Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Beef Stew

OK, back on topic:

You need about two pounds of stew meat, two cups of flour, salt and pepper, a pound each of diced carrots and diced onion, a couple of celery stalks (also diced), and two pounds of cubed raw red potatoes with the skin on and 2-10 cloves of chopped fresh garlic (how much do you like garlic?). For liquid, you can use canned or boxed beef broth or if you are very very cool, use the frozen stuff you made yourself. Pull a bottle of dark beer out of the fridge. Don't drink any. You'll need the whole bottle.

Get a big deep, heavy bottomed pot and put about 1/4 cup of some kind of clear oil in the bottom.

Turn the heat up under the pot.

In a big zip lock baggie, combine the flour and 2 Tablespoons each of salt and pepper. Put your meat in the bag and zip it shut. Shake it around until all the meat is covered in flour.

Working in batches, with a large plate close by, place the meat in the bottom of your very hot oil covered pan in a single layer. You are searing the meat. Not cooking it. It'll still be raw in the middle and that's OK. When batch #1 is seared on all sides, remove the meat from the pan and put it on the plate. Add a little more oil to the mess in the pan and repeat the process. Keep doing this until all of the meat is seared. Note: this is a messy, splattery, stinging process. That’s OK. If your oil isn’t making a fuss, you won’t be searing anything. HOT is GOOD. Also, a pair of long handled tongs are essential to your success.

That chunky brown stuff in the bottom of the pot is magically delicious. Dump the onions, celery, and carrots into the chunky brown stuff and stir it up. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then add the potatoes and garlic. Cook another 5 minutes with the lid on and then gently pour in the beer. Bring to a healthy simmer and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on. Stir again and make sure all that chunky brown stuff has been scraped off of the bottom of the pan. Pour in 3-5 cups of beef stock (depending on how thick you like your stew) and stir gently. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer and add the meat. Stir gently. Simmer for one hour. Or a little more than an hour. In fact, now may be a great time to take the kids trick or treating.

After you've let it sit for awhile, your stew will probably still look like soup. Turn the heat up a bit and stir for 3-4 minutes. Leave the heat turned up and put the lid back on for 10 minutes. The next time you look at it, the liquid will have thickened considerably and it's probably ready to eat. If you want it thicker, stand there and stir it until it looks like you like it to look.

Your house now smells like heaven. Go enjoy your righteous stew.

Good job.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October is kinda ugly.

We cleared out our three tomato gardens on Saturday. It was a beautiful day to be outside. Every sunny day seems like my last chance to catch a little vitamin D until May of 2009. The back yard is always at its ugliest in October. There's no snow to cover up the brown patches and leafless trees. There's nothing good to eat out there. It's going to sleep. And I'm piling on the layers of clothing. It's about 40 degrees outside this morning. I'm dressed for a sub-zero climate.

We've decided to go ahead and plant asparagus in the spring. We can put in a line of lilacs against the neighbor's ugly fence and put a few long rows of asparagus in front of it. So, three years from now, the sting of the field of dead asparagus incident will be wearing off a bit. I'll be snapping the ends off of the purple asparagus from my own yard while I stare at a giant bouquet of lilacs in my very own kitchen. This plan doesn't restore my asparagus-farmer status, but that's OK. I've been a lot of things that I'm not anymore. Even when it seems to suck at the moment, leaving something behind (or having it leave me) always yields something more amazing than I could have imagined. So, I'm making peace with the field of dead asparagus incident and turning my attention towards my own back yard. I know. There's probably some larger significance to this whole thing. I'll think about that tomorrow.

As for right now, I'm trying to decide if I should officially turn our last empty corner of the basement into a grow room (tomatoes, people. Jeez.) or if I should turn one end of B's room back into the house of baby green things. The Christmas tree goes up, the Christmas tree comes down, and then it's time to order seeds. (It's my own personal Christmas.) By mid-January, I'll be playing soft pop music and blowing a space heater on tiny cells of sterile dirt. Waiting for my own personal spring.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Murder of Purple Asparagus

OK. I'll just say it real quick. Like ripping off a really big band-aid.

