Thursday, January 29, 2009

Geeking out over vegetables.

It's that special time of year, again. Time to set up the tables, hang the lights, go buy new soil-less sterile mix. Time to organize my list of what we will be eating July-October of 2009, and work the thing backwards until I can place a seed order. Ah, yes. It's a big fat welcome sign hung out to coax spring out of hiding. I'm putting seeds in dirt two weeks from now and by a miracle of nature, will be canning tomatoes in August. This is hope, folks. It's faith that there will actually be a rise in temperature profound enough to thaw the earth, warm the soil, and nourish my beautiful babies into adulthood and then convince them to bear fruit. I think it helps when I talk to them, too.

I've been called crazy. The incredulous look of ridicule and almost indistinguishable flash of condescending smirk disappears right away when a slice of yellow and red marbled heaven placed between two pieces of toasted bread and nestled under a layer of bacon and crispy lettuce hits the palate and explodes. Then, for a minute, I'm a rock star of vegetable creation.

Only nine months to go.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trying to F.L.Y.

I have a list of things on my mind that are far too disturbing, distracting, and tear jerking to even list. Not to mention the fact that since they are very much my own personal problems, you would find them boring. *

So, in a manner that indicates that I may actually be somewhat disturbed, I have decided to clean my house. Not marathon cleaning, but rather the kind of cleaning that means I wake up in a super peaceful, clutter free environment every single day. The kind of cleaning that makes me want to stay home instead of going somewhere warm to sleep in a quaint B&B because my house is nicer. I know. I know. I know how many kids we have. I know I probably have adult ADD.** Stop being so negative.

I went to a website where there are a set of loving instructions about how to clean your house. Martha Stewart is not there. (there's no tiny "t" on my computer keyboard!) insert tiny t I'm not going to put the website in here. OK, I'll put it in the tags. I'm not sure I like flylady yet.

Yesterday, I was supposed to "shine the sink." The instructions are full of peppy encouraging acronyms like, CHAOS (can't have anyone over syndrome) and FLY (finally loving yourself.) Flylady explains that waking up with a shiny sink is like getting a morning hug from her. But I'm not very friendly in the morning and I'm not really into hugging people I'm not related to or BFF with or, like, with.***

As you can tell, I'm already encountering inner resistance to this one little thing: Shine Your Sink. Gee, I wonder why my house isn't clean 24/7. Probably due to the inner resistance I feel to Fold The Laundry, Wash The Dishes, and Sweep The Floor. The lack of inner resistance I feel to Make A Margarita, Eat A Piece of Pie****, and Put Down The Computer causes a whole new layer of problems.

I put called for support from my MOMS Club friends. Certainly, they will be Much Better at this than I am.


Here's a little sample of the kind of support available from the SE side MOMS Club. tiny t*

From MOM 1:
"I think you all are CRAZY! You've decided it's not difficult enough to raise small children. (And in some cases Home School!) But now you also have to grow your own food, eat organic, make wonderful and nutritious homemade meals for your kids, de-clutter your homes and shine your sinks!I'm starting a new group. All those who want to join my "Slacker Moms" group come on over. We will feed our children junk food until they pass out into sugar induced comas on top of the pile of toys in the middle of the living room. Meanwhile we Moms will watch Oprah, eat chocolate, and complain about how difficult our lives are. 4:00 will signal happy hour and we will switch to wine or margaritas. This will put us in much better moods for when our husbands get home - and they will appreciate it much more than a shiny sink that they won't even notice!"

From MOM 2:
"Okay, what I can't figure out is how you can shine your sink when it is all full of dishes?! ; ) I don't even OWN a pair of shoes that ties anymore--wait, I have an old pair of tennis shoes, but I haven't had anything else with ties since 1992 when clogs started coming back! ...Even the "Slacker Moms" seem like a big commitment-- who keeps that much booze around?
I looked at the website and started to get dizzy, BUT I may check back on Tuesday again since she said that's a free day--so that means I don't have to do anything, right?
I want to know what she tells her children who decide they need to create the three individual "Villages" of their Lego Bionicles characters using the packing materials of the bookcase I just put together--styrofoam is VERY fun to clean up, EVEN when the kids are supposed to do it. I kept thinking--hey, they're being creative and not wanting to watch tv and they haven't had outdoor recess in 3000 years!
Keep improving yourselves, ladies--I'll keep watching ; )!"

