Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zoe goes Bowling

I know that makes no sense. But it just sums it all up for me right now. I work a lot these days and miss my children very much. Just this morning, I overheard this;

Tori: What's Mom doing?
Zoe: I think she's singing.
Tori: Those vitamins must be getting to her.

See? They crack me up. I feel like I Never See Them anymore!
Zoe is in preschool. It's an active preschool mostly attended by the children of stay at home Moms. Since I am no longer one of those, I have some difficulty with things like remembering what day which field trip is happening and whether or not I dropped the required $2.25 in to the jar for that and whether I "signed her up" for that and where they are going and also that I need to haul the car seat up three flights of stairs that day. The teachers are having a hard time hiding their "you really suck" faces lately. I deserve it. Not their fault.

So, between book orders, daily written reports, homework, school activities, conferences, emails, spelling tests, and the paperwork that grows in the night, I'm drowning.

One day last week after work, I went to the store, purchased 13 oranges, cut them up, bagged them, put them in the refrigerator, and took Tori to school with the treat box on the counter top and the oranges chilling in the crisper. I remembered this at 4:15pm. Bad Mom!!

I could go on....but my self esteem can't take it.

This work full time and be a responsible mother gig is very difficult.
So, in spite of the fact that we just had a major election and I probably should be blathering on about that, I'm going to go ahead and just say that moms who work full time and are trying to raise small children are carrying a lot.

Be nice to the minivans in traffic and the woman in high heels at the grocery store at 8pm.


Friday, September 10, 2010

In a boat with a nun, a monkey, and a midget that looks like Ray Liota

I recently had a dream that I was lost on a lake and couldn't see the shore. It was very dark. The clouds moved with the breeze and the full moon illuminated the face of Ray Liota. He was a midget and he was laughing at me. Behind him sat an old nun. She had her eyes closed. She looked dead. On her lap sat a monkey.

Years ago during after-work-drinks, some of my slightly insane coworkers and I were discussing our irrational fears. Mine are wonderful. I've made friends with them over the years.
Tunnels (especially if you can't see the light)
Bridges (especially if they are huge and carrying a lot of traffic. I was a wreck when that bridge in Minnesota collapsed a few years ago. Hello. My Nightmare.)
Nuns (creepy praying singing black robed stern judgmental nuns)
Midgets (I don't understand this.)
Ray Liota (If I saw him in real life, I would scream and run away.)
Monkeys (Like tiny hairy humans. I think they are smarter than they let on. Planet of the Apes was nightmare material for me.)
Coffins (duh.)
Mist at night (Ever since I saw what's on the wrong side of the French Quarter in the middle of a misty winter night, I just don't like any kind of mist in the dark at all.)
Raccoons (Rodents that wash their food. Really?)

I don't like to be in a boat. I don't really know why. It occurred to me recently that my boat-hating is possibly being passed on to my kids. So last weekend, we went to "the beach" (in Iowa that's a lake beach) and rented a little flat bottomed boat with a lawn mower engine attached to it. We were in that boat for 56 minutes and I had approximately 42 panic attacks. But the little girls were so excited! I dare say I've never seen them beam like that. So, next weekend we are doing it again. Victoria was very helpful. Some of her goodies:

"Mom! What happens if you fall in? Mom! You can't really swim very well, right!"
"Momma!!! Can I put my arm in the water? My leg? Can I sit on the edge of the boat! I won't fall in. I PROMISE!"
"Mom! Let's get our own boat! We could live here and have a dock and swim in the lake EVERY DAY!"
"Mooooooom!!! How DEEP is this water! I can't see in it! What's in there? Fish? BIG Fish? Snakes? Mom? Are there snakes??"
"Can I take my life jacket off?
"What if one of those big boats hits us?"

56 minutes of questions....her little sister just nodded and repeated.
Upon our exit, I resisted the urge to sit down on solid ground and cry.
Later, Victoria said, "The bed feels like a boat. It's moving. You love boats don't you. I can just tell. Let's go again next weekend.
To which I replied, "Of course. No problem."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Knee High by the Fourth of July

That's what we are looking for in a good crop of corn 'round here and this year....we got Thigh High by the Fourth of July. I'm not sure if it was our record setting wet June, or if it's just time for some really sweet sweet corn, but this year's crop is outstanding. We're headed over to Mollie's for a two family corn processing festival. I've never blanched corn in a turkey fryer on a deck. It has to beat standing over a boiling pot of water in my tiny kitchen, though.

Friday, July 2, 2010

stock; angry angry stock

This is one really big huge giant beef joint. It's heavy. At the moment, it's simmering in a big pot of water, making my house smell like roasted bones. Why? Because I am angry, that's why. It's best to make stock while you are angry. Allow me to explain. The reason one would make one's own stock is a fairly simple one; you can't buy it. There's really no point, beyond satisfying the requirements of a recipe you are about to follow word-for-word, in buying boxed or canned stock. The stuff you get in store, no matter if it is labeled organic, free range, MSG free, or freaking extracted from a happy cow, pretty much sucks. It doesn't have the magic ingredient. If you make your own stock and let it cool, you'll notice it sets up like jello. That's the magic. That's the thing that will cure you, heal you.....put you back together. Why is chicken soup the Miracle Cure? Well, it isn't anymore. It's just salty. But it used to be the miracle cure because of the combination of salt, protein, and the jello that leeches out of the bones when you make stock. Chicken stock is easy. Beef stock is time consuming and it makes your house smell a bit like gamy death.

