Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One, Two and Three

1. What the flagnot is going on with blogger telling me I'm not following any blogs?? I am SO following blogs! Wherefore this unauthorized change and who can I sack to ensure it never happens again? Why does NOTHING work as it's supposed to? Okay, enough with the dramatics.

2. I am working on a very long, very profound post that has been swirling around in my murky little brain for a while now. Stay tuned. I think it might be a doozy.

3. I need a good, reliable, uber-tasty lamb recipe for Sunday. I need it by Saturday. But it's for Sunday. See the power of prepositions? If you like, I can teach you a handy song to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" so you'll always remember them. "Preppy Doodle Ditty", taught to me by a very odd language arts (that's what they call "English" class in middle school, just like "History" is for some reason called social studies...okay, whatever) teacher in 6th grade. There was also "Linking Verb Day" (to the tune of "Happy Birthday") and another one about verbs to the tune of "Jingle Bells" that I can sing with total recall though I've forgotten the title. I'm sure if Dharma wasn't so busy moving across the country right now she'd be able to swoop in and remind me as she had the same wacky teacher. The woman loved Pac-Man so much her hall pass was a HUGE, bright yellow Pac-Man. It was not at all embarrassing to a very shy, very sensitive eleven-year-old to be spotted walking to or from the girls' loo in a new school with a giant, wooden, screaming-yellow Pac-Man under her arm.

3a. Back to the lamb. The Viking has requested a "nice meal" for Easter this year. Apparently, he's tired of our usual Easter feast of hard-boiled eggs, jellybeans and chocolate. He's crazy. But he's also very patient and tolerant so when he actually asks for a particular meal for a particular event, I can't say no to him.

Thankfully, he is not a fan of ham. I am not a fan of ham. I have made it (I think it was for Easter) and made it well, but the children don't like it and I really dislike split pea soup and ham salad so once we've gotten our fill of baked ham, there really isn't much else to do with it and we wind up wasting a lot of ham. Lamb is quite a different story. The Viking and I are both great fans of lamb. If you ask The Viking what is the best thing he's ever eaten, he will look dreamily off into the distance and sigh and tell you of the lamb shoulder he had at the pub in Almondsbury on our first evening in England. When he ordered it, the barkeep looked him over and asked, "You hungry?" It was a massive hunk of meat with a large bone sticking out of the end, nestled atop the largest pile of mashed potatoes I've ever seen, very Henry VIII. When we go out to eat all fancy-like, The Viking will always order either the lamb or the salmon. So, how can I deny this man a request for lamb?

Trouble is, I've only made it once and I want to make sure I make it well. Lamb is one of those things you've just got to get right. So, I'm looking through my usual sources for a good recipe. I want it to be the kind of meal that makes The Viking's eyes roll back in his head. I want to see him gazing at me with that goofy grin he gets when I've hit one out of the park. So I will be spending lots of time with America's Test Kitchen, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and the Chambers Range Idle Hour Cookbook in the next few days.

Here's what I've got so far, as per The Viking's requests:

-Lamb (Leg of? Boneless leg of? Shanks? Chops? Aye, me!)
-Red skinned potatoes (roasted with some kinds of herbs, rosemary and thyme perhaps)
-Green veg (leaning toward roast asparagus or braised Brussels sprouts)
-Lemon chiffon cake with citrus glaze (I'm really looking forward to making this)

4. Man-Cub, for his part, has requested an Easter Egg Hunt. He said to put them in trees and everything. I didn't think that would be a good idea as the wildlife (starting with our useless dog) would probably ruin any chance of that being a fun event, but then Man-Cub informed me that he meant for us to use the plastic eggs filled with candy and trinkets. I should have known. Man-Cub loves little containers. And he loves trinkets. And he particularly loves little containers filled with trinkets. This is right up his alley. But my mental calculations have already informed me that this will get costly. So I'm thinking of making use of this Follow The Ribbon idea instead, the usage of which is also described here. I'm thinking of getting the children individual (but smaller) Easter baskets this year (they usually share one) and maybe even teensy ones for the adults and making them follow their ribbons all over the house and even outside to find them. This could be fun or this could be madness. I really wish Daria was here to help me!

All this means that I've got to get to work compiling some lists! I've got cooking and baking and shopping and ribboning to do! Not to mention cleaning and ironing and possibly mending. Which reminds me, HEAVENS, what are we all going to wear on Sunday? Add that to the list: going through the clothes.

