Thursday, December 09, 2010

the perils of naming your baby

So everyone around me seems to be having babies, adopting babies, etc. (Not sure what that "etc." would represent there, but anyway.)  It brings to mind kids I knew when I was young with odd names--and since I spent a good deal of time last night ruminating on this important topic I thought I'd share.

First is Dusty Day, an aptly named boy with saggy jeans and, well, a dusty sort of look and always in need of a haircut (not unlike my youngest, come to think of it).

Moving on to a girl called Fashion, last name long forgotten.  I remember she was fabulously popular and looked sort of like Bo Derek with a frizzy perm.  I wonder about glamorous names like Fashion--a bit risky, isn't it?  What if adorable baby Fashion turns out to be a bit dumpy and fond of overalls?  Or what if your sweet little *Becky turns out to be a teenage malcontent with a closet full of Nine Inch Nails t-shirts?

Reminds me of two sisters I knew in 4-H called Happy and Jolly.  I don't remember them as particularly cheery girls (the result of all that resentment toward their parents and hours of enforced cross stitch, no doubt.)

dh had childhood friends named Sergio (as in Valente) and Boozer (as in his father's favorite hobby).

But my favorite odd name of all time is a girl I knew in college called Valency.  Her name may well have been a combination of grandparents' names or heaven knows what else but I always liked to think her mom was intensely devoted to chemistry and she had sisters named Argon and Molybdenum.

*might be autobiographical

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

it's the most wonderful time of the year... and my kids went to bed weeping

It was not an auspicious day for trimming the ol' Christmas tree. Had I consulted the I Ching or the Farmer's Almanac or even taken the time for a gut check I would have known to stop before we all say things we will regret in the morning.   Super Q was on day 3 (possibly 4) of strep throat--not quite 24 hours on the antibiotics but feeling well enough to require my undivided attention all day.  I obliged--we ran a few errands and worked on some Christmas projects (including a tree skirt that turned out way more Cat-in-the-Hat than planned).  Everything was humming along until Flash came home and the bickering and tattling commenced.  It waned long enough to put ornaments on the tree and then, yep, picked right back up in time for milk and cookies in the kitchen.  Somebody left right in the middle of the treats and stomped upstairs like a 4 year old.  That same somebody also said "freaking" upward of 3 times before the night was over.  Boys were in bed at 8:30 amid a torrent of tears.  Half of me feels completely justified (the bickering!  it's killing me!).  Half of me wants to go patch things up.  Guess I'm headed upstairs for hugs and kisses.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the healing power of hooky

The view from our front window (a picture window--all the 70s colonials seem to have them here) is a line of pine trees planted to obscure some kind of retaining pond.  This morning the sun seemed to burst as it crested our little treeline.  Lovely morning.  Lovely day--the boys were cooperative and we made it to school just in time.  Today also brought two pieces of unhappy news my way--one was (yet another) rejection letter from yet another employer.  The other is a little too personal to post here, but it hit me like a medicine ball to the stomach.  Cue the tears. 

I had big plans for moping, wallowing and watching Dying Young or some such thing.  Luckily I sent out a signal flare before things got too bad.  Luckily I got a response and then found myself at a movie theater with Junior Mints and everything in the middle of the day watching the simultaneous rise and fall of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network

Here is where I offer a wholehearted endorsement of hooky as a general palliative--even though it doesn't cure the disease, it addresses the symptoms in such a satisfactory way.  My mom knew this when we were growing up, I think.  There were days where I didn't have it in me to face one more day of school and its attendant horrors (the kid who threw rocks at me all the way home, the kid who told me I was voted "Ugliest Girl," Pre-Algebra, etc).  Sometimes she just let me stay home.  Mornings were PBS and toast, then soup and I Love Lucy to follow.  We folded laundry, I helped with the baby.  I read chapter books and practiced drawing unicorns.  And the next day was better--I could pull on those Garanimals and Keds and walk with purpose toward Fuller Elementary, ready to take on whatever it was dishing out.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

my new recipe blog

I am slowly moving relevant recipes from this blog to my new recipe blog, the tiny cutlet.  I'll also be adding new recipes I've modified to reduce the amount of meat--for instance a recipe that calls for 4 chicken breasts would be reduced to 1 chicken breast using a different cooking method and presentation but preserving the flavors.  I plan to add lots of vegetarian recipes as well, all tested on my unwitting family.  I will actually be labeling/tagging the recipes over there to make them easier to find. 

