Monday, December 21, 2009

your moment(s) of zen.

when i was a much younger and more impressionable lass i was introduced to the jackalope. you know, part jackrabbit part antelope. mainly a desert dwelling animal, i do believe they were spotted as high up as the sierras. which is where i first heard about them.

now, i wasn't *so* impressionable that i didn't harbor *some* kind of suspicion about this actually being a *real* animal. BUT that's back in the olden days when we didn't, when we couldn't, wiki and google everything so how in the world could we 'really' know anything, right?

now fast forward to a few years ago at a local steakhouse with my husband. the bartender is telling us how the bar came over from england and is actually 'the' oldest bar in the state or the world or whatnot. i don't really know what he said because i wasn't really listening. because over the bar was the mounted head of a JACKALOPE! a full rack of antlers and everything! and right then and there i knew they were real!

so i say to the bartender

'hey! you have a jackalope!'

he kinda chuckled and said


'yeah, i always wondered if they were real. cool.'

at this point it's dawning on the bartender and my husband that i honestly believe that the head over the bar is a 'real' jackalope. that they really exist and here's the proof.

so my husband says

'um, they aren't real. you know that right? that's just a rabbit head that somebody put antlers on. a jackalope isn't a real animal.'


bummer. because a jackalope would be an AWESOME animal.

speaking of bummers, this can be hard time of year for a lot of people. whatever's going on it feels like the short dark days and the long cold nights and the year coming to a close, not to mention possible financial and familial pressures, only makes it seem bigger and worse.

just remember to be good to yourself. go easy on the ones you love. that everyone is trying to make it through, just like you are.

and maybe this year we just go for the best we can do, straight from the heart. leave perfection and grandiose expectations to someone else. maybe we just try it.

and maybe that if nothing else, if the best you can do is just accept that it is what it is and just put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving forward, then hey, you're doing all right.

which brings me to this week's moment(s) of zen. it's 4 1/2 minutes and i encourage you to watch it and share it with the kids. enjoy!

bound bound bound and rebound.

happy winter solstice.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

still crazy after all these years.

i think advice on relationships is pure crap. mainly because unless you are in the relationship you can really have NO idea what goes on and therefore should keep your big fat trap shut. even when you're asked. seriously. do yourself a favor and just move along.

i know from experience that when we give advice or opinions we are just being preachy and projecting and so just goddamned glad it's not us that it makes us self-righteous. oh yuck, right?

because self-righteousness is like wine or candy or porn. it serves its purpose, sure, and may be all kinds of fun, okay, but at the end of the day it's just another crutch. and self-righteousness is even worse when employed by someone IN the relationship. however *justified.* because it sure feels good, but that's all. and it's fleeting. it's not going to be there to comfort you when you're sad, or care for you when you're ill, or hold your hair back when you're puking in the yard.

it's SO easy to judge somebody's relationship based on social mores and convention, but those are crap, too. and i am guilty as charged for doing so sometimes, but i'm working on it! so there.

a relationship is its own living breathing organic construct. there is absolutely no way any two could be exactly alike, and therefore there is no way there can be one set of 'shoulds' and 'shouldn'ts.' it's a ridiculous notion.

so with that, on this anniversary of mine i'm thinking of my experience with relationships. and with two marriages, one divorce, lots and lots of LOTS of mistakes made, heartbreaks, and hearts broken under my belt i have one very important nugget of "wisdom" i'd like to share. not because i have a perfect relationship, or because i think i know jack shit, but because i'm happy. i'm happy in my relationship and this is my way of expressing it. again, not because it's perfect, but because it's just right for me.

plus, it's my blog so i get to pretend i know something.

are you ready? okay...


oops. was i shouting?

people are always happier when they can move about their life being exactly who they are, not who someone else wants them to be. trying to change for someone or trying to change someone is futile and heartbreaking and absolutely no fun. barring a few exceptions, for the most part people don't change. they just don't. and wishing they would or wanting them to or trying to force them to just doesn't work.

and hell, isn't life just so much better when you are even if you are flawed and grappling and still working on it? at least there's a chance to find the answer, right? isn't life just so much better when you're with someone who is just who they are? comfortable with themselves? real? who doesn't have to try so damned hard? only to mostly fail because it's inauthentic to the real them?

so if you want to be with someone with some amount of happiness and success you need to be with the *them* that THEY are comfortable with, not the *them* that YOU want them to be. and if you can't let the person you're in a relationship be who they are then perhaps that's not the relationship for you.

okay, i'm off my soap box. for now. don't go too far, there's usually more.

and with that being said, i will offer the following exchange from a real life relationship moment in this house;

this morning i received the following e-mail from my husband under the subject *Dinner.*

"How do you feel about me making meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and a steamed veggie for dinner?"

to which i replied

"i'm confused? is this a trick question?"

and i'm going to honor my own experience and let my husband be *exactly who he is* and let him make me a 100% home made with love, absolutely delicious dinner while i do nothing but sit on my ass and watch. because i'm sweet like that.

still nothing but full blown excitement around here.

still crazy after all these years.

still the luckiest girl in the world.


Friday, December 04, 2009

yes, internet, there is a santa claus.

so last night after a long day i was looking forward to getting wingman settled into bed, the duke settled in the living room with a book, and me settled with my glass of wine, my husband, and my television boyfriend.

i got wingman all tucked in and turned the light out and was leaving the room when i hear him ask

"mama, how big is god?"

sigh. there are times as a parent when you can defer questions for a later "better" time. like the time the duke asked me where babies came from on the way into target. but last night, this was not one of those questions. not even if by answering it it meant that you were going to miss your television boyfriend.

parental sacrifice is so great sometimes.

so i got into bed next to him and we chatted about it.

the thing is, you're never going to have a more honest conversation about god than the one you have with a child. with anyone else it's a matter of them trying to convince you that he does NOT exist and why. or trying to convince you that he DOES exist and why.

with a child it just is.

wingman has always been the one to come up with the deep thinking and the wondering and worrying. we've been driving in the car and he'll randomly bust out with something like "i don't ever want to die." or "isn't that sky just AMAZING?" or "i think i would like a stepfather."

by the way, as you may imagine, that last one really threw me when he said it. i told him i'd have to get married again for him to have a stepfather. and that wasn't going to happen. and wasn't he happy with his papa? he said "oh yeah! i just think it would be cool to have more parents to love me."

and the cool thing about talking to wingman about god is that he has his opinions and i have mine. and we can just tell each other what we think. and we're both listened to, heard. there isn't church or organized religion in our house, but there is a lot of spirituality and the study of history. and you don't have a lot of history study without study of religion. not properly. so much of what was shaped in this world was (is) tied to religion. jesus, what wasn't, right?( no pun intended) whether it was a civilization, a culture, a border, etc. you can't really get away from it. so in this house there's perspective, context, and the chance for your own opinions on the matter. it's all fair game.

and when you're 8 and you still believe in santa claus and the tooth fairy and you haven't soured on your president yet...when you still believe that the world is a good and right place filled with magic and wonder, and just enough real life, well god just fits right in there. because no one has told you different yet. and someday they will. but today, today you're 8. and you get to believe exactly what you want to.

the thing i love about thinking about the idea of/the existence of god, santa claus, the tooth fairy, true love, the perfect reuben, a margarita ordered from a restaurant that does not suck, etc., is that you get blessed with the most precious gift of all. hope. hope that the thing that is in your brain or in your heart does indeed exist. and that one day, if you haven't already, that you will come across it. you really will.

and i know hope has become a tag word of late, sure. bandied about in meaningless fashion sometimes. but just because it's become kind of trite does not mean that its real meaning and importance is negated.

that being said, to have hope as an adult is not always easy. not when you know that the world around you contains so much misery and heartache. when you may not have enough of anything that you need to just make it through the day, let alone the week, the year, your life. when there are so many needs in the larger world that you cannot even begin to think about it some days.

but when you're little, you don't have all of that. you just lie in your bed at night thinking about the things that 'could' be. things that 'might' be. hope is infinite. it doesn't cost a thing and it's yours for the taking.

that being said, my kids are HUGE believers of santa. the duke has said before, "OF COURSE santa's real. for one, my mother would NEVER spend, like, 70 dollars on me!"


we were talking about santa awhile ago, in relation to a larger discussion on faith and beliefs and religion and agnosticism and atheism and all that. and the duke's theory was that for the kids who don't believe in santa, that's fine with him. but he didn't think it was okay to make fun of the kids who do. like there's something wrong with them. he said

"just like people shouldn't make fun of or tease people who believe in god or religion or have faith just because they don't believe or don't have it."


bear with me because this isn't too formed as a cohesive thought, but to me, santa is the beginning for some kids about learning what faith is. faith right on their level. and by faith i mean the idea of believing in something. really truly believing. a precursor to actual faith if you will.

