Friday, December 11, 2009

fancy bloggers

Ok, I'm just going to say this briefly. Wealthy bloggers sort of make me crazy. Yes, I would love to try your salmon recipe. Salmon has been off the grocery list for almost a year ($6.99 a pound!?!). I sure love the precious wooden toys made from renewable forest wood. But I won't pay $40 for them. Those are the cutest shoes ever, and quite a steal at $300. A tremendous amount of disposable income (and being able to justify $300 shoes) have never been part of my lifestyle. Some blogs are really like lifetyle magazines or Restoration Hardware catalogs: shiny representations of a sort of luxurious meta-world to which few Americans can likely relate.

Nicholson Baker describes the sort of scene one is likely to see in catalogs (and now catablogs, yes I just coined that term but it isn't that clever):

In one of the latest J. Crew catalogs, there is a literary interlude on page 33: a man in shorts and plaster-dusted work boots, sitting in a half-remodeled room — on break, apparently, from his labor of hammering and gentrifying — is looking something up in what close inspection reveals to be a Guide Bleu to Switzerland, probably from the forties, in French.

That's from his essay, "Books as Furniture" in The New Yorker, June 12, 1995.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

is it bedtime yet?

Oh, how I loathe the morning routine. Not because my sleep has been incredibly erratic lately (2 days ago I went to sleep at 5 am, today I woke up at 5 am), not because my day now starts 1 hour earlier than it used to (the nephew I babysit arrives earlier than before), not because the bathroom floor feels like an ice rink when I head in there to brush my teeth.

Today I encountered the normal irritants ("Super Q, sit down and eat." "Super Q sit down and eat." "SUPER Q SIT DOWN AND EAT!") ("Flash, did I just ask you to come up and get dressed?" "Yes." "So why are you in bed reading Harry Potter?")

The problem with today is it is our first REAL snowy day. Like snow on the roads, 25* outside. Visions of the VW wagon spinning on black ice dance through my head. I'm terrified of driving on snow and ice. Grew up in Arizona, recently moved from Texas, no real winter driving experience. Which leads me to the last straw this morning.

After 5 solid minutes of sheer bedlam in which no one could find their mittens or backup shoes and socks or any number of other accessories required to go to school on a snowy day (including the daily healthy snack mandated by the school which cannot be goldfish or popcorn but must be cut-up fruit or vegetables) we finally pull out of the driveway... v e r y s l o w l y. And drive to school in the same manner.

The whole way Flash is critiquing my driving. His chief complaint is that I am driving too slow. I explain that I have very little winter driving experience but I have been told to just TAKE IT SLOW and you'll be fine. The child will not let up. "But you're going SO SLOW! Look, that guy is going fast!" Etc. Ad nauseam. I continue to respond in a somewhat sane fashion and then suddenly lose it. Every cliche Mom phrase rushes out very loudly. I definitely said, "I wish I were 10 and had all your wisdom." I might have said, "After all I do for you..." The children exited the car in silence. The 7 year old came back for a kiss. The 10 year old did not.

Would it add to his mortification if I affixed a large, brightly lit sign to the back of the wagon?

Monday, November 16, 2009


It has been the year of moves for us. I very often wish it had been the Year of Cakes, but no such luck for me. We move again on Thursday--this time it is only 1 mile away and under basically better circumstances (husband in town, no house for sale, leaving the rental with the cadaver smell in the basement).

Sometimes I wish we were moving to a warmer place (sorry, but it's true...I hate being cold). Sometimes I wish our new house did not have the washer/dryer hookups in the bathroom.

At the same time, though, I realize (over and over, as I am not one to learn my lesson the first time) that we are blessed beyond belief. To have employment. To be able to buy a house. To have friends (in Texas AND Michigan) who take hours out of their day to pack up the kitchen.

Blessed, blessed, blessed.

And I-- an unprofitable servant if there ever was one--am probably not very deserving.
I am grateful still.

Monday, November 02, 2009

sort of make-ahead cajun rice (made in the rice cooker)

I like this recipe because you can do the chopping and sauteing before church (or any 2-3 hour commitment) and it cooks while you're out. Plus it's full of vegetables. Yum.

1. Saute in a pan or cook in the microwave:

1/2 lb polska kielbasa or sausage of your choice, sliced

After the sausage is cooked, cover and refrigerate.

2. Saute in a pan until crisp-tender:

2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, scraped and chopped
2 T olive oil

3. Combine the vegetables with the following ingredients in the rice cooker and set it to cook at the time you desire.

1 1/2 cups vegetable juice (V-8)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp Tabasco (optional)
1 bay leaf

4. When you return home, reheat the sausage and combine the cooked rice/vegetable mixture.

Serves 4-5.

Friday, October 30, 2009

you've got to be fa-reekin kidding me, kraft

4 or 5 years ago I signed up for this free magazine (wait, did I sign up or was it just sent to me unsolicited? I can't remember). Anyway, I usually read it and sometimes I clip a recipe. I should say here that this magazine's definition of a "recipe" is very liberal indeed. A recipe in Food and Family can be a complex as the 5 ingredient "Chicken Pot Pie" or as simple (and frankly silly) as "Macaroni and Cheese Dinner" (the recipe is the directions right off the box). All of the recipes are full of Kraft brand ingredients (of course, no surprise there) and there are lots of ads for Kraft. Basically, it's the Vogue of cooking magazines: mostly ads and then a little content. The current issue even has one recipe (a caramel-topped cheesecake) appearing twice. (A fetching picture of Katie Brown posed with mixing bowl in hand also appears three times, if I'm not mistaken.)

So it is a primarily ad-driven publication and I'm fine with that. It's RIDICULOUS, though, to ask me to pay $7 a year to subscribe to this magazine. I wonder if people who visit the website and pay for the subscription will be disappointed in the content.

It kind of reminds me of "Video News Releases" that so often appear in local news broadcasts. Although it is somewhat entertaining to try and spot them ("Up next... a new diet pill that has everyone talking!"), the blurring of true content and advertising is irritating and troubling to me.

I realize that a food magazine littered with promotions and advertisements is hardly the most pressing issue of our time. I'll think hard about global warming as I whip up a quick batch of "BLT Ranch Hot Dogs."

Monday, October 26, 2009


And they're not from a picturesque tree in the back yard or anything. Just an abundant supply of food storage dehydrated apples that are (theoretically) past their date. I found the following recipe to make pie/cobbler/crisp filling (the quantity is probably a little too small for pie). I made apple crisp with it today and it's quite delicious.

* 1 1/2 cups dried apple slices
* 3 cups water
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 tbs. cornstarch
* 2 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and add to apples
* 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Friday, October 23, 2009

wraps! wraps! wrappity wraps!