If you have vegetarian recipes or some with only small amounts of meat, send them my way! I'd love to put them over on the tiny cutlet.   

Thursday, October 21, 2010

hanging out with kids

I love that we're getting to the point that we can have intelligent conversations with our kids.  Not that I didn't enjoy the extremely entertaining younger stages (in which Super Q would not be persuaded that we all have "fingers" and not "thingers" and Flash's inexplicable nickname for me was "Sugary").

Last night we enjoyed an unexpected evening at home with dh.  I seized the opportunity and made some peppermint milkshakes and we all sat around in the living room.  dh and I mostly asked the boys about school:  fads (Silly Bandz), popular music (Usher, Katy Perry), books (Twilight [shudder]).  They loved the attention and didn't want to stop  ("Please can we keep on talking?").  Dare I hope for non-combative teenagers in a few years?  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seabiscuit and Belinda Carlisle

I would love love to embrace Nabokov's view of sleep as “the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals.”  How I wish I could truly function on the 4 hours of sleep my body is willing to dole out at a time and rush about saying things like, "Life is for living! I'll sleep when I'm dead!" Etcetera.  Instead I chase it like that shiny, transparent butterfly on the Lunesta commercials.  It might eventually light on my shoulder for a moment, but then off it flits to set up camp elsewhere (mostly likely on the immobile man next to me, blissfully unaware of his poor wife's midnight plight.) 

Since we moved I've had to find new doctors for everyone, which means I had to try to explain my Little Problem to my new doctor and endure the inevitable assumptions, which are, in no particular order:  1)  I'm depressed, 2) I never exercise, 3) I drink too much caffeine at night. 
(Some of those assumptions might actually apply far more often than I will admit.)  "So,"  the doctor said, "You must have some anxiety.  What do you worry about at night?" 

What do I worry about at night?  Seabiscuit and Belinda Carlisle, that's what I worry about.  And it's not exactly worrying.  In an all-hands-on-deck effort to stay awake, my brain finds a little task that MUST be accomplished immediately, such as remembering the name of the lead singer of the Go-Gos.  Or the name of that one famous racehorse, no, not Secretariat, the other one, also in a movie... what was his name?  Let's ponder this from 4:00 am to 5:30 am, shall we? 

There's only one solution here.  It's been obvious for about 6 months now.  I just need an iPad so I can easily look up the answer I need and join the moronic fraternity a little sooner.

potato pearl rolls

All that butter!  All that sugar!  You may actually perish while consuming one of these rolls, especially if you foolishly choose to make them into cinnamon rolls, as I did a few days ago.

1 1/4 c. milk

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. potato pearls, dry (potato flakes will probably work as well)

1 pkg. active dry yeast or 2Tbsp. dry yeast

2/3 c. margarine or butter

2 eggs, well beaten

1/2 c. sugar

3/4 c. water

Bring 3/4 c. water and 1/4 c. milk to boil. Pour into large mixing bowl. Add potato pearls and beat with whisk or fork until blended. Heat remaining milk in same saucepan and pour over potato, margarine or butter, sugar and salt. Cool until lukewarm. Soften yeast in first mixture with eggs and 3 cups of flour. Beat with either wooden spoon or electric mixer until light and smooth. Stir in enough flour by hand to make a dough firm enough to knead. Turn out on floured board and knead 10 minutes or until elastic. Put in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover with plastic wrap and refirgerate until needed. When ready to bake, shape as many rolls as desired in preferred form. Brush with melted butter and let raise in warm place 1 hour or until light. Bake in hot oven (400) 15 -20 minutes. Make 3 1/2 dozen medium rolls. Rolls may be shaped without refrigerating, if preferred. Raising time may be slightly less.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

