Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let's Not Be Hasty

You know, I keep hearing people saying the earliest signs of Spring are everywhere. Everyone seems to be thinking of bunnies and chicks and seedlings and balmy breezes and I find myself looking around perplexedly and wondering just which planet these people have landed from.

I suppose most of them (you?) may be living in the more temperate of the united states or in other countries altogether, but, I gotta tell ya, here in New Jersey, all systems are still reading Winter. Not a peek of green to be seen, not a breath of warmth (even the less cold days still have that chilly air about them), not a sign that Spring is on her way.

And, call me a Spring Scrooge, but I, for one, am just not ready yet. I'm an oddball; I like Winter. I like frosty days and frigid nights and cuddling up under flannel sheets and endless cups of steaming hot tea (which I drink the same way and in about the same amounts in the steamiest days of summer, but that is beside the point). I like boots and hats and gloves and scarves. I like seeing my breath in the cold air and feeling the blood being snapped into my cheeks.

And I like snow. No, I love snow. I liiiiiiiiive for snow storms and snow days and snow men and snow angels. I cross my fingers all Winter long, hoping for at least one bracing "snow event" (as the weatherpeople are now calling them--ridiculous), wishing boldly for even a few. And we haven't gotten even a decent snow fall yet this year. The Farmer's Almanac had predicted a hard, snowy Winter this year and I was so stoked for it! I was ready! But, no, another dull, dreary, grey Winter with nothing exciting snow-wise about it.

So, no. I'm not quite ready for Spring. Not yet. I know February is almost over and March is upon us and all the stores have their shelves stocked full of every kind of bunny and chick you can imagine, but I would like just one good snow storm. Just one. And I can make beef stew or chili and homemade hot chocolate and wander back and forth to and from the window gazing contentedly at the loveliness falling all around us outside and scold the children for tracking snow into the house and fuss over them, putting their gloves and socks in the dryer and warming their hands between mine while their fresh scones finish cooling.

Then I'll be ready. With bells on.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Okay, so you may be noticing some changes. If you're reading this you've gotten an invitation to be here and, I'm very sorry, had to jump through a few more hoops to get here.

I apologize. I would hate it, too, and I realize some of you may just give up, but it's a risk I'll have to take.

Due to circumstances I am not at liberty to discuss, I am going to have to go "underground" for a while. I don't know how long, and I really wish I didn't have to, but trust me, I do. And that's all I can say about it for now.

I've tried to contact everyone I know who has read my ramblings, anyone who listed themselves as a follower, anyone whose blog I particularly enjoy. But I'm sure there are some I haven't been able to contact. And some people are probably going to feel like I've put the velvet rope up and stuck a "VIP Lounge" sign on it. But I don't know what else to do.

So, again, I apologize for the inconvenience and hope you'll stick with me in spite of it.


Okay, so you may or may not have noticed I've been a little quiet lately. It's okay, you don't have to pretend you noticed, I understand.

And then, as Man-Cub would say, PANG, three posts at once! When it rains it pours.

So what the hayride is going on here?

Well, there is some life happening over here. Not bad stuff, not stupendous stuff. Just stuff. Life stuff. It happens all the time and sometimes it gets a little demanding. And, I'm sorry, but the blog just has to step aside for a while and be patient.

Also, I got jinxed again. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened. I will be talking to someone and we'll get to chatting about interests and dreams and eventually, sometimes, it will come up that I really do enjoy writing and wish I could be a writer for real. You know, like get paid for it in some way. Then The Viking, if he is there, will, bless him, jump in and start praising my mad skillz and tell whoever I'm talking to how good I am with words, how amazing I am as a writer and then he'll spill the beans and tell them I have a blog.

ACH. That's when I get all red and sweaty. The person always looks at me in all astonishment like I've been harboring this great secret and says, "What's the address? I want to read it!" And I stammer and say, "No, no you don't." And they insist and then they start encouraging me to BE a writer and start writing to newspapers and try to get my own column or write a book and send it to every publishing house I can find in the yellow pages, don't take, 'no,' for an answer!

I get all bashful and fuzzy-feeling inside, basking in the compliments and I go home all bolstered and ready to become a writer. And then, the next time I sit down in front of the "Create" screen, it happens.

