• eight fun things

    It’s Friday! So far today I’ve edited video, gone running, made phone calls, baked sourdough and potatoes, mixed up a batch of multigrain sourdough, showered, and made a cheese. Now I’m settled on the couch, my belly full of salad, chocolate, and coffee, ready to focus on some writing.

    I love that it’s Friday, but I can’t fully kick back since I have a middle of the night bake shift coming up tonight — well, tomorrow morning, really. Cranking out an insane amount of goodies will be fun once I’m in the night kitchen with the rest of the team, but right now all I’m doing is dreading the early morning wake-up and then the loooong day of tiredness that will follow. But I’m a tough cookie [she tells herself], and it’s gonna be just fine.

    ANYWAY. How about a few fun things to kick off the holiday weekend?

    ***

    I picked these up at Costco on a whim. Minty, crunchy, and chocolatey, they go down reeeal easy. 

    I call them “angel poop” because they taste of heaven and look like little poo pellets. 

    ***

    My husband and I plowed through the new TV series Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Actually, he started it without me and when I found out I hit the roof because fact: starting a new series without first checking with one’s partner is criminal.

    So then he stopped and gamely rewatched the first few episodes with me. Turns out, the fact that he’d already watched them was kinda nice because he was able to tell me when all the scary things were about to happen so I could cover my eyes, and because he’d already seen it, he didn’t get nearly as irritated with me when I kept asking him what was happening.

    ***

    One of my coworkers introduced me to Strands, the newest NY Times word puzzle. It’s way harder than Wordle, I think, and it often takes my husband and me working together a good 10-15 minutes to solve. We don’t do it every day, but weekends when we have more down time, we’ll do our games: first Strands, and then Wordle. There’s something so satisfying about focusing really hard on a puzzle and then solving it and ticking it off our list, like a little mental workout. Play it here!

    ***

    I finally got my first pair of bluetooth earbuds!

    These little pieces of tech magic fit over the ear but don’t go in it. I love this for two reasons. First, if I have ear buds in my ears for an extended time, my ears start to get a little sore, and second, I can still hear what’s going on around me. (If I were the sort of person who wore earbuds while running, these are exactly the kind I’d want so I could listen to my podcast while still being alert to passing vehicles.)

    I was hoping to use these earbuds for video editing, but even though I’ve paired them with my computer, there’s still a split-second lag that messes with all the cutting and splicing. Which is a bummer, but — and this is the best part — now I can listen to podcasts while sheeting out pastry!

    And I love that I can enrich myself while my hands are busy. Which leads to. . .

    ***

    Two podcasts!

    A. One of my girlfriends recommended Rob Lowe’s podcast Literally!. The first episode I listened to — an interview between him and Hillary Swank — was fun but nothing special. But then I listened to his interview with Nando Parrado, one of the rugby players that was in the plane that crashed in the Andes back in 1972. The story, which I’d never heard, was harrowing and incredible, but what fascinated me most was Nando himself: his world view, his perspectives, his attitude. That interview was phenomenal — a real gift. I can’t recommend it enough. (A new movie about the crash just came out last year. It’s on my to-watch list. . . once I can muster up the courage. It’s gonna be intense!)

    Update 3/31/34: We watched it last night for our family night movie. WOW. Harrowing story laced with profound beauty. Incredible production, excellent acting.

    B. I’m sure you’re all aware of Moth Radio Hour (and if you’re not, GET ON IT). I love the little glimpses into other people’s lives — their insights and humor and struggles. But this week I listened to the most devastating story: about a young mother who was wrongfully sentenced to death along with her husband. The losses Sunny Jacobs suffered are incomprehensible, and yet she spoke with such gentleness about both grief and grace, heartbreak and love, anguish and forgiveness that it was staggering. (Elements of her story reminded me of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book A Little Princess, my favorite favorite book when I was a child.)

    Do you have a favorite podcast? Do share!

    ***

    Have you guys met Bruce yet? 

    Our whole family is kinda in love.

    ***

    I discovered a new favorite ice cream: Turkey Hill’s Peanut Butter Ripple. I’m a huge fan of the chocolate peanut butter, so when my daughter brought home the vanilla version, I was miffed. The ice cream looked so generic and bland and stupid. But then I tasted it and the metaphorical lightbulb that forever dangles above my head lit right up. 