missing boy

In what seems like another life entirely, I took my 3 year old (now he's 8) to the park on a regular basis. We stopped first at the edge of a small plot of wilderness adjacent to the park to check for coyotes (actually saw one once) and then headed to the little window under the slide to play McDonald's. After our fill of pretend Happy Meals, we headed to the other side of the playground to play Missing Boy, a game invented by the 3 year old in which he is carried away by bad guys in a helicopter or plane. My job then was to miss him. I did so extravagantly, calling his name mournfully, asking Who, who will be my Super Q now? I wept, I begged for him to come back. And miraculously, the bad guys always brought him safely home for a happy reunion on a bed of mulch near the park bench.

Today that boy is worried about missing his dad. There were tears, which he blamed on a variety of other things. We finally faced our fears, though. We're afraid we're all going to miss the Daddy around here quite a bit in the next few years.

The past few months have been long ones in some ways, as dh has been working 60-65 hours a week. Today he was called to serve our ward (congregation) as the 2nd Counselor in the Bishopric (a sort of assistant pastor), a position that usually requires a lot of time and lasts for several years. I didn't see it coming at all and I'll admit that I cried about it. It's a difficult position to be in: wanting more time together as a family while knowing that in our church we all take our turn at heavy responsibility to serve each other. I have benefited from the service of others and now it's my turn to give back a bit. That said, when bedtime rolls around and it's just been the 3 of us since 7 am, we'll really be missing the Daddy around here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

my baby! he's 8!

The youngest ninja turned 8 (my baby! he's 8!) last week. It's his year for a "friend party." In previous years we've done a few outsourced parties--no, they weren't hosted by an Indian man supposedly named "Greg" but rather a sullen college student in a matted mouse suit performing for a writhing mass of red-cheeked 4 year olds. Our financial situation since the Great American Financial Implosion has, ahem, changed tremendously, so this year it was a "friend party" on a budget. Luckily this particular ninja had no grand dreams of a Batman jump house or some such so we went with a secret agent theme, easily accomplished with office supplies I had on hand.

Here's the invitation, which I put inside a small envelope made from a large manila envelope. The font is Old Typewriter, found here.

When the kids arrived, they filled out an ID badge:

The square was for their thumbprint, or you could put a photo there if you are fancy.

Games included a treasure hunt and hot potato with a "grenade" (easter egg covered in duct tape). Here's the cake, a total non-sequitor (gumball machine) but that's what the ninja wanted:

I finally figured out this mysterious Viva paper towel method of making the cake look like it's frosted with fondant without having to actually eat fondant. After cake and presents and another impromptu treasure hunt, we sent the kids to the basement, threw Cody Banks 2: Destination London up on the projector, and sat down for a tiny rest. After 15 minutes, I heard this: "They said we were going to have popcorn and it's been like 2 hours and WHERE IS THE POPCORN?" That was my cue to get up and pop the promised corn.

On the way out each agent got some Pixi sticks, a secret agent badge (dollar store) and magnifying glass (ditto) wrapped up in some old engineering plans from dh's office. I think we all had fun. And I was grateful for the shop-vac when I saw the basement.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the big fake

It's 1:00 pm and by now I've usually had one or more medium-sized twinges of regret about how the morning went. As in, Why did I yell at the kids so much this morning?

I've tried many strategies to combat the morning stress. Charts, preparing more the night before, NOT yelling (not reminding or hounding anyone until it's time to get in the car--letting Natural Consequences occur), etc. And yet most days I have to nag and remind and then, eventually, yell a bit. I mostly know that this is how it is probably going to be until the boys are much older. I'm going to have to prod them in some way or another to get out the door on time. If I wasn't such an unreasonable stickler for things like clean clothes or brushed teeth we wouldn't have this problem.

