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.