• the quotidian (4.30.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
     everyday; ordinary; commonplace


    Masking tape and brown bag shoes: they’re all the rage, didn’t you know?

    Dressed up and nowhere to go…except to the front yard to dance for the passing cars.

    Goat cheese, asparagus, red onion, and bacon pizza: I was the only one who liked it.

    An ice cream sandwich experiment: I am unimpressed.
    (The cookie part isn’t soft enough—actually, it isn’t soft at all, boo hiss.)

    In preparation for the family reunion this weekend:
    40 jumbo jalapenos, 2-3 pounds of cream cheese, and 2½ pounds of bacon.
    (I’m hoping for leftovers.)

    Peanut butter cookies: it’s tech week for the older kids’ theater production 
    and I’m in charge of one of the cast suppers.
    (The reunion and play are both this weekend—I’ll consider the week a success 
    if my head doesn’t fly off my shoulders.)

    Trying to get some respect…

    …and getting put in his place, ouch.

    Stripping down the table for a redo (five years late, but that’s beside the point).

    He got sick of the messy craft table and now I have a new shelf, hallelujah.

    Fact: trampolines aren’t just for jumping on.

    This same time, years previous: baked beans, shredded wheat bread, rhubarb jam

  • Sunday somethings

    1. Julie introduced me to PicMonkey.

    I’m a goner.

    2. Have you seen this mathemagician? My husband and I were slack-jawed. My children cheered. (I howled at his Rain Man impersonation. I really must see that movie again. Soon.)

    3. I forgot to alert you to my latest Kitchen Chronicles.

    Better Brownies

    If you prefer a lighter brownie, you can dial back the chocolate to 2 or 3 ounces.

    ½ cup butter
    4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    ½ cup flour

    Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Off heat,
    stir in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Gently stir in the flour and salt.

    Pour the batter into a greased 8×8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25
    minutes. The brownies should look underbaked—still jiggly in the middle
    and only just beginning to pull away from the sides. A toothpick
    inserted in the center should come out wet. (If it comes out clean,
    you’ve gone too far and your brownies will be dry and crumbly.)

    Delicious served slightly warm, with a scoop of coffee ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

  • mousy mayhem

    I was sitting on the living room sofa, happily absorbed in some good writing time, when my children materialized in front of me, bearing wriggling, squirming, breathing mice.

    I hit the roof.


    They slunk outside. I followed, equal parts curious, disturbed, and grossed out.

    The dog discovered the nest, they said, and then they saved the mama and her babies from the dog. They had her in a bucket. She was wild-eyed and slightly chewed on, her babies still nursing away.

    “Take her down in the field and feed her to the dog,” I ordered.

    “But we want to take care of the babies, Mama!” the girls pleaded. The younger one was sobbing wildly.

    The kids took the bucket of babies and the mother out in the yard and held a conference. Then my older daughter took them out in the field. Relieved, I returned to my couch.

    But all too soon, my daughter was back. With a handful of babies. “Please, Mama? Can we feed them?”

    The mother was dead, but my younger son kept carting her around, refusing to chuck her. “Her babies need her milk!” he wailed.

    Now I had three crying children. The idea of nursing babies and a dead mother—it was just too much for them. Especially for my littlest one who still remembers the safety and warmth of his breastfeeding days.

    “Fine,” I said. “Get that dead mouse out of here and then go get a box. Here’s a medicine dropper and a cup of milk.”

    And that’s how our house came to be a mouse NICU unit. The kids salvaged the nest (the mama had stored all sorts of seeds, they reported). They fought all day long over who would get to hold which mouse when…to the point that I threatened to flush them (the mice, not the kids) down the toilet.

    My daughter wanted to do research on how to care for baby mice. “If they’re alive in the morning,” her father (who was even more grossed out than I was) and I said. “And no, you may not get up to feed them in the middle of the night, either.”

    They were alive in the morning, so, with my daughter breathing down my neck, I typed in “how to care for orphaned baby mice.” I read about formulas and sugar water solutions, stimulating the genitals so they could pee and poop, the signs of pneumonia, feeding methods, etc. She weighed the mice and calculated the amount of food they would each need.