Well, I'd best be off. The dryer has buzzed and Mom is on her way to pick me up for a quick cup of coffee before retrieving Man-Cub from school.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Officially Spring!

It's official! We've reached the vernal equinox, the sun is shining with all its strength and the long, cold winter is behind us! Just throw your windows open and breathe it in! Unless, of course, you're some place south of the equator where it is officially Autumn (like Argentina) or north of the equator but the weather just doesn't want to cooperate (like Chicago, where it's snowing today). Although, if you are south of the equator you may still be able to throw those windows open and breathe in cool, crisp Autumn air, you lucky ducks!

Today is probably our first glorious day, weather-wise. I can't see a cloud in the sky and the sun is blazingly bright. I fell asleep and awoke to the sounds of singing: tree frogs last night and all manner of birds this morning. All the shrubs are budding, daffodils have poked up through the warming earth and are unfurling their pretty, yellow bonnets, and I just saw a butterfly flutter by.

I do love Spring.

I'm sitting down with sheets of paper and pen and making up a cleaning schedule. I try to Spring Clean each year with the goal of at least accomplishing more than I did the year before. I never get it all done, but my hope is that someday, someday, if I persevere and keep taking those baby steps, I will finally do it.

So, today being Saturday I am dreaming up all sorts of horrible things with which to torture the children. They will be cleaning their rooms, of course, but I'm also thinking of sorting through clothes, packing up scarves, gloves, hats and coats and tidying closets! Aren't I the worst? Of course, I'm not going to be easy on myself, either. I am planning on cleaning out the fridge, patching the knees of Man-Cub's jeans and tackling the ironing. All with the windows open, of course.

Sigh. I guess I'd better get crack-a-lackin'! Lobelia has invited us over for grilled meats tonight so we'd better not waste any time!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

Yesterday was (apparently) pi day, as it was 3.14, and today is the Ides of March (get it? 3.14? Pi? No? Not dorky enough? Just me?). I have an Anne-Shirleyesque affinity for the Ides of March. The very words are just scrumptiously thrilling, don't you think? Of course, I've never known anything romantic or tragical to happen on the old Ides, but that doesn't dampen my delight in the idea.

Yesterday felt more like the Ides of March rather than pi day. We had to go to EGOD's apartment to help clear out some of her junk before she moves to another Spartan apartment that she will promptly fill up with junk. Honestly, I don't know where she gets this stuff and I really don't know where she keeps it. She's not a true hoarder, as in having piles of garbage covering layers of filth concealing the skeletons of small animals and such. But she does keep and pack away mind-boggling amounts of stuff. Is there such a thing as a very clean hoarder who hides their hoarde? Cause that's what she is.

I was trying to remember specific things to share with my sisters later (as the only ones who will truly appreciate why I needed a good, stiff drink by the time I left), but I think I've already blotted a lot of it out by too much running to my happy place in my mind (where there's always a string quartet).

Anyway, I said no to the ugly china cabinet that she tried to bully me into taking. She actually suggested I trade her my lovely, homey, most-beloved hutch that always stood in my mother's home before she gave it to me for that ugly monstrosity she bought in Florida. First of all, I don't believe she bought it at all. I have always had a sneaking suspicion that she steals things from people who've just died. Heavens, what a horrible thing to say! But, knowing how stingy and opportunistic and sneaky she is, I can't believe she's paid money for half the things she packs away! Second of all, that china cabinet is so modern and ugly and even Man-Cub can see it would not go in my dining room. Sigh. I've known about her wretched sense of taste for years, but it never fails to amaze me. You should have seen the rug she wanted me to take. Simply dreadful!

I also refused the electric juicer, orange afghan, tacky plastic pants valet, two boxes of dishes, boxes of puzzles featuring jumbo-sized, EZ grip pieces, a shapeless, worn out black skirt and a 40-year-old-plus electric can opener. I have a juicer, the afghan perfectly resembled the colors of cat puke, the pants valet was something even Harriet Carter wouldn't sell (or maybe she did--back in the '70s), the dishes were all mismatched and shabby--and NOT in a good way, and don't even get me started on the puzzles.

The skirt prompted the second time I almost yelled at my frail-but-wicked 90-year-old grandmother. I almost had to yell at her over the hutch/china cabinet incident. She's Italian; she doesn't pay attention until you yell. Then she tried to bully me into taking the skirt. I said I didn't want it. She said, "Well, maybe you'll lose some weight and it will fit you."