that for some kids there is this guy, a myth, perpetuated and totally co-opted for the commercial a lot of the times, sure, but regardless he remains a constant mythical *good.* something that these kids can identify with.

and his mere existence introduces kids to wishing. who else but a guy who is all about toys and candy and being good and elves and all the magic that surrounds santa could get to kids in that way? kids 'get' it. and sure we can talk all we want about manipulation and all that, but the fact remains that kids 'get' santa.

and this myth opens the door to the what-ifs. to believing in something that is so fantastical and SO preposterous (flying reindeer? chimney diving?) *that it just might be right on.* and kids know that the fantastical can be real. it's only adults who lose sight of that.

santa is about belief, even when it seems impossible. about lying in bed and wondering and wish making and hoping against hope that it will be how you want it christmas morning. even when you know circumstances in your house suggest otherwise. because wishing and hoping ARE real. they exist. and they're there even when nothing else is.

okay, yeah, i get the disappointment aspect. there's no real way around that. and having been disappointed as a child, and having seen a glimmer of disappointment in my own child's face i get it. (wingman has always wanted a Nintendo DS. he has never gotten one. he was too little then, and now they are just too pricey. he'll get over it. or he won't. who knows. as far as i'm concerned, that's what therapists and blogs are for.)

so yeah, i don't necessarily think disappointment is always a bad thing. but that's a discussion for another time regarding how parents perpetuate the myth if they can't fulfill it and all that. because i can see it eventually becoming a liability under certain circumstances.

does that make any sense? probably not. it did in my head. but that's neither here nor there because it's just one part of my larger point and i'm sticking to it whether it makes sense in print or not.

the bottom line is that for some kids, for me, i think you learn to believe and to wish and to dream with santa. and that's his real gift, his real magic. in the larger picture, it's not the stuff, it's the idea.

that being said, one day the duke won't believe. seriously, he's 12. the only reason he still believes in santa is because i let him. and because he knows how cheap i am and it's the only way he thinks he's gonna get anything good. and may i say that santa TOTALLY ROCKS this house. not in mass consumerist excess, just in real and true fabulousness.

and really, the duke may actually "know." word on the street is that he is rather an astute young lad. but he's not saying anything and neither am i.

and then one day wingman won't believe. and when that day comes, or the day comes that they really want to know "the truth," or they catch me in the act i'll say

"you know, i am santa now and have been as you got bigger. but santa is about belief and as long as you once believed that's all that really matters. and if you spoil it for your brother i'm locking you in the basement."

i don't care who believes in what. everyone is entitled to their own ideas about everything. god, the tooth fairy, the existence of the perfect reuben or a restaurant margarita that doesn't suck. believe away because i accept you and your beliefs just as you are.

but just so you know, i believe in santa just as much as my kids do.

merry merry.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

o little town two towns away.

so i was in the town two towns away that i don't spend time in but just happened to have been in twice in one week. the reason why this time was that wingman LOVES nutcrackers. and he loves that santa brings him a cool nutcracker each year. and i figured since santa is so busy these days that i'd help him out and scout around.


i went to the various thrift stores in this town two towns away in search of vintage (read cool and cheap) nutcrackers. and one of the thrift stores is in a strip mall with a grocery outlet and a dollar store. there's also a store there called 'stupid prices.' but it's out of business. i wonder if the prices were too stupid or just the name.

anyhow, i checked the thrift store and didn't find anything. then i headed next door to the grocery outlet. it's got to be a chain because i remember this store from when i was little growing up in california. the name was slightly different, maybe 'canned food outlet' or something like that? but i remember the same rainbow logo. i also remember it was on one side of the freeway overpass and 'budget meats' was on the other. this was a convenient A to B for shopping in my household.

good lord, 'budget meats.' as you may imagine, this was a no frills concern that sold meat. cheap. it didn't smell particularly good, not bad, just not good. especially so during the scorching valley summers. and given its location, it was always an adventure as to who would be hanging around out front. who hangs out in front of 'budget meats?' and, it was not lost on me as a little kid that not only was 'budget meats' NOT a particularly reassuring name, it also had an unfortunately close proximity to a veterinary hospital. as an imaginative child this really gave me pause.

anyhow, so this 'grocery outlet' is supposed to be groceries on the cheap. i heard from a friend that they had an inexpensive wine section, too so i thought i'd go in and check it out. what's the big deal? i didn't think the groceries in this place were all that cheap, a LOT were regularly priced. certainly not something for me to drive two towns away to get to.

oh sure, unless you want "juice." oh, and it's in quotes on the bottles, too, because it's not actually juice. for some reason the 'grocery outlet' had fake juice up the whazoo. and chopped nuts, too. only they are chopped nuts packaged as "nutmeats." and i just can't. i don't care how good a deal it is. i just can't.

oh, and the wine section was a bunch of wines i've not only never in my life heard of, they all had suspicious labels with fake sounding 'fancy names.'

sure, some cheap wines can be very good. okay, drinkable at least. but these were REALLY cheap, and sort of 'off' looking. like something that inmates from an asylum would make for both a therapeutic activity and fundraiser for the facility. but not surprisingly, because i'm me and therefore cannot resist a good wine deal, i started to gravitate towards some label with elaborate swirls and something like "falalalaulia," and i was only saved by the fact that right then over the loudspeaker the song that was playing ended and the new song that came on was 'the christmas shoes.'

ARRGH! 'the christmas shoes!!' look, i love christmas music. secular, religious, churchy, all out god is our savior with the big chorus, i don't care! I LOVE IT! and often the sappier the better. BUT this song, i get all weepy and cry!! but not in the good kind of way because it's such a terrible manipulative tear jerker! it's a bad sad cry. in fact it's nearly UNFAIR how it makes me cry. so i hear the opening bars and i immediately make for the door. whew, thank god or i might have actually purchased the "falalalaulia" or whatever it was for 1.99. because i know just by looking at it it was NO two buck chuck. okay, sure, it *might* have been on par with two buck chuck. it *might* have been the best wine in the world, but i'm kinda glad i'll never find out.

so i go next door to the dollar store. because it's there. and because i'm looking for red tapers for my winter solstice advent wreath and you'd think this being the season of red tapers and all that i'd find them easily. not so much. oddly enough, i cannot find red tapers to save my life. so i go in and what is on the loudspeaker? 'THE CHRISTMAS SHOES!' i kid you not! it's a wonder when these things happen (with alarming frequency it seems) that there really isn't a hidden camera crew when i look around for them.

anyway, so i spy candles right as i walk in. of course they aren't red tapers, because that would be too easy. BUT they are soy candles in their own glass holders, a nice brand i remember ordering OFF THE INTERWEBS FOR A RIDICULOUS SUM a few years back. and here they are! for ONLY 1.00! i am a cheap bastard so this at once makes me terribly angry that i didn't think of patronizing dollar stores more in my past and completely gleeful that this fabulous deal has come my way!!!

so i bought 1.

okay, i bought 4. and yes, because i have issues, i felt terribly bad about the extravagance! but they are so wonderful and i'm not getting out and going two towns over anytime soon AGAIN just to buy candles. to balance it out i did briefly think of gifting one or two though...sigh.

then i see the christmas section. and i have to look. and i'm in a crowd of people looking at the ornaments when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this older gentleman, wearing a beret and tweed no less, comes up to me...

okay, can i interject something here? in this town two towns away people don't wear berets and tweed. they are sailors, and steel workers, and meth heads. this is the same town wherein i got hit on at the stop light by the two gentlemen, one with a mullet, in the jacked up whack 4x4 with the handcuffs around the mirror and the suggestive bumper stickers on the back. where i was graciously invited for a 'few beers' at the 'drift inn.' and no, they were not wearing berets or tweed.

oh and another thing, while i'm already off track...

older men love me. and this isn't me tooting my horn (which due to a large ego gets more use than it should) it's just fact. men in their mid 50s to be exact. which, as i age, isn't terribly 'older' anymore. but it's 'older' than me. there's just something about me that they like. it happens where ever i go, but ESPECIALLY so in co-ops and health food stores. and i don't even go to co-ops and health food stores a lot since we don't have co-ops and health food stores out here BUT WHEN I DO it's like the pied piper of the saw palmetto set.

okay, so out of this whole crowd of people this older gentleman walks right up to me and says

"do you know where i can get some hanukkah candles?"

and it must be him or what he's asking or who knows but all the people in the crowd stop what they are doing and are now looking at us.

and i say

"as a matter of fact i do. i just bought mine."

and i tell him where to go. there aren't a LOT of choices where we happen to be, so he's thrilled.

and if there's anything odd about an older gentleman wearing a beret and tweed in the middle of the dollar store in a town two towns away filled with sailors and steel workers and meth heads coming right up to *me* and picking *me* out of a crowd while i am perusing the CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS and asking me where in the county, not in the store but the county because they don't sell HANUKKAH candles at the dollar store in the town two towns away, where he can find HANUKKAH candles and then ME KNOWING EXACTLY WHERE even though i'm perusing CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS because i just bought MINE for HANUKKAH well then i wouldn't know what it is.

because if you look up 'par for the course' in the dictionary you would see a picture of me that is captioned 'whenever she leaves the house...' and a place to fill in the blank of everything that ever has and ever will happen to me when i leave the house.

and this being such a big deal i have to blog about it just serves to illustrate that i need to get out more. if only it weren't such a hassle.

all right, i've got work to do so i'll wrap this up. but not before i leave you with this gem.

you're welcome.