I've made these for luncheons and baby showers and stuff. One time someone asked me for the recipe. One time someone said, "What is that TASTE?" "Dill." "Oh, dill." Maybe they're not as good as I think they are but my boys like them anyway. And you can make them the day ahead. I didn't take pictures because my pretty dishes are still packed and our internet connection is so.... slow... these... days...


For turkey:

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 T bacon pieces (small)

For roast beef:

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 T horseradish (more or less to your taste)

For ham:

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp prepared mustard
freshly ground black pepper

To make the filling, just mix the ingredients together with a hand mixer.
For each wrap, thinly spread 1-2 T of the filling on a burrito-sized tortilla. Leave the top 1/4 of the tortilla bare so no filling will seep out as you roll everything up. Lay about 6 leaves of fresh spinach (and/or other veggies) atop the filling. Place 2 large pieces of turkey or roast beef or ham atop the spinach. Roll up from the bottom (the end that is not bare). Secure each end with a toothpick; cut in half. Makes 7 full wraps (14 halves).

Monday, October 12, 2009

mr. heaven

In a warmer life in Texas I had a wise friend, Micah, age 4. Her parents followed the Southern custom of teaching their kids to address all adults as "Mr." or "Miss." Micah tried to remember dh's name but always settled for a named that rhymed with his. She called him "Mr. Heaven."

The picture above doesn't do Mr. Heaven justice. Well, in a way it does, as it depicts him chugging a sweet, dark liquid (although it's normally Pepsi One and not chocolate syrup). Not to mention that the context of the photo (a very silly moment at the dinner table with the boys) occurs very frequently.

I don't blog much about Mr. Heaven because I'm afraid that such a post would deteriorate into a jumbled mix of Celine Dion lyrics and Hallmark Valentine's Day card sentiments. Suffice it to say that being married to Mr. Heaven--an even-keeled man with a ready laugh and a loyal heart--has made me very happy indeed.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

just what el doctor ordered

I am in urgent, urgent need of a decent, cheap, non-chain Mexican food joint here in Detroit. Until that need is filled, I plan to make these nachos every day for lunch.

Chipotle Nachos

This serves one but is infinitely scalable.

1 cup cooked pinto beans
1/2 of a chipotle chile (from a can, the kind "canned in adobo sauce")
3 T grated cheese (any kind will do--maybe not romano or whatever)

1/2 of one tomato, diced
splash of balsamic vinegar

Microwave the first 3 ingredients. Stir in the last 2 ingredients. Eat with chips. Think about sunny places where food like this is widely available.

Friday, October 02, 2009

axioms for today

*Badminton is the greatest game ever, capable of keeping children busy and physically active for at least 30 minutes. It can be played in wet leaves and it doesn't matter if the shuttlecock goes over the fence, as shuttlecocks are only 35 cents. It is the reason I can write a blog post at 5 pm.

*A person should not listen to sad Death Cab for Cutie songs (redundant, I know) on a rainy, cold day. It will only make a person sad about weather and unplanned moves and other inevitables.

*Do not plan to make complicated Chinese stir-fry dishes after a long day of doctor appointments, school events, and wandering around (on foot) in an unfamiliar part of town. Have a supply of Hot Pockets (or some kind of pockets) on hand for a day like this.

*52 degrees is too cold for the beginning of October.

*Glitter will someday fill the earth. The exotic names Martha Stewart (or some underpaid English major on her staff) assigns to these colors will supplant the names for colors we currently use. Ian Frazier has identified it as a societal problem (an abstract of his article can be found here); the holidays are a truly trying time for glitter-phobes like me.

* Sometimes bing is superior to google. After 4 attempts to find the above-referenced glitter article on google, I found it with one try on bing. I'm still not sure what "bing" is supposed to mean, though.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

back to you-know-what

Is there a worse feeling in the world than watching your pale, unsmiling 9 year old drag his little wheeled backpack into a classroom full of strangers? Or sending your 7 year old off with the hope that the "nice kid" will continue to be nice? The first day of school was a frankly unwelcome interruption of what had become a routine of perfect weather and visits to and from cousins, grandparents, and friends.

The boys miss their (in the words of Flash) "lively", crowded school in Texas, and I do too. The process of carving out one's niche can be unpleasant and not without a few sharp jabs. All I can do is pray for lots of "nice kids" and put extra-trashy treats in their lunches until they settle in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

upon this rock

Happy to report that our library has MANY more books on the 814.508 (essay) section of the shelf than our old library. I've been going through these books like mini-packets of peanut M&Ms and trying not to neglect the kids. With limited success. Anyway, I just read this fantastic GQ essay about a Christian rock concert by John Jeremiah Sullivan. It includes some hilarious passages about a rented RV. I was in a public park in an effort to give the aforementioned children some Wholesome Outdoor Play when I came across the RV part and laughed out loud like a crazy person. I think I might have guffawed at one point, too. Most essays about the evangelical movement and its surrounding culture are snarky, but this one makes up for the barbs with evenhanded sincerity. (I should mention there are one or two F words in there. Also the GQ site (where the article lives) is currently plastered with an unappetizing picture of Sasha Baron Cohen.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

this summer, in gerunds

rediscovering "treasure boxes"--looking through old school pictures, swimming ribbons, souvenirs. Then trying to sell these things to each other. Sidenote: Chinese renminbi is now acceptable currency in our house.

digging in a superfun, enormous sandbox at the local water park. (You dig for awhile, then rinse off the sand in a little shower area, then swim. Then buy a "junior slushee" for 75 cents. Genius!)

bicycling 5 miles at a very beautiful local park, followed by no small amount of bragging (5 MILES!) and moaning about sore legs I've got to find a cheap bike on Craigslist and take advantage of the many bike trails here.

napping outside on a blanket on a Sunday afternoon. (An anomaly. No one naps in our house except dh.)

buying $2.00 sunglasses at a sidewalk sale in Royal Oak. We were the only ones with kids at the sale and noticeably lacking tattoos and piercings. To say nothing of leather bustiers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oprah, again

It's no secret that I loathe Oprah. When I read this article in Newsweek I was thinking, "Yes! Finally!" This article specifically focuses on the outlandish health claims Oprah's experts have made and the tremendous influence Oprah wields in general. My favorite paragraph:

In real life, she (Oprah) has almost nothing in common with most of her viewers. She is an unapproachable billionaire with a private jet and homes around the country who hangs out with movie stars. She is not married and has no children. But television Oprah is a different person. She somehow manages to make herself believable as a down-to-earth everywoman. She is your girlfriend who struggles to control her weight and balance her work and personal life, just like you.

This is true despite the fact that Oprah often appears distracted in her interviews with real people on her show (the non-celebrities), looking over their shoulders and sort of zoning out during their responses to her questions (and then magically summoning tears at the climax of their story). If she is everyone's girlfriend, she is the girlfriend that talks about AWESOME SHOES while you pour out your heart in the mall food court.