    Three days out and the mice are still alive, though I think they’re weakening.

    Considering my children’s fixation on raising these helpless baby rodents to adulthood, what happened Friday morning might strike some people as a tad bit ironic.

    1. I saw a mouse streak across the back hall:
    2. I screamed and yelled.
    3. The kids all picked up shoes and ran to my rescue.
    4. The children tore about the back hall in a frantic search for the scrabbling mouse.
    5. They children threw shoes at the mouse and missed.
    6. The mouse jumped into an empty backpack that my younger son was holding.
    7. My son picked the bag up and shook it.
    8. The mouse jumped out and ran straight for my feet (my shoe missed) and under the washing machine.
    9. The mouse ran behind the toilet.
    10. Et cetera. 

    And on and on and on until the mouse ran out to the kitchen (and straight for my feet again, eeek!) and I chucked a shoe and maybe missed and the mouse ran/limped/stumbled under the stove. Where my husband found it, dead, that evening. So apparently I have better aim than I thought. Or maybe it was the backpack jitterbug that did it in. We’ll never know.

    So my children tenderly care for baby rodents and hurl shoes at the grown ones.

    No one said life has to make sense, right?

    This same time, years previous: roasted carrot and red lentil soup, creamed asparagus on toast, together

  • beware the bed sheets

    Two days ago, a bird fell down the chimney of our wood stove. At first, it stayed in the chimney (which was a good choice, seeing as the stove was still hot from the morning’s fire), but by evening the bird had moved into the stove part and was scratching around all panicky and desperate. It gave me the willies.

    I’m glad the bird didn’t get caught in the fly tape.

    So yesterday morning, once the kids were up and breakfasted, I closed all the blinds, put blankets up at the windows that had no blinds, and opened the doors wide. The girls stood on the stairs with a blanket in front of them to keep the bird from flying up yonder, my younger son and I stood out on the porch, and my older son opened the stove door.

    The dumb bird flew straight into the bright, lace-covered windows. The kids promptly abandoned their posts and ran to the curtain-swinging, wing-flopping bird. I yelled at them to get back to their places, but my younger boy positioned himself right smack in the middle of the doorway so he could see better, so of course the bird crashed straight into him on his way out. The poor boy (who didn’t listen to me so I wasn’t really all that sorry for him) (except I was totally sorry for him because flapping birds are terrifying) was moderately traumatized and cried quite loudly for a couple minutes. Then we shut the doors, folded up the blankets, opened the blinds, and went about our ordinary day.

    Except I didn’t. Because I went outside to hang a sheet over the clothesline and my shoulder/back/neck seized up, so I spent the rest of the day propped up in bed watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy interspersed with TED lectures.

    As far as I can tell, it’s the very same affliction that I got when I was vacationing at my aunt’s house two years ago. I do not know why it happens or if there is anything I could do to prevent it. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be smoted? First there were the warts and now I get zapped? If I were a superstitious person, I’d be knocking on wood and shaking salt over everything.

    Instead, I just cried tears of self-pity and pain, rotted my brain out with stupid shows, and took so many painkillers that I could barely carry my end of a phone conversation with my mom.

    And then I slept really good and woke up somewhat improved. I still walk around like my spine is tied to a pole, and the weight of my heavy head on my achy neck completely wipes me out, but I’m at least doing things like making tortillas and putting kids on time out and organizing the bathroom cupboard (and delivering some pretty powerful lectures on lying and trust-worthiness and responsibility to my four darling children who took advantage of their mother’s smitedness to live the high life). But no hanging up laundry for me, for sure.

    And maybe forever.

    my view from the sofa: obedient, hard-working children … at least for a little while

    This same time, years previous: drama trauma, the perils of homemade chicken broth, sticking my neck out, the Monday rambles, shoofly pie

  • cauliflower potato soup

    Our internet went out this weekend. There was a lot of rain and a little lightening, and boom, the towers that connect me to you went down.

