Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm ... free?

It's our traditional back-to-school picture, taken in the morning before school. Except this time there are two little boys getting ready in the morning. And so this time we were running for the bus and therefore missed the opportunity for a photo in front of the front door, hair still damp and brushed, smiling faces, backpacks on. So we had to take a photo after school, amid loud protests and, somehow, in all of that complaining nobody remembered to put their shoes on. Dang it! Oh well, in 20 years no one will know that we faked the picture.

Anyway, now I'm a free-wheelin' Mom with time on my hands, sort of. I've actually been helping in Super Q's classroom every day because, well, I feel really bad for his teacher, who has about 10 certified banshees in her class. In the past 2 days I have retrieved a safety pin (open) from a child's mouth, caught a child perched on the top of a chair grabbing at something hanging from the ceiling, and walked the entire class to P.E. with only the faintest idea of where P.E. is held. So the sting of being alone all day hasn't really set in. I'm enjoying it so far, because after 4 hours of kindergarten madness, I'm about ready for my book and my Coke Zero.

Friday, August 22, 2008

back to school projects

This is a reusable plastic pouch about the size of a Ziploc sandwich bag. The material is fused shopping bags (tutorial here). It's kind of hard to see the stitching, but I just zigzagged around it. Once I make it to the store to buy sew-on Velcro, it'll be good to go! I'm going to make 3 more and use them for baby carrots, grapes, goldfish, etc. for lunches. I'm enough of a cheapskate and a sometime environmentalist that it just kills me to think of the money I'm spending each month on silly plastic bags. I fully expect to turn into my Nana one day, washing waxed paper and foil and saving it in little piles under the sink.

These are for my newest nephew. I found the animal silhouettes here.

And last are the fruits of our annual back-to-school freezer paper T-shirt party. This year we used the church cultural hall instead of my living room to reduce the chances of fabric paint on the carpet and/or a stressed-out me. We accomplished one of those goals.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I was tagged by pancakes gone awry, and it's a good thing because I wanted to post but could not think of anything interesting to say. We've been cooped up in the house because of the rain and, no, I did not use that opportunity to make anything crafty or redecorate anything. Quite the opposite... we've been watching movies and playing xbox like nobody's business. I also made about 10 billion meatballs using a recipe from Fix, Freeze, Feast. Anyway, on to the tag:

Here are the Rules:
1. Link the person who tagged you.

2. Mention the rules on your blog.

3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks you possess.

4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.

5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

I love that you can talk about "unspectacular" quirks, because that's the only kind I've got.

The first one is a system that I follow in my head with regard to food. I think of it as "calorie credits", sort of like carbon credits only involving peanut m & ms and Havarti cheese instead of energy use and emissions. It's not an earth-shattering concept, but basically if I know there is, say, a freshly baked delicious butter cake on the counter then I will eat celery, string cheese, and Triscuits for dinner instead of whatever I made for the kids in order to offset the large piece of cake that I will surely be enjoying later. It's probably a pathology almost worthy of inclusion in the DSM IV, but whatever.

On to the next bit of weirdness! I hate the unabashed celebrity worship that goes on in our country but I have a morbid and embarrassing habit of watching TMZ with dh. There is a sick symbiosis between obnoxious celebrities and paparazzi (both of whom rely heavily on the other for job security) that I can't take my eyes off. I don't even know who about half the famous people are, but the bread and circus aspect is fascinating, to say nothing of the bizarre outfits and overlarge sunglasses.

I drink herb tea every night, sometimes with a piece of delicious cake as mentioned above, or just alone. Yes, even in the summer.

I don't drive on high freeway overpasses. This one for sure is in the DSM IV, under "acrophobia."

I hate it when people tell me about their dreams. The kids don't know this about me. Suffice to say that many a breakfast has occurred with long, detailed dream accounts with me nodding and gritting my teeth.

I also hate it when there is loud birthday singing in restaurants. Especially when that singing is directed at me and an old sombrero likely crawling with vermin is placed atop my head.

That's six! I hereby tag

round tuit
the scoop
lost and found
crying over spilt milk
dille family

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

indulging myself here

I've been thinking a lot about my Nana P. lately, who is 92 and pretty frail just now. Everyone who knows her is convinced she is a bona fide saint, even though we don't really have saints in our faith. Anyway, this little story makes me think of her and I just wanted to post it, mainly for my own future reference.

Mother’s Christmas Mouse

By Betty LeBaron Mostert

Betty LeBaron Mostert, “Mother’s Christmas Mouse,” Ensign, Dec. 2007, 62

When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, our Christmas traditions were not elaborate—except for the stockings. Because we children enjoyed our Christmas stockings so much, we continued the tradition when we married and had children of our own. Buying surprises and assembling dozens of Christmas stockings, however, soon became too much for my aging parents, especially my mother, who had a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis that limited her mobility and energy.