I know she has spearheaded some incredible charity projects. She is certainly a talented entertainer. I just don't relate to the conflicting values her show promotes: obsessing about body image /Girl Power, SHOPPING!/schools for impoverished children, living your best life/worshiping celebrities. I don't get it. But I am glad that she encourages reading, or used to. Does she still do the book club segments?

Friday, June 26, 2009

dear professor

I am sort of reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I pick it up now and then and read one of the short chapters. It has lots of nice ideas, useful for giving one the motivation to find joy in the journey and don't sweat the small stuff and other things like that. Mostly it makes me think about professors I have known. Some approached the status of demigods, causing me to recite embarrassing poems in protest of their dismissal. One film professor actually tested us on his tangential ramblings about celebrities he knew ("What did Elizabeth Taylor say when I made a joke about her shoes in 1978?") In the relatively small pond of a university, professors seem like Triton himself, able to banish us to the depths of humility with a critical comment on a paper.

Back to The Last Lecture. It's worth reading. Some best-sellers make that list for a reason. Some, like a certain unnamed book about a teenage girl and her vampire, do not.

Friday, June 19, 2009

what I miss about Texas

  • road signs that simply say "CHURCH". I always liked the idea that, should a spiritual emergency arise, I could easily find a church. It might have a slightly spooky preacher with really big teeth and a lot of advice on "How to Increase Your Money God's Way," but it will still be a church.
  • you can buy a flat of mangoes on the side of the road. Also rhinestone Obama T-shirts and an assortment of tacky rugs.
  • 75 different varieties of picante sauce in the grocery store, not to mention fresh tortillas made right in front of your wondering eyes.
  • left turns allowed ! (not so in much of Detroit)
  • hot summer days suitable for swimming almost every day.
  • SONIC drinks.
  • so many sweet friends. We really miss you guys!

holy lycopene, Batman!

Like many of my most favorite foods, my mom's salsa is bursting with vegetable goodness (side note: foods bursting with fruity goodness don't tempt me like vegetables. Don't know why.) I seriously like thinking about all of the vitamins and fiber in this salsa, which we eat by the naked spoonful around here, no chip needed. I have occasionally added chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce (about 2 tablespoons) to this recipe, but it's fantastic exactly as written here. And, yes, those quantities are right. We do prepare it one gallon at a time and give away about half.

Carolyn's Salsa

1 Gallon Recipe
4 28 oz. Cans of whole peeled tomatoes
3/8 pound yellow chilies, seeds and stems removed
3 large jalapenos, seeds and stems removed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 cup cilantro
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon ground cumin

Put one can of tomatoes at a time in food processor or blender, blend 2-3 seconds. Pout into a big bowl. Repeat until all tomatoes are crushed.
Process chilies, jalapenos, onions, and garlic in food processor until chopped. Pour into tomatoes.
Process cilantro for 5 seconds. Add to mixture.
Add salt, oregano, and cumin. Stir together. Chill and serve.

2 gallon quantities

8 28 oz. cans of whole peeled tomatoes (or 1 10 pound can)
¾ lb. Yellow chilies, seeds and stems removed
6 large Jalapenos, seeds and stems removed
2 medium yellow onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¼ cup cilantro
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons oregano
2 Tablespoons ground cumin

Monday, June 15, 2009


We have bare windows, I have time on my hands, I found Jo-Ann, and now I'm in curtain making mode. I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't found the right fabric for the master bedroom when what did I spy but a yard sale with 5 garbage cans full of rolls of decorator fabric! TURN THE CAR AROUND!
dh obliged and I spent about 20 minutes marveling at this incredible fabric with an even more incredible $4/yd price tag. No, it was not cute vintage fabric, sorry, but it is real "drapery" fabric and beautiful! Yay!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

birthday concert. in which I ROCK.

dh took me to Coldplay! We had such a fantastic time; took me right back to college, minus the black tights and Doc Martens. I did have secret tights on, though, under my jeans, because this is Michigan and it gets cold at night even in June (frost warning last night--ARE YOU KIDDING ME?)

In the background of the above picture is a high-energy tambourine player for one of the opening bands, The Howling Bells. In between his tambourine explosions he squatted down back by the drummer. When it was his turn, he bounded out of his little hiding place and went WILD with that tamborine. Highly entertaining.

The best part was when the band came up to a tiny stage about 10 feet away from us and played "Green Eyes," a favorite of mine. You probably can't tell from the photo that they were so close, but believe me, they were so close to us! I think it was pretty hard on Chris Martin being on such a tiny stage; not much room for skipping and cavorting about.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

the long road North

(the departure)

Oh, happy day! DSL is up and running, I am connected to the outside world. Even hung a few pictures on the walls today.
This cross-country moving business isn't for the faint of heart. Leaving Texas was much more emotional than I expected, considering how we made fun of Houston over the years. We miss our friends there terribly, and I often think of them and what they're up to (and what we're missing out on... sob!)
But we're here now, and soldiering on. By soldiering I mean that the kids are fighting almost constantly and my ability to parent in a consistent and calm manner is waning. Also I ate three Little Debbie cakes in one sitting the other night.
I'm trying to adjust to the Michigan definition of summer, a word that used to mean shorts and flip-flops, playing in the sprinkler, eating dinner on the back patio. Here it means gorgeous, long days with beautiful sunsets and a high of 65 degrees. I've got the heater going at night in JUNE!(With lows in the upper 40s, who wouldn't?) This is like a Texas winter, y'all!
So if the downside is the chilly weather, the upside is the terrain and all of these beautiful trees. Just beautiful. You can actually grow lilacs here, too.
The kids love the house. It has a huge basement and pretty big backyard with a swingset and a spooky storage shed. I like the wood floors and the picture window in the living room. Nobody likes the weird smell at the top of the basement stairs. We've been trying to identify it for days. My vote is stale cigar smoke. Super Q is voting for "dead rats." Antimicrobial Febreze has been a dear friend to me of late. Not a friend to me is the many boxes that we didn't label (?) or that just say "kitchen." What was I thinking? When looking for a can opener to open the only can of black beans in the house, "kitchen" is not a helpful guidepost. Note to self: label more specifically next time. Also, don't MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY AGAIN. Also, bring your own fresh ginger, as there appears to be no ginger in the Detroit metro area.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

things are as they should be

So I'm at the point where thinking ahead is causing sufficient anxiety to make me want to throw up. That's not hyperbole, either. (Packing up your whole house by yourself while single parenting will do that to a person.)

But I visited a dear friend today, a friend who always provides very helpful advice (and chocolate). What she said brought a measure of peace to my mind: "Things are as they should be." I think it's going to be my new mantra. So I'll be getting rid of "By the power of Greyskull... I have the POWER!"