    It wasn’t too bad, actually. We still had electricity, and that’s what really counts. Besides, the message on our internet company’s answering machine said I would be able to resume my addictive habits by Monday afternoon at the latest. That took the sting out of the loss. With an appointed end time to my forced internet abstinence, I was no longer in purgatory.

    Still, I took my laptop to church on Sunday, and after the service I sat out in the parking lot to see if there was any accessible wireless waves floating around in the air. There weren’t. On our way out of town, I kept the laptop on my knees so I could see my options. When a new server popped up with the name “getyourowndamnwifi,” I laughed till my eyes watered.

    We ended up pulling into a bagel shop parking lot just long enough for me to check mail. I felt subversive, huddled in the front seat of our van full of hungry kids, the windshield wipers flapping back and forth in the pouring rain. Ten minutes of internet were all I needed, and it was all I got.

    It was rainy again yesterday (there was even some snow!), so I made soup for supper. One of Ree’s latest recipes was floating around in my subconscious, and I had a bag of red potatoes on the counter and a freezer full of frozen cauliflower (and no great ideas about how to get my kids to love it), so a giant pot of potato cauliflower soup felt positively providential. Plus, the internet was back up so I was able to actually find the recipe so I could cook it.

    Ree’s recipe looked ridiculously rich (no surprise there). I figured I’d tweak it as I went along. But you know what? Even though I changed the proportions, added potatoes, and fiddled with the method, I didn’t cut back on the half-and-half, butter, or sour cream at all. The soup needed that richness—who wants a watery cauliflower soup?—and the sour cream gave the soup a marvelous punchy kick.

    Cauliflower Potato Soup
    Adapted from Ree’s blog Pioneer Woman Cooks

    The soup was a bit brothy. Next time, I’ll cut back on the liquid and/or increase the vegetables. I wrote out the recipe to take into account those changes.

    2 onions, diced
    4 stalks of celery, diced
    1 pound carrots, chopped or in slices
    2 pounds frozen cauliflower chunks (or two fresh heads, chopped)
    4-8 cups potato, small cubes
    1 stick butter, divided
    6-8 tablespoons flour
    2 cups milk
    1 cup half-and-half
    6-8 cups chicken broth
    1 tablespoon parsley
    3-4 teaspoons salt
    ½ teaspoon black pepper
    1 cup sour cream

    Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large stockpot and add the celery and onions. Saute until tender—about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the carrots, cauliflower, and potatoes, and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes.

    While the vegetables are cooking, make the white sauce. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in another pan and whisk in the flour. Whisk in the milk and bring to a gentle boil, stirring steadily. Off heat, whisk in the half-and-half. Set aside.

    Increase the heat under the vegetables to medium high and add the broth. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add the white sauce and seasonings.

    Measure the sour cream into a mixing bowl. Add a scoop of hot soup and whisk to combine. Add several more scoops and stir until smooth. Pour the sour cream-rich soup back into the pot. Taste to correct seasonings.

    This same time, years previous: me and you, and the radishes (but it’s actually on blogging, and I still agree 100 percent with what I said back then—in other words, I still struggle)

  • the quotidian (4.23.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace 

    trampoline highs

    granola: she takes mise en place to a whole new level

    for all you non sourdough starter bakers: a new kind of bread I’m working on

    an after-dinner snooze: he woke up when I went to get my camera.
    “Go back to sleep,” I said. “I need to take a picture.”
    So he did.

    after watching Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: pretending to be Hermione, the Queen of Sicilia

    longing for her own pair of black boots: I promised her I’ll be on the look-out

    cousin love

    all. over. the. place.

    eating our hearts out
    (which sounds pretty gory, now that I come to think of it)

    in the grape arbor with Charles Schultz

    now the day is over: one of my favorite songs (mute the stupid ad)

    This same time, years previous: my lot, rhubarb crunch, bacon-wrapped jalapenos, honey-baked chicken

  • therapy

    My well of creativity has run dry. All week long I’ve had nothing to say, and I still don’t. I don’t even really feel like blog-chatting.

    I mean, I want to chat, but I have no idea about what.