I roasted that knuckle last night in a 300 degree oven for two hours. I simmered it in a pot for another two hours and then I had to go to bed, so I just put the pot in the refrigerator. This morning, I skimmed the two cups or so of fat off of the top, fed it to my now very happy dog (Max) and put the pot back on the stove to simmer all day. I added about 1/4 cup of kosher salt. I realize that people who do this add herbs, spices, and various vegetables. I'm not doing that. I just want the jello-y juice. I'll strain it through cheesecloth (to remove the grit) and then simmer it down until it amounts to about 6 cups of liquid or so. Then it goes in the freezer. When it's time to use it, I'll thaw it and mix it--two parts water, one part stock.
There's a lot of talk among hard core foodies about bones lately. You can get the scientific explanation for why making your own stock is worth it with a simple google search. I don't feel like going into it at the moment.
I don't think one can muster the strength it takes to extract every last nutrient from a ten pound cow joint if one is feeling cheerful. I certainly wouldn't want to waste the joint trying.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kid Approved: Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

Totally one-dish supper worthy.
In a heavy bottomed pan, stir together 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour Mix. Keep stirring over low heat until the mixture starts turning a bit brown.
Add one medium sized diced yellow onion and one large diced garlic clove. If the mixture seems really thick, add another tablespoon of butter and stir. Cook over low heat for five minutes.

Stir in two cups of grated zucchini and one cup of diced ham. Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of table salt and 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder. Stir to combine. Sprinkle in 1 cup finely shredded colby jack/cheddar cheese and stir gently until it melts in and becomes smooth. I used the prepackaged stuff labeled "Mexican."

Cook one package of Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta according to the package directions. Drain and gently fold into vegetable mixture. Let the mixture sit with a lid on it for five minutes or so. Stir and serve.

I even took a picture of what it looks like right before you put the pasta in.

The other picture is of the reason I didn't take a picture of the finished product.
Actually, it really isn't the dog's fault. Just as I was about to finish my dish, photograph it, and share it with the world, there was a knock at my front door.
It was a police officer.
At that moment in time, I had supper on the stove, a teenager in Missouri raising hell, parents on the road, and a husband who was about a half hour later getting home than he usually is. Also, my cell phone died at about 4:00. To say that my stomach dropped when I opened the door and saw a cop would be a vast understatement.
My people are all fine. The police officer and I had a long conversation about a neighbor that allegedly lives a few doors down who was complaining about my dog barking. (My dog who had been outside for less than twenty minutes.) Apparently, this guy is a whiny little high maintenance cry baby and he calls the cops for everything. So, the police officer met our animal family members and I gave him my phone number and sent an invitation back to call me any time. This morning, our next door neighbor's dog started barking at 7:15 am. I wonder if the police will be stopping by later....I hope they offer to take him to jail for disturbing the peace, too. He's a lawyer for the county.
Last night when Tori and I were out back regarding the garden, she asked me about the incident and I explained it like this; Ya know when there's a kid on the playground who tattles all the time? The teacher tells him to go talk to the person he has a problem with, right? OK, well, some kids don't learn how to do that and they grow up to be big giant tattle tales. That's what this guy is. He's a big giant tattle tale. When you grow up, you don't have a teacher anymore, so some big giant tattle tales use the police. Sometimes the police don't want to tell the tattle tale to talk to the person they have a problem with. So that's what I did. I told the officer to ask the cry baby to call me.
Do you know how I know that there is a God? Because I could see the dude through the trees of the yard the separates us while I was explaining all of this to Tori in my Big Mommy Voice. Beautiful.
I'm walking my dogs by the cry baby's house twice a day now. I can't wait to catch the dude outside so I can introduce myself and invite him over for drinks. This tactic (make friends with people who try to make your life difficult) is a new way to spell crazy. It amuses me to no end.
So, sorry you don't get a photo of this righteous Mac & Cheese. If you use a white zucchini, your kids won't know it's in there.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Egg Class tonight at New Pioneer Coop in Iowa City

And here are the recipes:

French Toast

1 cup plain yogurt

2 T sour cream

3 eggs

2 T honey, warmed

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

8 slices Udi Bread, white

2 T butter

Whisk yogurt, sour cream, eggs, honey and salt/pepper in a bowl. Pour into a pie pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into egg mixture and soak for 30 seconds on each side. Set bread aside for 2 minutes.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10 inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices Serve immediately with spiced vanilla butter.

Spiced Vanilla Butter

1 stick salted softened butter

1 T confectioners' sugar

Seeds of 2 vanilla beans

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Blend in food processor, shape into a log on waxed paper, wrap and chill. To serve, slice into 1/4" rounds and place one on each slice of french toast.

Bacon Egg Pizza

1 package Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza dough mix

--Prepare according to directions and roll out very thin. Pre-cook crusts for 7 minutes in 400 degree oven and set aside.