Someone mowed my asparagus field.

Well, someone mowed the asparagus field that I rent. Or rather, that I no longer rent, since someone KILLED IT. Someone drove a really big, strong, many wheeled cutting machine over one acre of beautifully situated purple tipped asparagus ferns. From the looks of the field, the murder acted about six weeks ago.

Let me back up and explain why there will be no more asparagus in that field.

Asparagus produces on faith. It yields produce for six weeks or so in the early spring. When the temperature hits eighty degrees, the tips of the asparagus open up and shoot up at the rate of 3-6 inches per day until the asparagus tip itself looks like a fern. These ferns collect sun and nutrients and pull them back down into the deep rooted plant. The following spring, the plant produces more shoots. We eat those shoots. is absolutely essential that when the asparagus begins to bolt, you LEAVE IT ALONE until MARCH of the NEXT YEAR. Ideally, you would set the field on fire in March, but the field I used to rent, the field that yielded around one hundred pounds per week of beautiful, fat, sweet, perfect asparagus, the field that is now DEAD, is also next to a playground and in the city limits. So, I figured if I set it on fire I'd be in a heap of trouble. Anyway, the ferns dry up over the winter and fall over. This provides a ground cover that keeps the earth from freezing quite so hard. It also holds moisture in as the weather warms up in the spring.

My field is dead.

It looks like a freaking lawn.

So why not just plant some more? Well, because (this is my patient voice) you don't get to harvest any asparagus for THREE YEARS after you plant it. I'm guessing that even if I had an acre of perfectly situated fertile soil with a microclimate just like the one in the field of dead asparagus, it would cost me between $3000 and $5000 to buy and plant enough of the somewhat rare, organically grown (oh....did I mention that the field had NEVER BEEN SPRAYED WITH CHEMICALS!!!) perfect little purple asparagus babies. And then, sometime in the spring of 2011, I'd be back in asparagus heaven.

Excuse me while I go out into the yard and scream.

What am I going to do with my life now? My asparagus farming days have come to an end and all I have left to keep me occupied is this blog.

I can't even think of an appropriate series of swear words that sums this up.


Still nothing.

Asparagus was my happy place.

Now I have to find a new happy place.

That's it.

I'll be in Italy if anyone needs me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

a glass of wine at 10:10am does not make you a bad mom.

Or at least that's what I tell myself to alleviate the rush of guilt I feel for even thinking of trading in my third cup of sugar laced coffee for one of the "good" glasses and a splash of shiraz.

Tori missed the bus this morning. She wanted to engage me in a conversation that went something like:

me: Tori! Leave your shoes on. The bus'll be here in sixteen minutes!
Tori: (ignores me and takes her shoes off) Can I watch Wishbone?
me: No. Zoe's watching George. Put your shoes on.
Tori: I don't want my blue coat. I need a scarf.
me: You can't wear that sweater as a coat. You'll be cold at recess.
Tori: I want to wear the sweater. Where's my scarf from last year?
me: It's not in the box. I looked yesterday morning. Put your shoes back on now.
Tori: Why? My bus alarm hasn't even gone off yet.
(phone buzzes and then sings the bus warning)
me: That's your bus alarm. Where are your shoes? Put your coat on! You are going to miss the bus!
Tori: I don't want to wear my blue coat. I want to wear this sweater.
me: Put your SHOES ON!
Tori: I want help.
me. Fine. Give me your foot.
Tori: (holds foot up limply and whines) I want my scarf....I don't want to wear my coat....
(bus brakes squeal in front of house)
Tori: THAT'S my BUS! MOM! My bus!
me: I'm tieing as fast as I can.
(bus drives away)

Yes. It finally happened. I would like to note that the 8:21 pick up happened at 8:18 this morning. But hey, who's punching the clock.