Monday, November 23, 2009

and that's why i make my cranberry sauce with rum.

so it's thanksgiving. again. funny how when the holidays come around it feels as if they were just here. what the hell happened to 4th of july? did we even have halloween? i can't remember halloween!

and every year as we're pushing through the crowds at the market, hoisting the turkey into the cart, checking items off our list, and seeing the sour looks of the people around us i always turn to my husband and say, 'next year, we're going away for thanksgiving. just us.'

and we never do. because thanksgiving is our favorite holiday and because the boybarians love it and because i think we signed some sort of contract in hell, in blood, and maybe even a little plasma, that we are bound

so it's not surprising that it's this time of year i most miss having a matriarch of the family. when i'm gathering all the serving platters, and planning the menu, and pulling out the tablecloths and assigning chores to the boybarians, coordinating who will bring what, worried there won't be enough of anything, tired by tuesday evening and wishing it was already over. but with two days and the big event left to go.

i remember going to my grandmother's house on holidays. the table was already set, everything in its place, snacks set out, ready. it seemed so effortless, really. at least to a little kid like me. like it was no big deal.

i'll tell you what was a big deal was that damned tomato aspic with the gollop (yes. it's a word. even if i made it up.) of mayonnaise on top. and not even best foods brand name mayo. the cheap store brand. not that it really mattered. or would help. bleh. all the kids were expected to eat it. all of it. i thought my grandmother loved me, but that aspic really makes me question a LOT. to this day i just can't think of it without getting really really angry.

anyway, now that i'm doing holidays, have been doing them all these years, i realize that it wasn't effortless. that it was and is always a lot of work. but i am lucky to have the best husband in the world, who is also a fabulous cook, so it's not just me on my own. and i've got help from the boybarians, too. guess who WON'T be mopping THREE rooms of 100 year old wood floors (and one room of laminate wood flooring. it looks good though! really! not all tacky like some of that laminate can look!) OR washing windows this thanksgiving!!! nice.

and yes, my extended family appreciates all of the effort and says so. and i appreciate that. so if you have a moment on thursday, go and kiss the cook. or at least give them a hearty handshake or a slap on the back. offer to do a dish. or take out the trash. or get them high. i don't know, whatever it takes to show your appreciation because it will be much appreciated.

okay, so it sounds like i'm complaining. but i'm not. okay, that's a lie. i'm complaining a little. i was hefting furniture about last night trying to figure out how to seat 14 in a place meant for 6. because this year i want everyone at the same table. and i figured out how to make ONE big table. but not before dragging everything (including a door and 4 sawhorses. don't ask. didn't work. had to take them back down. oy.) out of the basement to try and construct the ONE big table.


i figured it out! of course there's no personal space to speak of, and once you're seated you can't get up again. ever. but what's a holiday with family if you're not all trapped and sweaty?

and while it's a lot of work, if i didn't enjoy it i wouldn't do it. okay, that's a lie, too. i do a hell of a lot of things i don't enjoy. but that i *pretend* to enjoy. i have two kids, have been married twice, and am related to crazy people. i've had a LOT of practice.

all right, where am i going with this?

oh yeah. family.

and that's why i do it. and ultimately i love doing it. my family. from my own little foursome to all the rest of them.

the past few years have seen some changes in my extended family dynamic. and some changes in my own little family. and because of that, as this year draws to a close THANK YOU GOD IT CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH! i am reminded that when push comes to shove maybe they aren't who you would have chosen, but they are there. your family. and it seems a trite thing to say, especially this time of year, but it's what you got.

oh sure, toxic relatives and all that aside. sometimes there are issues and they must be dealt with properly. there are some people you simply cannot gather together with. in some cases restraining orders making it legally impossible to do so.


the rest of them? that's what you got. flesh and blood and crazy and all. and just so you know, they probably think you're as whack as you think they are. but that's what you got. did i say that already? and there's a reason for everything. even that weirdo you share DNA with seated to your left.

or perhaps you've pulled off the greatest escape and share your holidays with NO ONE who is remotely blood related to you. there are all kinds of ways to be a family.

so i say this year look around whatever table you've happened to gather at. whether it's your flesh and blood for life family, the one you married or got folded into, the one you've created over time and distance, or just this year's thanksgiving dinner family, look around and just be thankful to be a part. to share this meal on this day with these people. find one thing to be grateful for in each person seated around you.

because eventually each one of those seats will become empty and there just won't be the chance.

and life is just too damned short, and getting shorter still, to not take a moment to look around and be grateful. even it's just one day out of the year.

and even if you have to pretend.

it's worth it in the end.


Friday, November 20, 2009

the build up lasted for days. lasted for weeks. lasted for years. lasted not long enough.

the duke never did any of the things the books said he would. at least not when they said he would do them. he was always on his own schedule and there wasn't a thing i or anyone else could do about it. from sleeping (or NOT as the case may be) to nursing to everything else, his babyhood kept me on my toes.

when he became a toddler all the books said he would 'LOVE to help mommy around the house!' give him jobs to do! helping sort socks! and then when he became a preschooler...emptying the paper waste! sorting recycling! etc. etc. give him these jobs because he will beg for them anyway!

yeah, not so much. not only did he have no interest in all the things they said he would, he did not want to stop nursing on his own because he's a 'big boy now!' ditto for moving to his own bed, using the potty, etc. and because i am his mama and love him beyond belief i didn't worry about these 'schedules' and let him be who he was. is.

(okay, i know, i said long ago i wouldn't blog about him anymore because he's getting older and it isn't fair to him. BUT i have to get this out.)

so, all those things he did on his own time frame i suppose i thought that growing up would be different, too. i thought it might happen, you know, later. shit, i really thought i had more time.

but in the last week he's asked for skinny jeans (in red), is wearing plaid because he knows it's 'in,' and started combing his hair (!!). and this may seem fairly benign to some, but to me it's huge and sweet and sad.

i'm not ready. while i have spent since the day i conceived him, before even, preparing him for every step, for every development, for being an actual autonomous human being, i'm not ready for it.

okay, he's 12. i get it. it's age appropriate and he isn't moving out anytime soon. so again, to some it might seem a bit much to be boohooing over now. but it isn't a bit much to me. i'm his mama. how could anything ever be a 'bit much?'

and before i know it, this ride is done. and i have to be supportive and happy about the next ride. and did i mention that i don't like it? one little bit? and no, i don't want to tie him to my apron, but i also don't want him to start wanting to do other things. you know, away from us. his own things with other people. and eventually, just 'away.'

i don't know if it's because being his mama is what i 'do.' the stay at home, home schooling part. in essence, raising him is also my 'job.' hmmm, could have planned that one better, huh?

oh crap. now, i'm no expert, but i'm almost certain there's a therapy session, or two, in there somewhere.

but really i think it goes beyond that. because for 12 years he's been here. i mean physically *here.* in reach. for a hug or a snuggle or to just hang out. and there is a part of me that thinks that as this phase ends and another begins that perhaps i took a lot of it for granted. did i do enough? did i cherish it enough?

oh jeeze, that'll tack on another session right there. and i'm almost certain once i start there isn't enough money in the world to see me through therapy.

because as my children move from one phase to the next, i'm always wondering if this is the age where i drop the ball. that i finally lose my shit and can't handle it. nobody teaches you how to be a parent, and as much as there are books and 'experts' and well intentioned advice thrown your way, parenting is often you on your own little ice floe just waiting to either be rescued or eaten by the polar bear. do polar bears even eat people? see! i don't even know THAT! how am i qualified to be a parent!

ah, and the 'Either, or' sentence gets put into play. hmmm, what if those are both whack choices? non-choices? am i screwing my own self with fucked up logic?

jesus. i need to get out more. i suppose i could start with the therapy. or just simple interaction with other adults. drinking. a drink sounds good right about now.

anyhow, the long and the short of it is that i really like the duke. i think he's truly a neat kid. he makes me crazy and he makes me laugh. and i want him around. and i'm sad that as he does his normal human development thing that that may not always happen. and eventually, will not always happen.

and i know i'm supposed to appreciate the time i have and all that. but i will tell you what, my heart is sticky. and if it attaches it's all i can do to just not miss the hell out of people. jesus if i'm still writing about the college boyfriend i loved who dumped me almost 20 years ago (fucker) then we all know i have a problem. or two.

so my own child? yeah.

and again, i know this is all premature, because as i speak he's on the floor bopping along to whatever is in his headphones, constructing something or other out of legos. speaking in the eastern european/columbian accent he's perfected. thinking about what soda to choose for family movie night tonight, if he'll play all game again tomorrow in soccer, if this new friend zach might become a really good friend. good enough to have over to start his D&D club. he's just the duke. not some boy on the edge of breaking his mother's heart just by doing exactly what he's supposed to do.

god how do any of us ever survive.

i know it's going to be worth it in the end. separating healthily, me putting my big girl panties on and being the parent. letting him go with support and a smile. letting him know this is 'okay.' him becoming his own person. even while my heart is cracking just a bit inside. and there's parenting in a nutshell. i should make bumper stickers.

but this is what we want as parents, right? to be able to cast them gently out? right? this is normal. necessary.


oh god. and i haven't even covered 'dating' in my little bubble of tears and what ifs, etc. etc. etc.!

jesus. screw therapy. what does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?

and red skinny jeans? really?