For one Pizza Crust:

1 large can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes

1 handful fresh basil, chopped rough

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced

4 portabello mushroom caps, chopped rough

5 slices thick smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and cut into 1" pieces

4 ounces fresh mozarella, torn into small pieces

4 eggs

Fry garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for about a minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add basil and season to taste.

Spread a layer of tomato sauce over the pizza crusts and scatter mushrooms, bacon, and cheese evenly. Cook for 5-8 minutes. Crack eggs on top of hot pizza and drag a fork through them to spread them around a bit. Return to oven until the eggs are set.

Season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Deviled shrimp in lettuce wraps

1 T olive oil

12 harboiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chpped yellow, orange, or purple bell pepper

2-3 T minced pickled jalapeno

1/4 tsp salt

4-5 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

1 14 ounce can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup light coconut milk

1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro

4 medium sized inner lettuce leaves, washed, wrapped in a kitchen towel loosely, and chilled (they should form a bowl on their own and be thick enough to hold their shape)

Saute onion for 2 minutes in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add peppers, jalapeno, salt and garlic. Saute 4 minutes more. Add tomatoes and cook 6-10 minutes or until liquid evaporates.

Stir in shrimp and cook 4-5 minutes more until shrimp are opaque. Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk, eggs and cilantro.

Spoon into chilled lettuce leaves and serve immediately.

Spring Hash Scramble

12 eggs, beaten

4 medium sized red potatoes, boiled until tender, diced

1/2 lb skinny, fresh asparagus, cut into 1" pieces

1/2 red onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro or parsley

3-4 slices thick cut smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and cut into 1" pieces

2-3 tablespoons reserved bacon drippings

salt and pepper

Heat large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook red onions, garlic, and diced potatoes in bacon drippings until potatoes are crisp.

Pour in eggs, stirring occasionally until set.

Stir in asparagus and cook for 2 minutes more.

Sprinkle chopped herbs and bacon over mixture, season, and serve hot.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Rage against Taco Hell

We've been calling it that since the eighth grade and we've helped fuel the rumors:

The beef is "Grade D But Edible."

Never Eat There! I can't tell you why.....just trust me.

I knew a guy who knew a guy who knew the dude that saw the, um, rodent head....

Here's a new one:

There's sand in their Taco Pizza. Actually, there's sand in their beef. They use it to keep the product from clumping during shipping. Google it. I dare you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good! Morning!

Oh my. It looks more out of place in writing than it does when I say it. I'm on my fourth cup of coffee and I've taken my vitamins. I'd still like to go back to bed. While I'd like to blame the rain, I think it may be my personality. I'm much more effective (and cheerful) after 10am. The children are watching a movie. I'm about to out myself as a potential "bad parent."

My dear, sweet Highlander won a TV yesterday. This time last year, he won a TV. Last year's TV was big. We had been television shopping, and by "we" I mean he had been walking around the TV section of every store in town while I tagged along and pretended to have no idea what he was talking about when he said he wanted to buy a 42" HD compatible flat screen. Clueless.

Finally, I had to break it to him: Momma doesn't want a TV. At all. Momma isn't going to get on board with your one thousand dollar plan to outfit our home with HD. Momma's Out.

Four days after this conversation, in a fit of passive aggressive persistence, he won a 42" HD compatible flat screen at his company picnic. He was so sure he was winning the TV that he cleared out the trunk of his car before we left to make room for it. He was so sure he was winning the TV last year, that his intention lasted 52 weeks and he won another one this year. Luckily, it's the baby sister of the big Mama. At 22 inches, it's perfect for my bedroom. I may have adapted my tastes in leisure time activity since last summer. After HD, regular TV seems blurry. Momma's In.

Zoe was sure the TV was for her room. She looked stricken when she realized it was being installed in Momma's room.

So I went to the basement, retrieved the little old time non-HD TV and its little-used VCR, and installed it in the girls' room. My children are now watching their brother's favorite movie from his 5th year of life: The Fox and The Hound. They are in heaven. They are quiet. They are not fighting or whining or begging for breakfast (which is cooking right now and is extra great since Momma is not being harassed.)

Breakfast when Momma is not being harassed:
Extra cheesy crescent rolls with eggs over-easy, a banana, and strawberry lemonade.

Hooray. And also, I think my coffee just kicked in.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Fancy Girl's Closet

Mommy is moving. That's right. I'm putting my stuff in boxes and I'm moving. Right into the basement. We have the house I intended for us. It's just perfect. Except for the closet situation. Highlander uses the closet in our bedroom. And the dresser. And the floor. And the hooks on the wall. I use the closet in the girls' room and a little wicker basket that I keep by my bed. Inconvenient? You have no idea. The girls use their floor. I haul the clothes to the basement, wash, dry, fold, and haul them back upstairs. Then they end up on the floor in a big wrinkly pile. This causes me great distress. There are so many things I'd rather do than haul, wash, dry, fold, haul.....