    This ice cream is — wait for it — the exact same as the chocolate peanut butter swirl but without the chocolate! Crazy, right? And it turns out that vanilla and peanut butter pair wonderfully, like a PB&J with a glass of ice-cold milk. I think I’ll have her pick me up another box today.

    ***

    A few nights ago, my husband and I watched Mean Girls.

    I’d never seen it (can you believe it?), and it was quite lovely — funny, warm, snappy. Like, a mashup of Napoleon Dynamite, Bottoms, and Clueless (which I’ve not seen). And now I get it when my kids say things like, “Stop saying fetch, Gretchen.”

    ***

    P.S. Feedly is no longer working for my blog, so if you want to be notified of posts, sign up to get them via email.

    This same time, years previous: redbud, celebrating seventy, the quotidian (3.29.21), milk bread, now that she’s back, for-real serious, teff pancakes with blueberries, absorbing the words, seven-minute egg, on being together: it’s different here somehow, the boy and the dishes.

  • the quotidian (3.25.24)

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

    Spring has arrived!

    Sprinkles.

    Meadtini.

    Blueberry lemon.

    That should get him going.

    Goose eggs.

    And the endless entertainment to go with.

    The proper way [says me] to eat Irish Soda bread: triple the butter, flaky salt, orange zest.

    Slurp.

    From her sister: a birthday egg apron.

    Cousin Kenton stayed an extra day: elevated conversation.

    Sundried.

    Coffee shop treat: when my three favorite daughters crash my writing spot.

    This same time, years previous: honey, the cheezer, the coronavirus diaries: week three, the quotidian (3.25.19), apricot couronne, more springtime babies, the pigpen, applied mathematics, of a moody Sunday, oatmeal toffee bars.

  • guild day birthday

    Friday morning, my husband and I both woke early. Too early, of course, but waking early is what one does when anticipating an untold amount of work in a short period of time with a whole host of helpers. (For more about the Carpenters Guild, go here.) Also! After we’d gone to bed the night before, my husband’s brother had arrived from upstate NY — one of my little birthday secrets — so I had to get up with my husband in order to make sure he didn’t accidentally wander into the guest room. 

    My husband banged around the kitchen, talking freely and loudly, obviously oblivious to the fact that his brother was sleeping a few feet away. I had to keep watching him every time he headed in the direction of the guest room, but he never tried to go in. But then the wind picked up and my husband ran outside to pick up sheets of plywood in the yard, and I soon followed to collect the laundry we’d left on the line overnight. My brother-in-law’s car was sitting right there in the yard. Maybe he won’t see it? I thought as I passed it on my way back to the house. We often don’t see what we don’t expect to see. 

    But no. A few minutes later, my husband strode into the kitchen and just stood there, looking at me. I smiled; he didn’t. Worried I’d pushed him over the edge, I hurried to explain. “It’s not the whole family,” I said. “It’s just Dan!” 

    “Are there anymore surprises?” he said, wiping his eyes. (Oh. He wasn’t mad, just emotional.) “You gotta tell me. I don’t think I can handle any more surprises.” 

    “No more surprises,” I promised. 

    Right at eight o’clock, the pickups started rolling in. Watching people arrive, my throat grew tight, and for the first couple hours I felt like I couldn’t breathe. All these people taking time out of their day to come help us, to celebrate my husband. Some of the people, I didn’t even know, and neither did my husband — I saw him introducing himself and shaking hands with some of the guys. 

    I didn’t get to watch them work for too long, though. There were doughnuts to make!

    From when we first started rolling them until we finished frying and glazing, it took exactly an hour and a half. My younger daughter helped the whole time, and when we got ahead of ourselves and struggled to keep up with the glazing, my older daughter joined us, and then my mom showed up and took over the coffee pots and dish washing — that woman washed dishes for the next five hours straight! (And we even used paper cups and plates, and I’d made all the food ahead of time, too!) 

    Partway through the frying, I freaked out that I’d forgotten the salt. I hadn’t, but I couldn’t shake the feeling, so I tossed some flaky salt in the glaze just to make myself feel a little better.

    At 10:30, we set out the doughnuts and coffee and hollered at everyone to come take a break. I went to find my husband. “You gonna make a speech?” I said. 

    He shook his head and croaked, “I can’t.” When he gets emotional, his voice stops working. 

    “You have to,” I said. 