Friday, May 15, 2009

yet another reason to avoid pot pies


"Increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients. In this case, ConAgra could not pinpoint which of the more than 25 ingredients in its pies was carrying salmonella. Other companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers, interviews and documents show."


8 more days

8 more days in Texas, then we're off to the Great White North. Since I'm not letting myself think about the sad aspect of this change (or any aspect, truth be told, I'm just packing and occasionally getting online, watching Frasier and going to bed), I'd like to thank the following sponsors who have helped us get this far:

*every fantastic person from our neighborhood and church who came to pack, paint, and keep me company

*my family, for their supportive texts, phone calls, packages,

* the good people who produce these items which make up the bulk of my diet:

*patient friends who read this blog even though it is really self-absorbed as of late

Saturday, May 09, 2009

swine flu + wedding = one quiet woman

I'm in Arizona now for my sister L's wedding (accomplished as of last night, congratulations, you old married lady! Check out her husband's awesome wedding day cartoon here). A few days after our arrival, a dry and sore throat turned into a full-on infection with a fever, cough, vomiting, etc. I'm going to claim it as swine flu because that's so much more exciting than the old-timey influenza. Bound and determined not to miss the big day, I booked it to urgent care in search of Tamiflu. Once they heard about my symptoms, everyone in the clinic immediately donned a mask and created a 10-foot perimeter around me. Their reaction was comical and probably overblown. They actually sent me to the ER (STAT!) for a "swine flu swabbing." Which did not occur, although an hour wait in a freezing cubicle did, followed by a chat with a doctor. He wanted to know if I came to the ER after reading about the swine flu (a bit of a porcine reaction, I thought--sorry). Anyway, long story extended, I got my Tamiflu and got better VERY soon and made it to the wedding, health intact but voice entirely GONE. Needless to say, I was fairly silent at the reception and completely inffective as a mom. (The sharp reprimand doesn't have much power when delivered as a whisper). I'm told my Loretta Lynn-style hair was killer, though, and that's all that matters.
Unrelated but quite amazing: our house is getting attention like it's a fire sale (which it is, essentially). We had one SUPER-low, even insulting offer. We're going to hold out for the big money, at least enough to cover our closing costs. dh rented a house in D-town (I can call it that now); we're making progress! Just need to get that voice back so I can talk to the realtor.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

send to...

ooh, I'm a neglectful blogger/mom/friend/you name it right now. I'm blaming it on the daily grind of packing and painting (3 rooms down, 4 or 5 to go). I think it's a good enough excuse, actually.
2 days ago I was "released" from my position as the leader of the children's ministry at our church (that's Primary President for the LDS folk). I cried (of course) because I'm, like, totally emotional lately. I'm just going to miss all of those little faces, not to mention the text messages received 15 minutes before classes start ("sorry, I'm not going to be there to teach my class"). But seriously I'm going to miss hanging out with kids on Sunday. It's so easy to make kids love you. A fun game and some Little Debbies and you're as cool as Captain Kangaroo. Who isn't really that cool, now that I think of it.
So on to the matter at hand. I was just putting some podcasts on my microscopic mp3 player. I was doing the right-click "send to" method. It got me thinking. If I could be right-clicked and sent somewhere, where would it be? It would be Hong Kong, but two different days. The first was in the summer when I was there as a missionary, serving in a stressful area. We had a day off and went to the beach at Shek O to play in the sand and walk on the hills near the water. We missed the bus going back and ended up having to stay later than we planned. There was a diving platform there in the bay and a man came to dive. I watched him as the sun went down, diving over and over, his silhouette dipping into the water almost like he was pouring himself in--so smooth and dark against the purple sky. Just diving and diving. It was so peaceful, the rhythm of the repetition, the colors, the breeze.
There was another day, 12 years later, also in Hong Kong, this time with my dh. We sat in a park at night and I spilled it: I wanted to stay. I would give up the mainland leg of the trip for more time in HK. He was very kind and we promised each other another trip later, with more time in my favorite city. Better yet, he said HK was his favorite place too.
As I lay me down to sleep in my mattress on the closet floor (long story, that), I'll think of the diver and the conversation in the park and forget about the half-painted room and the carpet cleaners and the closets that need to be packed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

our recession scene

I'm listening to Scenes from a Recession, last week's installment of This American Life. It's a little depressing, I have to say, and the backdrop of the utter chaos that is my house doesn't help. I have 9 rooms and a garage to pack up and paint in 34 days . It sounds doable, right? I'm trying to get up the nerve to call in the troops from church to help with some of it. But I freely admit I am overwhelmed with this task. I excel at the quick and dirty cleanup (oxymoron)--the spray-the-shower-and-let-it-sit-for-an-hour-then-scrub kind of thing. This is not that kind of thing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

in praise of the humble Whoopie Pie

This morning it was indeed chocolate sponge cake first (my kids were having danishes, so I thought, why not?) The sponge cake in question was a Whoopie Pie, recipe found here. They are so tasty and spongy and chocolatety. No, I haven't figured out why they are called Whoopie Pies, though. Please don't let it be that you want to shout "Whoopeee!" after tasting one. I hate explanations like that.

Friday, March 27, 2009

staging: the great deception

In an effort to drum up some interest in our house, we're staging some rooms... at least long enough to take a picture. It's very duplicitous, this staging thing. As you can see from the photos. These rooms are right next to each other. You would never know that the tastefully neutral living room would lead right into a hellish electronics dumping ground/playroom.

Incidentally, did you know there is an International Association of Home Staging Professionals? I love that it is international. Need someone to help you stage your yurt? Just contact the Ulaanbaatar chapter of the IAHSP.

Seriously, though, if you know anyone who is moving to Houston and would like to see my house, let me know! I promise the electronics will be cleaned up. Free swingset, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

dodged a bullet

In a truly incredible turn of events, dh got laid off yesterday from his job here in TX. On the very day he planned to give 2 weeks' notice. There will only be 2 weeks where he doesn't have a job.
Grateful doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. I had some (read: a tremendous amount of) hesitation, mainly because I do not enjoy change. I still felt "right" and peaceful about this move so I agreed to it. Everything had fallen into place with the new job and now we know why. I know we are very lucky to have a new job waiting for us. Very lucky, and blessed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My to-do list

I just realized that that last post was somewhat lacking in details. (I had to go back and add in where we were moving exactly, for example.) dh is moving in mid-April, and the rest of us will follow in early June.

My mind is seriously spinning as I think of all that must be done in the next 2 months. A fair amount of the items on the to-do list are physical work: paint 5 rooms, touch-up paint 3 rooms, paint 4 million baseboards and door frames, pack some items, get doctor records, invite every last person we love here for a party, etc.