So I moved. I took my stuff out of the little closet next door and moved into the laundry room. I have Luciano Pavarotti on my old time CD player, my favorite silly pictures of my kids (and of Genie), and all my clothes neatly lined up in a well lit space. How happy am I about this? Very.

That's where the Fancy Girl's Closet comes in. Zoe wants to be a Fancy Girl when she grows up. At this very moment in time, she has one pink eyelid and one blue one. This is very fancy. She has a mild obsession with tacky jewelry and insists on wearing her pink cowgirl boots every day. Even with shorts. This morning, she informed me that the closet in her room will now be known as The Fancy Girl Closet and she'll need the following things:

A drawer for her Fancy Box where she keeps all of her Fancy Things

A mirror as big as she is so she can see her boots.

A mirror for her head so she can put on her sparkly eye stuff

Hair that's a little longer so she can wear one whole puny tail, not two.

A lock. To keep Tori out because she's not very Fancy.

Rings. Sparkly Rings.

A spot for Charlie to lay so Charlie can watch her being Fancy. (Charlie is the dog. Charlie does not like to be made Fancy, but does watch Zoe become fancy with almost creepy interest.)

A cage for her chicken.

That last one makes me so proud.

So today, instead of doing any of the, oh, one million things I Should Be Doing to prepare for the Great Graduation Party on Sunday, I'm making a Fancy Girl's Closet with my four year old. Because I can.

Dwight could be a Mom.

Here is my card. It's got my Cell number, my pager number, my home number, and my other pager number. I never take vacations, I never get sick, and I don't celebrate any major holidays. -Dwight from The Office

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The asparagus class is tonight

Yes. People will be congregating at New Pioneer Coop in Coralville to discuss Asparagus. I just made my grocery list. And I remembered that last time, I really wanted to make this salad ahead of time to hand to people as they walk in. The eating should begin immediately, I say.

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus

3 cups cooked quinoa (follow package instructions and let quinoa cool)
1 lb very small asparagus spears, chopped into 1/2” pieces, blanched
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

Gently mix ingredients together
Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Season with salt and pepper

To make the recipe preparation go quicker, stir the chopped asparagus into the cooking quinoa as soon as the quinoa is done and you are ready to remove it from the heat. The asparagus will cook perfectly from the residual heat of the quinoa.

Gluten Free=Happy! And with the exception of one tiny slice of bread, the class is gluten free.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Passionate Children

This morning, there were five teary outbursts before breakfast. None of them were mine. Victoria heard me tell Zoe that he shoes were very fancy. Tears. Zoe thought Tori was taunting her for eating her bagel slower than a three year old (she's four.) Tears. Tori thought the bagel had chocolate chips in it. They were raisins. Tears. Zoe wanted "Puny Tails" like Tori, but a preschool graduation cap won't fit over pony tails, no matter how puny. Tears. And so it goes. Tonight, the hot debate was over two identical stuffed dogs. Which dog goes with which child? Zoe thinks she got the wrong dog. She doesn't feel used to it. Tori refuses to trade because the dog she has seems so familiar. Arguments ensue. A book is thrown from the top bunk. Tears. Then sleep.

Later, while pondering the very important if not slightly hysterical outbursts of my mini-me's, I realized that everything is such a big deal when you are new. And they just got here. Their mother isn't exactly a shining example of calm contemplation. I almost got fired once for my big mouth. Well, technically I've almost been fired a lot for my big mouth, but this one time it was just once. Makes sense to me. Anyway this particular day, I was winning at work. I strolled in, sat in my cubicle, and proceeded to feel superior for the entire morning. Then my boss called me into her office. I mentally agreed that congratulations were in order. Then she began to address my dress. Apparently, there was great controversy on the floor (by the chubby angry crowd) as to whether the length of my dress reached past the tips of my fingers when standing up. It did.
Boss: Your dress is too short.
Me (back in my twenties): No it isn't.
Boss: Stand Up
Me: No. My dress is fine.
Boss. We have a dress code. Succeeding here doesn't make you exempt from that dress code.
Me (standing up): The dress isn't too short. See? The legs are too long. Sorry that pisses you off.
Me (walking out and slamming the door.)

Ah, the good old days. My heart still beats fast when I think of the injustice. And so it goes. My passionate children will wake in a few hours and take on the world, and each other. May they learn to live in peace, soon. So they can teach it to me.

CLUC goes Nationwide

If you live in a city/township/village that currently has an ordinance that prohibits you from keeping a few hens as pets, please check out CR-CLUC (Cedar Rapids Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens) on facebook. Put CLUC in the search field and we'll pop right up.

We are in the beginning stages of forming a means by which to help folks change their community's laws to allow them to have a few chickens.

Congratulations to Fairfield, Iowa and Palo, Iowa. Both towns just passed Chicken-Friendly ordinances.

Legalize Freedom.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Retire those eggs.

They are old.

So say the good folks at

The average grocery store egg is 45 days old when you bring it home.

The average egg from a happy backyard chicken is four hours old when you bring it inside. I made that up. But it's fresh. And also, no animal was tortured to bring you an omelet.

Friday, May 21, 2010

One pan Sage/Onion Chicken and Sausage

In the interest in spending less time cooking, and more time gardening, I'm working on a set of recipes that you put together, refrigerate, and cook later in the day.

