Our Monday Night Tradition

on 30 November 2009

Per Whimsy's request, and owing to my own over-active sense of guilt, here is our new favorite Monday night activity.

Pizza!

Now, if we're e'er in Savannah, we love to go to Vinnies.  Hands down the best pizza in the South!  And maybe anywhere, we had pizza in New York that was good, but not as good as Vinnies.  But Vinnies, alas, it is an hour away and pizza is a great way for me to get veggies into my child without too much mess, so I make this once a week.

The thing about pizza is that you're really only limited by your imagination when it comes to toppings.  When we go to Vinnies, Chris likes to get italian sausage and pesto and I generally go for mushroom and feta cheese.  But when we lived in Durham and had no Vinnies, we went to Amantes and Amantes had some awesome topping combinations.  So the two that I make regularly are derived from both of these sources.

I've tweaked a recipe from Mark Bittman's book How to Cook Everything which I bought for Chris one year for Christmas and which he's never used but I've had great luck with it.  Everything I've made out of here has turned out, and the recipe's stand up to some personalization which is perfect for me.

(I had brilliant intentions of including pictures, and I did start to take some, but DUDE--it was slowing me down and I was tired and hungry and also trying to feed, bathe and put a small toddler to bed, so...not so much with the pictures, sorry!)

First, take 3 cups of bread flour.  (You can use all purpose flour, but I like the texture of bread flour best.)  (You can also substitute up to half of the flour with wheat flour, oat flour, barley flour, whatever flour floats your boat.)  Next you add 2 teaspoons of yeast, 2 teaspoons of coarse salt and I add 1 tablespoon of dried italian herbs.

Mix all of that together and then mix up your wet ingredients.  Take 1 cup of warm water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and I crush 3ish cloves of fresh garlic into this.

Add your wet ingredients to your dry and add more water if necessary.  (I almost always add more water.)

Then, turn your dough out onto a floured surface and add more flour if necessary and then knead it until it's soft and no longer sticky.

You should end up with a lovely ball of dough.  Set it in a relatively warm place to rise for an hour.

(It's never to early to think about toppings.  If I haven't done it already I take out a box of frozen spinach to thaw...I also start chopping some pepper...)

Once your dough is puffy (it takes about an hour in a warmish room, longer if you're like us and keep your house cold), I divide it in half.  You can make one big, thick crust pizza or 2 smaller thin crust pizzas, it's up to you.

Flour your work surface and roll out the crust.

Grease your pans!

Shift the crust onto the pans and preheat your oven (500 degrees).

Now you get to play!  I like to use pesto for one sauce and just whatever red sauce you happen to have on hand for the other (we buy classico and doctor it up, I like the chunks of tomato on pizza), so sauce them up!

(Just a word about pesto on pizza--dude, DO it.  It's SO good.  Full of flavor, and the olive oil makes the crust crispy and delightful.  I can't advocate this enough.  It's awesome with tomato and mozzerella, with feta cheese, with some kind of meat, with other green veggies, it's good with almost anything!)

Now, for my pesto pizza, I use soy breakfast sausage.  The herbiness in the faux sausage compliments the pesto in all kinds of awesome ways.  You can use regular pork sausage, italian sausage, chorizo or whatever.  And then top with mozerella.  This one was a really wet moz, so i didn't grate it, I just pulled it apart with my fingers.

For my veggie pizza.  I have borrowed heavy inspiration from Amante's Greek pizza for this one.  I use a red sauce, and then the spinach.

You want to press all of the water out of frozen spinach (you can use fresh but you should cook it first) and then I just pinch it and pull it apart and layer it onto my pizza.

After spinach I layer on the peppers.  You can use whatever color floats your boat.  I chop them small so that the Boy will eat them.

After that I add mushrooms and olives (I used canned for convenience's sake).

And finally the feta cheese.  I can eat feta cheese any time, any where.  I love it.  On salads, on pizza, on sandwiches, I care not.  It's always good.  But if you're not a fan, you can leave it off.

Finally top with your mozerella.  (For veggie pizzas, they need some help in the spice department.  The chopped pepper helps a bit, but I also sprinkle liberally with this pepper blend called Hot Shot! You can get it in your spice aisle, I think McCormick's makes it.)

Bake for 15 minutes at 500 degrees or until the desired color of brown-ness.  I think there's nothing quite so good as burned cheese so I tend to cook mine a while.

