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.