Friday, August 26, 2011

Bad things may come in threes, but this week good things come in fours!


So the bad three: EARTHQUAKE (in caps forevermore because that is how everyone here on the East Coast has been saying it (("Where were you during the EARTHQUAKE!?))), Migraine and HURRICANE (Anticipatory Caps of Doom).

Yes, we felt the EARTHQUAKE. Shocked and scared me out of years of my life, I'm sure. I knew what it was (somehow), but was absolutely rooted to the spot for three seconds in denial ("Here? Not HERE!") before grabbing Man-Cub and running to an inner doorway. We're fine. A few things fell off a few shelves and we'll have a story to tell the ages.

Yesterday, I got another migraine. I know these (like EARTHQUAKES) are very common to some people, but I have only experienced one other. And I have tons to do so the timing was most vexing! And it made me miss another Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real. DOUBLY VEXING!

And now, Hurricane Irene is barreling our way. We've only had two other Hurricanes of any mention that I can remember (Floyd in '99 and Gloria in '85). Neither of them was a disaster, but they sure were a disruption! The big story, in our family, of Hurricane Gloria was that my dad, who is a mailman, was out on his route delivering the mail in the middle of it. We girls thought he was superhuman! Anyway, we're doing our best to prepare and I just hope all of South Jersey hasn't gone completely mental and isn't rioting at the supermarkets (but it probably is).

NOW FOR THE GOOD (caps of GLEE, this time):

Flying in the face of misfortune, discomfort and potential destruction, four good things, four very good things, four of the BEST THINGS EVER are coming our way. As. We. Speak (Type/Read).

Vance, Dharma, Fidget and Rosebud are coming to stay (my brother-in-law, sister and two nieces, if you're not in the know)! We haven't seen them since April when we went to visit them in Tennessee and we have been counting down the days practically since we pulled out of their driveway!

The house will be full and noisy and perfectly wonderful! Thankfully, they'll arrive before the storm hits so we will weather it out together with the combined talents of The Viking's industry and determination and Vance Excalibur's (you didn't think this was his real name, did you?) mad brilliance and ingenuity! We will be invincible! And potentially hot and sticky if the electricity goes out, but that's another chapter that will, hopefully, not be written!


I must fly. I have beds to change, floors to sweep and riots through which to manoeuvre for bread and canned goods (translation: wine and chocolate).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Destination: The Loo

round button chicken
~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~
Every Thursday at Like Mother Like Daughter

I've noticed that, since I've been participating regularly in these PHFR events, I have been much more aware of the beauty, happiness and humor (I've always been rather aware of the realness) that surrounds me. And I have seen a slow but noticeable difference in my life.

Is it possible? Could it be...


Anyway, I am pretty dang sure that is the purpose that the charming and clever ladies of Like Mother Like Daughter had in mind when they launched Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real. And I'm pretty sure they wouldn't dare take the credit for it, but I thank them anyway! They are the best (and I don't even really know them)!

So, I wandered into our upstairs bathroom this afternoon and instead of seeing all the things I've been wanting to improve in it for the past 13 years, I saw beauty, happiness, humor and reality. And I felt contented. So I grabbed my camera.

This is the upstairs bathroom, the one guests rarely use unless they're staying overnight.  This is the family bathroom.  It is not perfect.  But I do like it and I always have.  May I point out that mirror?  It's one of my favorite things in the room.  I trash picked it off of a broken dresser.  The Viking slapped a few coats of white paint on it and mounted it to the wall for me.  It fits perfectly, we've had it for 13 years and I don't see myself ever changing it!


I try to use things that are both pretty and practical in my house.  I don't have time for many items that are purely ornamental.  I only want to dust it if I'm going to be using it.  That empty blue jar will have cotton swabs or cotton balls in it as soon as I remember to go get some!  And someone should probably refill that towel tub...


Okay, so I have something that's purely ornamental.  Yes, I use fake flowers.  It's that or have dead, smelly flowers sitting around all the time.  Me and indoor plants?  Not friends.  Also, I love the imperfect beauty of the towel rack.  Redheaded Snippet made it for me at camp one summer.  She guessed on the color.  It's off just enough to be noticed and just enough to be quirky.  I love it!


I thought I'd show you our graffiti wall (you may have to look closely).  Long ago, there was a window where that enormous, elongated blob is now.  When we built our addition, the window was filled in, but the trim and windowsill were left up because I liked it and was determined to find a way to "use" it (my poor Viking is a very patient man).

I won't tell you how many years went by without me doing a blessed thing to it, but several months ago, The Viking (a very patient man) had finally had enough.  He took the trim down and spackled in preparation for re-papering.  And, knowing me, knew he could take his good old time getting back to it because I, for one, was not about to complain.