This is in the oven, now.

It smells yummy.

We'll see.

Make the Marinade in a food processor. A little one will work fine.

1/2 cup fresh sage

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup water

1 tsp white rice vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice (from a lemon, not from a bottle)

3 tsp yellow mustard

1 tsp fish sauce (use 2 tsp soy sauce if you don't have fish sauce)

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp black pepper

We have boneless, skinless chicken breasts and one brat in the house at the moment. So that's what we're using.

Chop the chicken breasts into one inch pieces and squeeze the sausage out of the brat so it looks like little meatballs. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Push 1 inch pieces of white onion between the meat chunks. Pour the marinade over the meat and onions. Ideally, it should sit in the fridge all day.

Before cooking, sprinkle 1/3 cup risotto (arborio) rice over the meat. Carefully pour 1/2 cup water over the rice. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Check the chicken to make sure it's done.

This worked out really well. I just edited the original recipe a bit, though. I took the lemon juice down because it was kind of overwhelming. I cut the vegetable oil in half and added some water. The rice turned out just lovely. This one is going in the meal rotation for awhile. Hooray.

9 Gold Medal Tomato plants

A package from Seedsavers in Decorah came yesterday. Apparently, someone ordered tomato starts when it was cold out. Highlander opened the box and was just as surprised as I was to find NINE Gold Medal Tomato Plants. There are also a couple of Green Zebras and a yellow sweet pepper plant. I have room for FOUR Gold Medal Tomato Plants, and that's pushing it. These things are indeterminate, which means they keep growing until the first frost. Last year, I had a plant that stretched out eleven feet. I'll give away a secret; these are the tomatoes that give us our gorgeous sunshine yellow Bloody Marys. The fruit is marbled with red and for a yellow tomato, has a really nice acidity to it. Listen to me. Tomato nerd.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Putting the Fun back in Funeral.

There are two parts to this situation. The first is sad. The second is hilarious. There would be no second without the first. This causes a third situation that almost doesn't count because it just hangs back in the shadows. It's inappropriate.

My Grandfather died last week. That is the sad part. I know everyone generally thinks that when someones "Grandfather" dies, it's just sad, but certainly not tragic. He was 90 years old. It was time for all of us to let him go. But it is quite tragic in a special kind of way because he wasn't just some old guy. He was a great man. Since this is a blog, and not a historical novel, I can't really go into it as much as he deserves. But I'll try to give a snapshot. He and my Grandmother immigrated to the US via Ellis Island from Holland in 1953. They had two hundred dollars and their seven year old daughter. And, as my Grandmother pointed out during the eulogy, they also brought a sewing machine. They worked on a dairy farm and eight years later, bought their own. They had four more children and when their second child (that's my mom) was eighteen, they sold the farm. Mom married Dad and in doing so, robbed Grandpa of his "best helper." He went on to drive a school bus and he and Grandma lived together on the farm they bought after they sold the Diary operation, until he died last week. All that would have been enough.

There's so much more. Grandpa was part of an elite European swim team in his early twenties. They swam the Engish Channel as a relay. Judging from the photos, he had a very good time. He worked in his father's laundry business until the Germans invaded. He and Grandma were active in the resistance and risked their lives over and over to smuggle American soilders through Holland so they could get back home. Later, Grandpa was Winston Churchill's chauffer and Princess Beatrice's bodyguard. After the war, Holland was starving. Grandma had her first child, but was told that without adequate nutrition, there wouldn't be any more children. She and Grandpa decided to leave their country and come to America. They did not speak English. Their seven year old did not speak English. They got on a boat and spent weeks on stormy waters waiting to see Ellis Island.

Grandpa told me once that the officials on Ellis Island recommended that he change his name from Bastian to something more American. He declined and four children later, named his own son Bastian. Later, a grandson was born and they called him Bastian, too. When my own son was born, there was no negotiation. His name is Bastian.

Last weekend, I reminded my son that he is named after a very important man. I know he thinks I'm full of crap because he's a teenager and I'm his mom and all. There was a 21 gun salute right after the service and my Grandmother was presented with an American flag. I've never met a man who loved this country more than he did. He said it outloud and often. "What a Great Country. God Is Good." My son stood beside me, well on his way to being as tall as his Great-Grandfather was, and as he slipped a shell from the salute into his pocket, it was obvious that his overloaded teenage brain had memorized the day.