    I get this way about life in general, in which case it’s called “boredom.” When General Apathy takes over (usually every day around 3 pm), I kick start myself by calling up a friend and asking what she’s making for supper, what gossip she knows (yes, I’m naughty), and whether or not she’s had any profound thoughts as of late.

    If I’m lucky, she’s in a rambly mood and soon I’m puttsing around the house emptying the dish drainer, cleaning off the table clutter, maybe even setting a pot of rice to cook, all the while the phone smashed between my shoulder and ear. By the time I hit the “end” button, I’m smiling, my brain is jumping with ideas, and I have a renewed energy to do what needs to be done.

    When I get in a funk, bloggy-wise, I don’t call anyone. I stew and mope and feel bad about myself in general.

    About a week ago, Joy did a post on Ten (Super Rad) Blog Post Ideas. She had a lot of good suggestions, like to do a how-to post, or a day-in-the-life post, or a best-of post, but I can’t (don’t, won’t) just pull that stuff out of my hat. Which brings me to the next point.

    I am incapable of coming up with those extremely popular top ten lists. I struggle to generate basic metaphors or lists of three, you know, where you say the dude at the checkout counter was pimply, greasy-haired, and, and, and—oh crap, I don’t know what.

    So anyway, I deal with this running-on-empty state of being by doing one of two things: a) nothing, which is deeply unsatisfying and makes me feel like I’m turning into a soggy lump of moldy bread, and b) disciplining myself to type words dagnabbit, itdoesnotmatterwhatwordstheyare. But that feels egocentric and myopic and narcissistic—all those words that are kind of bad but I’m not exactly sure what they mean but I’m probably being them, you know?—because who the heck wants to read a self-discipline session? Exactly.

    The bigger issue, the thing that drains me and pulls me down, is that I wish I could spin long, heartfelt, humorous, profound posts like some amazingly gifted people. It’s not going to happen, though, because I don’t have all those weighty thoughts and because it takes all my mental powers and then some to come up with the 600 concise and meaningful words about eggs (or something equally ordinary) that’s due every other week for the paper. I can only do so much.

    Yesterday on my way to an appointment to keep me from turning into a wooly mammoth (otherwise known as a haircut), I tuned into NPR just in time to year the end of a talk show in which they were discussing writerly matters. It was kind of hard to hear what they were saying because our van is missing its antenna, but I did make out the guest’s main point which was: don’t worry about being, or not being, like other people—get to know your own voice and develop your own style. Which is kind of scary because what if my voice is irrelevant, or really hoarse, or worse yet, annoyingly shrill?

    In spite of my scary panic thoughts, I found his advice to be both soothing and freeing. I am what I am and that’s that. (Brilliant, I know.) I’ll just go on wiping up the sticky spots on the floor and calling my girlfriends and making myself type words when I don’t feel like it.

    Happy Friday, dearies!

    This same time, years previous: ground pork and white bean chili, chocolate ice cream, baked spaghetti, chocolate mayonnaise cake, a dirt pile

  • picking us up

    A couple nights ago my older son, husband, and I were goofing around in the kitchen, and my son, who is all pumped up about how strong he’s getting, was begging us to let him pick us up, so I said, Sure, Sonny, show me your stuff, and he promptly scooped my up in his arms and walked around the kitchen. And then he did the same to my husband.

    When your child is finally big enough to pick you up easily and carry you around, paradigms wobble.

    I wanted some pictures of our resident Popeye, so last night I told my son to come outside with me. “Show me your muscles,” I said. He happily obliged.

    “Go get Papa,” I said. “I want to get some pictures, but don’t tell him that. Once he’s out here, pick him up.”

    this photo screams Napoleon Dynamite, don’t you think?

    My husband was his usual reticent self.

    So my son gave up on the muscle-flaunting part and jumped right into the lift-him-off-his-feet part.

    And then he picked me up, mama mia!

    The end.

  • and then he shot me through the heart

    This, O World, is my little boy. Blue eyes, jutting chin, scratched up and bleeding. He’s tough as nails and cuddly as a kitten.

    Some people have wondered out loud to me if he ever stops smiling. The answer is yes, of course, but it’s true he’s a sunny child, eager to please and quick to forgive.