My new strategy, very recently formulated, is entitled "Fake It Till You Make It (and you might not ever actually make it.)" (Of course it has a parenthetical caveat there because I am the world champion user of parentheses.) My plan is to deliver every nagging reminder in a sweety-sweet or jokey sort of voice. (I have tried this before with limited success: one time my voice got so high and so sweet it turned into some sort of hysterical tweeting sound, causing the boys to freeze, mid-quarrel, and stare at me. Which was a victory of sorts.) The plan is loosely based on a friend who is able to keep a calm tone of voice in nearly any situation with her kids. I admire this very much.

So tomorrow Fake It Till Make It will commence. Here's hoping we make it out the door on time, shoes on feet, smiles on faces, and familial relationships intact. We shall see.

Friday, September 10, 2010

hire me!

No, that's not me in the picture there. (Although once in college someone asked if the girl in the Henri Cartier-Besson photo on my wall was me. Which I thought was funny.) Anyway, no I don't wear an owl in my hair but I do drink tea and read quite a lot. And I DO send out dozens of resumes lately. Here is a partial list of jobs I have at least considered applying for in the last week:

* librarian (of course)
* researcher (independent contractor for possibly shady character)
* Borders person at the info desk who resembles a librarian
* "kids' activities director" at a gym (aka daycare--they want you to be "working toward" a high school diploma or GRE)
*Target cashier

Do you notice a downward trend there in the list? I also considered the following position (culled from craigslist):

Our organization is looking for young individuals who are self suffisent, able to multi task and have great time management skills.
We are looking for two assistants who will assist our CEO and VP with daily tasks and schedule management.

degree is a plus.

I think I could probably pass the preliminary spelling assessment.

Job hunting is always excruciating for me. Cover letters by necessity must be full of boasts and cliches "organized, motivated, and meticulous in my work"... "deadline-driven"..."self-starter"....

How does a person successfully explain large gaps and weird less-than-part-time jobs without alluding to the dreaded "mommy track"?

Is it ok to delete a whole degree and past experience to meet the requirements of a job clearly aimed at teenagers? (Is it worth it to do so?)

And lastly, am I freaking out already? I haven't actually applied for very many jobs. As my good friend Denise would say, "You need to chillax."

Monday, August 30, 2010

wait, where did the summer go?

School starts in 8 days. The boys claim to dread this milestone, but secretly I think they're a little excited. I mean, the first day of school is always great in its way, even for adults. Reminds me of an Innocence Mission song (Beginning the World):

Aren't you bursting with butterflies
On the fourth of September
Like you'll have to get on the bus
In your tartan dress, with your lunch box
Though your body is twenty-nine
Though your mind is an old thing

Isn't it true? I'm 38 and I'm nervous about the first day of school for my kids. (I should mention here that I'm nervous about nearly everything, so maybe this isn't a significant fact).

It's not everyday your mom takes you to the shoe store and lets you pick out skater shoes with skulls on them. And that pile of brand-new, stain-free T-shirts on the dresser will never look the same again. It's so sweet, that first day. I look at the kids lined up with fresh haircuts and unblemished backpacks and I just want to kiss them all.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a good plan

The boys have been visiting cousins for 2 days now. I was mostly looking forward to this time: I wanted to deep clean and paint and look for a job in EARNEST, people. And paint I did. The bathroom is now Alaskan Blue and it will have brown and white accents. A nice bracing slightly-brighter-than cadet blue to wake us up in the morning and distract us from the bulky oaky cabinets.

So today I deep clean and buy TP in bulk. That's my whole to-do list. The house is silent. The dog is bored.

The inevitable side effect of a quiet house and time to think while I tape and paint and scrub is, unfortunately, worrying. I'm worrying about the fall--when the boys go back to school and every day is this quiet. The thought of 9 months spent mostly alone is not a cheery one. I've been looking for a job and am having difficulty even finding something to apply for. Libraries are laying off staff here and even closing their doors. I've applied to some retail stores but haven't heard anything. I'm anxious to have something in place--to have a plan. Plans are nice. I enjoy a good plan.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

a whiter shade of pale

So I'm sitting here waiting for a phone interview that looks like it might not happen. I jumped through all the hoops, faxed everything in, did the assessment test, and now... nothing. Weird.