Ok, now that you are crying (assuming you have a soul and all) we can get to the hilarious part. Again, this isn't a novel, so you are getting bits.
Bit One:
My father handled the funeral. He's a man of the cloth, so to speak. The night before the service, my uncle may have been loaded. He puts whiskey in a styrofoam coffee cup and that's his traveller. Did I mention we're in Missouri? The evening wore on and at one point, my uncle pressed his forehead to my father's forehead and said, "Buddy, I got these soilders comin'......"
They worked it out so that Dad knew he was trying to inform the minister about the 21 guns. It took awhile.
Bit Two:
I look across the room before we left Grandma's for the funeral service and I see the same uncle. He's wearing a suit coat, blue jeans, and his cowboy boots. Now, we are in the south, so none of that's really out of the ordinary for a funeral. His tie was about eight inches long, though. I had to look away. I thought he was trying to lighten things up. I noticed he still had that same styrofoam cup in his hand and wondered if we shouldn't put some actual coffee in there. Later, I learned that he looked up how to tie a tie on youtube. I guess there's a "how to" section? Before we left for the church, another uncle had fixed the shorty tie for him. While they were working that out, cup in hand, this was overheard.
"You know if you put in 'How To' on youtube the first one there is 'How To Tie A Tie'? The second is 'How To Roll A Joint.'"
Too bad it isn't customary before a funeral to practice your skills regarding the second video, huh.
So Dad and I were comparing notes over lunch with my dear, tall son a couple of days ago and he told this story that I can not keep from every single one of the, oh, 713 people who read my ramblings regularly.

A few years ago moments before a funeral was to begin, the son of the man who had died rushed through the front doors of the funeral home. He was frantic. He had never tied a tie and couldn't figure it out. The music was starting and the family was preparing to enter. The man looked at the funeral director and said, "I can't tie this. Can you please help me?"
The funeral director replied, "Yes. But you may have to lie down."

Now take a moment to forgive me for my dark sense of humor. I take some comfort in knowing that it's hereditary.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cedar Rapids is getting chickens!

Cedar Rapids is getting chickens!
And also, we had a busy day here on our little city-farm.

The dog discovered how to tear out the little fence around our raised gardens so she can lay among the broccoli. In the rain.
Zoe refuses to take her pink cowgirl boots off in the house. Also, she line dances now.
I'm starting a new set of cooking classes in a few weeks and am eyeball deep in curriculum and as happy as a pig in poop.

I'm back to researching chicken coop design.

I broke up with facebook due to a series of disturbing events that brought me straight back to where I started on the subject. Facebook Might Be Evil.

I was going to cook something fabulous for supper, but Tori really wants tomato soup. "Just NORMAL cheese, Momma. Not the weird stuff. And NORMAL brown bread and soup out of a can."
It's tough being the child of a woman obsessed with food.....

Also, we have decided to add a truck to our stable here at Green Acres. A beater, two wheel drive, stick shift, early nineties vintage good for hauling all kinds of messy stuff like compost and mulch. And lumber for my chicken coop. I manifested a wheel barrow once. This may prove to be a bit more of a challenge.

That's all.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Welcome to the Backyard Cocktails section of my life.

My dear sweet husband has perfected the rhubartini. He made me one of these last Saturday afternoon and I love it.

Here it is:

2 pounds rhubarb, chopped into one inch pieces

1 cup simple syrup (that's a cup of sugar and a cup of water, simmered until the sugar dissolves)

lemon juice



Put the rhubarb in a big pot and cover with water. Add about two tablespoons of lemon juice. Bring to a boil and stir until the rhubarb gets a bit mushy and its color fades. Remove from heat. Let cool for 20-30 minutes.

Strain several times and let the juice drip out of the solids for an hour or so.

In a large pitcher, mix simple syrup and rhubarb juice. Chill in refrigerator.

Shake 3 oz rhubarb juice and 1 oz vodka with ice and strain into sugar rimmed glass.

Be careful. Rhubarb is a natural blood thinner and after a few of these, you may fall down.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kid friendly

I googled it. I came up with a recipe for blue cheese burgers with garlic aoli. Seriously. The dude tagged his recipe as "kid friendly." His kids eat blue cheese and raw eggs? Well, mine don't. So we're going back to the current chicken stand by around here. Today, I'm sharing.

Tori's Cheez-It Chicken

Two Chicken breasts, cut into long skinny pieces
(about a pound)

1 cup Cheez-It Spicy Crackers

2 slices toasted wheat bread

1 egg from a happy, well cared for hen

2 little pie pans

Dump the cheese crackers, torn up slice of toast, and 1 teaspoon of salt into a little food processor and grind it all up. Dump it into a little pie pan.

Beat the egg with a tablespoon or so of water (or milk of you'd prefer) and pour into a little pie pan.

Dip the chicken pieces in the egg and then roll them in the crumbs. This is a two kid job. One kid does the egg. One does the crumbs. They will fight. Just roll with it.

Lay each piece in a glass baking dish and cook in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes if you have a convection oven. Go 20 if your oven is just a regular oven for regular people.

I hope you have those squirt bottles with the tiny tip on them, because they are fun to play with. Give one kid a squirt bottle with ketchup in it and give the other kid a squirt bottle with mustard in it. Let them decorate the big white plate you'll be serving supper on. Little chefs like to play with condiments, too.
A note about salt: Unless you have sourced your own chicken from someone you know isn't soaking or injecting the meat with saline, you have salty-grocery-store-chicken. Around here, you can buy "Smart Chicken" at Hy-Vee. It's not injected with saline. If you are using regular grocery-store chicken, leave out that last pinch of salt and salt the meat itself after you've cooked it and tasted it.
Those are smoothies in the photo. Yes, my girls like to drink their smoothies from little wine glasses. We ate lettuce from the garden that night, too. Turns out kids like to eat things they grew themselves. Amazing. Maybe someday our school lunch programs will figure this out?