    He said wanted to find a piece of wood that everyone could sign their name on, so I trailed him around the barn while he dug through the scraps. A piece found, I hollered for everyone to listen up, and, wouldn’t you know, he got the words out after all. He thanked everyone for coming, and he talked about how he’d started the barn fifteen years ago with an interest-free loan that one of our friends — a man who was there that day — had given him, and how now it was finally getting finished, thanks to the birthday gift, this event, I’d arranged. “Jennifer doesn’t do things in half measures,” he said. Both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks. 

    The coffee break over, I cleared away the doughnuts and popped the extras into the freezer. I didn’t want people to keep eating them and not be hungry for lunch, and besides: I was sick of doughnuts. (But then people kept asking if there were more doughnuts, so after lunch, I ended up pulling them back out of the freezer and setting them out again — and they all got eaten! I could not believe how much food that group put away.)

    People were everywhere: hauling loads of trash to the dump, stacking scraps of wood, digging out the trash behind the barn. My dad took the opportunity to bring over a load of firewood and volunteers stacked it in the woodshed. One guy fixed our broken deck railing. A few others installed two of the barn windows. Others bent the galvalume. A whole bunch of people ran up and down the roof, nailing down plywood and screwing on the roofing. 

    By lunch time, the first half of the roof was under cover.

    The lunch went fine, both the prepping and the serving, except…

    Number One: When I was heating up the sausage lentil soup in my big roaster out on the deck, I got a whiff of something foul. Was the soup bad? Was I gonna KILL everyone? I privately panicked for about ten minutes, when I got a whiff of stink again and recognized it as a dead animal smell, and then I recalled that I’d occasionally noticed that stench over the last week. An animal was decomposing somewhere in the valley. It wasn’t my soup. Whew.

    Number Two: I set out the bowl of whipped cream as a soup condiment instead of the bowl of sour cream. It wasn’t until my older son, who was the third or fourth person to go through the line, said, “This is sour cream? Are you sure? It’s really fluffy,” did I realize my mistake, ha! 

    Number Three: The day before, I’d had my older daughter pre-scoop all the ice cream into a bucket, with pieces of plastic wrap between the layers, so we could serve it easier. I was so proud about my brilliant party hack, but wouldn’t you know, the ice cream stuck to the plastic! The girls had to take the ice cream back to the kitchen and manually peel the plastic from the ice cream balls and, even so, people had to pick bits of plastic out of their teeth. (I’ve heard that the Amish always intentionally make a “mistake” in their quilts — a crooked patch, perhaps, or one weird color — in order to keep their pride in check, so for me, I guess it’s the plastic in the ice cream that keeps me humble.) 

    But hey, aside from those things, everything went just fine! When it came time for dessert, I stuck a candle in each of the pies and gave them to the kids to carry out, and we all sang Happy Birthday.

    video credit: my brother

    And then, the meal over, I took my coffee and a piece of grape pie (real dishes, no paper anything, for the cook!) out to the yard to visit with a friend while we watched the volunteers work. 

    At 4:30 exactly, my older son straightened up from where he’d been been bent over all day screwing down the galvalume and hollered, “The barn’s water tight!” By five o’clock everyone was gone, and at 5:08, it started raining (but only briefly). 

    After everyone left, we kinda sat around, stunned. What had just happened? It’d been so fast, so intense, so productive, my mind couldn’t quite catch up. 

    And the barn! We have a new whole freaking building on the property. It’s almost like a whole second house: big, real, solid, spacious. For some reason, I hadn’t understood what this building would be, and now here it was, plunked down in our driveway after all these years of waiting, like a fairy had just waved her magic wand over the spot.

    Or rather, like a bunch of ordinary wonderful people had just waved a bunch of hammers. These people had stepped away from their own busy lives to come help my husband with his project . . . because they enjoy working together. Because they are generous and kind. Because they like doughnuts and value community. Because they appreciate my husband and wanted to help celebrate him.

    Happy 50th Birthday, Sweetie. You are loved. 

    ***

    Like I said in the last post, many of the photo credits (I’m not even gonna try to figure out which ones) go to the children.

    This same time, years previous: truly wild, weekend watch #2, beef tamales, from my sister-in-law in Hong Kong: covid-19 at the two-month mark, almond cardamom tea cake, the solo, pop quiz: what did you eat for lunch?, the quotidian (3.21.16), a morning’s start.