I guess I could just take her to school myself...oh wait. My car has been in the shop for TWO WEEKS. We are waiting for a part. From Canada. Because you should order a part off of ebay and MAKE SURE it isn't being shipped from the US. We like to keep things as difficult as possible around here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"The" Crucifixion Story

It means something different at my house.

It happened last spring. The story. Not the actual crucifixion. At the time, I thought it was just a cruel joke being played on me by the universe. But really, strange and dark and funny as it is, it really cleared up how I handle religion as it relates to my own little children. So, perhaps it wasn't a joke as much as it was a big flashing neon sign.

The school

My daughter, Victoria, was 4 years old at the time. She turned 5 on April 1. Victoria attended a popular preschool here in Cedar Rapids. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she spent the morning learning how to stand in line, share with friends, and write her name. The year before, she was a Tuesday/Thursday pupil at this same preschool. The school is in a church. I read the handbook. It specifically said that the school itself was non-denominational and accepting of all faiths. It also said that there would be talk of Jesus, but it would be general. I felt good about that policy and didn't give it much more thought. Victoria liked preschool. Her teachers were really great. They seemed kind and she dearly loved them.

The eggs

One day, near Easter, a note came home with Victoria saying that each child should bring an empty egg carton to school.
The next week, the carton came back home. Victoria was carrying it in her hand and she put it in the seat beside her as she got into my minivan. On the way home, I heard her mumbling to her stuffed cats and I asked her what game she was playing. One kitty was being crucified and the other was crying.
"Kitty, don't cry. If I am crucified, then I get to go to heaven and be with God. If you are crucified, you'll get to go to heaven too!"
I almost wrecked my van.
I asked her what was going on and she said, "I'm not talking to you, Mom. I'm just playing."
We arrived home a few minutes later and the egg carton stayed in the car. I was still trying to figure out why Victoria thought crucifying her favorite toys was a good plan. I got exactly zero information. Later, I opened the egg carton. Nestled inside were twelve colorful plastic eggs. Each one of them had something in it. I called for Victoria. She opened the eggs one by one and explained their contents to me. One had a flower in it. For new beginnings. One had a nail in it.
"For the nails that the JEWS nailed through Jesus' hands when they killed him on the cross!" Yep. One was empty. "For when Jesus came back alive after he was killed and went to heaven to see God. Then he got to come back and there was a big rock!" The rock had its own egg. This wasn't what I had in mind when I thought about religious education. I thought maybe my horror was a side effect of being an overly concerned mama. Not so! In fact, I met a few other parents who had the same experience with these particular eggs. I decided not to send Tori's little sister to that particular preschool, ride out the last month, and chill.

The Easter Program

A few days after kitty was crucified, Tori was in the preschool Easter program as part of the holy week celebration at the church. There were 40 preschoolers or so. They sang songs about Jesus and the pastor talked a little bit to the congregation about Easter and what it means. The kids were on risers behind him. Victoria loves to be "up front" and she sang her little heart out. At one point, the pastor began talking about Jesus and Victoria interrupted him. In her loud voice. "Yes! Jesus DIED! He was on the CROSS! And he DIED! He was KILLED!" The pastor turned to face his interrupter, agreed with her, and moved on.
Somewhere, someone has this on tape.

The End

I realize we live in an area of the world where the crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews isn't exactly news. However, I would have really liked to have a little more control over how my four year old received the story. She was very familiar with the gory details. I would have preferred to tell her the story as a story. Not as a horror film in which her stuffed kitty would be the lead.

where's the sun?

I'm moody.

I know. Not news.

I've been cruising around trying to find artists who paint things that look like home to me. It's cheering me up.

Sharing time:

The leaf painting is by Paul Wolber.

This is his blog:

He's a professor in Michigan. So....close to Iowa.
The landscape is another one I like. The artist is Ellen Wagener. She's an Iowan. More here:
She says this about Iowa, "I think this area is rich. It sheds its skin a minimum of four times a year. Watching the corn grow and beans yellow under the saffron sun is a rigorous pasttime if you are paying attention. "
Amen to that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

two random things; a beautiful man-chef and a chicken joke

Oh...which first?

