• welcome home to the circus

    For my birthday, my husband got me a bottle of wine. Welcome home to the circus, he wrote on the card.

    “I  picked it out because of the label,” he said. (Which I happen to think is a totally legitimate wine-shopping technique.)

    Later I had the kids pose with the wine.

    What a bunch of punks.

    Speaking of punks, while I was away, the older two dressed up in black and had my younger son take pictures.

    Apparently, after my son picked up his new, mostly all-black uniform from the city rescue squad (he now holds memberships in two squads), they got inspired.

    My little twits, acting all tough. It totally cracked me up.

    Back to the birthday.

    The house was scrubbed clean (at my very specific and much-repeated request), and the kids gave me enough candy and chocolate to keep me going for a long time. My older daughter presented me with a mammoth box of Eggo waffles because Stranger Things. (I made her watch the first episode because I am an evil mother who delights in scaring her children.* She loved it. She also spent the night on our floor.)

    The kids had never eaten Eggos and were intrigued. My older daughter calls them “Eggles” and likes catching them when they pop out of the toaster.

    My younger daughter made me a cheesecake.

    It  was perfect: creamy, smooth, and utterly delicious.

    *I only scare the
    children who enjoy being scared. Promise.
  • the soirée of 2016

    This last weekend, my aunt held her annual soirée. Just like the other soirées, this one was delectable, relaxing, rejuvenating, and entertaining.

    There were only three meals, but we spent about eight hours eating, or at least lingering around the table.

    Lunch lasted nearly four hours: appetizers and mojitos, roasted red pepper soup, a crazy-fabulous salad that included fresh fennel, fava beans, and roasted grapes, brisket, potatoes in cream, parsley and red onion salad, ice cream sandwiches, wine, and coffee. And then, several hours later, we went to a fancy restaurant where we sat on the deck overlooking the river and feasted some more. I’m not even going to try listing the food because we ate everything. (I’m surprised they didn’t think we were undercover food critics.)

    The next morning we breakfasted on the porch. A cheese plate (or two) was involved, plus fresh breads and scones. Fruit salad. Granola. Even a platter of mini cupcakes to celebrate my birthday.

    Can you guess Baby Boy’s middle name? Hint: note the box.

    In between the eating, we went bowling and stayed up way late talk-talk-talking. Auntie gifted us cute jars of homemade lemon sugar scrub and gold bracelets, oo-la-la. (And we gave her a few little things, too.)

    And then, just like that, the weekend was over. We rolled home over the mountains, stuffed to the gills and so relaxed we could barely keep our eyes open (speaking for myself, that is).

    The end!

    This same time, years previous: getting shod, the quotidian (9.29.14), pointless and chatty, 37, the skirt, ciabatta, stream of consciousness, and beef with black pepper and red wine.

  • the quotidian (9.26.16)

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

    Apple pears: a taste-testing splurge.

    Hot buttered rolls: we devoured 40 in less than 24 hours.
    Tomatoes in cream sauce, chopped and with basil, for over pasta.


    Calling a friend to report on her folly.
    (She tried to ride a sheep and sprained her arm.)

    Papa braids.
    The hub.


    Rain, finally.

    “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

    This same time, years previous: better than cake, home cut, test your movies!, the run around, the quotidian (9.24.12), thousand island slaw with roast chicken, hurdle-free molten brownie cakes, a jiggle on the wild side, and roasted butternut squash salad.

  • a day in the life

    Recently, I commented to a friend in an email that I’m often plagued by boredom. He responded, “From all the things you talk about on your blog, how do you ever have TIME to get bored?”

    His comment reminded me that it’s high time I do another day-in-the-life post! I did one a few years back, when the kids were ages 6, 8, 11, and 12. Now the kids are four years older and my days look a little different: less home-centric and with more freedom and independence for everyone, me included.

    My day’s activities involve detailed accounts of what everyone else is doing because much of what I do is monitor people. Even so, on this particular day (as on most days), I still had extended periods of boredom. See if you can figure out when they were.