I choke. And I'm jinxed once again. Cause now I'm feeling all that pressure. I'm terrified if people who actually know me IRL (In Real Life if you're clueless and hopelessly unhip like me) read my blog they will think, "Well, this is just nonsensical!" And, suddenly, they will feel sorry for me, that I entertain the delusional thought that I can actually write my way out of a paper bag. It's one thing if perfect strangers think that, but it's quite another if people I have to see with any regularity do.

Sigh. So, I've been fretting about the house, paralyzed by my perfectionism and insecurities once again. I am such a mess. When will I ever learn?

But, anyway, I think I've gotten over myself by now and am ready to shake off the pressure to be great. I am ready to sink once again into the much more comfortable muddy waters of mediocrity! So no more compliments or encouragement from anybody! Got it?

My ego just can't take it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Okay, I'm still ranting about the beef. I can't help it, I'm a housewife and a large portion of my life revolves around my failures and successes (such as they are) in the kitchen. It will be over soon, I promise.

You see, I decided I was not going to be done in by a lifeless hunk of meat. Not this time. I had spent good money on it and expended precious time on it and I was going to WIN. So, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I used the wonders of the Internet to do quick search on what to do with hopelessly overcooked beef and lo! I was not left wanting!

Looooooooong story short, I diced up that sorry, sad-looking beef and treated it to a lovely, long, hot, rejuvenating bath in some low-sodium beef broth and a liberal amount of red wine. Put the lid on for some privacy and left it to gently simmer for about 30 minutes. When I came back, the meat was magically tender and palatable!

Then POW another flash of brilliance knocked me off my feet again! I quickly flipped through my trusty America's Test Kitchen cookbook and found, not one, but, two recipes suitable for braised from the dead beef.

Let me just tell you, I am the Woman Who Saved The Beef this week! First was Beef Stroganoff. I've never made it before. It was absolutely delicious. Even Redheaded Snippet liked it (Man-Cub wouldn't go near it but let's ignore him right now, shall we?)!

Next was Beef Pot Pie. Whoo whee, that was some good stuff! Man-Cub ate only the meat of his portion, but we're still ignoring him so that is inconsequential. The rest of us LOVED it!

So, I saved what was once a moderately-priced cut of meat and wound up getting two rather stupendous meals out of it. And the best part? Because it had already been cooked (twice), it took almost no time at all the whip up both dishes!

It really makes me wish I was put together enough to roast a whole chicken and a whole roast every Saturday and just make all my meals from them all week long. Don't you think that would make things much easier? But, like I said, I'd need to be put together for that...

I may have saved the beef this week, but let's not get carried away.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Beef With Beef

I have a new enemy and its name is beef. Yes, beef. I have a beef with beef (sorry but it was inevitable). Well, not just any beef; I can manage ground beef easily enough (as long as it does not need to be cooked in loaf or ball form), but if it's in its relatively natural form and needs to be roasted, boiled or broiled, I am a hopeless mess.

I believe it's already been established that I cannot make meatloaf. I just can't. I've tried recipes from all my stand-bys--Martha Stewart, America's Test Kitchen, Rachael Ray--to no avail. There is some kind of kink in my brain when it comes to meatloaf. I must have a genetic mutation that prevents me from being able to produce a decent meatloaf. I can't even make meatballs! My last attempt was so terrible The Viking had to rescue dinner altogether! And the meatballs were like little balls of dog food that were burned on the outside. Delectable.

Well, now, it seems my disability has grown to include roasts and steaks. The last, oh, 15 roasts I have prepared have been dismal at best, spectacular disasters at worst. They are either grey, rubbery and tasteless, like eating a used Brillo pad, or bloody to the point of horrifying even a vampire. I cannot get it right.

I follow recipes, I've tried roasting slowly at low temperatures, I've tried the Crockpot, I've even tried the Thermowell. It's gotten so I just avoid the beef aisle and stick to chicken, hamburgers, nachos, tacos and spaghetti with meat sauce.

What is wrong with me? Take last night, for instance. I had bought a roast on sale at the market. It was a good size (about 4 lbs) and was a more expensive cut that had been reduced. I got it home and consulted my trusty cook book and found the best way to cook that particular cut of meat: round tip roast.

Recipe called for tying the roast up with twine. Huzzah, the in-store butcher had already done that for me (good thing, too, cause I have never had a supply of twine in my kitchen)! Then it called for taking the meat out of the fridge and allowing it to sit, loosely wrapped in plastic, for one hour. Oops, problem. It was already 5:30 and I didn't have that kind of time. So, I guess lesson number one is that preparing a cut of beef has to start before rush hour begins?