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

she blinded me with logic.

in Logic recently i've been instructing the duke on the 'Either, or' sentence. and in Logic you get sentences that say things like, 'Either you have three arms, or you don't have three arms.' and 'Either all the animals in the world are giraffes, or all the animals in the world are elephants.' you know, fun stuff like that. and you have to decide whether, based on the 'choices' given, the sentences are true or false.

the thing about Logic is that it is, well, logical. free from emotion and personal interest. it is what it is. which i find refreshing. oh, sure, i enjoy the conversations the duke and i, and wingman and i for that matter, have stemming from what he may be learning in history, okay WE because i never learned it the first time around, or a book we're reading together. but there is something freeing in the concrete. for just seeing something for what it is, free of true interpretation.

so, that being said, teaching a near teenager Logic, which i once feared, has turned out to be brilliant beyond belief. because yes, while he is finally getting the tools to see the flaws in *my* arguments to him, he also has the tools to properly argue. which means if he's being irrational and not properly arguing his point, i can point out why and he understands. he may not like it, but he understands.

it's nearly genius. i say nearly because he's smarter than me. he just doesn't realize it yet. and when he does, well...

but what i like most about Logic brings me back to the 'Either, or' sentence.

now, there are lots of ways to use this sentence. like the mother may say to the toddler, 'you can either have grapes or you can have raisins.' which is less a logic question and more a choice. and yeah i see that it's not presented in the classic 'Either, or' pattern. and yes, grapes can be a choking hazard for toddlers and raisins stick on teeth and cause cavities. okay, so i suppose this whole analogy is shit. BUT you get the idea.

so, there's choice.

and then there's the *idea* of choice. and this is where the 'Either, or' sentence gets tricky. and sometimes mean. often, mean.

now this one is from the cesspool of parenting tools, 'Either you stop crying, or I'm going to give you something to cry about.' really? i'd like to meet the bastard that came up with this one.

or from FOX news and its ilk, 'Either you're with us, or you're against us.' one of my personal favorites.

or from a date/boyfriend/girlfriend/friend with benefits/spouse, 'Either you do *this*, or I'll do *that.*' crossed arms, bitchy face, wash. rinse. repeat.

now. none of these are 'choices.' sure okay yeah, they are *technically* because they are being *offered.* but if you're employing logic they are not.

stop crying. how is that a choice? it's a command. and the whole i'll give you something to cry about? who chooses this?! ever!

either you're with us or against us. this is just crap. because so often politics are NOT black and white and yet the most strident of political players want us to believe they are and choose from two non-choices. they CREATE the dividing line exclusively *by not offering any choice.* i don't want to be with you, and yet i am not *totally* against you. (okay, yeah, mostly...but still!) how is that a choice?

and the whole intimate partner ultimatum. how is this EVER a choice? it's not. it's manipulation by one person over the other. if you do not do what *I* want you to do then you will suffer. so it's 'Either this, or that.' and NEITHER *this* NOR *that* is an actual freakin' *choice. * okay, rarely.

it's usually 'Either you put your balls in this vice grip, or you string them from that flag pole.' or, you know, something to that effect. (you can insert your own gender specific metaphor)

just because somebody presents something like it's a choice doesn't mean that it is one. not by a long shot. and it's your job to figure it out.

so when, for instance, the sentence in the Logic book says 'Either you have three arms, or you don't,' you have to ask yourself if you are being given actual choices to consider. and yes, you are. you either have three arms or you don't. so the sentence is T for true. and so i mark it T. it is true that either i have three arms or i don't.

but when the sentence in the Logic book says 'Either all the animals in the world are giraffes, or all the animals in the world are elephants,' it's obvious, after you ask yourself of course, that you are NOT being given a choice. there is NO way all the animals in the world could be one or the other. and yet it's being presented to you as if you ARE being given an actual choice. and so the answer is F.

so using these examples, i gave the duke another lesson. and the lesson was as follows;

if someone is trying to manipulate, bully, guilt, or ultimatum you into choosing one thing over another when neither are proper choices then you should refuse. don't buy into it. further, if they keep pressing and won't let it go, you should say the following, 'what you are saying is completely illogical. either you give me two proper choices, or you can...'

and then i gave the duke some very choice phrases to choose from. ACTUAL choices. some of which may or may not have been instructions on activities the other person could perform on themselves. but i can't share them with you here because they are trade secrets.

the bottom line is while foul language and vulgarity (two things i LOVE) in general are discouraged here at the big red house, there is a time and a place. and one should always have an arsenal of choice phrases at the ready should the need arise. and i say adolescence definitely presents those opportunities for the need arising.

and then at the very end of the lesson i did have one more lesson for the duke;

if your mother is royally pissed to the point that she offers you two completely illogical NON-choices to choose from, it would be in your best interest to be smart and just choose one and don't. say. a. word. above all, whatever you do, DO NOT try to employ logic in that situation. ever.

motherhood does come with its perks.

and hey, in my defense, *i* never took logic.


Friday, October 23, 2009

in the (vegan) kitchen with sillymortalmama.

okay, before we get started today i have to say that out of everything i make for family and friends, these next two recipes are ones that i get the most compliments on and the most requests for.

and they are both vegan. added bonus and go figure.

plus, coincidentally, they both throw off a little heat. not too much, just enough. and that's the trick and the art of vegan cooking. without all that blasted meat getting in the way, literally and morally in some cases, you really have a chance to highlight individual flavors and make them shine. or combine a lot of flavors for a symphony of taste. okay, that was a dippy metaphor but you get my drift.

and as another coincidence, this post will fulfill TWO promises of recipes i made and haven't yet delivered on. one that is only a week or so old. the other is, um, over two years old. and if you think that's bad just don't ever ask me to send you anything through the mail. or hold your breath if i tell you i am going to send you something. or expect to see it arrive at all. ever.

so this salad recipe, i know, salad? but bear with me. this is so good, so amazing, the flavors so fresh and wonderful, you really could start eating this and not stop. i've seen it happen. plus, it is an entire meal in and of itself which makes it doubly wonderful. and if that wasn't enough, just to gild the lily, this salad is sooooo beautiful. it is just gorgeous. like a veggie noodle jewel in the bowl. which makes it perfect for entertaining at barbecues, potlucks, or dinner at home sitting at the big picnic table in the yard. even more perfect is that you can make both the salad and the dressing ahead of time. and because there is a LOT of chopping, it's better if you do. just bag the chopped and sliced salad ingredients separately and combine when you're ready to serve. don't leave chopped/sliced veggies more than a day, though. and beware, the recipe makes a TON! but as you will soon see, you can tweak the amounts to suit your needs. or make it as is and eat the whole damn thing yourself.