No. I kept my cool. Even though this was the woman who, throughout my childhood, though I was never fat until my first pregnancy, called me every single word for "fat" in the English language (and probably all those in the fake-pseudo-Italian she thinks she can speak) every single time she saw me. Even though her first comment when given a first glimpse at her first great-grandchild was a disparaging remark about my "fat" face. Even though she once tried to start the same campaign with Redheaded Snippet (before we instituted the rule that the children are not allowed within earshot of her without me or The Viking present). I kept my cool.

But, I'm afraid I did lie.

I looked right at her and said, "I don't want to lose any weight. I'm not going to."

She swatted the air in front of me and said, "You might. You don't know," to which I repeated, "Nope. I don't want to."

That, my friends, is a lie. But I have a feeling I won't be able to lose any weight until she is gone. Because I don't want to give her the satisfaction.


Then I held the skirt up to my waist and saw that it was so long it brushed the tops of my shoes. I looked at EGOD. And back at the hem of the skirt. And back at EGOD. I am a short woman, but I am a good six inches taller than she. What on earth is she doing with this skirt packed in the back of her closet??? Why did she take it in the first place and why does she still have it???

So I said to her, and this is where I almost started yelling because she was simply not listening to me and just rattling on about the quality of the skirt (dubious) as well as its beauty and utility (, "Look how long this is!"

"That's how they're wearing them now!" Okay, HOW does she think she knows this? Is she secretly reading Vogue and then throwing it out before anyone sees--this the woman who won't throw away 40-year-old tubes of toothpaste or 73-year-old bottles of liniment (I am not making that up)? And, honestly, the idea that she would be telling me ANYTHING about FASHION is just ludicrous! Not that I'm a fashion plate or anything, but this is the woman who wore the same screaming-teal-green lounge-singer dress (festooned with swirls of sequins) with the same grey moccasins to all three of her granddaughters' weddings, wears the same mismatched paisley shorts and tank top every time we go out to dinner in the Summer, wears a Christmas sweater with a fuchsia and mint green poinsettia year-round because it's the colors of "It-lee", and once suggested to me, when I was fourteen, that I dress more like "that beautiful girl over there", indicating a young woman who looked exactly like a streetwalker.

"I would look Amish in this." Ignore the fact, for a moment, that it has a slit up the front that would surely result in the shunning of any Amish woman who dared to wear it.

Surprisingly, she gave in, saying, with a dismissive wave of her hand, "Yeah, I don't like to wear things long, either." That's when I actually did raise my voice.

"You don't like to wear things long, but you want me to wear it long??"

She took the skirt from me and stuffed it back in her closet. Score one for me.

I'm not entirely sure I want to talk about the electric can opener, but, of course, I will. I had put it in the reject pile when my usually-levelheaded Viking spotted it and, get this, said he wanted it. WHAAAAAT? Yeah, apparently, he was able to see from across the room (he was keeping his distance as he is no fool) that it has a knife sharpener. This cannot be a good thing. He has mentioned something before about trying to sharpen my Cutco knives. I don't want him to try to sharpen my Cutco knives because I don't want them ruined. It seems to me knife-sharpening if one of those things you need to know about before you just set out to do it. Like tuning a piano. But The Viking was not to be deterred. Incidentally, I later told my dad about it and he cracked up saying he tried the thing out a few days ago and the noise and vibrations it produces will be enough to make the neighbors call the cops. So, I'm just biding my time...

I did manage to score a few useful, nice items in my wild forage through madness. I scored an extra cutting board (can always use those) a small colander (ditto), a very pretty soup tureen that Lobelia might want, some muffin tins and baking pans, a brand new toaster oven, some puzzles I would actually enjoy, a kitschy red pitcher, two retro jackets for Redheaded Snippet (they're actually from the '60s and '80s and so totally in right now), a very nice rolling suitcase, and best of all, a set of full sheets.

These aren't just any old sheets. They were made by my great-grandmother, who was an immigrant from Italy, out of flour sacks that she'd bleached by laying out on the grass in the sun. She died back in 1956 so they're at least from the '40s. I am very excited to have acquired them. They have a feel to them that I've never felt on any other sheets; they're heftier, thicker somehow, yet so very soft, kind of like a vintage tablecloth. They're obviously homemade, but well-made, and one has pleats sewn in for the corners of the mattress. My only question is, how big were the sacks used to make them? I can't find seams, which I would expect on sheets this size, anywhere. Does anyone know how this was done? I'm not sure, yet, what I'm going to do with them, but I am glad to have something of my great-grandmother's to hold on to.