Cut and serve!  Enjoy!

Fun Friday: the Grandparents!

on 27 November 2009

Suffice it to say, we did absolutely nothing this weekend.

We cooked.  We ate.  We talked and chatted and laughed and read.

We did NOT shop.  We did NOT go out and do anything on the town.

Chris and I DID have a proper date night!  My folks watched the Boy and let him stay up too late, but loved watching him play.

We DID put up the Christmas tree and lo, the Boy LOVES it.  I've put the non-breakable ornaments down low and he can rearrange them at will.  Mostly he just wants to pull them off and follow me around with them shouting with GLEE.

It was a lovely weekend.  Peaceful and relaxed and gloriously imperfect.  I told Chris that I want that to be our family tradition, on all holidays--no perfection.  Just FUN.

I'll write a proper, detailed update for next week, for now, I've got some cuddling to do.


smooches for everyone....

Thankful

on 26 November 2009

Tradition holds that we after we all stuff ourselves full, we sit around the table and gab.  It usually starts with us sharing what we're thankful for this year.

This year I'm thankful for...

  • The Gospel (please see that link on the side about what we believe)
  • gainful employment
  • healthy bodies
  • the Boy
  • the Boy's laugh which is more contagious than the swine flu
  • Chris Chris Chris
  • good books
  • my parents who listen to me whine and then remind me that I can do hard things, who trek down here to spend time with me and the Boy, who bring lovely breezes of North Carolina and cheeky humor with them, who kept my boy and cared for him like no other so that Chris and I could run off to New York like a couple of irresponsible teen-agers.
  • my sisters for their amazing examples
  • Chris' family, especially Dad and Mike--I still haven't forgotten them driving down here to unload our truck, and that after having worked a long hard day.  They are amazing men and I'm grateful for them.
  • the scriptures
  • So many amazing friends I can't even count.  I don't deserve them all.  I suppose I could see this as a side benefit to moving around a lot, but I miss them horribly where ever I end up...
  • cameras--I know this seems random and weird, but seriously, I take pictures of the Boy or the cats and just looking at them can make me crack up laughing regardless of how disasterous the day may be going.
  • my car, Arabella rocks y'all.
  • opportunities to grow
  • my laptop, it's so great to have a space to write and to be creative...
  • my sewing machine...I used to have massive anxiety about sewing, but I've taken a sort of zen approach to it and now it's just really nice to be able to sit down and create something, put some pieces together when it seems like the whole world is coming apart.
  • having Chris home ALL DAY today and tomorrow.  I'll be honest, I gave him the option to go into the office to catch up, and I would not have been resentful if he had chosen to do so, for I know how very stressed he is.  But I'm SO happy to have him HOME!
This is a partial list, so feel free to add yours to the comments.  Now go eat!

Our Old Steal

on 25 November 2009

Chris doesn't really see us during the week.  He works 12-14 hour days every day, I'm nearly always in bed when he leaves in the morning and when he comes home at night.  I try to be awake and reading, but I'm still in bed.  The Boy, on the other hand is almost always asleep when Chris is coming and going. 

So, I've given over the weekends to Chris.  He can plan whatever he wants to do and that's what we do.  I try to get all the errands, shopping and chores done during the week so that Saturdays and Sundays are free to spend together.  We've had some disasters of miscommunication and poor planning, but I have a feeling that last Saturday turned the tide for us.

Chris had originally wanted to go to Savannah, but by the time we got up and dressed and ready to go it was basically the Boy's nap time so he started hunting for something more local and he came up with something promising. 

St. Simon's Island does a Golden Elephant flea market to benefit the local youth symphony and it just happened to be going on last Saturday.  So once the Boy was awake we trekked out to the island to see if there was anything we can't live with out.  Dude, rich people buy some CRAZY things.  And you never know...

It had been going on for 2 weeks so there wasn't much left when we got there, but when we walked in the first thing we saw was this...



That, my friends, is a solid oak, antique child's bed.  How do we know it's solid oak?  Because the original price tag was fixed inside one of the drawers...

 
 
Yeah, that original price of $525?  We didn't even pay 10% of that!  It was $45!  For solid oak!  The thing weighs 500 pounds!  It's handmade!  It has two drawers, and look at these handles!
 