Asian Noodle Salad (from Confessions of a Pioneer that she adapted from Jamie Oliver)

1 package linguine noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled*
1/2 to 1 head sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 to 1 head sliced purple cabbage
1/2 to 1 bag baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small bag mung bean sprouts
3 sliced scallions
3 peeled, sliced cucumbers**
LOTS of chopped cilantro, up to one whole bunch
1 can whole cashews, lightly toasted in skillet***

juice of 1 lime
8 TBS olive oil
2 TBS sesame oil
6 TBS soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 TBS fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 hot peppers or jalapenos, chopped
more cilantro-LOTS****

mix together all the salad ingredients. (it works best to use your hands to do the mixing. but don't let your guests see you doing this. they think it's gross.)

whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. mix and serve on a platter. (i always make the dressing ahead of time. like a day or so. the flavors are so much better when they've had a chance to mingle. the dressing will keep up to three days in the fridge before serving, WITHOUT the cilantro. add that to the dressing right before serving)

cook's notes:
*i toss the drained linguine with olive oil. makes it MUCH easier to work with.
**i never use cucumbers. i love them, i just forgot them the first time and the salad seemed so jam packed already. but i bet they'd be good.
***i buy cashews in bulk. be sure to get the toasted and salted ones. and even though they are already toasted, don't skip on heating them up in the skillet. it really brings out another level of flavor. i don't know how much a can holds, but i end up using about a cup or so. sometimes i break them up, sometimes i don't. the recipe doesn't say to, but i mix the salad and the dressing together first and then sprinkle the cashews on top.
****i LOVE the cilantro in the salad, but i never use it in the dressing. mainly because i make it ahead and then i forget to add it at the end. but you do what you want with your cilantro. have at it. if you can remember to.

now, this next recipe could make someone fall in love with you. i've never actually seen it happen, but i sense that it possesses the power to do so. if anyone wants to test that theory and get back to me then please do so. this recipe is less a recipe and more pure alchemy. i know chocolate mixed with spice is not a new idea, but every time i have a slice of this cake (and i don't care for cake but like the other chocolate cake i always have some of this) it feels like the first time i discovered that chocolate and spice mixed together is pure genius. and pure bliss. plus, it's vegan!

oh, god i have to say, the vegans i have made this for just go crazy for it. no marriage proposals or declarations of undying love crazy, but there is that gleam in their collective eye and a moment or two fraught with intense pleasure that threatens to spill over onto the baker. or, they just really like it and i'm imagining the whole thing because i need more excitement in my life. really could go either way.

i have to say i have no idea where i got this it's been so long. and i really wish i could show you the actual paper the recipe is written down on because it's fabulous. wrinkled and fading with a gob of dried batter on the top and some other gob of something dried on the bottom. i can barely read it. and i really should recopy it. but where's the fun in that?

Mexican Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 TBS balsamic vinegar*
1 TBS vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sweetened cocoa powder
6 TBS water

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

lightly coat an 8 inch springform pan with vegetable oil.

combine all. (okay, that's what i wrote down originally but let's tweak this a bit shall we? combine the dry ingredients first, then mix in the wet. okay. that's better.)

bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (again, that's what is written down, but i find sometimes it can take longer than this.)

cool 10 minutes in pan, then completely on cooling rack.

to make the glaze whisk the sugar and the cocoa together, then add the water in one tablespoon at a time. (i find that sometimes i need less water, just add until it's the consistency you like.)

pour the glaze over the cooled cake on the rack and move to serving plate or stand. (okay, that's what is written, but it's harder than it sounds!!! first of all, the glaze is gonna drip down so make sure there's something underneath the rack. plus, moving an already glazed cake is tricky business. sometimes i do it on the rack and move it with one of those big dough spatulas, and sometimes i do it on the plate and catch the excess by putting strips of parchment under and along the bottom of the cake. glaze and then pull the parchment strips out and your plate is clean. mostly.)

cook's notes:
*this is the 'secret' ingredient. meaning this is what's in there that makes everything sing and that no one can ever put their finger on or guess. drives people crazy. especially when i won't tell them what it is when they ask.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

in the kitchen with sillymortalmama.

after my Gourmet post a friend asked what my "favorite recipe so far" was. and you know, i really can't answer that. there are just too many to choose from. literally too many.

and if we're just keeping it to the magazine, every month in Gourmet there are also too many good recipes to choose from. and they have a pretty crack staff so they are generally foolproof. i've kept all my issues (whatever, reserve your judgment. we all have our 'issues.' no pun intended. keeping magazines is mine) and OFTEN refer back to them. i suppose my absolute all time favorite from Gourmet is actually one sent in from a reader. a red lentil soup that is so simple to make and so delicious. i make it all the time. i wish i could say it was something more exciting, but sometimes there really is nothing better in the world than something warm and good in a bowl.

since i can't really come up with ONE favorite, i thought i would share two recipes that i make ALL the time. for company or just for us. they are foolproof and they are delicious.

and as an added bonus, and so there isn't any room available for fussing, one just happens to be vegan.

and as an added *added* bonus i am also going to throw in two chocolate cake recipes that i make ALL the time. for company or just for us. (mostly for company, though) they are also foolproof and they are also delicious.

and one of them just happens to be vegan! i know. you're welcome.

and if you don't like chocolate then you're just out of luck. i can only please so many people. and frankly, pleasing a vegan is no small task.

so today's recipes are for the omnivores. tomorrow's recipes are for the omnivores, the vegans, the vegetarians, and the veggie adjacent.

one note about the recipes, they are both from cookbooks and more or less are copied here just as they are written there. BUT since i have made both of these so many times i have changed wording here and there for flow or clarification. anything in parenthesis is purely mine.

okay, so this first dish is absolutely flawless. it's perfect, actually. and i don't use that word lightly, or, really ever. except i will in this post. and more than once. and it really is that good. it is full of flavor, sumptuous, and just about as sexy as a chicken dish can be. PLUS, and this is huge, this can be made from start to finish the day before, stored in the fridge overnight, and gently reheated the next day. and it tastes even better doing it that way! so it's perfect for entertaining! i'm getting all excited just thinking about it!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris)
serves 6

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2 (3 1/2 pound) chickens cut into eighths*
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
3 TBS Cognac, divided**
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 TBS fresh thyme leaves
2 TBS all purpose flour
2 TBS heavy cream

separate cloves of garlic, leave peels on, and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. drain the garlic and peel. set aside.

dry the chicken with paper towels. season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. heat the butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven on medium-high. in batches, cook the chicken in the butter/oil, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. turn with tongs or spatula so you don't pierce the skin. if the butter/oil is burning, turn down to medium. when a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to cook all the chicken in batches.

remove the last chicken piece to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned.

add 2 TBS of the Cognac and all of the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (that's flavor, don't miss this step!)

return the chicken to the pot with all the juices from the plate and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. cover and simmer over the lowest heat you can keep it simmering at for about 30 minutes until all the chicken is done. (the recipe doesn't call for this but at @ 15 minutes in, i always swap the chicken on the bottom layer with the chicken on the top for more even cooking)

remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

in a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce (from the pot) and the flour and then whisk that back into the sauce in the pot.

raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream and boil for 3 minutes. add salt and pepper to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland.

pour the sauce with the garlic over the chicken on the platter and serve hot.

to prepare ahead, refrigerate the chicken with the sauce and reheat over low heat before serving.

cook's notes:
*i use 8 thighs and 8 legs. tastes better and cooks more evenly.
**i've used brandy, vodka, and vermouth before when i haven't had cognac on hand.

this next recipe is a cake i make every single st. patrick's day. it not only uses guinness in the recipe, but when all is said and done, the cake is black and the frosting is white and only on the top and so it LOOKS like a pint of guinness, too! so while it is an understandable st. patrick's day staple, it is also good for a birthday or a dinner party or really any occasion. it is quite a perfect chocolate cake. i don't care for cake, but i always have some of this one because i love to marvel at the perfection. it is moist and dense and tastes good with or without the frosting. i vote for the frosting, though, because the texture of the cake balances so beautifully with the sweetness of the frosting. and if all of that wasn't enough, it's easy to make and easy to frost with no fussiness required. perfect.

Chocolate Guinness Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)

1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 TBS unsalted butter*
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups superfine sugar**
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese***
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

preheat the oven to 350 degrees

butter and line a 9 inch springform pan

pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter in spoons or slices, and heat until the butter's melted. whisk in the cocoa and sugar.

in a bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the pot with the beer mixture. then whisk in the flour and baking soda. (it's gonna look weird. like the eggs are cooking. i know, trust me though. it will work out)

pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. cool completely IN the pan ON a cooling rack. this is important because it's a very damp cake.

to make the frosting;

lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift the confectioners sugar over the top, then beat them together. add the cream and beat again until spreading consistency.

place the completely cooled cake on a plate or stand and ice JUST the top of the black cake with the white frosting so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

cook's notes:
*i've baked with both salted and unsalted butter most of my life. including this cake. and while there are lots of schools of thoughts on the difference, i basically use what's on hand and don't give it a moment's thought.
**i keep superfine or baker's sugar on hand for baking. but you can blitz regular sugar in a blender to make it superfine, too.
***philly is the best brand for baking. but use any brand you like. just DO NOT go low fat or light. and if you do, just don't tell me about it.

bon appetit! (which they should have folded of instead of Gourmet, but whatever)


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

why the folding of Gourmet upsets me so. and why i love it. and why it will be missed in this house. by this girl.

so when i was growing up the food in our house was good. mostly everything was healthy and home made, made with love, and an eye towards taste.

but i always had the sense that there was something missing. not lacking, just missing. being young and not exposed to much i had no idea what that was.

until one day in high school when i was hanging out at the goddess mother's house and we went into the kitchen for a snack. she forgot something in her room and left me in there with her mother who was doing something at the other end of the long island. now, this was back when her mother didn't care for me (though it must be said that her mother wasn't ever ungracious or unkind to me in any way) and i sort of knew that. and so of course i tried to engage her in conversation. because i have manners. and also because back then and even to this day i still can't believe there are people who don't like me. so of course i throw myself at them.

so i wandered down to the end of the island to make small talk. and lo and behold what i saw mesmerized me! it literally stopped me in my tracks. it was nothing short of magic. alchemy.

