Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tis the Season

There are times in life when we trudge slowly up hill, each day another long climb in an almost endless seeming calendar of must-do's and daily grind.

Then there are the times when we tuck in our arms, point our toes, and slide though the rapid blur, hoping to do a few of the things we looked forward to on the way up. If we're lucky, or very determined, we will reach out and grab a few of those things along the way.

For me, and I'm sure a lot of people out there, October starts the slide, and I slip all the way to January second.

Each year there are things I hope and plan for, and each year I'm lucky if I grab even a few of them.

Year after year I think, this will be the year that I will stick to my plans, perfect my lists, and get everything done.

And year after year I wake up one day and realize there is only one week left until Christmas and despite my planning, and struggling, and endless strive for organization, I'm not ready.

Today was that day.

I've been wrapping presents for a month, but someone keeps buying more...

I've had my niece and nephews' gifts since November second, but someone spent her day off decorating the porch instead of mailing them...

I've been working on a list of ideas for the hardest person to shop for, but someone keeps avoiding all those man-type stores and looking at all the pretty, shiny things in her favorite shops...

I've had Christmas cards sitting in a box since Thanksgiving, but someone has been baking cookies with her kids and making fudge for their teachers instead of addressing them...

I suppose there are people out there who do get everything done. People who both bake and mail...

Someone out there who has figured out how to slow the season down and get everything done, but I, evidently, am stuck on the slide.

What I'm coming to realize is that it's ok.

So, maybe a few people will wonder why they didn't receive a Christmas card from us...

Maybe my nephews will open their gifts on December 28th...

Maybe I am destined to spend every Christmas Eve tying ribbons onto packages till dawn...

In the grand scheme of things, I'm doing all right. Soon enough I'll be trudging day by day uphill toward spring. So, let those other someones follow their plans and check off their lists, me? I'm going to tuck in, and point, and do my best at enjoying the slide.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That Time of Year...

Once a year I bring out my monster pots.
Ok, to be honest they come out at other times too, but only when my brother-in-law  is here.
He is notorious for excessive cooking. I'm not sure if it is the waste of time and energy that goes into making all that extra food or just the pure enjoyment of watching me attempt to cram the heaping gobs of leftovers into my inadequate storage receptacles that spurs him on, visit after visit, but whatever, that really belongs in a different blog with an entirely different choice of adjectives.
So, honestly, there is only one time of year that I bring out my monster sized pots along with all the do-dads that get stored in them when they're not boiling up twenty-five pounds of mashed potatoes or sixty-seven pounds of spaghetti. Ah-hem. Sorry.
 And that time of year is early fall when the apples are ripening here in Kansas.
When the days don't get quite so hot,
it was only 91 today
and the mornings are cool enough to run without the fear of going blind from sweat dripping in your eye.
I am not sure there is any medical proof that one could suffer blindness from dripping sweat in one's eye, but I don't feel it's necessary to take any chances.
I love the fall.
I was born in fall. It has always seemed to me that may be why I love it, again no medical proof, but regardless, I love everything about it...
 the temperatures, the colors, the food, everything but the allergies.
Fall is when you start to light the wood stove.
It's when you start to curl up with a book all evening and not feel guilty that you aren't doing something more productive.
It's when you start to feel that brisk little snap in your lungs with the first breath of morning that makes you feel awake and alive and anxious to see the sky.
And best of all, fall is when you open the window to feel a cool breeze while you heat up the kitchen with baking.
Now, I've never been shy on my feelings for cooking.
I hate cooking. 
Hate, abhor, detest, loath, are we getting the picture here?
I am to cooking as a fish is to gasping for breath on a dry sandy beach.
But baking...
that is how we get cake.
I think cake speaks for itself.
So where in the scheme of these two similar yet polar opposites do apples and giant pots rest?

I'm not entirely sure...

Peeling, coring, and slicing up apples feels more like baking.
And adding things like sugar, cinnamon, and allspice, well now those are definitely baking ingredients, but running it through a meat grinder and standing over a stove certainly feels like cooking.
 Of course it does have the whole scientific experiment element.
Boiling jars and using rubber coated tongs and funnels adds something of a chemistry kit fun to the whole thing.
And I can't escape the romance of history.
The idea that pioneer women, dotting the Kansas countryside, stood over pots stirring and canning... that I can shadow those women of the past, repeating the same process, all be it on a glass top stove instead of cast iron. It is an appealing notion.

But all in all, I think the thing that really sways me is the end,

the line-up.