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Mommy Emergency

My dear friend had to go back to work today after spending *exactly* six weeks with her newborn. The baby is in daycare. The mommy is at work.

Make the universe realign itself so that she's OK. Right this minute she is very sad. Things must change.

Send thoughts to make this happen. She's very new to her Mommy Super Powers and probably doesn't get exactly how they work yet. Extra support is called for.




All three of our new garden beds are planted. I feel so happy about this.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


No. Not the kind you grind up with cilantro and sea salt to create a devastatingly good pesto.

I mean me. I've grown tired of our furniture. Every. Single. Piece of it.

Every time I turn around there's an inadequate bookshelf. Dated hardware. A not quite so comfortable any more couch (or three.)

Last night my favorite dog peed on one of those not quite so comfortable couches. And then I declared war on our ugly furniture.

This morning, I pulled the covers off of the couches and rubbed their edges with stain remover. After an hour in the washer, they are clean and bright, swinging in the breeze from the clothesline. Those couches are cleaner than they were the day we bought them. I do hope that makes them seem more comfortable. Not that the children will notice. They aren't allowed to sit on them anymore. Zoe managed to get four colors of magic marker on the love seat before 8am this morning. No-kids-on-the-couch seems more reasonable than a lot of other options I considered.

Also, I hate every single one of our lamps.

So I've been painting, priming, digging through the basement looking for the yellow paint I know is hiding down there somewhere. My favorite paint brush ran away from home, so I have to go to the hardware store (again) and get another one. Looks like a bomb hit my kitchen.

Random ambition is a dangerous thing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Makes the hair on my head stand straight up.

Well, that may not be quite valid. My hair is always sticking straight up...

Anyway, I just saw this little bit of news. Seems Alice Waters (foodie/locavore queen) is pondering a TV show on PBS. She's a purist. No compromise. Local food in schools? That was her idea. She has a farm to table program at a middle school in Berkley to prove it. Food issues seem so clear cut with her. She says that good food is a good investment. I think she makes a valid point. Which is why I cringe when I hear even the most well-to-do of my aquaintances complaining about what it costs to join a CSA or buy really good heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market. I say, "Look at a carrot seed. Put one in your hand and really stare at it for ten seconds. Now hold up that purple carrot you just paid seventy five cents for. How did the seed turn into the carrot? Well, it was a miracle. And a farmer worked their tail off for it. It's seventy five cents!" See, now I'm Rush Limbaugh....quoting myself.

Yes. The show. Alice Waters is to food what Martha Stewart is to home-making. I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

and this is what we did today.


I am very tired and I smell like compost. But when you have little girls, and you have an empty fountain, something must be done. See, I'm such a mess I can't even get these pictures flipped around so you see "before" and then "after." Now I need to go shower so I can cook supper and not infuse it with poopy dirt.

Oh Yes We Did!

There will be blood....and swearing*.....and arguments over technicalities (a 2x4 is not 2"x4"----Who Knew?) but there will also be raised gardens and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

These are made with 2x10's and 2x4's (again, the name of the lumber is only somewhat indicative of it's actual size.) They come pretty close to being 4'x8', 10 inch tall raised gardens, though.

It took us all weekend to build and level 2. If you aren't into the bickering, bleeding, and swearing, you may be able to shave half of a day off of our time.

Oh, it's good to live here!

*No children were hit with a shovel, sworn at, or otherwise harmed during the making of these gardens.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

End Times

I keep getting these posts that pop up on my little face book account. "Our Food Is Killing Us." and "The Organic Manifesto" followed by how evil Monsanto is, and how buying conventionally grown produce and feeding it to your children is sterilizing them. I can't solve any of that. But I can react to all that the way I react to the show, "Hoarders; Buried Alive." I just clean up my own house.

We put in two 4x8 raised gardens this weekend. There was swearing, bleeding, arguing, and meandering trips to the wrong landfill that took up half the day. But they are in. They are full of compost and dirt and ready to be planted this afternoon. Zoe wants to grow purple carrots. We'll do it the organic way. Not the perfect way, but we won't spray them with anything that will sterilize her. I hope.

It seems the time I spend sitting on my bright blue porch swing used to be more about relaxing than worrying. Now I look at my yard and wonder if I need to put a privacy fence in to keep my neighbors from seeing my illegal chickens. Which I am still to chicken to get. I wonder if Chem Lawn blows across the street and contaminates my hot peppers. I sit and silently hate my neighbors complete lack of regard for my clothesline. Tree Trimming Services? Ever heard of 'em? I have random anxiety about volcanic activity. Watching the movie 2012 by myself in the middle of the night did not help matters. That meteor that fell all over us the other night? I won't even start....

I just hope the end of time can wait until after my next tomato harvest.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gluten-Free fake Pita Chips

Bob's Red Mill makes a Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix that rocks. How much does it rock? Well, my kids didn't notice that anything was different about their cheese pizza last night.

I made little squares of something that remind me of Pita Chips out of the leftover dough. I miss Pita Chips.