"what are you doing?'

"i'm sugaring violets."

she could have said she was creating a bust of my sophomore english teacher out of head cheese and i wouldn't have been more shocked, or understood less the reason for it. or absolutely loved the idea of it more. (the sugaring of violets, not the head cheese bust)

so i asked her how and why and all the questions one might ask about something they found so odd and delightful and fascinating. and right then and there i knew what i couldn't put my finger on all those years growing up. and that was that food was and could be totally fabulous. that the possibilities were endless. that food was sustaining and delicious and nourishing, but that there was always the potential for something more. for fancy.

and by fancy i don't only mean fussy or elaborate. that, too. sometimes. by fancy i mean more than just food on a plate. and anyone who loves to cook, or loves to eat good food so much they seek it out whether it's served from a kitchen table, a stick on the street, a truck, or a fine dining establishment knows exactly what i mean.

because at that time in my life the idea of that, food being more than just on the plate to eat, was about as fancy as it got.

then when i finally got a kitchen of my own i was a hippie vegetarian and all the money and creativity i had went towards making truly awful tasting soymilk and internal organ rattling herbal tinctures. i didn't even have a cookbook and i actually only ate the same. four. things. every. single. week. ramen and bean and cheese burritos and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cheese pizza. sometimes with mushrooms or the occasional black olive. ooh. fancy.

then i got another, better, more adult kitchen and a vegetarian cookbook. i had a little more money, and a little more creativity, and i ended up making the same. four. things. every. single. week. boring. i know i know, vegetarian cooking isn't boring at all! NOW. now when we've all been exposed to so many different cuisines and techniques and spices, etc. THEN. then it was pasta and brown rice and tofu scramble and the occasional badly devised quiche. at least it was in my kitchen. the day i learned to make mushroom gravy i nearly broke down and cried. i think there was at least a tear or two. the flavor! oh my god there was FLAVOR!

then right when i started to get the hang of vegetarian cooking that had some flavor, i put all my energies towards trying to be the coolest girl in the room. you know, drinking my weight in beer every night, dancing at the clubs, sucking in my already flat stomach. as you can imagine this didn't leave a lot of room for actual cooking, let alone any fancy sort of cooking. in fact, i don't really remember doing any cooking. i think i survived on bar snacks and the occasional garnish in a cocktail. good times.

oh, and the occasional fabulous meal out when i could get it. which actually did a lot to spur the foodie in me, but i didn't know it at the time. at the time i was probably just happy to be eating something other than bar snacks and cocktail garnishes.

then when i became a responsible, okay who am i kidding...when i started my family there had to be more routine, and apparently bigger than a 24 inch waist. by then i wasn't a vegetarian anymore, THANK GOD, had a bigger and even better kitchen, got a different cookbook, discovered trader joes, and ended up making the same. four. things. every. single. week.

it wasn't until i discovered Gourmet that all of that changed. because i always knew the potential was there, but i never knew where to start. sure i had seen Gourmet around through the years, but i never really picked it up to check it out. then one day at a dentist or doctor or baby appointment i picked it up and i was hooked. right then and there. all of it. hooked. so i stole that copy, filled out a subscription, and never looked back.

what grabbed me was the variety, the depth, the sheer load of information, technique, and know how in each copy. every single month there was something new to learn. about food, restaurants, drinks, travel. it was endless and fascinating. this was right around the time the internet was still newish and the food network was getting going, but they still really only had emeril. god, remember when BAM! didn't annoy the hell out of you? yeah. i don't either. so this was back when you actually had to physically pick something up, a book, magazine, encyclopedia, and actively seek out information. wow. that is a truly depressing sentence.

and as these things go, i started being exposed to more by way of technique and ingredient, and i sought out more cookbooks, different ways of shopping, and stopped making the same four things every single week. i started planning weekly menus with an eye toward variety and excitement on the plate. an eye towards fancy. cooking, which had been enjoyable if not seeming a bit of a chore, and boring with the same dishes every week, began to be the absolute highlight of my day. i could spend hours cooking and be as happy as a clam steamed with white wine, garlic, and just a hint of red curry. happier still to put the food on the table and feed my family and my friends.

i love Gourmet for giving me Ruth Reichl. she is hands down simply fantastic. a true foodie, an excellent writer (her books, please read them!) and i feel, a kindred spirit.

i love Gourmet for giving me Jane and Michael Stern. their Roadfood column and books and radio spots are some of the highlights of my month, my sunday afternoons, and a few of my road trips. i will always love them for introducing me to the Golden Light Cafe on Route 66 in Amarillo, Tx. it was everything they said it would be. right down to the two busty, saucy waitresses (okay, so i said busty, they didn't) who kept me plied with frosty mugs of cold Shiner Bock and the honest to goodness golden light that poured through the windows in the afternoon.

i love Gourmet for introducing me to some of the most fabulous restaurants i could ever hope to visit (they are on my list) and to those that i have. most memorably The Slanted Door in San Francisco that really truly did exceed expectation and was worth the two month wait, the 1000 mile distance, and the 9:30 pm seating.

i love Gourmet for introducing me to chefs i never would have known about and cookbooks i never would have seen otherwise. and for their Christmas cookie issue. i will miss the Christmas cookie issue. a lot.

i have also learned from Gourmet, in a roundabout way, that big kitchens and fancy kitchens and inspiring kitchens are fabulous and wonderful and well, inspiring. but despite all of that, good food comes from simply combining ingredients and preparing them with love and care. sure you have to search some things out, learn a new technique, explore and explode your boundaries, make mistakes and correct them as you go along. but it really, in the end, it is just a simple process. (if it works, right? ;) )

i also learned from Gourmet that recipes printed in magazines can contain errors and that some just plain suck. (and sometimes it's your execution that just plain sucks) and that's okay. the thing about cooking is the ability to work with the mistake to make something different than you originally intended, or to just chuck the screw up and move forward. because there's always another meal, another recipe, one more chance to make it good. better even. if only everything else in life was so easy.

i loved Gourmet for showing up every month and giving me just that bit of time to explore a world i always knew was out there and is now always at my fingertips. a chance to express myself and my love for my friends and family in the most time honored and primal way and loving way possible.

only fancy.


Friday, October 02, 2009

it's midnight in manhattan, this is no time to get cute.

one of my midnights in manhattan. this is no time to be trying to take a picture.

view from my friend fern's apartment. that's the empire state building. at night you can see all the flashes of the tourist's cameras.

okay, so i had this whole post about how much i loved my trip to new york. about what i saw and what i did and blah blah blah. i deleted it and started over.

because the thing about being in new york, about me being in new york is what can i say that hasn't been said, hasn't been sung, written, or waxed on and on about?

like that has ever stopped me before. so i started over.

and i will say this and bunch of other stuff. I LOVED IT. i felt at home there. sure at first, the first morning, i was overwhelmed, jet lagged, hungover, missing my family. my friend fern went to work and the day and the trip stretched out before me. so yeah, i was overwhelmed.

but there's this thing about being there that before you know it it's just in you. and it's you and 8 million plus people moving within controlled, fluid, chaos and it's like you've been there all your life.

it helps to love to walk, know east from west, north from south, be able to figure out the subways in short order. though really, you can't get lost on an island. eventually you are back where you started or recognize something familiar.

waiting for the subway

it also helps to have been visiting my friend, fern. everyone should have a friend who can say 'go to this building, head to the second floor and look up.' that city is so amazing on the surface, we've all seen that, whether we've seen that in person or just on the big or small screen. but if you just take one side street over, take a different set of stairs, look in a different direction, you will see what truly makes that city more amazing than you could ever imagine.

and it also helps that there is just this knowing about new york. like it has its identity fully intact. and it is just there to offer you the chance to be in it. to just be. i felt more at home in the 5 days i was in new york than i ever did in many of the other places i've lived.

i won't bore you with the whole travelogue because there really is too much, but i'll give you my brief snapshot. enjoy! (and please bear with me those of you who have already been bored by these pictures;) )

the metropolitan museum of art was amazing. i just mean the building itself. i didn't have much time there as we went simply for friday evening cocktails. but i was so taken with the building. just being inside it felt amazing and awe inspiring. if you had no idea before what "gothic" meant in terms of an architectural style you really couldn't come away from there without being totally clear. and totally moved. there's something about being so small and surrounded by so much huge, solid beauty. it was well...hard to put into words.