So, we all made it out alive though I must confess all four of us were cranky for several hours afterward. It's almost like being there leaves some kind of residue on you that takes some time to wear off. Like a bad spell. Something you might expect right around the Ides of March, right? Oh, I'm just grasping at straws here...

Well, I best be off. I've got a sick, little boy to nurse and, somehow, I've got to get to the grocery store anyway. I'm hoping to score me some corned beef on sale and try my hand at corned beef specials again this year.

As for the Ides of March:
"Well, the Ides of March have come."
"Ay, they have come, but they are not gone."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Peepers

They're baaaaack!

Our favorite harbingers of Spring, the Spring Peepers. Redheaded Snippet was the first to hear them this year, running down the stairs last night to breathlessly exclaim, "TREE FROGS!"

I don't care if the vernal equinox isn't until Saturday or if Easter is still weeks away. In our house, the first peeps of the tree frogs means Spring is officially here!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Root of All My Misery

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed,
The wrong side of the room,
The wrong side of the world.

Can't put my finger on the mood,
It's not melancholy,
Anger, or the blues.

And I love my husband, my house, my job;
Couldn't be any better,
And really, what else is there?

Then I realize I'm forgetting God;
It's the root of all my misery.
Lord, first of all, how is it between you and me?

How is it between us?
How is it between us?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened since?

Oh, how is it between us?
How is it between us?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened?

When I wake up I am on my way,
Reinventing the wheel
And saving the day.

And I've learned this lesson a thousand times:
I am the branch
And you are the vine.

Apart from you we are mice and men
With our fancy dreams of grandeur
And no way to get there.

And I can think about you now and then,
Or I can make a mark on eternity.
Lord, first of all, how is it between you and me?

How is it between us, Lord?
How is it between us?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened since?

Oh, how is it between us?
How is it between us?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened?

So, let the wicked prosper,
Let the oceans roar,
Let the mountains crumble and fall into the sea.

There's something more important
Weighing on my mind:
Lord, how is it, how is it between you and me?

Oh, how is it between us, Lord?
How is it between us?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened since?

How is it between us?
How is it between us?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened?
When did I talk to you last
And what has happened...

-Sara Groves

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Happy Birthday, Man-Cub

So, this has been the week my baby turned nine. But don't tell him I called him my baby. He lets me call him that only rarely as he gets older and bigger.

Okay, I know I'm biased and all, but is he not adorable, even if he is nine and too cool for it?  Mom asked if she could cut his bangs last night and, this time, I said, "No".  I've let her in the past as a sort of unspoken compromise since she never complains otherwise about his long-haired look.  But Man-Cub is getting older and growing opinions and asserting himself about them and I know he really likes, "The Hair".  So it stays.  Until he decides it goes.  I've always told both children I don't care what color, length or style the hair is as long as it looks groomed, i.e. that way on purpose and not because you are a derelict.  Similar things with clothing: as long as they don't look (or smell) dirty or like they're living under a bridge and as long as they retain their modesty, I'm fine with it.  But I seriously digress...


Man-Cub's birthday celebrations have kind of been spread out throughout the week.  His actual birthday was Wednesday, which was a school night as well as being church night.  So, he was exempt from chores and got to pick what he wanted for dinner (which was my homemade pizza--I'm so proud!) but had to wait until last night for his party.  Everyone came over, he got to open a few presents (I am glad to report it wasn't a gift-fest this year) and I made him a chocolate chip cookie cake.  I took a photo, but it looks really dumb.  My pride just can't take it.  Let's just say it looked very much like a homemade cake.  But Man-Cub loved it.  And it was absolutely delicious.  I highly recommend it (--->here).

When we asked Man-Cub what he wanted for his birthday he said he wanted to take his best friends to The Funplex.  That seems to be the popular thing to do among boys in his class.  The Viking and I talked it over, priced a few things and decided it wasn't an unreasonable request so that's what we did.  And because The Viking was away Friday night and the family party was already set for Saturday night, that left Sunday to be the third day of celebratory activities.

This afternoon, four very excited eight- or nine-year-old boys were dropped off at our house.  Man-Cub jumped right into the middle of them all and they proceeded to run around our yard jumping, whooping and pushing each other on the rope swing.  Then they played roof ball, a game which, according to what I was able to observe, consists solely of throwing a ball at the roof.  Apparently, this is the best game ever.  I don't get it, but then I'm female and have experienced puberty so that probably explains it.  It probably also explains why I don't share their delight in the word, "wiener".  90% of Man-Cub's behavior makes more sense to me now that I've seen him in the company of other boys.  Turns out, he's not really that much of a weirdo and what I learned in Kindergarten is absolutely correct: all boys are weird!