So while I wait, I'm (of course) looking at blogs and falling in love with other people's houses. Lately I've been thinking about the Very Tan Family Room we have and wondering how to cheaply change its tanness. I've been trying to muster the courage to paint over perfectly good wood. After looking at this basement re-do, I think I'm going to do it. White reflects light, right? And light is what I need here in the Great White North, especially in the wintertime.

Monday, June 21, 2010

the pup

time-sucker, inhabitant of the 2" under my foot, devoted companion, taker of cute naps...
aka "Buddy"

Friday, April 09, 2010

super easy baby shower invitations

I've loved paper and ink for a long time, but not really in the scrapbooky way. I like calligraphy (not great at it) and stationery stores and, more recently, origami paper. My good friend gave me some beautiful origami paper for Christmas. I was waiting for the perfect project to put it to use. Baby shower! One to which our whole congregation is invited. Perfect! I knocked out 60 of these in about 2 hours.

I'm passing the idea along because it uses pretty paper but it also uses a computer and printer and does not involve lots of tiny little items to be glued on. (I don't have the patience for tiny little items). I like the quick and dirty, easy to replicate project (like these cookies, which made another appearance for Easter).

Monday, March 22, 2010

the fishbowl

Soon after we married, dh and I moved into the super-cheap, cinder block, all-utilities paid on-campus "married housing". (My guess is BYU is the only university with what amounts to married dorms. That's a topic for another day.) The apartment was quite small and the walls dripped condensation in the winter. But it was close to campus and so CHEAP. We were happy to be there.

There were four buildings on our "quad" (hence the name) and they all faced in, with a greenbelt and tiny playground (again, only at BYU) in the middle. I felt this layout would lend itself well to impromptu BBQ dinners and someone pulling out their guitar to play "Edelweiss." Needless to say, we avoided the greenbelt.

I often thought of that quad as a sort of fishbowl for young marrieds. At night the glow of fluorescent light told everyone you were home. A bluish light indicated MOVIE NIGHT! We heard a few loud marital disputes and even some summer lovin'. (I know, gross. We didn't have A/C and everyone left their windows open).

Our first baby lived there with us for 6 weeks before dh graduated. It was then that I really appreciated the fishbowl. At 1:00 am (and 3:00, and 5:00), when Flash was crying his eyes out and I couldn't figure out why I opened the blinds and looked out at the fishbowl. Without fail, there were other lights on. By then I knew the other residents--I knew who had a baby of their own, who was in law school, who was pre-med. I felt a certain kinship and even encouragement as I looked out. This was part of being an adult. Part of being a mom. I could do it.

Recently a friend was (sort of) railing on bloggers. She feels bloggers are probably internet addicts. They have nothing better to do. They are neglectful parents. I tried to explain it, but I probably failed. If I could have that conversation again I would describe it in terms of the fishbowl. No matter what your life is right now, you can look out and find someone who gets it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the source of the fabric

I had a few requests for the name of the (failed) curtain fabric. It's called Mocca Red and it's made by Keepsake Calico. I bought it at Joann Fabric. Here's the link:

I'm so tempted to make a skirt out of it. Would that be too much Mocca Red in my life?

Friday, March 12, 2010

curtain fail.

A person who has had only 2 hours of sleep should not make curtains. A person who is too lazy to find the measuring tape should not measure for curtains. (I'm not even sure the measuring tape made it on the moving truck.). It's unbelievable to me that I managed to mess up 2 separate sets of curtains on the same day. I really thought I had measured correctly.

I'm happy with the eventual result on the brown floral curtains, but not loving the tab-top curtains. Ah, well... lesson learned, route to fabric store thoroughly memorized, tension on sewing machine shot. Time to take a break from sewing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

meat + sugar + caffeine ... in a healthy salad!

My saintly mother gave each of her children a binder full of favorite recipes for Christmas. I've added a few of my own to the binder and find that I'm using it almost every day. What a great gift, right?