But he failed to take into account the mischievousness of our family and the irresistible lure of a blank wall right next to the toilet, a wall destined to be covered up in due time no less.  And so it began...

We've all contributed something and visiting friends have even joined in.  There are poems, quotes, drawings, mild insults, jokes, and declarations of love.  It just might be my favorite thing in the room!


This is the part of the bathroom that is generally hidden from view.  Unless you happen to use our upstairs toilet (which, again, only family and overnight guests do).  And now I am opening it to the public for a limited time viewing!  There's nothing really earth-shattering here: waterpik, flossers, toothbrushes and paste, hairbrush, bookmark, books, magazines (we're not the only ones who read in the loo, are we?), and, of course, matches and potpourri!  I also stash an extra soap dish with soap here because some of us like to use it but I can't abide how messy it looks up next to the sink.

...aaaaand here I am, trying to figure out how to use my camera.  I think I was messing with the zoom here.  Hello, world!

And goodbye, until next week!  May we find each other content next time we meet!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Flavor of Summer 2011

Ever notice how each season of each year has its own particular flavor, scent and sounds?  And if you suddenly encounter something from a particular season from a particular year you're instantly transported right back to that specific time?

For example, last winter's flavor was my homemade cottage pie.  We ate it a lot that year as we sat in front of the fire through all the crazy blizzards.  One of the sounds of Summer 2009 was Lady Gaga's Just Dance.  Ok, don't judge me, we don't listen to her music in general.  But Daria had inexplicably fallen in love with that song and used to blare it on her iPod every time we were in the car together that summer.  Now when I hear it, I'm riding home from the shore on a steamy summer night with the windows down.

Is this a good-looking salad, or what?

One summer was all about Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga.  One of the kids had gotten it as a gift and we all played it all summer long.  So now the sights and sounds of that game remind me of that summer, one of the last carefree (read: pre-field hockey) ones we had.

Come on, tell me this isn't sexy!

The foods of each season are also something special.  Each summer has corn on the cob, watermelon, burgers and hot dogs, but, for us, there always seems to be a special dish that defines that particular summer.  Last year, it was Greek salad and gyro burgers.  This year, it's corn salad.  Corn, tomato, avocado, cilantro, lime salad, to be precise.  Every time we have corn, I purposefully buy extra so I can slice the leftover corn off the cobs and make this salad.  We can't get enough of it!

I've also been making a lot of biscuits, now that I've discovered how easy they are to make and how similar they are to scones.  They're perfect for padding out a meal!

Am I the only one who feels like a rock star when I provide my family with meals like this?  My kids think I'm the weirdest thing ever.  I suppose it doesn't help when I interrupt dinner to take photos of our plates and declare the salad to be, "sexy"...

She was waving two forks frantically, trying to sabotage the shot...I kind of like it.

So, do you notice each season's flavor, sights and sounds?  How does this summer look, taste and sound?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This cloud has a lemony lining

Last night we had guests/dear friends over for dinner.  It was a simple cookout but I broke the cardinal rule of entertaining and decided to serve a dish I'd never made before...Lemon Berry Parfaits from Once Upon a Chef..  It looked easy so I figured it was okay, but I think my eyes were so glazed over as soon as I read,  "lemon curd," and, "whipped cream," that I didn't read the recipe very closely.  I didn't realize it consisted mostly of actually making lemon curd.  To fold into the whipped cream.  Oh dear, I think it's happening again...

Looks good, don't it?  You bet it was!
So there I was with a bowl full of freshly prepared (i.e. rinsed and/or chunked) blackberries, strawberries and peaches from the produce stand and a table full of friends and family awaiting dessert when I realized actual cooking was needed.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...I didn't have time to cook!

Fortunately (and miraculously!) I had a serendipitous jar of lemon curd sitting, unopened, in the back of the fridge.  So I whipped up the cream, folded in the miracle curd, assembled the parfaits and we all enjoyed them with no one being any wiser.  Dessert, dinner, reputation and friendship saved!  Hurrah!

But I still had all the ingredients for lemon curd, including 3 eggs that I had already whipped up before I realized I was going to have to take the time to cook them.  Have I mentioned I am a very distracted cook?  So, after we had cleaned up and our guests went home, I decided I would then take the time to make that curd.

We find it interesting that in some of these photos, the flame doesn't show.  It's like Vampire Fire!

You need a double boiler but if you don't have one (I don't) put a metal or tempered glass bowl over a small saucepan containing about an inch of boiling water.

Redheaded Snippet volunteered to be my photographer.  She was literally breathing down my neck!

I believe this is 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar (I know...), 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 stick of unsalted butter.  You have to stir it forever without ceasing.  Ok, it's only 10 minutes but DO NOT STOP STIRRING!  Once the goo starts to coat the back of a metal spoon (for which you will need the full 10 minutes), turn off the heat.