    * * *

    Thursday, September 15, 2016 

    5:15 My husband’s alarm goes off. I try to go back to sleep but only doze.

    5:37 My husband wakes me. We have to leave for our run in 8 minutes (he woke me late), so I rush to dress and brush my teeth. My younger daughter appears in the bathroom. I tell her to go back to bed even though I know she probably won’t fall back asleep.

    5:46 We leave on our run. The skies are cloudy so it’s pitch black. We meet up with my sister-in-law. We can see her flashing red light, but since we cut our flashlights, she can’t see us. She says it’s eerie, hearing our disembodied voices and slapping feet gradually approaching. We do a four-mile loop. When we arrive home, the sky is just beginning to lighten.

    6:31 I heat water for oatmeal and ice the sweet rolls I dug out of the freezer. My younger daughter comes downstairs, followed by her sister. My older daughter fusses because the oatmeal isn’t ready and she’ll have to do chores on an empty stomach. I make my coffee.

    6:50 Melissa is up. My older daughter finally heads out to do chores. Due to his time crunch, my husband is exempt from waiting for the oatmeal and gets to eat his beloved granola, this morning with blueberries. I empty the drainer. My younger daughter goes out to feed the cats.

    7:00 I wake my older son on my way to the bathroom for my shower. My husband leaves, taking our older daughter with him. He’ll drop her off at the farm on his way to work. (She takes half of a mini-loaf of zucchini bread to tide her over.)

    7:25 On my way downstairs, I stop by my older son’s room. He is still asleep. I wake him again.

    7:40 While my older son eats. I finish emptying the drainer and pull his lunch—frozen pizza, fruit salad, zucchini bread—together. I check email.

    7:50 I drive to the farm to pick up my older daughter. My younger daughter goes along for the ride.

    8:00 I return home. My younger son is eating breakfast. My older son leaves for work, taking Melissa with him (to drop her off at the university where she works).

    8:05 My older daughter, younger son, and I eat breakfast. I make a to-do list for the day, clean up the kitchen, start a load of laundry, do my morning ablutions, check email. The younger two play cards.

    8:32 I set up my younger son’s dishes for him. I do math with my younger daughter.

    8:55 I read a chapter of history to the three children and then Life of Pi to my older daughter. (My younger son listens, too).

    9:26 I set my younger daughter up at the computer to practice her choir music. My older daughter works on her math problems by herself. My younger son does math with me.

    9:40 I call the pharmacy to order a prescription refill and then the doctor office to schedule an appointment for my older son. He has cold sores all over the inside of his mouth and has requested to see a doctor.

    9:44 I check my younger son’s math. He’s having so much fun with long division that he creates extra problems just for the heck of it. He goes outside to hang up a load of laundry. I help my older daughter with her math. 

    9:56 My younger son takes his turn at the computer for his choir music practice. I’m cold, so I make a cup of tea: vanilla rooibos. Because my throat is a little scratchy and my nose is sniffly, I take a Tylenol, too.

    10:15: The doctor’s office calls back and we set an appointment for the next day. I start a double batch of hot buttered rolls.

    10:30 I check my older daughter’s math. She didn’t read my instructions to do only the odd problems and did all of them instead, so it takes me longer than anticipated to check her work. My younger daughter empties the dish drainer. My younger son settles down to do his reading: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.

    10:46 I start my older daughter on her writing and knead the bread.

    11:00 My younger daughter plays a card game by herself, my younger son goes to his room to read, and my older daughter does her writing and hangs up a load of laundry. I set the timer for 45 minutes and head to my room to write.

    11:45 My younger daughter yells that my timer went off. When I come downstairs, she’s listening to the soundtrack from Outside Mullingar and drinking tea. It’s time for lunch. I have ramen with an egg. My younger son has ramen (he tries to drain some of the liquid and dumps a bunch of the noodles into the sink). My younger daughter has a leftover baked potato. My older daughter has a cup of noodles. We have leftover fruit salad and apples.