I rashly decided to skip that step. After all, my mother had never done it and all her roasts had always come out just lovely. I skipped to step number three. I heated the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking, patting the meat dry with paper towels and sprinkling with salt and pepper while I waited. Then I carefully seared the meat on all sides, taking special care not to let the oil get to hot or to just leave the meat sitting unattended in the pan while I loaded the dishwasher or checked my email or something. As I have been known to do in the past. Like, so often that whenever The Viking would walk into the kitchen and it would be full of smoke he would say, "Searing a roast?"

When the searing was finished the meat was a lovely, rich brown all over. No grey meat on the table this time! This is when I reached problem number two: place roast on roasting rack in roasting pan. I have one roasting pan. It's ancient and has no rack. My cooling rack is too big for said roasting pan. So, in the interest of time and money, I merely lined the pan with foil and unceremoniously plopped the meat into it.

Problem #3! Roast at 250 degrees to desired doneness (see pg 392). I looked at page 392. It said to use an instant read thermometer. Dang it all, mine is broken! It just went two weeks ago! And have I gone out in order to get a new one? Of course not. So, for medium well doneness, the cookbook suggested roasting the meat for an hour to and hour-and-a-half. So I put the roast in the oven and set the timer for 90 minutes.

Maybe, if you're a more experienced and clued-in cook than I am, you can guess what happened. I had the potatoes whipped, the carrots steamed and the salad dressed and went to pull the delicious-smelling roast from the oven. I cut into it eagerly only to find a right bloody mess. Literally. I calmly went into the living room and quietly asked The Viking if he could please come help me before I flung myself into traffic. The Viking likes his meat pretty rare and even he looked nauseated at the sight. He cut the ends off the roast, them being the most cooked portions, and put the meat back in the oven, saying, "there's enough there for us all to have a few bites; we'll just have to be happy with potatoes and veg tonight."

I was very disgruntled throughout the meal, but no one else seemed to mind. That, or they were just being nice to me, afraid of provoking me further. When dinner was over, we declared that we were celebrating Valentine's Day by way of loafing on the couch rubbing each other's feet while the children cleaned up the dining room table and kitchen. Which just may be the best Valentine's Day celebration we've ever had, besides the year we celebrated it by getting engaged (16 years ago)!

We had a lovely sack out time. Back-to-back Law and Orders were on (we love trying to guess first who did it) and The Viking produced a few bars of chocolate he'd been saving. But can you guess what happened next? Whatever happened to the forlorn little beef in the oven? Go ahead and cover your eyes, you know what's coming, don't you?

At about 9:30, The Viking suddenly came to his senses. "Uh, Honey, I think that meat might be finished now." Always master of the subtle understatement, that man. I had a quick little dry sob into my hands before dragging my feet into the kitchen. I pulled out a piece of meat so dried out and over-cooked it was halfway to being the most lovely jerky imaginable. I muttered a few, choice, semi-profane (but not quite) words and roughly tossed the pan onto the stove top before plodding back into the living room to have myself a good sulk.

Sigh. So, what on earth am I to do? Is my poor family doomed to a life of white meat only? Is the dried up, shriveled piece of meat in the freezer suitable only for Nutmeg's lunch? I admit the thought of beef stroganoff has popped into my fevered little brain, but I don't know if I'm brave enough to try.

Can anyone talk me off this ledge? What am I doing wrong? It's okay, I can take it. Fire away. It's for my own good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Extended Weekend!

See, I don't do Valentine's Day. I used to, but then I grew up. HA! Now, don't leave me comments complaining about the shriveled up lump of steel where my heart should be or whining that I called anybody immature. Whatever. I think Valentine's Day is dumb. So there it is. My Viking thinks himself the luckiest man on Earth to be married to a woman who prefers beer to wine, steak to salad and thinks Valentine's Day is a colossal waste of time. Now, our Anniversary is another story entirely...

I usually make a few snarky Valentine's heart using this handy dandy Acme Heart Maker. Redheaded Snippet helped me with these:

Don't we sound so bitter and lonely? But as I am very happily married and Redheaded Snippet is too young to date, that theory holds no water. We just think VD is silly. A made-up Holiday women use as an excuse to drag their men around by the tie (you thought I was going to say something else, didn't you?) and make them tell them how much they love them by buying glittery pieces of paper with someone else's flowery words on them and taking them out for a public meal so everyone can see how well trained she has him. Anyway...