Redheaded Snippet says I need to explain my odd painted fingernail but I know I'm not the only one who tests nail polish before buying it...
Stir in 2 tsps lemon zest.  A microplane zester/grater makes this job super easy.  I use mine to grate whole nutmeg, too, and you can't imagine how much better freshly grated nutmeg tastes than the powdered, bottled stuff!  Especially over eggnog!  Laced with brandy...

Where was I...?  Oh yes, though the double boiler is designed to keep the eggs from curdling as they cook, it is likely that a few cooked pieces will show up.  Just use a fine mesh sieve to strain those out and it will be fine.  Then it's just a matter of patience while you wait for the goo to cool in the fridge.

Now, last night our stupid fool of a dog killed a skunk and got sprayed full in the face for her troubles.  This happened during her last visit to the backyard before bedtime.  Which meant none of us went to bed until rather late.  The stench was unbelievable!  The kids lit candles and I threw some cinnamon sticks into a pot to simmer on the stove as well as onto a cookie sheet to bake in the oven, but it was The Viking who had the unenviable task of attempting to bathe her.

In case you ever need to know, the thing to use is a solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap.  I think it was 1 qt, 1/4 c and 1 squirt (no abbreviation for that), respectively.  Just be careful not to get it in the eyes, mouth or nose; use a washcloth to clean the face if you need to (and we needed to).  And rinse, rinse, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat!  They will probably still smell for a good while, but the worst of it should be over.

That being said, I refused to let the fell beast back into the house so the stupid poor thing was left out all night, something we've never done before.  As a result, she barked at the back door most of the night which did not make for a very restful night's sleep.  Finally, at 6:30, I stopped fighting it and just got out of bed.

And here's where it all comes together...since I was up and knew I had homemade lemon curd waiting in the fridge, I made a batch of scones for Sunday breakfast!  Homemade scones and lemon curd!  It doesn't get much better than that!

When life hands you lemons, made lemon curd and scones!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Tales From The Kitchen Edition

round button chicken
~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~
Every Thursday at Like Mother Like Daughter
Ok, pay attention, we're going to mix things up a bit. Because I'm telling a story here.


This is the pantry before I went completely mad and decided to overhaul it and the entire kitchen.  It is not pretty.  It does not make me happy.  It's decidedly un-funny.  It is, however real.

Also Real

This is what the kitchen looked like mid-shuffleandpurge.  And it looked like this for two days, for this could not be a single-day job, oh NO!  Somehow, this does not look as bad as I was imagining it as I was trying to sleep one floor above it, but the memory of it still haunts me.  Oh, the horror, THE HORROR!  But it is very real, yes?

Funny (at least to me)
Clearly, not to him.  This'll teach him to give me a camera!
The Viking pointed out that if I really wanted to improve the entire kitchen, something really needed to be done about the beast in the corner.  And I said, "So stop sitting in the corner!"  HA!  No, not really.  He meant that infernal lazy Susan corner cupboard and we all know it.

{Funny side note, though: we used to go to church with a man who has quite a severe case of Tourette syndrome.  One of his particular tics was making up nicknames for people and then screaming them at them whenever they came into sight.  Usually in church.  Like, in the middle of the service.  Like, while leading  prayer or taking the offering.  One of The Viking's was, "Bloody Hairy Beast!"  I can't repeat what mine was because it was quite profane and rather impugned my honor.  But I digress...}

The cupboard used to stick and took the strength of three men in order to turn it so I had resigned myself to keeping rarely used items in it.  And canned goods.  And flour, baking soda and sugar.  Because I don't have enough room in my kitchen to reserve an entire corner cupboard for little used items!  But this brings me to...

Happy (get comfy, we'll be here a while)

Hurrah!  He fixed it!  I transferred all my baking supplies into it and it's all very convenient and it makes me happy!  See?  Viking men don't sit on the floor, they CONQUER!  Things could only get better from here, and they did:

Still Happy

Boxless grains...

More Happy

Miscellaneous but necessary items including crock pot, pan lids, chargers and a small pharmacy...

Even More Happy

More miscellany used just often enough to not be exiled to the basement: trays, paper/plastic products and special occasion baking supplies...

Beyond Happy

Dry goods (plus a few pitchers)...

Ludicrous Speed Happy

A place for everything and everything in it's place!  It's not crammed full of stuff.  And I can find things!  And this, intrepid readers, brings us to Pretty with a final swing back through Funny in a completely unrelated way, if you're up for it...


During my rearrangements, I managed to create a Tea Station.  We drink a lot of tea in this house and are very serious about it: Typhoo (or perhaps Revolution Tea's Lavender Earl Grey), made with boiling water, steeped for 4 minutes, with raw honey and whole milk.  Heavenly!