    12:30 Rest time! I make coffee. The younger kids go to their rooms, but my older daughter goes outside to collect eggs and comes back in with a half-dead bird she found in the calves’ water tank. She puts it in a little cage and we set it in the partially-opened oven to warm. She breaks my sugar bowl lid, so then she has to vacuum the floor. I write a post. My older daughter stays downstairs to keep an eye on the bird while she does her biology.

    1:30 My younger daughter gets the mail. I finish my post. My older daughter makes a nest for the bird. I eat some chocolate. Using the computer, my older daughter tries to figure out what kind of bird it is. (It’s eating!)

    2:00 My older daughter starts the dishes. I make a batch of peanut butter fudge.

    2:15 Everyone is in the kitchen. I begin shaping the rolls; my younger son helps. My older daughter is washing dishes. We listen to the radio.

    2:50 I brush the tops of the buns with an egg wash, sprinkle them with sesame seeds, and set them to rise. The dishes are washed. My younger son lays by the bird, watching it. I start chopping potatoes for the oven fries.

    3:00 My older son drives in. We listen to Freakonomics. My older daughter researches horse stuff on the computer. My younger daughter plays Set by herself. My younger son sits at the kitchen table and listens to the radio while idly stirring the bowl of flour and Parmesan cheese I have pre-measured for the fries. I bake the rolls. My older daughter empties the drainer. I vacuum. I research how to make tartar sauce and then make it. My younger daughter looks at photos on the computer. My younger son reads children’s books. I trim the fern in the kitchen, vacuum some more, snitch lots of fudge, and divide one buttered roll four ways, for tastes.

    4:00 I bake the potatoes. There are four pans, so there’s a lot of flipping of potatoes and rotating of pans. My older daughter brings in the laundry. My younger daughter cleans off the table. My younger son straightens the downstairs. My older son practices his choir music.

    4:45 The three younger kids and I eat supper. It’s a blond meal: oven fries and fish sandwiches. The kids don’t like the breaded fish fillets (an emptying-my-freezer gift from a friend who was moving) in the buns, but they love them plain.

    5:00 I leave for town, taking the two girls with me.

    5:05 I drop my older daughter at the farm for chores.

    5:15 I arrive at school to pick up Melissa. She’s not outside waiting for us, so I go inside to search for her. While I’m looking, she appears at the car. We race to the dance studio.

    5:30 I drop my younger daughter off at ballet.

    5:50 Back home. My older son hasn’t yet left for town like he was supposed to (a schedule misunderstanding), so he tears off to pick up my older daughter from the farm and then drop her at youth group in town before heading to his play rehearsal. (On his way into town, he was supposed to also drop my younger son off at my parents’ house, but there wasn’t time, so my younger son stayed behind to wait for a later ride.)

    6:00 Melissa eats supper. My husband showers. I discover a bunch of junk food on the table—the homeowners bought lunch for the workers and my husband got to bring the leftovers home.

    6:15 My husband leaves to drop my younger son at my parents’ house (he’s spending the night there) before running to town to go to the store and to pick up my younger daughter from ballet. I visit with Melissa. She washes the dishes and I vacuum (for the third time?).

    6:40 I read emails.

    6:50 I lay down on the sofa to read Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry.

    7:24 My husband is back home. He sits down beside me on the sofa and we visit. My younger daughter gets her shower and calls a friend to chat.

    8:00 My younger daughter joins my husband and me in the living room.

    8:08 I fix small cups of ice cream. Melissa joins us. Conversations covered: Mother Teresa, foot arches, family trips, number of cousins, etc.

    8:42 My older daughter calls and my husband leaves to pick her up from the youth pastor’s house. I read Facebook and blogs.

