already decided to get it for her birthday. (So much for fast and easy birthday shopping. Now I gotta actually think of something brilliant.)

    She’s thrilled with her new tool. So far she’s spent most of her time drying flowers just for the heck of it; she hasn’t started to actually make anything with them. She will eventually, though, I’m pretty sure. Zapping flowers just because has got to lose its charm sometime soon, right?

    In the meantime, her birthday is coming up and I’m scrounging about for good gift ideas. Suggestions are most welcome!

  • Waffle Time!

    I’m having trouble coming up with stuff to write about. My energy levels are low and I just want to veg, preferably in a refrigerator somewhere. However, a glass of iced coffee (with a spoonful of sugar, yum) and a ceiling fan are the closest I’ll get to a chilling experience. And truth be told, it’s not too shabby of a substitute, either.

    So now that I worked that one out—hmm, what else to say…


    My littlest child has been having trouble sitting still during the times he’s supposed to sit still, like church. We weren’t ten minutes into this morning’s service before he started writhing all over the chairs, kicking his feet up in the air, moaning, and rubbing my skirt in the wrong direction (as in UP, yikes). So I hoisted the twit onto my hip (no small feat—the kid weighs a solid fifty pounds) and marched out of the sanctuary to a Sunday school room where we practiced The Art of Sitting Still for Church.

    We reviewed the basics, like how to quietly ask a question, when he would be allowed to look at books (during the sermon), when he could color (any time), whether or not feet were allowed up in the air (they’re not) and if he might put them on the chair to sit cross-legged (he might), and above all, HOW TO KEEP HIS BUTT ON THE CHAIR AT ALL TIMES. Then we walked sedately back into church and he behaved like an angel for the rest of the service and I felt very successful and like I should totally get a gold star for my Smart Mommy Move.


    Yesterday my oldest put on my sports bra, stuffed it with somethingorother, smacked on a set of fake lips, and whooped it up big time.

    I especially loved his I Love Lucy eyes.


    This past week we zipped up to John’s sister’s house in PA to meet up with his brother’s family come south from NY and his other brother’s family come east from The West Coast.

    I think the two days can be summarized with two sentences:

    1. The kids played nonstop.
    2. The grown-ups talked nonstop.

    Here are two of the brothers…um…communicating? Counting teeth? Singing?

    Doing breathing exercises?

    Aren’t brothers awesome? And to think my husband has six of them (and two sister gems). Lucky man!


    I spent all of Friday at a water park with the kids. The place was crawling with dripping wet, scantily clad people. (Which led me to the radical conclusion that most of us humanoids look best when more than fifty percent of our skin is under wraps.) The whole entire huge complex was very, very wet and very, very loud, so I guess that means it was a rip-roaring success? I had eight hours to enjoy the thundering wetness and to resent my littlest for being such an unadventurous wimp and cutting my fun off right after his single terrorizing ride on the (very sedate) lazy river. Little twit, again.

    And in those same eight hours, my oldest daughter, in spite of TWO vigorous applications of 50 SPF sunblock, managed to burn to a crisp. Her shoulders are like two pieces of Kentucky fried chicken, but red instead of brown. I feel horrible for her, of course, but I’m pissed more than anything because for once I did everything right—I even scrutinized the bottle’s expiration date! Next time I’ll make her wear a body suit. After all the pain she’s been in, I have no doubt she’ll readily agree to such a get-up.


    We’ve taken our Sunday waffles up a notch. Instead of buttermilk, we’re now doing a sourdough that rocks something serious. The crust is crispy-ispy-ispy, and the insides are moisty-oisty-oisty, and the flavor is tangy-angy-angy. We’re all in love.

    Those of you who don’t have a sourdough starter in your fridge might be tempted to roll your eyes and skip the rest of the post but please don’t. Surely you can obtain a starter somewhere? somehow? (Local people: I’m all about sharing—call me.) Because you really need to have some starter so you can make these waffles once a week, every week, for the rest of your life. They are that good. And the upkeep is minimal. Seriously. I don’t even measure.

    This is what I do: I keep a cup or two of starter in a half gallon jar. On Saturday afternoon I take it out and feed it a equal parts flour (often I use whole wheat) and water. I do that once, or twice, depending on how strong the starter is and how many batches of waffles I think we’ll eat. Sunday morning I measure out the starter I need for the waffles and to the remaining starter—the starter I’m not using for the waffles—I add some more flour and water. I let the just-fed starter sit at room temperature for about an hour (so it can begin to digest its latest meal) before putting it in the fridge to snooze until the next waffle meal. A once-a-week waffle dinner is enough to keep the starter happy and healthy … and my family sated with waffles.

    Back to the starter that I measured out: to that I add the butter, milk, more flour, sugar, and salt. I stir it up real good, cover it with a shower cap, and leave it to do its thing till I call it into service at lunch time or late afternoon or evening. (If you want waffles for the ayem, do the batter mix up the night before.) (And for a lunch time waffle feast, you can mix them up the night before, too.) (Ideally, the batter should rest/rise/ferment for about 8-14 hours.) (I hope this isn’t sounding too complicated and parenthetical.) (Because it really is easy.)

    Sunday pee-em, or whenever it is you want to actually eat these waffles, all you gots to do is stir in some baking soda (that’s been mixed with a couple tablespoons of flour to help the soda disperse more serenely in the thick batter) and some beaten eggs and—(I was beginning to lose hope that I’d ever get to the end!)—make your waffles.

    Which is what my husband is doing at this very moment, bless his heart. Sunday evening waffles, here I come!

    Sourdough Waffles
    Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

    Butter lover that I am, I actually cut back on the amount of butter. Nancy calls for a half cup, but I make it more like a third and find them to still be plenty rich.

    I use part whole wheat—during the fermentation process it softens so much that you can’t even tell it’s part whole grain.

    ½ cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (see head note)
    1 cup milk
    1 cup starter
    1 ½ cups flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    2 eggs, well beaten
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 2 tablespoons flour

    Roughly 12 hours before Waffle Time!:
    Mix together the first 6 ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 8-14 hours.

    Waffle Time!:
    Sprinkle the baking soda-flour mixture over the bubbling dough and whisk briefly. Whisk in the beaten eggs. Make the waffles. Serve with berries, whipped cream, butter, and syrup.

    Amen, and amen.

    (I’m submitting this post to yeastspottings.)

    This same time, years previous: strawberry shortcake (the fancy kind)