Other items have to do with enduring to the end. Namely, the end of the time that I will be a single parent trying to get the house ready to sell.

There are several items that deal with my attitude about snow. It is not a positive one. I'm cold when it's 70 degrees here because the inside of the house is 65. (Stress is affecting my appetite so I'm losing weight--so much the better to fit in the dress for Linz's wedding, but not so helpful with the padding of the cold bones). So the list includes some strategies for dealing with Winter. (So formidable is Winter in my mind that it must be capitalized). I'm looking at the overstock clearance section for cold weather stuff. I have no idea what to buy. Parkas? Down jackets? "Puffy jackets"? Wool? My approach to cold weather dressing in Utah was many layers of thrift store finds. I don't think the kids will go for that.

One last item is more introspective. I am leaving my responsibilities over the Primary in our ward (that's the youth ministry in our congregation) and, of course, I have mixed feelings. There are areas I did not emphasize and I have regrets about that. I hope the children felt my love and the love of God and the presence of his Spirit. That was my goal.

I'm trying to approach as like the wise lyrics in the "One Day at a Time" exhort:

This is it. (This is it.)
This is life, the one you get so go and have a ball.
This is it. (This is it.)
Straight ahead and rest assured you can't be sure at all.

So while you're here enjoy the view.
Keep on doing what you do
So hold on tight we’ll muddle through
One day at a time, (One day at a time.)

So up on your feet. (Up on your feet)
Somewhere there's music playing.
Don't you worry none we'll just take it like it comes.
One day at a time, (One day at a time.)

I'm planning on "resting assured that you can't be sure at all" and "holding on tight and muddling through." And wearing a vest like Schneider to help me get in the right frame of mind for fixin' up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

return to the Great White North

Well, we're moving. To a colder place, although not as cold as the ledge on that glacier.
dh got an offer at a more stable company with more responsibility and better benefits. This will be a huge change for us but I feel like it's going to be OK.

**Oops, forgot to mention that we are moving to Detroit.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

the fun cooker

I just watched this week's episode of 30 Rock. One of the storylines is, naturally, a mini-microwave naming contest . (spoiler alert) The chosen name is "The Fun Cooker," a term that just happens to capture the feeling of my afternoon. An afternoon spent at the multiplex watching "Race to Witch Mountain," starring that guy that used to be called "The Rock" and now has some boring anglo name like Kevin Smith or something. Also two scary blonde kids that are aliens who look like humans (I actually think the girl looks pretty much like an alien). Anyway. As I suffered through this totally predictable movie with the obligatory snarky and well-timed one-liners and an enormous amount of shooting and hand-to-hand combat I thought to myself, "Is this supposed to be fun? Are the kids actually having fun?" Sure, the bucket o' popcorn and something called Squeeze Pops were sending them into a gradual and prolonged carbo-shock, but sugar aside, were they having fun? I wonder about these activities we spend our leisure time on. Movies, McDonald's playland, Chuck E. Cheese's. Are they actually fun or do we feel like kids want to do these things so we plan them? After the 2.5 hours spent in the fun cooker, I'm wishing we would have stayed home and built a pillow fort or just spent time hanging out and joking around instead of cookin' up some prefab "fun."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

what the... winter again?

I know 48 degrees and rainy hardly qualifies as winter for some of you, but yesterday it was 78 degrees here and today is was 48 and that's a THIRTY degree difference overnight. My only options for dinner were something involving rice again or pumpkin waffles. Which would you choose?

I always use the Bisquick-based recipes because as much as my family loves waffles (not me so much, but my family), I refuse to whip egg whites for 5 minutes just for waffles.


2 1/3 cups Original Bisquick mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar, if desired

Combine everything with a whisk. Heat up your waffle iron. Make waffles like you always do. Why am I typing instructions? You know how to cook waffles.

If you don't happen to have pumpkin pie spice in your pantry in the middle of March, here's how to make it:

1. Measure 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon into a small bowl or cup.
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.
3. Add 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice or ground cloves.
4. Add 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
5. Stir to blend.
6. Makes 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ok... panic!

You know the end is near now. COUPONS at restaurants?, I am shocked and dismayed by the bleak, bleak picture you paint.

I'm a 5 year old

I'm on the wrong side of 35, two kids in school, some gray hairs sprouting and yet...

*I had peppermint patties for breakfast.
*A whole big bunch of friends of ours made plans and didn't invite us and I'm a little bit hurt by that.
*I watched "Arthur" on PBS yesterday. (Arthur the animated aardvark, not Arthur the charming 1980s drunk, although those Arthur movies were a staple for our family when I was young. Also "What's Up Doc?")
*I've been eating Cinnamon Life cereal out of my hand as a snack in a probably vain attempt to fit into the dress I bought on clearance for my sister's wedding. I had to buy a size that just might be a little tight to get the color I wanted. So it's cereal, kale, and coke zero from now until May. Oh, and peppermint patties.
* My son had to remind me to "pull the plug, Mom, NOT the cord" when I was unplugging the toaster the other day.
*I'm sick of certain responsibilities and thinking of doing something drastic to my hair to show my wild rebellion.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

nyt, you kill me

So whatever happened at the crossword tournament can't possibly be as shocking as a Jonas Brothers movie falling short. (this from

Friday, February 27, 2009

litany of distractions

Hi, thanks so much for all of your very kind emails, comments, and phone calls. I'm feeling a bit less panicked now. Sleeping a little better, which helps. My current occupation is Distraction from Worrying Thoughts.

The boys, of course, are a very good distraction. ("Oh, Mom, we hate juice boxes now.""Mom, is a tree a renewable resource?" "Mom, what does that guy think he's doing?" "Mom, an iPod cost like a million kajillion dollars, right?") Endless entertainment. In the photo above they are relaxing in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon. Super Q was every inch the hausfrau, puttering around, making sure the blanket was perfect. He wanted to get pillows and blankets and stuffed animals. Flash, meanwhile, was quite annoyed and wanted to get on with the relaxation. It was a pretty funny scene.

Rock Band has been a bit of a distraction. dh has to talk me into it each time, as I am the non-video-gamer in the house. I'm on drums, naturally. (The better to bang out stress, my dear. Also I suck at the guitar part.)

Taco Bell sells their mild sauce in a bottle at the grocery store. This has very much increased my lunchtime ritual of black bean nachos and Charlie Rose. My sister was, I think, appalled at the fact that I like Taco Bell during her last visit. We fancy ourselves the gourmets (or at least gourmands) of the family but she's learning that I have a trashy side. Taco Bell and King of Queens. I think she's drawing up legal documents as we speak to cut me out of the family. Amicably, of course. And my kids can stay in.