    9:05 My older daughter is home. In the kitchen, she munches on cookies and tells us about her evening before I shoo her (and her younger siblings) to bed, ordering her to take her bird with her. My husband and I try to watch Comedy Central, but the connection is bad so I give up.

    9:40 I turn off the computer, brush teeth, shower, and climb into bed.

    9:55 My older son calls to say he’s on his way.

    9:59 Lights out.

    10:09 My older son pulls into driveway.

    Postscript: My husband can’t sleep. After two hours, he goes downstairs and watches Lost until 4 in the morning when he finally falls asleep on the couch. I don’t know any of this until 7:15 the next morning when I wake up and find my younger daughter in bed with me. I hurry downstairs to wake my husband because he needs to take my younger daughter to my parents’ (I have a writing morning planned) and Melissa to work. The older two kids sleep on….

    This same time, years previous:
    the quotidian (9.21.15), the big bad wolf and our children, baking with teachers, cinnamon sugar breadsticks, candid camera, when the relatives came, painting my belly, cornmeal whole wheat waffles, and vacationing till it hurts.

  • black bean and veggie salad

    I’ve been meaning to tell you about this bean and veggie salad for a couple weeks now. A friend posted a link to the recipe on Facebook with the words, “PSA for all the gardeners who have more cucumbers than they know what to do with: This is delicious!”

    I didn’t have too many cucumbers—I didn’t plant any this year—but I did have all the ingredients on hand, including the tail end of an ancient jar of orange marmalade.

    It’s a super simple salad to pull together: tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, black beans, onions, and then the dressing. Actually, it’s less of a salad and more of a southwestern relish. The second time I made it, I doubled the recipe and made piles of cheesy tortilla chips to serve alongside. That’s all we had for supper that night, not counting the ice cream cones we had later (I think).

    Black Bean and Veggie Salad
    Adapted from Allrecipes.

    Suggestions: increase the heat with a minced jalapeno, stir in some chunks of grilled chicken or sausage, add cooked quinoa, feta, fresh cilantro or parsley, green peppers, etc. Leftovers make great lunches, so start with a double batch.

    Tip: The juicier the tomato, the soupier the salad. If you want the salad to have less liquid, de-seed your tomatoes or use paste tomatoes. (Or—this just occurred to me—what if you added some salsa and omitted the tomatoes all together? Just an idea…)

    1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
    1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
    1 cup each chopped tomatoes and corn
    1/3 cup red (or regular) onion, minced
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    4 teaspoons orange marmalade
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 teaspoon honey
    ½ ample teaspoon ground cumin
    dash of hot pepper flakes
    salt and black pepper

    Mix together the beans and veggies. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, marmalade, lemon juice, honey, cumin, salt, pepper, and hot pepper. Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss well. Taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

    This same time, years previous: nectarine bourbon pie, in defense of battered kitchen utensils, the quotidian (9.16.13), making my children jump, goodbye summer, hello fall, a new day dawning, splat, and Greek pasta salad.

  • what they talked about

    Last weekend was another food-and-people packed event. I mean, not an event event, just a regular life event. It all started when I invited a couple friends over for dinner on Friday night. Then my girlfriend asked if I’d keep her three kids for the weekend. Then, when my younger daughter learned that two of her friends would be here for the entire weekend, she said, “That’s perfect, Mom! I can invite a couple other friends over and we can do a movie night! Please? Please?!”

    By then, I was like, Sure, whatever. It’s not like I’ll be doing anything else. Bring it on.

    I decided to make pizzas for supper. Four pizzas should be enough, I thought. My husband had a different opinion.

    “Four? Four?? Are you out of your mind? You make three for just our family. How many people is this for again?”

    “Thirteen. No, wait. Fourteen. I think?”

    “Nope. Four pizzas is not enough, Jen. Definitely not enough.”

    I ended up making six large pizzas. And before the meal even started, the kids whizzed through the chopped carrots, celery, and black olives that I’d set on the table, so when the official company arrived, I was in the middle of fixing up Relish Tray Take Two.