    He’s lavish with his love, too. “Mama,” he said one day, “Can you shoot me through the heart with a bow and arrow?”

    “Why?” I asked.

    “So I can be in love with you.”

    Other things about him:

    *Math is his passion. He thuds down the stairs in the morning, snuffly-nosed and rosy-cheeked from a hearty night of sleep, his comforter wrapped around his shoulders, and announces, “I’m ready for my math lesson!” He delights in puzzling over numbers and patterns. He keeps track of what chapter we’re on in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and he makes sure I say the actual number before I launch into the story.

    *Spiders make him scream. It’s not just an excited, oh-no-there’s-a-spider scream, but a true blue cry of pure terror and panic.

    *When we went to the post office and the postmistress forgot to offer the kids a lollipop (and I didn’t let them remind her), he sobbed for a good three minutes. Anguished, he was.

    *For a little while there, he took up swearing. He was actually pretty good at it, but let me tell you, there’s nothing quite as disconcerting as hearing a little six-year-old chirrup, “What the hell!” He practiced his new phrase at a friend’s house (twice) until the mother sternly explained to him, In our house we don’t talk like that. (Rest assured, we’ve worked with him on appropriate language. He’s no longer, I hope, a bad influence on his peers.)

    *The best way to keep him from flailing about during the church service is to rub his back. He hikes his shirt up to his chest and throws his body across my lap, and I run my fingers up and down his back and serenely listen to the service. Or I would get to listen to the service if he didn’t interrupt me every ten seconds to tell me to scratch harder, or to scratch harder with one finger, or to scratch harder with one finger on his left hip bone. It can get tricky. And it gets even trickier when he asks me to rub his scalp, because instead of asking me to rub his scalp, he stage whispers, “Pretend to look for lice in my hair.” It’s kind of hard to look serene and holy when you’re pretend-picking lice out of your kid’s hair.

    *He has two speeds: fast and really fast. At the zoo, he never walked from exhibit to exhibit—he ran. Immediately after getting his IV out (after his surgery) and receiving a lecture on Taking It Easy, he sprinted to the bathroom. In bed at night after a full day of life, he flops about vigorously until a switch gets flipped, and BAM, he’s sound asleep.

    This same time, years previous: mint wedding cakebanana cake with creamy peanut butter frosting

  • the quotidian (4.16.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace 

    After snapping a few pictures, I nipped this creative endeavor in the bud. 
    The children were not happy with me.

    The girls like to pretend this is their horse. And the horse doesn’t seem to mind—she’s always eager to meet up with them for a free grooming session and complimentary bucket of water.

    We’re hosting our family reunion again (!) and my husband is on a rampage. I love it.

    Wikki Stix: can you see the person filling a bucket of water at the stream? The apple tree?
    The picnic table in the background?

    Dear Bon Appetit,
    I have issues with you. Those sticky buns on the front cover? They were not good. I like my sticky buns to taste like sticky buns, not sticky, honey cake. And three sticks of butter for and an 8 x 8 pan worth of buns? Are you kidding me? Even I, butter queen extraordinaire, find that to be excessive. And speaking of the 8 x 8 pan—I put my buns in a larger pan and they still bubbled over. What do you guys do in those fancy test kitchens of yours anyway?
    A picky sticky bun eater

    One farmer’s excess is another (non) farmer’s boon: a bushel of delicious, sweet spinach blanched and in my freezer. Green smoothies, here we come!

    Water, sun, and a new (used) trampoline! Now the kids can bounce around to their heart’s content.

    Sleeping with the orange his grandmommy brought him: he was too sick to eat it, poor kid.

    PS. Have you seen this talk by John Cleese on creativity? I’ve watched it twice now. He perfectly articulates how I experience the writing process (though he wasn’t specifically speaking about writing).

    This same time, years previous: wild hair, cereal worship, and other sundry tales, flour tortillas, chocolate-covered peanut butter eggs, the value (or not) of the workbook, asparagus-walnut salad, asparagus with lemony crème fraîche and boiled egg