How awesome is this bed?  And the funny thing is, Chris and I have no plans to move the Boy into it any time soon.  We had no plans to buy a child/toddler bed at all!  We were just going to move him into a twin bed when the time came, but this bed had such personality, such flair, such charm that we knew when we saw it that it needed to come home to Burnstopia and live with us.

I know what you're thinking?  Why, M, what are you going to do with it if the Boy isn't going to be sleeping in it any time soon?

I'm so glad you asked...



World, I'd like to welcome you all to our new reading nook.  We've moved the Boy's favorite books into one of the drawers and layered on some cushy blankets until we can order a mattress for it.  We spent most of Sunday afternoon all piled up there together, watching the rain and reading books and eating pears and cuddling and lo, it was good.

Thanksgiving, and the preparations thereof

on 24 November 2009

So, we're having Thanksgiving at our house this year.  It's a Burnstopia First.  I'm a little scared, but I've delegated The Meat, so I'm less nervous than I was originally.  And since I'm a very busy lady, far too busy to think of stimulating topics for original blog posts right now, I'm giving you our Thanksgiving menu to peruse.  Enjoy!

Appetizer: 

raw veggies and ranch (it's TRADITION!)


Dinner:

Roast Turkey
Mashed potatoes w/gravy, for those so inclined
Mashed sweet potatoes (with marshmallows)
Candied sweet potatoes (Chris' favorite, we're accomodating here in Burnstopia)
Steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower
Steamed green beans
homemade crescent rolls (y'all would die!  They are so good!)


Dessert:

pumpkin pie
apple pie (with vanilla ice cream)
(and maybe a butterscotch cream pie...
I can't decide, is 3 pies for 4 adults and 1 child under 2, too much?)

I delegated The Meat (and the gravy) to my mom and dad.  They are seasoned pros, and since they'll be down here to play with the Boy, I thought they might help a girl out.  Also my mom will be making the rolls because the only time I have attempted to replicate these rolls they...um...didn't quite turn out.  We had Crescent roll flop-overs instead of actual crescent rolls.  They tasted awesome, but they were not actually crescent shaped.

I have a service project this morning and cleaning tomorrow, my parents will get here in the afternoon and dad will probably help me shift some furniture around so that we can set up a bed for them...but the good news is that after Thursday, things will quiet down quite a bit.

So.

What's for dinner at your house?

Some days are just like that...

on 23 November 2009

Anyone curious what a 16 month old looks like with an empty box of envelopes on his head?

Yes?

Oh, ok.  Here you go...



Why does my child have an envelope box on his head?

Hmmm.  Well, it just sort of happened.  We were just playing around and he was emptying the recycling box as usual and he found the empty envelope box and I looked at it and thought, "Hmmm.  I wonder if that would fit on his head..."  And then somehow the box was on his head.  And then somehow there were pictures of it because they were so funny I felt compelled to document it.  Some may have been sent via pic message to Chris who was having a horrible day at work...

Look, I don't know how these things happen.  I'm a rational thinking person, but sometimes the curiosity and whimsicality of my child overwhelms my better judgment.

Fun Friday and FAIL

on 20 November 2009

So.

Lest you all get the wrong idea about me as a baker, just know that some of my attempts go fairly wide of the mark.

Take last Fun Friday for example:

Hmmm. They were supposed to be pumpkin muffins. I see now that I did not sufficiently grease my muffin tin, and so what resulted was pumpkin...bits? Pumpkin fall outs? Pumpkin crumble? Pumpkin collapse in a heaps? Still delicious but not quite so appetizing as the actual muffin would have been.

I followed up my baking success with a canceled playdate, cleaning the bathrooms (the Boy has to be gated into his room to prevent his enthusiastic participation) and feeding the mean geese.

All in all, NOT a winner.

But! Our playdate did stop by for a brief visit before lunch and a nap which was fun! And we went to target to tool around the holiday decorations which was also fun! So...not an EPIC fail, just not the strongest showing I could have made. I need some new ideas, please, you tell me what are some fun things you do with your child.

She was right...

on 19 November 2009

Back in 2003 I was visiting my sister.  She was living in her old house in Durham and we stayed up late chatting one night.

My niece (she would have been 10 almost 11)  had gone up to get ready for bed and came back down to listen to the talk...not that she would participate because she is Silent One, but she is awesome so I persistently try to get her to speak.  But that is another story.  Anyway, she was laying on the couch with her head in my sister's lap and my sister was playing with her hair.