    It  also got decimated.

    After supper, the adults moved out to the deck to eat ice cream cones, catch a breeze, and admire my mad plant-potting skills while the kids started setting up for their videos.

    By  the time the adult company left, the kids were deep into their movies—the girls in the clubhouse, the little boys on the porch, and the big kids up in my older son’s room—and it was time to make six batches of popcorn, this is getting ridiculous

    The next morning after my run, I made a quadruple batch of farmer boy pancakes, half with blueberries.

    And as soon as that was done, I started on lunch: brown rice in the rice cooker (which makes awesome brown rice, by the way), grilled chicken, curried lentils, and steamed broccoli. In the afternoon I mixed up the wets and drys for Sunday morning’s sour cream and berry baked oatmeals (one with red raspberries and the other with blueberries), and we turned a bushel of ginger golds into sauce which meant I also had to make a gingerbread. I only made a single recipe. It was a rich cake and I thought the kids might turn up their noses what with all the fresh ginger and black pepper. But no. The cake was gone in five minutes. I stood at the table in the vacated kitchen, scraping the still-warm crumbs from the empty pan, shaking my head.

    Supper time rolled around and I could actually feel my soul shrivel.

    “I can’t do it,” I muttered. “I am physically incapable of cooking one more thing. We’re having cereal.”

    Granola, Life cereal, bananas, and milk—from the kids’ reactions you’d a thunk I handed them the stars.

    “We’ve never had cereal for supper!” the littlest boy chortled.

    “Then something is wrong with your mama,” I snapped. “She needs her head checked.”

    A couple days later when I was recounting the weekend’s cooking marathon to my friend, she laughed and said, “Yeah, my kids didn’t say a word about all that food. You know what they did talk about? The cereal for supper.”


    * * *

    PS. I wasn’t cooking to impress the kids.

    PPS. I enjoyed making all that food from scratch. It was cost effective, nutritious, and gratifying, shopping my shelves like that.

    PPPS. The guest children went wild over everything I made. Including the curried lentils.

    PPPPS. The friend said later that her children did talk about other food. Favorites mentioned: the basic homemade granola and the baked oatmeal.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.14.15), chile cobanero, curry ketchup and just-like-Heinz ketchup, whole wheat jammies, how to dry pears, lemon butter pasta with zucchini, coffee fix ice cream, and me and mine.

  • the quotidian (9.12.16)

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

    Sweet art.

    Cream-filled donuts: an experiment…

    …that still needs work.
    Sneaking tastes is more efficient if the ice cream is stored with the lid off and a spoon in the box.

    No  sugar added: ginger gold sauce.
    I spy a bookworm.


    I remember doing this when I was a kid.

    Researching how to make a windmill: his latest obsession.

    Fans are fun.

    Thistle extraction distraction.

    When I’m gone
    You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone….

    This same time, years previous: what writing a book is like, the good things that happen, 2012 garden stats and notes, blasted cake, the best parts, grilled salmon with lemon butter, and hot chocolate.

  • outside eating

    After two (three?) full weeks of over-the-top humidity and high temps, I was hanging on by a thread. Accuweather said that the thermometer would drop on a Thursday. For an entire week, I kept thinking about that Thursday.

    Waiting for it.

    Dreaming about it.

    The light at the end of the tunnel.

    And then Thursday arrived and the cold weather came. It was pure bliss, exhilarating and intoxicating, better than a coffee buzz. Better than ten coffee buzzes!

    A fresh box of cozy-makers. 

    I busted out the candles and sweat shirts and hot chocolate. I turned on my oven and baked up a storm. I went running and felt agreeable while doing so. I got hot showers and lotioned my legs and cackled with glee at frequent random moments. I even closed—closed!—some windows against the chill.

    “This!” I chortled to my husband. “This is why we don’t have air conditioning. There is no way I’d be so buzzed right now if I hadn’t been horribly miserable for so long. Makes it all worth while.” 