the new york city public library. okay, why aren't all libraries this fantastic? shouldn't it be mandated that a library offer impressive surroundings with which to engage the mind and fascinate the senses? at the very least a big heavy door you can barely open yourself? the whole building is incredible but the second floor ceiling is amazing. simply amazing. i sat for a half an hour just taking in the whole scene. wanting to share this with my boys. you couldn't sit there and not feel as though there was an importance to this building. that the history, and what it stood for, not to mention its purpose and its contents, well...the building was worthy of the knowledge it contained.

st. patrick's cathedral. what can i say? when you walk in it's just so intense it's hard to get a grasp of it right away. thankfully right to my right as i walked in was the virgin de guadalupe altar. how fitting. i practically fell into the pew. i was simply overcome. my spirituality is a long island iced tea of religious and spiritual beliefs and labels at best. i won't bore you with the details. and i know organized religion is just such a hot button for people. but to sit and be so fully absorbed by a place, to openly weep because the beauty of the spirit is just that intense, well...if there's anything else to say about that i don't know what it is.

central park is more beautiful than you can imagine.

riding bikes in NYC is easier than you think it is.

having a local dive bar seems an essential part of one's daily life. and yet i have missed out on this. WTF?

being in grand central terminal made me wish i had a packed bag, a ticket, and a destination.

and i wish i had a picture but just know that heckling a big city comic is way more fun and way more satisfying than you'll ever know.

and yeah, i walked through times square. meh.

i could see myself in new york more permanently. living, being, etc. there's an inspiring element to the juxtaposition of the endless sea of people moving amongst the solid and unmoving shore of buildings. unmoving, but no less alive.

washington square park. when the architect of the arch died (stanford white) he had the largest porn collection ever found to that date. inspiration comes in many forms.

i have never been one to appreciate architecture and buildings. okay, sure i've appreciated them. but to fully experience their importance, what they bring to the world. and to their little corner of it. the importance of place has always been in me. but this idea of a single building contributing to that importance, in some case "making it." it's new and i am inspired by it.

chrysler building.

and the slices of life you get exposed to on a minute by minute basis. conversations you overhear on the subway, snippets you get when people are passing by, the fully hardcore crazy right in front of you, subtle and not so subtle bits of life being lived all together on one amazing island. there's none of this fake politeness. the lowering of voices to shield your life from those who are living their life right next to you. it's authentic. and i like that.

if you can't see it, the sign says Lawn Closed Temporarily. yeah.

one of my favorite moments was sitting in zabar's deli with an underwhelming bowl of matzoh soup listening to the two old jewish men across from me. they were 80 if they were a day. and yet with detail and clarity they were reminiscing about the blintzes one of the mens mother made when they were little. they remembered her bringing them out to the stoop and how they'd all stop playing and crowd around. how the recipe was so guarded and died with her. this was a long and loving conversation and i just basked in it.

being in new york made me realize that the sparkle i thought i had lost and sought to find there was not there at all. it was still in me, just stagnate. in some cases misused, given away without purpose. i didn't need to find the sparkle, i needed inspiration to put it to use.

beyond just absorbing and being absorbed by new york, the promises my soul made to my self in the met to seek more beauty, in the library to seek more knowledge and acknowledge what i already know, and in st. patrick's cathedral to honor spirit, both within me and around me, are the best kinds of souvenirs from the best kind of travel. the kind that exposes you to new surroundings, ideas, experiences, and to those parts of yourself that have been there all along. you just never knew it.

and now i do.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

your moment(s) of zen.

i like animals. in the way tony bourdain likes animals. i wince when some cute furry animal is going to be taken down for the purpose of eating, but i am all too happy to eat certain animals.

animals fall into two different categories for me; there are some of them i pet, and some of them i eat.

that being said, anyone who knows me knows i am crazy for my cats. not like grey gardens crazy where i want to marry them or anything like that. but i love them and they are part of the family. so when you say you'll take care of my cats you better damn well take care of my cats. there's no half assing it. it must be done correctly. i have been disappointed so many times with how little regard people who are supposed to be caring for my cats actually give them. i'm kind of a bitch about it.

this is why i hire people with cash money to care for them. even then...

so it's safe to say i'm not a member of PETA, but i love animals nonetheless. in my own way. my hypocritical give me a cheeseburger when i'm sad and i'm always up for a plate of grilled cross cut ribs marinated in asian spices and there's this pair of over the knee black leather boots with a 3 1/2 inch heel i really really REALLY want kind of way.

it is that spirit that i bring you this week's moment(s) of zen. cute and furry and snarky and profane and COMPLETELY IRREVERENT. (sound like anyone else we know ;) ) in other words, if your sense of humor about animals doesn't exist or is misplaced then don't read.


Monday, September 14, 2009

stoned. and not in a good way.

okay, so i had a kidney stone. and for those of you who aren't already wincing in sympathetic or empathetic pain, you obviously haven't gotten the memo about how horrible these really are.

they are really horrible.

imagine someone sticking a bowie knife, rusty and jagged, into your kidney and turning it. oh, say, for like 12 hours at a stretch.

this started out of nowhere friday night. at first i was like oh great, the UTI i had last week created a kidney infection.

yeah, i wish.

as the pain intensified and i could barely talk or stand up it dawned on me that since i knew i hadn't in fact been stabbed with a rusty jagged bowie knife that this could only be a kidney stone. oy. everything was presenting just like everything i'd ever heard about kidney stones.

so what do you do in the middle of the night when you're in crippling and debilitating pain? why you go onto the interwebs, of course.

by now it was 12:30 am and everyone was asleep. i panted and sweated through my interwebs research to find out that pain medication and liquids were the way to go in passing a kidney stone. like i would go to the hospital anyway ;)

well with the previous UTI i had already had the copious amounts of fluid thing down, so that left the pain medication. only the ibuprofen was UPstairs and i was DOWNstairs. and if i went UPstairs i'd wake up the husband and he would get all concerned and really really worried and i just didn't want that. in matters of extreme pain/illness i'm like an old cat. i'd rather find a bush to crawl under and be left alone.

and speaking of cats, if i went upstairs they'd all wake up and follow me down and hang around and be all concerned. while this is sweet and endearing i was SO not in the mood to be the feline midnight madness show. there was no going upstairs.

so, i drew a bath and breathed deeply and hoped for the best. and while the bath was filling...okay, can i say that my tub is HUGE. it's an old claw foot and it takes so long to fill. i was watching it thinking i could be dead before that tub fills. sweaty and passed out and dead on the bathroom floor and the tub STILL wouldn't be full.

i needed to take my mind off the tub so i got *ready.* i figured there was an off chance i'd end up at the hospital. and in my sweaty pajamas that would NOT do. i'm no fashion plate but i'll be damned if i end up passed out in the back of an ambulance in sweaty pajamas with no underwear and unbrushed teeth if i could help it. so i got out what i would need to make myself presentable should i have to go the the hospital in a hurry.

it reminded me of the time i was coming down with the flu. i was all alone with the boybarians (the husband commuted to NY state and back every week) and i figured if i was so sick that help would have to be called in, i'd be damned if somebody came in and the house was messy and the kids starving. (they were much younger then) and because we home school i figured the scrutiny would be even worse and probably end up on the evening news. "Two local brothers were found starving in a filthy house with the mom was passed out on the couch. We are now getting word that they are home schooled." i could see all the footage flash before (must have been the fever) and the knowing shake of the collective head of the community.

so, i cleaned the whole house and made a bunch of ready to eat stuff they could grab from the fridge. it intensified the brewing flu in a body that needed rest and liquids, not manic cleaning and chemical sprays, but it made me feel better. well not physically. made it worse actually. i got really really sick.

but, i digress.

anyway, so the tub is filling and i have my things together and i need a distraction from the pain so i read a little more about the pain that is taking over my very soul at this point. *they* say i should be sure to have a mesh strainer on hand when i pee to catch the stone to have it analyzed, and that beer helps.

wait, what?

beer is a diuretic and i read it on more than a few reputable sites that it helps produce the urine needed to move the stone faster than just regular water. okay, i don't know if they were reputable. i made that up. how would i know how reputable a site is in the middle of the night in extreme pain? all i know is a few of them said "drink beer." majority rules, doesn't it?

you don't need to tell me twice. i finished my monster glass of water, grabbed two beers and got into the tub.

and a half an hour later it was nearly 2 am and i was drunk in a huge tub filled nearly to the brim with water. me, a person who under the *best* conditions falls asleep in the bath tub on a regular basis.

as plans go, this was not a particularly sound one. but it helped.

the pain subsided under these conditions a bit. enough for me to catch a break and catch my breath. plus *they* said the pain might come and go in waves.

so i'm sitting there, drunk in the tub, thinking about all the things one might think about if they were drunk in the tub in the middle of the night; every bad decision i ever made, remorse, grief, why does anyone even like me, i probably deserve to pass a kidney stone, i'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner, etc. you know, all the headliners.

i should call someone, i thought. you know, get some support, some sympathy. maybe apologize for everything i ever did wrong to them and beg for tearful forgiveness.

good thing the phone was in the other room.

so during all of this i'd have to get up to pee now and then. i'd haul out of the tub, hobble over with my strainer, and well you get the rest.

and yes, the strainer is history. after this it won't make its way back into the kitchen, just so you know. it may have been time to replace it anyway. it was a fine strainer, but did have the appearance of something you might find in an abandoned whiskey still. or a meth lab.

so this is how i passed the night. refilling the tub with water, drinking tons of water and some beer, and praying to god to just let me die right then and there. a black crowes "she talks to angels," kinda moment. rock on.