After a time she started to fall asleep.  And my sister smiled and I asked why, what was funny?  She smiled and said, "There's no feeling in the world like watching your child fall asleep.  No matter how old they get, there's no feeling like it in the world."

Six years later I can say that I categorically agree with her.


There's no feeling like it in the world. 

He's all soft and warm.  His eyes start to roll back in his head but at first he tries to fight it, tries to focus on my face.  His fingers flex on my arm or hand.  And then it happens.  He stops fighting.  His heavy eyelids close.  He sighs deeply and his fingers relax.  He's heavy when he's inert.

Pizza Party for One

on 18 November 2009

You know all those hokey songs about how One is the Loneliest Number?

Clearly, they didn't have the sole care and responsibility of a 16 month old child every day.

One is not the loneliest number, one is a lovely, quiet, peaceful number. A number that indulges in selfish tendencies and doesn't require me to share my dinner OR the remote control.

Chris works late nights probably twice a week, and on those nights I make things that he either doesn't like so much or can't eat. For example. Last week I made pizza, because I LOVE it but it gives him heart burn. This week, I'm making black beans because he can't eat them without getting all itchy and struggling to breathe.

So here's how it works.

Step 1. Make dinner for your much beloved but somewhat fussy child.
Step 2. While he is eating, you make your pizzas.
Step 3. Run a bath for your adorable but now filthy child.
Step 4. Put pizzas in the oven, put child in the bath.
Step 5. Scrub child amid much protestation. Remind him that cleanliness is next to godliness.
Step 6. Drain tub, dry child, allow him to run around naked while you pull pizzas out of the oven.

Step 7. Diaper, dress and cuddle your child. Prayers, teeth brushing and goodnight kisses are administered.
Step 8. Sigh deeply as you shut the door.
Step 9. Walk over to the TV/DVD player. Select something soothing like North and South. Press play.
Step 10. Make a plate.


Step 11. As the movie begins, bite quietly into perfectly hot and spicy pizza. Enjoy.


Incidentally, the other blessing of these solitary parties is that the Boy and I get to enjoy the leftovers for super easy lunches through the week. Sally forth and enjoy yourself!

A Boyish update

on 17 November 2009

So, since we just got back from a check-up, I thought you would all enjoy an update.

Ok, all might be an exaggeration, MOM, you might enjoy and update.

The Boy is great, but you already knew that.  He's currently stuffing his hair brush into my shoe.  He's right in the 50th percentile for weight but he shot up to 80th percentile for height.  Being so short myself I'm not sure how that happened.  At this rate he'll be the same height as me by his 3rd birthday.  His giant noggin seems to have slowed down he's only in the 90th percentile instead of 95th.  He's got ALL of his teeth, except his 2 year molars.

And now we are to my very least part of parenting.  I realized this as I was holding his little body and he would jump and flinch and shriek as the needles sunk into his soft, chubby thighs.  I hate the shots.  I would rather change nasty poopy diapers.  I would rather be up with him in the middle of the night.  I would rather have TEETHING, than have to hold him during shots.  But Chris had meetings all morning, so I stepped up.  He sat on my lap with my arms around him while the nurse stuck 4 (FOUR) long, thick needles into him.  One.At.A.Time.  She was not fast.  She was NOT efficient.  He started screaming as soon as the alcohol hit his nose and by the third needle he was beet red and holding his breath.  When all was said and done, I laid him down on the exam table and wiped his tears away and tried to explain to him that a little hurt right now is better than a big hurt later on, or worse, a big hurt for a long time.  He settled down, I finished dressing him and with his blanket he cuddled up while we paid the co-pay, scheduled follow-ups and left.

We're home.  We're having some lunch and some naps and then a long afternoon of cuddling.  I'll probably make him a bowl of popcorn because he LOVES popcorns and I am in the mood to baby him a little.

I need your help

Someone please tell me why we do NOT need this:

It's even more awesome than it looks! It's ANIMATRONIC, y'all! I took the Boy through Target's holiday section, he loves the lights and music etc, and I love the holiday so it's a treat for both of us. Anyway, I came upon this GEM and thought to myself, "Self. That is so hideous, so ugly, so WRONG in every sense of the Christmas word, we must have it!"

Odd as it may sound, I can't seem to convince Chris that we must have it.

Of course, I probably shouldn't have given him the choice of the santa-hat-wearing-pink-flamingo or the JOY-holding-santa-hat-AND-scarf-wearing-penguins!