The Mt. Everest obsession has returned. I watched all of a Discovery Channel documentary about it in one sitting the other day. I am flummoxed as to why people do this to themselves. I can't stop thinking about it. A climber from Lebanon said it best (after he summited and witnessed a man dying by the side of the trail on the way down). "It's crazy how people come up here... to die." I promise this is the most depressing thing I've watched or read lately. It's been all old Barbra Streisand movies and Annie Dillard books around here. Our book club is reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and I'm having none of it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

it's 2:25 am, do you know where your Mommy is?

Just checked on the boys, looking all wee and comfy in their beds. They don't know I'm awake, trawling the internet for drug interactions between OTC sleep meds and Ambien. (Took the former and it did nothing for me, wondering if I can add the latter). Anyway, the sleep issues have not been completely solved, needless to say. I had a bit of an unexpected cry today. In the hallway. At church. Embarrassing, to have everyone around me trying to figure out what was going on and me somewhat helpless to explain without REALLY spilling it all right there in the hallway. It did feel good to know of their concern, though. Anxiety is just really burning me out right now. How does one explain that in a crowded hallway without looking utterly ridiculous?

Monday, February 16, 2009

why worry later, when you can worry now?

Change has never been a friend to me, even positive change. I know something will change significantly for our family in the near future and rather than wait for the actual event, my body has decided to react to it preemptively, embracing it with a multi-pronged approach: migraines, eye twitch, diarrhea, insomnia, heart palpitations, panic attacks. Yes, we really roll out the red carpet for anticipated crisis around here. When everyone's home I am usually distracted enough to keep these symptoms at bay. But during the day a regimen is required. Happy music is a must. Sondre Lerche is today's favorite (he did the soundtrack to Dan in Real Life, a movie I love.) Also The Shins. Rosie Thomas is off-limits and Red House Painters. Chocolate features prominently (thanks, post-valentine's day clearance!). And, weirdly, I find mopping therapeutic. Seth Stevenson is writing for Ad Report Card again at, which always makes me happy. And I've got a head of kale in fridge. So I should just calm down already.

the quotable Ben Franklin

Just came across this quote from Benjamin Franklin. It seems so modern: I wonder if the diction was updated by the editor. Regardless, I like the message. It seems self-evident but worth thinking about. Especially in parenting, it really is the small decisions, moments, actions, even facial expressions that make up the aggregate message that we send to our kids. And if that doesn't scare the crap out of you, well, you're a better mom than me.

"We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we've selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make. "

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Remember this post where I said the sad, sad state of the economy had primarily affected how frequently I bought drinks at Sonic? I guess it's poetic justice or poetic blindness or poetic foolishness but the rotten economy is about to hit our family full on in the face. Round two of layoffs at dhs company are certain (we're not very optimistic about how that will turn out), very few jobs are out there, and I'm on day 10 of 4 hours of sleep or less.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What he said.

my favorite meal

All I feel like eating lately is beans and rice. No, not pregnancy cravings, just very much into beans and rice. It started with the Red Beans and Rice dinner a few weeks ago. This week I moved onto my all-time favorite rice, Cilantro Rice, recipe compliments of Pianogal. The printout of the recipe is all water-stained and forever lost in a folder of other such printouts. I should really just paint it on my kitchen wall for easy reference.

So tonight it's Cilantro Rice, Lime Cilantro Chicken (that recipe comes from the master chef and maker of the awesome Christmas quilt, Meredith), guacamole, and black beans. It's going to be heaven.

Although I like the idea of chunky guacamole with tomatoes and lime peel and jalapenos and onions, my kids are purists: avocado, lemon juice, salt, pepper. Mash. Lick your fingers, eat it straight with a spoon, spread it on anything and everything.

Cilantro Rice (sorry, Pianogal, I tweaked the instructions a bit to make it faster)

1 cup fresh cilantro (go ahead, leave the stems on, no one will ever know)
2 garlic cloves
1 fresh jalapeno chile, stemmed, or ½ can green chilies
2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 carrot, cut into chunks

2 tsp olive oil
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp ground cumin

In a blender, whirl cilantro, garlic, chile, carrot, and broth until smooth. In a 3-4 quart pan over medium heat, stir oil, rice, onion powder and cumin until rice is a pale golden color, 5-8 minutes. Stir in cilantro/broth mixture. Cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 18 minutes. If desired, season to taste with salt.
Serves 5-6.

Lime-Cilantro Chicken

2 large cloves of garlic
½ Tablespoon grated lime zest
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
1/8 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 ½ pounds)
Lime wedges for garnish

In food processor pulse first six ingredients (garlic, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper). Add olive oil; process until blended.
Pour into Ziploc bag; add chicken and marinate in refrigerator for 3 hours.
Preheat broiler. Place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet. Broil, turn once, for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through.
To serve, garnish with lime wedges.
Serves 4

Sunday, February 01, 2009

sometimes Sundays are boring

Our Sundays can be s-l-o-w. Church is from 8 to 11 am, come home, eat lunch, then 8.5 hours until bedtime. And we don't shop, go to work, or play sports either (we observe it as the Sabbath). We limit TV and movie time. So sometimes we get bored. dh is content to literally sleep all day if given the opportunity, so lots of times it's me and the boys trying to find activities that fall within our family parameters and aren't a total snooze.

Today we made Bad Guy Soup. Super Q tells me we are meant to leave it outside. When bad guys see it, they think, "Oh! Free soup!" They drink it, then die. And don't ever make it into the house to steal the XBox.

Our soup had water, soul seasoning, old lemon pepper, some nasty salad dressing that none of use like, dirt, bark, grass, weeds, etc. It reeks. Not a bad way to clean out the pantry.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

testing, testing

So I haven't really mentioned it, but Super Q is a closet psychopath. Maybe not a psychopath, but dude. Such a temper, so fickle, so adept at pushing my buttons. And so well-behaved at school!

I was listening to our local access radio station today and heard this woman, Patty Wipfler, (her website is talking about the kinds of reactions Super has all day long to anything that doesn't go his way. I thought she had some very interesting ideas. Maybe a little NewAgey, I don't know.

Her take is that when kids are in the middle of a power struggle, whining, or a big meltdown, their brains are not engaged. They are really, truly "out of their minds." They need a mental and physical connection with a parent, a little reassurance, some hugs, a hand hold, something like that. They may push you away. They may not immediately snap out of it; in fact, they may cry more for awhile to "dump" their emotions. But then they will snap out of it and be much more agreeable afterward. Super Q has shown some symptoms of feeling disconnected and alone when he's melting down, so I'm going to try this system. Any other ideas?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

chop it... and chop it good

So one time we had a gift card to a place called Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. (Why is it called that? I always think of two siblings fighting over who gets to use her name for the restaurant. Or Chris belongs to Ruth. Is Chris an indentured servant? Is she bussing tables to work off her passage to Texas? But I digress.) I'm not a huge fan of steak but I am also a firm believer in ordering the speciality of the house/region (and for that reason I 'm not inclined to eat sushi in the middle of Michigan) so I ordered a small steak. It was OK. But the salad... I dug that salad. I've been wanting to duplicate it ever since I tried it. A few nights ago I sort of did. It's been a long time since I gorged myself on salad. Maybe too long.