God help me, I know I'm a freak about matching sets and straight lines,
but there is just something about taking those identical little jars full of sweet cinnamon-apply goo and lining them up.

If I could afford a shrink I'm sure he would diagnose me with something that would explain my straight line psychosis,

perhaps even medicate me.

But, for now, I will have to feed that addiction each fall with a day full of peeling, chopping, grinding, mixing, stirring, boiling, and sealing,

just to get those pretty little lines of homemade apple butter.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ramblings of an Invisible Woman

I have been blessed with a super power.
I am not a very bless-ed person, so I realize this comes as a bit of a shock.
I discovered my power just after I got married.
 Not the first few weeks of course, but soon thereafter, I started to notice some changes.

I'm sure it was the same for Peter Parker and Clark Kent
(or was his name actually Superman and his alter-ego Clark Kent?)
I'm not sure if I'm quite worthy of lumping myself in with their greatness,
after all my power is not about to save any lives or anything, but I'm going to give myself points for actually being a living breathing human being.
(at least I think I am)
At first I thought it was simply a fluke.
A little glitch somewhere in the matrix that I could be overlooked by the people around me.
But soon I started to wonder, and before long became convinced that
have the power
of invisibility.
Try not to be too alarmed. I'm currently working on a study to prove that three out of nine women inherit this gift soon after marriage.

Perhaps it has something to do with the little gold band they put on our finger, I'm not sure.
But, I know that I have this gift for sure, and it gets stronger with the birth of each child. 
 I can stand in the middle of a room, screaming for help
and no one will see me.
(clearly sound is included in invisibility, that's one part Marvel got wrong)

I can flap my arms in the faces of any t.v. viewer in my household,
and they will not notice me.
I can even stand naked in front of my husband,
and he will walk on by.
(I have not tested this theory on any other men... thus far)
If you don't believe that I hold the power of invisibility, simply hand a camera to the man I pledged my life to...

I will not appear in any of the shots,

 This is me at my daughters party
 no matter what the occasion,
 I have not done so in fifteen years.
The only exception to this rule is the occasional hand or leg, should it be touching one of our three children.

 Here I am at my son's birthday
Obviously there is some sort of anti-invisibility force field surrounding children. It also works should a child cry, vomit, or spew blood.
These are my kryptonite.
There is absolutely no way I can maintain my ghostly power if any of those occur within a sixteen mile radius. I've tried.
However, I am one hundred percent, absolutely, never fails, invisible when turning a radio station, watching a t.v. show, spending the income-tax return, or selecting a restaurant.
I'm still working on why exactly this phenomenon has occurred.
I do remember being quite visible before that ring went on my finger, 

 Pushing my eldest on the rope swing
though nothing changes when I take it off. Perhaps the gold reacted to a recessive gene in my chromosomal make up,
(much like a radioactive spider bite)
permanently fusing this power to my DNA. 
I also haven't figured out why there appear to be certain anti-invisibility zones in my house.
The moment I pick up a phone or sit on a toilet,
I become visible, and everyone around me suddenly remembers every little detail of every minuscule topic they ever needed to tell me.
I don't see what a phone and a toilet have in common,
but there is definitely something there.

I hope someday to unravel these mysteries, gain total control over my power, and maybe even learn how to use it for the good of man-kind.
In, fact I haven't really figured out how to make it work for me just yet,
I know that with great power comes great responsibility,

We do have a thing for trains 
and believe me, I am prepared to help someday should any of the greater specimens of man-kind need the help of an invisible woman...

Here I am being Switzerland
Yes, Hello, I'm 34, but that's not really much of an age difference, uh... right?

Meanwhile, I will concentrate,
in the grand tradition of invisible people, 
on not catching on fire, choking, getting caught in a bear trap, or in any way putting myself in a situation of needing immediate assistance, unless, of course, I have an important phone call waiting for me on speed dial. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I never expected to cry...

About six years ago I put my little girl on the bus for her first day of Kindergarten. it was a momentous day, not just because my first born was heading to school, but because it meant I would have more time to spend with my second born, the one who had never had mommy to herself for more than a thirty minute gymnastics class.

   One year later I dropped my littlest at pre-school, and for the first time I had two and a half hours, five days a week, to spend with the one person I hadn't been alone with since the day a doctor handed me a baby girl, me.
   I'd never noticed how incredibly short two and a half hours really is until I began trying to cram everything I could possibly think of into that tiny frame of time. The second week I started to crave the day when I could put them both on a bus and be positively free until they stepped off again a whole eight hours later. For a stay at home mommy with two little ones the idea of a day to myself was my personal promise land... a dream I had imagined for years and one that I could almost taste until the third week, when a little blue line ripped that dream out of my hands and tossed it another six years into the future.