I really should just try to figure out how to get Target to give them to me for free promotion.

Nothing says, Happy Holidays like ugly animatronics! Now, you tell me, how are you beautifying your lives this holiday season?

Flour Power

on 16 November 2009

Sometimes I think I am too serious.

Wicked funny, maybe, but too serious all the same.

I worry about the effect of all this seriousness on the Boy. We play, we read, we sing and dance but only after all the work is done. And when we read we don't read silly, nonsense books,** we read good, hearty, hale, wholesome books with BIG words! And extra definitions! And lots of the Boy looking at me like I've lost my mind and toddling off to find a TRUCK!

I worry about it to the point that I've taken to reevaluating messes. When I know that I'm going to have to clean up a mess anyway, I try to let the Boy have his way with it first.

Case in point:

Flour! Glorious, Flour!

My MESS, let me show it to you!



When all was said and done, I had two thin crust pizzas and we were both covered in flour. We had a rolicking good time though, and I wouldn't trade these flour dusted toes for all the tea in China.







**Who am I kidding? I have Barnyard Dance memorized! And Goodnight Moon! And the Very Hungry Caterpillar! And But Not the Hippopotamus! Ok, we read some silly books, but they have a good beat and you can dance to them.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Weekend

on 15 November 2009

I like to think that everyone has those days.  You know the ones?  The ones where NOTHING seems to go as you hoped/planned/anticipated.  I have them fairly regularly.  But I've never had a whole weekend of those days.

Until this weekend.

I'm actually RELIEVED that tomorrow is Monday.  There is hope for better days.

This weekend (so far, am terrified to think what else might go wrong...)

  • Made bread and it didn't rise.  Well, it rose in the bowl, just not once I made it into loaves.  So we're eating wheat bricks for the next couple of weeks.
  • have made several meals which my child refuses to consume.  He insists on living on air.
  • Child peed on the carpet.  Immediately AFTER I told him NOT to pee on the carpet.
  • Chris canceled Christmas.
  • We went to church today.  A sewer line broke in the vicinity of our church so they had canceled all but the first meeting.  We weren't even 10 minutes in when Chris pointed out that the Boy's diaper had leaked all over his pants.  I had not brought a diaper because I thought, surely we can go an hour without needing a fresh diaper.  So after 20 minutes, I picked up the Boy and the car key and headed home to change him, planning on returning to pick up Chris when the meeting concluded.  Only to discover ONCE I was HOME that I didn't have a house key.  The office is closed on Sundays so the Boy roamed around some grassy areas in a thoroughly soggy diaper until I could pick up Chris and come home and change the Boy's diaper.
  • I haven't slept more than 4 hours a night for days.
  • I made Chris mad.  and no, I don't really want to talk about it.

The Return of Fun Fridays

on 13 November 2009

So, what with all the traveling and all the sickness of October, Fun Fridays fell by the wayside. Last week, I took the liberty of picking them up again.

We started the day with French Toast (or pain perdu, for those of you so inclined). Homemade wheat bread, ever so slightly stale, soaked in a yummy sugar and spice custard and then cooked in butter and topped with newly made strawberry jam.


2 out of 3 in Burnstopia agree--it was delicious. And 1 out of 3 in Burnstopia wishes he could have been there for it!

After breakfast was snarffed up and cleaned up, the Boy and I headed out. I had planned to hit the public library and then find a park out on St. Simon's Island to play and let the Boy burn off his energy before heading back for lunch and a nap.

We didn't quite get that far.

We headed downtown to where the public library is located. Parked and walked around for a while. We poked in and out of antique shops--I'd love to find an old wooden high chair for yon Boy, so he can sit and play in the kitchen while I cook without being underfoot. We found some amazingly cool old things. And that's when I realized that if money were no object, I would fill up my life with funky old things.

We found a small bookshop.

I am not exaggerating when I say that my house probably has more books in it than that bookshop. But she did seem to have quite the local interest section. And she had an awesome wooden train that her father had made for her kids and the Boy played with for a good half hour before I ushered him out an along our path.

We finally ended up at the library.

Yes, it's small. No, the don't have a very extensive collection. But, it's a library and I love the smell of books. They had a big open children's section which the Boy ran through and around and played with some other children. I found a book that I've been wanting to read for a while but have been holding out for it to come out in paperback. We played until it was time for lunch and a nap and then I packed up the Boy and headed home.