I have angst.

OK, first the link to the beautiful man-chef I accidentally came across. I assume he's a chef. The blog's not in english. So go here. But COME BACK FOR THE JOKE!
Nevermind. I wouldn't come back. I'd spend the next seven years learning Italian and never return to the foodgeek site ever ever again.
Now, many of you who know me may be saying....
Rachel, you are in a relationship with a man who looks like Lance Armstrong from the neck up and Brad Pitt from the neck down. And he's freaking hilarious! What the hell are you doing with Gusto? He's probably not even funny.
Please be assured that I have considered this fact carefully, and as a result, have decided to give Gusto to my friend, Molly. Happy Birthday Molly. If we actually lived in the imaginary-strangeness of my twisted mind, Gusto would be yours. With a bow tied around his beautiful Italian neck.
And NO, I didn't just put that in to save my own ass in case Flynn ever decides to cruise my blog.

OK, for those of you who are still here. (gay women and straight men only, I presume)
Here's the joke:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!
JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialog with all the chickens on the other side of the road.
HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.
DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?
COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road. B
ILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of crossing? AL GORE: I invented the chicken.
JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.
AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.
DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.
: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.
NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.
PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.
MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmers Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.
DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone. J
ERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.
GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.
BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.
ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.
BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot. ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?
COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cilantro Pesto Gnocchi with Steamed Artichoke and a game of chess

Saturday started off a bit off balance for me. Without children in the house, I had a rare opportunity to wake up slowly, and because I am blind without contact lenses (seriously...-5.5 folks) I had no idea what time it was. Colin wanted to run in the Indian Summer race near Solon and I forget that men roll out of bed, put shoes on, and walk directly out the front door about ten minutes after they should have left and believe they have a chance of being on time. Sadly, I had to follow him. Bedhead and all.
I am a chicken. I like to have gas in my tank. I know. It shows a lack on an adventurous spirit. We drove to Solon on fumes. And then five miles further on the fumes from the fumes. Colin jumped out of the car and took off for the starting line. I scooted over and realized that I was going to have to figure out how to get back to town on the fumes of the fumes from the fumes. I'm pretty sure I made it back only because I was singing, "Jesus take the wheel" the whole way. I pulled into the gas station and had to turn around to line the tank up with the pump. A large man in a very large truck (many wheels!) tried to take my spot. I pointed at him with two fingers through the windshield and mouthed "NO" right at him. He put it in reverse and let me in. That was the first 25 minutes of my day. I wasn't holding out hope that it would improve. By the time I got to Genie's, I just wanted someone to be nice to me and give me a cup of coffee. I got all that and crepes with Genie's strawberry jam.
I forgot about the first 25 minutes of my day and we moved on to a thrilling game of chess on the deck. It was my first time. How did I get to the ripe old age of 33 having never played before? Well, I had some kids. For most of this decade, I haven't been able to remember where I parked my car. Thinking seven moves ahead wasn't an option. Here's what sucked me in; Genie's Dad made her a chess set out of a cherry tree from his yard. The knights are mushrooms, the queen is a butterfly, the pawns are ladybugs. It's so much less intimidating to ask, "so, can my bug move backwards?" It's positively distracting to stare at a board of orange and red ladybugs. I kept getting confused by the coolness of the pieces. That may be why I lost. Yes, let's say that's why I lost.
I hate to be one of those boring people who talk about the weather, but Saturday was perfect. I got a sunburn on our walk. Our one hour, five mile walk turned into a two and a half hour meandering adventure. Thank God for the porta-potties. Literally. The call of nature led us into a church that looked inhabited. We found bathrooms that had been gutted but there were bonus-porta potties outside. By the time we got to The Vine, I was inconsolable with thirst and craving wings. Genie called the running men and asked them to meet us at the bar. Have I already said that there really isn't any point to ordering wings anywhere but The Vine? The service is sometimes nonexistent and you may have to follow the manager around yelling about how bad he sucks at his job to get your order taken (that happened once) but it's so worth it.
We talk about food a lot and that's how I like it. Maybe it was the long walk, or the chess, or the perfect weather, but a beautiful dinner was about to be born and I'm not sure if it was a happy accident or divine intervention.
For those of us who are in love with cilantro and anything made of a potato, this was the ultimate in fine dining. As it turns out, a bunch of cilantro and a couple of cups of pistachios with some olive oil and lemon make a fine pesto. When you sauté zucchini, garlic, and a few hot red peppers in olive oil and then throw in some gnocchi and use the pesto as a dressing, you find yourself in heaven. We steamed a couple of artichokes to go along with it. Get pistachios at New Pi. They have the salted roasted kind in the bulk bins.
As we drove away from Genie and Nick's happy cabin, I looked up the hill to wave and saw them sitting on the deck at the big table full of dirty dishes with the oil lamps flickering and thought that if I saw that picture in a gallery or hanging on someone's wall, I'd have to point it out as the embodiment of what I want out of life. Great friends, perfect views, beautiful weather, and food that is nothing short of pure magic. Other cultures have many different words to describe the many different kinds of love. We have only one word for love, and so I am forced to use it.
I loved Saturday.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Risotto for mental health