See what I have to deal with? Do you see that I'd much rather hang out with people that are funny than people who run a tight ship at home? What are we going to do....sit around and admire each other's shiny sinks? Or bust open a good bottle of red at 4pm sharp and settle in with some Oprah. Hmmm......OK, my shoes are on my feet and my sink is shiny. That's all I've got for today. I'll keep you posted. tiny t**

*Please note that I am fully aware that EVERYONE has problems. I'm really only concerned with mine, though. Also, by "mine" I mean to include the personal problems of people that I dearly love. Everyone else can go get their own blog. It's free therapy, ya know.

**By that I mean to imply that my talent far exceeds my handicap, as with most people who's brains tend to short out every sixteen seconds or so. I am not referring to people who are socially retarded. And it's safe to say that because they wouldn't read my blog more than once. They wouldn't think I was funny at all. They can get their own blog about what makes an airplane stay up in the air. OK. That was mean. Sorry. Kind of.

tiny t When I'm in a really good mood, I like to read her magazine but then I become delusional about what one can accomplish while one raises four children while following a man with a beer can around and wiping up spills.

***You want that to say married to. I'm not.

****Eat A Pie

tiny t* I did not ask for or receive permission to publish these emails. I am, officially, asking for forgiveness instead. I have good tequila. In the house. Right now.

tiny t** Do you L.O.V.E all the footnotes? I just got finished reading Jen Lancaster's new book, "Such A Pretty Fat." It's very funny. Genie is reading it now. She said she L.O.V.E.S the footnotes. I'm not so sure. They are a pain in the rear to write.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spanx is stalking me. Oh, and I have a good Kale recipe.

First, the Spanx. I love Spanx. I haven't ever actually worn them, but they crack me up. In fact, on New Year's Eve, in the midst of an impromptu gathering of people-who-don't-have-plans-and-can't-stay-up-till-midnight, a new kind of Spanx was invented. Arm Spanx. Seriously. Some of us don't have rear-end problems. We have arm problems, instead. Or we are headed for arm problems because we are getting old. If you do have rear-end problems, chances are you don't have beautiful buff arms, so we figured there's a huge market for Arm Spanx. At the time, it sure seemed like a flash of brilliance.
The woman that invented Spanx is in the media a lot what with the flailing economy and the media searching for something to say. She cut the feet off of her panyhose to get the squeeze without the stocking feet. I looked her up. That was fun. Of course, if you google (oh, I love to google everything) Spanx, you'll get ebay listings for Spanx, and I love to read ebay listings. About one in one hundred is fall off the chair funny. I figured I'd certainly stumble upon a super funny Spanx listing. Not so much. But something odd started to happen. Apparently, when you open an ebay listing and you are signed into ebay as you, the genius marketing forces note the subject matter and when one of those items is listed, they send you an email. I get six emails a day alerting me that someone has listed Spanx on ebay. It was funny at first.

Here's the Kale recipe. It's unrelated to the previous topic, but I've been handing it out and last night I remembered that I hadn't posted it yet.

From the October 2008 issue of YOGA magazine.

Emerald Salad with Shiitakes and Red Onion
serves 4 to 6 (or 1-2 at our house)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
2 cups boiling water
1 large bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and sliced into 1/2 inch strips
2 cups thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushroom caps
1/4 cup toasted walnut oil (I used olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar

1. Place sliced onions in a small bowl with apple cider vinegar and boiling water. Let soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse and squeeze out excess moisture.
2. Place kale and shiitakes in a large bowl. Drizzle oil and sprinkle salt over vegetables. massage the mixture with your hands, kneading and squeezing until the kale turns deep green and wilts slightly. Set aside.
3. Add onions and raspberry vinegar to the kale-mushroom mix and toss. Adjust taste with oil and salt, and serve at room temperature.

The subject of 'what to do with Kale' has come up again and again in the circles of strangeness where I hang out, and I kind of have a love/hate relationship with CrackBook (facebook) so I started a new group. If you have a tried and true Kale recipe that calls for Kale in volume, please consider contributing it for the good of our little group of foodies.
"I don't know what the hell to do with all this Kale."

Monday, January 19, 2009

So you get a list.