After lunch we took the rest of the stale loaf of bread and went out to feed the geese. There's a pond in the middle of our apartment complex that seems to serve no other purpose than to be a home for geese. The Boy and I walk back there most afternoons when we go to get the mail, and on Friday we took some bread to feed them. Here is what I learned about geese.

They are MEAN birds.

There were probably a dozen at least, mostly smallish but several bigger birds. The Boy was in the stroller and I wanted them to walk up sort of close so that he could see them. So I crumbled and scattered bread about 3 feet away from the stroller. They came flocking, of course. But as the smaller birds would attempt to avail themselves of the delicious homemade offering, the bigger birds would swoop in a BITE and then HOLD ON while the smaller birds attempted to fly away! It was AWFUL.

I may have had words with one or two of them. I may have called them some names. I may have also lectured them about the value of sharing. I'm pretty sure they only like me for my bread.

When we got back to the apartment, who should be waiting for us but CHRIS! Home 2 hours early on a Friday afternoon! I was shocked! It was so lovely. We opened up all the windows and sat and played and read as a family. It really was so fun. We fed the Boy dinner and Chris did the bath with him and we put him to bed for the night.

I may have gone to bed around 7pm. On a Friday night. What? That much fun in one day would wear anyone out!

Charlie is my Darling

on 12 November 2009

Hmmmm.

I get to teach tonight.

See, our church has an organization for women, and within that organization we have monthly meetings, just for fun. Well, for fun and also to learn stuff, and to try to improve ourselves. We're all about trying to be better. Anyway, in 3 years in Chapel Hill, I went to approximately 2 of these meetings. And one of those I had to teach. (It was my most favorite hot fudge chocolate cake and SAUCE. It was chocolaty and delicious.) Anyway, I'm just not that social...and being in a place where there are so many women who all go to the same church it was easy to sort of...sift myself through the cracks and hope that no one noticed.

Which is what I did!

But down here, it's much smaller. Everyone knows everyone and they are really good at keeping tabs on you. It's nice. It's totally different than what I've been used to, but it's really nice. And they're really interested in utilizing people's strengths. So, when it became widely known that I have copious amounts of literary education, they asked me to teach a class on reading and appreciating literature.

In honor of my expedition to Greater Involvement, I give you a favorite quote from Charlie is my Darling Dickens. Enjoy and wish me luck!



"I made a compact with myself that in my person literature should stand by itself, of itself an for itself."

Cupcakes for Emily

on 11 November 2009

Years and years ago I was working for a small financial company (now DEFUNCT) in downtown Seattle. I worked in customer service and spent most of every day on the phone with moderately dissatisfied customers. I blame this experience for my distaste for the telephone in general nowadays.

But while working there, I encountered several very cool people. One of those people was Rosanna. Rosanna was this amazing baker. And she had a plum tree in her yard so in the summer we would get all of these amazing plum treats. But in the FALL! she would bring in pumpkin cake.



mmmmm. Pumpkin Cake.




Her's is AMAZING. So when my birthday rolled around (in January, natch) and she asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, I didn't even think about it.

"Um. Pumpkin Cake, Rosanna, Pumpkin Cake."

She brought me one and I got to take the leftovers home to my family. It was official. We were all in love with this most delicious dessert. So, when I finally submitted my notice to leave (and go back to school, natch), I asked Rosanna for one parting thing.

Her pumpkin cake recipe.

It did not come easily. She COMPETES with this recipe. AND WINS. So, she relinquished it under the strictest of terms. I couldn't share it with anyone. NO ONE. It was to be put in the M shaped vault and locked up for LIFE. And using it for competitions, however small or local or ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY they may be was FORBOTEN.

Now, anyone who really knows me knows that I can not, CAN NOT keep something GOOD a secret. (It's why I'm generally the last to know about pregnancies, moves, job changes, etc. I just can't help myself! When something good is happening I feel COMPELLED to share it!) So, very very gradually and with copious amounts of GUILT, the recipe began to leak out. First to my Mom. Then to my sister. Both worthy women who make this cake every Autumn.

And then we moved to Durham. And the next year we met Brad. (Sorry Brad, but!) And then something EVEN BETTER happened and we met his amazing wife Emily! See, Brad was in Chris' program at school, and we heard that he had moved out to Chapel Hill, leaving his wife and 3 kids (the youngest just a couple of weeks old) in Utah to join him a bit later. We had him to dinner--feeling sorry for him and all, and over dinner he told us about Emily.