*they* say you know the minute you've passed the stone because you have almost immediate relief. and i say *THEY* ARE RIGHT. jesuschristo. thank god and pass the pabst.

so i think i'm on the mend, except i have some residual pain in my kidney that worries me. so, to be sure, i called my doctor's office this morning to get an appointment to just have her check it out.

so the receptionist answers and the minute i start to ask my question she cuts me off to ask my date of birth. i give it to her. then she asks my first and last name. and as i'm starting to spell my first name she cuts me off again and

"okay, i know who you are. what do you need?"

ah, customer service for the medically needy. it's such a fine art.

"i passed a kidney stone, but i'm still having some residual pain at the site and i just want to check things out."

so i give her my doctor's name.

"she's out of town all week."

"can i see someone else?"

"if you want."

"okay, yes. i think i need to be checked out."

"fine. do you care if it's a man? or do you require a woman?"

i'd take a chimp on a bike lady, just get me a damned doctor.

"i don't have a preference."

"fine. you can have tony. there's an opening at 3:30 today. that's if you need to come in today."


"yes, i do need to come in today."

"fine, 3:30 it is."

"um, excuse me, but what doctor did you say i'd be seeing?"

"you'll be seeing tony. see you at 3:30"

and then she hung up.

tony? who the hell is "tony?" does he have a last name? is he even a doctor? tony. sheesh. am i getting highlights in my hair or following up on a potentially serious and completely painful condition?

so that was my weekend. how was yours?

in other news for those of you who i am not in contact in my daily life by other means, i need to announce that the HOUSE HAS BEEN SAVED! yes, the miracle came through indeed. it's a long and at once climactic and anti-climactic story occurring at the 11th hour, but suffice it to say the house is still ours! :) i apologize for the brevity of that announcement considering all that built up to it, but there it is!!!!

and if there is anything else to say about that i don't know what it is.

you know what? this is going to be an interesting week. i can just feel it. so drink your fluids and get your rest. you never know what can happen, because ANYTHING can happen!

(and hopefully, for you, by "ANYTHING" i don't mean "kidney stone.")


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

your moment(s) of zen.

when i was little one of my very favorite things to do was to play library. all that organization and order. the enforced quiet. me in full charge. books as a means of escape. shocking, i know.

in fact, my happiest childhood memory is of the day i got my very first library card. now, i think we've established that my memory is shotty at best. but this one comes in clear as a bell.

i remember waiting for months for that library card. you had to be able to write your FULL name to get it. a daunting task at that age to say the least. so about 4? an early 5?

i practiced and practiced. when i finally mastered my name, my mother took me to the library right there on highway 101 in fort bragg, california. a big old beautiful building with the ocean behind it and a whole new world in front of me. we walked up the steps and i remember thinking that this was the best day of my life.

boy that counter was tall! but on my tippy toes and with the steadiest hand i could, i signed that library card and that was that!

in fact, one other very distinct memory i have is when my mother left me home from a library trip as a punishment. oh god how i cried. it was foggy and cool that day as it often is on the california coast and i was wearing a dress. my mother said i needed to change out of the dress and put on pants, or put pants under the dress before we went. i refused.

even as the compliant middle child i often exercised my right to be a butt head.

and even when she threatened to leave me home and take the others to the library i STILL refused. of course believing she would never make good on the threat. because she knew how much it meant to me, i figured. the rationale of a child. she wouldn't dare. so i stood my ground.

but she did dare. i got left behind and i cried my little library lovin' eyes out in my stupid dress with no pants underneath.

anyhow, my love of the library never waned. i have only come to love it more. i am shameless and indiscriminate when it comes to the shelves. i will go to any section, i will grab whatever looks good. i have very few loyalties, if any, and any book is subject to my whims.

i am insatiable. i can have up to 100 items at a time at my library. and sometimes i have. oh, they used to say it was limitless, with a small laugh as if anyone would ever have "too many" checked out. but oddly enough, they've recently instituted a policy. hmmm. but, no matter, i can go back as many times as i like. casting off and casting on. a never ending river of books.

i have traveled places and if the stay is long enough, i secure a library card there, or make sure there is access for myself and the boybarians. for a funeral in my hometown, for a birth or two in my goddess children's hometown. it doesn't matter the place, the library is an easy constant.

in fact i envy the goddess mother immensely as she lives less than a mile from the very oldest library in her very old state. it's a wonderful little building and so much history. it also doesn't hurt that the librarian there is so very dreamy. good lord, with his accent i just can't place, and his piercing eyes, and his...well, you get the picture.

in fact, when i grow up i want to be an academic librarian. one day, when life settles down, i hope to stop deferring my acceptance to the institution that will train me to do just that, and get down to business.

in the meantime, i satisfy my cravings the best way i know how. primarily by patronizing my own local library. but when it really gets bad, i become nostalgic and pining for libraries i have known, and a dreamer of libraries still yet to discover. often as an insatiable voyeur who just can't get enough.

and it is in that spirit that i bring you this week's moment(s) of zen. Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut. please enjoy. and for heaven's sake, shhhhhh.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

sillymortalmama and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration. i've had worse days. but seriously, today can suck it. and it's not even lunch time.

first of all i had to call india to get help for french language learning software that's made in the USA. of course i was put on hold. then i had to give them my name. which of course, as you may be able to guess, is always a delightful activity under the best of circumstances. over the phone, over seas, with accents and cultural differences and the whatnot, well it becomes oh so much more.

and yes, there are days i think of changing my name to debbie. just debbie. no middle. no last. and then i'll call myself deb. for short. i can only dream.

okay, so the name shenanigans out of the way, i began to describe the issues we've been having with the software. software, computers, etc. not being my "thing" of course i'm not using all the right "lingo." and since lingo is key, and this isn't charades, though my gesturing on my end of the phone would suggest it was, and my tech help is on the other side of the world this only adds to the merriment. good times. this should be recorded for some show and replayed. it. is. that. amusing.

and just as i'm getting to the crux of my issue, the heart of the matter, and now he is perhaps FINALLY understanding my dilemma, the bugger hangs up on me! GAHHHHHH!

god, this is just like dating in college.

okay okay, in all fairness he probably didn't hang up me as much as there was a problem with the connection. but still. GAHHHHHH!

so then i go back to my REAL activity for today. which is trying to get through to my doctor's office. all. morning. long. i've been calling.

okay, so this is the "free clinic." which, due to the state of affordable, available (or lack thereof) health care in this country, is what is available to the likes of me. and can i tell you this "free clinic" is not "free?" oh, but no they are not! there's some complicated paperwork ridden system which determines how much i have to pay per visit. and let me tell you, it's NOT free.

so, i call and call and call. and good lord you'd think after a long holiday weekend they'd be prepared for the onslaught. oh, but no they are not! no wonder the emergency room is the de facto family doctor. you might have to wait but at least you get in. sometime. maybe. in some cases hopefully before you bleed to death in the waiting room.

and given the general population of the "free clinic," you'd have to guess they don't have the funds to do urgent care or something like that on a long weekend. (or are just too cheap and stubborn. we don't need to name names here) you'd have to guess they are just waiting for 9 am on the following tuesday to call and get in after suffering for some bit of time.

and given that maybe, just maybe, as the administrators of the "free clinic" would "have to guess" that, then perhaps they would plan accordingly. oh, but no they do not! GAHHHHHH!

likely, similar to so many other facilities/organizations/etc. of their nature they are over worked and understaffed. under funded, and under siege by the financially unfortunate.

no wonder the phone has been busy all morning. no wonder all my re-dialing yields me is a busy signal.

i get it. i do.

but i'll tell you what, when you feel like you've been pissing razors for two days solid hearing a busy signal at your doctor's office is the LAST thing you want to hear. whether you "get it" or not.

and that may be TMI for my more delicate readers, but this is my blog and therefore i get to say what i want when i want. so there. and frankly, with what i've spared y'all from over the years you really should be thanking me.

you're welcome.

so there you have it. and it's not even lunch time. and it doesn't even matter if it's "five o'clock somewhere" because i have geography, science, classical writing, and logic yet to cover.

and because the last time i checked i wasn't running the Ernest Hemingway School for Boys, instructing while sober seems like the prudent course to take. GAHHHHHH!