Why? Because I should be cleaning my kitchen and Tori Joy is going to climb off of the bus early today (thanks for that, MLK....more proof that he hated women) and as soon as she's in the house, all hope of a neat and tidy kitchen go....poof.

Why my head hurts so bad today;

1. First swimming lesson created a bit of chaos when Tori almost went 'under' upon losing her kick board. I threw her a noodle. She caught it on the second try and I pulled my chlorine sputtering princess to safety. What. I didn't want to get my favorite yoga pants wet. And besides...would you want to be known as the woman who jumped into the deep end in her clothes to save her not-drowning kid?

2. Lili's Super Messy Painting Party. Again with the favorite yoga pants. I was completely obsessed with keeping the pants paint-free and horrified by my own lack of foresight. Hello. It's called a SUPER MESSY PAINTING PARTY.

3. Motorcycles on Ice. Yes. It's a true story. I took number one son to Motorcycles on Ice. There were motorcycles. On the ice. They were racing around in a tiny little oval. And MAD TV was there panning the crowd. Oh. Please. Let there NOT be such irrefutable proof that I was there. My hair still smells like exhaust. Oh....and if you really want to get stared at....wear your favorite yoga pants to the redneck fest that is Motorcycles on Ice, and park your SAAB between two trucks from Quasqueton with confederate flags taped up in their back windows.

4. 7 hours on Black Ice. Wait. Haven't I done that before? Like, last weekend? I had some time to think yesterday. As I was counting cars in the ditch. 52. Tom Cruise never did jump out of the ditch on a snowmobile screaming, "GET OUT! I wasn't able to stop the ice alien and it has taken over the highway! MOVE TO THE SHOULDER! Quickly!" I was ready, though. SO ready.

5. Last night I dreamt that I bought a snowmobile, a periwinkle helmet, matching snowsuit, and mint scented conditioner. I hate the exhaust from a two stroke engine. Hate it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I made vegetable broth today.

It was an excuse to keep a huge pot of something boiling on the stove all morning. Because it's that cold outside.

Here's how you do it.

Peel an onion and cut it in half.
Peel two carrots and cut them in three pieces each.
Peel three cloves of garlic.
Cut a rib of celery into three pieces.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a really big, really deep pot. Heat to medium-high (shimmering but not smoking), throw the vegetables in and stir them around for about 5 minutes. Pour 10 cups of water over them and bring to a simmer.

Add a small handful of fresh parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (cause I like a little zip), 1 tablespoon of sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper.

Put a lid on it and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Adjust seasonings to taste and let the mixture cool.

Strain through a fine sieve and freeze in ice cube trays. Store the cubes in a big ziplock baggie and use instead of water when making rice, cous cous, or as a base for soups.

Now your house smells good, too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the calling isn't likable

I grew up with "the calling" as a thing as real as our family's couch. If you are a PK (um, preachers kid....duh) then you get it.

"The Calling" is something you get, like a memo from God. "Hi. I'd like to you be a preacher." If you ignore the call, you will always feel as if one of your legs is shorter than the other. Your digestion will never be quite right. You will carry a black hole around that sucks the life out of everything else you try.

Yes. I get called crazy.

But I'm OK with that now.

It has recently come to my attention that Preachin' ain't the only thing you can get called to do.

For example, I would make a great plastic surgeon. What with the steady hands and ability to create a perfect butterfly steak, and the urge to create images of people in different stages of agedness. But I pass out cold when presented with blood and guts. I think in order to get past all the scary stuff about that job, you have to be put on earth to do it. That'd be the calling. Nurses, Kindergarten Teachers, Farmers, Prision Guards, and anyone who finds themselves learning Greek in seminary are undoubtedly called to their profession. Why else would they volunteer to spend their best years doing what they do?

Here's the thing about being called to do something. Sometimes the calling isn't likable.

This is especially evident to me this morning. I got a rather crappy, snippy, poorly written (OK, I could barely figure it out) email from my dear sweet son who lives in the far north. He begged me to sell his guitar, which I paid a lot of money for two Christmas's ago. I resisted. Then, I sold it. I got about a third of what I paid for it. When he was here over Christmas break, he didn't notice it was missing. In fact, it wasn't until this past weekend that he finally noticed. He asked Highlander about it, but still didn't say anything to me. And then we got busy with the weekend and I forgot.