As soon as he said, "My wife has red hair." I thought to myself, "She and I are going to be great friends!"

So, a couple of weeks pass and then we saw Brad walking in to church with this small parade of darling children and this gorgeous redhead walked in with this teeeeeeny tiiiiiiiiiny baby and I thought to myself, "Ah-Ha! That must be Emily!"

That Sunday I did something that I NEVER do. I walked up to her and introduced myself. And you know what? We became great friends.

That Autumn I made pumpkin cupcakes as per usual, and I took half the batch over to Miss Emily and her brood of awesome chickadees. And I continued to make them per her request for the next two years.

Then came the awful day when we found out that Brad was packing up the Wonderful Emily and their delightful family and moving them 3000 miles WEST to some Wild West settlement in California. I cried. And then I emailed the recipe for the cupcakes to Emily. And then I made her a road trip care package, for I would miss her heartily.

And then we moved. And I do miss her heartily, but never more than this past weekend when I made pumpkin cupcakes for the first time this season. I so wished to have her in my kitchen keeping me company, so as a virtual baking experience...

First you have to rustle up some really cute, cheap child labor!

Then, you sneak up on your recipe.
Like all works of genius, this one can be a bit of a diva.

Assemble your cast of characters.
Make sure the super secret character is hidden in the back.

mmmmm. Cream the pumpkin and brown sugar. Frankly, anything that starts with CREAM is going to be delicious, whether we are referring to the Noun or the Verb.


While that's getting creamy, make sure you mix up all your dry ingredients.
They all have a similar sense of humor so they get on smashingly.


After all the sloppy wet ingredients are creamed and happy, you add in the stodgy dry ingredients. They help hold this party together.

Then you fill the cupcake papers. Now, you could probably get 24 cupcakes out of this recipe, but they would be skinny cupcakes. Nay, anorexic cupcakes, sad, pitiful, size 0 cupcakes. And we don't want those too, too skinny cupcakes here. We want only VOLUPTUOUS cupcakes! Plump cupcakes! Plus-sized, REAL WOMAN, curvaceous cupcakes! So I make 18 instead of 24 and we're all the happier for it.

After they come out of the oven and you're transferring them from the cupcake tins to the rack to cool, remember to drop one on the floor.

This one you get to eat warm and UNfrosted, and oh man it's good.
(What? My floors are clean. Mostly.)

Be careful who you share that cupcake with because then he'll come back all Oliver Twist on you with the please, sir, we want some more!

(His father dressed him this morning. I would never have put him in a dark brown onesie with navy pants, but alas, I was sleeping in so I shall not complain.)

Now, you'll take some room temperature butter, cream cheese, vanilla and confectioner's sugar and whip that up until it becomes more than the sum of its humble parts. Schmear that on those pillows of pumpkin goodness and here's what you get:

17 perfect pumpkin cupcakes. Ok, maybe there are only 16 in this picture because another one may have been consumed warm and unfrosted after experiencing the bliss of the first one...the one that fell on the floor. Anyway, the number need not matter, what matters is that these are glorious relics of autumnal pleasure, and as I eat them, I think of my friend Emily.

And I miss her.

V

on 10 November 2009

So, I know that this is a momentous occasion. I am blogging about TELEVISION.

I don't normally watch television because there's never anything original, interesting or GOOD on it, and I have other things to occupy my time.

But! Chris was interested in the new version of the old television miniseries V (it aired in the 1980s before there were remote controls and satellite dishes with hundreds of channels with nothing interesting on them). I had watched the preview with him and it seemed interesting so I asked if he'd wait until the Boy went to bed and we could watch it together. And Saturday night, that's just what we did.

Of all the adjectives I could choose, I am choosing to describe this program as: interesting. Not least because of when they chose to air it.

I'm not going to go into all the details, suffice it to say that aliens come to Earth and say that they're here to bring Hope and Change and Peace. Some humans buy it (actually embrace it, love it, sell it) and some are suspect.

It started me thinking about these ideas of Hope, Change and Peace. And about the people who promise them. These don't seem to be things that a politician can promise, well, they certainly can't deliver them. These are qualities that happen to individuals, on a singular level. They're choices (and often the result of other choices), not government programs. And I can't help but be suspicious of the politicians who promise things that they can't very well deliver.