If you add a tablespoon of fennel seeds and a tablespoon of cumin seeds to about 1/3 of a prepared batch of the pizza crust mix, roll it out as thin as you can with the help of some brown rice flour, sprinkle it with garlic powder and sea salt, bake it in a 350 degree oven until it starts to brown around the edges a bit, and cut it into squares.....voila! Pita Chips!

I'm eating them now. People who can eat food with gluten do not understand how very happy this makes me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


has been made.

The dog's gate is fixed, seven bags of mulch have been spread in his "area." I got groceries, donated a backseat full of stuff to Goodwill, and put gas in the car.

Our dear sweet little girls will be back home in three hours and I must clean up around here a bit in order to maintain the illusion of control. I did the family budget for the year (yes. I am a nerd.) and we are spending more on food starting May 1. Boring? Or Revolutionary. Hm....

Also, we got number one daughter's pictures back and this is my favorite one. They are all really good. I do not have permission to put her picture on the Internet. But for the record, I am willing to ask for forgiveness if necessary.

That was all just a really long prelude to the only thing that's really on my mind today;

It's good to be Rachel.



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chicken information

This is so cool.

They have it all. Your questions will be answered. They ship their baby chicks with special heat packs so they don't die in the cold. Not that it's really all that cold right now....

GO there!

OK, Highlander is outside working hard on repairing the gate that Max tore off of its hinges. I should at least get up and do something productive. Or go bother him about the next three things I want him to do.

Hooray for chickens!

Friday, April 9, 2010

This is proof that I lived through the night.

And woke up hungry for spaghetti. I haven't had the real, old fashioned, fever/body ache flu in years. We seem to have come through it, though. Tori's back at school today and Zoe is in the sun porch pretending to be Hannah Montana. All is well.

My feverish night left me with remnants of some pretty interesting dreams. About chickens, of course. I think it's coming down to this: we are going to go ahead and get ourselves some "illegal" chickens. Have you seen what the media is saying about Iowa egg operations? It's ugly. It's embarrassing. As if I wasn't already firmly planted in the land of NO GROCERY STORE EGGS.....

My little brood of egg-eaters is cracking six dozen a week right now. No Joke. If you buy "real" eggs at New Pioneer Coop (thanks, New Pi....for offering us "real" eggs) you pay around $6/dozen. Now, that may sound like a lot for eggs. But that's because we have been eating immortality itself. You should be paying $6/dozen for eggs. That's a fair price for knowing FOR SURE that the hens are treated well, fed well, and that the eggs themselves are actually going to nourish your family. OK, so we have about a $150/month of our food budget that should rightly be going to eggs. Luckily, I am acquainted with three small time farmers that keep chickens as pets and between the three of them, we can score eggs for between $1.50 and $2.50/dozen. That's very good for our food budget. I'm willing to pay more. If the cost of "real" eggs goes up, I'm still on board. Even if you don't have access to a hobby farmer with pet chickens, now that you know about where our grocery store eggs come from, you are obligated to stop buying them. It's an issue of moral behavior. We can become more aware and respectful of what's on our plates, or we can die while we maintain our entitled attitude towards what we eat.

I really like my kids, even when they are puking all over 1000 square feet of my home. I want them to live longer, better, and healthier than I have. I will not feed them crap.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Puke Chapter

Last night at 12:30 I woke from a peaceful cozy slumber to the sounds of my seven year old freaking out in her top bunk. She decided to wait for me to get up and tell her to get out of her bed before she attempted to crawl down the ladder. By then, she had puked down the side of the bed (in all the drawers) and had managed to hit the other set of drawers on her way out the door. She then proceeded to puke over the side of the stairs, across the hall, through the bathroom and landed one last projectile pile on the lid of the toilet.

Did I want to kill myself?

You bet your sweet ass I did.

Highlander slept.

While she was chained to the toilet, I scrubbed. Zoe, who was Wide Freaking Awake by then, helped me by pointing out each and every time I "missed a spot." Thank You Zoe.

By the time I had it all put together and had moved Zoe from the room to finish the night in a puke-free spot, I had my own stomache ache. So I headed downstairs for some couch-time. Guess what I stepped in. My dear sweet daughter had managed to lean over the railing upstairs on her way to the bathroom. Awesome.

I would like to note that I had it all cleaned up and disinfected by 2am. I then proceeded to watch "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" on HBO. I went back to bed with a stomach ache of my very own at 3:30. "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is a dumb movie.

I say, screw environmentally sound cleaning practices. I scrubbed every square inch of hardwood floor with some nasty, toxic, disinfecting crap in the middle of the night. Glad I had it in the house. I threw the towels in the trash. The image of picking puke chunks out of the terry cloth just reminded me that I never liked those stupid blue towels, anyway.

And ya know what? I was supposed to meet Nanny Jo tonight. Like, for real.

How ironic is that.

Over and out--

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's almost time to start baby tomatoes

I've noted before that it takes as long to grow a human child as it does a tomato. Here we go again. Our sun porch is serving as a grow room this year. We'll order seeds over the weekend and they'll be in the dirt before March 1st. I don't have a place to plant 200 tomato plants, but starting them seems like the right thing to do, anyway.