One of the recipes in the binder is a copycat of the Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad from a wonderful Tex-Mex restaurant called Cafe Rio. I've tried other copycat recipes and, sister, this is the best one. I'm sure it has everything to do with the 2 cups of Coke, not to mention the brown sugar AND molasses. I'm using my own rice recipe--a favorite for years. This is a great meal for serving a crowd, especially a crowd who wants a meat, sugar, and caffeine rush all at once.

Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad

Sweet Pork

4 lb pork roast
1-2 cans tomato sauce
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2-2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cumin
2 cups Dr Pepper or Coke
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Spray crock pot with Pam and place pork roast inside. Mix remaining ingredients until sugar has dissolved. Pour over roast and cook on low until pork can be shredded with a fork (8-10 hours). The finished meat/liquid mixture can be frozen for later use.

Cilantro Rice

1 cup fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves
1 fresh jalapeno chilie, stemmed, or ½ can green chiles
2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 tsp olive oil
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup grated carrot

In a blender, whirl cilantro, garlic, chilie, and 1 cup 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 mixture, remaining broth, and carrot. 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.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

2 cups Ranch dressing
1 cup salsa verde (La Victoria or other store brand is fine)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped or snipped with kitchen scissors
salt to taste

My favorite way to put this meal together is as follows: make a bed of delicious cilantro rice on a plate. Top with a scoop of black beans and a scoop of sweet pork. Cover with romaine lettuce and drizzle with Cilantro Dressing.

Monday, March 08, 2010

hooray for...

The sun. Which has been out, in full force for 7 WHOLE DAYS! Perfect weather for going outside and ignoring the blog!
Loreal Magic Perfecting Base. This stuff is wonderful. Even miraculous. A tiny dab fills in your pores and even (some) wrinkles. I top it off with Clinique Almost Powder Makeup. I'm not sure if I actually look better, but I feel like I do.

The Office. I was sort of bored by it for a bit, but NBC lured me back in with that sweet (and creepy in one spot--nursing a stranger's baby) episode about Jim and Pam's baby. I'm such a sucker for happy family stories, even when they're fake.

This talk by David S. Baxter. I listen to it every day. My favorite part:

Selfless service is a wonderful antidote to the ills that flow from the worldwide epidemic of self-indulgence. Some grow bitter or anxious when it seems that not enough attention is being paid to them, when their lives would be so enriched if only they paid more attention to the needs of others.

The answer lies in helping to solve the problems of those around us rather than worrying about our own, living to lift burdens even when we ourselves feel weighed down, putting our shoulder to the wheel instead of complaining that the wagons of life seem to be passing us by.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

plenty of clouds

We had several sunny days last week in a row. All the way home from church we basked in the sun (through the windows of course, it was still 32 degrees outside, people) and talked about how mild this winter has been and I'll admit a tiny part of me believed it was over. I half-expected 3 more sunny days this week and even a brief appearance of cute shoes worn without socks.

This week snapped me back to reality in the form of 8" of snow and a very gray forecast. The newscaster on our local NPR station is fond of using the phrase "plenty of clouds" to describe days like these. One day I will give that man a good punch in the nose. Plenty should be used to describe something wonderful like smoked salmon or songs by Iron & Wine. Incidentally it also describes the number of Hostess "Donettes" I have foolishly consumed today. It is the antonym to the quantity of sleep I got last night.

*photo is from

Saturday, February 20, 2010

this alfredo is a lightweight

I know it's not authentic or anything, but this recipe makes a delicious sauce and does not call for a whole stick of butter or heavy cream. Even my kids like it.

Any Cheese Alfredo-ish Sauce

4 oz light cream cheese, cubed
1 cup milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese OR havarti/gruyere/other cheese, cubed
3 T butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Cook all ingredients in a saucepan on medium-low until cheeses have completely melted. Stir occasionally with a whisk.