I don't generally blog about television (I think almost everyone with a television in their home watches too much of it) and I just as rarely blog about politics (live and let live, y'all), and here I have touched on both of them. Clearly, something is going on.



Check it out here.

On Waking Up

on 09 November 2009

I've been soaking in clips like this one:




And I'll tell you why. And where. And how.

We were living in Washington. In a small town. I had just begun my freshman year, and great was the misery thereof. But my father had the presence of mind, that when he turned on the nightly news and saw coverage of the Berlin Wall falling, he came to my room, to my brother's room. He woke us up, saying, "Get up. You must see this." We stumbled out to the living room, to the television and we watched as History un-built the most symbolic edifice that the modern world has known.

We watched, wide awake as people, people so like us, cheered, chanted, climbed, danced, and cried. We went back to bed. But the real awakening happened years later.

I came to understand the significance of that night many years later. The Berlin Wall was not just a wall of brick and mortar. It wasn't just an act of an oppressive government. It wasn't just a tool of communism. It was a physical representation of something that exists inside all of us. The walls that manifest themselves in our minds, that keep us back from other people, other places; the walls that divide us and blind us, that keep us from uniting as human beings and from becoming better versions of ourselves.

I watch this clip and others like it, and I feel like I'm floating on a sea of hope. It's this euphoria of knowing that if we as a people can tear down this monument of our darker parts, then we can surely be a bit better today, we can try harder and work a little longer. We can be kinder, more patient, more open and loving than we have been. And more than We, I can do these things.

We live in a hard world. I tell the Boy that more often than I should. I don't want him to fear the world, but nor do I want him to expect life to be easy. I wish that I could give him a better world, more just, more peaceful. But then I remember that in my life I saw history change, I watched the world change. And I wonder, what will he see in his life? How will the world change and remake itself?

A really good day...

on 06 November 2009

Consider this your How To:

Wake up.

Shower and do some chores before your child gets up for the day.

Bag up the Halloween candy to be given away. It's been making you SICK. Headaches, stomach aches, sugar SHOCK. Get rid of it.

Eat low key breakfast of granola and yogurt.

Go walk for 45 minutes out in the sunshine with your Boy.

Chase Boy around the park for 15 minutes just for fun.

Go home and read blogs while making lunch for said Boy.

Eat lunch with your eccentric and funny child.

Explain to him yet again why you do not throw peas and carrots on the floor.

Put child down for a nap and then decide to lay down yourself.

Wake up 2 HOURS later.

Put on some classical music just for pretty's sake.

Finish folding the laundry you worked on all day yesterday.

Bake some Ginger Cookies.

Make up two batches of JAM!

Notice that your child has started doing the Toddler Back-Up, wherein, if you sit still, he will back himself up until he collapses in your lap. Hilarious.

Make dinner for One Beloved Husband. (Tofu stir fry with brown rice.)

Eat dinner with Husband and Child.

Follow by Ginger Cookies (for added benefit add a piece of dark chocolate into that mix and ooh la LA it's good).

Bathe child and put him to bed for the night.

Talk to your Samwise who is going in for an induction on the 16th. Go, Samwise, GO!

Cuddle Beloved Husband while reading.


Lather rinse repeat. If you can stand it.

On the Radio--Oh Oh

on 05 November 2009

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood
And walking arm and arm
You hope it don't get harmed
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again

  • Regina Spektor

The Boy and his Binkit

on 04 November 2009

Because I am exhausted and have no more energy to write anything original or witty, I give you a photo essay of my Boy and his Beloved Binkit:

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

May 2009

July 2009

October 2009


Thank you, Lisa, for the Binkit! We would be sooooo sad without it!

The Thumbalina Wife

on 02 November 2009

Chris had a truly wretched week last week. Work had piled up while he was attending conferences, it was all coming due at the same time, he had meetings meetings meetings and more meetings, we were all sick, the Beetle died an inexplicable death, and he had Halloween festivities to prepare for and participate in. By Thursday he was a right foul husband.

Thursday morning I got up to clean out the cat box and shower before the Boy woke up for the day. Chris was putting on his tie and puttering in general. I gave him a big hug and whispered a combination of encouragement and sweet nothings in his ear.

He hugged me tighter and said, "Are you sure I can't just put you in my pocket and take you to work with me all day?"

I smiled and said, "Like a Thumbalina Wife?"

And he said, "Exactly."