Today I got an email from him saying he didn't think it was "Right" that I sold HIS guitar and he wants the money. Or a NEW one.

Today, I do not like the calling. Today, I'd rather work in a gas station than have to deal with this kid's amnesia and adolescent attitude.

So....what to do? Well, I'm going to make two lunches, put Tori on the bus at 10:00 (two hour late start), take Zoe to school, fold three loads of laundry, start the sauce for supper, mop the kitchen floor, change the sheets on the beds, finish off the pot of coffee I started an hour ago, take the dog for a walk around the block, pack away the rest of the Christmas decorations, take a quick shower and eat some lunch, pick up Zoe, finish cleaning the house, deal with some household paperwork, and not think about the snotty teenager.

Because when his mood swings the other way, he'll be my sweet, loving, caring boy and this job will go back to feeling like exactly the thing I'm supposed to be doing right now.

I know. Not funny. Not yummy.

The next time you see a woman pushing a stroller in the mall at 2pm on a Tuesday, don't assume she's shopping. She's got cabin fever and would really like a reason to put on real pants and mascara. The woman in the park left behind a messy house and doesn't want to face supper, so she deposited her kids on the playground for fifteen minutes (that's their attention span) so she can SIT DOWN somewhere.

Being a stay at home mom isn't often the lovelist job. The pay sucks. The world we live in kinda looks down its nose at stay at home moms. But the alternative, for those of us who are called to raise the kids we had in a hands on manner, is unbearable. Do you hear me? Unbearable. I'll go get that glorious job selling something, or making something, or buying something, when my kids have been raised in the manner that they deserve. I promise to drive an important looking car and wear high heels for the last thirty years of my life. I will eat in restaurants and entertain clients when my kids no longer feel the need to inform me every time they need to go to the potty. Until then, I remain boring, underpaid, underdressed, and sans mascara.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Parsnip. Parsnip. Parsnip.

All of these "how to be a genius-mom" websites say that the golden key to hyper organized living and super-mom-hood is "planning your meals" but if you cook via divine inspiration/seasonal mood swings, planning what your family is eating six nights from today becomes a bit cumbersome. Not to mention it really messes with the what-I'm-in-the-mood-to-cook thing. I guess if you don't consider preparing supper one of the most fun parts of your day, it pays to plan. But whatever. People who come back to this blog more than once are either foodies, nosy gutless stalkers, or my Mom. Hi Mom. So maybe food planning isn't any good for any of us.

At any rate, today was supposed to be a "Spaghetti and Beer Bread" lunch. But then I started thinking about influenza and the part about how I had it for a week (so much for four consecutive days at home with Highlander sans kiddos) and am pretty sure that I could have died. There's also the bit about how number one son and I crept home last night from the northern parts at 35 miles per hour while praying to the ditch-gods every time we were passed by a psycho semi driver going twice as fast as we were. Our 1-4 inches of overnight snow turned into an 8 inch dump of powdery fluff, and aside from tonight's big hockey game, our weekend is pretty much going to consist of hanging out at home.

Spaghetti did not sound good to me. Plus, I felt like chopping something. Shortly after breakfast (blueberry pancakes.....hooray!) I started thinking about inventing a new soup with celery and carrots and parsnips and onions and chicken stock and fifteen minutes later was well on my way to soup heaven. The idea was that it needed to be spicy, but I don't really like super spicy stuff if there's no balance to it, so I went for the spicy/sweet thing with a side of medicinal ginger. Soup like this takes the edge off of winter.

Here it is:

Note to Genie: It was great without the pig. At least try it that way before you add a cup of bacon, for the Love of God.

Parsnip Ginger Winter Stew

Assemble the following vegetables and chop them into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces

1 large parsnip

3-4 large carrots

2 large white onions

3 ribs celery

Saute them in 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

While they are sauteing, slice 8 cloves of peeled garlic and add to the vegetables. Grate 1 1/2 inches of fresh ginger over the pot and stir.

When the onions are translucent, pour in one small can of Swanson Chicken Broth (or some kind of chicken broth that doesn't have MSG or any other scary crap in it.) For the vegan version, use a good vegetable broth.

Cook the mixture over low heat for 10 minutes.