Oh, yesterday sucked so bad.

Won't bore you with the details, but I will put in another installment of what I cooked. Sometimes, when you have a really really bad day, all you can do is make Risotto.

It's not hard. Hear that Chef Ramsey? IT'S NOT AT ALL DIFFICULT.

You need chicken stock (canned is fine), an onion, a few cloves of garlic, a red pepper, some really good earthy mushrooms and short grain rice. You can buy that in the bulk bins at New Pi or with the other rices at any grocery store (except Aldis)....

Put some olive oil in a pan and dice the onion, mushrooms and pepper. Cook them for five minutes or so and add the diced garlic cloves. Cook that for a couple more minutes and put a little bit of butter in the pan. When that's melted, put in a cup of rice or so and stir it around for a minute. Pour enough chicken stock over it to just cover it and stir gently. Stir some more. Invite someone into the kitchen to talk to you so you don't get bored. DO NOT LEAVE THE RISOTTO ALONE. It will certainly misbehave. When there seems to be more rice than juice in the pan, pour some more chicken stock over it and stir gently. Stir stir stir stir. Very gently. Again, add more stock if it looks like the rice has soaked it all up. At some point, perhaps twenty minutes in or so, try the rice. It should be tender all the way through. If it is not, add a bit more stock and stir some more. When the rice is tender and the sauce has thickened, your risotto is ready. If you had a super duper bad day, or if you are at my friend Genie's house, your risotto should have 1/2 cup of really great Maytag Blue Cheese stirred into it.

Opening a bottle of really great wine won't hurt, either.

By the way, this is about a $10 meal. It feeds two adults who have had a bad day.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

no pig, no pan, no problem

I just got back from the grocery store. After dragging six bags of ingredients into my house, I sat down to check in with my email. I get a lot of mom-spam. You know, lose ten pounds in ten minutes! and fifteen menus for a month's worth of dinners! and we have the answers to make you perfect at everything! Sometimes I open the ones about food.

I have this hope that somewhere, there really is a week's worth of menus with an attached grocery list that doesn't add up to a $300 tab in the check out. Really, for $300 worth of crappy junky cheesy food, I'll eat out every night and not have to do the dishes. I'm looking for the holy grail, here. $100 worth of groceries, 7 dinners, 7 lunches, 7 breakfasts, and 5 days worth of Spiderman lunchbox worthy snacks. Oh, and I don't want to eat pig. Or cow. Maybe chicken. No cheese.

I know. It's not happening. I'm going to have to do it myself.

Here's my first contribution. I hear there is a similar version floating around that has to do with "A Man, A Can, and A Plan." Cute name, but that's not what this is.