What I am excited about is the four-day weekend! No school today and none again on Monday! Now, that, my friends, is worth celebrating. We get to sleep in and sit around in our pjs all day if we want. And that is exactly what we did today. Sweet rest and relaxation. And I'm thinking of getting a pizza and renting a movie to continue the festivities. Or maybe Indian food, we haven't had that in a while. Doesn't that sound lovely?

So, if you're going out for a romantic dinner with your significant other, do enjoy yourself, despite my snarky words. I know a lot of couples really do look forward to Valentine's Day, and if that's you, have a lovely time. As for me and my Viking, we'll probably be cuddled up on the couch watching something on PBS with a bowl of popcorn. Or Redheaded Snippet and I will be watching PBS while The Viking and Man-Cub wrestle on the living room floor. Either way, I'll have a happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


No, not the sled. Dharma and Vance's baby elfling, of course! I stole some photos from my sister to share here, as promised.

I'm still trying out the blog name. I reserve the right to change it if I think of a better one.

The Nose Knows

So I've been thinking about smelling lately. No, wait, I don't mean I'm considering becoming very odoriferous or anything. I mean I've been pondering the power of fragrance, the memory of scent, the utility of having a sense of smell.

My mother lost her sense of smell from a tragic sinus infection several years ago. Can't smell anything, good or bad (we call her Trusty, after the aging bloodhound in Lady and The Tramp who has lost his sense of smell until its miraculous reappearance right at the most critical point of the plot). Makes her a perfect choice for changing really rancid diapers. Makes her somewhat of a bad cook. It also affects her sense of taste (in food, not in art or clothing) which is a bummer for her because she doesn't enjoy the same foods she used to. But I digress...

You don't really think about your sense of smell until you lose it or it saves your life. This past weekend, my sister's super sonic sense of smell detected a gas leak in her basement that prompted a call to the gas company. Turns out all kinds of carbon monoxide was leaking into the house. Only the terribly drafty windows and doors (and Divine Protection, of course) saved them. There are a lot more details to this story, but the important part is steps are being taken to rectify the problem and we all have my sister's bloodhound nose to thank for it.

Our noses can detect other things besides danger. I walked outside this morning and stopped dead when an unmistakable breath of Spring hit my nose. I closed my eyes, lifted my face to the sky and drank it in slowly. I love winter, but those first wafts of Spring are always intoxicating. I know it's still early February, but there is no doubt Spring is slowly on her way. The birds are hopping about singing madly, the wind has mellowed into a breeze and in just a few short weeks the woods across the street will be full of the sound of tree frogs. And the nose knew it first.

Memory is also closely linked to our noses. How many times has a particular scent taken you right back to another place in time? Cinnamon always reminds me of family vacations in New Hampshire. Coffee reminds me of parties at my parents' house and pot luck suppers at church when I was a child. Pipe tobacco reminds me of my grandfather who use to blow smoke rings for me and died when I was seven. The perfume I wore when I was 19 brings back intense memories of when The Viking and I were dating. Gardenia reminds me of our wedding day. Moth balls and garlic remind me of EGOD and ginger ale reminds me of vomiting myself silly while pregnant.

Recently, I met a man who wore a particular cologne that I recognized. I couldn't place the memory at first, but I knew it was familiar. It reminded me of something. And because I shook his hand, the scent was transferred to me and I kept smelling it even after I had left him. And then I realized it reminded me of someone. And I realized it was an ex-boyfriend. Thankfully, I could not recall which one at first--which is a sign that those memories are good and faded and NOT that I had so many boyfriends to try and remember. But, inevitably it came to me and I had to go wash my hands. I just couldn't go about all day smelling like an ex. It would be too weird.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a scent? Have you ever been moved to tears by a familiar fragrance? Do you feel cherished and loved when your children sniff your coat and sigh and say, "Mom, I like your smell,"? Do you go out on your porch and make weather predictions according to what you smell?