I usually toss this sauce with 3/4 lb whole wheat rotini/penne and broccoli or zucchini. Top with more shredded cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

depression cake

Am I so depressed that I need a cake to fix me? If so, why? Is it because of the weather?(Crappy). Is it because of the state of my kitchen table? (Pictured above, in desperate need of refinishing). Is it the fact that dh doesn't believe in valentine's day? (I'm still making my peace with that). No, no, and no. I'm actually not depressed or anything but I've been making this cake on a weekly basis because it is fantastically delicious and moist and, incidentally, vegan (almost makes up for the 2 cups of sugar). I love that I always have the ingredients on hand and it doesn't have any weird chemical in it like a box cake. It's also sturdy enough to actually be frosted, unlike box cakes.

It's called Depression Cake because my great-grandmother Katie Pearl made it for my Nana when she was growing up during the great depression. My Nana's comment on it was, "This cake is good. Just like memories of my mother." Which is the cutest thing ever.

Depression Cake

2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups cold water
3/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix for 30 seconds on low to combine, then 2 minutes on medium. Pour into prepared pans (I use parchment paper and cooking spray to line my pans). Bake at 350 for 25 minutes for two 8 or 9" rounds.

I frost it with sweetened whipping cream (whip 2 cups of heavy cream +3-5 tablespoons powdered sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla until sturdy peaks form).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

wedding photo time waster

Ah, snow days. Such a nice respite from the frenzied rush out the door, the running around town, the pressure to Get Things Done. A day for snow castles, snow angels, maple syrup snow cones, hot chocolate, clam chowder, and some fairly lame Disney channel shows.

I didn't do any of that stuff. My boys did, and I documented it with the camera and sometimes joined in. What did I do today? (Besides make clam chowder and tuck snow pants into snow boots). I trolled around on wedding photography sites. There are some really cool ones out there. I like carl zoch photography in particular.

I think I'm well past the point of adding photos to my wedding album. Not sure if I could fit in the dress. Pretty sure the wrinkles would show. Maybe some 13th anniversary photos? In super-soft focus?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

today I ...

... cleaned out the Bad Carb Graveyard. Wait, no, I didn't eat them all. Those unappetizing lumps are Chocolate Emergency Cookies. Remember those? Maybe not; I just learned that most people call them No-bake Cookies. No matter--they still look gross.

... scrubbed Super Q's skateboarding shoes. He left a note in my purse reminding me to do it.

... wore the Ugly Apron while I cooked up some teriyaki marinade.

... enjoyed this very cool card catalog my sister-in-law gave me. The drawers are just big enough to put CDs in (yes, I'm in my 30s, I still own some CDs).

... contemplated the meaning of these nautical posts (pilings, are they called? moorings? is mooring a word?) in my backyard. If a boat pulls up one day, it'll have a place to dock.

... took a lot of random pictures of little tasks. Feeling kind of done with winter.

Friday, January 29, 2010

it doesn't look like an implement of torture

I made some curtains for the boys' room today. I really love the big circle graphic thing on the right side. I have two curtain-related confessions, though. The first is: these curtains are made out of sheets, sheets that I bought at a grocery store in Texas. Yes, sheets from a grocery store. For $1.99, no less. I saw those groovy circles and knew one day they would grace a pair of curtains. The other confession is that it required 65 minutes, a couple of zip ties and medical tape to get these ridiculous curtains hung. Why? Because I used one of these little numbers:

Yes, the kind of curtain rod I swore after college never to use again. But the hardware was already in place, courtesy of the last owner and I thought, "Why not? People use these things all the time. It'll work fine." This same logic has led to all manner of horrible TV shows, incidentally. "Survivor is so popular! Why not apply that formula to courtship, weight loss, applying for a job, dating, cooking..."

I digress. Suffice it to say that in the time it took to hang that ridiculous curtain rod, I could have gone to Target to buy a real curtain rod and picked up a Sonic Chocolate Diet Coke, thus avoiding a a great deal of frustration and swearing under my breath.