   Last year my youngest went to pre-school and I once again did the two and a half hour cram, wishing and dreaming for August to roll around again and finally deliver my utopia... eight full hours of uninterrupted peace.
No toys throwing themselves out of bins...
No snacks spreading a three mile trail of crumbs and unidentifiable stickiness...
No little voices demanding I stop what I'm doing and fulfill their sudden whim...
Just me,
Getting things done.

All summer I've been counting down. 
Last Friday I put my eldest on the bus for her first day of middle school and thought, one down.
Yesterday I put the second born on the bus for her first day of fourth grade and thought, almost there!
 Today I put that last little blue line on the bus for his first eight hour day of Kindergarten...
and cried.  
I never expected to cry. I am not a crier by nature. Ok sure the right movie, a heartwarming story about children being separated from their parents, or particularly touching commercial...
But really, for the most part, I am the last one in the room to reach for a tissue. So when my day of freedom came, my long awaited mecca of solitude,
finally came rolling up with flashing yellow lights and stopped in front of my house...
why did I find myself running barefoot through the rain, trying to reach the door before my little blue line could see me cry?  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Culinary Experiment

Disclaimer: I am not a chef.
I repeat - I am not a chef. I'm not even a cook. In fact we have something in my house called find your own dinner night... and it happens more often than I should probably admit to people like... my mother, or... child protective services.
But there it is. It happens. Often.
Anyway, when I do provide my family with home cooked sustenence, I actually try to pack in as much nutrition as possible,
(to make up for the night of corn flakes and pickles)
which often leads to some interesting experiments.
I'm calling this one Sweet Potato Puff Cookies
but don't let the name turn you off... despite the low sugar, low fat, veggie content, they were actually scarfed down by the lil'uns so fast that I never got my finished product photo.
I started with one cup of roasted sweet potato,

mashed with four tablespoons of melted butter, a quarter cup of skim milk, and one large egg.
Then stirred in one and a half cups of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, and four packets of Truvia (a natural stevia plant sweetener)

You could use a quarter cup of sugar instead of the Truvia, but i was going for low-cal.
Now at this point I scooped a few cookies out to see how the "plain" variety went over, before adding a quarter cup of chopped pecans and a half cup of chocolate chips.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for fifteen minutes.
I used my medium scoop (average drop cookie size) and got 22 cookies.
They turned out to be light and fluffy almost dinner roll texture, but sweet and yummy, eaten by even the four year old who was quick to proclaim "but I don't like potater cookies!" while I was mixing the batter.
Apparently potater cookies are quite acceptable when they come with chocolate chips.
Oh and the "plain" variety...
was very bread like, and though I didn't mind them, were quickly gobbed with chocolate by the nine year old. So much for the healthy part!

So there go, we survived them. And, just in case any of you are daring enough to risk it, here's the official conglomerate:
1 C cooked sweet potato
4 Tbls. melted butter
1/4 C milk
1 egg
1 1/2 C flour
2 Tsp. baking powder
4 packets Truvia or 1/4 C sugar
1/2 Tsp. salt
1/4 C pecans
1/2 C chocolate chips
Bake on greased cookie sheet @ 375 for 15 minutes

And remember: I am not responsible for any kitchen mishaps or husband's complaints. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not Just A Memo Board

I was all gung-ho with decorating my little man's room when the girly-o's got jealous and managed to distract me,
(surprise surpise)
with a project for their room.

We had talked for a while about finding some sort of large memo boards for their wall that they could use to hang up all the guck they find most important to keep and display... like an old Valentine or a particularly beautiful gum wrapper.

But I had visions of it being more than just your standard tuck-stuff-in-ribbons type of board. I wanted a dry erase area and a magnet area as well as the typical cork... and of course it had to be girly, but not too girly.
We started at the fabric store...

and found five fabrics that we all three agreed upon.
(Now, doesn't that sound simple?)
Maybe I should say - after four stores and much debate as to why faux fur would be inappropriate for the application... and several lessons on what constitutes 'clashing'... we actually found five we allllll liked. Whew!