Now that I'm back in my house, my nose is collecting all kinds of unpleasant data. There's a mysterious odor lingering in the kitchen. I haven't gone poking around yet, but my bet is on the garbage can or disposal. I made chicken soup last night and the kitchen always smells bad the next day when a chicken carcass has been involved. I also have my suspicions about the upstairs bathroom and the dog. So, I suppose I'd better be off to clean and deodorize things (except the dog--that's The Viking's domain) so my nose will be happy and free to breathe deep.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We're back, safe and sound, but a little sad. It's always wonderful being with all my sisters, but it's always a terrible wrench to have to part ways again when it's all over. There are always sniffles and the wiping away of tears.

This time was no different, only it seems to get a bit harder with each new person that comes into the family. I used to just miss my sister when we said goodbye; then my brother-in-law came into the picture and there were two people to miss; then Bitsy came along and it became even harder; and now there are four of them and we have to allow scads of extra time to run around to everyone stealing just one more last kiss or squeeze.

My niece is a vision of loveliness. She has lots of dark hair, the sweetest little rosebud mouth, huge, dark eyes and a swarthy complexion any pirate would envy. She is so soft and cuddly and smells oh so good. We got to meet her when she was only hours old and she had already changed so much by the time we left!

Bitsy, the new big sister, seems rather ambivalent about her. She seems to regard her as some kind of newfangled toy she hasn't figured out how to play with yet. She's not overly excited, but doesn't seem to be very resentful, so that's a good thing.

Just before we left for our final meal together, we piled all the cousins on the sofa for a photo op. It was so exciting to see all our children squashed together like that! We've been waiting for years for a sight like that one! I remember very well being mushed into a shapeless mass of arms and legs for photos with the cousins and I just cannot believe we're doing that with our own children now. We had a blast passing babies around and taking turns changing diapers, wiping mouths and kissing boo-boos. It's the best, being an Auntie. No wonder my sisters have always been so good at it; it's the easiest job in the world!

So, we're back, the suitcases have been emptied, (most of) the laundry has been washed, dried and folded, and life resumes as before. I wish I had photos to share, but I'm still working on that one. Hopefully tomorrow I can astound you all with cute baby photos. We'll see.

For now, I must be off to finish getting dinner on the table. I made our family favorite homemade chicken noodle soup and the noodles are just about perfect!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

So long, Screwey! See ya in St. Louey!

Well, the call has come! Our new niece is about to make her long-awaited appearance! Dharma is having the baby sometime tonight or tomorrow so we're all a-flutter making decisions and arrangements.

Airline tickets have been purchased, hotel rooms have been reserved, dog-sitting has been arranged, and teachers have been emailed. Laundry is in the process of being gathered and washed, and bags are about to be packed! We're off to Chicago!

And wouldn't you know it? Tonight is the night we finally get our lovely snow storm! Oh, the irony.

So, I'll be gone for a few days. And when I get back, I'll have met my new niece! Oh happy, happy day!

Bon voyage!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Too tired to look for a title image

I know I'm a bit overdue for a post, but I just don't think it's in me this evening. I'm tired. And I'm tired of being tired.

My usual insomnia has given way to a new sleeping problem: borderline narcolepsy. Okay, I exaggerate a wee bit once again, but for me, my behavior is virtually narcoleptic.

For the duration of this entire weekend, any time I have sat idle for more than 15 minutes, I have fallen asleep. We drove over to Lobelia and Lenny's for a visit on Saturday, I fell asleep in the car on the way over and slept so soundly I literally had no idea where I was when I woke up. Completely disoriented. The Viking had to tell me where we were. Then I fell asleep again on the ride home. We stopped at the store so The Viking could run inside for some veggies. I fell asleep again while waiting in the parking lot. Last night, I fell asleep promptly and quickly, as if I had taken a sleeping pill. This afternoon, despite getting a good night's sleep and sleeping in this morning, I fell asleep on the couch while The Viking and Man-Cub were playing a video game. And now, I'm so tired I cannot wait to hit my pillow upstairs.

What on earth? I've also had a headache for at least some portion of each of the last 5 days, some so bad I've had to lie in a dark room for it to pass.

This is just so unlike me and it's really getting disruptive. I guess it could be stress, or maybe my body is just rebelling against the damage done by years of insomnia and is making sure it gets the rest it needs. Does that even make sense? Cause I'm completely making it up. Guess I should call my doctor's office about that sleep study the results of which they never called me about.

On that note, I'm off to bed. But, hopefully, I will have a chance to post properly tomorrow, provided the time spent sitting idly in one place doesn't cause me to nod off again.