Ah, well. Sleep soundly, my children. There are some lovely modernish curtains to keep out the cold and harsh light of morning. And plenty of medical tape nearby should you require it in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

the all-purpose room gets a makeover

This room was not a selling point when we bought this house. I like to let laundry pile up until it's 3 feet above the hamper and then do it all in one long day while I watch Hitchcock movies and eat black bean nachos. Unfortunately, this room can't hide that all-day process like a nice basement laundry room might. I didn't see a basement laundry room in my immediate future, though, so I updated this room. The Country Blue painted border was making me depressed.

Here's the room now, minus a cabinet above the toilet, depressing border, and towel rack. Pedestal sink to come (soon, hopefully). The current counter/sink situation is blocking the heat vent. Nothing should ever block a heat vent in a Michigan house.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

fake plastic trees

Maybe there's some corner of the internet devoted to FREE, scalable, simply drawn graphics that a person could use to make freezer paper stencils. I haven't found it yet. (If you google "stencil patterns" you get LOTS of ivy and even a few country ducks.) I wanted to find a silhouette of a tree, couldn't find it online, etc. As I was cleaning up the family room, inspiration struck in the form of a little plastic tree:

It was perfect! A little small, but I used the famous grid method for copying it onto a larger piece of paper.

Here's the final result--curtains for the kitchen window. Total cost: $2.00. (Clearance linen-blend fabric, fabric paint, freezer paper for stencil.)

(Sorry so dark--I took that picture at 10's not very sunny today.) Little by little I'm introducing some color into our very tan/honey oak house. Next up: the laundry room.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


So the latest put-down in Elementary School World is "meaner" (apparently). Maybe it's been popular for a long time. We don't have cable so we're slow on the uptake for linguistic trends. Anyway, this week I've been one (a "meaner" that is--I sort of prefer "meanie," it sounds kind of cute and cheeky, whereas "meaner" is purposeful and deliberate). dh has been working late every single night. Super Q has been a trapped in a maelstrom of 7 year old emotions and fake injury. I've had the weirdest and worst sleep (trying to not use the Ambien but falling back on it more often than not). The cutie (the nephew I babysit) has been almost totally nap-resistant, to the point of careening around the house, drunk with fatigue and still waking up the moment his head reaches the pack n' play.

It's so crazy, this mothering thing. Such a struggle between order and discipline and demanding respect and getting the homework and chores done and then letting natural consequences happen and cherishing childhood and making warm memories.

I hope I'm not screwing it up.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist another beehive hairdo photo).

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

arizona with no baedecker, er, camera cord

I'm not usually fixated on wealth (see last post). The attitudinal accessories of money make me a little queasy. I wouldn't mind a few extra thousand dollars to put toward plane tickets, though. After 2 glorious (and I mean glorious) weeks in Arizona I have decided that I need to visit way more often. 65 degrees. Sun. Siblings. Delicious Mexican food on every corner. I took it for granted for so many years. In high school I actually wished for gray skies and rain and real sweater weather. (My dark itchy thrift-store wardrobe didn't jibe well with that heat). But now... what I wouldn't give for flip-flops in January.

Highlights included many nights cooking with my mom and siblings with Aretha in the background, a lovely Christmas morning with thank-you hugs after every gift (I got 2 booklights--yes, I asked for a booklight--and one bright pink Snuggie), a little shopping, Avatar in 3-D, a few family parties, Rock Band, a reunion with a high school friend, and, as the grand finale, a night out on New Year's Eve. The theme of the night was BIG HAIR and delicious Mediterranean food. And no camera cord with which to charge the camera. I will rely on my facebooking sisters to provide the pics of my big beehive hair and post those later. (Thanks, Tony, for the pic).

At each (somewhat infrequent) family gathering someone mentions how fortunate we are to have such close relationships. It's true. No one is "not speaking" to anyone else. We keep in close contact online and on the phone. We're all best friends, the whole jolly lot of us.

I try to convince my boys how important their relationship is. Years pass and the people we tried to impress, the cliques we clamored to join, the masks we wore all fade away. Our families remain. I'm so grateful for mine.