Eventually, I volunteered to take over the project. Our annual extended family home evening, in which we acted out the Christmas story and opened our stockings, found me exhausted from the demands of being the mother of several small children and juggling the events of an active life. As I watched everyone dump treasures out of the gingham Christmas stockings I had carefully prepared, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

As expected, my stocking was empty except for the standard candy cane and Japanese orange that I had placed there earlier. But as I shook them out, I noticed a little bedraggled mouse made of a walnut and hazelnuts. One ear was much bigger than the other, and the whiskers were crooked. The tail had been cut too short, and the loop to hang it on the tree was off center. I was confused. Had someone’s kindergarten project ended up in my stocking?

I looked up and saw my mother watching me from her wheelchair across the room. With a gnarled, bent finger, she beckoned to me.

“I wanted to do something for the Christmas stockings,” she said. “They made these little mice in Relief Society, and they were so cute.”

Her tears were close to the surface, and her gentle voice shook as she continued.

“I couldn’t get my fingers to work, so I made only one. It didn’t turn out, but I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

I looked again at the little mouse in my hand. She was right. I didn’t mind. In fact, her little bedraggled mouse became the most precious treasure of all that Christmas.

For more than 20 years, I have tenderly removed the tissue paper from the misshapen mouse crafted by misshapen fingers and carefully placed it on a branch. My angel mother has been free of her crippled body for several years, but her Christmas mouse reminds me of two profound truths.

The first is that my mother honored me by believing that I could look past the mouse’s crooked ears and feel the love and sacrifice that went into its creation. The second is that if I, as an imperfect mortal, am capable of finding beauty in a humble little mouse, how much more is our Father in Heaven capable of seeing past our imperfect efforts and understanding our pure intentions.

I know that when we do our best to give to others and to Him, our gift is not just good enough—it is of incalculable worth.

black bean salsa

This is what I've been eating constantly since I made a big batch of it 2 days ago. It turned out so tasty and colorful that I had to pass it on (and take a blurry picture of it!) Big thanks to my friend Meredith who gave me the recipe.

Southwestern Salsa with Black Beans & Corn

1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained ((15 oz. each)
1 can whole kernel corn, drained (15 ¼ oz.)
1 red pepper, minced
1 small purple onion, minced (1 cup)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper

Toast cumin seeds in a skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until brown and fragrant, stirring often.

Combine cumin seeds, black beans, and remaining ingredients; toss well.

Cover and store in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Yields: 6 cups (lots!)

Monday, August 04, 2008

stay away, Edouard!

So here's what all eyes in Houston are glued to: the track of Edouard, which is not yet a hurricane but apparently could become one. I spent the day doing all of the things that have to be done and require electricity (mainly washing clothes), gassing up the car, finding all the flashlights, etc. We just moved all the lawn furniture to the side of the house. There are gray clouds moving in a just a weird feeling in the air. We're prepared, though, so no worries. Just another "hurricane memory," as the kids like to call them. The last one was on Super Q's birthday, and we actually went to the park and almost blew away.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

summer lovin'

The title of this post might suggest some kind of torrid romantic tryst in a tropical location, but... (surprise!) it involves books, food, and other stuff that I'm currently lovin'.

1. Any and all orange-type teas from Celestial Seasonings. I know, tea in summer in Texas? My rationale behind it is two-fold. First, dh must turn on all fans, ceiling and otherwise, every night, in addition to using the a/c. Brrrrrr. Also, I just finished reading the Ladies #1 Detective Agency series, the events in which seem to occur in between the brewing and drinking of something called "bush tea." Food in books always produces acute cravings for me (reading Chang Rae Lee was difficult, as I'm not much of a korean cook).

2. Now on to books. I borrowed Ladies #1 Detective Agency from my mom, thinking from the title that it would be some vaguely Miss Marpleish detective novel involving country tweeds, aging nobility, and possibly cats. I was pleasantly surprised that it takes place in Africa, is quite funny, not at all gory, and has 6 sequels!

Not to imply that I don't enjoy books set in England; I most fervently do. I just finished The Ladies of Grace Adieu. I had to include the cover photo because it is so pretty. I love morning glories. The book is full of beautiful art nouveau illustrations and design. I tried to read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but it was almost too rich, like a chocolate cake with very heavy, sugary frosting. Just too much. The Ladies of Grace Adieu lets the reader sample the wonderful imagination and style of Susanna Clarke without the sugar rush.

3. Speaking of a chocolate cake sugar rush, chocolate cupcakes have been all the rage here. And no, not homemade, strictly from a box because a friend recently gave me two very large boxes of industrial cake mix (not a joke--each box makes 8 rounds). The cake is sort of sub-par, but the mix is not the normal kind -- you only use water, no eggs or oil--so I'm not sure how to doctor it. Any suggestions for a filling or some kind of alteration to make this cake mix magically delicious?

4. Shins, shins, and more shins. Probably brought on by this lil' hedgehog, now appearing on a t-shirt of mine, thanks to Linz. Just can't get enough of the odd and wonderful lyrics and Beach Boy harmony! Also the Decemberists. I have to mention here that many fantastic bands are yours to discover at Screamer Radio, a little application that lets you stream (and record) some really nice internet radio. It's organized by genre, and I recommend Radio Paradise and Soma FM.