Here's lunch;

One can of extra crispy corn with peppers without the juice
(check the ethnic food section at Hy-Vee)
One can of black beans (drained and rinsed really really well)
One can of diced tomatoes
Two (or three or four) pickled jalepeno peppers (seeded and minced)
Two Tablespoons of sweet rice wine vinegar
One Tablespoon of cumin
One Tablespoon of chili powder
1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper if you want

Stir it up and open a bag of blue corn chips.

That'll be $5, please.
You'll be eating it tomorrow, too.

See? No pig, no pan, no problem.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bar Mitzvah and brown lettuce from Biaggis

In Judaism, Bar Mitzvah (Hebrew: בר מצוה, "one (m.) to whom the commandments apply"), Bat Mitzvah (בת מצוה, "one (f.) to whom the commandments apply;" Ashkenazi: Bas Mitzvah), and B'nei Mitzvah (pl.), are the terms to describe the coming of age of a Jewish boy or girl. According to Jewish law, when Jewish children reach the age of majority (generally thirteen years for boys and twelve for girls) they become responsible for their actions, and "become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah." In many Conservative and Reform synagogues, girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvahs at age 13, along with boys. This also coincides with physical puberty.[1] Prior to this, the child's parents are responsible for the child's adherence to Jewish law and tradition, and after this age, children bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics and are privileged to participate in all areas of Jewish community life.[2]

....according to Wikipedia

So, if YOU are the MOTHER of the boy who is celebrating a transition as profound as this, do YOU want to pay $50 for a half tray of brown lettuce. You know. The kind that is $2 pre-cut and pre-bagged in Hy-Vee. The kind that is always a little brown around the edges. The kind with little shreds of petrified carrot in it. Not me. I'd have a tantrum. Oh wait. I think I did.

I'm not Jewish. Big news there, huh. I do sometimes help a friend of mine who does a lot of work at Jewish celebrations. Long boring story. Anyway, last night I was at the temple here in town helping the Biaggis woman open up the food she brought. The price list was taped to the refrigerator in the kitchen right under the directions for what we were supposed to be doing all night.

The lettuce was brown. It was exactly the kind that you buy in Hy-Vee in the bag. Not the sexy mini greens and herb salad. Oh no. Rather, it was the iceberg lettuce salad for people who don't like food.

Biaggis also charged a $60 "gratuity" fee. I suppose for delivering this atrocious crap that pretty much anyone could have whipped up after a quick trip to Hy-Vee and a couple of hours in a basic kitchen.

I feel bad for the woman who planned this event. It's a three day gig and she's the mom. Bother her with brown lettuce concerns? No sir. Pick out the worst pieces and replace the tacky paper cups full of dressing with glass one's from the kitchen? Well, I hope we pulled it off before she saw us. I realize Biaggis probably won't get the chewing out they deserve from her. But there's no way any of us wanted her crying on the eve of her son's Bar Mitzvah.

I'll hold the grudge for her.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A letter to Zoe (who has been celebrating her third birthday for three weeks)

Dear Zoe-
Who told you it was OK to turn THREE YEARS OLD? I realize that it's part of the natural progression of things, but I feel particularly resistant to it happening to you. You. The cute one. I had no idea what the whole, "yeah but that's my baby" thing meant before this week. I guess with your brother, it didn't help that I was still a baby when he turned three. Your sister, bless her dear heart, is a lot of work. But you. You are my little dancing queen. My tough little joking elf. I couldn't believe it when you ended up with a birthday that is ONE DAY past the cut off for Kindergarten. Now, I'm feeling like three more years of hanging out with you couldn't possibly be enough. I've never known a small child to be so obsessed with opening pistachios. You are articulate, although most people don't understand a word you say. You are funny when I'm about to lose my head over another night of cleaning up a very messed up kitchen. You make poop jokes. And just when I think you are going to sit quietly in my lap and listen to Irish folk music in the park, you jump up, run to the stage, and dance until the chubby accordian player is cracking up. I think you were named well. I always wanted a little girl to name Celia, but I happily give up the dream for a little elf named Zoe. So, as sappy as it sounds, you are my baby. Grow slow. It's hard on me.