Ok, the next step was easy. Cork is sold in 12 x 12 sheets,
(I never knew, did you?)
and is rather cheap at that... now if only I could think of other things to do with it... cozy basement flooring?
Maybe not.
We cut the fabrics just large enough to wrap aound the sides and hot glue down.
Turns out the girly-o's find hot glueing amazingly fun.

As in would not let me touch the glue gun fun.
So I let them take over and I sat back with my camera.

We (they) tucked the corners in, and pulled the fabric tight around the cork. Then I glued each square onto a huge foam core board from Hobby Lobby.
When it came to the actual assembly part, the glue gun had magically lost its fun, and I was suddenlly on my own again. Thus, no pictures. 
They each chose ribbons to glue on a square for the tuck-in type of display, and left a square or two blank for stickers. We are still searching for pretty push pins to use on them, too. For the wipe-off area we used a 12 x 12 plastic sheet protector glued in with the edges tucked under the cork boards and the open top on the side so they can change out the papers or fabrics inside. For the Magnet area we used sheet metal from Home Depot,
(again with the edges tucked under the cork boards)  
and to hang them, I sandwiched ribbon between the cork boards and foam core backing with extra glue...

Oh, but wait! We need two...

Ok repeat the process, and.... there.

Two custom memo boards, and two happy girli-o's.
Now what was I doing before they conned me into this endeavor?

Monday, April 19, 2010

For The Love Of Spray Paint

I've recently discovered the true meaning of joy.
It comes in a can and costs about two-ninety-eight.
Spray Paint, ahhhh the glory of instant gratification!
 For a person seriously lacking in the patience department, this little gem is a miracle with a nozzel.
Case in point:
I've been searching for a tray large enough to carry goodies for my family of five downstairs on movie night, but pretty enough to sit on my counter while not in use, since my tiny house was built with only enough cabinets for the most crucial of items.
The day after I nearly broke down and spent 34.99 on tray in Pier One, I found this little gem in a thrift shop for .49 (Hmmm... Interesting. My keyoard does not have the little cent symbol. Does yours?)
Sorry A.D.D.
Anyway, I brought it home, dug out a can of off white and a can of clear gloss and fifteen minutes later, ta-da!

Don't you love instant gratification!
Then there was this little basket, which I liked for a bit in the living room... 

But after a fifteen minute make-over is creamy-licious in my kitchen...

I didn't even get side-tracked with another project in the process!
And, let's not forget how it recently saved me over $350 in new door hardware...

Knobs, hinges, strike plates... all in oil rubbed bronze. No more shiny fake brass for me!
I have realized the key to spray paint success (or any paint really) lies in the clear coat. A couple coats of the clear stuff makes a beatuful hard finish that is scrubbable. And with three young kids, everything has to be scrubbable!
Ohhhh, yes, I could really get carried away with this stuff...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A gardener, I am not.

Every spring it's the same.
I start with the magazines... the beautiful pictures of brick, stone,
and green, green, green,
(like this one from Redwood Hollow Guest Cottages)

with lovely foliage and flowers abound, in charming colors that make a young girl's fancy
(okay, maybe not that young)
turn to garden plans and farmer's tans.
I run to my favorite garden centers and walk among the fresh, bountiful plants all sitting with their promise of backyard beauty hanging on their little plastic tags.
I line them up and group them together and stand back to squint at them with my 'seasoned eye'
(as if I had one)
and make my purchases with hope and hapiness of my future backyard bliss.
But then I get home,
and I walk around my backyard,
and I remember that all those lovely little promises I brought home last year have withered and died under my care...
because I am noooo gardener.
Luckily I have one under my employ...

and he works pretty cheap.

Though I'm not enirely sure of his credentials...
or his methods.

He might even take after his mother.
But, I do adore him, so until the day I can afford a hot latino named Pedro who adores painting my toenails and rubbing suntan oil on my back during his breaks by the pool, before I invite him inside for iced tea and he purrrs in his hot little accent,
"well, if you arrrre  surrrre your husband wouldn't mind..." 
But, I digress,
Luckily, the local garden centers have a one year guarantee

so we just leave the tags on. It makes it easier.
Trust me.
To survive in my yard you have to be tough...

and determined to live...
with hap-hazard pruning...
and schnoodle attacks...

and without water.

(unless you happen to be the patio)
So when I walk around my yard and find little signs of life,

specimens that actually lived up to their promise,

despite my attempts to kill them with neglet...
Well, now that just inspires me to go shopping.

Besides.... the guy who helps me out with them,
his name is Pedro.
(I know!)