Ludicr--okay you get the idea
I have intentions of hanging the cups on little c-hooks...maybe next week?

Both the teapot and tea box were gifts from my children and they are some of my favorite things (the children and the gifts).  Man-Cub actually made the box for me on his very own workbench.  The tea cups are a new gift to myself (found during a romp through T.J. Maxx last week) and the sugar bowl (which is actually a strawberry but is hard to see in this photo) was an old gift to myself (Home Goods).  And there's the raw honey, courtesy of the Amish market nearby.  I love that stuff.  It doesn't make my blood sugar react like sugar does and it tastes worlds better!

And finally, a Bonus Funny
I considered putting this in the Happy or Pretty category but the accompanying story is Funny so...
Man-Cub and I went to the library yesterday to get a satisfyingly large stack of books for school.  I was so excited I was practically bouncing back to the car.  I was too excited to notice Man-Cub's rather glum expression until we got back into the house.

I turned to him, perplexed.  "I thought you liked getting new books from the library."

(Baleful look) "Yeah, when they're good books."

"How do you know these aren't good books?"

"There aren't any pictures in them."

It may be a long, long school year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tales From The Kitchen: Reasonably Clean Welcome

Did I make it? DID I MAKE IT???

I'm two days late but I so wanted to join in on the Reasonably Clean Welcome linky party over at Like Mother Like Daughter!

My initial efforts at transforming slightly improving my entryway were foiled by a temperamental camera, ghastly humid weather and my usual unrealistic methods of tackling projects. In short, the photos I took were unusable and for some insane reason I decided that I could not do anything about the entry without clearing out the pantry which somehow morphed into tackling THE ENTIRE KITCHEN. But that's a post for another day.

But today, all the stars aligned, the weather (and, therefore, the camera) cooperated and the kitchen had been beaten into submission so I managed to finish and post! Hurrah!

This is the entrance to the house that everyone uses. It's not truly the front door, as it opens into the kitchen, but it's the only sensible entrance to use (thank you, previous owners and your awkward and shoddy "improvements"). To be sure, this is not a true "before" shot. This was taken after The Viking got super-jiggy with a power washer. But before I bestowed upon it my lady's touch!

Now, I rather like what The Viking calls the jungle canopy and the blotchy, old-looking steps. And I also like the watering can and Wellies sitting there. But the orange nose hozzle and car-washing supplies must go!

Upon the threshold...dead plants--UGH!

This is very often what will greet you when you enter our house. Actually, most often it's a slightly larger, redheaded sort of person and she'll hardly tear her eyes from facebook to grunt hello to you rather than look directly at you. Nice mess, eh?

Close up (and a blurry one at that) for your viewing pleasure of the hockey sticks, shoes, laptop and purse always sitting there waiting to get in your way...

Here you see The Viking's primary dump zone. That bowl (which was a previous effort to corral this junk in a reasonably neat and tidy way) is FULL of (his) stuff! I keep my sunglasses in there and that is about it!

That pile of stuff in the bottom right corner (and, oops! I do see my cell phone and camera case sitting there) covers another previous Reasonably Neat and Tidy attempt: a large, flat strawberry bowl. And how about that Acme flyer? Do any of you play with those? That is also The Viking's; for some reason he is meticulously collecting the pieces for this. We like to tease him and call it his, "Aunt Dorothy game," because it seems like something one's old, dainty Aunt Dorothy would do and it's so unlike him! I would also like to point out the drugs (all legal). The Viking insists on keeping them in the kitchen. And out in the open. And usually in a hopeless jumble for some reason. I try to straighten them every day but it really does seem like a hopeless cause.

So, here's the new and improved version: still a wee bit jungle-y, but at least it's clean! There is something hideously appealing to me about sweeping my front steps on a sunny BUT NOT HUMID morning...

The boots, watering can and colony of cobwebs (maybe you can't see them, but they're there) got to stay. That was intentional.

I moved things around a bit, but this is usually how I have it. The Viking had moved things when he power washed so, really, it was just a matter of moving things back. And lots of sweeping, of course.

Ta-da! Spiffed up and lookin' in its prime! Hello, there, neighbor! Yes, I know there are a few things left out on the island, but if you're going to judge me on the basis of having my cookbook and a dishtowel sitting out in the kitchen in which I live and work then there probably isn't a very good chance of us being close friends and you being invited back anyway.

This was the best I could do. I've accepted that this area is simply going to need constant attention.  It's a dumping zone, there's no changing that.

Same goes for this spot. But I thought cleaning out the miscellaneous papers from my purse and snapping it shut helped a wee bit (still haven't done anything about the desk, though ;-)). And, yes, now you know what my purse looks like so you can come on over and steal it.

There was a lot more involved in this process than these photos show but, like I said, that is for another time, another post!