Weird or not (yes, they're weird, don't let anyone fool you), they had a great afternoon.  They played laser tag, rode in bumper cars, shot the tar out of each other with foam missiles, darts and bullets, rode in rocket simulators and took turns riding facing backwards in the third seat of our station wagon (which was, surprisingly, a big hit).  Man-Cub got to spend time with his best buds, who all seem like nice boys, and best of all, it's all over!  Now, I get to kick off my shoes, relax and enjoy my nice, quiet, neat and tidy house!

Oooh!  Which reminds me:

We've finally gotten the living room settled.  We've decided to give the foster furniture a permanent home with us and though it isn't necessarily the colors or pattern I would have chosen, it is very comfy and best of all, free.  We're making do with what we have and we're way more comfortable than I would have thought.

We've done what we've always wanted to and divided the room in half.  One area for lounging in front of the fire and one for relaxing in front of the tv.  I've noticed already that the area in front of the fire stays much more tidy than the other.  But that means I'm only cleaning up half of a room instead of the whole thing.  I'm just glad it's finally over, everything is back where it belongs (or in a new home) and we get almost a full month before the next big event, which is Easter.

Ahhhhh.  Time to relax.  Thing I'll go see if The Viking will light a fire.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Welcome March!

Hard to believe it's March already! Winter truly is coming to a close and Spring is in the air. It isn't just the calendar that says so, you can smell it in the air. Maybe I have some of the farming blood of my ancestors, but I can always smell the change of the seasons in the air. I first caught a whiff of Spring last Wednesday when Daria and I were heading to the Portal to Hell (Wegmans) the day before our NON-Blizzard. I was confused. Snow was (supposedly) on the way, but the air smelled warm and sweet, not cold and crisp. And it did snow, for hours and hours, but the ground was too warm and it just couldn't stick. See? Spring had already made her presence known.

This morning, I stepped outside to take Redheaded Snippet (who had overslept and missed her bus) to school and there was no mistaking it.  The wind has changed and the balance of power has shifted.  We've still got some cold weather ahead and, the way this Winter has gone, perhaps a snowstorm or two left to enjoy, but it won't be long now.  The sun is shining, the winds have softened, a fresh scent is seeping up from the ground and the birds are already singing!

Yesterday on the way to church we were startled to see flocks of robins cavorting all over the neighborhood!  I don't know if it was several flocks who had met up on their way North or just one large flock descending on us with horrific intentions, but there were a LOT of robins.  It was almost eerie.  We always look for the "First Robin of Spring" and, yesterday, there was no missing them.

Then, of course, there's the unmistakable harbinger of Spring, Nutmeg's coat blow.  She's been at it for weeks now, something I've recently read is rather normal for females of the German Shepherd variety.  Aye, me, it's dreadful!  The above is not our yard, nor our particular animal's coat blowings, but it's identical to what we've been dealing with around here.  I don't know how much longer I can stand it; I'm vacuuming and sweeping several times a day and the fluff still flies!  If I didn't think it would push her over the edge with a snap, I would vacuum Nutmeg herself!

All this Springiness puts me in a strange kind of mood.  I'm suddenly feeling the urge to fling wide the windows and hang linens on the clothesline!  I'm looking over my Spring blog images and putting my first thoughts to a new Spring layout.  And, of course, I'm thinking about gardening: what shall we plant/move/thin out this year?  I'm thinking about daffodils and irises, one of my very favorite combinations and one of the first bouquets The Viking ever gave me.  Hmmmm....could there be a connection?

Well, I must end my Spring musings.  Real life beckons anew.  There are linens to be washed (I am going to hang them out on the line, darn it!), clumps of fur to be chased around, dishes to be put away and other chores to tend to.  I also need to do my grocery run.  I bet Wegmans (which is not the Portal to Hell at the moment as that is only right before a Holiday or Weather Event, thanks to Lobelia's clarification) has bunches of daffodils.  If they have something purple to group them with, I'm getting some.

In other, less interesting news (but I'm sharing it anyway), we've finally found a home for our foster furniture and have arranged the living room in a way that I think will work for a good, long time.  But I don't have photos yet as all the knick-n-knacks and bric-n-brac is still all over my dining room table waiting to be staged.  Photos to come!