    All that to say the kids fought like wild cats for the last two weeks of that heat wave, but once the temps plummeted, their tempers cooled, their imaginations ignited, and they were off, coexisting peacefully while playing all sorts of outdoor pretend games, many of which involved cooking with fire.

    They roasted old, fresh corn in the coals. They experimented cooking a muffin tin filled with foraged garden bits. They slept out under the stars and made eggs and toast over the breakfast fire.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Francie in a post about outside eating. Girlfriend loves her some veggies. She knows how to hunt them down, too. Whenever she gets hungry, out to the corn patch she goes to pluck an entire stalk. I often look out the window to see her trotting across the yard, head held high, ear of corn in her mouth, the stalk dragging beside her in the grass.

    She eats whole tomatoes, too.

    And apples.

    Now, alas alack, the cool weather has regressed to its former hot and humid self and I’m back to my state of constant suffering.

    But! Accuweather predicts chilly temps starting this Sunday, whoo-hoo! It’s gonna be sah-weeet.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (9.7.15), calf wrangling, retreating, 2012 garden stats and notes, how to clean a room, fruit-on-the-bottom baked oatmeal, the big night, and fairy rings.

  • in my kitchen

    Fact: I’ve turned into a cooking machine.

    I mentioned my new mechanized status to a friend at church on Sunday. “You should see the piles of food we go through,” I said. “It’s crazy!”

    My friend leveled his eye at me. “You could have stopped with one, you know.”

    “Good one,” I said. “Way to shut me up.”

    Saturday noon, we had a crowd: our family, plus my nieces and nephew, a college student, and Melissa. At the stove, loading up plates with lentils and rice and green beans, I had to keep reaching for more dishes. Finally, I turned around to survey the room. “How many people are here anyway, huh?”

    I’m pretty much in my glory, cooking for all these people. I explained to one of my friends that I like the hubbub. It makes me feel necessary. She wrote back, “Hubbub makes me sink down and grope feebly for my smelling salts.” As they say, to each her own!

    Here’s a peek at my kitchen hubbub:

    I used a rice cooker (secondhand, gifted from a friend) for the first time in my life on September 1.
    Did you know that September is National Rice Month?
    And did you know that rice cookers are awesome
    I am deeply, profoundly, and irrevocably in love. 
    Consequently, we are eating a lot of rice.
    Waiting for the oven to empty: the wets and drys for a double batch of baked oatmeal
    PSA: ten pounds of pinto beans equals three-plus gallons of refried beans.

    The job that never ends.

    A fruit cobbler that didn’t impress. And I so badly wanted to be impressed, too.
    She cooks! I overeat! Life is good!

    Pepian: the final product, and then with a scoop of hot rice on top.

    Under construction: a chocolate peanut butter cake for potluck.

    Fuel for movie night: three-and-a-half cups of kernels. 
    (And nearly a dozen apples.)

    In  the night kitchen: hot toddy for one.

    What’s happening in your kitchen?

    This same time, years previous: roasted tomato and garlic pizza sauce, rainy day writing, almond cream pear tart, a quick rundown, and say cheese!.

  • the quotidian (9.5.16)

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

    Little heart throb.

    And to think: my floors used to constantly be covered with brightly colored plastic things.

    Under the grape arbor.

    Kitchen in the fort.
    Guitar lessons for one.

    I asked him what he was building, and he said, 
    “If you’re putting it on the internet, I’m not telling you.” 
    I guess we’ll never know.

    Making Papa bounce.

    The chaos at our house is enough to do a person in.

    Fire dreamer.

    Some dreams really do come true.

    Cool nights, dazzling skies.

    It’s intense: Stranger Things.

    From a couple weeks ago.

    This same time, years previous: in my kitchen: 5:25 p.m., the cousins came, the quotidian (9.2.13), the quotidian (9.3.12), roasted peaches, picture perfect, honey whole wheat cake, and blueberry coffee cake.