Add one can of black beans, rinsed and drained well.

Add the very finely diced meat from one thigh of cooked then chilled organic, free range, formerly happy chicken. Or skip this if you are vegan/vegetarian.

Pour in another can of the stock you are using and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Stir in one teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and simmer over low heat for about twenty minutes.

While to soup is simmering, chop up a bunch of Kale, rinse it well, and divide it among the bowls you'll be eating the soup out of.

Taste the soup and adjust seasonings.

Pour soup over kale in bowls and remember that winter keeps the riff-raff out.


Friday, January 9, 2009

what i saw

I have a house that looks like a bomb was dropped on it, and I'm back in the car for five hours this afternoon to fetch my lovely teenage son from a town far away, so I'm making a list for your reading pleasure.

What I saw:

The Big Indian; Pocahontas, Iowa
The Flynn Grocery Store; Cheap Liquor and Cigarettes (now closed)
A Man With His Name On His Belt; Fred
More white milky covered salads than I imagined there would be; macaroni and cheese, lettuce and cheese, marshmallows with green flecks and cheese, cold potato salad with cheese, broken spaghetti with cheese, green and red jello with cheese.....
A priest that mispronounced the deceased name....twice
Said priest sat across from me at the 'dinner of white salads' and proved that he was not only lazy, but also quite dull and void of personality. (I really wanted him to be interesting.)
The stations of the cross in 3D plaques hung around the perimeter of the church. Jesus bleeding at the front of the sanctuary. Who. Me? Disturbed? NOoooooooooo.
The room where President Bush stayed in 1987. Same bedspread.
Ice Cream Capital of The World. The museum.
Midwest Christian Home for Children; we came home with the same children we left with.
Where Giant Windmills are Built
And.....twelve hours in the car with the kids.
We had a fine, entertaining, nice trip.

I'm so glad to be home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Charlotte and the pudding

I love Charlotte. I've always loved Charlotte. She's so positive and sweet and actually pretty honest considering how positive and sweet she is. When she appeared as one of Carrie's supportive friends in the movie version of Sex and The City, the writers did something fantastic with her character.

Remember the scene where Carrie beats Big with her bridal bouquet in a fit of rage on the street corner? Ah, haven't we all wanted to be that woman? Beating a man who broke our hearts with a bouquet of flowers. Somehow it was funny. Yet sad and poetic. Charlotte grabbed her friend and as Big took a step towards them with that stupid stupid "" look on his face, Charlotte put her hand up, shot him a death stare and screamed, "NO!"
Here it is.

Brilliant. Coming from the most mild mannered of the women in the story, it was especially brilliant. I know most of the world has no idea what the big deal is with that show, and that's OK. I made Highlander watch that part, anyway.

The other part of the movie that was pretty brilliant was (unfortunately for Charlotte) kind of crappy.


Anyway, Charlotte goes along with the rest of the women to Mexico on Carrie's honeymoon (Big not included) but she brings little packs of pudding along. Charlotte fears food poisoning. She's at an all inclusive four star resort, but she's still in Mexico. As much as I love food, I also have a fear of food poisoning. For some reason, if anyone at the table is going to get poisoned, it's always me. I may not be the sweetest of my friends (ha. again) but I am, like Charlotte, the most likely to end up in the hospital with a stomach bug.

Which is why my upcoming trip to the Northwestern corner of our fine state is starting to worry me. There are 14 packets of Maple Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal in my suitcase and six bottles of water. I'm praying the quaint little motel we're staying in has a microwave. We are going to a funeral. Highlander has a dead relative who was a pretty important guy, so off we go with the kids in the backseat.

I've been to enough church basement funeral lunches in my time to know that it is absolutely essential to the health and well-being of my stomach to avoid any food that has a white sauce, juice, glaze, or haze to it. Let's face it. Iowans think death requires Mayonnaise laced food.

At my own Grandmother's funeral, my entire family contracted food poisoning from some party potatoes that were laced with e-coli. I did not. My no-white-food-at-funerals rule saved me. It saved Zoe, too. I was three months pregnant with her. The situation was ironic because in life, my Grandmother would never even eat food from a dented can. Her sister used to say, "Well, Jenny, you won't die of poisoning, anyway."

And neither will I.

Not this weekend, anyway.