I don't really have quantities. I mean, it's salad. Adjust the amounts of extra stuff based on how much green stuff you are using.

Ruth's Chris Chop Salad

The chopped salad is a mix of julienned iceberg lettuce (I used romaine), spinach (I substituted kale), radicchio, tossed with red onion (I skipped the onion), mushrooms, green olives, bacon, hard-cooked eggs, hearts of palm, croutons, blue cheese and lemon basil dressing ... topped off with cherry tomatoes and crispy fried onions (these are key). Oh, and everything is chopped to a somewhat uniform size.

Below is the lemon basil dressing. It was really tart; probably should have added some sugar. I substituted Marie's Blue Cheese Vinaigrette (a favorite at our house).

Lemon Basil Dressing

2 tablespoons Pommery or Dijon mustard
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 basil leaves, very thinly sliced
coarse salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Monday, January 26, 2009


Do you have an hour to sit down and think hard about what's going on in Israel? I have complicated feelings about this issue (for all of the standard reasons: Israel was a sovereign nation under attack, what would any country do in a similar situation, it's all about the larger issue of terror, etc.), but have no doubt about Israel's disproportionate reaction to Hamas's attacks. The interview that appears at the links below further cemented this view. It is a heartwrenching account of a civilian family which was attacked by Israeli soldiers and then held at gunpoint and prevented from seeking medical help. It's heartbreaking.

I'm not endorsing every view that you will find on I watch/listen to programs on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Sometimes I feel incredibly silly trolling for images of food/products/evil dolls on the internet. I just spent about 8 minutes finding this picture of Shout! and cropping it, etc. In that amount of time I could have done any number of more productive things; soothed a child's worried brow, made toast, read 8 Emily Dickinson poems. Anyway, it was worth it because I am a such a fan of Shout Advanced. I'm sure it's chock full of petroleum horribleness. Nonetheless, it has its uses like removing blue crayon from an entire load of clothes and THEN removing gum from yet another load of clothes (this one went through the dryer). Why check pockets when you can just spray something that smells like paint thinner on everything and wash it again?

Geez, this post is getting depressing. I'm now on facebook, sort of feeling like the ancient maiden aunt at a wedding. I'm almost 37--facebook? Really? So now I check the status of friends and family and they're always doing something cool like hanging out at coffeehouses. My statuses have thus far been about cooking, cleaning, PTO stuff. I think I'm going to start fibbing on the ol' status bar. "Status: strolling through the Louvre." Do you think anyone will catch on?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

kale-idoscope of flavor!

Wow, that title is atrocious. Please forget it ever happened. Focus instead on this: kale. Not an immediately appealing vegetable, right? Won't ever compete with eggplant or even cucumber. It looks like it might get stuck in your cheek like a fish hook. I'm here to ask you to give kale a chance. My fancy beautiful attorney sister made a kale salad that changed my life. In the spirit of hope and change I share it with you.

1/2 a head/large bunch of kale
1/2 - 3/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
olive oil
fresh lemon (about half of a lemon's worth)
freshly ground pepper

Toss. Eat. Enjoy the antioxidants.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a vacation, with scooting

We headed west this past weekend for my niece's baptism. It was fantastic. The kids had an absolute blast playing outside in the perfect weather, we ate many delicious meals c/o my sister, a cheesecake surfaced, and we watched old movies of my Dad's childhood. Perfect.

The hotel, however, was a bizarre throwback to our Asian Vacation of 2007. It was a Travelodge, you know, with the sleepwalking bear? The bear was always a HUGE selling point for us as kids. "Oh, please, let's stay in the one with the bear!" The Travelodge was a little pricey for our family then. But now, well, let's just say we have arrived and we stayed at the one with the bear. And the super-hard beds, one-ply TP, scanty breakfast, and non-working TV remote.

The undisputed highlight of the trip for me and dh was seeing my sister's baby, Carmelita, who is a sweet little ball of cuteness. She has decided against crawling on principle and scoots instead. She does this sitting up, using a sort of one-cheek-at-a-time approach. It is very adorable, and my sister's floors get a good swiffering in the process.

Another sister, the beautiful and fancy attorney from Phoenix, also came and stayed some extra time with us. My boys LOVE her... maybe because she spoils them rotten. We drove away from the airport quite solemn, already missing her and the rest of our family.

not perfect, but at least it's done

This was a take-along project for our Trek to the North. I "tied" the quilt in the car with french knots rather than little square knots with those annoying little tails that tickle you in the night. Kinda glad the photos are blurry because the quilt is far from perfect. It is for my nephew, Riley, who will not notice that some seams are not straight. His mom, it turns out, is a closet quilter. A real quilter, who like pieces her quilts and then sends them out to be professionally oversewn. Kind of like baking a cake for Martha Stewart. Oh, well. I like the binding.

Monday, January 12, 2009

who am I kidding?

I thought I'd better take down the wintry banner I had up. It's like 67 degrees outside, and this is my footwear choice for the day. There are no lonely, snowy country lanes anywhere near me... and I'm very OK with that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

we heart fiber

We had our weekly cookin' and chattin' fest yesterday with some good friends in the neighborhood. I made red beans and rice, and I wasn't sure if the kids would eat it... but they did! Lots of it! And tons of crusty bread and then like 3 pieces of pound cake EACH. They were all starving, apparently. Here's the recipe I used. It's from Scouting Magazine, not a place I normally find recipes. I think it's a keeper. Low fat, high fiber, tasty herbs.

Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice

1 lb dried red or kidney beans (don't use canned)
2 T oil (I omitted this and used a nonstick pan)
1 lb spicy smoked sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalked celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups water or low-salt chicken broth
4 cups cooked rice

To soak beans, rinse well. Place in a bowl, and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Let sit 8 hours or overnight. Drain before using.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute sausage until slightly browned, about 3 min. Remove and set aside.
Add onion, bell pepper, and celery to the skillet and cook until softened and fragrant, about 3 min. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.
Season with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and cayenne; stir and cook 1 min. Add reserved sausage and beans and stir to combine.
Pour sausage/bean mixture into a 5-6 quart slow cooker (water should cover beans by at least 1/2 inch; more if you like a soupier meal).
Cover and cook on high for 2 hours; then on low for 6 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving over cooked rice.
Serves 8.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

the Thrift Store Theory of Relativity

Man, I am so prolific today! I'm sure I'll hit a nice long dry spell soon and not post for 2 months or something. Patty O's comment about the $900 skirt in O Magazine reminded me of my very successful trip to a certain thrift store in the Great White North. I always stop in when we travel up there because it's a gold mine. dh's family lives in a sort of snooty town ("most PhDs per capita" is one of their claims... REALLY? I would have thought Cambridge...) and there are many good deals to be found. This time it was Adidas running pants for Flash ($2), a couple of books, and a Talbots skirt for me ($2) and one from the Gap as well ($2). I actually am not a brand-conscious person--I mean, one skirt in heavy rotation right now I sewed myself from curtains. I know, very Maria von Trapp of me. So I'm not really interested in the brand itself, it's the fantastic bargain and the knowledge that these skirts will hold up better than brand new ones from Old Navy or Target. The hilarious part is that I stood there and spent 15 minutes thinking hard about buying a $2 green wool sweater. "Will I wear it? Will it smell weird forever? Will it be too itchy?" I chalk it up to the Thrift Store Theory of Relativity, wherein an item that cost $40 new seems prohibitively expensive if it's more than $2.50. Of course I would buy that sweater if I was in Banana Republic and it was marked down to even $10. But at that moment I really had to think about it. (I decided against it: itchy).

North Dakota

While we're on the subject of the Dakotas (I know, I know they have some redeeming qualities), I have to recommend this gallery of photos on the National Geographic website. It's called "The Emptied Prairie," and it features photos of abandoned homes, roads, churches. There is an obligatory creepy doll in there, and a schoolroom still full of desks and yellowing books. The photos are fascinating and eerie, and worth looking at.

the motherland

Last night I stepped in as den leader for Flash's Cub Scout meeting. With about 2 hours to plan something, I quickly ruled out campfire cooking, visiting a national or state monument, and anything involving pocket knives. This left the civic education portion of the manual, so I chose the bit about U.S. states. I went to the library and checked out 10 books about different states, threw some markers and printer paper in a bag, and flew to the church. The point of the activity was to learn/teach something new about a state of your choosing* (as long as you chose one from my stack of books) and draw the state's flag. I think the boys were a little bored (one of them kept climbing on top of the table). The nutty bars at the end appeared to make up for it.

I remember LOVING this kind of activity when I was young. Trivia! Brand-new markers! Showing off what I've learned! The result is a life-long affinity for the places that I've studied for school reports over the years. No, I have not visited Ireland but after studying it in 5th grade it's like the sacred motherland to me. (My sister has this same relationship with Switzerland. My whole family knows that Switzerdeutsch is one language spoken there. Sadly, I had no opportunity to use this knowledge when I visited in 2000.)

Because I've lived in Hong Kong and visited China I am the official China representative whenever we have an International Night at church. I try not to abuse my power and fill everyone's minds with bogus information or confuse everyone by serving sushi. I could talk about China for hours, especially my theories about craaaazy government policies and what Mao did to permanently screw up the country. But I'm content to explain a little about the language, demonstrate how to use chopsticks, and pass around shadow puppets. I'm still waiting for my chance to showcase my knowledge of merry old Ireland.

*By the way, we play a fantastic game on road trips where we decide which states should be forced out of the Union. One of us proposes a state that (to us) doesn't add much to the country and we debate its merits. Inevitably the Dakotas are voted out. (Sorry Dakotas! Two people who have never even visited you have decided that you don't contribute enough resources or scenery to stay on.) Hours of fun.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

stop the presses! Oprah gained weight!

At the risk of sounding snarky, mean, and un-American, I just have to say I loathe Oprah. Always have. She comes across as so phony! Some poor woman who just lost her children in a horrible fire could be on her stage sobbing and Oprah's sort of looking over her shoulder or checking her hair in the monitor. Ew! I just can't stand her! I caught about 15 minutes of her show yesterday (I'm sick, we don't have cable, my standards have officially slid) and WOW. The economy's in shambles, no one trusts the government anymore, millions of Americans are losing their homes, everything's bleak and grey and Oprah devotes an entire hour to why she has gained 40 pounds. COME ON, OPRAH! You've got such a scary and loyal following! Your word is gospel for so many women! You could make a serious difference in the way people deal with this recession. Get a financial expert on there like Elizabeth Warren from Harvard who is smart and real and telegenic. Share some information about how to market one's skills when it becomes necessary to work two jobs. Book a chef who can talk about stretching your food dollar. Invite a psychologist to talk about the emotional impact of recession. Don't sit on your shiny pink couch and talk about how you are "a little depressed" and "the light has gone out of your eyes." And put someone else on the cover of your magazine. Just once.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

is it really over?

We are home from our Trek to the North. I am so so so glad to be home. Even though it's kind of a messy home, with piles of laundry and half-full suitcases and weird groceries in the fridge, I am loving being home. Why? Because our trip was a nightmare. For me, at least. Christmas morning I woke up with a fever, which lasted for 4 days. I ended up with acute bronchitis and the last 10 days have been almost unbearable for me. Not sleeping, not breathing well, not keeping food or medicine in my stomach. Not enjoying my extended family. Not even really seeing my kids. Not helping with driving home. Not even talking (I lost my voice for about 3 days in there).
We made it home and I went to the doctor Friday. She gave me some shots (steriod and antibiotic) and a cough medicine with codeine. Hooray! Codeine! It suppresses even the tiniest thought of coughing. However, loving codeine too much (1/2 tsp too much) resulted in the WORST headache known to man. And vomiting. This pain/vomiting/crying cycle lasted for 10 hours. I wanted to die.
This is where the silver lining peeks out, finally. In my agony (and I am not overstating the pain I was feeling), I begged dh for what we (in our church) call a "priesthood blessing." He laid his hand on my head and blessed me that the pain would subside. And it did. I felt it sort of drain away, until there was about 15% of it left and I could relax enough to sleep.
I don't often blog about religion, but I can't set this experience aside. God's power is real. I know it is increasingly uncool to think so, but I can't deny it. Life is so sweet--even the difficult parts--when we seek Him out.

I often think of this song by the innocence mission. It's called "Look For Me as You Go By"

Hang my head low, so low.
Don't see me only as I am but
see me how I long to be.
Shining like a flowering tree
under a gray Pennsylvania sky.
Look for me as you go by.
Hang my head low, so low.
Every burden shall be lifted.
Every stone upon your back slide into the sea.
It's me for you and you for me.

That's what Jesus means to me. "Every burden shall be lifted. Every stone upon your back slide into the sea." All of us help each other in this effort, this relieving and lifting. "It's me for you and you for me." A hopeful thought at the end of what was for many a very difficult year. We can all lift, relieve, and help to heal in 2009. That's my hope.